How To Become a Better Musician
I’ve worked with a lot of musicians over the years, and many at different levels of musicianship and talent. A frequent question that I get often is, “How can become a better musician, or how can I improve my ability?” These questions are great, because it usually means that this musician has a desire to improve their craft. I’m a firm believer that as musicians (just like athletes) we are either improving and getting better or we are declining. There’s not really any middle ground. You are either getting better at what you do, or you aren’t.
There’s obviously many ways to get better as a musician, but here are 10 things you can do that will help you become one.
Yes, that’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Not everyone loves this word with gleeful passion, but there are always ways to make practice fun. How about bringing a friend along or learning a piece of music with someone? When others aren’t accessible, grab ahold of a good quality album of an artist you love, throw on your iPhone and play to it. The old phrase, “Practice Makes Perfect” is so true. You will never get better at anything you do (let alone music) with without practice and repetition. In our personal practice times is where we really improve our skill and get better.
2. Practice to a metronome or click.
I’ve heard way to many musicians who say that this is just for drummers. This is NOT just for drummers. Everyone, no matter what instrument you play, needs to be able to play on time and in rhythm. I don’t care what level of musician you are, you should always be using a click as much as possible. And DRUMMERS: this is a non-negotaiable.
3. Welcome feedback.
Those that listen to you sing or play will be listening from another perspective and may be hearing something different to what you hear. In fact, they might hear something you’re not hearing at all. They may make suggestions in order to aid the context you’re working in. It’s important to welcome feedback, both for the bigger picture and to keep you learning and gaining experience personally. Besides, it might just be an awesome idea.
4. Find new ways of getting excited about your instrument.
As mentioned previously, there are always ways to make your discipline exciting and not just something that you do for work or service. Find new ways to keep yourself passionate about your instrument. Be creative.
5. Always have a teachable heart.
It is important to remain teachable. No one ever finishes learning in their lifetime. No one ever arrives. There is ALWAYS something new you can learn or improve. You can always glean something from another person, even if it’s a lesson in attitude.
6. Record yourself.
There’s nothing quite like listening back to something that’s been recorded, and saying, “ooh.. that doesn’t sound very good.” Many of us have probably had that happen. Listening back to a part you recorded that sounded off or maybe your vocals were a little flat, or something just did’t mesh. Listening back to a recording can give you an accurate picture of how you did, how you sound, what your tone was, or if you were quite in tune. Listening back to yourself can be a huge tool if used properly, and can help you improve and evaluate what you are doing.
7. Get first-hand experience.
Start playing! Don’t always just play by yourself. Organize some jams with the people you know. It develops confidence, along with feel/groove and unity. Some of my favorite memories are jamming in garageband type of environments.
9. Be generous.
It’s important that we always fill ourselves up, but also that we pour ourselves back out. Be generous with your gift and your service. God works generationally, not just within the small frame of your life span. Those that you give back to inherit what you learnt/experienced, allowing God to work through more and more people.
Whether you’re not on the stage or not, make sure you are worshipping. When you worship with your gift from a genuine heart, it impacts those around you and helps you lead. You may not even realize it at the time, but when you hand over your gift to the One that gave it to you, it opens a door for people to have a greater encounter with God!
These are just some of the many things you can do to become a better musician. Strive to be your best, and strive to always be improving.