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So I’m a guitar player for 10+ years now, and I’m still asking myself if I have any bad habit in my playing.

To practice guitar, I usually have 2 choices because I’m living in an apartment, either I play through my amp and Torpedo Live (which acts as a load box and speaker sim) connected through my sound card (Scarlett 2i2) which has a direct monitor mode, that way, I don’t have any latency when I play. The “problem” here is that it’s a bit “overkill” sometimes to turn on the 120w amp for like 15-30min of playing.

So sometimes I’m just playing directly through my sound card, but because of the raw sound, I can’t use the direct monitoring and then I add VST amp and speaker sim through my DAW (Reaper) and use recording monitoring ... and here I have like 9-10 ms latency.

So here is my question, do any of you practice or play guitar this way? Do you think it is a bad habit to “practice with latency” ? I mean, can it lead to any “synchronization” issue when I’m trying to learn for example a hard solo, at a pretty high tempo ? It’s like I’m living 10ms in the past.

Thank you all!

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Do anything enough times, and it usually becomes a habit. It's a good thing - called practice which often leads to improvement, sometimes perfection... However, playing something in the way you describe, with latency or a delay, and that will become 'the norm'. Not a good thing when you play with others, as your timing will be slightly affected. You may be able to compensate for that, but why put obstacles in your own way?

I'd be inclined to source a much smaller practice amp, with headphone port, to practise through. A pre-loved one won't break the bank, and could be used with/out cans, and even in a small rehearsal situation.

  • You guys gave me a lot of (unexpected) good answers. I didn’t think it was such a common “issue”. But this is really interesting! Thank you all. – TheCypher Mar 4 at 12:42
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Bear in mind that the speed of sound (about 343 m/s) means that sound takes about 3 ms to travel 1 metre. So a latency of 9-10 ms is equivalent to having your amp 3 metres away from your ear. It's not massive.

Arguably it's not ideal either, but I would say that within limits, it's your job as a guitarist to learn to compensate for these things. If, onstage, you walk a few metres away from your monitor, you will have introduced the same amount of latency. You can't really just stop playing at that point!

It is nice playing with lower latency, and it's good that you have a setup that enables you to do that too. But for practice purposes I would say that, within limits, it's better to be able to deal with a range of monitoring situations.

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A latency below 10ms is something we shouldn't be able to even register, as others said 3m from the amp is a typical stage situation anyway.

But IMO practicing a lot via home studio type of setup and headphone monitoring and not getting enough practice on a real setup that we gig on might not be ideal.

Guitar amp is sort of part of the instrument and a gig-like volume levels and all the feedbacks bring different challenges but also opportunities.

I've fell into that trap a few times where I would practice some stuff via headphones and then could not really pull it off. I've figured that I had a different hand position at home and when gigging. The 'gigging' hand had much more work to do with controlling feedbacks and damping the stings and some things I just could not pull off there.

So overall I'm not saying practicing with DAW type of setup is a bad thing but we need a reality check often enough

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It’s like I’m living 10ms in the past.

This is the traditional problem for church organ players. Often the acoustics and the distance between the keyboard and the pipes creates a distinct delay. Move to a different church and you have to readjust.

The same can be true with guitar in large venues especially if you are using the local PA system and don't have adequate foldback.

The answer is to play ahead of the sound. If you wait for the sound to arrive before playing the next note then you will get slower and slower. It's good that you sometimes play with and sometimes without delay because neither becomes a habit. If you can experiment with variable delay, even better. It's merely another skill that you have mastered - mentally separating the movements of your fingers from the sound you hear.

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