How to Stay Inspired!
OK, you’ve been playing for a while, but it seems like every time you’re on stage and you’ve got a solo coming up, you can’t think of anything inspired to play. You’re in a rut and you feel that even though you may be performing a lot, putting a lot of hours on your guitar, your playing is getting stale and you are playing the same stuff over and over again. In this month’s column we’ll look at different ideas to keep your mind and your playing fresh!
Here it is…
The #1 Way to Keep It Fresh…
Don’t Forget To Practice!
This may sound like unnecessary advice, as many musicians love to practice. However, I know many players, especially professional musicians who play almost every night, that spend very little time practicing on their own. These guitarists may be playing four to five hours a night, six nights a week, but if you ask a lot of pros how many hours a day do they practice, many will tell you none. You may think “Well, they’re are getting plenty of time in on their instrument, so what’s the big deal?” What happens is that, even if you spend a lot of time playing with others, you don’t spend the personal time on your instrument, and you don’t keep moving forward in developing your technique, and learning new ways to advance your playing. Many players who play only pick up their guitar when it’s time to gig often find their playing in a rut, not keeping their mind fresh with new things that they’re working on, personally, and they end up playing the same old stuff night after night.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely valuable to be playing with others, gigging and developing that aspect of your playing and profession. Just keep working on new things on your own time so you keep from getting in a rut.
Ideas To Keep Your Mind And Your Playing Fresh
There are countless things to always be working on when it comes to developing your guitar playing, but if you’re in a rut and can’t think of what to do, here are some suggestions:
Study With a Teacher
- This is always a good way to open your mind up to new aspects of playing. Find an instructor that you really like and they can help you explore new, inspiring directions in your playing.
Keep Learning New Chord Voicings
- Study Chord substitution
- Work on learning more extensions
- Learn new ways to play common progressions
Practice New Scale Fingerings
- This creates different ways of looking at your fretboard, which creates different ideas for you to construct melodies.
Work on New Ways to Approach Soloing
- Use a metronome to practice things at different tempos. Start off with painfully slow tempos and speed up gradually.
- Work on soloing through progressions that change keys. Make your mind really work on this one. It will do wonders for your hands too!
- Work on different rhythmic approaches to soloing. Grab your metronome again and start working with different rhythms. Practice eighth note ideas, then sixteenth note ideas, then various triplet ideas, then combine them all in different variations. The possibilities here are endless!
Study players who you like
- Transcribe their solos. Analyze the things that you like about their playing and can incorporate into your own bag of tricks. Read articles and interviews on them. Something there could inspire you to start moving in a new direction.
- Surf the web, check out YouTube for videos to learn more about the players. Seeing live videos of other musicians can be very inspiring.
Study Players Who Are New to You
- Find out about other players who play the styles of music that you like. There could be someone different out there that you haven’t heard that could really inspire you.
- Again, check out YouTube for videos to learn more about the players.
Learn New Songs
- you can never know enough songs. Take time to build your song list. Not learning new songs can be a major contributor to being in a rut.
Learn About Different (new?) technology
(This might apply more to older players as younger players have grown up with newer technology 🙂)
- Do sequencing
- Study how computers are used in music, and how you could use them to further your musical pursuits
- Do some recording. Investigate different recording devices and mediums. This can be extremely fun and very motivating in doing new things to spark up your playing.
- Download midi files of tunes you could learn use in your practice time to work on your soloing, comping, learn the melodies, chords, etc…
- Work on your compositional skills. Writing music can definitely help to keep you from getting bored with your musical life. It can really exercise your creativity muscle.
- No matter what level you are at, teach other players who could benefit from your experience. Often, by working with other players, helping them to improve their playing and expand their musical eduction will help you to remember to keep working and re-working your own approach to playing.
Again, don’t get me wrong. I’m not, in any way, advising you to neglect your playing time with others, and keeping your gig calendar full. Just don’t forget to stay hungry for developing your playing and your musical mind. Keep yourself active, personally, in growing as a musician. Remember when this was the kind of stuff that you lived for, when you first started playing guitar?