I’m sure you have been there before. That place where it feels like everything you play seems to have a musty smell, like a room with closed windows, closed doors and no air flow. Like it gets hard to breath in a stuffy room, it gets hard to stand our own playing. We need a gust of fresh air; we need inspiration.
If you feel or have ever felt this way, here are some ideas to help you get through it.
1. Change your core tone. Are you used to the signature Vox sparkle? Try the bite of a Marshall-sounding pedal. Changing your core tone can jolt you out of creative ruts and shock your mind into thinking differently about what you play. This is gutsy and will push you out of your comfort zone, but if you treat it with the mentality of “What can I play to make this tone work?” you are bound to find new creative avenues.
2. Think outside the box, but then think inside it again. You are trying to find a way to give musical life to that worship song everyone knows your church has sung too many times. Everyone that is, except for the worship leader. You start to think “outside the box” and you stumble upon the Tom Morello-like use of your toggle switch and wah pedal. Definitely some inspiration to be found here. Now the trick is to find a musical application for your environment; take what inspired you from outside of the box and get it to work inside of the box. What works for “Bulls on Parade” doesn’t always work for “How Great is Our God.” By taking inspiration from outside of standard worship guitar playing and adapting it to fit your congregation’s sensibilities, you will probably find something more original and more “you” than if you were to just stay “out of the box.”
3. Listen to the silence. That sounds deeper than I mean it to. Pay attention to the other instruments and what they are playing. Listen to what you don’t play. What we don’t play is just as important as what we do play. You may find that there are some things you are playing that you don’t need to.
4. Borrow a friend’s guitar. A different guitar can start cranking the creative gears. If you’re a Les Paul player, find a Strat. If you’re a Tele player, find a Gretsch. Changing the instrument changes the feel, features, and tone; this may inspire a breath of fresh playing.
5. Copy someone. This will seem a little contradictory at first, but it is about education through imitation. Find a guitar player you know who sounds better you. Try to capture the essence of that guitar player. Here’s the beauty of this: you won’t get there. You won’t be able to capture their playing; instead, you will have found inspiration to add to your own playing.
Creative slumps are never fun–they also never last forever. Keep fighting through it and you will get through it.