If you’re a guitar aficionado and you always want to be in good form when it comes to your guitar skills, you probably don’t want to take any breaks, not even when you’re on vacation. This can be tricky since your gear may take up a decent amount of space and it may be hard to practice without having other hotel guests complaining about the noise. If you want to keep practicing, you might need to plan your vacation carefully and make some compromises.
Here are some tips for practicing guitar when traveling:
- Pack only the essentials.
- Get a travel guitar.
- Get a mini amp.
- Play with headphones.
- Plug the guitar into your laptop.
- Get a multi-effects pedal.
- Get an acoustic guitar silencer.
- Get a feedback suppressor.
- Palm mute.
- Play without an amp.
- Focus on theory.
Keep reading to learn more about how you can keep practicing guitar even when on vacation. After going through the following sections, you’ll be equipped with all the knowledge you need to prevent your guitar playing skills from getting rusty while having a good time on vacation.
1. Pack Only the Essentials
Before we even get to the details of practicing while traveling, we first have to go over some crucial packing tips. If you want to play guitar while traveling, especially if you’re going on vacation, you’ll just have to make peace with the fact that you can only bring the essentials with you.
While you might not be able to imagine practicing without 143 pedals and various other accessories, you’ll just have to make do without them. First, you won’t have enough space in your suitcases for all that, especially if you want to do anything else but practice on your holiday.
Secondly, you don’t want to take up all the space of your family’s luggage if you’re traveling by car, and you also don’t want to pay extra fees if you’re traveling by plane. Therefore, you’ll have to say goodbye to your favorite wah pedal for a couple of days and only focus on the essentials.
Ideally, you should only carry a few items with you, such as:
- Your guitar
- A tuner
- A mini amp (if needed)
- A guitar cable (if needed)
- A laptop
Things are even easier if you’re bringing your acoustic guitar. Pack the guitar, a tuner, and maybe a silencer, and you’re good to go. Remember that you’re going on a vacation to have fun and not to dazzle everyone with your guitar playing and the fabulous sound created by all the effect pedals you own.
Chances are, there will be no one to impress, and you might even annoy the people around you, so just pack the essentials and don’t complicate the matter any further.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into some other tips.
2. Get a Travel Guitar
Getting a travel guitar is a great option for someone who’s often on the road. It is an even better option if you have to travel light or travel with your entire family, so you have to leave some space in the trunk for them.
Travel guitars are very small and can easily fit into most suitcases. Despite that, it will allow you to experience all the versatility of a regular guitar, as they come in both acoustic and electric varieties. An electric travel guitar can be plugged into an amp just like a regular one, and it can also be used with pedals (if you really must have a pedal with you).
However, there are downsides to travel guitars. First of all, they will never sound as good as their regular counterparts. That’s okay, though; they were not meant to sound amazing. There has to be some trade-off, and if you’re going to make a guitar that’s small and easy to carry around, it’s very hard to make it sound like the real deal.
Travel guitars also tend to be quite expensive. They are usually in the $600 to $800 range, so they’re not the most affordable purchase. However, they might be a sound investment if you’re constantly on the road and want to keep your guitar skills sharp. If it’s going to sit on the guitar rack most of the year, it’s best not to buy one.
3. Get a Mini Amp
Mini amps are an amazing investment for anyone who has to practice in a crowded environment where they don’t want to disturb other people or where they simply don’t have enough space for a regular amp. Mini amps are quiet and you’ll likely be able to use one even when you’re not on holiday, so getting one is a good choice.
You’ll probably be able to squeeze your mini amp into your luggage without problems, and then you’ll be able to jam away without disturbing anyone.
A particularly good choice for those on a tight budget is the Vox Amplug 2. These amps can easily fit into your pocket and connect directly to your guitar, after which, you plug headphones into the amps and practice as if you were using a regular amp.
Note that mini amps will probably not sound as amazing as your regular amp, but then again, it’s important to stay consistent with your practice and keep your fingers moving, and these amps will do the job well. This doesn’t mean that you’ll sound terrible, though, as mini amps have become pretty good and come with the same basic controls as regular amps, so you’ll be able to adjust your tone according to your liking.
4. Play With Headphones
If you’re staying at a place where the walls are made of paper, and even the quietest sounds made by your guitar will disturb the tender ears of your neighbors, you should play with your headphones. You’re probably bringing a headset anyway, so you might as well put it to good use.
Since you can’t plug headphones directly into your guitar because the guitar needs something to amplify the sound, you’ll need an amp or a multi-effects pedal. If you’re bringing a mini amp, you can just plug your headphones into it and start playing.
On the other hand, you might have a multi-effects pedal, and it’s a good idea to bring it with you if you really must have a guitar pedal or if you don’t have a mini amp. Most multi-effects pedals have a headphone out, so just plug your headset into it and play. You’ll be able to achieve a pretty good sound while not being too noisy, so it’s a win-win situation.
Don’t Use Bluetooth Headphones
Technically speaking, you can connect your guitar to your Bluetooth headphones, but you’ll have terrible latency problems. Even the best Bluetooth headphones experience latency issues, so they’re definitely not a good choice for playing purposes.
There might be someone out there who can pull this off, but for almost all people, it’s not a possibility. Therefore, reserve your Bluetooth headphones for listening to music, and use wired headphones for practicing guitar.
5. Plug the Guitar Into Your Laptop
If you’re bringing your laptop with you (and you probably are), you can install an amp sim on it and use it to practice your guitar. While you’ll probably need an adapter or audio interface for that, it will be a pretty convenient option.
Of course, bringing your Scarlett Focusrite might not be the best choice if you’re trying to bring as little gear as possible. Instead, you can get an IK Multimedia iRig HD 2 (available on Amazon.com). It’s much smaller, fits easily in your laptop bag, and you can use it to connect your guitar, your laptop, and also your smartphone or tablet, making it a very versatile tool.
If that’s not an option, you can also pick up a small external sound card or a USB-to-guitar cable. The results might not be as good, but it will save you some money, which is a good thing since you don’t want to blow your vacation budget on guitar gear.
You’ll also need an amp sim for this. Guitar Rig is a very popular option, but any amp sim will do, as long as you like the sound you get.
You can combine this tip with the previous one and plug your headphones into your laptop. If you have high-end headphones, it’s probably going to sound better that way, plus no one will be able to hear you.
6. Get a Multi-Effects Pedal
If you’re a pedal addict, a multi-effects pedal is an excellent choice for you. Not only will it replace many different pedals, but it will also allow you to connect your guitar to headphones or to your laptop, making it a great option for anyone looking to keep practicing while traveling.
A multi-effects pedal will not be suitable for everyone. They sometimes tend to be relatively big and might take up too much space in your suitcase, especially if you’re trying to travel light. They’re also not exactly cheap, so if you don’t already have one, buying it for the sake of practicing on vacation is not the best idea unless your vacation budget is out of this world.
However, if you own one and have enough room for it, bring it with you. It sure beats bringing a bunch of different pedals with you and spending precious time setting them all up. After all, you shouldn’t spend too much time practicing if you’re on holiday. Even though keeping your skills sharp is always a plus, even the most dedicated musicians need a break from time to time, so don’t forget to enjoy your vacation!
7. Get an Acoustic Guitar Silencer
If you want to bring an acoustic guitar and you’re worried that you won’t be able to practice because it is too loud, getting an acoustic guitar silencer is a great choice. It’s also a good device to have if you’re often in a situation where you can’t play loudly or maybe at all.
A rubber acoustic guitar silencer is usually less than $7, so it won’t affect your budget in any way, but the small investment may go a long way as you’ll be able to practice even while your neighbors or loved ones are sleeping.
Alternatively, you can jam almost anything under the strings, close to the bridge. Towels, cloth, or any type of foam will do just well. Foam is a particularly good choice as it’ll be close to an actual silencer.
Resorting to this option will do wonders if you’re not allowed to be noisy, as it will eliminate almost all sound from your guitar. Of course, you’ll hear the plucking, but there will be no other sound.
The biggest advantage of this choice is also its biggest weakness. It will be difficult to play everything right when you can’t hear what you’re playing. It will also probably be quite a confusing experience at first, but at least your fretting hand will get some practice, so you won’t get rusty.
8. Get a Feedback Suppressor
As the name suggests, a feedback suppressor eliminates feedback when you’re playing acoustic guitar live. It’s a small rubber disc that you squeeze into your acoustic guitar’s hole and just play as you normally do.
It can also be used to let you play more quietly. While it won’t eliminate the sound of your guitar completely, it might make it less loud and maybe just quiet enough, so your neighbors and family are not annoyed by your rendition of “Wonderwall”.
A feedback suppressor will significantly reduce bass frequencies, which are a common culprit when your neighbors are annoyed by your playing. These frequencies are often difficult to dampen and easily travel through walls, making your noise seep into the surrounding rooms.
Anything that reduces your bass frequencies will reduce the level of noise you’re sharing with the surrounding rooms, and a feedback suppressor might just reduce the bass frequencies enough so that no one but the people in your room can hear them.
Of course, you should always try to strum a bit more quietly when playing in this kind of situation. If you’re going ham on your guitar, hardly anything will be able to reduce the noise you’re making.
9. Palm Mute
Palm muting your guitar strings will make the guitar quieter, especially if it’s an acoustic guitar. If you really want to mute your guitar, place your hand further away from the bridge than you normally do, and you’ll eliminate most of the sound it makes, if not all.
This is a good way to make yourself quieter if there’s no other option, but it’s not a good way to practice strumming since your strumming hand will be quite limited in its range of motion. Still, it’s better than nothing, and at least you’ll be able to practice scales and chord progressions, which is never a bad thing, and it’s particularly better than not practicing at all.
10. Play Without an Amp
If you’re really down on your luck and you have no access to a mini amp, no budget, and you only have an electric guitar, you’ll just have to practice without an amp. While this will remove a big part of the immersion and enjoyment, you’ll be able to practice just fine, and it sure beats not practicing at all, especially if you’ve got something big coming up.
While you won’t hear yourself nearly as well as you otherwise would, you’ll still be able to hear enough to notice when you’re making mistakes. Plus, both of your hands will be free, so you’ll be able to explore and go through your typical strumming and fretting techniques just like you usually would.
The best thing is, you won’t bother anyone (unless they’re really cranky, but that shouldn’t be your problem), and you won’t have to bring any additional gear, leaving enough space for all the other stuff you have to pack, which will probably make your travel mate(s) rejoice.
11. Focus on Theory
While many musicians claim that they need no theory to play, they’ll eventually have to come to grips with the fact that learning at least some music theory will greatly enhance their playing and composition skills.
If you’re slowly coming to that realization, why not start while on vacation? Yes, studying on vacation might seem like overkill, but you probably won’t have anything to do if you’re on a long trip. Learning some theory will kill two birds with one stone; you’ll be less bored (well, at least you’ll have something to do), and you’ll learn something new, which will allow you to become a better player.
The best thing is that you need almost nothing for this; you can simply download an ebook and read it on your phone or tablet. Plus, you can do it pretty much anywhere, and it’s completely silent, so you won’t bother anyone. Not to mention that you’ll still be in touch with your music, even if you won’t be practicing as much.