I’m currently traveling to Denmark, and this time I don’t have a guitar with me. It makes sense to bring your guitar locally to jam with friends, have for family get togethers, and other occasions. Unfortunately, it’s not always the best idea to bring your guitar with you while traveling.
We’ve all seen countless pictures of snapped guitar necks and other mishaps with airlines. Even if you carry insurance for your instruments and have them in flight tested cases, you don’t need your favorite axe busted while traveling. It’ll put a huge damper on everything else you’re there to do.
The great part about traveling without your guitar is that it lets you focus on a lot of other things, and in the process usually makes you want to play more when you get home. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, anyone?
So what can you do while traveling without an instrument? Let’s find out:
Work on your practice schedule
One of the number one concerns I hear all the time from players and students is that they don’t feel like they’re progressing with their playing. If you put in the time, and put in the time on the right stuff, you will get better. You can play anything and everything if you just take it slow and break sections down into manageable pieces.
The biggest component that so many players struggle with is setting up a practice schedule. Luckily, I’ve already written that post for you to check out. Knowing what you’re going to practice when you sit down will make a monumental change in your playing and ability.
When you’re away from your guitar, write out a week’s worth of a practice schedule. You can look to my post for a starting point. Break sections down into smaller pieces, and try to use what you’re learning (techniques, riffs, etc.) as soon as possible in a musical way.
Work on your guitar knowledge
The first step in learning something new on guitar can be helped out by knowing the theory behind it. Don’t know what the Mixolydian scale is? Look it up! But it’s more than just learning theory.
Your time away from the guitar can be you researching your favorite players’ guitar tones, or actively listening to a new genre you’re trying to emulate. Read a guitar magazine or blog (hey!).
Anything you can do to beef up your knowledge of the instrument is a good thing, even if you never use it down the road. You always want to be learning more of the vocabulary of the guitar. Here are some great books to get started with. (Books / Even More Books)
And that active listening thing I was talking about - if you’re trying to start writing music in a specific style, download a bunch of great albums from that genre and see how these folks are constructing their riffs. Which leads us to our next point.
If you’re on the road, one of the most fun things you can do is try and transcribe solos, riffs, and lines from other instruments. One of the best ways to do this if you don’t have a guitar on hand is to open up GarageBand or a tone generator on your phone.
In GarageBand for iOS you have a virtual piano that can help you along. If you’re using something like split screen (on the ipad), you can have your music streaming on one half of the screen, and GarageBand on the other.
If you have a computer with you, I’m sure you could find something similar. I’ve been using Guitar Pro 7 (and loving it).
Developing your ear is so crucial when trying to write music, play what you hear in your head, and be able to jam quickly with other players. Develop your ear and it’ll pay huge dividends.
Try and use visualization while traveling. One of the easiest ways to practice this “training wheels” approach is to get a tab to a song you’re trying to learn, and follow along with it as you listen to the song. What this does is help cement the notes and riffs before you even pick up the guitar.
This might sound crazy, but it actually works. I’m not saying you have to go full on air guitar, but you should be able to picture yourself playing the notes on the neck. You’re likely to experience a strange deja vu moment when picking up your guitar next time.
This is a great thing to do whether you’re traveling, or if you don’t feel like playing at the time, OR if you can’t make loud noises after a certain time at your house.
Start Writing A Song
I spent a lot of time in September doing the Song In September Challenge. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out these posts where we came up with the idea for a song, wrote leads and tightened it up, recorded it, and then mixed it and put it up for sale.
You can do many of the initial things for writing a song from anywhere in the world. You can listen to songs to get inspired, you can pick a key and a quality, figure out what chords you might use, what scales you’d play over those chords, write lyrics, and so much more.
Having this time away from the guitar allows you to be more creative when you do end up getting the chance to play and write. Get some of the work that you don’t like out of the way, so you can have fun while playing.
What do you do while traveling?
I hope these suggestions gave you some good ideas of what to do musically while traveling. While you might not be able to play your guitar, you can certainly still work on becoming a better musician each and every day.