One of the most frustrating thingsthat can happen to us as guitar players is not being able to practice due to an injury. Whether the injury was caused by something non-guitar related (i.e. car accident) or was a result of practicing improperly (i.e. bad posture or repetitive strain), it is very frustrating having to stop practicing while the injury heals.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways you can keep yourself progressing on the guitar even if you aren’t able to practice like you would normally. Everyone’s situation will be different, so it’ important that you only do what you are physically able to without causing any further harm to yourself. Here are 4 tips to help you make progress on the guitar through any kind of injury:
Find Alternative Activities
The great thing about learning music is there is always something new to learn. If you are not able to physically play guitar right now, here are some examples of alternative ways you can practice that do not require you to physically play your guitar:
●Ear training: Your ears are your greatest assets when it comes to being a musician. Singing scales or listening to a song you really like and trying to figure out the bass line are 2 examples of the many ways you can improve your aural skills. Any time spent training your ears will be well worth the effort as it will make you not only a better guitarist, but a better musician overall.
●Studying Music Theory:Learning things like all the the names of the notes on the fretboard or studying how chords are constructed will not only improve your ability to learn
music faster, but will also enhance your songwriting and improvisation abilities. By the time you are able to play again, you will have a much better working knowledge of the instrument and will have all sorts of new things to try out.
Shift Your Focus
It takes 2 hands to play guitar, so if one of your hands is injured (picking or fretting hand), you can shift your focus to the hand that is not injured. Several years ago I was in a severe car accident, causing damage to my fretting hand that required a brace for several weeks. Unable to play anything with that hand, I shifted my focus to my picking hand entirely. I played the picking hand portion of the exercises I was already practicing before the injury, and focused on making every aspect of what I played as perfect as I could. By the time my fretting hand was healed, my picking hand was more consistent and accurate than it had ever been before. I actually got better even though I couldn’t practice like normal!
You can modify existing exercises to use different fingers if you have a hurt finger. Early in his career, the guitarist Django Reinhardt had his fretting hand permanently damaged in a fire. As a result, he lost all use of his ring and pinky finger on his fretting hand, but developed a style all his own and went on to become one of the most well known guitarists in the history of the instrument. He modified his approach to playing and became very proficient with the tools he did have. Playing an exercise in a different part of the neck, changing the fingers you use, or changing how you play something all together can really help to keep you moving forward in spite of an injury.
Do your best not to get too down about your injury. Someone once told me that no matter how hard things are for me, there is always someone else who has it much harder. This is a very true statement and an important one to remember. Jason Becker, for example, was on his way to becoming one of the greatest guitarists that ever lived, but was diagnosed at 21 years old with ALS. Fully paralyzed and unable to speak (or breathe unassisted), he was still able to compose for an album which he released in 2008 by creating a language and communicating to his assistants using only his eyes! He used his eyes to translate what he was hearing in his head to write an entire album! The point is: no matter what the circumstances, you can and will overcome them. Be patient and focus on making improvements where you’re able to while you heal.
As you can see, there are many avenues that you can explore to keep yourself moving forward on the guitar through an injury. If you aren’t dealing with an injury right now, having these tips available for the future will be helpful in case the unexpected does happen. By being prepared, you can set yourself up for success and find a way that works for you.
About the author: Andrew Tintle is a professional guitarist and teaches guitarin Roseville, CA. If you are looking for guitar
lessons in Roseville, Andrew would love to hear from you!