Remember back to the moment you decided to become a musician. Maybe there were several. What was it and how did you feel? What inspired you to pursue this field?
For me, it was hearing Charlie Parker for the first time. I just remember being obsessed, fascinated with his playing. I had the CD on repeat for months. Gershwin was another one-- I would listen to Rhapsody in Blue, An American In Paris, Piano Concerto in F, and Cuban Overture over, and over, and over again!
It made me feel so inspired! So creative!
So now, having been through the tests and trials of time, years of rigorous schooling, late night drives from gigs, frustrations, and so on, I'm still here, still playing, still writing music. More than ever before. And I find that the thing that helps me stay inspired is getting back into that creative space that I used to feel as a kid. So I try to get creative with my practice time. I try to hear the phrasing in my head, try to connect with my instrument and get beyond that hurdle of frustration.
Here are some examples of ways you can nurture your creativity:
Explore different sounds, sketch out tunes, just hear how random ideas sound. I try to find new pieces that I can learn from. Pull out old classical pieces I haven't looked at in years. Pick a lick and invert it, mess with it, change the mode. Play a tune in all 12 keys. Play it slow, then play it fast. Play it in 7/4. Play it in 13/8. Write a contrafact on a tune. Find a painting you like and try to convey it in sound. Transcribe a rock song, or a classical piece. Learn some extended techniques. Jump around while you try to hold long tones still. Practice out of books. Practice away from books. Practice in the woods. Practice in the dark. Practice standing and then sitting. Take a break to walk outside. Do some stretches. Shoot some hoops. Cook while you listen to a new record. Sing an improvised solo over some changes. Pick up a guitar. Tinker on a piano. Stomp and clap. Invent exercises. Write a song with lyrics. Write a song based on poetry. Come up with something programmatic. Sightread pieces written for a different instrument. Take a lesson with a peer. Try different scales. Practice improvising using a 12-tone row.
In short, be free. Don't feel like you can't be creative in your practice.
And if you don't feel like practicing, sometimes it's ok to pack it up and just take a step back. Even the greatest of the great take time off.
There are thousands more ways to be creative in your practice time. These are just a few. You have permission to practice in creative ways.
If you have a fun way you like to practice, leave a comment below. I'd love to hear about it.
is a saxophonist/composer residing in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.