Archive for May, 2012

Practicing Without Your Guitar – Part II: Visualizing

Posted by Brian on 29th May 2012 in General Music, How to:..., Musicianship, Performing, Practice

Earlier this month, I led a workshop on “Practicing Without Your Guitar” at the York Region Fingerstyle Guitar Association’s monthly Open Mic. I am now working on getting some of the insights from that workshop written down and posted. Two weeks ago, I talked about why we might want to practice without our guitar. This week I am going to talk about visualization techniques.

We often hear athletes talk about using visualizing techniques to help them on their road to success. One thing that came up during the workshop was the legendary story of the golfer who kept himself sane as  a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam by imagining playing a round of golf at his home course each day. When he finally did get home, the story goes, he had only lost a couple of strokes off his game. While the veracity of this story may be in doubt, the benefits of visualization techniques are not.

One way that we can use visualization is to play “air guitar”. We can imagine playing new chord shapes or playing a familiar chord progression – maybe playing that chord progression on another part of the neck. We can imagine playing scales – working through the major, and various minor and modal scales, hearing them in our mind as we “play” them.

We can also pick up some sheet music (standard notation or tablature) and visualize playing it. If you are using standard notation, figure out the best place to play each note, and, where applicable, figure out which chord voicings will work most effectively.

Another way we can use visualization techniques is to use our computer or mobile devices. There are websites and “apps” that help you to learn your fretboard. Here is one from

A final area where we can use visualization is in performance. Years ago I heard Olympic Gold Medalist, Mark Tewksbury tell a story about sneaking into the, then unfinished, pool in Barcelona and imagining the crowds and walking across the deck to the starting blocks and hearing the starters pistol and how it helped him to perform on the actual day of competition. As musicians, we can do the same by imagining an audience, imagining taking our place on the stage and nailing those first few notes. We can also use this type of visualization with our instrument in hand too – when we are working on performance pieces, we should be imagining our audience and even practicing our verbal bits between songs.

Stay tuned for Part III: Rhythm and Tempo



Quote, Unquote.

Posted by Brian on 19th May 2012 in General Music, Practice, Quote Unquote

Quote, UnquoteI came across this quote reading an excellent article, “How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice?” at Bulletproof

“If you practice with your fingers,
no amount is enough.
If you practice with your head,
two hours is plenty.”

— Leopold Auer upon being asked by violinist Nathan
Milstein how long he should practice each day.

The rest of the article talks about the importance of being engaged while you practice and discusses the the pitfalls of the “typical” practice routine and the importance of breaking down your material into small bits and really analyzing your playing as you work on those small chunks.

Practicing Without Your Guitar – Part I: Why?

A week and a half ago, I led a workshop on “Practicing Without Your Guitar” at the York Region Fingerstyle Guitar Association’s monthly Open Mic. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting some of the techniques that were discussed for practicing without having an instrument in hand.

First, however, I thought it might be helpful to discuss why one might want to practice without a guitar.

For me, the most obvious situation where one might want to practice without a guitar is when there isn’t a guitar available. When you’re on the bus, or at your kids’ soccer practice, or waiting at the doctor’s office, you may want to wile away the time by practicing without your guitar.

You may also want to practice without your guitar to build non-guitar-specific skills. You can work on rhythm or ear training very easily without having your instrument in hand.

Another reason you may want to practice without your guitar is to avoid (or recover from) injury. Repetitive stress injuries are common with the guitar and we can reduce our playing hours by finding ways to practice without actually playing.

So now that you know why you might want to practice without your guitar, stay tuned to learn how to practice without your guitar…

May 29, 2012:  Part II: Visualizing

June 28, 2012: Part III: Rhythm and Tempo

Video of the Month: Timo Brauwers

Posted by Brian on 1st May 2012 in Fingerstyle Guitar, Guitarists, Video of the Month

Video-of-the-MonthMay’s Video-of-the-Month is another German guitarist, Timo Brauwers, who I discovered when Adam Rafferty posted a video link of Timo’s on Facebook. At the time of writing, the English version of Timo’s website did not yet have his biographical information and I don’t read German particularly well, so I can’t tell you much about Timo, other than that I really enjoy his playing.

Here he is playing “Breathe Deeply”:


Incidentally, I recently tried the same model guitar that Timo uses in this video – it may well be my next guitar!

Timo’s website: (English version – click on German flag at far right of navigation bar for German)

Timo’s YouTube channel: