Every musician experiences periods of stagnation. You too may find yourself playing the same songs over and over again, and becoming increasingly bored. Pretty soon you’re playing less and less, and eventually you may stop playing your instrument altogether. Fortunately there are many ways to re-ignite and maintain your interest in playing. Here are some helpful hints I hope will inspire you to keep playing:
Learn To Play Something New
Even great musicians never stop learning and growing. Whether it’s a new song, riff, scale, music genre, theory lesson, or new musicians to jam with… new challenges help keep things fresh and exciting! Like sharks, you can never stop swimming.
Discovering a new song often happens by accident, but these accidents can be few and far between. So here are some ideas to help you find new and exciting songs to play on guitar:
1. Streaming services like Spotify provide great song recommendation services.
2. On YouTube search for your favourite artist or band. Before you know it you’re surfing from one new tune to another until you land on one you really want to play on guitar. Embrace your ADD.
3. Ask your friends what they’re listening to?
4. Watch a live, video or televised concert.
5. Seen a movie recently? Perhaps there was a song you liked.
The word practice can certainly have a negative connotation. So instead of thinking, Ahh, I have to practice guitar… think of it as simply playing. After all, it basically amounts to the same thing, only tons more fun! Plus, once you get started you’re more likely to play for a longer time. So whether you’re trying to work out a new and challenging riff, chord or strum a favorite tune, remember it ALL contributes to your development and progress.
Also, instead of committing to practicing say 20-30 minutes a day (what a drag), just get in the habit of simply picking up your guitar to play one song. Chances are you’ll enjoy playing that song so much, you’ll get carried away and continue playing for 30 minutes and more. Time flies when you’re PLAYING music.
Keep Your Guitar in Sight
Ever get the urge to play guitar, say for three minutes during a TV commercial? You look at your guitar case and think, “I can’t be bothered to open it up and remove the guitar?”
Keeping your guitar in plain view is, believe it or not, one of the best and easiest things you can do to get in some more practice. (Oops, there’s that word again.) Remember, every single minute adds up and contributes to your progress. Also, guitars look really cool so yeah, show them off in your home. The expression “Out of site, out of mind” applies big time here!
Perhaps it’s learning a new song, riff, scale, recording yourself, or planning a live performance etc. Setting a time frame for yourself, say a week or two, will help you focus better and motivate you to rehearse much more. Much!
Stressed? In a Bad Mood? Play Your Guitar
Listening to and playing music can often provide the “great escape” from our day-to-day lives. Especially playing music. So take advantage of your ability to play an instrument and enjoy the many therapeutic benefits (superpowers) of being a musician.
Sing Like No One Is Listening
Whether a person can sing well or not need not be important. What’s more important is how good it make you feel. Numerous studies demonstrate that singing releases “feel good hormones” endorphins and oxytocin – which in turn relieve anxiety and stress and are linked to feelings of trust and bonding. Also, remember that your voice is an instrument and the more you play it (and listen actively), the better you’ll get!
Play With Other Musicians
Some musicians prefer to play on their own while others enjoy playing with one or several players. If you’ve been playing solo, you may want to try jamming with other musicians. Though not always easy to find, other musicians can make playing that much more fun and inspiring. Let people know you’re a musician. You’ll be surprised to discover others members of our musical tribe.
Play Along With Your Favorite Recordings
Of the many benefits associated with playing music, one of the greatest and easiest is that you can play along with your favorite bands and artists… dead or alive. You don’t even need their permission. Good luck playing baseball with the New York Yankees or dancing with the Bolshoi Ballet. If you’re playing along with a Youtube video, remember you can slow the speed down at first and then speed it up when you’re more comfortable.
Playing along with recordings takes some getting used to just like playing live with other musicians takes practice. When playing solo you have the freedom to change your arrangement on the go because nobody’s trying to accompany you. Embrace this wonderful freedom and be creative by switching up how you play any particular song. For instance, speed it up or slow it down (Think Eric Clapton’s original and unplugged versions of Layla.) Or try finger picking instead of strumming and vice versa. If it’s a country song, try playing it in a blues or rock style similar to how the Rolling Stones transformed Country Honk into Honky Tonk Women.
Put On New Strings
Nothing brings a guitar back to life more than shiny new strings. It takes less than 30 minutes and costs as little as six dollars for a set of six strings. Of course, you can opt for more expensive strings. Either way, you’ll be amazed with how alive they sound and how much easier to play, especially if they’re coated. In just minutes you’ll find yourself fired up more than ever to strum. Here are links to excellent videos on how to change steel and nylon strings.
Is There a
Doctor Musician in the House?
How about giving a live concert at home? True, our families and friends are often our toughest critics and harder to perform for than strangers. On the other hand, those you know are less likely to walk out. Perhaps Johnny Cash was thinking the same thing when playing for a “captive” Folsom Prison audience.
Buy a New and Different Guitar
If you’re playing an acoustic guitar, consider going electric like Bob Dylan did. Your fans won’t hate you like they did Bob. Already playing an electric? Go acoustic. Better yet a 12-string! A nylon string guitar is another option. Tell Santa.
Try To Write a Song
True, it’s easier said than done. However, perhaps you’ve already come up with a cool lyric, poem, chord progression, melody or riff. These are the sparks that every song begins with. It may be the verse or chorus, or to be determined later. Heck, you don’t even have to play an instrument. All you need to do is sing an original melody and add words.
Of course, writing a song and writing a “hit” song are two different things. Remember, it’s the journey and not solely the destination that’s important. Whether your song becomes a hit or not, the creative process is the same and experiencing creative flow can be a wonderful experience.
Some songs are written in minutes; others years and everything in between. They cannot be rushed nor labored over. In the end, a song must be honest. Not only can audiences sense dishonesty, you yourself will cringe every time you repeat a lyric or chord you yourself are not comfortable with. Songs are living things and require fine tuning.
Keep It Fun!
Remember to enjoy playing guitar and the process of improving your skills. After all we don’t work music. We play music.
Frustrated Trying To Learn and Play a New Part? Take a Break
If you’re struggling to play something, for example particular chord changes or a riff, don’t push yourself for too long. After a few minutes step back from what you’re trying to accomplish and “clean your ears.” Fatigue will only frustrate and demotivate you. Go on to another song and return later. You’ll be amazed at how well you play it the next time. In fact your brain continues to develop your muscle memory even after you stopped playing.
With today’s devices (smart phones, iPads, computers etc.), recording yourself is a cinch and can cost as little as nothing. Also, you don’t have to record yourself playing an entire song, though planning to eventually do so will motivate you to rehearse that much more.
Few musicians are comfortable recording themselves because suddenly your performance is “on record.” As jazz great Eric Dolphy said, “Once you play the music, it’s in the air. It’s gone. And that’s true. But when you record it, it comes back to haunt you sometimes.” Fear not; you can always delete your recording.
When listening back to your recording you’ll hear things you like about your performance and things you’ll want to improve. This exercise can be unnerving. But you can bet you’ll progress much faster and dramatically more. No pain, no gain.
End Your Playing Sessions On a Positive Note (Pun not intended)
Ending your playing sessions with unsuccessful riffs, strums or chord progressions can demotivate you if you’ve been attempting them for a while. Before you put your guitar down, play something you’re really good at, even if it’s a short lick.
Playing with other musicians is not only fun, it can also be very competitive. Competition is a great motivator but remember to keep it at a healthy level. Musicians, unsurprisingly, are often very sensitive people. It kinda goes with the (musical) territory. Some would even say it’s a prerequisite.
Find a Teacher
If you don’t already have a private teacher, consider hiring one. Finding one you’re comfortable with could take a few attempts. However, unlike online lessons, videos and books… one-on-one lessons provide you with instant feedback because a teacher can see precisely what you’re doing and answer questions that apply specifically to YOU.