29 September 2008

Guitarists, 7 Ways to Improve While Not Playing Guitar

This article gives you seven useful ways to improve your guitar skills when you don't have your guitar handy. Most hobby guitarists with a day job or studies can't practice guitar for hours each day. Wouldn't it be useful if you could improve your guitar skills by working on them when you don't have your guitar? Find out how with this list of 7 ways to build your skills when you are not playing guitar.

The activities in this list will develop your playing skills, your ears and your musical knowledge. So, here's what you can do when you're not playing guitar...

  1. Memorize the fretboard.
  2. Learn music theory.
  3. Practice reading music or tab.
  4. Visualize your guitar playing.
  5. Compose music.
  6. Memorize songs.
  7. Try to recognize intervals, notes or chords.

Let's take a look at those in more detail.

Memorize the fretboard

I don't promise you that memorizing the notes on your fretboard will turn you into Jimmy Hendrix overnight. I do tell you, though, that good knowledge of your guitar fretboard will help you to play and understand the guitar better. You can easily use mental exercises or a fretboard chart to learn the fretboard anytime, anywhere.

Learn music theory

Although guitar is essentially a practical activity, you can always benefit from some theory. Use some of your time away from the guitar to study it.

Practice reading music or tab

Guitarists have a very poor reputation when it comes to reading music. Help to combat this by learning to read music, tab, or both. Simply carry a page or a book of music and practice reading the notes when you have some spare time.

You can also carry empty tab or music paper and write down scales, chords, or licks. Who knows, you might even compose your own symphony.

Visualize your guitar playing

Visualization can help you work on many of your guitar skills and solve problems. Next time you're standing in a queue imagine a mental film of your current guitar challenge. Visualize a new chord, or a scale or lick you want to learn. You'll reinforce what you learn and memorize positions and movements.

Compose music

Once you've studied a little musical theory you can quite easily make up music of your own. Use spare time to make up chord progressions, rhythms, licks, solos or even whole songs. A notebook or a pocket recorder is useful to capture your compositions when you're on the move.

Memorize songs

You have probably noticed that groups outside classical music rarely play with sheet music in front of them. If you plan on being a rock hero, or just want to avoid carrying lots of paper then memorize the songs you play.

Take chord charts or lyric sheets in your pocket. Use your car CD player or mp3 player to listen to songs you want to learn and play. Listen closely, the better you know the songs the easier they are to play.

Try to recognize intervals, notes, or chords

To train your ears try to pick out intervals, notes, or chords in the songs you hear. To check your guesses look up the music in your books or on the Internet. It is hard at first and you should expect to make lots of errors, but with practice you'll get better at it.

There you have seven useful ways to improve your music and guitar skills in spare time. Maybe you can't take your guitar to work and play, but you could spend ten or fifteen minutes of your lunch break on one of these exercises. Not only will it build your music skills, it keeps your mind thinking about guitar which gives you extra motivation to play.

Let's review the exercises now.

  1. Memorize the fretboard, you'll understand the guitar better.
  2. Learn music theory. Build scale, harmony, and rhythm knowledge.
  3. Practice reading music or tab, and think how to play it on the guitar.
  4. Visualize your guitar playing. Use it to memorize patterns or solve problems.
  5. Compose music. Have fun creating your own licks and songs. Roll over Beethoven!
  6. Memorize songs. Get to know the songs you play inside out.
  7. Try to recognize intervals, notes or chords and tune your musical ear.

Of course, these activities can't replace real practice. But you can supplement your regular guitar practice sessions with these exercises when you can't play your guitar.

Turn your spare time into useful guitar practice today. Pick one activity from the list and try it for a week. Does it help you improve or do you find it a waste of time? Or maybe you thought of another good exercise? Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Posts on exercises to help you learn while not playing guitar will be a regular feature on the blog. If you are interested in more of these tips please sign-up to get them delivered by email or to your RSS reader.

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