There is a condition, that as a guitar teacher, I see way too often. This condition is an affliction that can hinder students from a lot of common goals, like starting a band, jamming with friends, or performing original songs. This is a disease called Bedroom Guitar Syndrome, and it is steadily becoming one of the most common and debilitating things to the guitarists of the world.
Ok. Maybe I’m being a little extreme here, but Bedroom Guitar Syndrome is definitely something that I see way too often, and it does present a lot of problems to beginning and experienced guitarists alike.
So what is BGS, and what can we do to cure it?
Put simply, BGS is exactly what you’d expect to be. All of your guitar playing experience comes from you just playing riffs on the edge of your bed, or wherever it is that you practice in the comfort of your own home. Yes, you’re getting in some practice, but only playing to your internal rhythm is going to bring up some issues later on.
The most obvious problem here is that, and don’t be mad at me here, your internal rhythm probably isn’t as solid as you think. Even some of the most world class musicians have to throw on a metronome to make sure they’re keeping steady. The fact of the matter is, you’re going to do some speeding up and slowing down if you’re only playing to your internal beat. Sometimes, this sounds great, and is a very expressive style that a lot of solo acts do, but here’s the kicker: if you only ever play in this way, which you naturally will in your bedroom, it becomes a bit of a habit. You get so used to this that when it’s time to play with other musicians who are keeping a nice steady beat, you’re going to struggle. It doesn’t seem like this will happen, but I assure you I have seen this TONS of times, and even went through this experience myself when got into my first bands as a kid.
So how do we fix this? It’s pretty easy really. You just need to have something to play along with. Obviously, a great option for this is just to keep a metronome clicking away. Often times, even when I’m just sort of mindlessly noodling on my guitar I keep a metronome on, just so I can keep the feeling of playing to a steady beat familiar. This does improve that internal beat of yours over time as well.
If you’re working on a particular scale or key, find a backing track online and play along to that. These can be a lot more fun because they simulate a band a bit better. If you go to YouTube and type in “-whatever you’re working on- backing track” I promise you’ll be inundated with things to play to. Some of my favorite backing tracks are by a channel called QuistTV.
If you’re working on a particular song, just try to play along with the recording. This is a simple idea, but a lot of people don’t do it. You may think you have a song totally nailed and then be in for rude awakening when you try to play with the recording. Maybe that amount of time it takes you to switch between those chords seems fine when you’re on your own, but you can’t quite keep up when comparing it to the person who put them together. Sometimes you think you’re up to speed, and then fall very short with the tempo of the original. Often times, I even see people who practiced something too fast, and then when they have to slow down to play with the recording it really throws them off.Don’t see this as a chore; it can be extremely fun playing along with some of your favorite artists.
Another issue that often comes up (and one that I have also been guilty of in the past) is when you’re working on improvisational skills and assume what you’re doing will match perfectly against a rhythm section. There have been plenty of times when I come up with a lick or an idea that I think sounds awesome but when I end up putting against a backing track, or even worse, to a live rhythm section on stage, it doesn’t quite mesh. This can be especially true if you’re working on a particular type of genre or style that you’re not used to. Again, just testing yourself against a backing track can do an extremely huge world of good.
Bedroom Guitar Syndrome can be easily helped, but you need to be proactive to prevent it. Try these simple little ideas and save yourself a lot of practice time and embarrassment later on.
Any questions about BGS or anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more practice tips and ideas, you can subscribe to our blog here, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.
Guitar Instructor, Co-Owner
Falls Music School