Let’s be honest: the everyday challenges of life often get in the way of our guitar playing, but one Nashville-based guitarist recently set out to buck the trend, by undertaking a formidable creative and playing challenge: writing and recording a new riff every day for a year.
Alexandra Mann, who plays in acoustic duo Sisters Mann, posted videos of her efforts on Instagram every day, where she used two Taylor GS Mini acoustics (a koa and a Sitka spruce) and a Rick Turner Model 1 electric.
Like many players, Mann realized she wasn’t putting as much effort into her guitar playing as she’d have liked.
“I wasn't dedicating the time I should be to what I loved,” she recalls. “It can be hard as an independent musician to run your career on your own plus have a full-time job and go to school and still make time for creating.
“You can get so lost in all the other aspects of the music industry, from administrative-type work, marketing, social media, and more... and lose sight of what you're really pursuing music for: to make music.
“I was going days without doing the thing I loved more than anything, and that didn’t seem right. So, I wanted to do this challenge to prove to myself that I could always make time for my music no matter what life threw at me that day - even if it was just for a few minutes.”
Starting on 1 September 2018 and ending a full 365 days later, Mann embraced the challenge no matter the hurdles life threw her way.
“The main obstacle I faced was pushing myself to take the time to sit down and write and record on really rough and stressful days,” she reflects.
“Like a lot of people, my year saw a variety of hardships, sadness, anxiety, stress, breakdowns... but I still pushed myself on those days to follow through. This didn't always lead to my very best riffs, but it did always make me feel better. It really showed me that I am in control.”
Besides benefitting her mental health - that catharsis being one of the relatively unsung benefits of playing guitar - the challenge also improved Mann’s playing.
“This challenge taught me so much as a player, and the reality of having to write a new riff every day forced me to think outside of how I usually play and discover new places and sounds on the guitar,” she says.
“It’s fun for me to go back to day one and see how my playing has changed. I have been playing for over 15 years, but I feel this challenge made me a much more confident and creative player.”
Mann is currently assembling an instrumental EP based on some of her favorite riffs from the year, which is due for release at the end of the year.
Now that Mann has set the template, we’d love to see some more #365riffchallenge efforts - let’s face it, we could all do with more guitar playing in our lives, and this is one surefire way of keeping that commitment.
Let us know how you get on…