How to Practice Guitar Without a Guitar

You might not have your guitar with you during vacations, or on lunch break at work, but this is no excuse to skip practice. 

Guitar practice is possible and fruitful even without the actual guitar.

This may feel awkward at first, especially if you have not done it before, but there are exercises you can do to improve your guitar skills, even if you don’t have a guitar.

In this article, we will explore some of the best tips on how to practice guitar without a guitar, so you can continue honing your skills even when you’re away from your instrument.

How to Practice Guitar Without a Guitar (Quick Answer)

You can practice how to play a guitar without an actual guitar using a few ways such as learning guitar music theory, ear training, listening to songs actively, and using guitar apps, among others.

Ways How to Practice Guitar Without a Guitar

Listen to Music

When you listen to music, it awakens creativity and gives you new ideas on how to play the guitar differently. Music is also an inspiration for guitar players as it gives them ideas on how to come up with new riffs or guitar techniques.

If you want to learn how to make guitar covers for songs, listening to music plays a major role in mastery and creativity. Also, it allows you to update yourself with the new guitar techniques.

Just like other instruments, you have to actively listen to music to better your skill, keep yourself informed, and make use of your creativity.

Note: active listening is the most effective method to learn from listening to music. This involves full concentration when listening. It is not just listening while you do chores or while driving. It is dedicating your full attention to listening and learning from the music.

Learn Music Theory

If you cannot access your guitar and need to practice, get your notes on music theory and polish up on it. theory is a vital aspect of guitar and if you want to be a professional guitarist, you must master it.

There are reliable sources of music theory, accessible on the phone, laptop, or tablet that you can use during day breaks at work, in between classes at school, or on vacation when you do not have the guitar.

You can also use books if you have them to polish up on important theoretical aspects of guitar such as chord progressions, scales, and rhythms.

Watch Tutorials

Did you know that you can benefit much from just watching tutorials even without a guitar in hand?

While watching a guitar tutorial when practicing is most helpful, you can also reap benefits from simply watching and using your hands to mimic guitar moves as you watch.

Furthermore, watching a tutorial without a guitar could be more helpful because you have 100% attention focused on learning what the tutorial is teaching.

There are many online platforms to get great guitar tutorials and the best one is youtube. If you have time but no guitar, you can add a skill or two by binge-watching YouTube guitar tutorials.

Also, watching tutorials helps you identify the best online platforms to learn guitar or to improve what you are struggling with. For example, if you are a beginner and want to practice guitar without a guitar, check out this youtube video:

Finger Exercises

Sometimes we indulge in guitar playing, guitar maintenance, and improving guitar skills but forget to take care of ourselves.

For example, vocalists take care of their vocal cords by reducing sugar intake and keeping hydrated. For guitarists, you can do the same by applying some finger exercises.

Truth is, guitar players experience sore fingers especially when playing fingerstyle. In this case, indulge yourself in finger stretches and other exercises that help with guitar playing.

Once you do regular finger exercises, it helps with keeping you comfortable when playing guitar and avoids soreness as a result of playing.

If you are a beginner guitar player or a bass guitar player, check out this video for some practical finger exercises:

Ear Training

Ever wondered how great guitarists just listen to a song one time and play it correctly? Ear training has a lot to do with this superpower in guitar playing.

When it comes to guitars, it is not just our hands and fingers that need training. Your ears are crucial in learning guitar. Good thing is that in ear training, you do not need a guitar in hand.

Ear training is developing your ability to recognize and identify different musical sounds and intervals by ear, without relying on written notation.

There are different ways to do ear training including using ear training apps, learning melodies by ear, and transcribing solos.


Can I learn guitar without playing it?

The initial part of guitar playing does not require you to have a guitar. You can learn theory and even practice without a guitar.

Can you play guitar with just your fingers?

You can play guitar with your fingers. This style of playing is called fingerstyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I practice without a guitar?

When a guitar isn’t within your reach, practicing might still be feasible – and it’s all about adopting the right strategies. You can tap into your knowledge of chords, scales, and note progressions by doing mental rehearsals. In simple terms, this involves visualizing the guitar and your fingers moving across the frets and strings against the backdrop of your mind. By doing this, you’re activating the same neural pathways, similar to when you’re physically playing the instrument. This technique is known in the music circles as audiation.

Remember, guitar playing is not merely a physical activity – it is just as much a mental game, and this aspect requires consistent honing. Also, by doing a shadow practice where you essentially mime the act of playing a guitar, you can maintain your finger dexterity and muscle memory, especially if you've begun playing recently. If you're really motivated, you might even consider building a DIY practice guitar! But really, it's your passion and untiring will to learn that will make the most difference.

How can a beginner learn guitar without a guitar?

Being at the beginner’s stage of guitar learning without a physical guitar may seem a bit challenging, but it certainly isn’t impossible. You can start with studying chord charts, watching guitar lessons on YouTube, or using virtual guitar apps to learn how to form the chords and where your fingers should be on the fretboard.

Another way is to learn musical theory, which is the foundation on which all music is built. It would be beneficial to get familiar with concepts such as the major and minor scales, pentatonic scales, chord building, triads, and so on. You can learn these from basic music theory video lessons on YouTube or sign up for free theory courses on websites like Coursera or Udemy. Just remember, this is more of crawlers' phase, and to transform it to running, you will need a physical guitar sooner or later.

How do I force myself to play guitar?

Forcing yourself to play guitar should ideally not be because of some external compulsion but rather should be driven by your own internal desire and passion for music. If you’re finding it difficult to stay motivated, set yourself small, achievable goals. Maybe learn one new song a week, or master a difficult chord, or improvise a bit on your favorite track.

Starting a jam session with friends can also help by adding a social element to your practice. Create a routine around your practice that makes it more enjoyable – it could be something as simple as preparing a cup of your favorite tea before you start or playing along with your favorite tracks. Or, just find different styles of music that inspire you to pick up the guitar – it could be blues today, classical tomorrow, and maybe even rock the day after! The key is to keep the process enjoyable and not treated as a chore.

Can I practice guitar silently?

Of course, you can practice your guitar in silence, especially if it’s an electric guitar. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using headphones. Just plug your headphones into your amplifier or your multi-effects pedal, and you can strum away without disturbing anyone else in the house. This not only ensures that your practice sessions don’t disrupt others, but it also allows you to immerse yourself fully in the music and hear all the subtle nuances of your playing – a win-win situation, really. You could also consider investing in a silent guitar, designed specifically for such situations.


I'm Johnny, the guy behind Guitar Manifesto. I've been playing guitar since my teens and now that I'm in my 40s, I'm all about sharing what I've learned to help you become a better guitarist.

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