practicing guitar without a guitar

Practicing Guitar Without a Guitar

By Erick Gerber
In Apr 8, 2016

Most pupils really just don’t have the time for practicing guitar as much as they would like to. What most people don’t realize, however, is that practicing guitar is as much about training your mind as it is about training your fingers and that there are some aspects of your mind that you can practice without a guitar.

So how do we do this? Check out these useful tips and tricks below:

Tips on Practicing Guitar Without a Guitar

Listen to the song you’re learning
Listen to the song you’re busy learning as much as possible. Learning a song you know off by heart is much easier than learning a song you’ve never heard before. Download it onto your phone, play it through your car speakers, listen to it through your earphones at school/work, get it engraved into your brain! Also, pay special attention to the guitar parts that stand out. You should be able to sing the guitar parts to yourself when listening to the song.

Visualize the fret board
Take a moment, close your eyes, and think about what your fretboard looks like. Think about where every fret is, which frets are marked with in-lays etc. Knowing your fretboard well is an invaluable skill to have as a guitarist. Think about where you place your fingers for that technical exercise, that scale you’re busy learning, or the chord shape you always forget.

Move your fretting hand to your imaginary fret board
Without a guitar, move your fretting hand to the shape of the riff that you’re busy learning. You might feel stupid while doing it at first, but don’t let it stop you from trying this great tip! Just look at your hand, visualize an imaginary fret board, and move your fingers in the movement that you would make if you were really playing the guitar. Or even better – use your phone or your wallet for something to press your fingers against. Playing scales usually takes different sequences of fingers per string. Practice putting those sequences of fingers down in the correct order without a guitar.

Practice your strumming without a guitar
Practicing guitar strumming patterns is all about moving your hand up and down to a specific rhythm. Why can’t you practice doing that without your guitar? Place your fingers as if you were holding a plectrum (or even better, use an actual plectrum), and practice your strumming patterns. Use your other arm, your body, or your leg in place of your guitar strings, to practice when your pick should be touching the strings, and when they should be missing them.

Practicing Timing with your feet and hands
Struggling to get the timing of a song or part of a song? Tap your foot to the ground and try and keep it consistent. The idea is to try and replace the function of a metronome or drum beat. That in itself is already a great practicing tool for developing strong, consistent timing. Now at the same time use your hand to tap the rhythm you want to practice. If it’s a fast rhythm, use both hands. This will also teach your brain to multi-task with different limbs while making music, which is not only useful for drummers, but any musician, and can only make your sense of timing better.


“Where will I get time to just sit around and train my mind without a guitar?”
Research estimates that the average person spends a minimum or an hour every day, just waiting for things. Waiting in lines, waiting for the printer to finish printing, waiting in traffic and at traffic lights… the list goes on. That’s a minimum of an hour that you can use to train your mind every day without your guitar! Maximize the time you have and get the most out of your day.

Next time you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in line, just use the methods mentioned above and train your mind to play guitar! When you eventually pick up your guitar, you’ll feel the difference in your fingers! The idea is not to replace playing the guitar, by imagining to play it, but rather to make your actual practice time with the guitar a lot more efficient.

Profile photo of Erick Gerber

Plays for “Red Helen” and “Truth and It’s Burden”. Can make his guitar sound like an accelerating car. Currently doing his BMus Honours degree with the University of Chichester. Sucks at Guitar Hero. Can solo behind his head. Has gigged extensively throughout South Africa.

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