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Passion for doing anything is rooted in enjoyment and fun. You must enjoy what you are doing to keep motivated. Playing the blues is no different. You need to tap into what makes it fun. Blues was the first musical genre I got into. Muddy Waters was the first musician I had heard through my dad.
My father was "old school," God rest his soul, and was into jazz, big band orchestras, and swing music when I was a kid. Every Saturday morning, he would be the first one up in the house and would start regaling us with the likes of Benny Goodman and Glen Miller at outrageous volumes.
This was at the time of grunge. Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden were all over the radio and MTV. My dad's tastes were so far removed from Seattle, you would think we would never be able to find common ground, but we did. It was called the blues.
One Saturday, I was trying to sleep only to be met by my dad's weekly morning concert. I managed to ignore it with the help of a goose down pillow firmly planted on my head. "In The Mood" was the song that was playing. It was safe to say that I was not. Then, all of a sudden, this black voice came through. He kept singing "I'm a maaaaaaaan. I'm a hoochie coochie man..."
What was this?
Who was this?
I jumped out of my bed and ran into the living room.
"Dad, who is this?"
I was hooked to the point of obsession. I wanted to learn how to play guitar immediately. I started looking in the paper for guitars. I found one for $300....a gold top Les Paul. Seven days later, I bought it. I still have it. That is how fast it happened.
Now move to 2018 and, while I still love the blues, I am an adult. I have obligations. These obligations and the stress that goes with them can get me into slumps from time to time. We all do. In fact, sometimes we get into such a slump that even thinking about picking up the guitar seems too difficult. Sometimes days, weeks, or even months can pass and we have not played or practiced.
When I fall in a slump and it seems hard to get playing again, I have incorporated some strategies to stay the course.
I’ve discovered that slumps often occur because I have too much going on in my life....for at least a bit. So listen. Listen to music while in the car. Listen while working around the house. Listen while at your desk in the office. Listen to as much music as possible. Don't try to pick up the guitar. Just listen and appreciate the sound that your are hearing. Watch YouTube videos of amazing shows played by your favorite artists. This is like musical foreplay and flirting. Get yourself worked up again until you "have to have it."
2. Find inspiration.
Inspiration, for me, comes from others who have achieved great things musically. I actually will watch award shows like America's Got Talent, Grammy's, or Britain's Got Talent. It is very inspiring to watch people who practiced their craft for so long and have achieved an amazing level of talent. It is inspiring to watch dreams come true.
3. Get excited.
This sounds obvious, but most people don’t think about it much. If you want to break out of a slump, for me, I’ve learned that by talking music with others as much as possible or about great concerts that we have seen together and visualizing them and what it would be like to be playing on stage with my favorite musicians, I get excited about learning a new song. Once I’ve done that, it’s just a matter of carrying that energy forward and keeping it going.
4. Think about it daily.
If you think about playing music and your guitar every day, it is much more likely to keep you hyped up. To this end, posting ideas about a new song you are writing or learning on your wall or computer desktop (as mentioned above) helps a lot. Sending yourself daily reminders with ideas that you have also helps. Talk about music theory in your head. Think about why a certain pattern or scale goes well with a certain chord. Think about how SRV or Gary Moore was able to play something.
5. Realize that there’s an ebb and flow.
Motivation is not a constant thing that is always there for you. It comes and goes, and comes and goes again, like the tide. In the meantime, read music or about guitar playing (Ex: Subscribe to Guitar Player Magazine) and do some of the other things listed here until your motivation comes back.
6. Think of your guitar and playing music as a long journey, and your slump is just a little bump in the road.
You can’t give up with every little bump. Stay with it for the long term, ride out the ebbs and surf on the flows, and you’ll get there.
7. Call for help when your motivation ebbs.
Having trouble? Ask for help. Call a fellow buddy to jam. Join an online music forum. Call your dad. It doesn’t matter who, just tell them you want to play. Talk music with them. Ask them to help you overcome your slump. It works.