Life can be downright boring or uninspiring at times and this can affect your musical output. Believe me – I get it!
I had an instructor in college who said something I remember to this day. It was a simple statement: Music is a craft.
To me this means that composing can be done a little at a time. One note or one chord at a time. Not all songs are written in 5 minutes in a frenzy of inspiration from the land of Music Heaven.
As I write this, I’m in one of those seasons lacking inspiration. But that is OK! We shall press on and continue to create music and do what we love.
What if you didn’t rely on inspiration alone to pump out those awe-inspiring tunes?
Practice Produces & Prepares for Inspiration
I like to have my chops up to the task of playing what I like to hear.
I like technical music. So, I work on my technique when I can’t seem to compose anything worthwhile. This often inspires a new melody or chord progression. I don’t mean you should practice to be a speed demon shredder. You may not like virtuoso-type music.
But practice those licks, scales, or exercises that you used to develop your playing from back in the day when all you thought about was practising and getting good. Or find some new concepts or exercises you’ve never done before. You just may find some fresh ideas!
New Tones Lead to New Tunes
For guitar players, finding the tone is usually a lifelong pursuit. Most want their tone to be a recognizable signature of their playing. BUT, try something new!
Recently I switched from using the Mark IV model on the Line 6 Helix to using the JCM 800 model, and surprise! I was inspired with different licks and phrasing.
If you’re a high gain fanatic, try some clean tones, and similarly if you are a clean freak, try getting a bit dirtier! You never know what might happen outside your comfort zone.
Copy a Composition
In a composing rut, try completely copying a favourite song. I don’t mean “copy” as you would if you were going to play a cover tune. Use the elements of a favourite song – the chords, the groove, the dynamics, etc. Use the song to give yourself limitations, a specific framework to use.
I’ve found that sometimes without giving myself specific guidelines for a song, I don’t know where to start or stop. Just like a painter has a certain size canvas and colours to use, give yourself specific criteria.
You may say, “I have so many ideas now that I’ve read this amazing article, I have too much inspiration! Why limit myself?” Fair enough. Glad I could help!
But I do recommend not cramming every idea you have into one song. With so many ideas now, spread them out over multiple songs.
Revisit Old Favourites
Go back and listen to the music that got you hyped to play guitar (or whatever instrument it is you play) in the first place. (I don’t do this enough.)
Get back in touch with your “why”. Why did you start pursuing music in the first place? For me, it was David Lee Roth’s Eat’m And Smile. Steve Vai blew my mind and I knew I had to play guitar!
What was it for you? Rekindle that love of music!
Don’t Wait – Work!
You know the quote: “Bad artists copy, good artists steal.” There are many variations of it like “Good artists borrow, great artists steal,” etc.
Here’s another from Picasso: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
Lack of inspiration sucks. I know from experience. But let me encourage you with this: KEEP WORKING!
A little here and there is still progress. And little progress adds up to big progress.
A Book Suggestion – Even If You Don’t Love Reading
One of my favourite authors is Austin Kleon. Keep Going: 10 Ways To Stay Creative In Good Times And Bad is one of my favourite books he’s written. Of course, I love his other books, too, and highly recommend them.
So, keep working, and enjoy the journey! And let me know in the comments what inspires you!