I love playing the bass guitar. I’ve been doing it for more than 10 years and I’m thankful for my 15-year old self who decided all of a sudden that he wants to learn an instrument by himself. I’ve never been too keen on learning from teachers and I always took pride in being an able self-learner. Regretfully, there were periods of time when I would be stuck in a rut. I’m sure that every guitar player has at some point “hit a brick wall”. It’s really frustrating. Some people spend long periods of time playing the same things and not evolving. This can be very demotivating and lead people to enter a long hiatus or, worse, quit playing the instrument with no intention of “getting back on the saddle”. I’m part of the first category and I can give you some tips on how to avoid that darn rut.
Set goals regularly
Whenever I feel like I’m getting bored of what sounds come out of my bass, I know that I need to change something. Boredom is just one step away from the undesirable zone where no progress occurs. That’s when I know that I need to set some goals immediately. It can be long-term goals, such as reaching higher levels of technical proficiency or short-term goals, like learning new songs or some complicated bass line from YouTube.
Goal-setting is important for you to have a sense of purpose on your musical journey. Make sure that the goals are SMART.
Learn another instrument
Experimenting with other instruments will help you better understand what exactly it takes to compose a great song and the role of each instrument in the mix. Currently, I know how to play bass, a bit of guitar, a bit of keyboards, and I can hold a drum beat. This understanding has allowed me to compose and produce music all by myself. That alone has been a huge motivator that hasn’t allowed me to quit music, although I did have periods of bass-hiatus. Audio effects such as reverberation, delay, overdrive or compression are great to have for experimentation and essential for recording. Know them well and new doors will open.
Experience different genres
You are the sum of your own flaws and strengths. Your guitar style is the sum of everything that you’ve played so far, but that doesn’t mean that it should be limited to one genre. The genius in many guitar players came precisely from their willingness to incorporate other genres of music in their solos or riffs. Jimi Hendrix used to listen to lots of classical music and you can really feel the complexity and beautiful connection between guitar parts, the same as you would hear in a classical piece.
There’s nothing better for an artist than having his own distinct style, so keep an open mind and experiment without setting limits.
Imitate another instrument
Alright, if you’re too into your own instrument or don’t have time, that’s perfectly understandable. A fun thing you can experiment with is copying what other instruments do. Flea and Larry Graham have created their own popping and slapping technique by using the bass guitar as a kick and snare drum. You can use a guitar to play vocal melodies. Some songs have really amazing vocal phrases and learning the notes can open new doors and boost your creativity. Also, a good synthesizer can imitate lots of instruments.
Some musicians make their instruments seem so easy to play, with them being so relaxed and not even looking at the frets. Of course, it’s perfectly obvious for the rest of us that it takes lots of work and serious attention to detail to play an instrument like a pro. There are tons of videos spread across the web that will help you refine your style or incorporate new elements.
Surely you have some favorite artists with their own signature techniques. There are few things that you cannot find on the Internet these days, so why not at least explore those flashy licks or breath-taking guitar solos and incorporate a thing or two?
Have a break
Playing your favorite instrument daily for long periods of time can be a lot of fun and you will see your skills soar through the roof… until you’ve reached that point when things don’t really seem to sink in anymore. Maybe you don’t know what else to learn. That’s perfectly fine. Taking a break from time to time will make it more fun the next time you do play. You will also have a new perspective on things, especially if you’ve been honing other music-related skills.
If you are a musician reading this, and you have some additional ideas that can help others get out of a rut, please share them in the comments!
Guitar Player – Pixabay Creative Commons
Hendrix on stage in 1967 – Wikimedia Public Domain
Guest Author Bio
Adrian Carol Szasz
Adrian Carol Szasz is the editor-in-chief at Groovehunt, an electronic music production blog. He bought his first bass guitar when he was 15 years old and started making electronic music at 19. Now he’s combining music with writing and follows an entrepreneurial path as a producer and writer. He also plays bass in a reggae band.
Follow Adrian on twitter.