“The more you play guitar, the more you start to put in your
own rules,” says Greene, “and those are the hardest ones to
break. Try something unusual, or even uncomfortable. Now and
again I’ll randomly twist the tuning pegs until I find something
that sounds good, so I’m forced to relearn the instrument. It’s
almost like turning your brain into a child’s brain that’s not
caught up in what you can and cannot do. I write a lot on my
’55 Gibson J-45, but which guitar I use matters less as I gain
experience. The most important thing is to pick up any instrument
when inspiration strikes. Sometimes I’ll grab a mandolin
because it helps to try a somewhat unfamiliar instrument, find
three chords, and figure out what you can make of them. It’s a
good idea for singers to get a guitar that matches your voice, or
inspires you to find melodies over chord progressions. I’ll try
using a flatpick, a thumbpick, or playing fingerstyle, depending
on whether I want a loud or a soft sound. Sometimes I’ll use a
capo to help find the best key for my voice and the band. Then
you have to take the chance of playing a new song live, because
that’s the only way you’ll ever know if you got it right.”
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