Staying Motivated

After your 15th show on the tour, after the new single drops. It’s 3 am, and you are writing that second verse, this is where you’ve got to dig deep and find your love for it. Since The Beatles played on Sullivan, I don’t think anyone has picked up the guitar and not had the passing thought, “I want to play for the world!” I’ve seen a lot of them come and a lot of them go, and ten years into it I still have to ask myself all the time. Do I love this?

My answer proves to me that I do…the answer being, If I do not love it, I’m banging my head against the wall because I hate it.

Haha! Take it in kids, cause no one loves this game 100% of the time. I remember Hemingway saying “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

God, I love that quote. Couldn’t have said it any better, Papa.

So how do we keep motivated when we’re running on empty, how do we love this even when we hate it?

1. Do the part that you love.

You are feeling burnt out from booking shows or tired of working on scales, learning a new cover, touring for weeks on end. Just stop and think to yourself, “what’s my favorite part of this whole thing?” Then do that! Music is a vehicle we use to escape. It can be kind of demoralizing to have that place feel like just another job. Fortunately and unfortunately, there are many aspects of music. What’s your favorite thing to do in this realm? Find the answer, then do that for a few hours, it usually fixes me right up and has this odd mixture of nostalgia and being brand new to me.

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2. Set apart some quality time for yourself

Take a week off. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind! It’s crucial to take time to realize we need to take some time and enjoy what we do! Burning out is a real thing, and it happens to everyone. Prevent this from happening weekly by scheduling some time where you can work on other aspects of your life, some time to relax, some time to be you as a person, instead of you as an artist.

3. Get a hobby that doesn’t involve music

Like the last tip, this one encourages us to embrace our lives! Music is a great thing, its one of my favorite things. It can’t be the only thing. Whiplash was a movie, and Hollywood tells lies. You can still be great and have a life. I adore reading. I notice that if I don’t consume a book often, I start to feel a hole in my life. It’s important to me to practice guitar, and it is just as important to step away from it for a couple of hours and learn more about something (ANYTHING) else. Hell, I can usually come back from my hobby and have some new material to work. Maybe a new view on that chord. So just like that, we’re becoming a more well-rounded person! What the hell is this blog teaching?

4. Listen to your favorite albums

Take a trip back to what inspired you to start down this path! Every time I pop in Continuum by John Mayer, I think to myself. Man, I love this stuff. I can’t wait to record the next song, and it inspires me all over again. Your favorite album has this weird creative hold on you. You’ll always remember your first. 😉

5. Compile a list of three reasons you usually love what you do.

If you can’t come up with three, you may want to take a hard look at why you’re doing this. Honestly, I did this the other day, and I felt stupid at first. However, after I realized these simple reasons were the foundation for most of my decisions in life, it was oddly comforting. It’s always bothered me when someone asks me “what makes you want to be a musician?” and I kind of mumble out some answers. KNOW why you do what you do. In the end, if you’ve walked down a path and you’ve found that you just got caught up in it because others around you bled enthusiasm, or maybe your reasoning has changed, there’s nothing wrong with changing your path. Be honest with yourself, and you will always find peace.

Don’t be down on yourself for not feeling it 100% of the time. It is a tough racket, and as in all things in life, it comes in waves.

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Click, Click Boom

For all practicing musicians — this is one of the most important things you should be doing, whether you’re a beginner or tenured in the world of music.

metronome, practice with the metronome, tips for practicing musicians, musician tips, how to keep in time

Click, Click Boom — The Metronome

Come closer my friend and I will tell you the most well-known secret in improving your musical skills – practicing with the metronome.

I was twelve years old and I remember Pat Dossett (my saintly piano teacher) telling me that if I wanted to get better at playing the piano, I needed to use a metronome. The problem was that I was twelve and I knew better than her and that I didn’t need that stupid, ticking thing. (Nice one little ‘Legs, we could have been the best, you scrub).

The only thing Pat ever did wrong was she undersold just how important the metronome was…and still is! I will make the comical mistake of making a weightlifting analogy in a music blog and say, “Practicing with a metronome is like running with a weighted vest on.” When you practice with a metronome you are getting twice as good twice as fast. If you’re bad at math that’s four times as good in very little time!

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With all this said, why is it we are not using this thing more? Probably because it’s hard to get into at first. It feels like you’re fighting with it for a while. But let me tell you, this will pass and before you know it you won’t even notice the darn thing.

I cannot stress the importance of this little clicking sound. If you’re recording, you’ll have the metronome going. If you’re playing with a group, you’ll have to be solid at keeping time. It needs to be going when you practice. Even those with outstanding natural rhythm need to work with the metronome.

There are creative ways around the “knock” or “tick” sounds. Most apps have variations to the sound. You can also get a digital drum-kit metronome to prevent you from going slowly insane from the monotony. However, I still highly recommend playing with the click sound enough to be comfortable with it since it is universally used. This will be invaluable in recording situations.

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When searching for an app, I highly recommend Pulse. It’s really easy to use and it’s easy on the eyes with its visual cues. It’s also free! (Ahh, now I’ve sold you on it). Another option is through GarageBand – it’s a super easy and free way to have an in-tempo drum loop set on repeat.

If you feel that you’ve plateaued with your skill, this is what you’re missing. I’ve always seen accelerated improvement in my students who actually use this God-given invention. Just simply use it when you’re playing that old song you know or when you’re burning through scales. I promise you that if you start putting in more time practicing with a metronome you will see vast and very fast improvement in your playing.

A Musician’s Guide for Buying Guitar Pedals

For a new musician, and even for the more experienced musician, buying guitar pedals can be needlessly complicated. Here’s a quick guide for navigating the sonic maze of pedal purchasing. Continue reading “A Musician’s Guide for Buying Guitar Pedals”