Where Challenges Draw No Line

Usually when I have too much time to think I find abstract ways to compose music, but for whatever reason I’ve never considered finding abstract ways to actually play the guitar. I’ve even written about the weird things guitarists have done while playing guitar and still I never thought to find weird ways to play the guitar myself. Until now that is.

Juggling Guitarists

It was a cold October morning. An uncharacteristically casual weekend. I had risen from a slumber that had commenced later into the twilight than that which I usually preferred. As I lumbered into my office I permitted gravity to take hold and pull me downward with but a cushioned chair to abbreviate my fall. I looked to my guitar and took hold of it to play random licks absent of relevance or direction when I had a spontaneous thought that needed to be written down. Unwilling to compromise I took a pen in my left hand and continued to tap the fretboard with my right hand as I jotted down a squiggly massacre that even the postal service would need a moment to decipher while sounds reverberated through the room free from the evils of proper notation. As I looked with great scrutiny at the childish mess I thought to myself “I’ll bet it would be a neat trick if I could write while playing guitar.”

Thus here we are now. Usually when people think of making guitar harder than it needs to be they consider adapting posture and technique to make things easier. Here I’m seeking ways to purposefully make playing the guitar a more challenging ordeal under the theory that if you can play something under heavy handicaps then under normal circumstances.

Does Your Left Hand Know What Your Right Hand Is Doing?

Writing and Drawing

I love writing and I love playing guitar. It only seems natural to merge the two. I’ve been working on this one for a few days now as of this writing and while I still defy the restraints of my metronome and writing with my left hand is mediocre already (I’m a righty) let alone when trying to play guitar. If writing isn’t your thing then try drawing. I managed to draw a stick man barbecuing his head while tapping something modestly less nonsensical than when I first started.

Things I’ve Learned From Doing This

The Stick Man Barbecue

It’s best to really keep it as simple as possible in the earliest stages. Playing Satriani tap solos while writing is just going to fall into a disaster. Instead playing a simple three to five tone pattern repeatedly until you can write without thinking about it is really the best way to get results. Slowly. At least that’s how I started. The picture I drew of the stick man was done with a ten tone pattern repeated over and over. So it’s just a matter of gradually adding more and more in.

I’ve also found at first it’s easiest to kind of keep your hands in sync. Draw a line at the same time as you fret a note. In a way it’s a lot like the beginning stages of learning to play drums or keyboards where you have to be in control of two appendages doing separate tasks at once. Only in this case there is more novelty.

Afterthoughts

Under the gimmick of multitasking why not take it up a level? Try solving a Rubik’s cube while playing. YouTube doesn’t have enough Rubik’s cube videos already. Build a house of cards. Use your imagination. That’s the real name of the game.

What Do You Need All Those Guitars For?

The Ol’ Play Two Guitars At Once Trick

Stick Man Melody

Whenever I tell people how many guitars I have it’s about a 50/50 chance I hear “what do you need all those guitars for?” Considering I can’t hold a candle to some of the big league collectors out there I imagine I’m not alone in hearing that response. So I say it’s high time we all give them a reason to have all those guitars. Since I don’t have a stand I propped a guitar on end between my legs (thank you BC Rich for your sharp, angular bodies) while resting the other on my lap as I normally do.

Things I’ve Learned From Doing This

While this isn’t the most original idea out there it’s still a legitimate challenge and way more worthwhile than drawing burning stick men. It’s actually surprisingly easy. I don’t mean to say it is easy, and while I never thought to do a detailed study on this, I’d say a lot of practice in two handed tapping translates very easily into this. Either that or keyboard experience translates. I’m a sucky keyboardist and alright at complex tapping. Off the bat I found my capability rested somewhere between my established ability with both keyboards and tapping. In short to the untrained eye it looks harder than it probably is and it really gets you looking at the fretboard from a different perspective.

Play a Lefty (or Righty if You Already Play Left-Handed)

Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now is convert one of my right-handed guitars to be a left handed Hendrix style. I’ve got an infatuation with ambidexterity so I’ve wanted to learn left-hand guitar for a while now. Since I don’t have a guitar already set up for this I had to settle on playing a righty upside down.

Things I’ve Learned From Doing This

You want to know what I learned? I learned playing a guitar upside down sucks. I did not particularly enjoy the experience. I don’t think I was even this bad when I first started the guitar all together. I can barely hold a pick, my new fretting hand has no reach, coordination, or any semblance of timing. And not to mention with the low strings on the other side hitting good riffs is just plain not going to happen. The contour of the body takes some getting used to and the input jack is not nestled cozily under my arm where it feels wrong. This one’s gonna take some time.

Summary

If YouTube has any kind of benevolent purpose it’s to show there are still oceans of people looking for ways to challenge themselves. Challenge is what makes us all grow. It’s what keeps us coming back for more. I’m a believer that the more absurd the challenge the more better the results. I used to know a guy that could recite Shakespeare while playing 8-digit tap solos while putting his socks on with his feet. He was a weirdo, sure, but I don’t think I’ve known anyone that could play as well as him. Piss on learning scale shape after scale shape. Just come up with a cool melody to play then juggle while you play it with your weaker hand.

Kyle Smitchens (448 Articles)

Kyle Smitchens is the Guitar-Muse Managing Editor, super hero extraordinaire, and all around great guy. He has been playing guitar since his late teens and writing personal biographies almost as long. An appreciator of all music, his biggest influences include Tchaikovsky, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Vai, Therion, and Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy.