To Play or Not to Play...

Put down that guitar! Yes, you read that correctly. Approaching the guitar, (or any instrument for that matter), in new ways can have a dramatic effect on your playing and creativity. Here's a simple, habit breaking exercise that works well for me. It's a good idea to do this with the aid of a small, easy to operate, everyday tape recorder.

Without touching or holding your guitar, sit for a moment and try to clear your mind. Dimming the lights, lighting a candle and creating a peaceful environment may help. Now, listen to the music already playing in your head. We each have a natural rhythm that we can tap into at will. It's sort of a built in rhythm section. Once you've found a groove, add any riff, bass line or melody you can conjure. Do all of this in your head. It's still not time to play yet! Feel free to really explore your imagination. Get as wild or adventurous as you like. Remember, anything goes in your mind. Once you've firmly established the part or parts in your mind, sing them into your simple to use tape recorder as a reference. If you us a more complicated recording method, you run the risk of forgetting your new creation. Trust me, I've been there. Visualize the fingering of your new riff before you pick up your guitar. It's OK if you're not accurate. Now grab your guitar and try to play your new tune. You might have to explore a bit before you nail it, and in so doing, you may have a happy accident and stumble across something equally as groovy. You can always come back to the tape recording you made earlier.

This is a great exercise which combines elements of meditation, creativity and ear training, that any level of musician can enjoy. You'll avoid picking up your guitar and falling into the same old patterns you've played many times before. Over time, your hands develop a muscle memory, and like to play patterns they've learned before. This exercise will open up the uncharted regions of your imagination and instrument. Now, your guitar is a tool to express the ideas developing in your mind.

Now, put down that guitar and start playing!

Eric Sands is a guitarist from Atlanta who has recorded with Man On Fire, organized and contributed to The Generation Ibanez Project and is currently recording with the heavy band StrangeWorld.

He's been caught on tape jamming live with Steve Vai.

His latest CD is entitled "Man On Fire".

Eric Sands