Seven Tips For Becoming A Better Musician
Being a musician is a lot of fun. Improving as a musician makes it even more fun!
Following these tips will help you get there.
- Structure your practice time.
There is a difference between practice time and play time. In my experience as a teacher many students have confused the two. Practice is where you focus your efforts on mastering what you already know and learning and improving on areas you don’t. This will be different for every musician and challenges we face will also vary, in terms of both who we are and also what we want to achieve.
Set your goals (if you have a teacher they can help you with this), decide how much time you can realistically commit to practice every day. Structure your practice time to work on specific areas that need improvement. A warm-up routine is a very good thing to have, especially as the seasons change and we move into winter and our hands, lips, and instruments are a little on the cold side.
Consistent, structured practice will see you progress on your instrument much faster than random practice sessions here and there. Spending 20 minutes every day of the week is much more productive than 2 hours one day and then not touching it again for a week or so.
It is also easy to simply play what you already know but this won’t see you improve.
Keep a practice diary.
A practice diary will help you keep track of what you need to work on, set goals that you are working toward, and also remind you of what you have achieved when it gets frustrating and it feels like you are not progressing.
Work on your musicianship away from your instrument.
You don’t need to have your instrument in your hands to practice. Visualise yourself playing your instrument. Picture your fingers playing the tricky passages you are struggling with to give yourself a clearer understanding of what it is you are trying to perform.
You can also work on your musical ear anywhere. Try and work out chord progressions or melodies just from memory. The first time I did this I was sitting on the school bus and a Midnight Oil song was going through my mind and I started trying to picture what chords they were playing. I imagined myself playing the song and was pretty confident I knew what the intro and verse chords were. As soon as I got home I grabbed my guitar and tried the song. I’d done it. And that helped me work out the chorus and figure out the rest of the song.
Developing your musical ear at each and every opportunity will help every aspect of your musical journey.
Learn something new every day.
This can add so much to your ability on the instrument, general musicianship, discipline and motivation. It need to be anything overly complicated (some of the best musical ideas are very simple) but by continually learning you will have so much more to draw upon to express yourself musically, be that in playing by yourself or with others, improvising or even writing your own songs.
It is so easy to do now. If you just want to track your ideas a phone will do just fine. If you want to go a little further companies such as Zoom have a number of handheld devices that capture much better audio than a phone will. Zoom have also have cameras developed for musicians that capture quality audio combined with video. Watching yourself play can help you understand areas of technique that might need some improvement you may not otherwise notice. In videoing myself I discovered something with my picking technique that I needed to give some attention too!
The Zoom Q2N and Zoom Q8 are both worth considering if you wish to video your practice sessions. They are also great if you wish to create videos for Youtube and Facebook.
Listening carefully to your playing will also help you understand your strengths and weaknesses…areas of timing, pitch, feel, balance and tone can all be evaluated.
Play with others.
This is one of the best parts of being a musician. Playing with others can be a wonderful experience. If you can, play with other musicians who are better than you. That will make you play better and challenge you to push yourself to improve. And if you find a better musician who encourages you to improve and offers you tips on how to do so it is even better!
Find a way to have fun with everything you do and even in the challenging and frustrating times you will keep going.
Following these steps will take you far as a musician. Sometimes we all need some help to work on areas of our playing and that is where a teacher can really be of benefit. And keep re-evaluating all of these steps and update your goals within each as you notice you are improving. This will keep everything fresh and keep challenging you to move forward as a musician, which is something you can enjoy for a lifetime.