What to Do with Your Instrument When You’re Bored

Dress up your instrument or its case (carefully). Take it to a Halloween party. Get pet costumes for it. Heck, sew instrument-shaped clothes! Just be sure not to break it, scratch it, drop it, poke it, or block any of the sound holes if you’re going to be playing on it while it’s disguised. And, once it’s transformed, don’t ever forget what it is and absent-mindedly sit on it.

Try playing it in weird positions. Play it lying down, hanging upside down, behind your back, above your head, or between your knees. Bend backwards, do a yoga boat pose. Just keep a hold of it firmly at all times, and don’t knock it against the walls, ceiling, or floor if you’re spatially challenged.

Play while: dancing, doing deep knee bends, standing on a chair on one foot (but no wheeled chairs or rocking chairs, it’s too dangerous), hula hooping (yes, I have done this in a talent show), writing with your feet, or pacing your yard or walking in an open field (remember that direct sunlight is bad for the varnish and direct rain is horrible for the whole instrument). If you fall during any of these activities, protect the instrument at all costs. Musicians automatically shield their instruments when they take a tumble, even if it means injuring themselves. I shout “Ow!” when I accidentally tap anything with my bow, however lightly.

Draw or take photographic portraits of your instrument.

Develop a signature – autograph – on behalf of your instrument. How would it sign its name? What kind of character would it portray?

Write a biography of your instrument.

Make a film from your instrument’s perspective. What do you look like to it when you’re playing it? What does it see of the audience in a concert? What’s the inside of the case look like when it’s open and/or all closed up?

Act the opposite of your normal self while playing. If you always stand still, then writhe around, grimace, snort, gasp, sniff, gyrate, twirl, and stomp. If you’re visually expressive, then try being as petrified as possible. Look scared and freaked out. Or be completely blank. Either way, video-record yourself, if you have the equipment. Try not to crack up when you watch it.

Tell a story to someone as you play whatever piece you’re working on. It’s much harder than it seems!

Sing or hum harmony to a classical piece you know, while playing. No laughing. No messing around. It will sound terrible, and everyone will ask you to stop practicing.

Pick out your favorite jingle and write variations on it for your instrument. Play the results at the next boring party you go to, when people are in desperate need of humor.

After you change strings, or bow hair, or reeds, or mallets, or whatever accoutrements you replace from time to time, make the old ones into something new: jewelry, holiday ornaments, wall hangings, dream catchers, kitchen utensils, or home-designed gifts. You’ll figure something out. Recycle! Never, ever pick apart your instrument, though. Someone else could use it if you don’t want it.