How to Practice Without Picking Up Your Guitar

Practice Without Picking Up Your Guitar

Visualization is all too often underused as a way to learn your instrument. If you are learning a new chord, scale, or musical passage, you don’t always have to have the guitar on your lap to make that happen. All you need is a clear picture in your mind and a halfway decent imagination.

Here’s one example of how you can exploit this technique: let’s say you’re a beginner and want to master a chord you’ve never played before; let’s say a B7 open position chord shape, for example. Your first step is to study the chord diagram and place your fingers on the right notes, then strum to make sure your technique is solid.

The next step is to stare at your fingers, and as you do, you’ll want to make a mental note of where each finger is located: first finger is on the fourth string, first fret; second finger is on the fifth string, second fret, etc. Once you’ve taken the time needed to memorize your finger placement, remove your hand from the fretboard. Then visualize where your fingers will be placed for that chord while looking at your fretboard. Do not place them down yet. Only imagine what the chord should look like and where each finger should go. Then once it’s clear in your mind, quickly place all your fingers down on the fretboard, making a B7 chord in the process.

Your next step is to repeat this same process several more times.

Then later, while at work, in class, or during commercial breaks on TV, take a few moments to visualize the B7 chord. First, see the guitar neck in your mind. Second, place your fingers on the imaginary fretboard. And the more often you do this, the better you’ll get at it.

Then the next time you go to practice, you will know the chord much better than if you just tried it a few times during practice. Now your fingers will still need to build strength in order to execute the chord, but you’ll know it, and you’ll find learning new chords and changing between chords much easier to do.

Christian Triola is the author of The Missing Method for Guitar Note Reading Series​, which teaches guitar players how to read notation anywhere on the fretboard. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music (jazz guitar) and a master’s degree in education, both from The University of Akron. Over the past 16 years, he has taught guitar, bass, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, and piano at Wadsworth Music in Wadsworth, Ohio. On top of that, he has held workshops and clinics throughout Northeast Ohio on topics ranging from guitar basics to music theory to ear training. When he isn’t writing books and teaching, he also plays solo gigs as well as filling in with various groups throughout the region. You can find his Missing Method Series on Amazon​ or by clicking here


Visualization is such a powerful tool. Back when I was in high school I had a mental block that kept me from bench pressing 225lbs on the bench. I could get 220 about 10 times. But when I would put the extra 5lbs on in the form of two 45lbs plates on each side, for some reason I couldn’t do it. Not even once. An older wise man from my gym told me to set up the bench as if I was going to press the 225lb barbell. Then he told me to lay down as if I was going to do it, then set at the end of my bench and visualize myself doing this weight 10 times. He told me not to try and lift it, but just to picture myself doing it in my mind. He told me to do this for 2 weeks. Then at the end of two weeks set it up and bench it. So I did exactly as he told me. When the two weeks was up and I went to bench this weight, not only did I do it, but I did it 25 times. It was the most amazing thing I experienced at that time in my life. Needless to say, I now use visualization whenever I find myself stumped, or having a mental block on something, and it works every time.

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