Often times players can get stuck in a rut where they don't feel like they have anything new to offer. They may feel that they're always trying to compete with their own, or others playing abilities. Finding new ways to keep yourself going and avoid 'writer's block' is what will separate you from all the mediocre bands out there.
1. Get advice from a mentor who's doing exactly what you want to be doing.
If you take one piece of advice from this page, this is hands down the most important. People who have been through what you're going through will be able to see your mistakes before they happen. They can guide you in ways you wouldn't have imagined, and they can be the catalyst that makes you a better performer/musician. Take their advice, but try to make it your own, so you don't become a 'copycat' (unless you're in a cover band, of course).
2. Practice as much as possible, every single day (to a metronome or backing track)
Many players tend to skip this step, and their playing will always suffer because of it. Learn to play 'in the pocket' by practicing with a click track, or metronome. Try to get your timing down so that the click starts to 'disappear' under your playing. This means that you are exactly on beat, and creating a solid groove.
3. Seek out an audience that enjoys listening to the style of music you perform.
That gig at the winery might pay nice, but if everyone their came to hear a blues band, and you bring them deathcore - You might get a few wine bottles thrown your way, and not for tasting. Save your gear and your self-esteem, and seek out an audience that has similar tastes to your own.
4. Dedicate yourself to getting lessons from a professional.
This may be different than the first bit of advice, in that an instructor will fine-tune very particular parts of your playing ability, while a mentor will see you for the bigger image. Having a good instructor means going beyond the first, second and third lessons. It can take weeks for a good teacher to really get to know your goals and abilities, and to come up with a plan-of-action. Be sure to get someone who you're comfortable being around, and who is interested in teaching you something new. Even the best guitarists in the world will take a lesson now and then. Randy Rhoads, for example, ALWAYS hired a local guitar teacher to teach him between shows. Sure, there were times when Randy became the teacher, but this dedication kept his abilities sky-high.
5. Create a playlist of other people's music that has inspired you. Listen often, taking note of what makes you inspired. Add these moments to your own music.
These tracks can be in any genre, from any time-period, live or in the studio. The sky is the limit - if it inspires you, find a way to make it happen with your own playing. Listen to these tracks over and over again, and loop sections if you have to figure out something technical. It will help you strengthen your abilities as a songwriter.
6. Work on music theory/ear training.
This is one of the most important aspects of becoming a better musician. Listen to live performances by artists like Johnny and Edgar Winter. I've heard that during their auditions for new musicians, they'll often sing blazing fast licks and say to their new musicians - Ok, play what I just sang. If you can do that, not only will your band be impressed, but you'll be able to write your own music off the top of your head much quicker.
7. Always learn new songs.
Expanding your repertoire is essential to becoming an active, up-to-date musician. It may not mean singing 'I'm Bringing Sexy Back', but if you can always find new music that inspires you, it shows that you're on the right path. Learn those songs, learn them well, and then when someone asks you to play something new, it won't seem too out of the ordinary.
8. Always finish the music that you start, no matter how 'bad' it may seem.
Many musicians struggle with this part of growing their musicianship. They get a song started, it sounds great, and then it's time for the next section, and they let it fall to the wayside because they can't come up with something. If you keep at it, and follow the advice above, you'll find new ways to finish all of your songs, and you'll typically learn that whatever was giving you 'writers' block, is simply an area of your craftsmanship that needs improvement.
9. Seek new sources for inspiration (new instrument, visual art, nature, etc.)
Some of the best songs were inspired by stories found in literature, or in a painting, or a statue. Finding creativity wherever you are is key to writing good music that people will relate to, as well as sounding original. Sometimes another instrument will bring out an entirely different form of playing, and in some cases it may be the 'missing ingredient' from your main instrument.
10. Know that no matter how good you get, there's always room for improvement.
As they say, no matter how good you are, there's always someone out there who can do it better than you can. If there isn't, then there will be. This can seem like an impossible challenge to some musician's, but remember to take it slow. Work on the things that you want to improve on, and never give up if you have a dream and want to make it happen. Constantly seek to refine your artistry and abilities, and you'll already be ahead of the pack.
Article written and published by ZR Guitar Pickups