Hello, my story and health advice

Hi everyone, This is Steve from Costa Rica. I started playing guitar almost 20 years ago (mostly self-taught) and have always been in love with instrumental rock.

In my 20 year journey, I hit a wall because of my technical limitations, mainly because of two reasons (in my opinion): first, it is so hard teaching yourself some technique and the learning material available is certainly vague. Second, I am left handed who used to play in a right-handed position because someone told me that a proper position would not make a difference and that made sense to me. Unfortunately, I ended up putting too much effort in my right hand (for fast picking) using the elbow motion which resulted in lots of pain (my fault for pushing too hard).

That situation was frustrating and the pain in my hand scared me and decided to stay away from playing guitar and focus in my day job… until this year, when I finally decided to get back to what I love but as a fresh start, so I gave myself a left handed guitar and started practicing some chords and I believe I am ready to start with some solo playing. Even though I’ve been playing as a lefty for a few months, I feel very relaxed and comfortable with my instrument, such a feeling I never had when playing as right handed.

Finally, I would like to encourage everyone to be careful with any tension in your hands and watch your playing posture, warm up, procure playing relaxed and listen to your body when it tells you that it’s time for a break. I just wanted to share my experience because I recently watched the elbow movement explanation (very useful, by the way) in which Troy mentions that Steve Morse is feeling pain in his hands, and that caught my attention because Mr. Morse is also a lefty-playing-right-handed guitarist who relies heavily on elbow movement too.

Anyway, I am happy to become part of this learning community and wish you all very happy picking!


Welcome Steve :slight_smile:

Interesting insight and good advice.

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Thanks for signing up!

Re: Steve, he actually uses elbow motion because it’s comfortable for him. In the interview I think he says it feels 30% easier and faster or something like that. Steve has chronic wrist issues, so using the elbow joint avoids that. I’m just stating this because we’ve been talking about tension a lot recently and I don’t have specific evidence one way or another that elbow motion is somehow more prone to this. So far, my operating assumption is that doing things incorrectly leads to tension, not the other way around.

Re: handedness, someone commented on YouTube today about this. I’ve wondered why a “righty” guitar player is one who picks with their right hand. What makes picking the thing that determines the handedness? Fretting motions seem pretty complicated, and more similar to the fancy stuff you do on instruments like piano with your dominant hand. Why isn’t a righty guitarist someone who frets with their right hand?

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Hi Troy, thanks for the reply!

i’m glad that Steve Morse found a way to continue playing while avoiding pain, although his arm “looks” a little tense, however, as you mention in the instructionals, it’s not about how it looks but how it feels.

Also, regarding what determines that the dominant hand is to hold the pick, I think that even though the fretting work seems to be very hard (however, I do not think that is the case because, for instance, legato technique is often regarded as a “workaround” to play fast with little picking skill), it is the picking hand that deals with the heaviest work in terms of tone, precision, dynamics, accuracy and rhythm. In a way, that “heavy work” was sometimes disregarded in the past until CTC appeared to help us all (thank you for that!).

Added to that, I believe the individual development of a person (especially as children) plays a part. For instance, my best friend is also a lefty who picks with the right hand and he can pick very fast with a decent level of accuracy since the beginning (we learned together). The difference? my friend plays tennis since age 7, so by age 15 he probably had developed the dexterity of his hands way above my ability.

I’m curious if you’ve ever tried playing with left handed posture. Perhaps you can get some dual-neck chopo in the style of Michael Angelo Batio. :slight_smile:

I have not tried paying lefty but I’m not super gifted when it comes to physical skills. That’s kind of why I do this work. I would say I’m about average when it comes to hand-eye coordination. If you give me a new task, like a video game, lots of people will be better at it than I am. And lots of beginner guitar players with very little instruction will do many more things correctly by feel than I ever did. It’s always amazing to watch. This is why we have Steve Morses and Andy Woods in the world.

I really don’t know about the picking vs fretting thing. Maybe! Picking is more athletic. Probably?

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I think it’s a legacy from classical guitar, actually. Using a pick, while still difficult, is definitely easier from a co-ordination point of view than using the fingers of your picking hand to play multiple lines and the like.

If by “difficult” we mean “hard to figure out the correct way”, then flat picking I think has more variables. Just the basic elements like pick choice/type, pick grip, and pick attack via edge picking, grip flop, and pickslanting, we’re already into a ridiculous number of possibilities. And that’s before we even get into picking motions, which joints are involved, and how to do them all, and how they relate to specific phrases and which of those phrases work with which of the motions. It’s absurd, frankly!