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4 Highly Effective Ways To Practice Guitar When You Have An Injury

By Ryan Popovic

Over my years of teaching guitar lessons, I’ve had a number students who’ve gotten injuries from sports or accidents that left them unable to play guitar for a few days or weeks. From strained wrists due to a fall to bad cuts from slicing fruit to dog bites; I’ve seen my fair share of (sometimes odd) injuries in my students.
Rather than allowing an injury to completely stall their progress, I’ve given them a number of  ways that they can practice that rapidly boost their playing, ability to visualize the fretboard, understanding and enjoyment of music, and knowledge of music theory.

All of the methods below can be used, even if you’re not injured, to make faster progress on the guitar. These ways of practicing are great if you’re a busy parent or student, you have to travel and can’t take your guitar, or you just want to get better fast.

Practice Method #1 - Practice with only one hand

The first way we can practice with an injury is to practice only with the uninjured hand. If your picking hand is injured, play only with your fretting hand. This allows you to fully focus on what your fretting fingers are doing, efficiency of motion, and hand placement.

Some things to look for when practicing with the fretting hand only:

• Are my fingers coming too far off the fretboard?

• Is my thumb on the back of the neck instead of wrapped around the top (excluding bends or vibrato)?

• Are my knuckles parallel to the strings (instead of at an angle)?

This is also a great time to practice slides, hammer-on’s, and pull-off’s.

What if your fretting hand is injured? If possible, with the fretting hand mute your strings. Here we want to pay lots of attention to string skipping, picking with proper upstrokes and downstrokes, and picking efficiency.

Practice Method #2 - Write out concepts on paper

This method is a great way to deepen your understanding and memorization of scales, the notes of chords, functions, scale patterns, and note locations on the fretboard.

Get a pen and paper and start writing out scales, or the chords in a particular key, or draw the pentatonic shapes.

Practice Method #3 - Visualisation

Visualization can be great to use in conjunction with Method #2. I often use visualization with my students in their lessons to help them increase speed and efficiency. Visualization can also be used to help learn your scale patterns, triads, note functions, or any other concept that you want to internalize.

If we want to be able to play a major 3rd in the key of A, It’s great to be able to figure out where all the C#’s are on the fretboard, but in a real playing situation we need to know where they are instantly. It’s much more important that we be able to have immediate recall of their location.

Pro-tip: Visualize while falling asleep. Your brain will process what you visualized in bed while you sleep and rapidly your recall will become faster and faster.

Practice Method #4 - Active Listening

When listening to music, eliminate other distractions. Really listen to the music and pay attention to what’s going on. What does the chord progression make you feel? Notice changes in tempo or dynamics. What do you love (or dislike) about the melody?

Analyze deeply the music you are listening to. This will help you when writing or improvising your own material, and to help you to develop your own sound.


Now you have 4 awesome ways to practice if you ever find yourself injured and unable to play the way you normally would. But don’t wait to use these methods until there’s an unfortunate accident. These methods can (and should) be integrated into your current practice routine.

Get started with at least one of these methods right away. Have fun and happy practicing!

About the Author:

Ryan Popovic is a professional music instructor providing guitar lessons in Eagan, MN. He teaches primarily blues, rock, and metal guitar.