The younger version of me was very much into hard rock, alt-rock, and metal. The types of amps and guitars I used all went to 11 and stayed there. As I got older, I branched off into other directions. In my mid-20s, I ditched electric altogether and played acoustic for 4 or 5 years, only to return to it with a Big Muff. In my early-30s I explored more classic rock, but with modern tones. Now, in my late-30s, I’ve gone from being an acrobatic, outside soloing, masturbator to being limited in my playing and learning about economy of notes and action.
When I began to have pain and lost the ability to play at all, it was devastating. I had to go back to basics and practice very simple techniques again until I could do them. That took months of short periods of practice to even hold notes, to slide, or to pick a string in correct time.
Concurrently, I learned to maximize my tools by setting up guitars to be simple enough to play that a child could do so. I had such a grip and picked so hard as a young man, that doing this would have been impossible back then.
Going backward actually has been a good thing. I ignored or skipped over some things that didn’t apply to my playing when I was a beginner. Being forced to back up and have relatively simple things become huge challenges improved my feel and taught me the “less-is-more” approach.
During the very short periods when I feel better, I can chain the techniques together and come up with truly remarkable things. During the vast majority of the time, I might be able to at least play for a short time, which is better than not being able to play at all. Indeed, there is a silver lining to even terrible things.
It also has me digging into different approaches to the same-ol’ 12 tones we all use and even pentatonics, which I used to avoid, and also making good use of diads, inversions, and voicings. Even possibilities with wiring or (gasp) using the tone control have opened up, where the younger me would have found no use for it, because I wanted “heavy” from my electric playing.
To those of you who are able-bodied and have a bagful of techniques and experience to draw from, I might advise that when you hit a rut or get tired: back up and go a different way. Try to make the best use of simple things. Try to impose a limit on what you play.
What can you do with three notes?