Tips for the uninspired guitarist


smashingStuck in a rut? Going through a dry spell creatively?

All artists go through times like these where they are just unable to tap their creative juices. So, I thought I’d include a short list of things which have helped me when I hit a dry spot creatively.

Stuck in a rut? Going through a dry spell creatively?

All artists go through times like these where they are just unable to tap their creative juices. So, I thought I’d include a short list of things which have helped me when I hit a dry spot creatively.


1. Take a break.

Sometimes the reason you’re not producing is because you’ve been working too hard. Maybe you’ve been practicing your butt off for hours on end every single day for the past year, emerging from your cave only in rare instances, like when you have to eat or go to the bathroom…LOL.  If that’s your situation, one of the best things you can do is to take a break. Take a loooooong break, for a couple of days or so. Go outside and get some fresh air. Take in a movie. Spend time with family and/or friends. In short, play….just don’t play your guitar. The mind needs time to play in order to refresh itself and to (as Julia Cameron says) “fill the well.” The seat of your soul is the place from which your creativity springs. If you’ve been working too hard, over training, etc., then your well is probably dry and in need of replenishment.


2. Work Harder and Smarter

The source of your lack of creativity could be just the opposite of what I described above. It could be that you’re not spending enough time with your medium. That’s right; you’re not practicing enough. Let’s face it; often, when we’re practicing is when little “accidents” happen. These are those little gifts from on high, little flashes of creative genius which God see’s fit to bestow on us. If you’re not spending time with your guitar, how is that going to happen? I’m not saying it can’t happen, but if you’re not cultivating an environment where the unexpected…i.e. the creative can happen, you minimize your potential. Not to mention the fact (okay, I will) that if you’re neglecting your guitar, you won’t get any better.

It could be that you’re wasting a lot of time during practice as well. If you sit down to practice for 30 minutes to an hour and then loaf around for most of that time, don’t expect to accomplish much. Better to regiment your practice, dividing it up into sections for warm-ups, exercises, and project work. This will give you a solid framework on which to base your routine, thus improving your chops and creating an environment where the spontaneous can happen.


3. Experiment

Your lack of creative flow could be because you’re too regimented. You’re so stiff, that your practice regimen has become an impenetrable fortress, which not even a sliver of spontaneity could break through. Listen, we all need structure in order to get things done, but if you don’t allow spontaneity to interrupt your practice from time to time, you’ll miss out on some great ideas. Many times, this is when the best ideas surface, that is, when you’re doing something else. So, don’t be afraid to chase an idea. Play with it, experiment with it. Entertain the absurd. That’s when magic can happen. When I played professionally, this was how many of my band’s best material was written.

If you’re up for it, try this little exercise. Plan an entire practice or evening around experimentation. This is where you really get to know your guitar and start tapping into  the possibilities. You could start by locking yourself in your cave (just means some place private), light some candles, turn off the lights and just sit with your axe in hand and wait to see what it will say to you. Start with a single note, or maybe a diad. You could dispense with music altogether and just play with different sounds. The idea is to really try to open yourself up to what God might want to say to you through music and sound.


4. Take some guitar lessons

Seriously! Consider it. Guitar lessons can really help jumpstart your creative thinking. That’s because you have to wrap your mind around new concepts and approaches to the guitar. It can help you get out of a rut and stimulate fresh growth. Even an old fart like me takes lessons from time to time. I have to if I’m going to retain my edge and continue growing as a guitarist. What’s that? Too proud to take lessons? That’s fine. But five years from now when the 10 year old down the street is shredding you into the pavement, you’ll wish you had swallowed your pride and your precious ego to sign up for some quality guitar instruction.

In conclusion, don’t get frustrated if you’ve hit a dry spell. The best thing you can do when that happens is to get proactive and do something about it. Hopefully, these little tips will help. If you have some ideas which have helped you break free from a creative slump, feel free to leave them on this thread.


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