Clean Rock 'n' Roll Living

Become the master of your trade with a little bit of clean living.

Ultimate Guitar

Like many of you, I started out with a passion for guitar which meant I just couldn't put it down. Screaming Randy Rhoads' solos repeated constantly in the back of my mind, leaving little room for everyday living. That Fender Strat became an extension of me and when it was in my hand I could barely hear the outside world.

However, there came a time when I hit a wall; I stopped improving, became despondent with my playing and as a result couldn't find the enthusiasm to put in the practice. I was disillusioned with the music industry and only five years on did I come out the other side and rediscover my love for rock 'n' roll.

As a 30-year-old married man with a child, I'm no longer looking for any kind of fame or rock 'n' roll lifestyle, but one thing I'd like to do is pass on the things I've learned about how to become a better guitarist and they're not always what you might think.

Become the Master

It's thought that to master anything can take about 10,000 hours and so with this in mind, you'd better get practicing. But what about those days when you wake up feeling like a zombie and simply haven't got the will power to pick up the guitar and put in the hours? What happens when that feeling becomes the norm and motivation is permanently lacking? 

Whether it's playing the guitar, tennis, learning a new language or running a business, the basic principals are always the same; keep your body and mind in shape and the rest will happen naturally.

Physical Exercise

Everyone knows that physical exercise is the number one cure for lazyitis and can help turn your life around if you want it to. If you don't already know, exercising significantly improves your mood by increasing serotonin levels in your brain - this makes you want to get stuff done, including learning that solo that you could never quite be bothered to make a start on! Starting tomorrow, wake up an hour earlier and do 30 minutes running or weight training, then see how much you can achieve in one day. The positive effects increase over a period of time and I promise you'll start to see a big change in your attitude to positive and constructive guitar practice.

Doing exercise, both cardio and weights, also makes you look better which is not only a nice little by-product but also gives you more confidence in yourself. Confidence is absolutely vital when playing the guitar, when you're up on that stage you've got to know you're going to nail it.

Give Up the Caffeine

Caffeine is a drug, it gives you a minor lift but then half an hour later you feel like the only thing to get that buzz back is another coffee or energy drink. Just like any drug, you can't maintain the positive effects they have, the buzz that coffee originally gave you now just gets you back to a level and without it you're left feeling that familiar lack of energy that you've become so used to. Withdrawal from caffeine can also leave you feeling anxious and depressed, which in turn can affect your concentration. Regular consumption during the day can lead to insomnia, resulting in a lack of sleep which is likely then to affect your mood, leaving you with little desire to practice that guitar.

I used to be a total coffee-fiend, espressos were my little morning treat but come 3pm I barely had the concentration to finish the working day. If you decide to stop, you'll crave it for a week or two and possibly suffer headaches for a few days, but after that you'll be glad you no longer need it.

Change Your Diet

It's widely known that sugary food and takeaways (or takeout for our US readers) leave you feeling bloated but not everyone is aware that there are other foods which can have a negative affect on your overall mood and productivity

White stuff - not just sugar but white bread, white pasta, white rice and other types of simple carbs - drain your energy without you even realising. Unlike brown bread, brown pasta and brown rice, white carbs are refined to the point of having almost no beneficial nutrients. In other words, your body quickly turns those carbs into sugar, resulting in a spike in your insulin levels and zapping your energy only 10 minutes later. Wholegrain foods such as brown rice and pasta contain complex carbs that break down over a longer period of time, slowly releasing energy and leaving you full of life throughout the day. That's just got to improve your overall outlook and make you get your sh-t together. 

Cut Down on the Alcohol

It's a big one and possibly the hardest of them all. Alcohol is the quickest route to temporary happiness, making it extremely addictive. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that if you drink a few too many beers, the following day is pretty much a write-off. For me, it's not just about having a hangover, it leaves a dip in my mood that takes two or three days to recover from and so I try to avoid it whenever possible, saving it for jolly boy's outings and other special occasions. As a musician, avoiding drink is like a McDonald's employee avoiding fatty foods - harder than it sounds. It takes a ton of will power but if the desire is there, you're going to succeed and the benefits will be worth it.

Just like caffeine, alcohol has a major affect on the central nervous system making you dehydrated and dashing to the gents every half an hour. If you're also a singer, this means your vocal folds are going to get worn out quicker as they need as much moisture as possible to keep them lubricated and working smoothly. That's something to bear in mind next time your voice disappears after 20 minutes of singing.

To Conclude

You're probably starting to wonder how on earth this is connected to playing the guitar but to come back to my original point, if you're lacking in good ol' fashioned get-up-and-go, it's more than likely down to your lifestyle and diet. So why not try making a few changes and see if things improve? Instead of an hours practice, you might find yourself doing three or four, which by my maths means that in a year's time you'll improve three or four times faster than you would do otherwise. Sound a little drastic? Start with the daily exercise and take it from there, you might be surprised at what you can achieve in life with a bit of clean rock 'n' roll living.

Written by Adam Mezzatesta at Bands For Hire

24 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I agree with exercise for me personally. Being in shape makes me feel positive and think clearer. It's not the same with everyone but its a good thing.
    I agree so much, I woke up this morning too tired and felt like I couldn't be bothered playing. I haven't done any exercise in a couple of days (been out though) but it really affected my playing, I just couldn't get rhythm and was hitting wrong notes. Everyone gets these days and don't worry, it's not often ( I am in good health ) but I think being in good shape helps tremendously
    I think people forget that a lot of big bands have a major fitness regime as well as partying hard. The real rock'n'roll lifestyle these days involves as much personal trainers as it does Jack Daniels. Writing music may come from your soul, but physically playing an instrument uses the brain, heart, muscles and blood - so it stands to reason you best be in shape to do it well - and that doesn't matter if you're 25 or 65.
    I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that if you drink a few too many beers, the following day is pretty much a write-off.
    You gotta believe in yourself dude.
    A whiiiiiles back i used to be on a pretty intense workout plan and pushed myself up to 350-450 pushups a day. Im no where near that anymore and im a dead-on sufferer of lazyitis. Though, my playing skills have never been as advanced as they were when i was a workout-health binge freak, this article speaks the truth and i advise any player to focus just as much time in their workouts/exercise regime as they do in their playing skills.
    I understand if your in your 20's and living out the rockstar lifestyle; it is kickass and youthful. However, if your 40, and your not an actual rockstar, you just end up looking and acting like a knob.
    Right on, Adam. I know I'm a lot happier since I've started living better. Truth be told, it's a lot more fun seeing my progress on guitar than it is staring at a computer screen or tipping a bottle back. Not that I'm afraid to party it up #YOLO, it's just better when I do those things in moderation instead of every night.
    I applied some of those at one point. Still practice a fair amount, yet I'm unable to quit the beer...
    link no1
    The only one that really would make a difference to me is exercise since I have a pretty decent diet already and I don't generally like caffeine products. Where I live though there isn't really anywhere to go for a jog. Pretty much all houses with 0 fields or parks and if somebody took pride in their health and tried to go for a morning jog, some ******* would stab them and take their wallet.
    have you never heard of people just going for a job in your neighborhood? people do it all the time. I used to live in giant suburb/subdivision and my sis would go for jogs every night. Besides, who's just gonna go chase and stab a random guy on a jog? Sure, you can argue that all you want but until you lace up yourself and get out there you'll never know. Get a bike for that matter
    This is awesome and well said. I changed my habits and lifestyle around about a year ago and I am a much better guitar player because of it. Excercise, clean eating, and a healthy lifestyle will make you a much more focused person and all around better musician. I am proof of that...
    Really enjoyed the article, and I'm actually really in that phase. But this is basically "get your shit together and proove yourself you can". Getting active, and doing sports is a major push in the right direction.
    Enjoyed that article, but lazyitis would imply a swelling of the lazy which... is somewhat accurate. Good job anyhow.
    Great article. I thought that I read somewhere that a little alcohol can help your guitar playing, since in relaxes the body and makes you less likely to tense up.
    exercise will definitely help with the happy brain chems and such but also gets muscles moving which in turn gets a good blood flow. People don't seem to realise that when their hands aren't doing what they normally can and they keep going cold even after heating that it's a circulation thing. If you just can't warm up you need to change things in your diet, exercise, quit smoking or taking painkillers etc. Thes things contribute to bad circulation.
    I like this, it reminds me of the whole hardcore 'straight edge' movement and the Minutemen 'jamming econo'. If you're drunk and lethargic it will show when you play live. I try to throw myself 100% into gigs and that's very hard to do if you're full of beer and junk food and have been sitting around doing nothing all day.
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