Fire And Inspiration

What I hope to do here is help you to get back your "Inner Fire" (or if you still have it, I want to help you to never lose it).

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Think back to the time when your interest in playing guitar was born. Remember the time when you got your first guitar and actually started playing it. For most of us, even when we were totally beginners, clueless about how to play anything, it somehow didn't matter because we were just so excited about beginning our musical/guitar journey. I can remember the exact day I bought my first guitar (January 31, 1986). I was extremely excited about owning a guitar and banging around on it making all kinds of terrible noises at first.

That feeling most of us felt at the beginning of our guitar days is what I call Fire or Inner Fire. It is something like the first weeks and months of a new romantic relationship - very new and exciting and the desire to maintain that passion feeling is strong. But over time (weeks, months or years), that passion to play music weakens. Of course you still have at least some interest in playing and becoming a better musician, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this.

What I hope to do here is help you to get back your fire (or if you still have it, I want to help you to never lose it). The most important thing you must do is recognize what the factors were that caused you to feel less motivated and excited about playing music. Over time, some players begin to feel inadequate in their ability to reach their goals. A more common factor for some is not really having clearly defined goals or a good strategy to reach them. Its important to remember long term goals are long term. As long as you work to move forward, you are progressing. If progress is slow, understand this is normal. Of course there are things you can do to dramatically speed this process up such as practice more, practice more efficiently and work with a really good teacher that can show you how to do improve faster.) Other people become too focused on getting better and lose sight of why they started playing (to play and/or create music they love!). Keep reminding yourself of why you wanted to be a musician in the first place. Besides simply thinking about your early playing experiences, go back to your roots and listen to the same CDs (or cassettes or LPs (if you are old enough to have any of those). Listening to my earliest influences always reminds me of my early music days and I just can't help to feel that eager beginner feeling again.

I've mentioned some of these next few points before in a previous article, but it's worth mentioning again here.

Find out what truly inspires you to want to play music, write music, jam with your friends, etc. Whatever it is for you, go there and marinate in that inspiration. Get your mind in that place and focus on it. Many classical composers (and other serious artists) go to artist colonies for weeks or months at a time. For them being in a beautiful environment with serious artists of all kinds is extremely inspiring and a great place to write music, practice, reflect among other things. Personally, I like to travel to Europe in the summer and do most of my serious composing there. There is a house I stay in overlooking a valley with large trees and beautiful sunsets. It is very inspiring and I always do my best creating there. Your inspiration may be musical (listening to some great players, bands or songs. It may be going to concerts. It may be a set of things that are totally nonmusical (like a special location or being around special people, etc.). You must find whatever it is and go there, you might be surprised at how fast you feel that burning desire to really play more, write more, to be more.

Never ever compare yourself to other musicians! If you sit around and think about how much better of a player you are compared to your friends, this will probably only lead you to contentment and will steal away your drive and fire to improve. If you think about how much your friend (or any other musician) is better musically compared to you, this often leads to feelings of dissolution about your progress and your goals, which also can lead to a lack of motivation and fire.

When you began playing guitar, how good would you have to be in order to be happy with your playing? And where are you now? When I was starting out, I thought if I could play Iron Maiden or Metallica songs, I would be happy for rest of my musical life! Of course the time came when I could play all those songs, but I didn't feel as happy as I thought I would when I first made my goal. That is because, before I even reached that goal, I had already set new goals. These new goals were good for my progress, but I made the mistake of never really appreciating and enjoying the success of reaching my earlier goals. I robbed myself of the pleasure of feeling happy about my hard work paying off. Of course by now I have learned that lesson and do thoroughly enjoy each new goal that is reached. It is my hope you will learn that lesson now and not after several more years of playing guitar.

Tom Hess is a professional virtuoso guitarist and teacher. He has toured in many countries through out the world. To find out more check out the official Tom Hess web site.

See Tom Hess on the HolyHell world tour in 2006. Tour dates posted here.

Copyright 2005 by Tom Hess. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

67 comments sorted by best / new / date

    namesR4squares
    good article. The exact same thing happened to me but i think that comparing yourself to players who are better than you makes you want to improve.
    rockergurl09
    comparing yourself at time CAN help if done in the right way. For example, I practice as much as I canin hopes to be as good as Eddie Van Halen, to be up there with the elite, having people stare in amazement while I have the time of my life. Being admired as a guitar goddess (which is quite uncommon unless you consider the White Stripes guitarist *not*) would be AWESOME! Anyway, that's why it's good to compare.
    -bucketheaded-
    srry some minor errors there^ if you lose you interest in playing guitar (or any instrument for that matter) then you probably shouldn't be playing it at all cuz chances are if you do re-lite you "inner-fire", it will go out over and over again, save yourself the trouble and juz quit as for me, ive got an "inner-inferno" burnin all the time, and it will never go out (unless i die of course), and that should be the same for any true guitarist out there
    TwistedLogic
    Good article. I actually would have liked a longer piece feeling that they was so much more to be said about how the keep that fire going. The stuff about goals is really important. Thanks man.
    Mickey Lightnin
    Buckethead your a f u c k i n g bellend, yur inner fire can be lost for loads e reasons, quittins a wanker of a thing t do
    tomhess
    Thanks to all of you for your positive feedback. UG has offered me my own monthly column here, I have gladly accepted, so you can expect many more articles written by me on a regular basis here. Thanks again to everyone.
    -bucketheaded-
    Mickey Lightnin wrote: yur inner fire can be lost for loads e reason
    loads of reasons huh? name more than 10 for me ...obviously injury/health is one
    Emily...
    [b]-bucketheaded-[ /b] wrote: if you lose you interest in playing guitar (or any instrument for that matter) than you probably shouldn't be playing it at all cuz chances are if you do re-lite you "inner-fire", it will go it again and again, save yourself the trouble and juz quit as for me, ive got an "inner-inferno" burnin all the time, at it will never go out, and that should be the same for any true guitarist out there
    well anybody who thinks like that should just quit! I believe that if you start to loose it take a break, give it a month or so then once you feel that you're ready to go back, give it ago and it should come back maybe to a point where it is stronger than ever. For me it took a year, it was a very long year, but once i got back and started again it came back stronger than ever im learning more and i actually want to sit there and practise for 4-5 hours a day. Good advice though
    -bucketheaded-
    how can anyone ever "lose it" theres so much new and diffferent things that you can learn about guitar
    geenday409
    ya, the compareing yourself to other artists is a huge problem for me. i just admire some so much and wanna be like them so much.
    Audioslave7
    Its true...well at least i think it is..Every one who picks up a guitar wants to be as good as they can at it.its natural, and I can't help but compare myself against other musicians
    Archaon
    I find that my passion for guitar increases every day, not decrease.
    Bel_G
    I don't think i'll ever lose my "Inner fire",but if you're one of those that actually starting losing interest in playing guitar,this article makes a point actually.Reading it wouldn't hurt,would it?
    Jadewolf
    yeah ok, but nothing i didnt already know. the author's earlier articles were more helpful
    IlIk2plygUItAr
    good, but a lot of the time, looking at how good other guitarists are make me wanna get better so that i will be that good. Its something to shoot for.
    hep
    T-6005 wrote: How many mother****ing articles are you trying to do. Do you own UG or something, Tom Hess? Talk about finding your own inner voice - the only one I read is yours. It's getting tiring.
    he can do as many articles has he wants so stop dissin him
    Monkey_Bassist
    Good article, I understand what you mean about regaining interest, whenever I watch a video (live music) by any of my favorite artists I feel compelled to play (I play the bass). Now I'm getting a new bass (Ibanez) and it is heaps better than my current one - which is restricting me some what because it is cheap and hard to play (none of my friends can play it for more than 10mins), this is ultimately the best way to gain more inspiration and help me improve. ps. giter'man, your a dick head
    Monkey_Bassist
    Good article, I understand what you mean about regaining interest, whenever I watch a video (live music) by any of my favorite artists I feel compelled to play (I play the bass). Now I'm getting a new bass (Ibanez) and it is heaps better than my current one - which is restricting me some what because it is cheap and hard to play (none of my friends can play it for more than 10mins), this is ultimately the best way to gain more inspiration and help me improve. ps. giter'man, your a wanker
    xXTheSilenceXx
    I like your stuff...I've read all the articles. You really seem to know what you're talking about. Being someone who completely taught myself, it really helps. Thanks.
    Mudvayne923
    What if your inner fire is an inspiration to be like the guitarist you admire? Is it still wrong to compare yourself to someone else if it improves your ability? hmm... Dallas
    ooblah
    good article, i agree with the not comparing yourself to other musicains. A big thing i noticed is that the more i looked up to people the harder it was to find a tone or originality. Like when i went nuts for vai, all i came up with sounded like something hes made up and it made a mental block. But then again, if i didnt listen to better people i wouldnt know whats possible so i guess it goes both ways.. good article though!
    the.iron.maiden
    i wouldnt compare myself ever to Van Halen, or iron maiden, for that matter, but i do love my inspirations. if im lost in my own music, ill take a weeks to a months worth of breaks just playing a good song over and over. it makes you wonder what processes the artist went through to write it, doesnt it. when you play it, you realize that it might not be all that difficult. now you know you can finish that stupid song that you began with. i only want to live through my music, and bring back the music i love to anyone who'll listen, not to make the money. that would be a plus though.
    the.iron.maiden
    i suprised myself with the ability to play the whole " number of the beast' album, rather less professionally. Practice can keep more than just your dreams alive.
    my_last_hero
    PunxRckr wrote: Playing in front of people makes me want to play more. As long as there are positive feedbacks
    Agreed.
    G-Sage
    Im all for comparing yourself to other musicians, not necessarily buddies and stuff but what about Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen and SRV, they are some of the greatest guitarists of all time, if you've ever aspired to play the way anybody has ever before is making the comparison of yourself to them because you are trying to play likethem or him . I see what Hess is talkin about though, it can make you feel like youve surpassed your goals already or that they are never reachable but comparing yourself to guitar greats, and lesser buddies, can be very healthy as long as you go about it the right way. Recognizing that Steve Vai is one of the guitar greats is important... how long has he been playing to be referred to as great? like 25 years or something like that. and comparing yourself to lesser friends is good because it lets you know that you are making progress that your skills have surpassed the point of being a guitar newb. Just watch out for rockstar virus, symptons include cockiness, *****ness, and recurrent "im better than you". sry for the long ass comment but I had to get my say in there
    Ampeg J
    I always liked to find the things that made me different. There is always someone better than me in one aspect or another... but it the the whole plate that you bring to the table that makes you unique. Another fine article. thanks!
    -bucketheaded-
    if you lose you interest in playing guitar (or any instrument for that matter) than you probably shouldn't be playing it at all cuz chances are if you do re-lite you "inner-fire", it will go it again and again, save yourself the trouble and juz quit as for me, ive got an "inner-inferno" burnin all the time, at it will never go out, and that should be the same for any true guitarist out there
    pentagram_man63
    I like this. UG needs more of these, not articles to do with soloing and stuff but articles that inspire and make you reach your full pottential. Thaks!
    coquet
    this used to feature articles on how to play, now theyre just trying to convince me to keep going. what the ****?
    crazythrasher20
    The main proplem with my musical fire, I beleive, is to be the lack of time to spend marinating or even practicing. I still like the article and plan to put it's advice to use.
    Rivers
    most of this article is just a regurgatation of previous articles!
    AndreasAndreou
    i've recently rediscovered my inner flame and it was all thanks to the articles on this site.. even if it somehow been said before i still believe ppl should read and try and put to practice GREAT article such as this one!
    PunxRckr
    Playing in front of people makes me want to play more. As long as there are positive feedbacks