What are some suggestions to try when you've been at the same plateu too long?
Sometimes I'll just not play or listen to any music for a week or so, by then I'm busting at the seams to jam.
Another suggestion is to try to learn some tunes outside your normal genres.
Well that's mine - Your input requested.


Sometimes watching old instructional videos works for me. I usually watch one again after not seeing it for a few years to see if there is anything in there. I always pick up something I didn't catch before or something will make more sense the second (or third or fourth) time and be more relevant to where I'm at now. Same thing might work for old books collecting dust.


explore a different style? jazz, funk, country, blues, rock, etc.. there just way too much to learn..


2 things I like to do

1) Play something old you haven't played in ages. You must have liked it in the first place if you learned it, so it should be fun. More importantly, I often find that revisiting something years later I can, once I've dusted off the cobwebs, play better than I ever did before. The satisfaction when I can sense my own improvement is a good rut buster.

2) Go see some live music and get humbled by some great playing. Never a problem here in Manhattan, plenty of options within walking distance. There's always something to get inspired by - chords, tones, melodies, and then go home motivated to practice


Originally posted by Old Tele man
...if you want to "bust" your rhythm-rut, try this:

...practice the harmonized SCALE (ie: IM7, ii7, iii7, VI7, VM7, vi7, vii(dim), IM7) for any given key (say C), and finger the chords so that you pedal the SAME NOTE through every chord!
Cool exercise!


Originally posted by Old Tele man
...another 'interesting' exercise is to pedal one note (treble) and then "run-down" the bass note (ala' voice leading) through the harmonized scale.
You mean double stops and c-e, d-e, e-e, f-e, etc. etc.?


Alternative tunings are great for me. The first time I tried a DADGAD tuning I was in a rut. Man, I love that tuning. I keep an acoustic tuned this way all the time now.

Try any new tuning to open up some ideas.

Good Luck and don't give up.


Tim Bowen

Hey, I've built my style on being in a rut! What's wrong with ruts? :D

* This is sorta weird... if you have several instruments, set one up with only low E, D, and B strings, and another with only A, G, and high E strings. Swap back and forth between the two, and practice improvising, as well as playing "chords". This gets you thinking differently on an intervallic level, and promotes octave displacement, wider voicings, etc. When you pick up a "six string" afterwards, it feels like your options are wide open, and you look at the instrument differently. Plus it's great prep for dealing on-the-fly with broken strings on the bandstand.

* I have a digital cable package that includes several dozen different music channels. I play along with blues, rock, atmospheric, Americana, jazz, dance, electronica, R&B, soul, classical, even stuff I hate, like rap and metal. Usually some little line, lick, or groove will jump start some sort of idea and I'll go off and chase that.

* I always play guitar when mindlessly watching the boob tube. There's some sort of weird left/right brain thing that happens when you play whilst focused on something else. You play different stuff, and if you stumble onto something cool, you can go back and learn it. I particularly enjoy noodling to film soundtracks of all sorts, and spaghetti westerns are just great. Jeff Beck has long been a proponent of "TV practicing".

* "Scat-sing" along with what you play, a la' George Benson.
Also, sing a "solo" over some changes, record it, and then learn to play what you sang. If you can't play what you sang fairly easily, chances are that some ear training and/or fingerboard visualization/knowledge could stand a bit of honing or development.

* Instead of learning a bunch of cool licks, sit down and ape vocal and instrumental melodies - Beatles, Todd Rundgren, Schubert, whatever. Use a fretted aproach, and try a slide as well. It's virtually impossible not to bust a rut if you dig into melodies.

* Play solos on one string only. I do this quite a bit when using an E-bow.

* Instead of playing single note solos, try playing a solo with chords or double stops.

* If you always improvise your solos, work out a few in advance. This can only enhance your improvs.

* Capos, slides, E-bows, et al, are great rut busters. Slide, E-bow, and a big delay wash is a particularly wicked and potent combination.

* Play different instruments. For me, it's nothing too outrageous... mandolin, bass, baritone guitar. But hey, if tuba or accordian give you a chubby, go for it.

* Dig into something totally off the wall. Jeff Beck got his inspiration for "Where Were You" from listening to the Bulgarian Women's Choir.

* Learn a bunch of licks from the late, great country pianist Floyd Cramer, and translate them to guitar. The cornball classic "Last Date" is a great study in "slip note" piano stylings.

* Do arrangements. If you don't have original material to work with, rearrange a tune that you know well. Give it an entirely different treatment and vibe.

* If you haven't already, embrace the CAGED system of viewing the fingerboard.

* Taking a break is just a fantastic idea... if you don't
have any pressing commitments that require you to stay on top of your game, put the guitar down and ignore the friggin' thing for a week or so. I haven't had the luxury of doing so for a while, but first chance I get, I'm all over it. Great way to clear the head and get a fresh 'tude.

* Try playing with your feet, or with various other bodily appendages. Okay, I'm kidding.


Silver Supporting Member
Since I gig fulltime, I often feel like I'm not improving...
One needs down practice time away from the public...
It's certainly a form of focused meditation in my book ....

But when you're constantly on stage,
playing for dancers, at festivals, art galleries, etc...
you often don't have the energy
to simply practice for self-improvement at home ...

So I had to set up a 'sacred space'
in my little ol' fisherman's shack (a few blocks up from Cannery Row),
where there's an amp, a backing tracks CD player,
and a wall-hanging guitar... so that without any effort,
I simply can turn these on, pull down the guitar and just play for myself...

At least, to a certain extent, I can stay fresh in my own mind
if I'm not to pooped out from a musician's nocturnal lifestyle...

mad dog

Silver Supporting Member
Open tunings work for me as well. For 35+ years I've been bouncing back and forth between standard and open D or open E, mainly. It's can't miss. Not only can I change the deal just by picking up a differently tuned/strung instrument, it gives me access to a whole different set of styles and tones (bottleneck guitar, swampy riddim stuff w/o slide). The other thing that really helps me is at least attempting another instrument. It's often futile (saxophone) sometimes intriguing but ultimately not too successful (mandolin), if I'm lucky (lap steel), it actually changes the way I play altogether.

Hard to get bored when you can suck at so many different things.

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