Footstool vs Guitar Support

The footstool vs guitar support debate is relatively new, but a consensus has emerged among guitar teachers. So should you use a footstool or a guitar support when playing classical guitar? These days most guitar teachers agree that a guitar support that allows both feet to be flat on the ground will be best. This provides an ergonomic approach that will allow you to play for long periods of time without pain. But it wasn’t always this way. In this article we’ll look at the history of different ways to hold the instrument along with the pros and cons of each approach.

The 19th Century

Fernando Sor: Pioneer of Ergonomic Technique

According to Fernando Sor’s Method for the Guitar, first published in 1830, the popular way of holding the guitar at the time was with the waist of the guitar over the right leg. This is very much how most hold the acoustic or electric guitar today when seated. However, Sor finds this position limits the position and mobility of the left hand because it leaves the neck too low to the body.

While it is not very common, there are modern classical guitarists who also hold the instrument this way today. The most notable is Spanish classical guitarist Ricardo Gallén. Gallén folds his right leg over his left and holds the waist of the guitar over his right thigh, exactly as Sor describes. 

Acoustic Guitar Position

Sor also mentions that in France and Italy the guitar was held over the left leg with the neck elevated in the correct way, but in a way that contorted the body and caused the right shoulder to drop to get the guitar in this position. According to Sor, this position caused “the tendons to act continually to keep the arm in an unnatural position, which would make me feel difficulty, and indeed often pain, when moving the joints of the fingers.” 

Sor’s solution to both of these issues was to place a table over his left leg and allow the left lower bout of the guitar to rest against a corner of the table (thus providing support to raise the neck without distorting the shoulders or body). What is most important to recognize here is that Sor sought an ergonomic solution for posture and the sitting position so the body would be at balance and without tension while holding the guitar.

Dionisio Aguado and his Tripodison

We see a similar solution to Sor’s in Aguado’s Method (1843) – though with a different purpose in mind. Aguado recommends using a device he invented called a tripodison, which held the guitar in the correct angled position so that the body of the performer would not interfere with the vibrations of the instrument. (Unfortunately it seems the device was not very practical and it did not catch on.) 

Dionisio Aguado (1784 – 1849) Sheet Music

Coste, Carcassi, and the Footstool

When Napoléon Coste revised Sor’s Method (around 1851) he recommended using a “stool 12 cm high” (with a slightly taller stool for women). This must have also been a popular approach at the time, as this is likewise what Carcassi recommends in his Method (1836), and for very similar purposes to those of Sor: 

“To hold the guitar well, it is necessary to sit down on a seat a little higher than those which one uses ordinarily; place the left foot on a stool of a height proportionate to that of the seat on which one is sitting; then one spreads the right leg while stepping back the foot a little; the left leg retains its natural position; the weight of the body rests largely on the left thigh.

“Once well seated in this way, the guitar is placed transversely on the left thigh . . . this position is preferable to any other because it offers three points of support for the instrument which is in balance without the hands having to hold back: this is the disadvantage of other positions, which often contribute to added tension” (Carcassi, Method Op.59, p.9). 

By the turn of the 20th century it is clear that the footstool became the almost universal way to hold the instrument. Neither Sor’s table nor Aguado’s tripodison ever became popular. We can see this clearly in images of Tárrega and his students, such as Miguel Llobet.

But it was the young Andrés Segovia who really made the footstool the norm. Segovia even traveled with a large and special footstool — it was an important part of performance for the Spanish maestro. 

Francisco Tárrega (1852 – 1909)

The 20th Century to Today


Really only within the past few decades there has been a greater emphasis on ergonomics in guitar technique. (Though it should be kept in mind Sor and Carcassi were champions of this approach nearly two hundred years ago!) In part, this approach has arisen in response to the pain and discomfort the footstool caused in performers for decades now. Because the footstool raises one leg while the other stays flat on the ground, the sit bones at the pelvic floor become misaligned, which can cause discomfort, pain, and even injury in the lower back. This is especially true with frequent use over a long period of time. 

The Guitar Support

Thus was born the guitar support. These devices provided the necessary support for the guitar to get in a proper position while both feet are flat on the ground. Guitar supports take tension away from the pelvis and lower back. When guitar supports like the A-Frame and Ergoplay first hit the market, they instantly provided relief to those who had experienced pain using the footstool. 

Today there are many different kinds of supports: those that attach with suction cups, those with magnets, those that clamp onto the body of the instrument, and even one which is a cushion placed between the guitar and the leg. Each is unique and has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s up to each individual to choose the support that fits them best. 

Whichever you choose, we highly recommend using a support that allows both feet to be flat on the ground to avoid the pain and discomfort that can inevitably come with use of the footstool. 

Pros vs Cons of the Footstool and the Guitar Support

Footstool – Pros

  • More secure feeling of connection with the instrument
  • Easy and quick height adjustment
  • Very light and portable

Footstool – Cons

  • Raises the left sit-bones, which can be damaging for the back over time
  • Not as easy to set up and put away for performance
  • Only height can be adjusted

Guitar Support – Pros

  • Easily fastens to instrument for quick readiness
  • Allows you to put both feet on the ground, thus not placing strain on pelvis/back
  • Places the guitar in the correct position with a high amount of variability to find the position that is right for each individual

Guitar Support – Cons

  • Not all guitar supports are as portable
  • Many use suction cups, which can damage some finishes, or magnets, which can be difficult to install
  • Not as secure of a connection with the instrument as the footstool
  • Height adjustments are not always easy and simple

The Strap / Guitar Stand 

A popular way of holding lutes, theorbos, baroque guitars, and vihuelas was to use a strap. We see examples of this in countless paintings from the time. While this had fallen out of use for the classical guitar even by the time of the nineteenth-century pedagogues, there are some who are reviving its use today.

A great example of this approach would be the young Russian guitarist Anton Baranov, especially when playing on a Romantic guitar. The guitar is still in a good elevated position for the left hand, but there is much more freedom of motion and the body is able to be much more stable without being contorted while standing.

Baroque Guitar with Strap

Another device that allows the guitarist to stand up while playing is the guitar performer stand (first manufactured by König and Meyer). This is very similar to Aguado’s tripodison, but raises high enough to allow the performer to stand. Ben Verdery has begun to use this recently. To the right is a picture of Ben warming up with his guitar performer stand before a CGC concert in New York from June 2022. 

Recently a Portland, Oregon guitarist named Travis Johnson has created a similar device, which you can check out here.

Benjamin Verdery Performer Stand


While the way guitarists hold the guitar has changed over time and with new technologies, and while some find unique ways to hold the instrument to suit their bodies or preferences, there is still no substitute for an ergonomic position of the body while holding the guitar. This was both Fernando Sor and Matteo Carcassi’s preference nearly 200 years ago, and it is still the most recommended way of holding the guitar today. A guitar support that allows both feet to remain on the floor or that allows the player to stand up while playing are the most ergonomic options.