3 Tactics to Grow as a Musician WITHOUT Touching Your Instrument

How many hours in the day do you currently have, 24? Yep. Me too…

The real question is, “Since we all have 24 hours in the day, how are some musicians able to progress so quickly while others trudge along at a snail’s pace?”

We’ve all seen that elusive creature, right? The musician who’s always on time, always prepared and always looks like a million bucks. Their laundry is done, their bills are paid and they’re always in control of the situation.  HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE!?

The answer is not always easy, but if we look at the basics it comes down to one big factor - leveraged time. I’d like to share 3 easy tactics I’ve used to leverage my time and become a better musician while living a balanced and productive life.

Tactic 1 - Drive Time = Groove Time

I’m guilty of being a rush hour rockstar. Inevitably, while commuting I always start drumming on the steering wheel or my leg (FYI - safety is always a priority:-).

I used to think this was embarrassing and hoped I would never get caught rocking out. That was until I began seeing a noticeable improvement in my timing when creating music with others. That said, drum away!

It’s a simple training method that works like a charm when you're unable to actually play your instrument. I’ve passed this idea along to many of my students and they all agree this tactic produces great results.

Tactic 2 - Ear Training While Watching TV

This tactic might be better suited for intermediate and advancing players, but I want to share it because it’s fun and grows with your skill set. Many years ago I noticed most  TV programs make great use of music to add emotions like suspense, excitement, sadness, etc. In recent years the TV music game has really stepped up adding a musical foundation for almost every program including reality shows and high impact series like The Walking Dead and Into the Badlands.

The fun begins when you start using these music cues to picture how the chord progressions and melodies might be played on your instrument. You may even try guessing what popular song the background music is meant to mimic (Yes, there are quite a few music cues  written to “sound like” popular songs to avoid paying royalties).

Since most of us watch a fair amount of TV we can definitely leverage our time by adding some ear training in while “slaving" away on the couch… Just be ready for some interesting looks from friends and family as you mentally work through the many musical puzzles you find:-)

Tactic 3 - Mental Rehearsal

Last, but definitely not least, is mental rehearsal. The idea is simple. Mentally play through songs you’re learning without touching your instrument. Many great players use mental rehearsal to  prepare for gigs while on flights to the actual gig. Local gigging players might be listening to the songs while commuting across town and mentally playing through tricky sections.

QUICK NOTE: If you’re thinking this tactic is only for gigging musicians, you may want to check yourself before you wreck yourself:-) Had to do it!

Almost every musician has done some form of mental rehearsal in their lives - especially in their younger days. Have you ever wielded to might tennis racket or broom handle to air guitar your favorite songs? I sure have. I was crushing KISS songs to thousands of adoring fans long before I even knew how to tune a guitar. The cool thing is I found my reason for playing during those early years. I already knew what it would feel like to play for large crowds because I had rehearsed it many, many times.

My mental and physical reaction to visualizing the power of playing great music drove my relentless pursuit of becoming a musician who enjoyed performing no matter what obstacles I faced. How about you, how many hours of mental rehearsal have you invested in your playing already? Why not capitalize on that training and reach for the stars?!

Take aways:

Finding ways to optimize practice time and music growth doesn’t always look the way we think it should. Drive time groove practice, ear training while watching the tube and mentally playing through the songs or techniques you’re learning are just a few way to leverage your time in BIG ways.

Why not pick one of these tactics and try it out for a week or three. They can only help you get better and cost you little, if any, time...
Until next time, stay focused, stay consistent, and expect the best from yourself.  :-)

About the author:

Ty Morgan is a professional guitarist in the Phoenix, Arizona area. He also owns and operates one of the premier guitar education academies in the area. If you’re searching for rock/blues guitar lessons in Mesa, AZ and ready to discover the path to your guitar mastery be sure to contact Ty!