Well, that’s one way of getting out of a rut, but let’s explore some answers that are a little less extravagant and final. Guitar playing is like any other intellectual activity – pathways that were once exciting and new soon become well-trodden and downright dull but it’s sometimes difficult to change course. Here are some simple methods that might save your guitar from a righteous splintering.
Listen to other musical instruments
You’ve got that Here Comes The Sun George Harrison riff down pat by now and that’s all your fingers want to play. Don’t get out the Beatles Songbook again. Listen to a sax player, a trumpeter, a fiddle player, a piano player, anything but a guitar player and try to adapt their harmonic ideas to your style on the guitar. Remember, that’s what you’re trying to do with all this practice – develop your own style of playing that’s as distinctive in its own way as that of George Harrison. Sure George listened to Carl Perkins and copped a lot of his riffs, but he didn’t play them note for note – he adjusted them to suit his own style. He also listened to Indian musicians, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and other piano players and mashed some of their ideas into his sound. He listened to horn players and this influenced the sound of that fluid slide guitar that’s so typical of George Harrison.
Listen to stylistically diverse guitar players
If you really must listen to masters of the instrument you’re trying to master, widen your horizons. Find some music by a guitar player who leaves you totally mystified. If you’re a country player, try some free jazz. I’m not suggesting you switch styles, just that you adapt what you hear from a guitar player from another sphere to fit your own style. Keep saying it – my own style. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Don’t steal riffs lock stock and barrel. Make them work for you to become something startling and original.
Pick up a different instrument
If you’re an electric guitarist, borrow an acoustic, a different electric, a lap slide guitar or a completely different instrument – a trumpet, a glockenspiel. Guitars dictate to a certain extent what’s played on them. It might sound mystical but it’s happened to enough guitar players to be beyond doubt. Pick up a different guitar and you’ll play different things. Some guitars can do this to a degree that’s almost spooky. A different instrument completely is going to cause you to use different thought processes as you attempt to make sense of it. When you go back to your old neglected guitar it will feel fresh once again. Try it.
Use a different tuning
Drop your low E string to a D. Drop your top one too. Drop your A string down to G. Hey presto, you’re in an open G tuning. Play all strings and you’ll hear a lovely G chord without fretting a note. Try to play a song you know in this tuning. You’ll have to search for the chords, but in doing so you’ll stumble across some lovely little tricks and you’ll probably forget about the tune you were trying to play as you explore the strange tuning. If you’re familiar with this tuning, find one you’ve never used before. It will freshen you up like a drive out in the country on an early spring day. If all this fails – please have mercy on the guitar. It can’t be blamed.