Practice while watching TV

Ok, i actually feel a little guilty confessing this but i have always spent a good chunk of my practice time in front of a screen. It is a habit from my teens when i was convinced that the only way to guitar mastery leads through breaking a certain threshold of hours spent with a guitar and repetitions of motions.

I dont watch “TV” obviously (thats for old people without internet) but i often watch random YT videos. I dont focus on what is on the screen and i make sure to keep the volume low enough to hear my playing clearly, however, a certain amount of my mental awareness is occupied by what i am watching. I also often pause videos when i feel the need to focus on the playing more and then resume it when i feel like i got the right motion and feel memorized. I found that the more progress i’ve made over the years, the more confident i feel to practice without “background buzz”, as if i subconciously wanted to help myself to bear my own playing.

I cant be sure how much this held me back over the years. It sure helped me to put in more hours. Teachers seem to be split: I ve seen TV practice recommented ( claus levin especially) or judged as a dangerous distraction which leads to the memorization of bad form.

What do you guys think about TV-practice? Do you do it?

We’ve discussed this on here before, but I think it was this thread where it was sort of part and parcel of another discussion on practice:

Short story enough good players say they have done this, but as with almost everything practice-related, the term “practice” is super vague. An expert learning a new piece with existing technique is performing a totally different activity than someone trying to acquire a picking motion they don’t know how to do. So I think any discussion of this needs to begin by defining what they mean by “practice” and what benefits they think the practice activity provides for that.

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probably another thing where there is no “right” or “wrong” answer.

My guess is that you’d be hard pressed to find modern, multitasking people who will sit for thousands of hours practicing or playing without something else going on.

Steve Morse had a small guitar made so that he could practice while commuting to work…while driving with his knees. Do you think he’d see TV as a major distraction? lol


Yeah I guess it’s one of those ‘it depends’ kind of situation.

We’ve all gotten used to our attentions being scattered in so many directions these days. As I type this I’m listening to music, drinking coffee and thinking about the work I need to do today.

I go to the gym and see people sitting on exercise machines, not moving, their heads hunched forward over their phones. A while ago I thought ‘I’m not bringing my phone to the gym’ and immediately I saw a change in how I was there and what I got done each visit.

So yeah, it’s not that there’s anything inherently ‘bad’ in doing what you are doing but maybe think about spending at least a little of your practice time with just you and the guitar. Yeah it’s harder but who knows what 'guitarepiphanies ’ you might have when you bring your full attention to it…

One thing I find helps to cultivate a mindful awareness of that I’m playing and to prevent me giving myself too much of a hard time on judging my technique is to start off playing big clear notes slowly while really listening to the tone I’m making. If I start from a place of ‘listening’ rather than judging things often seem to go better for me.

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I built my technical skills by using Claus Levin’s TV practice method. I was convinced it works by both Claus and that excerpt from the Marshall Harrison MiM interview where he’s running patterns while watching sports or whatever it was. Steve Lukather was also a fan of this, too.

Echoing what @JonJon said, if you want to put in the time you’ll have to be entertained somehow. And as Claus mentions sometimes you have to get out of your own way to let your brain adjust for things. I don’t know why this isn’t discussed more on here. I’d put the smart money on lots of people having technical difficulties precisely because they think too much. I was one such person.


I definitely get more work done when there is not a screen in front of me - like learning/memorizing a melody or chords, or focusing on strategies for improvisation. That said, I love playing guitar and I love watching sports. When I combine the two - it’s a lot of fun!

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I think it works if you are repeating good stuff. So, at the moment I am working on getting clean and synchronised single string stuff, to the magical 200bpm (16ths). My motion mechanic is set, on a good day I generally hit 180 bpm so I know that it is viable target. Drilling this in front of the telly is fine. If however, you are still exploring how you are going to do something, the TV practice isn’t going to help much - you need more awareness of whats going on…