As we go through the course of our day, regardless of how busy our schedules are, many times we encounter "in between" moments - occasions where we find ourselves with a few minutes of down time.
Periodically I get questions from students asking how they can work on their guitar playing during those "in between" moments.
Quite often these few moments of down time occur during the work day, on a lunch break, waiting to pick the kids up from school, or in the middle of some other activity where it's just not practical to have your guitar with you.
So how can you work on your guitar playing skills, without a guitar? Here are some tips.
1. Work on "visualization". The ability to visualize chord and scale patterns is one of the most essential elements to mastering the guitar. Taking a few moments to form mental pictures of specific chord and scale patterns will help reinforce them when it comes time to actually put your hands on the guitar.
2. Take the visualization process to the next level by actually writing out chord shapes and scale patterns. You can write them out in a notebook of your own, or you can Google "chord sheet for guitar" and find a number of free downloadable ones that you can print out and take with you. These "chord" sheets can also be used to notate scales as well.
3. Strengthen hand and finger muscles. There are a number of finger and hand exercise devices available that are compact and inexpensive. Take one with you wherever you go and pull it out when you have a few minutes of down time. If the act of performing a "finger workout" is not mentally stimulating enough, work on visualization while performing the workout.
4. Play some "tummy guitar". Work on your strumming hand by holding an imaginary pick and doing some "tummy strumming". Practice various strumming patterns just as you would with a guitar in your hands. You will be amazed at how this will reinforce your strumming technique and help your playing in the long run.
5. Listen to music. Make copies of the original recordings of some of the songs you are working on and really "listen" to them. Quite often, when we have a guitar in our hands and we are playing along with a song we tend to focus more on the "playing" than the "listening". By having a few moments to really listen to a song we can sometimes pick up some of the subtle nuances and changes that we might have missed before.
Most of all, keep in mind that learning to play the guitar should be fun. Have a good time with these "in between" activities, but be careful not to suffer from information overload and the resulting burnout that can occur when "fun" activities become a "chore".
Keep things new and fresh and enjoy the journey. You'll be glad you did.
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