5 November 2010

6 Ways To Maintain Your Guitar Skills When You've Got No Time

You might have noticed a lack of posts here over the past week or two. The truth is I've just been way to busy to keep up my blogging schedule, projects at work and at home have kept my days, evenings and weekends occupied. So much so that I haven't even found much time to practice guitar.

It's always frustrating to be kept away from the guitar by other projects, but sometimes that just the way life goes and there is little we can do about it. Or is there? During busy periods like this one when my guitar has to take a back seat I still have a few tactics up my sleeve to help me keep my hand in and not lose too much of the little guitar skill I've acquired through hard work over the years.

Today I'm sharing a few of the ideas that I use when I have no time to practice with you. Maybe next time you're stuck for guitar practice time they'll help you too.

Essential Guitar Exercises

This one is really a first line of defence to maintain the most important guitar skills when time gets tight. During almost any busy period you should be able to find at least a few minutes a day to pick up your guitar. A 10 minute essential guitar exercise routine is great for this.

My essential guitar exercises include a couple of up and down the neck scale patterns, some bending, hammer-on and pull-off exercises and a bunch of chords. The basic set is usually a little over 5 minutes worth and I add a song to this, whichever one I feel like, to have a little more fun too.

Develop a set of essential exercises that work for you and that you can run through in only 5 or 10 minutes. It's a great way to ensure that you can pack in some useful guitar practice on even the busiest days.

Guitar Games

Another way to squeeze some musical exercises into your day is to play some guitar or music games on your computer. There are plenty of great applications to do this. One that I like to use is GuitarGames. Because it's a web site I can use it from anywhere I have a computer, and it has some really useful learning tools that are a lot of fun too.

In only 5 minutes, during a lunch break for example, you can work on your fretboard knowledge, do a bit of ear training, or brush up on some music theory. You can even compete with your musician friends to see who can do best in the high scores table.

Visualization

When things are really tough and time is really at a premium I like to keep guitar in mind with some visualization exercises during the day. I fit these in while walking or cycling, or when I'm waiting around for a few minutes, maybe for a meeting to start.

Visualizations can be used for anything, but one good starting point is your routine of essential guitar exercises. Try to visualize those in your mind. Move your mind's eye around to view yourself performing them from all angles and ensure that you really know exactly where your fingers go and all the movements you perform to get them into place.

Listening

Another way you can keep your musical skills alive is to listen attentively to music. Maybe you have some background music as you drive your car or as you work at your computer. Keep an attentive ear open to pick out chord changes or notice the little details of what is going on in the music.

This mental and ear exercise will stand you in good stead when you are back with your guitar strapped on again.

Guitar Blogging

Might seem like a strange idea when you're lacking time, but sometimes guitar blogging helps me. Lack of practice time doesn't always mean that you don't have any time at all. It can mean that you simply don't have time when you can pick up your guitar, like when you're travelling for example.

But if you have a computer handy then bashing out a few articles on guitar playing is a good way to exercise your musical brain and can bring you new insights into the guitar and music in general. If you don't have a computer, then a pen and paper makes an effective low-tech alternative.

Reading

Don't feel up to writing about playing guitar? Then get some good books on music and on playing guitar and brush up on your theory by reading them instead. Or get some song books and practice your sight reading, you can easily carry a page or two of music in a pocket to profit from a few moments to improve.

It's always tough to find guitar practice time, but with the techniques above I can always find a way to get in at least a few minutes a day to improve my guitar and musical skills. With a little imagination you can create short routines and exercises like these that will ensure your skills don't erode too much when you can't spend the time you'd like to with your favourite instrument.

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Photo by zoutedrop.

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