Putting the fun back into practicing

This morning I asked subscribers to suggest questions that I could ask Jim Pugh and Bob McChesney since I will be interviewing each of them within the next few days.

I am creating a week-long event consisting of interviews with great players and teachers. I’ll be sharing more of this as the date for the event nears.

I received some interesting responses. One question that was suggested was: Do you ever find yourself on a plateau where it feels like not all that much creative stuff seems to be coming out of your playing?  Does your playing ever feel stale to you?  If so, what techniques do you use to try and get out of that creative funk?  Even if you don’t experience this, do you have suggestions for those of us who sometimes do?

I will ask this question and add the answers to this post but it is a question to ask of any musician regardless of instrument. This is not just a trombone question, which is great.

Let me answer it from my experience and perspective first. I have ups and downs creatively. The downs aren’t permanent conditions. It can sometimes be a lack of motivation, and it manifests itself by finding I’m playing safe licks and familiar patterns. Sometimes it’s known as “calling it in”.

Sometimes it comes from being bored with the situation. So try to shake it up a bit. If you’re in a performance situation, suggest new ways for the rhythm section to play with you on your solo. Drop out the drums, bass only, change the style from swing to Latin, reharmonize, etc. Find a new tune. Challenge yourself to play over something new.

Tony Robbins has a saying that he uses to get himself and others out of a funk. He says, change your state. By “state” he means state of mind. And one of the ways he does that is by changing one’s physiology. Their body.

If your funk is during your practicing, Tony would tell you to practice in a different position or in a different space. I personally do my best practicing outside on top of my nearby mountain. I’m inspired and therefore having more fun. For me, the more fun I’m having in a musical situation, the more creative I become. And I have fun hiking up the trail and blasting from the top.

Changing your state could be as simple as finding another place to practice. You don’t need to be quite this crazy, but Gerry Pagano and I traveled to Tucson to play inside the lung of Biosphere 2. We both felt heightened creativity in that strange spherical space.

So my advice is to change something: where you practice, when you practice, how you practice, instrumentation over which you solo, the tunes you are playing, and so on.

I’ll add what I hear from the players I interview and post their recommendations here…

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