Lack of Creativity, sometimes

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by sausagefingers, Mar 14, 2008.

  1. sausagefingers

    sausagefingers Supporting Member

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    I consider myself an experienced guitarist....having been playing for nearly 30 years, studied at the college level with Jazz and Classical instructors, and been in numerous bands playing for real audiences from cover bands to Big Band swing groups, to the church worship band.

    But here is what frustrates me about improvising: My chops and creativity are great in the basement. But those inspired moments seem harder to make happen on stage. Its not exactly stage fright (I get the excited energy, not really FEAR) but somehow the pressure of the moment sometimes inhibits my playing and I end up going to the same old cliches. Bugs me that I'm not as 'musical' at those times. Anyone else ever feel that?
     
  2. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    Observe how you feel while you play and meditate on those feelings.

    Issues like that are usually due to "playing to impress" or "playing to please" rather than "playing for the moment."

    True humility is not modesty. True humility is the putting aside of all selfish 'wants' with respect to the music (this includes 'playing well,' 'representing well,' 'impressing others,' and similar) and putting forward the good of the music itself, so that you the human disappear and allow yourself to be a vessel for the music. Since you mentioned you play in religious settings, that would be a perfect time to experiment with putting all control of the music in the hands of your chosen 'higher power.'

    Most of what has stifled creativity at various times in my own musical journey has resulted either directly or indirectly from a 'power grab' of some sort--trying to be in control. Trying to control what bandmates are doing, trying to control how well I play, trying to control how the audience or other band members perceive my playing ability.

    That'll hold ya back, big time. Because, of course, a controlling state of mind is almost never a creative one.

    Good luck.
     
  3. Gene

    Gene Member

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    What I always try when I am playing music is to be "outside" of myself and become a "in the moment witness" to myself. Sort of transporting yourself above yourself and looking and hearing yourself as another person.
     
  4. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    Thanks for posting the question, sausagefingers.

    To make expressive music, a fertile emotional state is necessary. Most of us would do better to study how to reach this state than to study playing on altered dominants.

    I have plenty of technique, knowledge and experience to play good music. But I, too, find my creativity blocked by....i dunno, anxiety.
     
  5. JohnM

    JohnM Member

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    If I tried that I'd probably stay for a couple of songs, then pay my tab and split.


    Sorry couldn't resist...good insightful stuff actually - Brad and Gene :)
     
  6. Gene

    Gene Member

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    Yeah, man. Me too!(listening to myself) LOL
    Seriously, it has helped me most of the time. Sometimes, I still fumble around. Not sure why except my bass player (Harvie S) told me we aren't robots and occasionally we all will stink. Very simple, really.
     
  7. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    Gene's advice is probably the best. It's actually good advice outside of music as well.

    Observing yourself as if you were an outsider to your own body and brain is good for reminding yourself that you're not the center of the universe.
     
  8. JSeth

    JSeth Member

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    Try really REALLY listening to what's being played by the rest of the band - focus on that and trust yourself! Add what's needed and wanted...
    Kenny Werner has a great book called "Effortless Mastery" which I highly reccommend to all players, regardless of favored genre or style... in the book and the accompanying cd, there are a lot of wonderful "processes" to help you cut it loose...
    The only other thing I can say is that I've realized, after 40 years or so of playing for folks, that I AM NOT ALWAYS THE BEST JUDGE OF HOW THE MUSIC SOUNDS!!! Give yourself a bit of a break here, no need to get all bound up with this... sounds as if that's part of the problem...
    just my 2 cents...

    John Seth Sherman

    "...play it like you love it... and play it like you don't give a s**t!"
     
  9. JohnM

    JohnM Member

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    On a more serious note, for me my worst playing happens when I feel like I 'should' be playing something for some reason other than serving the music, like trying to fit something too clever or impressive or whatever into a song. It's like sticking a giant cork in my creativity bottle, really. As stated by others, you just have to learn how to let things flow.
     
  10. rawkguitarist

    rawkguitarist Member

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    Yeah, I have noticed at the last couple of gigs this week that when I think about what other people are thinking of my playing... I play not so good. It's usually when I notice a fellow musician in the audiance or someone I know that's critical of "guitar" music.

    That said, it's really hard to just abandon being bound by what other people think. Especially when there's a possibility they might not hire you again (as for session work, or fill in work). But I do know that I am most creative and sound best when *I don't care* what people are think of my playing/or part choices.

    I think there's some great advice already offered in this thread.
     
  11. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    That's true! But there are ways of practicing and cultivating the skill of removing those obstacles. Focused, daily meditation works for many.
     
  12. sausagefingers

    sausagefingers Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the insights all.

    It's true, I must admit sometimes I'm more thinking about inserting the perfect impressive succession of notes, rather than letting it flow naturally. Sometimes 'letting it happen' is not so easy for me.
     
  13. Gene

    Gene Member

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    Coming to NY really changed that for me. Everyone including the waiters and waitresses at these jazz clubs are jazz musicians themselves and have something to say about your playing! Then of course, there is always the fellow musicians at the gig checking you out with their arms folded and squinching their face.

    My 1st NYC gig was with Rashied Ali Group, Reggie Workman, Antoine Roney, Eddie Henderson. I was basically a nervous wreck. But after playing the gig and having everyone in the group welcome me to NY with open arms, I stopped caring what others think about my music.

    That doesn't mean I play my best everytime. But I just see it as that is how I played that day and the next day brings new music to play.

    Does this make sense?
     
  14. gtrmaestro

    gtrmaestro Member

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    Hey, what works for me is this try playing something random that makes NO sense to you in a theory sense. Just play a random pattern, the only focus should be resolving to strong chord tone at the end of the phrase. I've studied under some serious improvisers myself. Some thoughts of former teachers come to mind, Shawn Lane used to say that it totally doesn't matter what you play, if you land on a bad note your only a half step in either direction away from a good one! Jimmy Herring used to show us that sometimes taking a lick and moving it to a different position is good for breaking out of the box. Like playing an B minor pentatonic lick over an a minor groove. Might sound weird at first but it totally works! I personally like to throw random intervallic patterns in between my good melodic lines. It really makes it interesting for me, and is totally unpredictable in it's nature. Just make sure you know where the good chord tones you want to hear are within a few frets of wherever you land. It may take little practice to do this consistently. Have fun!
     
  15. PFunk

    PFunk Member

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    Put those things that you learn in the basement in your mental file storage and to some extent eventually they will come out in your vocabulary. I've realized that the execution of these ideas down there versus with other musicians or in front of an audiance are at least for me, very different platforms.

    What has helped is working one-on-one with a band confidant, in my case our drummer- poor guy, to work out my "basement ideas" up to the point where they can be worked into the performance. Usually such ideas end up different than how I originally thought they would work "back in the basement."
     
  16. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    You have to realize that playing music (especially improvising) is just like any other aspect of your life. So to figure out how to handle a musical problem (like feeling you need to impress people and it throwing you off) look to your personal life and see how you handle it there. And if you have the same issue in both context, well now you know what you need to work on. ;) Also, as you learn to handle this issue in your personal life (or other aspect of your life) you'll find that you naturally get better at it in your musical one.

    One good technique for exactly what you're talking about is to focus on something else- a lot of the previous posts are variations on this. It can be what the other guys are playing, some chick in the front row, your inner chi, whatever. The idea is to take your emotions out of it by focusing them on something else. The right side of your brain is more the free flowing one, but it's also the one the handles most of these emotions, so you need to get them out of there so you can let the creative juices flow. I've been told this technique a million different times a million different ways, but I really didn't start to "learn" it till I began using it in sports.

    That's along the same lines as what I'm talking about. If you play something that is unexpected even to yourself whatever process your mind is going through has to sort of stop to figure out what the hell you just did and how to handle it. It's a way to sort of shock yourself into getting the creative side flowing.
     
  17. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

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    Lack of creativity? no

    Lack of being able to execute my creative aural "visions"?

    Ouch, I hit a nerve.

    I wish I could hook the guitar cable right to my brain.
     

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