How To Play Guitar At Your Best In Real-Life Situations

By Tom Hess

5 Easy Tricks You Can
Learn In 10 Minutes

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What is the ultimate test of how well you can play something on guitar?

Answer: your ability to play at your best when it really matters most – I call this “real life guitar playing”.

Real-life guitar playing means:

  • Playing guitar in front of other people without embarrassing mistakes.
  • Playing guitar at or near your best, accurately and consistently…even on your worst days

It’s helpful to practice for real-life guitar playing even if you don’t want play guitar professionally. Mastery of real-life guitar playing makes you sound good in any environment… and you do want that, right? :)

5 Easy Tricks You Can
Learn In 10 Minutes

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

Here is how to practice for real-life guitar playing:

  1. Train yourself to play guitar at your highest level. This means to continuously improve every area of your guitar and musical skills.
  2. Use guitar practice circuits to simulate real-life guitar playing conditions. You can customize these circuits to your needs, goals and experience level.

    Guitar practice circuit training is both very effective and very fun. This article explains how guitar practice circuits help your guitar playing.

This sample guitar playing training circuit prepares you for playing guitar in real life. Do the following steps using a metronome (or drum backing track). Play everything at your desired goal tempo, unless indicated otherwise.

Guitar Practice Drill For Real Life Guitar Playing

Step 1: Choose something specific you want to master and play it while standing up for 6 repetitions.

Step 2: Play the specific item you chose in step 1 while practicing your stage presence and movement. For example, hold the guitar up in the air and make cool arm and hand gestures to the audience. Do this without looking at your hands. Repeat this 9 times, but don’t play anything else other than the specific item you chose in step 1.

As soon as this is done, immediately move to:

Step 3: Play your item while walking around the room. Repeat 8 times in a row.

As soon as this is done, immediately move to:

Step 4: Play the item for 7 repetitions with your eyes closed. Do your best to play without mistakes (although mistakes will happen in this step). If you make mistakes, do your best to play through them while keeping your eyes closed.

As soon as this is done, immediately move to:

Step 5: Insert a specific guitar playing mistake into your playing of the item. Yes, you read correctly: select a specific guitar playing mistake and intentionally insert it into your playing. Repeat the item 4 times through with the specific mistake you selected. (More about how to do this below.)

As soon as this is done, immediately move to:

Step 6: Play the item 5-15 beats per minute faster than your top speed of consistent playing. Repeat 4 times.

(Don’t know what top speed of consistent playing is? Read this guitar speed report to find out.)

Repeat this circuit nonstop for 15-20 minutes.

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How This Guitar Practice Circuit Prepares You For Real-Life Guitar Playing:

Practicing Guitar While Standing:

In most real-life musical situations, you will be standing while playing guitar. Playing guitar while standing is harder than playing guitar while sitting. The guitar is less stable against your body. This makes playing more difficult.

Practicing guitar while standing makes you confident with playing in this position.

Practicing Guitar While Moving Around:

Good live performance requires movement. Simply playing the correct notes is not enough. Moving your body while playing helps you express yourself better.

Additional challenge: Squat down while playing your guitar practice item, then slowly stand back up. This makes you accustomed to playing in unusual positions and helps your normal playing to feel even easier.

Practicing Guitar While Walking:

Walking across the stage while performing, challenges your coordination and fluency. Mastering this element helps you create better stage presence.

Tip: Pick out two points in the room and lightly jog between them. This makes playing MUCH harder. It also makes walking while playing feel much easier in comparison.

Practicing Guitar With Your Eyes Closed:

Most guitarists are way too dependent on watching their hands every second when they play guitar. You might not always be able to see your hands when playing on stage. Sometimes the stage might be pitch-dark, other times a blinding light might be in your face. Practicing guitar with your eyes closed makes you less dependent on your eyesight. This helps you play well even when you can’t see yourself clearly.

Note: Don’t expect to play perfectly with your eyes closed. You will make a lot more mistakes than usual (especially at first). Expect to make even more mistakes if your fretting hand has to make big position shifts. This is normal. Don’t become stressed out. The goal is to improve your ability to play without looking at your hands. The more you practice with your eyes closed, the more consistent your playing becomes.

Practicing Guitar At A Faster Tempo:

Playing at a faster tempo makes the original speed feel a lot easier and helps you play reliably without mistakes.

Practicing Guitar By Inserting Mistakes:

Mistakes will happen when you play guitar live. Training yourself to play through mistakes helps you avoid falling apart and feeling embarrassed when you perform.

Question: “Tom Hess, what mistakes can I insert into my guitar playing?”

Answer: You should insert any mistakes that are most likely to happen in the item you are practicing. Most common mistakes include: excess string noise, notes bleeding together, weak articulation on specific notes, hands out of sync on specific notes, out-of-tune string bends or playing out of time.

Mistakes that hurt your live guitar playingMore Real-Life Conditions To Simulate When You Practice Guitar

Idea #1: Stand right next to the amp when you play guitar. Turn the volume louder than normal. Everything sounds and feels different when you stand very close to the amp. Get used to playing at your best even when the sound of the guitar is right in your face.

Idea #2: Stand as far away from the amp as you can. Step outside your room and close the door (if possible) to make the amp sound distant. Everything sounds and feels different when you stand much farther from the amp than you are used to. Get used to playing at your best even when the sound of your guitar is far away from you.

Idea #3: Play to a backing track that is turned up WAY too loud (much louder than your guitar). This forces you to play well even when your own guitar parts are drowned out by other instruments. (This happens very often when playing live).

Idea #4: Play using an unfamiliar amp tone settings or a strange effect you aren’t used to. This pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to play better despite the poor tone.

Idea #5: Play in a room that is way too warm (so warm that you begin to sweat). If possible, get huge light bulbs (or strobe lights) and point them at your face when you play. This simulates a realistic stage environment as closely as possible.

Idea #6: Practice guitar when you are mentally fatigued (very early in the morning or very late at night). This challenges your ability to concentrate and makes your playing harder.

Practicing in these conditions makes you a lot more confident about your skills. This confidence leads to much better and more enjoyable live guitar playing.

Warning: don’t use this guitar practice circuit as a replacement for other practice strategies. Integrate it into your current guitar practice routine 3 times per week for the next month. Get used to the process and experience its immediate benefits. Continue using this circuit on as-needed basis to master playing guitar in real-life situations.

Want to learn 5 more ways to make your playing sound better in the next 10 minutes? Download this free guitar playing eGuide & discover cool guitar playing tricks that you can easily learn today to have more fun and impress your friends with your guitar playing. 

Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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