Perpetual positivity is a myth. The reality of humanity is steeped in peaks and valleys – good days and bad. This is as true for diets as it is conversations with your spouse… Dayjob performance or sleep cycles.
Sometimes the downs are brief, fleeting even. Other times they persist.
As artists and musicmakers, these pendulum swings can be even more extreme. Work you’re proud of; work you hate. Periods of fiery inspiration, and bouts of doubt so thick, you consider burning your instrument…
So, what can we do when the chips are down? When the gigs suck and we feel stuck and the whole thing feels like a chore?
This one’s easy. Go back to the beginning. Play songs you dig. Make music that feels goooooood.
Don’t worry about what you can’t do or the pressures you’re facing, just play what you like and reacquaint yourself with the joy of music. Maybe it’s your favorite record from middle school or jamming with old friends. Maybe it’s just hacking away to get some emotion out. Be free and have a good time.
Outside of gigs and facility and theory and all that other stuff, we make music because it’s cool. Because we love to. When we get caught up in stress about career, comparison, and the like, it’s easy to forget about core of the thing.
Get back there, and the rest of it won’t be as troublesome to contend with.
Pick something super dificult, and get to work. Narrow your focus on an immensely tough challenge, and start chipping away.
Making slow progress up the mountain will remind you how much you have left to learn. This has a way of shaking up tried and true methods, forcing us to rethink technique, timekeeping, or any other subconscious standards we’ve imposed on ourselves.
If you’re already in a slump, the early stages will be terrible – but little by little, the pieces will start to come together, and you’ll be reminded that practice works, that it’s usually lack of exploration and effort that holds us back musically… Or any other way.
As trite as it may sound, doing difficult things builds character. You can mold yourself into a more resilient, ambitious player through sheer hard work.
Try Something New
Whether it’s a different style of a different group of people, switch things up! Allow yourself to think about (and more importantly, feel) music in a new way.
Even if it goes poorly, the mental exercise is the important part. Getting out of your routine, whatever that may be, will provide some pressure, some perspective, and maybe even some excitement.
…And really, excitement of any kind is the greatest solution to “the slump.”
In this way, uninspired is synonymous with unenthusiastic. Try something else, or at the very least, approach the music you play with a new mindset. Get interested in a new facet of this great beast we call music, and if you look close enough, there’s no way to be bored.
These are only a few tactics. It’s worth remembering that some of these ups and downs are totally natural, and to not freak out if you have a few off days…
If you’ve been off course for a while though, hopefully these ideas will push you in the right direction. They all serve the same purpose: to cultivate interest and intrigue… To make you want to see what’s down the rabbit hole.
They’re all ways of feeding the fire… And even if it feels like yours is down to little more than coals, you can give it some fuel, a little bit of air, and she’ll come roaring right back to life.