'Total Guitar' November 2003

How to practise while watching the telly

Even the most dedicated of guitarists need to take time out of a busy practice schedule... and the lazy ones need to justify their square eyes.

Here are some tips to use as an excuse, sorry, practice aid when spending your day in front of the box. With these at hand you can watch all your favourite programmes and any other rubbish without feeling too guilty. All you need is a TV, sofa and guitar.

Warning - This guide shows little consideration to other viewers in the room and removes all rights to complain at tapping drummers.

  • The professional couch guitarist works out regularly to sport, wildlife documentaries and cooking programmes - basically anything where you don't necessarily need to hear what's going on.

  • The channels are there to help you through all of those monotonous finger exercises and scales. Also work on getting nice slow, controlled vibrato and get those string bends in perfect pitch. After a few weeks on the course your strong and agile fingers will get on with things by themselves whilst the brain is totally absorbed in Neighbours. Now when mother takes the aerial away you'll be free to concentrate on fancy solos and perhaps indulge in some backing vocals.

  • Most of your playing will be done without looking at the guitar - this is a good ability to have for when you're on stage pulling those pained string bend expressions to the front row.

  • Advert breaks are the quick-fire ear-training rounds. They'll throw all sorts of random sounds and styles at you. See how quickly you can find the key to the jingles and play along.

  • It's always nice to have worked out a few famous TV themes for when the lead singer needs to nip to the loo. The most popular track has to be 'The Simpsons' with its quirky b5 interval.

  • Improve phrasing and dynamics by mimicking dialogue on the guitar. Pluck on each syllable and start with just staying on the one note. Try to capture the mood of the scene in your playing e.g. plenty of attack and vibrato for anger, slides and slow bends for distress.

  • The songwriters out there should work through some good films as they'll be good for inspiration. Feel free to hit pause and work on the ideas as they come. Try muting the sound, perhaps during action sequences, and add your own sound track.

  • And remember - watching MTV is research.
Andy Ellis
November 2003

Last updated 6/25/2020