While I don’t recommend practicing on the couch watching TV there will inevitably be times where you’ll find yourself on the couch guitar in hand vaguely watching TV or vaguely noodling on the instrument. I confess spending my teenage years doing this annoying my sister while she watched inane drama show like Neighbours or while being slightly distracted with test cricket during the Aussie summer.
Most of what you will do will require a lower level on concentration than practicing without distractions. Of course nothing is more effective than practicing without distractions. So what can you effectively practice while mindlessly watching TV?
Picking and Fingering Exercises
Picking and fingering exercises are effective way to develop your guitar technique and don’t require your complete attention once you learn the basic patterns. The 4 finger pattern below helps you to build speed and accuracy with you guitar pick and fingers on the fret board.
Ensure that you use alternate down/up picking to develop an effective picking technique. Plus with this exercise ensure that you thumb is kept behind the neck pointing upwards to maximise the stretch across the 4 frets with the 4 fingers.
Similar to picking exercises scale patterns once learnt can be repeated without requiring too much focus. Repeating scale patterns consistently will train your fingers to move these locations to the fret board so when it comes to improvising with these scales your fingers will comfortably and automatically go to these spots.
Arpeggio patterns can also be drilled once learnt while watching TV. The arpeggio patterns for the ii V I progression are very handy to learn if you want to learn how to play jazz as most jazz standards or tunes contain this chord progression. The arpeggio exercises below include the chord extensions of the 7th and 9th scale degrees. Once learnt these patterns can be incorporated into almost any jazz guitar solo.
If you need to memorize songs or chord progressions for a gig or your band set list you can practice these while the watching TV. One way to do this is to practice the chord changes or songs out of the book or off the net. Test yourself to see if you can memorize them by playing them during the add breaks or during boring parts of the TV show.
Another great way to effectively practice with the TV is to use it as an ear training tool to develop your aural skills. Learn the melodies used for the jingles in ads and the TV show themes themselves. Often ads are repeated throughput the show so you have the opportunity to hear the jingle melody a few times and see if you can work out the notes of it before it appears again in the next ad break.
So while it isn’t the best to practice in front of the TV if you’re going to do it these exercises are a more effective way to spend your time then aimlessly noodling on the guitar in front of the idiot box.