Neck & Shoulder pain on strumming side

Discussion in 'Epiphone SG' started by nashsed, Jul 1, 2019.

  1. nashsed

    nashsed Member

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    Hi all,

    While I was initially in denial, I have come to the conclusion that playing my SG causes my strumming hand to rest in an awkward position against the body of the guitar and causes neck and shoulder pain/stiffness that I don’t experience with any of my other guitars.

    It’s reached a stage where I dread playing my SG these days and that’s really unfortunate as it’s such a wonderful guitar. I don’t slouch over the guitar much and have a firm chair which keeps my back straight yet the pain starts within 10-15 mins of playing my SG.

    Has anyone faced any similar experiences? Any remedies to correct this issue?

    My wife wants me to get rid of it but I’d rather find a more rational solution.
     
  2. GrumpyOldDBA

    GrumpyOldDBA Well-Known Member

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    Is it a right handed guitar and are you sitting with it on your right leg?

    If so try switching to your left leg it will bring your shoulder and arm to a better natural position. It will force your fretting hand to go out a bit farther so it will feel weird for a while.

    Most all the classical guitar players use this position when sitting and it seemed pretty awkward at first but my first guitar teacher wanted me to try it for a while and it stuck after a while.
     
    DanB and Robus like this.
  3. Worblehat

    Worblehat Well-Known Member

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    I generally find playing seated (with the guitar on my right leg) very uncomfortable and straining for my sholder. This is why I usually practice standing up. Have you tried this? Especially with the SG I find my strumming arm in a very relaxed and natural position. Placing the the guitar a bit inclined at my right hip helps, too. If you insist on sitting, the classical posture Grumpy suggested might be a good idea.
    Experiment with different positions, try to find one where your arm/elbow is close to your body and try to relax as much as possible.
     
    DanB likes this.
  4. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to ETSG!

    I have a few suggestions:

    1. Begin with the assumption that there is nothing wrong
    with your guitar.
    Your pain is likely due to faulty hand position on the neck, and faulty posture during practice.
    These are things that are within YOUR control.
    You can change them if you have the will.

    2. The Gibson or Epiphone SG design is one of the lightest and most comfortable guitars to play. This design is NOT for everyone, and you may read all my
    suggestions and still conclude that the SG is not for you.
    But I believe that if you pay attention to what I say
    here, you ought to be able to bond with your guitar
    AND your playing may improve.

    3. First suggestion is to get your guitar professionally set up by the best luthier you can find or afford. Talk to local pro musicians, and find out who they take their guitars to for service. Take your instrument there, and pay them to set it up. This should include straightening the neck, checking the frets for level, checking the nut slots for proper depth and radius, setting the intonation and adjusting the action. Pro setup ought to enhance your
    SG experience all out of proportion to the price you pay.
    If your frets need work, or the nut needs work, pay for it. This is all very worthwhile.

    4. Buy a high quality strap, and practice your guitar
    standing up. I read your first post, and it sounds like you are attempting to play sitting down. Look at a few videos of bands you like, and you'll seldom see any pro performer play sitting down. Some Jazz musicians do this, and classical musicians do this, but they don't usually play SGs. The SG was designed to be a rocker, and to be played standing up. Boots on the front monitor optional. Stand up straight when you play.

    5. Teach yourself to keep your thumb behind the neck.
    Hand position is likely the culprit here, as well as posture. We see so many posts here by players who insist
    that the shape of the guitar neck is CRUCIAL to whether they can play it or not. This is all nonsense.
    The human hand can play any instrument from a Ukelele to a Double Bass, with no problems.

    It's my theory that most of the players who think a guitar neck can affect their playing are self taught.
    AND they taught themselves improper hand position,
    and don't want to think about that. So they blame the
    guitar, which is silly.


    Keep your thumb behind the neck, use it like a pivot
    and suddenly your hand has a HUGE amount of free
    play, enough to let you play with a more relaxed hand, and this can eliminate the cramping caused by holding
    the neck too tightly, and letting your thumb creep over
    the top.

    6. It might seem like work to train yourself to play with
    a more relaxed hand, but the pain is likely to stop, and
    when your hand is more relaxed, you can play parts you may never have thought you could. That, my friend is priceless.

    Try what I suggest here, and make up your own mind.
     
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  5. GrumpyOldDBA

    GrumpyOldDBA Well-Known Member

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    Hey Col thanks for suggestions but OP is reporting strumming hand and shoulder pain not fretting hand.
     
  6. nashsed

    nashsed Member

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    Yes it is a right handed guitar which is placed on my right leg. I did purchase a foot rest to try the classical position but with the already extended neck of the SG it seems so awkward but as you mentioned I guess it'll take some time to stick.

    But what's perplexing is that I don't have any such issues playing a Strat or Tele but the SG causes discomfort.
     
  7. nashsed

    nashsed Member

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    My SG is so neck heavy that playing standing up is next to impossible.
     
  8. nashsed

    nashsed Member

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    Hey
    Hey Col. your suggestions are much appreciated.

    While I'm no expert I'm not a complete novice either. However I am relatively new to the world of SGs.

    1)My guitar has been setup by a professional and in terms of playability it's absolutely fine.

    2) Not entirely self taught so thumb behind the neck isn't much of an issue.

    3) Playing standing up is an issue with SG because of the terrible neck dive.

    4) As mentioned fretting hand isn't the issue. My neck and shoulder on the strumming hand side (right) tend to get strained when I play the SG but not with any other guitar.

    5) I am yet to invest in a wide, heavy strap so that's something I should probably do.

    6) Definitely need to work on playing in a more relaxed manner. As I get older I can feel my shoulders and arms tensing up when I truly focus and play.
     
  9. GrumpyOldDBA

    GrumpyOldDBA Well-Known Member

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    It's a mystery wrapped up in an enigma?

    Just messing with ya ... the Strat and Tele have bridge down just a bit farther toward bottom of guitar body while the SG ( compared to other guitars that I have ) has the bridge farther up toward neck. Maybe it's just an inch or inch and 1/2 that your resting and strumming hand/arm are in a different position but it's enough to bother you apparently?

    I guess you could try sitting absolutely "as is" on your right leg and get a picture of your arm with Strat and do the same thing with SG and see a minor postural difference? But heck having it on left leg should really bring your shoulder into a better less potentially straining spot with your SG.

    Stretching and some muscle building on shoulder and arm also probably not a bad idea right?

    Keep the faith don't ditch the SG yet!
     
    nashsed likes this.
  10. Rain

    Rain Well-Known Member

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    I have the opposite problem - following a car accident a few years ago, the SG is the only guitar I can play without worrying about my bad shoulder (picking hand side, like you). I played my acoustic for 10 minutes last Friday and my arm is still messed up - my ring finger and pinky are still somewhat numb.

    It's pretty incredible how little it takes to mess up a joint - pushing your elbow just a few centimeters further away from your body or a couple of degrees upward can have pretty severe consequence. Although you can barely feel it, those few degrees can put up quite a strain on your joints.

    In my case, the shoulder and neck region are the culprit - but it's easy the same applies to any joint, really, be it your wrist or your elbow.

    A few things that help in my case - I naturally tend to play in the "classical position", which allows my arm to rest in a more natural position, closer to my body. Les Paul's and SG's work well in that type of scenario. I also try and always use a strap, which allows me to position whichever guitar I play exactly where I want it, depending on the size of the instrument and the bridge type. That helps with strats in particular.

    But there are also guitars that I just cannot play anymore - I had to sell my Epiphone Riviera, because there was just no way to play it without discomfort. I'll most likely be selling my acoustic too, even though it is pretty small and thin for an acoustic. It's just not possible to make it work for me. I'll probably try and grab one of those Fender Stratoustic at some point.

    The crazy thing is that I train and do weight lifting and that rarely has any negative impact on my arm. But something as silly as pushing my elbow a few degrees forward when I play guitar and I'm in for a very unpleasant moment.

    So I guess there may be a lot of variables and it can be worth it to spend some time experimenting with positions, a strap, the angle at which your guitar rests (parallel to the floor or at an angle), centered or closer to the left or right side of your body. But still, in the end, we must pay attention to the signs our body is sending.
     
    Worblehat likes this.
  11. nashsed

    nashsed Member

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    That's such a bummer man!

    Even I work out and do CrossFit and have no issues with my shoulder but a slight tweak in my playing position with the SG and my neck & shoulder start to stiffen up.

    With regards to your acoustic, have you ever given a parlour guitar a try? I used to have one and while it's only playable till the 12th fret they are a ton of fun and quite compact.

    I've been pining for a 335 type guitar for sometime now but I'm not sure how my shoulder would fare with an even larger body shape.

    Since multiple people have mentioned this, I will most definitely give the classical position a try before I give up on my beloved SG.
     
    Rain likes this.
  12. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    Neck dive in an SG can be moderated by a few
    other suggestions:

    Replace heavy Grover Rotomatic tuners with a lighter set.
    The Gibson design calls for Kluson style tuners, you can find these sold by Grover (135 type) as well as Gotoh
    and other makers. Remove weight from the headstock and the neck dive may be cured, or at least less.
    Gotoh "Kluson style" tuners should fit right in the holes on an Epiphone. You'll have to drill new screw holes, but
    it's very worth it.

    Drill a new hole for the rear strap button, maybe 50mm
    higher than the stock button. Place your new wide strap
    higher at the rear and the neck dive may be cured, or at least less.

    Try these suggestions one at a time, and see if they solve
    your neck dive issue. Then stand up straight to play, and endure less cramping and pain.

    Good luck with this. But if your Strat and your Telecaster don't cause you pain, you might just decide that the SG is not for you. Personally I don't understand it, because I
    instantly bonded with the SG, and find this design to be the lightest, fastest and most comfortable guitar I've ever played. *shrugs

    But I always play standing up, almost never sitting.
    If I do sit for a portrait, it's like this: (on a stool)
    me an luna@100.jpg
     
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  13. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    No neck dive on this one... :smile:

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. GrumpyOldDBA

    GrumpyOldDBA Well-Known Member

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    I have never played an SG that did not have a neck diving problem.

    If one loves the guitar enough you can deal with it by a couple of things standing up. Holding the neck with one hand or at least a couple of fingers. A large heavy leather strap can help. Counter weights can fix the problem completely but make the guitar heavier.

    Of course Fripp plays guitar sitting down. That's always an option.
     
  15. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    Always listen to your wife. I'll be glad to give it a good home. I'd even pay shipping.
    I have only had one that did and lighter tuners solved the issue.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    No idea what Fripps GT Fernandez LP copy weighs, but with the switches, string locks and Floyd's anchor must put it over 10 lbs. I'd sit down, too.
     
  16. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    Ironically, your thumb is coming over the top of the neck in that portrait! :D
     
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  17. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    haha, I'm a "self-taught" guitarist, and learned all my bad habits by myself in the early to mid sixties. I struggle to over ride those habits and keep my thumb behind the neck, which is why I recommend
    lessons to the newbies, and thumb management for anyone
    who complains of discomfort.

    I played guitar for years with my thumb wrapping over the
    neck and my hand all cramped up, wondering why I couldn't play as freely and effortlessly as other guys. By the time I
    bought my first electric bass, I knew I was doing something wrong. So when I was learning the bass, I made sure that my thumb stayed behind the neck. I've always been a better
    bass player than a guitar player, for this reason.

    Any player can work on thumb management and see good
    results IMHO. No harm can come of it. I've taught young women with
    small hands to play Fender Bass. Keeping their thumbs behind the neck
    lets their small hands go up and down freely, and proves that small
    hands are no handicap. Watch Tal Wilkenfeldt for a perfect illustration
    of what I'm saying.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
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  18. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    I tend to use thumb over the neck and sometimes behind the neck and not really conscious of where the thumb is located at any given time. I don't think there is a wrong or right way, whatever works to get the job done.

    Check out the short video clip in link below.

    https://www.guitarplayer.com/technique/paul-gilbert-on-the-fretting-thumb-its-so-important
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
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  19. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    naw... if you make sure you CAN play with your thumb behind the neck, then you probably are playing with a relaxed enough hand that you CAN hook your thumb over
    if you want to.

    Anyway, not everyone's a virtuoso like Paul Gilbert.

    For those of us who are not, thumb behind the neck keeps
    the hand relaxed and able to move properly IMHO.
    This is also the opinion of other guitar teachers I have spoken with.

    oh yeah... here's where I say: "It's well known fact!
    TOP EXPERTS all say so!" *laughs

    Naw, the OP gets to read our opinions and make up his
    own mind. That video you posted is actually great.
    We're all actually trying to help a little.

    For me, the key is the relaxed hand. if your hand is relaxed enough that the neck shape doesn't matter, then you can likely learn some techniques that involve the thumb fretting
    the sixth string. I would call those "advanced" techniques.

    And if someone is complaining that playing an SG is painful,
    then relaxation techniques are indicated, including paying
    attention to the positions of BOTH hands.
     
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