How to practice guitar without a guitar

Learn to practice guitar without it near you. Learn more.

Practice guitar when you don't have it with you:

Yes, this post is about How to Improve your guitar playing without playing your guitar.

Sounds like bullshit, right?

Well, let me ask you if you have:

  • Ever woken in the the night with the solution to something you've been wondering about all day?
  • Found you'd improved at something after a period of NOT doing it (maybe due to injury or a holiday break)
  • Had a dream in which an important aspect of something was revealed, one that you'd totally missed when you'd been awake

If the answer to any of the above is yes, then you already have your proof that this works.

[for more scientific proof on the power of the mind, see this New York Times article]

Your mind is an extremely powerful learning machine. But most of us only ever think to use it when we are conscious and awake. But what about the rest of the time?

It sounds like bullshit but don’t disregard the power of your subconscious as an effective tool to improve your guitar playing


With this simple technique you can harness your subconscious mind to do some of the heavy lifting for you. It's all about processing and internalization.

Now don't get me wrong. You will need to use this technique in conjuction with actually playing your guitar. But the following technique is great for "dead-time" or "non-contact time" i.e. when you are without your guitar.

Use this technique when:

  • Waiting in line
  • In a taxi
  • At the gym
  • On a plane

Thinking about how/what you play when you practice guitar is a practice in itself

Without getting too new-age or woo woo, you'll know that visualisation is used (with great success) in everything from business mentorship to high performance athelete training. So why should practicing your guitar be any different?

It isn't. Its just that most guitar tuition focuses solely only fingers. Really, you need to work on fingers, ears and brain.

I used this technique for mastering Jimi Hendrix's back catalog within 3 months

My latest project is a Jimi Hendrix Tribute Show.


But 3 months ago, I barely knew any of Jimi's songs. And to be honest, the ones I did know weren't at a level of proficiency to perform in a tribute band. So what changed?

Coupled with a daily regime, it was this technique enabled me to go from not knowing Jimi to owning Jimi's playing style in under 3 months.

I'm not saying that you could do that (it's massively advanced). But I use a number of techniques (including this one) to leverage my subconscious learning because it works.

Leveraging subconscious learning in your guitar playing is vital to your success

Here's one example to try for yourself: a G major scale visualisation

This visualisation helps embed the G major scale. You'll find you:

  • Locate the scale on the fretboard quicker
  • Remember the scale pattern more clearly and not get mixed up
  • Play the scale with more fluidity (no hesitations)
  • Have more confident fingers (that know what's coming next)

It contains:

  • An audio clip - narrated and with the scale played (put it on your phone/ipod)
  • A worksheet - with clear visuals to embed the pattern

How does a no-guitar guitar practice work?

When you hold the guitar and play it, a rehearsal memory is created.

During playing guitar, your learning brain goes through a process of creating new memories (how you're playing a song/lick/scale right now) and accessing older ones (how you played this song/lick/scale last time).

It's therefore possible to access this "rehearsal tape" and continue to build on it when you are away from your instrument.

To embed learning in this way you need visual and aural input. This "dual signal" supports your recall, hence the audio clip (which you can play during dead-time) and the worksheet.

Repeated listening of the audio visualisation continues the memory making process for your brain and muscle-memory for your fingers.
That's why it works!

For best results mentally practice something you've played before

The process of creating a new rehearsal memory is different to accessing an older exisiting one. Which is why this works best when you revisit and build upon something you have already played.