How to Escape Your Musical Rut: Part 1

It happens to all of us- we’ll be perfectly content, practicing for hours every day. And then boom! Motivation gone. It can be gradual, like your musical faucet slowly turning off. You start to practice less and less every day, and find yourself less interested than normal in subjects you usually can’t talk enough about. Sometimes it hits you in the face like a brick- all of a sudden, the practice stops completely and you find yourself making excuses. However it happened, we’ve all been through it. This year marks my 10th anniversary of playing guitar, and as a busy person, this is a reality for me more often than I’d like to admit, which is why I wanted to write these posts with my tips and tricks for dragging yourself back out of the sand pit.

1015metronome

Some people’s ruts last for a few hours, or a few days. Some people are unfortunate and have longer ones. I’ve even heard of people getting out of the game completely for years at a time. Sometimes there are reasons for why you’d quit for so long, but sometimes there aren’t, and that’s okay too. That being said, the key to avoiding this is to catch it before it becomes a habit. I find that most people have these kinds of phases for specific reasons, so I’ll try my best to tackle those in this post.

1. Feeling like you aren’t making any progress

Maybe the reason you’re losing motivation is because you seem to have invested countless hours into something that is going “nowhere”. I assure you, as real as this seems, it isn’t true. You are making progress that you aren’t aware of. A simple solution for this would be to find a way to track yourself. For example, you could start a YouTube channel and film yourself performing every week or so. You could also improvise over a backing track, and then try again a week later over the same backing track, and compare. Or, you could keep a logbook of your practice sessions and write down what you practiced every day. Usually with that method, you may come to the realization that either you’re doing too much of the same thing every day, or that your routine is scattered. Either way, sitting down and really analyzing what you want to accomplish in your sessions will help you to set real goals for yourself and develop a routine suited to those things.

2. You heard a bad recording of yourself and got spooked

Sometimes you think you’re sounding great. You feel like you’ve been making a lot of progress and are starting to sound like you always imagined yourself to. Then one day, you hear yourself, and you don’t like what you hear. Things you thought were great at the time suddenly sound awful. This is seriously demotivating and something we’ve all experienced. But don’t panic, there’s a simple solution. You just need to get used to hearing yourself recorded. I started recording my sessions and listening back to them every day, and something strange happened. Despite the huge blow to my ego, I started to hear mistakes in my playing while I was making them. I got more confident in recording situations, and got to know myself better as a player. Don’t let something like this push you down- it’s really just an opportunity to improve.

3. You aren’t having fun

Sometimes practicing is a huge drag, and you start to dread it. If this happens to you, you really need to strip your routine back. You are probably overworking yourself and turning practice into a chore. Take the time to evaluate what you really love about playing, and do that until you feel yourself coming back to life.

4. You feel like you have nothing to show for your practice

This often happens to players who confine themselves to their bedroom. In order to truly have fun with your instrument, you need to get out there a bit and socialize yourself musically! The best remedy for this is to start a band. That way, you’ll be forced to learn new songs, all while making new connections and gaining valuable live experience. This is something that will really bring your music experience to life- you can’t just sit in your bedroom and dream. You have to live it. If you have trouble finding other musicians, there are many websites you can use to get the word out. Try Craigslist, Kijiji, Gigmor, Facebook, or even this app. But the best way to find people is through word of mouth. Make it publicly known that you’re looking for people- make posters, ask everyone you know, even ask people you don’t know. I’ve approached many musician strangers before for these reasons, and it has never once worked out badly, as awkward and spontaneous as it might seem. Worst case scenario you’ll end up with a new friend and a nod in the right direction. That being said, you CANNOT afford to be picky about genres. Play anything, and play with anyone. Your dream band will not be your first band, or your second band, or maybe even your tenth band. But if you don’t take every opportunity, you will lose out on valuable connections that will eventually lead you to your dream band, as weird and unrelated as things may be. You never know whose second cousin is a kickass metal musician looking for a new bandmate.

Thanks for reading! This has been the first post in a new series, and more reasons will be coming in my next post. Why do you lose motivation? Are you in a rut right now? Let me know in the comments!

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