How To Boost Your Creativity As a Musician?
by Janez Janežič
Have you ever felt like your playing sounds the same all the time when jamming with friends, writing music or even when practicing?
Have you ever felt like you just can't get any »good« musical idea out of your instrument and you felt like you'll never be as creative as that other guitarist, who writes killer tunes on his own?
I feel you. And probably every other musician feels you just the same. We all had creativity problems at a certain point in our musical life. But how then can some people be so creative and write such good songs and improvise killer guitar solos? Can we actually become creative?
Sure we can. Creativity is a muscle and we have to train it … as much as possible. Today we will explore a few ideas on how to boost our creativity that I personally use in everyday life. What can you do about it?
First and the most obvious thing you can do is: just do it. Yes, you've read that right. Many people stop before they even start to create because they have limiting beliefs about themselves. »But I'm no creative artist, I just play for fun« is what we usually hear. There is a rule about everything we learn in life: if you don't try, you don't grow. Even if you fail, you'll learn something new from that experience. And that's the only way to do it. You can read all the books about creating music, know all about music theory, watch all videos on youtube and you still will never learn as much you would if you just threw yourself in the ocean and try to swim.
So how can you »start doing it«? You can schedule a block time regularly every few days (or weeks) when you will devote your effort to working on your songs, guitar solos or learning the skill of improvising. Do you already have an X hours-long practice routine? Devote 30% of your practice time to your creativity. Take 20 minutes out of an hour-long practice and do the exercises we will explain below.
Learned a new lick? Make dozens of variations. While by itself this suggestion might be confusing, it's actually very simple when you write things down. Write down the lick you learned on a piece of paper, or even better use Guitar Pro to do so. Then explore what happens, when you change the value of just one note (e.g. quarter note -> make it an eight note). Relearn the lick and listen to it. It will probably sound totally different: »Hey but that's not the same lick anymore!« That's true. What you have now is a new lick that sounds and feels different than your starting point. Write that thing down. Then change the value of another note, then another … and by the time you exhaust all different possibilities, you'll have an arsenal of new licks. What then?
Well, what happens when you change the value of two notes? :)
Then you can move forward and start changing the pitch of the note (e.g. D# -> F) and explore all the different possibilities you get. Then you can combine different rhythm and pitch variations. Do you see where this is going? Just with one 4-note lick, you can have more than 100 thousand variations.
»But that's not creative. That's just ripping off someone's lick!« While in this context it is partly true, you don't need to beat yourself with it. You've created the variations, so you've been creative, period. Of course, not everything is going to sound good, but you might find some hidden gems that you really like and are totally usable in your guitar playing.
Now, of course, you don't need to do hundreds and hundreds of variations of a single lick, because it will probably bore you to death. But if you create 5 good sounding variations for everything you learn, you're going to be at least 5 times more creative than you would be if you only learned licks by the book.
Thorugh time you will become more creative because you will subconsciously start creating variations of everything you hear. Maybe you'll hear church bells toll or a phone ring, and then when you'll pick up the guitar, some melodies will just start popping inside your head, and it will most possibly be a variation of something you've already heard.
You can do this with licks, riffs, vocal melodies, chord progressions, scale sequences, arpeggios… you name it. Apply this to everything you learn and see yourself growing, not only as a guitarist but as a musician as well.
About the Author
Janez Janežič is an aspiring guitarist, songwriter and guitar teacher from Slovenia. When he is not playing or composing for his bands, he is putting all his efforts into creating the best guitar lessons in Novo Mesto, Slovenia.