Getting Back in the Practice Room: Regaining Inspiration

Practice roomEveryone who stays at this music thing for a time will likely find themselves lacking in motivation at some point or another. If practicing has become a chore, or if you can’t even bring yourself to pick up the instrument, perhaps some of these strategies might bring some fire back into your musical life.

Take a break

Sometimes we are just worn out. Take a few days, or a week, and see if you are recharged. If you don’t find yourself ready to get to your instrument after a week or so, then you might need a different strategy. In my experience, if it takes more than a week to get back into it, then it’s probably something other than simply being overworked.

Take in a live show

Go and see someone amazing live. Find out where you can see a great musician perform and go. Hearing an outstanding musician play live can be a great inspiration; it doesn’t even have to be a bassist! Worst-case scenario: You will have seen a great concert. Best-case scenario: You will also leave inspired and ready to get back in the practice room.

Listen/play the music that started it all

Maybe you are a jazzer these days, but it was metal that got you into music in the first place. Pull out the old tunes and remember what you loved about it. Sometimes just listening will get your juices flowing; other times you might want to play with the recordings, or even get the band back together for the occasional jam.

Play with new people

Find some new cats to jam with. Forget gigging for the moment, and invite people to your house for a jam session. Find some new collaborators. Even if it never turns into a new project, having new ideas floating around can help stoke our creative process.

Learn a new style of music

Go in search of a type of music you don’t know anything about, but that you enjoy. Find something that you like, and learn it. Maybe you won’t be booking any Balkan folk music gigs in the near future, but learning and playing it might be good for your soul. Besides, you’ll be playing your bass, and you never know where it might lead you.

Take on an unreasonable challenge

Why not learn that Steve Vai solo you always loved on bass, or maybe do a virtuoso violin transcription. A challenge might be just the prescription for your lethargy. Make it something you are excited about, don’t worry about the perceived difficulties, and jump in! See how far you can take it.

Create a public deadline

Put yourself on the line. Book a concert with you out front holding things together. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to prepare, but make it public with a specific date. A public deadline has brought out the enthusiasm for practice in more than one dispirited musician.

These are some strategies that have worked for me in the past; perhaps they will help you too. Either way, it is good to put some thought into what inspires you, and have a few strategies on hand at all times. Ideally, we should pump a little inspiration into our musical lives on a regular basis to keep apathy at bay, rather than waiting for a motivational crisis point before acting. It’s easier to maintain enthusiasm than to regain it.

How do you regain inspiration in the practice room? Please share in the comments.

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at and check out the Bass Coalition at

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  1. Bob DeRosa

    Great ideas! Thanks, Donovan.

  2. flamesey

    Buy a new Bass, that usually works for me but I am on Bass 10 and I’ve sold 3 lol

  3. Great article and all great ideas to regain inspiration. For me, one of my favorite ways to regain inspiration is to wipe the slate clean and start with completely new material. I restrict myself from rehashing anything so it can feel like a new day and often that gets a healthy inspiration going again for what’s ahead and what I’ve already accomplished.

  4. Mike Matthews

    This may sound silly; but I raised my bass (adjusted the strap about 5-6″) and after a couple of minutes I was recharged & re-inspired to practice & write some new grooves.

  5. I like to keep a couple of extra “hobbies” up my sleeve that are related – when I’m burnt out playing, I’ll dive into a guitar restoration or re-wire the bass, or do some musicianship study, or play normal guitar for a bit.
    Cycling around closely related hobbies helps keep my focus from shifting too far away from what I want to ultimately return to and focus closest on