I got an email recently from someone who is “bored” with their playing and wondered what suggestions I had to help. As musicians, we can become familiar with our own style sometimes to a point of boredom, frustration or even contempt.
Don’t let it get you down. We must be creative and inspired about finding ways to be creative and inspired!
1. Listen to something or someone that is new to you.
2. Write a piece of music in any style or groove. Or write music to the words of a poem.
3. Use alternative techniques in your playing that are rhythmically, melodically or harmonically unusual for you.
4. Practice something familiar in an unfamiliar way; for example, play various scales in groupings of five notes (CDEFG, DEFGA, EFGAB, etc.).
5. Record yourself and write down at least five strengths and five weaknesses. Work on your weaknesses.
6. Watch and listen to your favorite musicians online.
7. Take lessons with someone whose playing you like. They do NOT have to play your instrument.
8. Sit in with an unfamiliar community of musicians. 9. Set up jam sessions to have an opportunity to play with musicians who challenge and inspire you.
10. Transcribe music you love.
11. Go to a museum or art gallery, draw, paint, write poetry, walk in nature.
12. Play freely and see where it takes you.
13. Make a list of the “qualities” you would like to have in your playing and writing. Work on assimilating them.
14. Learn any melody in all 12 keys.
These are a few suggestions that work for me and some that have been shared by others. Open up a dialogue with other musicians and teachers because this is a common situation we find ourselves in. Find out how they deal with it.
About the Author
Jeff Coffin is the three-time Grammy Award winning saxophonist of Dave Mathews Band and Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. In addition, Jeff leads his own group, The Mu’tet, which takes its name from the word “mutation,” giving way to Jeff’s belief that music is constantly changing and mutating. As a highly in-demand clinician, Jeff has presented worldwide in places from Farmington, Maine, to Perth, Australia. He is also an internationally acclaimed Yamaha and Vandoren Performing Artist. To hear Jeff’s original music, visit www.jeffcoffin.com or iTunes.