Are you finding yourself more and more frustrated with your instrument? Is it difficult for you to find the motivation to practice? Are you annoyed by metronomes, sheet music, and your music stand? Are you on the brink of giving it all up?! Everybody hears about writers who struggle with writer’s block, but this same phenomenon can be applied to musicians, too. Whether it’s because you lost your inspiration or just need some motivation, falling into a musical rut is a natural, yet frustrating, process that every musician goes through at one point or another. So, how do you get off the plateau and get back into the swing of things? From listening to new music to changing your environment, here’s a few ways you can get our of your musical rut.
Listen to Different Stuff
Listen, and listen hard, to everything you possibly can. Whether it’s exploring classical music during your lunch break or listening to Top 40 on your way to school or work, listen to all the new music you can get your hands on. Make it a point to seek out genres and musicians you’ve never listened to before. If you love classic rock, try giving jazz a shot. Here’s a great place to start. You may be surprised at what you find. While listening, take a proactive approach and think about the intricacies of different songs and how the instruments work together. If you come across a new artist you like, head to their Wikipedia page, and read their biography. Learn about who their influences are, and give them a listen.
Microphones don’t lie. One of the easiest ways to hone in on what you need to work on is to hear your playing from the perspective of a listener. Nowadays, you don’t need to invest a ton of money into a home studio in order to get a decent recording of yourself. If you don’t have the space or budget to create a home studio, ask a friend or family member to record you with their phone. Once you have the recording, find another recording of the same song by different musicians. How is their style different from the players on the other tracks? How can you get your playing to sound as good as theirs? Are there any glaring issues you can hear in the recording? Those issues can now be your practice targets for the next few weeks.
Take a Break
If you’re the type of person who does a lot of practicing, like an hour a day or more, you may have burned yourself out. It happens all the time, and it’s easily fixed with some rest and relaxation. Plenty of music teachers and professional musicians talk about taking a break from their instrument from time to time. If you’re at the point where you just can’t stand the sight of your instrument, put it in its case and take a break from practicing and playing. It doesn’t have to be a long break, either. A few days should do. Try as hard as you can to not touch or look at your instrument during this break. Go on a camping trip, or visit your grandparents for the weekend. If you’re a serious musician who puts some serious time into their craft, musical ruts may be more commonplace, and a break like this may be in order every few months or so.
Change Your Gear
Sometimes you aren’t actually tired of your instrument, you’re just tired of the way it looks or how you accessorize it. If you play the guitar, try purchasing a new guitar strap in your favorite color. If you play the drums, buy yourself a new set of sticks or that awesome throne you’ve had your eye on. If you play more than one instrument, spend some time playing the instrument you pay less attention to. And, if changing up your gear still doesn’t inspire you to practice, try out a few of the other items on this list. Remember: this feeling won’t last forever. Before you know it, you’ll be back in love with playing your instrument.
Spend Time with Other Musicians
Whether you form a band or meet with fellow musicians every so often for a jam session, hanging out with really good players may give you more motivation to practice. Few things are more motivating than playing with someone who is better at playing their instrument than you are at playing yours. More often than not, they’ll be eager to help you improve your technique. If you hear somebody down the hall or in a different room who is playing something you really like, don’t be afraid to ask them to show you. Finding other players depends a lot on your location. Head to a local jam, open mic night, post fliers at your local record shop, or create a personalized ad of your own.
Need some more motivation? Learn How to Motivate Yourself to Practice.