There is nothing that will help get you out of guitar rut faster than some good riffs. As Summer is getting close, I thought it would be a great idea if I cleaned out the closet and the file cabinets. As I was doing this rather mundane task I discovered a treasure trove of cassette tapes and compact discs!! Each one contained at least 15 minutes of some recorded guitar work that I had done and simply put away to be scrutinized at a later date. I don’t think that I have to tell you that I didn’t finish cleaning the closet until about a week later.The music contained on those tapes and discs was a small representation of what I had been working on for a few months. Not all of it was god but some of it was great!!
The previous December, I had decided to set up a small 2 track tape recorder in my apartment and just roll tape. There wasn’t a conscious effort to play anything in particular but rather jam an what would be, would be. At first I had played along with a few prerecorded drum riffs from DR. rhythm machine and sort of loosely based the odd riff around the drum groove. That was an interesting thing to do as I often created different riffs out of the existing ones that I had been working on.Then I played back a few of the compact discs that I had made with the help of some computer software. Harmonized guitars, Quadruple tracked guitars,Backward guitar solos!!! Man, you name it and I was working on it at one time or another!! What was astounding is that all of the semi done tunes that I had been writing and editing post 2 track sessions, were started from a small little tiny riff!!! No chord progressions or even playing of chords, just a variety of different guitar riffs played either clean, crunch or chunk, effected or dry,loud or soft! There were literally 200 or so hours of musical ideas on these discs and tapes and I can tell you that even after 4 months of playing the stuff back I”am only now about 85% through the material.Some of the stuff was played at break neck speeds and other stuff was played to whatever mood that I was feeling at the time. No, it’s not ready to play for people in a recorded format but it is a wealth of ideas that has seen me never have a dry creative spell for a while now. That’s why I say that riffs are really the answer to getting ones playing out of a rut, should you find yourself sounding a little stale. It’s a great way to make sure that you are always improving and it also gives you a great rhythm track to play over and further develop song ideas!!It’s also very easy to do. Unlike when you are recording a demo, for example, you need only to have whatever recording unit you choose, whatever guitar and amp(if that”s what you want to do) a pencil and piece of paper (I find it helpful to log the date and time you started the session) and away you go!!Press play-Record and get on the road to riff s that you can use for whatever you want.!!The only other thing that I have found somewhat a necessity is to make sure that you title the tape/cd of your work. It is important because it will cause you to recall exactly what you were feeling and thinking at the time of recording. Maybe, maybe you don’t need to do that as you know what was running through your mind during the recording process, well, all the power to you. I just think that for songwriting purposes it is always good to be able to tap into whatever emotional state you were in while you were recording. I usually would not stop the tape/ disc until I had finished at least one side of the tape and half of the disc time (Remember to always use re CD-R discs) and in that way I knew that I had at least 30 – 45 minutes of guitar work to play back.It ‘s important to allow yourself a little “distance” from the material when it’s done.You want to have fresh ears while you listen back to the stuff and a couple of days or a week is usually fine (Depending on how long you have been recording for) but if you have only recorded a few minutes of material than listen whenever you want, I’m only trying to say that if you want to develop some of your riffs into songs it is best to be fresh and focused when you are to play them back. Ok, after I tired of the drum machine grooves I took the advice on one Mr. Steve Vai, having been a fan of his work for nearly 25 years i often read interviews where he says to get out of ones comfort zone. The particular interview I was reading spoke of how “vocalizing each note you played”, while playing it was an excercize he often did and does to this very day. The idea being that while you are playing you r notes or runs or whatever, singing the particular pitch of each note will dramatically improve your ear for hearing different pitches as well as maybe helping your vocals! (Important note: Don’t forget to breathe,.As funny as it may sound it can happen) Was I ever surprised at some of the cool stuff that I came up with!! Things that I would never have been playing had I not tried this different method!! I also heard a lot of cool vocal melodies as I played the stuff back!! No mater which way you want to look at it , if you are in a guitar rut and feeling as though you are playing the same old, same old, in my opinion Riffs, Riffs & More Guitar Riffs is the answer to how you can breathe some new life into your playing.