Taking the occasional hiatus from practice is okay. In fact, from time to time it may even be a necessity. However, when that little break stretches so long that your instrument develops abandonment issues, it’s time to reassess and get motivated. Here are a few practice strategies for anyone feeling uninspired.
1. Experience someone else’s music.
One of the surest ways to find inspiration is to watch/listen to someone else perform. I love hearing someone perform songs I’ve never heard or use techniques I’ve never tried. I often go home from shows eager to experiment with my favorite aspects of someone else’s shtick. Checking out videos online or listening to new records can also be effective.
2. Find music in something non-musical.
For reasons I don’t have the desire to analyze, the one thing that always solves composer’s block for me is looking at artists’ self-portraits. I have heard other musicians say they are inspired by dance, theater, nature, or even a football game. Experience something that isn’t necessarily musical and then try to interpret it on your instrument.
3. Be kept accountable.
I’m fortunate enough to live with a musician who practices all the time. Having someone around who spends their time productively creates a bit of pressure every time I’m about to launch into a Netflix marathon. Occasionally we’ll even get competitive — whoever fails to meet a practice goal in a certain amount of time buys dinner.
Of course, if you don’t share an address with a motivated musician, you may have to reach further to find an accountability buddy. Band members are an obvious and excellent choice. Teachers are ideal. Friends at any distance can help out. If most of the musicians you know are in other cities, try keeping each other accountable via email or Snapchat.
4. Put something in the calendar.
Sometimes lack of motivation can be attributed to the fact that it doesn’t feel like there’s an endgame to your practice. Setting up a show or recording session (even one in your bedroom or garage) can create the necessary push.
5. Take a lesson.
You’re never too old or too advanced to benefit from a mentor. If you’ve admired someone for a while, reach out to them. You may be surprised to find that they’re willing to give lessons on a regular basis or as a one-time thing.
If, for whatever reason, in-person lessons aren’t realistic for you, there’s a wealth of information online. There are some truly amazing players creating worthwhile YouTube videos and web content in general has improved exponentially as of late. (Hint: you’re currently just a couple clicks away from all the lessons Soundfly has to offer!).
Let us know what inspires you to “hit the shed” by commenting on this article. Is it a particular exercise or a piece of artwork? Do you have a certain artist or album that always gets you back on track? We’d love to hear from you… between practice sessions.