Right shoulder/neck muscle tightness

This is not strictly about “Playing Technique” so apologies if this topic is in the wrong category, but it is related to how I play. Recently I’ve been practicing a lot, could be 1 to 2 hours a day broken into many small chunks of 15-20 minutes. I play sitting down and standing up, and when I sit down I consciously try to sit up straight. Recently I’ve been having a lot of muscle tightness on my right shoulder and around the base of my neck and very upper back. I wonder if this is because I spend a lot of time looking down and to the left towards the fretboard? Does anyone have any advise on this?

Thank you very much

Would you happen to have a picture or video of you playing (ideally from the front with your entire body in view)?

Hi @Pepepicks66 thanks for your reply. Here are the photos you asked for. Let me know what you think. Thank you.

It looks like we hold the guitar at similar heights and angles; are you "posing” for these pictures? As in, are you actually playing something? The reason I ask is you might start tensing up when playing something challenging, which would not be present here. I have some old pictures and videos that you can see my right shoulder start to rise higher and higher, and I wouldn’t catch it until I’d get to a break and realize how tense I was.

I was playing yes but I suppose I wasnt going all out like I usually would. That is the posture that I consciously try to stay in because I have a weak lower back so I want to be as straight as possible. But over several minutes my posture would change bit by bit, and that is a little harder to take a photo of. You are correct though that my right shoulder can rise when I tense up. Again thats a little harder to take a photo of. What do you suggest I do? So far I try to take a rest after like 20 minutes of playing and do a series of stretches. Not sure that is helping much tho.

I’ve gotten in the habit of alternating positions decently frequently (maybe at most half an hour in each one). I play standing, sitting with guitar on right leg (“modern” style?) and left leg, classical style. I think I started rotating my torso towards my right leg more to allow my shoulder to relax as much as possible a few years back (but now my right lower back is tight, lol). You already mentioned the breaks, which I do when I switch around positions.

Really preventing the tension is the clincher. If you can, try to catch yourself during difficult passages and see if you can focus on keeping your shoulder relaxed. I know it’s easier said than done, but gotta start somewhere!

I see an important difference in these photos, which I’ve felt in my own playing. Check out your right shoulder when sitting - it’s hiked up. Big tension producer right there.

I think this has largely to do with the guitar body. I actually contemplated mod-ing a guitar with a big cut-out near the electronics so it would sit lower, more like its position when playing standing. May still try some day, but I found something in the meantime that might be as good.

Everyone’s different, don’t know if this will work for you, but… After various attempts, I found that if I put my right knee down on a stand, I could drop my shoulder back down to where it would be were I standing. From a tension standpoint, I’m much more comfortable this way.

Hi @Yaakov yes you are correct. Sometimes I also use a foot stool for my right leg to ease tension. But I’m not sure if that’s good practice because I won’t always have a stool available around me. What do you think? Should I play standing up more then?

Thanks @Pepepicks66. Yeah I think I will stand up more from now on. I tried classical position but just not used to it, and the electric guitar is pretty heavy compared to an acoustic. Thank you

Careful - I don’t mean use the stool like a normal person would;) I said that I put my KNEE down on it.

Putting your foot up there is going to hike the shoulder even more. Putting your knee on it allows the guitar body to sink lower, and thus your shoulder to drop. Try it and see.

@Yaakov you put your KNEE on a stand? I have no idea how that could be comfortable. If you don’t mind maybe you can take a picture of yourself in that position? Thank you.


The stand is roughly 6" high. Usually I cover it with a towel for comfort, but here I removed that so you can see what I’m talking about.

Again, this allows my right shoulder to be in the same relaxed position as when I stand. Really helped me to play for long stretches while sitting.

(I know - ‘like twins!’ I get that a lot…)

Hi there, as a guitar teacher for over four decades, I do see some issues that could be addressed that should help. First, do NOT put a footstool under your right leg. Try one under the left leg and put the guitar on your left leg, if it feels unfamiliar or even uncomfortable try it just part of each day. But definitely do it every day for at least two weeks to get used to it. And second, I tell ALL my students to USE A MIRROR when practicing so you don’t look down and to your left to watch your fretting hand. Sitting up straight is not enough if you have your head tilted forward the whole time your practicing/playing!

Also, I forgot to add in my last reply, your chair is too high. When sitting, try a chair where your upper legs are level instead of tilting forward like you are in the picture.

HI @steviegtr thank you for your reply. Yes I hate that chair so much actually and many times I end up using my toddler’s little IKEA chair that’s only less than half a meter from the ground :slight_smile:

I think the saving grace is the fact that he’s sitting with a strap, otherwise yeah the chain is definitely too high!