We all want to get better, which means we’re all on the same path. When you see someone whose music blows you away, the tips below are part of what they did to get there. No matter how impossible it seems, you can do it, too. Follow these 7 guidelines:
- Practice Is More Than You Think: world-class musicians from jazz to symphonic to singer-songwriters to African kora masters know that almost everything is practice: listening, just messing about, reading, talking, warming up, watching others…. If it has something to do with music, it’s practice. Or it can be with the right focus. Warming up before rehearsal? Make it a mini practice session. Use this simple secret and you’ll get better a lot faster. The key is focused attention.
- The KISS principle: Keep It Super Simple: when you spend time with your instrument, pick only one thing to focus on. For best results, extend this single focus over several practice sessions.
- Practice to Your Weakness: you have limited time so you want to make the most of it. Warm up with a simplified version of what you struggle with, then go directly to that spot in the music or skill or whatever it is. Remember the KISS principle. Playing what you know is super fun and feels good, but it’s not making you better. Save the “play” part til the end, like dessert. Tackle the tough stuff first. Always.
- How Often and How Long: short, frequent, high quality practice is the very best. Daily if you can. Start small, even 5 minutes, and let the time grow longer naturally. Three or four times a week for 10 minutes is way better than an hour once a week.
- Feed Your Motivation: without this secret sauce you won’t put in much time. Work on music that interests you, or focus on skills you think are cool, no matter what they are. Also, cruise YouTube, see live music, listen to recordings, browse the Net. Find ways to keep interested. Playing scales and technique exudes day after day isn’t going to work. Whether it’s Mudhoney, Marilyn Manson, Mussorgsky, or Mariachi, work on what interests you.
- Where You Practice and Who’s Around You Makes a Big Difference: find a private space, out of earshot if you can. You want space to explore sound and to discover the ways you suck without fear of judgment or the anxiety of bugging others with your experiments. Also, hang with like-minded peeps,preferably who are better than you. You can even do this online. See #1. Do this and you’ll get better faster.
- Seek Out More Information: nobody can be aware of what they don’t know. The best players strive to open their eyes and ears and brain wider. The best are always hungry to learn more. Humility is necessary to make the most if this. If you’re a know-it-all, you’re not going to learn much. One way is to find a good teacher, but talking to others and scouring the Web works, too. Keep learning. I’ve talked to many world-class musicians and they all have this curiosity about them.
These tips are the tip of the iceberg. To learn more and get better faster, check out these books: