Do you want to know how to be a good musician? Or are you already a great musician and you’d like some tips on how to be successful in the music industry? Read on and be enlightened!
It goes without saying that practice and hard work are key to making you not just a great player of your instrument, but also a great musician. But hours of mindless, unplanned practice are no good to anyone! Set yourself goals before you start your practice session, such as ‘I want to learn the first page of this piece’ or ‘ I’m going to work slowly on these 5 scales today’. This will ensure you achieve a great deal in your session and will stop you simply playing repertoire through.
Make sure your practice is fun! As an aspiring musician, you’ll spend hours of your life alone with your instrument in a practice room, so you might as well enjoy it. You can do this by changing the rhythm of your scales, or making your fingering more difficult for yourself, in order to set yourself a challenge. Don’t get bogged down if you’re finding something really difficult, too. It’s sometimes a good idea to come back to it on another day.
Moving out of your comfort zone is a good way to become a better musician. If you find slurring scales with 4 notes in a bow or breath easy, then try slurring 8 notes. Always push yourself and don’t allow yourself to become complacent.
Film and then watch your practice. This will show you areas you practised well and others that you didn’t, meaning that you can do better next time. It will also help you analyse your technique, which will ensure you maintain good standards during practice.
Lastly, analyse music. If you go and watch a concert, think about the way the musicians are playing and how you would have chosen to play certain passages. This will ensure you are creative in your own practice and will inspire you to broaden your musical horizons, too.
Learn connected skills
Learn music theory – it is important!
A good way to become a better musician is to improve your knowledge of other musical subjects, such as theory. It’s important to know the basics, such as key signatures and clefs, but learning more advanced musical terms will, for example, enable you to explore more ideas in your own playing.
Learn to play by ear – it’s a great skill for any instrument
Playing by ear is a great idea for every instrument. It’s such a liberating experience to practice and perform without having sheet music in front of you. This will aid your creativity and should allow you to really focus on aspects of your performance which you might not otherwise.
Compose – even if you don’t want to be a composer
Composing is also a great way to improve your musicianship. Even if you’re not a composer, writing for your own instrument is a great way to gain an understanding of how to play music and will give you an insight into what ‘real’ composers think about when writing the pieces you play. This will, hopefully, influence the way in which you play, practice and make you sound better.
Patience and perseverance
Never give up
The music profession can be a competitive place, but whatever happens, don’t give up. It can be disheartening to see other musicians working professionally lots when you start out, but stay patient and focus on your own progress so that when new opportunities arrive, you are able to take them. Don’t compare yourself to others – everyone is on their own personal journey.
Professional musicians feel they have no other choice but to do what they do
Sometimes, you may be working hard with performers that you don’t feel invested in, or you may be distracted by events in your personal life. Remember, professional musicians feel they have no other choice but to do what they do – just because you have a bad concert, it doesn’t mean you should give up. Persevere through the tough times and better times will arrive.
Getting into good habits is important for every good musician. Keeping these will inform you how to be a good musician.
For example, wake up 30 minutes earlier than usual and practice before you start your day. This is also a great way to focus your mind when you get out of bed!
Listening to your colleagues playing or listening to live performances is a great way of seeing how other musicians play their music! Offer to listen to a friend before they have a big performance or audition as well as helping them, it will give you ideas of what to do in your own playing (or what not to do!).
Reading is a great way to relax, as well as teaching you patience. Patience is a crucial part of every successful musician’s life and reading is a great way to unwind after a stressful concert or rehearsal.
Brain exercises, such as crosswords or sudoku, are a really good way to keep your mind active, even when you’re not playing. They will also teach you the benefits of making mistakes and learning from these!
Getting into a good practice routine is an essential habit. Plan when you’re going to do your practice each day and stick to this. Try to play your instrument every day, even on ‘days off’, as this will keep your muscles flexible and will maintain your technique.
Finally, practice without your instrument. Listen to your pieces and follow the music, or read through the music in silence. This will give you a better understanding of your repertoire, as you won’t get ‘bogged down’ by the technical aspects of playing the pieces.
Have an insatiable attention to detail
In order to achieve success in the music industry, there are changes you can make in your life which will aid you in your quest for musical satisfaction. If you have an inquisitive mind and an attention to detail, this will help you when you come to play. Question things outside your comfort zone and set goals to improve your skill level. Having hobbies outside of your musical life is crucial too – no-one wants to be one dimensional!
Self-evaluate. And be honest about it
Self evaluation is crucial in music – did you work as hard as possible before that audition or concert? Could you have done more? Be honest with yourself, as this will help you learn from any mistakes and should ensure you do even better next time.
Know when to take breaks – & be punctual
Having a persistent attitude towards punctuality is very important. It’s far better to arrive for a rehearsal thirty minutes early than one minute before the rehearsal starts, or even worse arrive late. Your colleagues won’t forgive or forget your tardiness and this may lose you work. Running late is also very stressful and no one needs unwanted stress in their life. Arrive early and warm up, so that when the rehearsal begins, you’re ready to go!
Risk taking is often seen as a negative trait, but in live performance it can be exhilarating. Don’t ‘play it safe’ and perform a solo exactly the same way every time – change the phrasing, dynamics and character. This will keep you flexible and creative as a musician.
Observe Excellence and Be Excellent
If you’re starting out in the music industry, you may not know how to be a good musician yet, but look at those who have been in the profession for a long time and learn from them. Watch and listen to what they do – do they prepare well? Do they stay humble when receiving praise? If it has worked for them for decades, it should work for you, too. Aspire to be exceptional in everything you do and your playing will follow.
Success does not always come overnight in the music industry – there may be luck involved. It’s easy to become a pessimist when things aren’t going your way in your career, but remain optimistic. Get your head down and practise, focus on yourself (not other musicians) and when a chance arrives, make sure you take it! Things will improve for you if you work hard – and if you work hard, opportunities will arrive.
Learn to love criticism – it’s a tool to get better
Lately, learn to take criticism. Music is full of different opinions and you can’t please everybody with your playing. However, listen to those who may have disliked the way you played a solo and learn from this. How can you take what they’ve said onboard for next time? Don’t be disappointed if someone criticises your playing – it means that you have achieved an emotional response, which is what we all aim for!
Get creative at generating income
Remember, music is a business. Be creative in how you can earn a living. You could become a music teacher, or start advertising to play at weddings. These are both great ways you can earn some extra money and will put you in a more stable position if your performing career does not bring you much success.
Music is a business – understand that – from oboe player to a rock band
A good piece of advice is to think ‘what are the top revenue streams in my field?’. Look at the work your colleagues are doing outside of their main job and see if you can become involved. Having several different streams from which to generate an income is crucial for a long career in the music industry.
Producing / Composing
Learn How to Produce Your Own Music
If you’re a composer or a producer, learn how to produce your own music. This is invaluable, as it will stop you relying on others to do this for you. It may be that you can use this to your advantage by advertising your services as a producer for others, too. Your colleagues will be delighted to have a good pair of ears to listen to their recordings and you can make a great deal of money from this, too.
Ensure that you understand copyright, too. You don’t want to fall foul of this at any stage of your career, but it’s crucial not to be caught out early as this will give you a bad reputation. Word travels quickly in the music industry, so ensure that you are clued up on copyright as soon as possible.
Having an amazing teacher will make a world of difference to you. They will inspire you with their playing, show you how to practice effectively and excite you about your potential future career. If you have a teacher who doesn’t do these things, you can always change. Find a teacher who you have a great working relationship with and this will set you on the right path to a long and successful career.
Vital tip 1: Planning your practice, both in terms of time and goals, is crucial. You’ll see the benefits of this almost immediately.
Vital tip 2: Focus on yourself. It can be easy to think about how successful others are and long for their achievements, but this won’t help you. Practice hard and take your opportunity when it arises!
Vital tip 3: Demand excellence from yourself. This goes for punctuality, practice, appearance, risk-taking and technique. If you don’t settle for anything less than this, you’ll achieve great things.
How To Be A Good Musician
So there you have it – a whole range of ideas and advice for how to become a better musician. Let us know which tips were the most useful for you. By adopting even just a few of these suggestions, you’ll see your musical life improve drastically!