Have you ever gotten lazy when you lose a string, and say hey, I can't play anymore until I get strings, and then it just takes a long time before you finally go buy a pack? Well, the first thing you should know is this:
It's actually A GOOD THING that you have missing strings on your guitar. And here's why:
In order to play things that sound good when improvising, or songwriting, with less strings you need to rely more on your listening skills (aural skills), which is a very important part of learning music. This affects your ability to play better things, easier, and faster if you come up with it in your mind. It's in fact what lets you create music in your mind.
So what CAN you do with fewer strings, besides the obvious, which is either buy new strings, or play with less strings?
There are a few exercises that require you to use less strings. It imposes a restriction on you so you have to view the fretboard in different ways. The good thing is you can actually feel like you're playing the guitar while doing these exercises, as in they don't feel like mindless scale mashing.
So here's what you can do:
On those strings that you have, you can play certain chords in different ways that will make your guitar playing actually sound really cool. You will be playing these chords all over the guitar. You can start to play them in any order once you have found them on your guitar, to jam or to write songs, even to learn other people's songs.
1. Figure out the notes that are in a few common chords, such as C major, A minor, D minor, and G major. (You can do more)
2. Seek online for the notes in the chords, and then also look for a chart that has all the notes on the guitar drawn out.
3. Take your time trying to find a few different places where you can play those chords (this means, you are ONLY playing the 3 notes that are in those chords) on those few strings that you have.
4. When you have found the inversion on the guitar, write it down in a chord chart, and keep note of it so you can remember it later.
How does this help you?
This will help you to visualize chords better over the fretboard, which will improve your songwriting skills, and improvising skills, and help you to get more familiar with the fretboard, and open up possibilities with how you play chords. This gives you better ability to control the emotions you wish to express with your guitar. Also, the act of writing the chords down will help to give you practice with writing music in tab, which can also be difficult if you're not used to it.
So now we've got rhythm guitar covered but what about improvising, and soloing?
Here's something really cool you can do:
1. Record yourself playing with those chords you found. Or find a backing track online, so that you can have something nice over which to solo and improvise.
2. Pick 2 strings that are NOT adjacent to each other, and practice soloing and improvising using only those 2 strings. (Yes, you will be skipping over a string or two)
3. Repeat this several times with various strings, and you can use 3, or 4 as well. Make sure at least 2 of the strings are not adjacent. You can solo over chord progressions you make with the chords you found above.
4. When you do this, try to write down any sequences or licks you find that sound cool. You can then use them in a song.
How does this help you?
This will obviously improve your improvising skills, visualization of the fretboard, and bring you one step closer to being able to play anything you hear in your head, as well as develop your ability to play up and down over the fretboard rather than just in one spot. The fact that you are skipping a string means that you need to listen much more closely while you are playing, and that will develop your ear much better than just running up and down some scales. This also makes you think about the precision of your pick's motions so that you can hit the strings accurately.
Now you have 2 great exercises that will move you forward VERY QUICKLY on your guitar, much more effectively than if you had all of your guitar strings. And more importantly, you know WHY these exercises help you and what they will do for you while you are putting yourself through the stress that it will cause when you are doing them. So what you should be doing right now, is breaking your guitar strings. :)
If you are having trouble learning guitar, let me help you through that process. I know how hard it was for me in the past, but now I know how to get past all the challenges. So don't hesitate to go to my website Guitar Lessons in San Diego, and sign up for your free introductory lesson, if you are in San Diego.