Around the Web: Finding Inspiration to Play

The folks at Jazz Advice just posted a list of ideas that will inspire you to play. We’ve talked about inspiration┬áhere, quite a bit. No really. So of course we have some quick thoughts on the topic.

First off, it’s a perfectly fine list of ideas. I try not to fret much over list posts, but they took the time to link to longer pieces they’ve written in the past, etc. So it is useful advice. No criticism here.

But there’s a couple additions…

Have a place to play!

This has killed me in the past. Even when I’ve had a room dedicated to my stuff, it was usually an extra bedroom in an apartment and that meant 1) noise was a concern and 2) the wife would probably kill me if I left my stuff spread across the floor all the time. I usually leave a mess anyway, but I try to keep it within reason. Still, you of course can’t just build an isolated room on a whim and crank your Marshall to 11 at all hours of the night, but you should find a place that is yours where you can make music whenever you want. This has always been part of my gripe about technology with music, that there is some prep time involved before you can start doing things. Assume you’re in an apartment or house with other humans that you don’t want to annoy, that’s pretty normal. Then ideally you want a space away from those other humans where you can have a small practice amp and everything else ready to go. If you get a random inspiration to play there shouldn’t be this issue of trying to collect pieces of gear from all over the house, searching for a cable, etc. And if noise is a concern, invest in an amp that alleviates that. There are amazing and inexpensive modeling amps all over the place, get one for late night practices.

Find a challenge

A lot of the Jazz Advice article hints at this, but learn something that is a little above your ability level. If you’re usually rocking some Black Sabbath covers, try to learn a Led Zeppelin song or something that requires a bit more technical ability than what you’re normally doing. It should take time to push yourself a bit and there should be some sense of reward when you’re done. That stuff is supposed to be self-fulfilling, hopefully causes you to learn more. Or you’ll get immediately frustrated and sell all your gear. Either way it will be an experience beyond sitting on the couch all day.

Stop pretending there is a formula

I do think you can actively try to find inspiration to attempt things. I don’t think you can find inspiration to create things. Trying to make art into a formula is how shit like Thomas Kinkade happens. Guitarists seem to think they are separate from the general music & arts community in some ways, so you don’t see a ton of guitarists talking about creating music in this sense. So look outside your circle. Go to an art museum, find something you like, and learn about the artist. Heck, learn about an entire arts movement. The alternate viewpoint may help you understand that we aren’t all alone in this, that EVH isn’t just an anomaly that sprouted out of thin air one day. Instead, art tends to be collective ideas all pushing in a similar direction because of community, current events, politics, etc. And it’s not something you can force at any level. Getting a better feel for how the whole concept of creating things works can better arm you to take advantage of inspiration and help you focus your efforts.

And of course, no post like this would be complete without suggesting that you heed Captain Beefheart’s advice.