Naked Guitar Playing

When last did you play your guitar naked? Don’t worry – naked guitar playing is not quite what you are probably thinking it is (anyway, if you take little things like trem cavities and springs into account, you’ll realise that type of naked playing is not necessarily something you want to try). No… by “naked” I’m referring to playing with as little between you and your audience as possible, stripping away anything other than the basics: an unplugged acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, cable and amp.

The most important thing about playing naked is it is a great way to improve your playing. Effects on an electric guitar or even the simple volume boost of plugging an electro-acoustic into a PA all add things to the sound of the guitar and alter it. Unfortunately these things also often mask or distract you from hearing other aspects of your playing – usually the finer points of things like pitch, timing, articulation and dynamics. Think about it – how can you practice properly when you can’t hear these things? Or simply don’t hear them because you’re too busy experiencing other aspects of the sound?

Also, music and guitar are primarily about performing and entertaining for an audience, whether the audience in question be thousands at a concert or one single person sitting next to them on the couch. The acid test for any performing musician is being able to entertain an audience with nothing but their instrument (and maybe their voice). Could you carry on and pull off a gig if you forget your effects pedals at home? Can you entertain people with nothing but an acoustic guitar the next time power companies decides to justify higher power rates by cutting off the power? So in a way, playing naked is also a kind of disaster preparedness.

Spending some time each week playing naked will make you a better and more versatile player. You’ll probably also find that you start sounding better, even when plugged in with effects and/or playing at high volume through an amp.