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I could use some advise from an advanced musician (I am a guitar player, who could have guessed). I have reached a plateau, I am trying to write music, I will occasionally noodle around and hear something I like, write it down, move on.. It is not getting me anywhere currently, I don't know if it is a creativity stump, or if I need more music theory knowledge.

I practice my scales daily, but am having a hard time putting that to use. If this question is not direct enough I can revise, but I hope this makes sense.

  • Have you tried forming or joining a band? – Todd Wilcox Mar 15 '17 at 20:46
  • I really want to, and i gave that up like an idiot when i was younger to pursue a career that i have come to find out, I don't care about it. I am 29 now, and not sure how to meet people to collaborate with. Craigslist? Facebook groups? – Mike Mar 15 '17 at 21:40
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    Go to see local bands playing out and talk to people. Compliment them on their gear and/or their music if you like it. Be chill, just meet people. Go see your favorite local bands over an over. Get in the scene. Tell people that you're looking to form or join a band. Sooner or later, someone will ask you to jam with them or ask to jam with you. – Todd Wilcox Mar 15 '17 at 21:49
  • Thank you for the great advice, it will not go to waste, I promise. – Mike Mar 15 '17 at 21:54
  • What's your actual aim (or aims), specifically? – topo Reinstate Monica Mar 15 '17 at 22:44
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Players plateau when they keep doing the same thing... the same outcome happens.

So you need to make a change. Probably any big change will work, but let's go with the three that most musicians swear by (me included):

  • Start or find a band - it doesn't matter how good, or whether you expect to gig live or just play in a garage; just playing with others forces you to learn and change

  • Listen and play along to new stuff - buy some music in genres you wouldn't normally touch, or by bands you haven't heard of, and play along. You'll have to pick up new ideas and techniques.

  • Get a tutor - developing you is what a good instructor will do. Technique, style, theory - all should be kickstarted!

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What else is in your practice routine, besides scales? Try practicing modes, exotic scales, intervals, and simple etudes. You should also have a piece of music to be working on.

  • I should have included modes in my comment. I find my self starting a piece, and abandoning, then starting another. Is this perhaps a mental thing? Of coarse your advice is great, I will practice a wider range of things. I practice other peoples songs, general exercises for warming up, etc. I am not really interested in being able to sweep, or play a scale super fast, i'm more interested in writing punky dirty rock music, that's the kind of stuff i play. Someone similarly to how I play would be Mario Lalli from Fatso Jetson. I could just be thinking about it too hard though... thoughts? – Mike Mar 15 '17 at 21:25
  • Everyone has a different approach to songwriting, but the key is always to focus and follow through - very much a mental thing. As suggested, having another person to bounce ideas back and forth could definitely help. Try recording yourself playing, and then listening to it. When you hear riffs you like, make note of them. When you have three riffs, try stringing them together into a song. Try different structures like verse/bridge/chorus (or ABABC... if you prefer thinking that way.) – relaxing Mar 16 '17 at 14:36
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I find this part interesting

I will occasionally noodle around and hear something I like, write it down

Am I correct in thinking that you play stuff - perhaps not randomly, but not with any structure - and wait until what you play sounds (in some way) right, and then you write it down?

Just thinking about applying the same process to writing a book: throw some words onto the page, then read them back and keep them if you like what they say. In the context of a book it doesn't feel to me as though it would work. I would expect to think about what I wanted to say and then write it down. Probably re-read and amend it a bit later.

So I'm wondering if perhaps you should try the same thing with the music. Think of a musical idea first, then play it, and then write it down. Don't know if it would help but it might be interesting to try.

Good luck.

  • I have been applying this more in the past couple weeks. I am seeing a pattern now, and I need more time allocated in my week to music. It's too hard to make progress when not enough time is dedicated, and I fully know this! – Mike Apr 24 '17 at 14:57
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Try not practicing scales or doing anything relating to music theory (for a short while). As far as creativity goes, it can (after some time of application) begin to make rigid that which is intended to be pliable. It can also help to change your musical location; Dev Townsend uses C Major tuning, and that's something you could try to experiment with that will take you far enough out of your comfort zone (I'm making some assumptions here...) that you might be able to get some creativity going.

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Some thoughts ...

  • Practicing scales: Don't practice! Just play. Play what you like, what you want. Most importantly: play because you want to, not to get better. getting better will happen automatically :-)

  • Inspiration: You could try listening to something utterly different to your 'norm' like if you enjoy metal, try classical or folk.

  • More fun: Find a jam night. Facebook is great for this, or google more generally. It depends on the area you live in, but if you can find a pub / bar which does a regular jam, go along. The jams local to me work by getting 4 musicians (2 x guitar, bass, drums) on the stage fo 3 songs at a time. They may never have met. They just 'come up with something' : sometimes a song, sometimes just literally a jam. This is a great way of pushing your boundaries without it feeling like work/a chore.

  • This is great for idea gathering, and I think I know what my problem is now getting so many ideas from other people. I just don't think I have the confidence to "jam". I am fine performing if its a piece of music i sit down, learn, practice timing, then play with a band. I am not the best at knowing what key to play in, or how to jam, it doesnt feel like a natural thing yet, unless im just jamming alone. Does that make sense? I should just say fuck it and go for it... i am a complicated person i think hahah – Mike Apr 24 '17 at 14:54
  • @Mike Yep, fair enough :-) I'd say just go for it, but it's easy for me to sit here and bulldoze your confidence. You have to enjoy it so if it doens't feel right yet, then fair enough. Maybe anothe rthign you could try is playing a piece of music from your musical memory, by which I mean: Think of a song or piece (ideally fairly simple) and just see if you can 'find' it on your guitar without listening to the original. You'll probably get a few bits wrong as we all do, but the point is you're going about finding a key and a chord structure all from your own self, without studying up. – user2808054 Apr 26 '17 at 16:30
  • That might help with you being able to find keys etc when joining in with other people. Or it could lead to you inventing something that might be inspired by the oriognal song but you've taken your owwn way.. "that chord doesn't sound right .. but I quite like it .." – user2808054 Apr 26 '17 at 16:32

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