Practicing Without a Guitar

how to practice guitar

It’s not always possible to have a guitar hanging around your neck 24 hours a day, things like sleep, girlfriends (or boyfriends), work and family tend to come between you and your axe; and as much as we would like to spend the majority of our time in the woodshed, life tends to get in the way. However, here are a few things you can do to continue practicing without anyone being any the wiser…

1. Reach for your cellphone.

Cellphones have a myriad of applications you can use to practice many aspects of guitar playing and music in general. The cellphone is my current weapon of choice for practicing ear training. The app My EarTrainer, which includes exercises for intervals, chords, scales and melodies, is well worth checking out for the android platform.

2. Visualization

Visualization is reputed to be the secret weapon of many athletes in giving them that competitive edge; in guitar-playing terms, this means seeing yourself playing in your mind’s eye. I can honestly say that this does actually work. I tend to use it to get through difficult passages, visualizing myself playing them first before attempting to play them in real life, or if I’m required to play a lot of new material, I’ll use it to make sure I’ve covered everything. I often wonder if a side-effect of this technique is the confidence it gives you from having played a piece right, albeit in your head, which you then carry out onto the stage.

3. Change perspiration for inspiration

Sometimes you just need to go listen to some great music without worrying about what the guitarist is doing, or trying to cop licks and riffs. So go dig out some classics and get some good old inspiration into your system.

4. Study your favorite player

Load up on mp3s or CDs of your favorite player and just listen; whether you’re driving or just chilling, sit back and absorb what you’re favorite player’s doing. I do this a lot with John Scofield, an incredibly inventive player who I could listen to for hours on end. I’ve even found that although I don’t try to work out his stuff note for note, (I probably wouldn’t enjoy the music as much), his influence is all over my playing.

5. Remember your goals

When you have a little quiet time, it’s always good to reflect on where you are in relation to your guitar-playing goals. What are you doing to achieve them? How close are you to achieving them? Did you forget about them altogether? Make sure you’re working toward something whether it’s learning a particular song or part, getting a band together, finishing a piece, making an album etc. Guitar makes more sense when you’ve got a goal to work toward.

6. Fretboard math

I’m not a huge fan of this one but I’m sure it works. A little like learning your times-tables, what you do is go through chord spellings as follows:

G major – G B D

D major – D F# A

A major  – A C# E etc.

Start out with triads, major and minor, then add in 7th and 9th chords or any other chords you can think of; I find this a little tedious I have to admit but I know it works. Go round the cycle of fifths or fourths to make sure you don’t leave anything out.

7. Learn the notes on the fretboard

There’s no escaping it, you’ll have to do it sooner or later and what better time to practice than when you’re not distracted by the guitar itself. Visualization applies here too and there’s a great lesson which is free to download by signing up on our homepage. The lesson can be easily adapted for the purposes of practicing without a guitar and before you know it you’ll have the fretboard down pat.

Check out this free android app too: Guitar Fretboard Challenge

8. Riffing and general air guitar

This is kind of a game I like to play where I try to come up with a riff or a lick without the guitar, especially during those times when I know I won’t be able to play for a while. I get a lick in my head then play with it, embellish it, transpose it and generally refine it until I’m able to get to a guitar and actually play it (the reward). You can also try this with famous licks or riffs, using the meantime to come up with mutations of them.

How do you practice guitar, without the guitar? Let me know in the comments.


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