Do This One Thing To Be More Creative
What does it mean to be creative on guitar? What do you think of when you hear the term?
For most of us, we think of creative people we look up too. They could be songwriters, lead guitar players, artists, actors, rappers, painters, anyone who takes part in a creative medium.
What does it take to be creative? Do you need to have a muse? Do you have to wait for the right time to be creative, or do you take initiative? What is the right approach?
The reality is that if you examine the work of artists, what works for some usually doesn’t work for all. Some people thrive on the openness of doing anything any way they please, where other artists need frameworks to stay consistent. Some songwriters only write when they ‘feel’ the idea coming, while others actively try to mine for songs, riffs, hooks.
In this article, I will show you one thing you can add to your arsenal as a guitar player to be more creative. This technique requires no creativity on your part, so if you find yourself in a rut, or unable to come up with stuff, this article is for you.
Creative Fuel - Raw Material
I’m going to show you the process I use when writing, teaching, and coming up with ideas from improvisation. First, I decide what raw materials I’m going to use. I recommend all my students plan to do something similar. So, what are raw materials?
The basic stuff, like scales & keys. If you only know 2 scales, pick one. If you only know 5 keys, pick one of those. For the examples below, I am picking A melodic minor.
What we need is a number we can use for the next step. The number should probably be lower than 20, but more than 3. For these examples, I am going to pick 5.
The first thing I do is create a scale run that is 5 notes long. This idea can be literally any kind of thing, and any rhythm, as long as you can play it consistently.
Play it a few times, write it down, get comfortable with it. Once you think you have it down, what you’re going to do next is play the same idea, but this time, start it from the 2nd note of the phrase.
What you have now is 2 ideas, based on one!
Now that you have 2 ideas. Try to play them in different ways. Back to back, with a pause between them. Play them right into one another (this is frequently the way most students want to do things!). Experiment with different ways to play both ideas.
We’re just getting started here.
Let’s circle back to the original 5 note phrase here. What we do next is play the same phrase, but this time, start on the 3rd note. Now we have a completely different phrase one again!
Remember, play loose! Tension is the enemy. Tension is the #1 killer of progress, and when I see it, I know you need lessons! Your body has a natural inclination to tense up (like when you’re going to get an injection!) when new information is being put to task.
3 Phrases From One
So far, we have 3 unique phrases, which can then be mined into more and more variations if you know how. Just as before, try different ways of playing these 3. Try to play them all right into each other. Or what about playing one of them twice, and playing another last? What if you played the 3rd one then the 2nd and then the 1st?
The real beauty of this approach is that it takes most of the heavy lifting out of the picture. We just simply use math to come up with enough ideas that we can then use the ideas to create more unique stuff. This approach can work for songwriting, soloing, etc. Practicing creativity doesn’t have to be such a chore when you know how to do it.
Let's Get More Phrases
We’ve got three so far, but let’s keep going. Let’s go back to the original idea, and this time, play the phrase starting on the 4th note. And then, finally, play the phrase with the last note as the first.
“Hey wait, isn’t this the same as sequences?” Yes, but only sort of. These are more like permutations than sequences, which usually follow a specific note number repetition. Learn more about sequences here.
When you sit down in your practice room to work on guitar, you should spend some time coming up with variations this way. You’ll be amazed to find that the more you do this, the more it will come out in your playing in very unexpected ways. Even as a pure beginner, as long as you understand the concepts, you can implement these ideas and overcome obstacles on guitar.
This creative approach is different in that you can do it with practically no creative ‘juices’. All you need is some basic raw material, a pen and paper (or a good memory), and time.
What is your preferred method of being creative?