Do you find yourself clenching your jaw together, gritting your teeth, or tightening your face muscles while playing your guitar or bass?
This issue is surprisingly common – especially among beginner guitar players. And to put it bluntly, it’s not a healthy habit to keep. Other than the obvious discomfort, it isn’t good for your dental health either – nor does it help with your playing, as you’re tensing up elsewhere too.
But seriously, some guitarists experience massive teeth pain after long jamming sessions just because of this, and if you do it too frequently it can lead to TMJ – and serious jaw pain.
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to break this habit, and stop clenching your jaw while playing guitar.
In this article, we’ll cover some of these tips and strategies.
What Causes Jaw Clenching While Playing An Instrument?
Ultimately, these behaviors all come down to one thing – intense focus on what you’re doing.
Jaw clenching and facial tightening are natural effects of being intensely focused on something. In that sense, this is kind of a positive sign that you’re engaged with what you’re doing and putting forth good effort play well.
Of course, it isn’t exactly comfortable or healthy, so you should try to take steps to break the habit early.
This is especially true if you are someone that looks down at their guitar or bass’ fretboard frequently, as many beginners often do.
How To Stop Clenching Your Jaw When Focusing
1. Become Conscious Of When You’re Doing It
The first step to breaking any habit is to become conscious of when you’re actually doing it.
I’m not suggesting you need to take up mindfulness or meditation, but just keep in mind the fact that you’re probably going to continue this habit at first, and it’s going to be more frequent when you’re playing songs that push your skill level, or you do not play effortlessly yet.
Clenching your teeth while playing guitar will happen without you realizing it. Therefore, remaining conscious of that fact will help you recognize it when it starts. Try to periodically ask yourself to check for it.
This might sound a bit silly, but it works.
2. Train Your Mind To Replace The Habit, By Opening Your Mouth
Start trying to replace the habit with another one, by opening your mouth slightly when you recognize the jaw clenching happening.
Note that taking this too far can lead to other problems. Some guitarists make really strange facial expressions while playing. One person that was explaining this problem specifically said he, ‘looked like a horse reaching for sugar cubes.’
Hey, it beats hurting your teeth, but if you’re playing in front of an audience that might be something you want to avoid.
become conscious, chew gum, relaxation exercises, this is a natural reaction to focusing
3. Rest Your Tongue Between Your Teeth
This sounds like it might be painful, but that’s kind of the point.
If you’re struggling to realize when you’re clenching your jaw until it begins to hurt, resting your tongue between your teeth will help you break the habit quickly.
Careful not to bump your head though…
4. Chew Some Gum
Chewing gum while playing guitar can help to focus your mouth on chewing and prevent it from locking into just one place.
The problem is that it’s just as easy to rest the gum against your gums or something, effectively making it pointless.
Still, it’s worth trying out. Just don’t get so focused that you accidentally choke – on the gum, or on your guitar.
5. If All Else Fails, Get A Mouth Guard
I’m sure many people will see this as a last resort, but purchasing a mouth guard will at least prevent most damage to your teeth while you learn to break this habit.
It will not solve the problem on its own – you still have to take conscious steps to break the habit. That being said, putting a mouth guard in will at the very least, remind you that you have a problem.
And hey, that’s the first step to solving it!
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It will take some time to break this habit, but I promise you – you can stop clenching your jaw while playing guitar.
Breaking this habit will help your playing, and that is worth it on its own.
Keep the above tips in mind, and your dentist will surely thank you!