How To Beat Musician's Block

Musicians BlockThat’s right – musician’s block

No, its not nearly as well-known as its popular cousin writer’s block, but I believe that most musicians who are serious about their playing will at some time or another come across a point in their musical career where they no longer feel the motivation to play. Believe me, I speak from experience.

It happened to me about four years ago. While I welcomed the break from guitar playing at first (I mean, it did free up a bunch of time for me to develop other pursuits,) there came a time when I really wanted to start playing again…or perhaps I should say that I wanted to want to start playing again. It was as if I’d lost all motivation to actually pick up the guitar. And it drove me kind of batty.

For nearly two years I agonized over why I had lost my impetus to play, and in some ways it was fairly painful, because I began to realize just how much of my identity I had invested in being a “musician,” or “guitarist,” or “in a band.” Talk about arbitrary BS. I was in my very early 30’s, and I came to the rather pathetic conclusion that I was still harboring musical dreams from my mid-teens… yikes!

Funny thing is, once I started to put my time into other hobbies I found I really enjoyed the freedom of no longer having to be the musician. And then, in the middle of a very introspective first wedding Anniversary in Hawaii, it hit me hard – I had lost my interest in playing the guitar because I was no longer challenged by what I was playing, while at the same time I wasn’t putting any effort into building my skill level.

In short, I was just plain bored to tears with my own abilities as a guitarist.

The fix was easy (sort of)

After that it was rather simple: before our vacation was up I had sworn to my wife that as soon as we got home I was going to begin pursuing a lifelong dream that had been haunting me for all of my guitar-playing years, and that I had always put off due to its difficulty – I was going to learn to play flamenco guitar.

That was all it took. I stayed true to my promise even though it meant basically going back to square-one as far as my guitar playing was concerned (I had become incredibly adept at playing “by ear” for some fifteen years, and taking up flamenco guitar meant learning to read music, and learning to read it well: no shortcuts!)

And the great unexpected side-effect was that as I began to learn new things and really put myself through the paces, my interest in playing the electric guitar came back into full-swing, and I haven’t put it down since. It all got me exploring traditional country blues fingerpicking, which has since become one of my favorite guitar-playing pastimes.

So I guess the moral of the story is this: if you find yourself stuck in a musical slump, you may just need to find a new challenge – something that will really push you – to get you back to where you want to be…

In love with playing music.

(Have any suggestions on beating musician’s block? Leave us a comment!)