But alas, that is not always the case. All of us - myself certainly included - have moments when even though we know we SHOULD put in some time playing it is very hard to muster much enthusiasm. It’s not that we don’t love playing, far from it. It’s just that putting in the effort isn’t that attractive at the moment. Hopefully those moments don’t last too long, but what if they do? Here are a few solutions that work for me when I realize there is absolutely no reason to avoid playing other than a (hopefully!) transitory lack of interest.
The first step is making sure the guitar is perfectly in tune. Nothing makes the playing experience more frustrating and depressing than an out of tune guitar. These days just about everyone owns a digital tuner and if you don’t, you should. Back in the day when we always had to tune by ear this could occasionally be a tedious exercise leading to frustration right from the get-go. But there is no reason for that to be the case these days with the availability of inexpensive, fast and accurate tuners. I like the Snark series of tuners and depend on them.
What goes along with this first step is using fresh strings. It’s hard to get very excited about playing if your guitar sounds dead a lifeless no matter how well you play. Change those strings often! I know there is an almost physical rush when I strum that first, big, open-sounding chord with new strings on my guitar. That will surely put me in a good place to dispel the I Don’t Feel Like Playing Blues! Which gets us to the next step: what to play.
Sometimes I will tune up and then…. stop. Take a deep breath. Just hold the guitar on my lap for a minute or so. Think about the Big Picture of my musical experience. I know this may sound silly or downright counter-productive but it forces me to make a conscious decision about what I want to play. For me anyway, this is important because it is oh so easy to mindlessly begin playing something I *always* seem to start playing when I pick up my guitar. Although this is not always a bad thing if I am in a bit of a funk about playing anyway that will surely lead to instant boredom. And I will soon put the guitar down and go check my email or something. Not good. Maybe that’s just the way my mind works but I suspect I’m not alone in this habitual approach to playing.
If I’m lucky, in my brief meditative moment before actually beginning to play something will come to me. Not the “voices of the angels” or the next million-selling hit song, no, perhaps a remembrance of some song fragment that I’d been meaning to try or a particular artist whose music I’d recently heard and wanted to learn more about. Trying those new things right away often inspires my playing, regardless of how well I play them.
One other little tip that works well for me. Mix things up, sound-wise. If your guitar has a pick-up, plug it into your amp or PA right away, even before you play anything besides a basic tune-up. That can jolt your creative mind just enough. If you are fortunate enough to own a couple guitars, reach for the one you play less frequently right at the start of your session. Again, a new musical perspective can be refreshing and inspirational.
I remember a story I once read about the great cellist Pablo Casals. A visitor wrote of staying at the master’s home and awakening to the most awful sounds coming from downstairs. It was Casals doing his daily warm ups and the visitor was shocked and horrified at what he was hearing. After some time the music improved and when the visitor finally had the courage to go downstairs he asked the master if anything was wrong. Had he injured himself?!
No, said Casals, I know that I must climb the mountain because the view from the top is so serene.
Play your favorite music. Of course. But if you find yourself becoming bored or disinclined to pick up your guitar, I wouldn’t be surprised if all you really need is a change of view.
Peace & good music,