Options for Practicing Guitar Quietly
You have started playing the guitar. And they always tell you to practice often. Daily if you can. OK. But the only time you can play is when everybody in the family is sleeping. You don’t want to bother anybody. And on top of it all, you don’t think you playing well enough for anybody to hear you either.
Now I used to play the trumpet. And back in the day there weren’t many options for practicing without bothering anybody with that instrument, however, for the guitar, you have plenty of options.
Now these options are mostly for the Acoustic Guitar. If you only play electric guitar your instrument is tailor made for playing quietly, you can skip to the last option. Everybody else check it out, you can play quietly.
So you may have to keep quiet, but don’t let that keep you from practicing your guitar. Follow one or more of these options and go head and get to work yall.
Option 1 – Hit The Strings Softly
I remember when I first started playing guitar. I was almost afraid to hit the strings. I was playing softly, but tentative. But then one day I almost accidentally started hammering those strings hard. My down-strokes and my upstrokes were hitting all 6 strings and all equally hard. I began liking the sound of playing so hard. Felt kind of cool.
But, I was quickly losing my ability to play loud and soft notes. It really hurt my articulation. I could only hammer the strings. Then, I began attempting to play ballads. I started playing softer. I started hitting the strings softer. This was not like before, but this was intentionally playing soft and loud as the song dictated.
So this is the first option. Play the strings softer. Try to see how soft you can play them. I was surprised that just a little more than rubbing your fingers across the strings can give you some sound. Use the time that your family is sleeping to work on the soft note playing.
Now if you do this, you must find time to really let loose and play on the loud side of the dynamic range. You want to be able to play a wide variety of styles. But go head and work on on playing softly during these times when you don’t want to bother anyone.
Option 2 – Ditch the Pick use your fingers
When I started playing guitar, I went on a quest. A quest to find the perfect pick. I have used light picks, heavy picks, inexpensive picks, forty dollar picks, picks with holes in them, dimes, and even used a pick-punch machine that turns your credit cards or other hard plastic into picks.
I found out that my favorite pick is the Dunlop 0.6mm gage of pick. This is a light-medium pick. I like how it doesn’t get caught in the strings but still holds a little bite if I need it. It definitely gives you a softer sound than say a hard pick like a 1.0mm gage. So if you play softer as in our first option above and you use a lighter pick, you can get a much softer sound.
So you can try a lighter gage of pick. And that will aid in bringing the sound down.
But even more than a lighter gage of pick. Why not ditch the pick altogether and use your fingers. One of my teachers told me to just drop the pick altogether and check it out. I did it and like the sound. It is a more mellow sound. I tis easier to play softly. And it opens the door for some finger picking. It also gives me more control.
But changing your pick, as noted above, will change your sound. So you want to keep that in mind. Like all these options, don’t only practice with soft picks unless you like the sound and gonna run with it as “your sound.”
Option 3 – Use a Sound Hole Cover
“What is a sound hole cover?” Well, these things are used to cut down on audio feedback from the sound hole. You don’t want the Acoustic Guitar Sound hole to mess with the sound coming from the plugged in Acoustic/Electric Guitar.
Now the Sound Hole Cover really mutes the “acoustic” sound of your guitar. If you love that sound, you ain’t gonna hear it. But hey we talking about using it for “special practice sessions.” The sound hole cover is essentially a cheap way to turn your Acoustic/Electric Guitar into an Electric Guitar.
Not a bad option. It is much cheaper than buying an electric to play around with. Especially if you don’t particularly want to play an electric guitar.
Option 4 – Palm Mute
OK, you gotta be silent. Why not use this time to practice your palm muting. Go head and get it sounding good and work on that rhythm. What is a palm mute? Well, the palm mute is when you lay your right hand on the guitar strings as you strike them to keep the strings from sounding out as you play them. It is a percussive guitar technique that really adds a drum-like quality to your playing.
If you ain’t doing some palm muting, then you need to, cause it adds another dimension to your playing. You need to learn how to do this. You really do. If you been playing for over 6 months, then you need to add some of this into your practice routine.
But be that as it may, when you palm mute the strings it greatly cuts down on the volume of the strings. So why not learn this technique while your wife and kids are sleeping and need some peace and quiet?
Option 5 – Get an electric guitar and/or pull out the plug from the amp.
Really this is the best option. You can play as loud as want and few will hear it. I sometimes practice my Electric Guitar unplugged while sitting in the living room with the family as they watch TV. The question is often asked, “Can you play an electric guitar without an amp?” The answer is yes and it is the perfect practice instrument, it really brings the volume down.
Actually an Electric Guitar that is not plugged into an Amplifier really has a very quiet sound. It doesn’t totally eliminate the sound of striking the strings, so you can still hear yourself play, but it doesn’t bother anyone who is not sitting right next to you.
Another thing you can do, related to this option, is instead of unplugging the amp, why not just put headphones in the amp. Again, only you hear it and you get some of the experience of playing with the amp. Get a good set of headphones and go at it.
You also might try to plug your guitar into your IPhone or smartphone using some kind of device like an IRig. The IRig is a small device that you plug your guitar chord into. You then use an IPhone Amplifier App. Now you simply plug your headphones into your smartphone and you get a sound very close to plugging headphones into a physical amplifier. The app I use is AmpKit. (http://agilepartners.com/apps/ampkit/). Very Cool.
Sometimes when I am using my IRig, I use the UberChord app (https://www.uberchord.com/) which is a full teaching curriculum to learn rhythm guitar. There are a number of apps that can be used, but all of this is beside the point. The thing that is important is that an Electric Guitar opens many doors for practicing silently.
There are other options like a Silent Guitar. I have never tried it, but it looks like it may give you some of the benefits of having an electric guitar. At any rate, you don’t have to stop practicing when you can’t bother anyone. You can either play softly, get rid of your pick or lower your pick gage, use palm muting, use a sound hole cover, or get an electric guitar. One or more of these options will work.
As for me, right now, I need to get back to some barre chords I need to practice…
So Keep on Jamming yall…
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