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Unlocking Your Potential: A Guide to Becoming a Better Musician

How to be a better musician

I sometimes get asked, how do I become a better musician. Aside from a trip to the wood shed, the answer would seem obvious right? Practice. Listen. Play. Play Along. Practice. In fact, I once had a conversation with Keith Emerson about performance and chops. Two things stuck with me (actually there were a ton of things, but I will save them for another post or video). One was practice. In fact, he signed a picture for me, way back before we worked together and it had his signature with the words beneath it...."keep practicing". The other thing he said was, practice slow and then progressively get faster. "Any asshole can play fast and sloppy, very few can play fast, clean and proficient". I always took that advice to heart.

So how to be a better musician. Becoming a better musician requires dedication, practice, and a willingness to continually learn and grow. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced musician, there are several key principles that can help you enhance your musical skills and reach new heights in your musical journey. In this blog post, I will share some essential tips to help you become a better musician.

1. Embrace Consistent Practice: Practice truly makes perfect. Regular and focused practice is the foundation of improvement in any musical endeavor. Set aside dedicated time each day to practice your instrument or vocal skills. Break down challenging passages and techniques into smaller parts, working on them until they become second nature. Remember, slowly then progressively get faster as you get more proficient.

2. Set Clear Goals: Define your musical goals, whether it's mastering a specific piece, improving your improvisation skills, or learning a new technique. Having clear goals gives your practice sessions purpose and direction, making it easier to track your progress and celebrate your achievements.

3. Diversify Your Repertoire: While it's natural to have favorite genres, styles, or pieces, don't limit yourself to just one. Exploring different musical genres can broaden your perspective, introduce you to new techniques, and improve your versatility as a musician. Also, diversify your keys. Many musicians prefer to play and or write in certain keys and as a result, you become more proficient in certain keys than others. Try to be proficient in all keys.

4. Develop Your Ear: Training your ear is crucial for musicians. Work on recognizing intervals, chords, and melodies by ear. This skill will not only make learning new music easier but also enhance your improvisation abilities and overall musical understanding. It also comes in handy when you play with other musicians. You can easily jump right into a song even if you learned it or always played in a different key.

5. Seek Constructive Feedback: Feedback is invaluable for growth. Share your music with teachers, mentors, fellow musicians, or even online communities. Constructive criticism can help you identify areas for improvement that you might not have noticed on your own. Always look for best practices. What do other musicians you look up to or want to emulate do.

6. Study Music Theory: Understanding the fundamentals of music theory can significantly enhance your musical abilities. Learning about scales, chords, harmony, and rhythm will empower you to create and understand music more deeply. Even if your not a Music Theory major, understanding even the rudimentary basics will go a long way.

7. Maintain a Healthy Routine: A healthy lifestyle can positively impact your musical progress. Regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep contribute to better focus, physical dexterity, and mental clarity—all essential for becoming a better musician. I can not stress enough about the dangers of being a musician. Seriously. Sitting a piano, standing, etc. for long periods of time can really jack up your back, there is carpel tunnel syndrome, arthritis, etc. Real issues for musicians. Be sure to stretch, and do some exercises to help keep your digits in top shape.

8. Record and Reflect: Recording yourself playing or singing can offer a new perspective on your performance. It allows you to analyze your strengths and weaknesses objectively, leading to targeted improvements.

9. Embrace Challenges: Don't shy away from difficult pieces or techniques. Embracing challenges and stepping out of your comfort zone is where significant growth occurs. With perseverance, you'll conquer obstacles that once seemed insurmountable. Just be realistic and set your expectations accordingly. Start slow and progressively improve your speed and proficiency.

10. Perform Regularly: Performing in front of others is a crucial aspect of being a musician. Whether it's in front of a small group of friends or on a larger stage, performing helps you build confidence, overcome stage fright, and refine your presentation skills.

11. Old School: Remember back in the early days, you would play along with your favorite record to learn that guitar solo, synth solo, etc. Playing along with your favorite albums or pieces of music can go a long long way in helping you become a better musician and ultimately developing your own style and sound. Its worked since the introduction of records. Just ask any musician.

In conclusion, becoming a better musician is a continuous process that involves consistent practice, setting goals, embracing challenges, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

By incorporating these principles into your musical journey, you'll not only enhance your technical skills but also deepen your musicality and connection with your chosen instrument. Remember, progress takes time, so be patient and enjoy the journey of becoming the best musician you can be. See you in the wood shed!

- DF


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