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Ask Damian Erskine: Regaining Inspiration

Q: I’ve been playing professionally (clubs, studio, festivals) since I was about 18. I’m 43 now, and I find myself in a bit of an uninspired phase. My urge to play, practice and create is currently AWOL. Do you ever go thru periods where you and the bass are mortal enemies? if so , how do you get thru these times to get re-inspired?

A: I definitely go through phases where I am less than inspired to practice and play. I find that lack of inspiration and motivation for me comes from having spent too long playing the same music or working on the same stuff. The routine gets stale!

The only thing that’s ever really worked for me in this scenario is to change my musical routine. I’ll often go on a frantic search for new music that gets me excited to listen again. Then, I’ll pick a tune and get to work on it.

If I’m excited to dive inside a piece of new music, I have all the energy in the world to give to my music. This leads to the proud feeling of accomplishment once you’ve spent a few hours getting that inspiring solo under your fingers, figuring out that bass line, playing to the chart or whatever it is that you work on. Then I start sending the tune to friends of mine so we can play it on gigs or at a jam session. Voila! The juices start flowing again!

Falling in love with a piece of music is one key to motivation. Once I’ve been inspired to learn a song, this leads to a change in perspective in relation to music in general. I get excited to play, gig, write, practice… whatever it is.

On the other hand…

Sometimes I just plain get brain drain. I spend countless hours and days on end preparing for gigs, traveling to gigs, playing gigs, etc. Sometimes, I just run out of steam and the last thing I want to do with my free time is do more of the same.

Sometimes a healthy vacation from the instrument can really recharge the battery. I’ve occasionally taken a trip without my instrument and I can’t believe how good it feels to play again when I get back to it. It’s like falling in love all over again.

Time away from the instrument can be as valuable as time with the instrument every once in a while.

More food for thought…

Just as our musical lives can become stale and lead to a lack of motivation, I’ve found that if I’m unhappy with some other aspect of my life, I lose motivation for many other things as well.

For me, a healthy outlook on my day-to-day life translates into a healthy outlook on my musical life as well. Take care of yourself mentally, spiritually (whatever that means for you), cognitively and emotionally and the music will follow suit.