Why Do Guitarists Shake Their Guitar?

When you go to a rock band concert you can see a lot of things on stage happening at the same time

Musicians jumping while playing, headbanging at their own breakdowns, or even the drummer throwing sticks to the audience as a gift.

Although those situations are pretty usual, we didn’t mention one that it calls most people attention: guitar players shaking their guitars. 

You might wonder why they do that, maybe the shaking influences the sound but is not just about that.

Most guitarists tend to shake their guitar because it produces a subtle effect similar to vibrato. However, this practice is not so used for that purpose, it is mainly applied to look amazing or to have an impact on the audience.

It may sound confusing but let me tell you is not that hard to understand. 

Through this article I will try to evacuate every doubt that may come up, we will be discussing the different reasons why guitarists shake their guitar and if those movements are actually helpful.

Why do some players shake their guitar while holding a note?

When guitar players are soloing, they tend to shake their guitar, mostly when holding a single note. 

It may be a common situation at live performances so you might think that is a useful technique but that’s not the real reason.

Guitarists are really fond of showing their entertainer side, that’s why they do that, it is mostly a theatrical thing. 

Shaking your instrument is just a way to show off how they add vibrato to a note.

However, some players claim that slightly shaking the guitar while playing chords helps them add a bit of vibrato. 

Although it might be helpful for a bunch of players, some musicians reject that idea.

Guitar shaking vs neck bending

Guitar shaking is not precisely the same as neck bending but both techniques might have things in common. 

Neck bending consists of applying strength to the neck in a way you feel you are going to fold it near the section of the bridge.

By doing that, you are reducing the distance between the bridge and the nut lowering string tension which results in a lower pitch. 

The effect achieved is similar to the one produced by a tremolo or a whammy bar but is much more subtle.

On the other hand, guitar shaking consists of shaking the instrument by holding the notes of your fretting hand in order to get a similar sound to the one we find in vibratos. 

This can be heard in different types of guitars, acoustic, electric, or even classical.

Can you damage your guitar by shaking it?

If your instrument is in good condition and you don’t abuse shaking it, there won’t be any problem. 

I suggest you be careful when applying this method, try not to overuse it, make sure that contact points are well lubricated, and do it gently, otherwise, if you go extra hard you can damage your guitar.

However, as you cannot take a lot of noticeable advantages from this approach is not a recommended thing to do. 

As you are making sudden movements your strap can come out, resulting in a completely avoidable accident.

You can get extended information about this topic in the following article:

Can shaking your guitar improve your vibrato?

Vibrato is a really expressive guitar technique commonly used by every famous guitar player. 

Just like singers have their own natural vibrato with their voice, you as a guitar player can develop your sound of the vibrato.

In general terms, is a simple technique in which you have to bend the guitar string up slightly over and over again. 

Furthermore, shaking your guitar won’t be useful, what is even worse, it will be counterproductive.

As you need your fingers to be steady to make the vibrato, by shaking your instrument you will lose control of them, they won’t be firm at all. 

Your technique won’t be appropriate and your vibrato will be truly poor. 

Can shaking your guitar improve your bends?

Bend is a colorful playing skill that, as happens with vibrato, is frequently applied for every kind of guitarist. 

We can find two common types of bendings, half-step bendings and whole-step bendings.

This approach consists of bending a string up to get the exact same pitch that occurs one, two, or even more frets higher. 

Although you can also bend the string down and the result would be the same, most players find it easier to bend strings up, what is more, you can use your free fingers to help with the bending.

Again, shaking your guitar while bending will be counterproductive because you need to be in control. 

By shaking the instrument, you won’t be able to produce an accurate bend. 

The correct form for vibrato and bending

To produce good vibratos and bending is important to apply the proper technique. 

A good starting point would be a steady grip, as I mentioned previously, you require control to have nice sounding vibratos and bendings.

When performing bendings, a useful tool would be your thumb working as leverage over the neck. 

Although this method is not relegated only to bendings, when playing vibratos you can leave your thumb aside and you will have a different vibrato sound.

I’ll share two links to lessons for you to have a better idea of how to do these amazing techniques.

How to bend the guitar strings: 

How to use vibrato: 

Is shaking your guitar just showmanship?

It is said that shaking your guitar is just about showmanship but there’s nothing wrong with that. 

A lot of famous bands have paid special attention to the live performance, some of them painted their faces, others wore masks or they even smashed entire sets of instruments while gigging.

Furthermore, if the audience enjoys it you can do it and you will enjoy it as well. 

Imagine that live concerts are not the same than listen to an album, performing perfectly is important but it is not the only relevant issue, people there have paid for the tickets and they expect to see a wonderful show. 

Should you start shaking your guitar?

Needless to say, is not a must, if you feel comfortable and you enjoy doing it, go for it. 

If you know or learn how to do it you can add it as part of your performance.

Nevertheless, doing it alone at home or while rehearsing might be weird or awkward for your bandmates. 

What is worse, accidents are likely to happen so you would be calling for them in vain.