10 Tips for Guitarists in Lockdown
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10 Tips for Guitarists in Lockdown

It’s no secret that life has been odd in recent weeks. We live in unprecedented times and that may well leave many feeling lost or directionless. However, if you take a moment to look beyond the apocalyptic outside world, this could well be a blessing in disguise. 

In this article, Sam Cross points out that weeks of undisturbed time to practice, hone skills and build your brand could prove to be a stepping stone to the career you never quite had time to craft...

1. Take Time to Practice

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to remain well-practiced and keep your skills sharp. We all know how hard it can be to find five minutes to play normally, and many of us will have wished for weeks of uninterrupted time to really get our teeth into the guitar. 

For many of us, an opportunity this pronounced will never happen again, so grip it with both hands and make it work for you. Everybody is different, but try to find a few things to practice each day, such as scales, songs or some improvisation.

2. Learn Something New

As part of that practice regime, be sure to look for something new to learn. Nothing will feel better than stepping out of the other side of this lockdown with a playbook full of new skills that you can use in your playing. 

Make a list of the things you want to achieve - mine includes a few songs and riffs, and some techniques. Once you have a list, think of a few stepping stones for each. Perhaps that daunting riff looks more achievable in four bar chunks; that scary-looking technique seems much more manageable at half the BPM. I personally like to have a chart with boxes for each individual goal. Once I have achieved a goal, I can cross it off, until eventually the whole chart is gone and the skill is achieved. The visual aid of seeing your progress slowly build up is a fantastic motivator for continuing.

3. Create a Schedule… and Stick to it!

With all of this practicing and learning, it is very important to have a schedule that you can stick to, in order to maximise your productivity. Without the commitments that may have motivated us before, it can be all too easy to fall into poor habits that damage effective workflow. 

Start with a daily schedule: maybe in the morning you’ll do two hours of sweep picking, before going for a run and finishing writing your EP after lunch. You can split it up however you like, but I tend to find that shorter slots work best. If you have less time to do something you’ll have to be more focused and it’ll be less likely to bore you. Don’t forget to schedule yourself time to do chores and to rest; this can be overlooked all too often and contributes to the downfall of systematic scheduling.

4. Build your Social Media Pages

Love it or loathe it, social media is the biggest driving force for creatives in the 21st century. Good social media strategy deserves an article in itself but now is a perfect time to put some effort into it. Even some simple steps can positively impact the professionalism of your brand, and it has really never been easier to do. 

First port of call should always be a brand image. These can be as simple as your online handle (John Doe Guitar) in a nice font. If you’re feeling brave, add some sort of image formatting - the ideas are only limited by your creativity and common sense. Adobe’s Photoshop is particularly useful for this kind of application and a wealth of YouTube tutorials can help you get a strong footing. 

If you wish to go further, you can create perfectly sized images for Instagram or banners for Facebook and YouTube. Perfecting the edited size will make for a much higher quality image and increase your brands’ professionalism.

5. Create Batch Content

When life eventually returns to normality, one thing no one wants to worry about is creating content for their social media channels. And whilst it is always important to be relevant and current, there are certain kinds of content that will remain relevant regardless of when they are used. 

Now is a great time to amass some quantity of these for future use. Short videos for Instagram and Facebook and longer YouTube videos are great for having in reserve and can be created in quite a short time, with a bit of planning. 

It’s also a good chance to organise your photography and imagery. I have mine sorted into one folder, with sub-folders for my favourites. This means that I can find good images in a pinch without having to trawl through everything I have. You may find that colour coding works for you too, perhaps according to different use cases. 

This will also be a great time to book in with photographers for future sessions. Many are freelance workers too, and will be just as appreciative of the future income.

6. Interact with Other Musicians

There are already a wealth of lockdown collaboration videos circulating online, with musicians recording their individual parts in their own homes. This is a great means of sharing music as it is topical, and more likely to catch people’s attention. In the 21st century, most musicians will have some means of recording at home, which makes this an even easier prospect for most, and almost everyone has a phone capable of recording video in their pocket too. 

If you don’t want to record video, it is still a great time to collaborate with other musicians. No, we don’t mean “Collab, bro?” comments on someone’s Instagram, but finding musicians in your circle to work with will broaden your horizons and potentially increase your fanbase.

Networking is something that everyone neglects at one time or another, but now is a perfect opportunity to reach out to other musicians. Post-Lockdown you will forever be thankful for the new, bigger circle of acquaintances made.

7. Record

Today, most musicians will have means of recording audio at home, whether that includes an array of mics and outboard gear, an audio interface and a MIDI controller or just the mic on their phone or computer and something to record into.  

Many musicians refrain from home recording, but even the scratchiest of tracks will document your work more accurately than your memory. Once you get comfortable with recording tracks, it can be great fun to experiment with software plugins and effects to manipulate your recordings. If you’ve never tried, it’s a brilliant, hands-on way to learn what some of the effects do, and can inspire new ideas as a bonus.

8. Make some Easy Money

I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. There is every likelihood that you’re a little stressed about money right now. The majority of musicians have paychecks that are erratic at best, so having ways to stimulate your income are important. 

So what constitutes “easy” money? Some of the best ways to make money online include market research and research surveys. The latter can be very time consuming, but the market research can yield good results with some planning. No, it’s not music related, but it can keep the cash flowing.

9. Perfect your Pedalboard

Ah, the fun bit. We’ve all watched That Pedal Show, Rig Doctor and The JHS Show and wept in awe of the boards and pedals on display. Many have taken to buying pedals incase of currency fluctuations post-pandemic, but whether you choose to make purchases or work with what you’ve already got, you have a good amount of time to really make your board the best it can be. 

There are no hard and fast rules, but general maintenance like tidying cable lengths and rearranging your pedal layout for maximum efficiency can make worlds of difference when you play. This is also a fantastic opportunity for you to experiment with the order and selection of your pedals. If you have more than one of the same kind of effect, but you’ve never A/B’d them, give it a try. Set up a “core” sound and flip between the different versions, first trying to target the sounds you’d normally use, but also pushing the pedals to their limits. You might find some interesting sounds that you never knew you had in your arsenal!

10. Keep your Mental Health in Check

Last, but by no means least, is a mention for your mental health. These are truly unprecedented times and the uncertainty of the situation can prove to be a tricky hurdle for some. Everyone’s mental health is different, and hopefully you will know what works for you, but there are certain things worth remembering.

 Firstly, remember to take some time for yourself, every day, whether that is a bout of meditation, a walk, a shower or something else. Use the time to de-stress and calm your mind. Apps like Headspace can be really useful for this. 

Next, make sure you are in contact with friends and family as often as you can be. Social media can be bashed at times, but it’s power enables us to connect with people even when they aren’t with us. Remind yourself as often as possible of those around you, and be sure to check in on them whenever you can. 

Finally, and only where you can safely do so, try to exercise at least once per day. This doesn’t need to be excessive but a short walk, run or cycle ride can drastically improve your mind’s health. More importantly, it can be really refreshing to break out of the confines of the four walls at a time like this, so even if you only take a walk around the block it can help your state of mind.

Sam Cross

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