I know many of IU’s students are musicians and love to play instruments, just like I do. But one thing that I run into sometimes is a rut, where I feel like I’m not making any progress in my playing abilities.
Whether it’s with the piano or with the bass, there will be weeks where I just can’t come around to practice or focus on improving. And I know that others struggle with this because it is a common problem with a lot of musicians.
What I’ve learned, especially since moving back for the new semester, is that we have opportunities to overcome these ruts. Here is my list of suggestions that will help you get out of that rut and back to refining your musical skills.
One of the first things that helps me out is to watch some bass-playing videos. I don’t know what it is about watching other people play a mean bassline, but when I watch it, I get motivated and become inspired to pick up my bass.
This works for every instrument. If you are struggling to practice the piano, watch some piano videos. If you haven’t been motivated to play the drums, maybe watching some random person on the internet go crazy on the drums will spark some inspiration.
Another tip that helps me get out of this rut is to ease my mind. Sometimes I’ll walk around campus and enjoy nature, maybe stroll through Dunn Woods to relax and see the giant squirrels hanging out.
I know that it is wintertime, the weather is pretty gross, and everything is muddy or wet. But when the temperature gets a little higher, I recommend taking walks. Being in nature helps ease the mind, which helps spark inspiration.
Fresh air is never a bad thing. Neither is natural light nor hearing the outside world. Just get out of that apartment or dorm room and enjoy the outdoors.
Talk to friends
Whenever I’m in a rut and not feeling any sort of motivation, conversation with my friends always helps. The great thing is the conversation doesn’t even have to be about music. Just talking to friends and being socially stimulated helps get those creative juices flowing.
It can also be a constructive conversation, where you also vent about your rut and what you are struggling with. Communicating this stress will help you feel better and give you the chance to hear what your friends have to say. Advice always helps.
Listen to music
The last thing that helps me is listening to the all-time greats, or whoever your favorite players are. Sometimes I’ll listen to Victor Wooten or Jaco Pastorius, and other days I’ll play Thundercat or Les Claypool in the car. Just hearing them be in their zone and learning about their stories ignites a fire in my stomach – one that makes me hungry to improve my bass playing.
The next time you’re in a rut of any kind, watch people play your instrument, enjoy the outdoors, ease your mind, talk to friends, and listen to your favorite players. If you follow these tips, you’ll for sure get out of that rut and get back to honing your skills as a musician.
Nick Moser (he/him) is a senior majoring in English and minoring in political science and film production.