Staying Motivated Without Playing Opportunities

Bassist Practicing

Photo Credit: Gavin Whitner

Q: I read your column for years, but I don’t know if you have answered this already: I have been playing bass for many years and, due to circumstances beyond my control, I cannot find people in my hometown to play (long story, small Greek city). I am taking some jazz theory lessons (via Skype), but I am stuck in a rut. How do I keep myself motivated to play music since there is no chance for me to play live or even rehearse?

A: Without an outlet to explore your music and learn from live music experiences, it is especially crucial that you maintain a vision for your development and a clear set of goals for yourself.

Ultimately, if you plan on trying to ‘make it’ as a musician and if your focus is on being a working musician, you very well may have to consider relocating eventually.

Much like the topic I covered in this recent column, I want you to consider what your goals are for the instrument and/or your musical vision. I would think it crucial that you set some clear goals for yourself as well as consider how to either manifest the musical environment that you crave or get yourself to a place of strength and confidence while you work towards possibly relocating to a more musically viable city or town.

Of course, everybody’s circumstances are different and if moving isn’t an option, you may have to get creative in the ways in which you manifest satisfying musical outlets.

For example, you could focus on developing material for an album or social media releases. There are countless musicians looking to collaborate with other like-minded, talented players in the world. There is no lack of great players in remote areas looking for more outlets. I’m not sure of your abilities but, if nothing else, visualizing and setting a clear objective like that can help you to realize a path towards something more satisfying. Having clear goals like that can also help to re-motivate and really stoke the creative fires.

If money, current skill sets, location, etc.. weren’t an issue. What kind of music would you be playing? Who would you be playing it with? Could you save up enough to hire your dream musicians to piece together an album, remotely recorded? An astonishing number of albums are created by musicians spanning the globe, each adding tracks, one-by-one, from home. You could focus on writing material and fostering relationships with like-minded musicians online.

It takes very little, by virtue of technology, to develop high-quality content, be it audio and/or video. Additionally, one huge benefit of creating an album this way is that there is no deadline and you don’t need a pile of money up front. Since you are not hiring musicians by the day or hour and paying an engineer, renting a studio… you can do much of the work yourself and hire other musicians one at a time, as you can afford it. If you’re lucky, and you find some talented people to collaborate with, it may not even cost you anything!

Remote recording your own music is just one idea but, if you get creative and think about what you would create given the connections and resources, you should be able to think up some interesting possibilities, giving yourself something specific to work towards in the shed and giving you the motivation to manifest some satisfying musical environments for yourself!

In short, pretend that there is nothing standing in your way. What music would you be creating? What would you be working on? How would you manifest gigs and a career? It’s good to consider not just your realistic objectives but to also dream big and think about how to manifest your ideal scenarios. You will often find some motivating and exciting possibilities. Much more is possible than you might imagine if you just refuse to believe in your life’s limitations. It might take a bit of imagination and an incredible amount of work and hustle, but your opportunities are all out there, waiting to be realized. Just visualize, start writing down some plans and ideas and just keep pushing.

Best of luck to you!

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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