by Jessica Brandon
Many top musicians seem to sound and appear amazing, but how do you get better as a musician? If you want to establish a career as a musician, then you need to put in the time and effort it takes to play like a professional. It’s OK to make mistakes during the writing and recording process, but when it comes to performing live, you need to make sure your musicianship and stage presence is on point every time.
Whether you’ve been playing your chosen instrument for years, or you’re just getting started, no one is perfect and everyone can get better. So if you’re hoping to take that next step towards playing like a pro, or looking for new ways to hone your skills, here are our tips to help you become a better musician.
- Set Better Practice Techniques
Many professional musicians practice their instrument, and go through scales, working hard to improve their technique. Set yourself a dedicated practice or warm-up regime for each day to burn those scales into your memory. Are there any passages of the music that you have trouble playing? Practicing just that eight bars that you have trouble for an hour is more productive and effective that practicing the entire song over and over and getting that eight bars wrong every time you hit that section of music.
Many musicians also challenge themselves to master something new or more difficult as often as possible. So, get out of your comfort zone as often as possible.
- Setting Goals
This can be a tough one. You will need to set yourself realistic targets at every opportunity and work towards them, whether that’s learning a certain scale by heart during one practice, or mastering a full song by the end of the week. Remember, it is progress and NOT perfection, when it comes to practicing your instrument.
By accomplishing set goals, you’ll enjoy a greater sense of achievement as your skills begin to develop, and approach each practice session with a more productive attitude.
If you are inspired by American’s Got Talent or Britain’s Got Talent, your jaw drop at how a particular musician perform and you feel that can’t get to that level? Remember no musician becomes a virtuoso overnight, so if you hit a wall, don’t worry, just keep going until you get it right. It takes a lot of time and effort to be a truly great musician.
- Keep Performing Fun
While it’s important to work on your scales and other more techniques and you feel that it feels boring – remember to keep your practice sessions fun. Learn your favorite songs and work on new material around your more regimented exercises to make sure you feel fresh and enthusiastic about your instrument. The worst thing for a musician is when playing becomes a chore, rather than an enjoyable experience.
- Take Breaks
Studies have shown that the most effective practice sessions happen in 45 minutes with a 15 minute break before the next 45 minutes of practicing. Your brain needs a rest, so make sure you give it one. If you push yourself too hard, practicing can turn into a real chore and negative (even wasteful) experience. So, when you hit a brick wall – stop and take a break, it may do you good after a short break.
- Watch Footage of Your Practice Sessions – Review Your Practice
Beyond just recording your practices to listen back to where you need improvement, it’s also helpful to film them. So, use your smart phone, film your practice, and when you have downtime, watch it. You’ll be able to analyze the music and takes notes on where you need to improve, but you’ll also be able to see the way you perform. Maybe you are too stiff and you want to loosen up, or you jump around just a little too much and need to relax a bit. Look back and see what you like best and where you can make improvements in order to deliver the best performance you can at your next gig.
- Get Help – Find a Teacher or Mentor
Taking lessons from a teacher, mentor or pro is one of the most effective ways to become a better musician, no matter what your skill level. There’s always something new to learn, and a professional mentor can help you develop new techniques and improve old ones.
However, paying for lessons isn’t necessarily for everyone and there are plenty of self-taught musicians out there. If you’re strapped for cash, you could always ask musician friend to help develop your musicianship or watch and learn from one of the thousands of YouTube videos out there covering your chosen instrument.
- Turn Concerts Into a Learning Experience
When you’re seeing live music, you can’t practice – but you can still become a better musician. As fun as it can be to hit the bars and dance to your favorite band with your friends, there’s also a ton you can learn while you do that.
Try to get a close spot so you can really see how the band is performing. What is it about those certain performances that make the audience (that’s you) the most excited and engaged? Which songs have people staring down at their phones or heading to the bar? What’s their banter like in between songs? What visual elements make a huge impact on the experience? By paying attention to live shows as both a fan and a musician, you’ll take away so much more from it. Take notes on how the band commands the stage and what specifically made the show great so that you can try to incorporate those elements into your next show.
- Analyze Music as you Listen to It
As trained musicians, it’s nearly impossible to just listen to music without thinking about it from a technical perspective (“Should have sung at a lower key”, “That key change saved the song,” “This rhythm is off,” “The singer is great, but his technique is going to ruin his voice”). You know how it goes. But beyond just listening with a musician’s ear, really dissect what you’re listening to.
Carry a pair of headphones on you so you’re always ready to analyze and learn from new music. If you’re a producer, ask yourself about the mix: What’s in the left ear? Why is it there? What’s the bass doing? Or maybe if you’re a drummer, listen to the placements of each kick throughout the song: How do they build dynamically? Are they corresponding with the bass? Take notes while you listen, and really dig deep into what it is you like about the music or what makes it sound professional so that you can apply it to your own music.
For more information on the 16th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: https://www.inacoustic.com
Nice article. Brought up some good points. Glad to see it wasn’t just a pitch for some product. Makes me want to continue, which wasn’t the case before I read it. Not everyone can be a star. It’s a lovely ride (James Taylor)
Love the information.I have been playing for over 40 years but am still willing to learn because if you think you know everything how are you going to learn anything new.