One of my goals for 2015 is to spend more time practicing and learning guitar. I usually lead on a Sunday on guitar, but it is probably my least studied or practiced instruments (I was always the bass player in bands, and then picked up drums for University…something I had always wanted to do) Guitar has always been a sideline…but these days is something I play more than anything else.
So I started trawling through some books; Fretboard Roadmaps, Playing in DADGAD, The Complete Guitar, and I also downloaded some courses on my iPad. And I am managing to put aside an hour a week to improve my playing, and it is, I think, improving. I am forever fiddling with my guitars, I set them up myself and probably get as much pleasure from tweaking them as I do playing them. I have been remarkably consistent with my choice of set up, I am a pretty strong rhythm player (years of drumming and listening to funk), so I have pretty heavy strings on my guitars (11’s) and use a medium pick (Dunlop Tortex Orange).
A Change Could Do You Good?
But this year, as another nod to “new” I thought I’d try something different. I did a little poll on Facebook to see what my fellow guitarists used, and then got a variety tin from Amazon which had 12 different styles, sizes and weights of picks (in a useful little tin). And it really does make a difference, in what I play, the way I play it, and the sounds that it creates.The Jazz III seems to be a particularly popular style of pick, and this was part of the collection, and it is a bit of a revelation. It is much smaller and thicker than my usual pick, and so requires much more accuracy with playing and a different sort of grip in the fingers. I don’t think I would use it as much for rhythm, but for lead work and speed, it is very rewarding.
Now I realise this post is getting a bit (or a lot) geeky…but bringing it back in to the non-guitarist rest of the world…is there something you could change that will make you at least approach things differently?
Why Don’t You Try Something New?
Drummers, have you tried different sizes of sticks? Vater Manhattans are my absolute favourites, but I utterly destroy the wooden tips within days…so I generally use Vic Firth 5B’s with nylon tips…they last me for years. Using heavier or lighter sticks, brushes, hotrods…different tunings, different set ups…less toms. I went through a phase of emulating Gary Husband so tried playing open (with the ride cymbal to my left). Made for completely different techniques and patterns.
Bass guitarists, have you experimented with different strings? Using (or not) using a pick? I put a set of flatwounds on one of my basses…again, completely different sound and style of playing.
Pianists and keyboard players, do you try different sounds? My wife is a pianist and leads with our band, but she always used to just play piano, as iit’swhat she knows. But our good friend Colin who has been coaching the bands gently persuaded her to use some strings or pads underneath the piano sound…something she initially resisted, but now has full control of…and it sounds great.
And let’s not focus this solely on musicians. For everything you do creatively, try a small, subtle difference in your approach. Try a different TV show for media ideas. Experiment with different fonts in your overheads or graphics. Try an alternative program or app for your design (I’m writing this on a new app on my iPad while travelling on the train…I Usually write this from my laptop or desktop….
So there you have it. Some small changes that can make a difference in your creativity, or at the very least freshen up your day to day.