Practicing Without The Guitar
Wouldn’t it be great to practice guitar anywhere? Wouldn’t it be cool to practice arpeggios in the shower and chord scales while you’re making dinner?
Maybe we’ll figure out a way to make those things happen at some point. But for now, there are many things you can do to practice guitar even when you can’t actually get to the instrument. First, we need to overcome a bit of doubt and unresourceful mental conditioning: When you can’t get to the guitar, you can’t practice, right? It’s just that simple. Like, when you don’t have a car, you can’t get from your home to the grocery store.
A single observation can help us change the belief that you can’t practice when you can’t reach a guitar: playing guitar is mostly a mental activity. What does that mean? It means the exercises you do with your hands and fingers are designed not to transform your hands and fingers into new shapes, but to make new shapes – or pathways or patterns – in your mind. Right now, we usually tend to think of the guitar as being the only method for creating the mental patterns needed to play guitar. But, it’s not the only way.
If you’ve been reading Guitar Study for some time, you’ve probably read about a book that shows you how to do mind practicing – and shows you proof that it works. That book is Mental Practice and Imagery for Musicians by Malva Freymuth.
That book is a wake-up call that says you can practice guitar even when you can’t reach a guitar. But that book isn’t the only evidence that you can practice just about anywhere.
There is a tool that takes you beyond mind practicing and still lets you practice just about anywhere. This tool, called the Twanger PraxAx, is made to develop your picking and other right hand techniques. After trying it out, I can tell you it definitely achieves this. But it will do much more than working out your right hand. Hang on and you’ll see what I mean.
Physical features of PraxAx
The PraxAx looks like a block of wood with strings attached to it, and that’s essentially what it is. You can get a picture of it here. You see that you wear it as a belt; you can adjust the belt as needed.
The PraxAx may look like a simple tool, but some of the simplest looking tools are the most helpful for building things, aren’t they? Just think of the hammer, for instance. Consider the PraxAx as a kind of hammer for shaping and building your picking skills.
How you use it
You use the PraxAx just as though you were fingerpicking, flatpicking or doing other right hand exercises with a regular guitar. If you’re a classical guitarist, there’s a PraxAx with nylon strings, and other models for other types of players, includes bass.
Where can you practice with the PraxAx? Just about anywhere. Practice sweep picking while waiting in the grocery store checkout line. Practice your alternating picking while you’re sitting at your desk at work. You can even do some exercises while your car is stuck in traffic or at a stoplight. But please be careful if you do use the PraxAx in the car. Once you get into using this tool regularly, you’ll see how engaging it is.
Building unseen skills
The PraxAx is a useful tool if you look at it just as a right-hand picking skill enhancer. But take a broader view and consider another way that the PraxAx helps you build your guitar skills:
The PraxAx gets you to think more often about guitar playing and practicing. Do you think that your ability to do something might improve the more time you spend thinking about it? You bet your burnoose it does. Go back to the Freymuth paragraph if you’re in doubt on this.
Also, when you start thinking more about practicing, and working with the PraxAx, your commitment to improving your skills grows significantly. You feel more like a serious guitarist. For example, think of how you feel when you’re standing in line at the checkout counter at the Home Depot or wherever. You feel and appear as normal as everyone else in line. You might even experience a sense of boredom or impatience in this situation.
But when you’ve directed your attention away from the boredom – which earns you zip, nada, nothing – to work on your guitar skills, suddenly you’re not the same as everyone else: you’re different. A good different. And when you’re working on your skills in a way that others can see, you’re making a kind of political statement that says, “I vote for playing guitar right now.”
When others see you working out with your PraxAx, they’ll recognize you as a guitarist. This will bring into your life other guitarists to jam with and learn from. It could also help you meet others who might like to take guitar lessons from you. Ta-da: another stream of income – and this one will be doing something you love to do.
You’ll probably find other benefits from using the PraxAx.
The instructions that come with the PraxAx look pretty useful, too. One of the pages has specific suggestions for exercises. These instructions also offer hints on adjusting the string tension.
As mentioned before, there are lots of different models for different styles and budgets. You can get a kit to build yourself for $20 as of this writing. There’s also an “Amp Ready” version.
You get a better feeling about buying a tool when you know that the person who created it did it to bolster his own guitar skills, and not just to make a buck. That’s the case with the PraxAx. Ralph Rosenberg invented the PraxAx to improve his own picking practice. If he’s making it for himself, he’s not going to make junk. So, be assured that you’re not just buying some whimsical widget with no practical use.
Find out more about the Twanger PraxAx here.