1. the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
Robert Schumann: Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major, Op. 44 – IV. Allegro, ma non troppo (Fine Arts Quartet; Xiayin Wang, piano)
Inspiration is a curious thing for creative people such as musicians. Contrary to popular belief, those “lightbulb” or “a-ha!” moments are rare, and inspiration is more likely to strike, or rather creep up on one, during the more mundane musical tasks.
One of these is practicing. It’s the musician’s ‘exercise’, and like a muscle in the body, it will only get stronger as it is worked and flexed every day. More importantly, practicing needs to be done in an open-minded, curious way. A closed mind is unlikely to be receptive to new ideas or inspiration; an open one is.
Alongside this, a good routine is important. Paradoxically, routine fuels creativity because by having a set routine, we free our mind to wander. The self-discipline of a daily routine brings comfort and a kind of personal meditation which sparks inspiration and allows creativity to flourish.
In the many interviews with musicians which I have published on my own blog, most cite teachers as significant sparks to inspiration. Being exposed to someone else’s wisdom can be highly inspirational. We learn from another person’s experience and draw on it to shape our own.
Working with colleagues and collaborators will often expand our musical horizons and challenge us to step outside of our creative comfort zone. Working with others can also solve seemingly intractable technical issues and is an opportunity to discuss aspects such as interpretation and performance practice.
Inspiration also comes when mind and body are relaxed, so it’s important to give ourselves, as musicians, “down time”, to unwind and to take time away from the instrument. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out from your practicing/work. An over-tired, over-worked body and mind are likely to be less receptive to new ideas and less likely to enact them.
Engaging with other artforms, and living life, from basic things such as preparing a meal or watching tv, to interacting with friends, travelling and experiencing different cultures, all feed into our creativity. Even something as simple as going for a walk can help fire inspiration. Down time also gives us the necessary head space to reflect away from the instrument and practice room.
Sometimes we may feel our creativity is depleted and inspiration is just not there. Practicing feels like a chore and we’re just “going through the motion”. This is usually a sign that a break is needed, a chance to reflect and reset, perhaps even a holiday to recharge the creative batteries.
In reality, for the open-minded musician, inspiration is never that far away……
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