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I'm pretty sure a lot of people tend to feel like this sometimes.

Sometimes I go for a couple days or weeks without being able to muster up ANY inspiration, and everything I play just feels dead. I get burnt out sometimes, whether on life, work, or just constantly doing just music, and I start feeling like, do I actually like doing this? And feeling like a try hard and a fake. Also a general frustration with not being good enough.

I think it has to do with being kind of a perfectionist? Anywho just wondering what people thought about this. Sorry for the rambling! :)

  • 3
    The fact that you're having an existential crisis about being a musician is the most musician-type-thing you can possibly do. Sorry, not an imposter. – jjmusicnotes Oct 4 '17 at 11:07
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This definitely has to do with being a perfectionist.

It's interesting you use the term "imposter"; check out the answers to “I've somehow convinced everyone that I'm actually good at this” - how to effectively deal with Imposter Syndrome over at Academia.SE.

The best two comments that I can suggest are:

  • Take a step back and acknowledge how far you've already come. As perfectionists, it's easy for us to focus on our weaknesses. But taking a second to consider your accomplishments helps keep you a bit more grounded with respect to your progress.
  • Furthermore, recognize that this is a very common issue for musicians. Knowing that this is a common struggle can help on the tougher days.

With all of that said, there is a difficult reality: some people are imposters. This is a very competitive field, and the fact is that some (a lot? most?) will never "make it," "it" being whatever their goals may be.

There will be days where you might not have fun; this happens to everybody. But you have to decide individually how many "not fun" days are acceptable to you personally. For me, I wouldn't do it if those "not fun" days accounted for any more than about 5% of all days.

  • This is a good answer and a challenge I face pretty much every day. I will simply offer that part of the solution is meditation because it's about improving the skill of focus. Without good focus you won't feel you've accomplished anything without doing to severe measures to create evidence you did. (Hard to focus if you have a distracted mind ... sometimes it's adhd ... I didn't get diagnosed until I was 54. Then I got the right pills are life major changed. Now I can 'satisfice' ... look it up ... also "Hara Hachi Bu". You cannot moderate your life without focus. – Randy Zeitman Jun 20 at 3:59
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Your horizon expands more than your reach.

The more you become an expert at what you do, the more you recognize your current limitations and deficiencies and are spread thin trying to tend the borders of the large domain you want to cover.

The good news is that at some point of time, you are better versed in your deficiencies than anybody else and can tend to them and/or mask them competently. Another good news is that nobody but yourself is exposed to the work spent on them exhaustively, and even your teacher who is to some degree privy to them is more or less bound to keep professional silence (have you heard any teacher ever blabbing publicly about problems of named professionals?).

Stuff like fine control of articulation is incredibly tiresome to practise and its importance escapes the occasional practitioner. The audience will appreciate the difference without being able to pinpoint it, so the feedback you get about any progress in such areas is very vague and unspecific and not in a dependable or proportionate feeling relation to the work you put in.

So yes: the better you get, the more you will feel left alone with your perceptions of large-scale deficiencies.

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    Awesome answer. the better you get, the more you will feel left alone with your perceptions of large-scale deficiencies I once read an interview with Anthony Jackson. He said that often when he plays a gig or records, afterwards everyone tells him how good he sounded: I'm the only one who knows how sloppy I really was. – Stinkfoot Sep 29 '17 at 10:06
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    There should always be room in one's mind for the idea that the sloppiness is what made it good. – Yorik Sep 29 '17 at 14:36
  • +1 to these comments. I find that one of the most enjoyable things about live music is precisely because it's not polished and perfect. That bit in MTV Unplugged where Curt Cobain hit the wrong chord in Pennyroyal Tea? Fabulous! (Why else would they leave it in?) :D – Time4Tea Jun 24 '18 at 18:21
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Being a professional means that what YOU feel is hack work is actually a competent, saleable product. It's better than working. Don't knock it!"

2

Thinking of oneself as an imposter regarding anything implies that there is concern about how others view oneself. Music is NOT a sport. It is definitely NOT a competition. It is an exploration of one's capacity to understand emotion. All the music theory ever created won't change that. If you realize that the journey you are on is one of personal discovery and personal desire, then you will completely forget about the notion of being an "imposter". All journeys include moments of self doubt. All of them. The key is to appreciate the fact that you are ON a journey and along the way, you will experience joy, sorrow, confusion, complacency, comfort and terror, among so many other human experiences. Forget what other people think about your bass playing ability, it does not matter. Look in the mirror and look at yourself and smile. I am a lifetime bass guy that has learned from experience that most of the time what others see is based only on their own perspective. Sadly, it seems, most people negatively judge others with a bias gained from their own life experience. It is dangerous to measure yourself using another's yardstick. The most important things that I have learned is to be humble, show respect to all, maintain a healthy curiosity about everything, reject negativity, be kind, and play, always. I have a blog if anyone is interested. bassplayerassociation.com

  • I see a lot of references to "a journey" in some of these answers. My perspective looks at this kind of stuff as "an adventure" instead. It helps me keep a more positive outlook on all things in my life. To illustrate my point, when I'm on a journey to somewhere, a flat tire is much more catastrophic to me than when I'm having an adventure, where it becomes part of the adventure itself. – skinny peacock Jun 20 at 14:47
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Plenty of good stuff in this thread already. Just throwing this in:

  1. Little things can be big things. If your strings are dead or your intonation is bad, you're going to be disappointed with everything you play and that'll really put you off. It's more subtle than straightforward, but it's real. Get new strings. Get your neck adjusted. Or whatever is the thing for you.
  2. I live in the pacific NW, where sometimes in the winter a person can lose interest in almost everything. It's easy to mistake this for a lack of interest in a specific thing. It's okay, though. It passes.
  3. Maybe get some toys. If I haven't played in a while, I'll open my laptop and mess with stuff I don't usually mess with: backwards reverb, chorus, whatever. Usually nothing comes of that, but it can help get me in the mood.

  4. A stack of sheet music or tab is not a bad thing to have laying around. For one, it can be inspiring, and for another, you can at least spend your time in a semi-productive way. It doesn't take inspiration to learn a new song, it just takes a little discipline. You don't have to change the world, but you can learn a new riff or two.

  5. All that said: these feelings come and go, as many here have said better than I. Speaking for myself, I've noticed that my most pronounced feelings of unhappiness with my playing are almost always followed by bursts of inspiration. I swear it's a cyclic thing.
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There are already two excellent answers that explain the cause and give some advice. This is too long for comment so:

As far as getting over it goes, @Richard has given you a great start.

As a frequent impostor myself (and yes, a perfectionist), I'll add that changing it up - playing something different - something easier than what you're working on and that you know you play well and enjoy - helps a great deal.

You feel like an "impostor" because you are one. You are in strange, new territory - doing something new and difficult. You're trying to do something that you can't quite do yet, so naturally you feel shut out or out of place. You need to get there and you will, but when you get weary, it's a good idea go to a place where you don't feel like an impostor: Retreat to familiar territory for a while and refresh yourself - enjoy what you're playing and know that you can play a lot of things very well.

Doing that will energize you to forge ahead again. You'll feel rested and confident, and because you've touched base with great results from your previous work. You will look forward to what you will accomplish next, when you put in the effort.

Also just cutting a back a bit for a few days can help a great deal. Loosen up your practice routine, read a book or take a walk or go out for the evening instead - don't stop entirely, but cut it back. Everybody has these times - we're all human, not music-making machines. (Except maybe Mozart.)

I've found that often after pushing hard and then retreating the way I've explained, when I come back to something I was struggling with, it has become easy. The reason is because we cannot force our brains and bodies - they have to go at their own pace. When you feel like you're "up against a wall" it's because you are up against a wall: The limitations of your own human brain and body. Give them a rest, and will they digest and learn what you are struggling with. Then they will reconfigure and suddenly the new skill is there because of your previous work and struggle.

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LONG READ ALERT!!! :)

dear OP...I'll see your "ramble", and I'll raise you two rambles!

so many awesome gems here, folks! glad I stumbled on this site as I could use these reminders even for myself.

I arrived here by trying to find tips on how to minimize accidental string noise on bass and guitar while moving around the fretboard. I'm a 41 year old who has had some sort of relationship with music for over 20 years, but I've only been "playing" (yea, let's call it that..."playing") the guitar now for almost 2 years. I still suck. and the bass I'm playing has been in my possession for almost 10 years and I'm JUST NOW starting to try to dive in (smh). also, I have a Fender Rhodes Seventy Three in my room that I can't play AT ALL, so while I'm still actively working in music and still get paid to do that work and still getting mixes approved and still getting new clients, that feeling of "am I good enough?" or "am I a real musician?" is still there.

that's what this journey can do to you as a creative, and I'm sure anyone who has any kind of passion for anything has felt some iteration of this feeling at some point. and the pressures and expectations that feeling creates can push you to that point of doubt and insecurity and frustration. and it doesn't get easier as the talent pool keeps getting more and more crowded and competitive with every Macbook Pro and Mbox sold!

but I believe that this is the time to truly measure your love for this thing or anything that is important to you...when it's at it's lowest point. here is where you find out how much this all means to you, not during the times when the productions are perfect and the people are cheering and the checks are clearing. I think you have to be able to have a real conversation with yourself, one that only you can have and ask yourself "self: how much do I REALLY love all of this??" I know my personal answer is "no matter how much I think I suck at any of this at times (that's what being an imposter...err...perfectionist can make you think), I still love it with all of my being!" and that is enough for me to get through my lowest points of inspiration, doubt and motivation.

try to remember that you didn't get this far by accident. you being at this very point on your journey is the result of some questionable decisions, but also some really good ones as well! recognize that and honor it. Richard's point of giving yourself some credit is key...less focus on what you can do and more focus on what you can do. and maybe try this:

  1. get around other musicians...that's your immediate peer group. of course every group will have the ego driven types that do a ton of boasting, but you'll also find a support group of sorts in the folks that likely feel the same way you do. we have to help each other get through this stuff TOGETHER and being around more creative folks of varying skills/talents/abilities can help.

  2. use YOUR work, not the work of others as a gauge of your progress. VERY often, I will pull up a previously approved mix/master session and mix it differently using different techniques, plugins, etc...just to see if/how my ears and workflow have changed over time. you'll be surprised at how much you've grown!

  3. pick ONE potential area of improvement and try to acquire as much information in that ONE area as possible. trying to break up an infinitely deep rabbit holes of information into smaller, more manageable chunks can work wonders for gaining new insight in any given area. "how to be a better mix engineer" is so general, it can make the end goal seem impossible to reach. instead, research "vocal mixing tips" and try to find as many inspiring tips as you can on how to improve your vocal mixing technique. and then apply what you've learned. if you're a guitarist, dig around for tips on how to use your scales more creatively in your work.

I truly hope this has been more than a ramble that you find something useful here. I'm also content to bookmark this thread as my own confirmation in the future that these feelings are normal when you care about what you do...and after the quick read through these really inspiring tips, I'll TRY to get back to what I love! much positivity and clarity to you all and thanks for sharing!

peace and continued blessings!

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I find these answers unsatisfactory...

A sense of inadequacy is one thing and can certainly get exacerbated by perfectionism.

Doing the wrong thing is quite another and when persisted may result in the imposter feeling.

Personal note:

I was introduced to "western classical music" by my gpa who had broad tastes and a huge collection of LPs. As I grew up I found that one of his favorites – Chopin – actually physically gave me nausea. It would take quite some time though before I told my gpa "You know I am no interested in anything after Beethoven"

Other things have shifted in these decades: I'm quite happy singing Bob Dylan with friends. Something I would not in my more arrogant and ignorant youth.

Sorry for the ramble. My point simply being if you are being chaffed by sonething sonething is chaffing you. You need to be sensitive to what that is

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