When things are fresh, things are good. When things are stale: not so good.
We can have a similar challenge when keeping our guitar parts fresh and new. If we only play on Sundays things can stay fresh, but then you throw in youth group, college ministry, the two prayer meetings a week (shout-out to all my Furnace friends), things get old fast.
There is nothing like changing instruments to help change your perspective on a song. Different guitars have different personalities. That different personality can be the first spark to a firestorm of inspiration.
I have noticed in my own playing that I tend to play differently depending on the guitar I have in my hands. My playing is dependent upon the personality of the instrument.
Use that to your advantage. If things are getting stale, freshen them up by borrowing a guitar from a friend, or taking that 80’s Fender out of your closet that you haven’t played in forever.
-Treat Effects like an Instrument (Your guitar isn’t the only instrument you have.)
It can be very easy for us to take a guitar part and just attach an effect on to it. This isn’t a “creative” way of looking at things. Effects are not just something to tack on to the guitar. They should fundamentally change the way you play. Don’t just play the guitar, play the effect.
Believe it or not you do this already. Think about how you play clean tones versus how you play overdriven or distorted tones. You play the guitar very differently. You use different voicings. You play differently based on the effect you use.
Now expand this way of thinking to all your other effects. Delay, phaser, whammy, octave…the list goes on. All of these effects are little gold mines of new ways of playing, waiting to be unlocked with a fresh perspective.
-Rip something off of Sigur Ros
If you are having a hard time thinking of something fresh and new, do what we all do: Steal it from someone else. Sigur Ros is a band from Iceland that is doing some really exciting things on guitar (Be warned: I think the band’s latest album cover features rear nudity), but they are not the only ones . Even if you aren’t a U2 fan, the Edge is always doing something worth looking at. There is inspiration out there, it’s just a matter of finding it.
This is one of the most overlooked ways of keeping parts fresh. If there was one way to turn stale chips into fresh crunchy snacks, it is this. Changing strings will make the same old “Mighty To Save” lick sound better than you thought it could. It takes some work, but the reward is worth it.
If you have to play the same licks over and over again, at least make them sound as good as they can.
-Grab Inspiration from the imagery in the song
This can be fun, tricky, and demanding of your imagination. You will have to pay attention to lyrics, catch some imagery or mood from the lyrics and translate it into a guitar part.
This can be difficult, but is the ultimate example of great musicianship. A mournful bend during the second verse of “Blessed Be Your Name,” a thunderous swell when “Indescribable” refers to lightning– use your instrument to make the lyrics pop in people’s minds so the truth of those lyrics becomes more real and less cliché.
Getting Bored? Good
Before you find something new, things have to feel old. If everything you played felt fresh all the time, you would never feel the urge to push for something new and exciting. Embrace your boredom. You might be about to unlock something really exciting.