#1
A frequent sight in the Musician Talk forum (MT Forum here-in) is a haggard, tired, burnt-out musician asking for help in his time of need. They often lack conviction, can't solo to save their lives, and sometimes even lose the will to pick up their instruments.

However, there is a prescription for this. There is a cure to this disease known as apathy. Contained in this article are the tried-and-true methods to overcome even the worst of writer's block.


Q. I don't have the passion to play my <instrument> anymore. It feels like a burden to pick it up. What should I do?

A. Set it down for a week. Don't even pick it up to re-tune it. Don't read theory or anything, just step out. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. What you need to do is get your mind off playing your instrument for a little while. Listen to new music that you normally wouldn't. If you listen to Indie, why not branch out and try a new genre, like Hardcore Punk? If you like deathgrind, try an acoustic band.

The point is, listen to new music and just don't play your instrument. When that week is finally up, you may have some ideas of something you want to. I suggest not just diving and going back to robot practice. Pick a few easy songs (Like a 3 chord song (Rise Against is good here )) and learn them through and through. After you do that, you'll feel healed and fine. Never doubt this method, it's saved me more times than I can count.



Q. All my solos sound the same. My material is becoming boring and generic. What should I do?

A. This is a broader subject, and is open to debate depending on what you play. If you play a -core genre like me, or anything else that's power chord heavy, try using full barre chords. Use chords that sound weird with distortion. Try using different progressions instead of straight-up 5th chords.

Practice phrasing for your melodies. Try bending a note, wide vibrato, slides, trills. They're simple things that turn boring into amazing.

You can also do what I do if I get bored with my material; Open up your favorite notation software (GuitarPro, TuxGuitar, PowerTab, etc) and just enter random diatonic or chromatic notes. You'll be surprised at the results. Now sit down, and try learning it. This method is great for practice as well.

If you find yourself in a rut, try not writing anything for a while, and if it's that severe, see the above Q&A for suggestions on what to do for a little time off.



Q. I can never finish learning a song. What am I doing wrong?

A. You lack conviction. Unfortunately, this isn't something that can be earned or bought. I am the same way, but what I did was I played air guitar to a few songs, and if I really loved doing it, then I wrote the song title down. I now have a few pieces of paper filled up with songs I want to learn. Every other day I pick one up, pick a song, then I get to learning it. It sounds stupid, but it's just a matter of sitting down and forcing yourself through it. It may suck at times, especially when it's a really hard passage that requires hours of practice, but the end result is so worth it, it's priceless.

Just sit down and force yourself to do it. Take a break after 20 or so measures, stretch, sit back down. I normally say to myself, "Okay, this is X pages long in sheet music. Let's get to page Y, then I'll go and get a soda. When I get to page Z I can take a shower for 15 minutes, and when I get to page A I'll be on the home stretch."

Little things like that make learning songs much easier.



Q. How the hell do I phrase?

A. Phrasing is how you play your notes. It's like how you say a word. If you say the word with an upwards inflection, you're asking a question. If you say the word with the same pitch, it's just a statement. If you scream the word, it's an exclamation. This analogy also applies to music.

For example, if you played a passage with a lot of wide vibrato, this would give it a sadder-spacier sound, then say sweep picking and then having a pinch harmonic. There are certain feels associated to each technique. However, there is little I can tell you to make you sound like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani.

Still though, there is something I can tell you. Actually listen to yourself play, while you're playing, and see if what you're playing is interesting. Be brutally honest. If you find it boring, add in a slide where it's appropriate. Add a full-step/half-step bend where needed. Add a quick arpeggio, a quick vibrato lick, a tap, anything to make it that much more interesting to your listeners and you. Phrasing isn't something that you can practice, you just get it one day. My advice to you is to find a tape recorder or a friend, play a chord progression, and work on making that solo you. Tap the emotion of the song and you, and let your guitar sing a song.
#2
actually phrasing has nothing to do with how you play the notes its all about where you play them ryhthmically and the variation in your phrases i.e there may be say 5 phrases in a solo when you break it down phrasing is the feel or rhythm you give to the notes in each phrase. Then maybe you want to repeat a phrase and or vary it a wee bit, or play it backwards, but thats getting into melodic figuration and variation a bit
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#3
Well yeah, what you are talking about is dynamics (way to play a note/intensity).
Phrasing has to do with rhythm (and how you play said melody, in which direction, etc)...

I would say the best way to practise it is to create various melodies in your head, write them down, then try to stay in the same mood and come up with other melodies, and restart if you don't like them, and try to make them follow the pattern you want.