Friday, May 06, 2005


So, what? Let me get this straight… your instrument bores you? Wow. Hmmm. Yes. And you’re worried that you’re settling into a series of favourite patterns when you play, that you’re no longer inspiring or inspired? Terrible. Yeah, I know how you feel. I sympathise. It’s got to the point where I can’t sit down at a piano without instantly tapping out the same old chords, with the same old comfortable arrangement of knuckles and the same stooped posture. So to help both of us, a few ideas:

Instructions for drummers

Take your drums to the beach, plus some recording equipment. Whilst the tide is out, partially bury your kit in the sand below the high tide mark. Wait for the sea to start washing back up the beach again. Now, hurry! Make sure to record your drum track before the tom-toms fill up with brine.

Find between five and nine friends. Get each of them to hold a component of your drum kit. Play as normal, but tell your friends to move around in a random fashion at irregular intervals. Perhaps provide your friends with earplugs and thick gloves, especially if you tend to drum like a cunt.

Play the drums whilst also hiding behind them, as if attempting to conceal yourself from the unwanted attention of your bandmates. Keep a low profile. Present as little body mass to open fire as possible.

Instructions for bassists

Get a boffin. Pay the boffin to wire up your bass so that certain combinations of frets and pickups will channel an electric current straight into your fingertips, and thence throughout your entire body. Different melodies will produce different intensities of delightfully heart-skipping electrical surge. Perhaps get the boffin to customise your fretboard so that playing the riff from Temple Of Love by The Sisters Of Mercy will fry you like a pan of chips.
nb. boffins can be found on the internet. If you’re lucky they will sometimes accept payment in the form of interesting Diodes and / or cans of “Dr Pepper.”

Play the bass whilst walking a tightrope. This will hopefully provide you with some considered, fluid and fearful bass lines. A possible variation on this instruction is to actually make the “E” string on your instrument a component of the tightrope itself, so that whilst journeying the length of the rope you’re also sliding the bass along beneath you, bent double like some sort of fucked up tightrope-twanging Chuck Berry, grinning like a loon, sweating, trying desperately not to look down…

Instructions for guitarists

You are legendary Blues guitarist Robert Johnson. You have gone to the crossroads at midnight, to meet the Devil and make a deal; a deal which means you will play guitar like a God for all your days remaining, in return for your immortal soul. Unfortunately the Devil doesn’t show up. You hang around all night, and by 7am you’re cold and hungry. You go and buy a hot dog, then catch a film. The film is Die Hard II: Die Harder, and despite having its moments is not as good as the original. Play guitar as if you are actually Robert Johnson and this has recently happened to you.

Feed your guitar through so much reverb that when you strum a chord it plays yesterday. Invite Albert Einstein to “stitch that.”

Sit on your hands for about 45 minutes. It’ll feel like someone else is playing the guitar for you.

Instructions for keyboard players

At length, contemplate your keyboard. No, don’t play anything yet. Sit for a while. Give it time. Sure, allow your hands to hover in possible formations over the keys, but play nothing. Play nothing. Sit and imagine the consequences of the first chord your hands drop upon. Play nothing, but think about the spiralling possibilities, the chaotic shift of the universe once your mind is made up and your fingertips land, once the notes sound out definitively. What wonders await, what outcomes are denied, what tangents meet? There’s no right or wrong. It’s mathematical but it’s unthinkable. It’s the most important thing you’ve ever played. Let it drop… let it… oh. Right. D Minor? Right. Yeah, D minor…yeah, that’s interesting. Right. No it’s fine. Fine.


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