Whether you're a professional or hobby guitarist, you're likely to spend hours a day when you can't physically play a guitar. This may be because you're working, driving, at the gym, fighting a bear etc.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about practice and the most essential elements for practice. In that blog I had number 10 as be engaged away from the guitar.
So this week I'm breaking that down to help you very practically in how you can be engaged away from the guitar.
Yes, okay listening is extremely broad and pretty obvious too, but it's a fantastic resource and perfect for any commute and even some workplaces. But in this context here listening needs to be active and engaged, rather than passive. So what can we listen for? Everything, but more specifically, start with these 3 key elements:
We know that guitar tone is fundamental to guitar, analyze different guitar tones when you are listening to music. What effects are there and how heavy? How is the eq? How distorted is it? What gear may they be using? Which pickup setting? The better you become at hearing this, the better chance you have of getting the tones you want straight away when you plug in and play yourself, or when you are getting your own rig together.
b) Chord Changes
It's important to be able to hear where a song is going and what kind of sounds different chord progressions give. Try testing your ears. What's the chord progression in this song? I - V - vi - IV? Something different? Try it out and test your hypothesis when you get home. This kind of skill will improve your playing and value as a band member hugely, before too long you'll be confident enough you won't even feel you need to test it.
3) Guitar Parts
What is the guitar doing in this song? Lead? Open chords? Inversions? Arpeggios? What kind of rhythm? What's the role of guitar in this band? Try to actually decipher what a guitarist is doing on any track you're listening to. What register are they playing in? This is a great exercise for your ears and also great for hearing what kind of playing style you like or don't like. What would you like to see more of in your playing, or what would you do differently?
Timing and rhythm. Lead players need it, rhythm players need it. This can make or break any player. To really get on top of your rhythm and timing, tap out rhythms that you're listening to, try subdividing the beats, create your own rhythms, see what cross rhythms you can come up with. Basically in this instance, imagine that you're a drummer, many of those rhythmic skills are quite transferable to the guitar. Very easy to do on a steering wheel or your leg.
If possible, do some metronome work when you're tapping out different rhythms.
It's no secret that the fingers of a professional guitarist are extremely dexterous. Now most of this is built on the fretboard, but stretching out the fingers while doing any unrelated task can give an edge to your dexterity.
Very simple, and can even be done without any brain power.
This is great for solidyfing scales, chord shapes, song parts etc. I often actually run through scales with my fingers without a guitar. Sometimes a solo. Of course, this isn't the biggest technique booster but is great for memorizing scales, parts and the fretboard in general.
Activate the theory part of your mind
The knowledge in your mind can really aid you in your playing, so going over your music theory in your mind can be extremely valuable. Think about that chord theory (found here #shameless plug), or the different keys.
This one is very simple and somewhat obvious, but also very easily forgettable, hence its inclusion.
Ok if you're commuting then you probably also can't play drums, but you may be able to sing. Or you may find yourself at a friend's place with a piano and no guitar. Rather than just looking at it like it has no worth to you, engage with that instrument, try to at least understand it and how it works. Even if you're terrible at it, it can improve your musicianship greatly.