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HomeLJS PodcastJazz Tips and AdviceLJS 03: How to Overcome Low Self-Esteem as a Musician

LJS 03: How to Overcome Low Self-Esteem as a Musician

Welcome to episode 3 of the LJS Podcast where today we are talking about how to overcome low self-esteem as a musician. In this episode we talk about how musicians (especially jazz musicians) can suffer from low self-esteem by being hard on themselves and unhappy with their playing. We walk through 4 different things to consider to help overcome low self-esteem as a musician. Listen in!

Listen to episode 3

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In this episode

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
    • Everyone has a different story.
  2. Realize that musicianship is a journey.
    • Don’t look at it as a destination, look at it as a journey.
  3. Don’t place all of your self-worth into music.
    • Find self-worth in other things
  4. Play music because you love it.
    • Stop looking at music as a means to an end, but rather something to be valued and enjoyed now.

Important Links:
LJS Inner Circle Membership

Free Guide to learn standards by ear: Learn Jazz Standards the Smart Way

Listen to episode 2: How to Properly Learn a Jazz Standard

Show Music

“Broomsticks” by Camden Hughes.

Suggested Reading

Stop Beating Yourself Up!

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. This was a very wise and nice podcast, almost spiritual. The ‘play from where you are’-tip is particularly helpful, combined with the suggestion to look for next step. Playful playing should be enough. 🙂

  2. Playing from where you are at, not where you want to be is great advise. An extension to that idea is to be O.K. with where I'm at but, do something to not stay there to long.

  3. How can I enjoy music
    when they make us learn unnecessarily difficult tunes in college. Sometimes 4 or 5 tunes a week. Don’t mean to be negative but this is what it is now. I enjoyed listening to this. It helps me. Thanks a lot.

  4. I think it was one of the most important episodes. Thank you so much Brent!
    I really needed to listen to this because It's been happening with me very frequently, those kinds of negative thoughts about myself and my playing, but now I'm gonna follow the advices and just enjoy the music!

  5. This was wonderful…basic ideas that are always in mind but it's so important to hear them verbalized outside of our own heads! And they apply to all musical endeavors. I'm in several "geezer" jam bands playing upright bass for Cajun, bluegrass, Western swing. Also take vocal lessons. Voice is very intimidating…you're on your own and you feel very exposed, threatened. MANY retired people get back into music after regrettably stopping for family and career. We realize we will never have the lifetime sufficient to reach the skill level we'd like so it's even MORE important to enjoy the journey, enjoy the fellowship, get into performing, not just jamming alone, and wallow in the love of making music. THANK YOU for this podcast Brent! I'm forwarding to several player-friends. I'm sure we'll be discussing it at our next get-together.

  6. Oh, this is so true! I've been playing guitar for a while(4 years now) and was considered myself as pretty strong player compared to others. I began with rock/metal and ended with blues. But at some point i was bored with blues' simple harmony and was looking for something more sophisticated. And when i found jazz i was excited and terrified at the same time.
    I found myself not capable to improvise but even to understand all these complex rules. I started to feel like a beginner again. That was driving me crazy. But I started to learn theory and at some point all these complex chord changes began to transform into ii-V-I's in different places and all these terrible 5#b9 chords just different variatons of V. But understanding of harmony didn't transform me into jazz-player. I sounded like some bluesyrocky guy trying to solo over jazz-tune. I felt terrible untill I found that you can use arpedgio over each chord instead of ordinary pentatonic and scales. And I for the first time started to sound jazzy over maj ii-V-I. I was so excited that immediately texted to my old friend who's sadenly turn out to be SAX-PLAYER(all of it took place in same week). But even more sudenly he turned out to not know a thing about music theory, improvisation and just learned with his teacher couple of tunes note-by-note.
    Its turned me of for a while especially when I found out about scary min ii-V-I's and that arpeggio is only basics. I began to feel like shit again when I find out about comping improvisation chord solos, that was realy complicated for me.
    AND HERE where I am now. Can solo over simple tunes like All of me and C jam blues with arpeggios and thirds, but can't go over altered chords and minor ii-V-I and can't do walking bass and chord solo, but I feel ok, because I can improve some simple melodies and have fun with it and know that more cool stuff will come with time and effort. I think key of my calmness is a place where I live(small town in central Ukraine where not many musicians live and most of them are metalheads).
    P.S. Sory for my huge mindflow and thank you for your beautiful site. The most cool think about it is that you got chord sheets and back track for them. And excuse me for one little wish: if your piano comps have alterations, can add them to the sheets if its not bother you. It would be very helpful for beginning jazz-players like me. Thank you for your great resource again)

    • Thanks for sharing Ivan! I think the most important thing to keep in mind is to just enjoy the process of learning. That's how I ended up thinking about it. Half of the fun is that happiness you described when you called up your friend because you felt like you were hearing jazz come out of those ii-V-I's! It takes time to "sound good" but that's okay because it's exhilarating each time you reach a new milestone.


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