May 22, 2019 11 Comments

If you are really serious about becoming the best musician that you can be, it makes good sense to cultivate habits that will help you achieve your goal, rather than hinder you. In this series, we will learn seven habits that will help you become a better musician. There is a lot to learn when mastering a musical instrument, but these basic principles will help you achieve success more easily, and they apply no matter which instrument you play.

Practice Regularly

Learning to play well takes a lot of hard work. Unless you develop a strict regular practice regimen, chances are good that you will only play when you feel like it. If you get into the habit of inconsistent practice, it will be difficult to master the essential skills you need to succeed. Being a musician means performing even when you don't feel well, pushing through when you are tired, until playing becomes as automatic as breathing.

A regular schedule should include daily practice. Set aside time in your regular schedule to practice no matter what. If you find time to eat and sleep every day, then you can find time to practice your instrument. Most players find it is more productive to rotate through several skills each day. Often it makes sense to create a weekly schedule that covers all the areas you need to work on. If you find yourself forgetting to practice, consider keeping an instrument in plain sight where you will see it on a daily basis. This will help remind you to put in your daily workout. Over time, the content of your practice regimen will evolve and change, but the important thing is to stick with a regular schedule. Every day you will become a better player than the day before.

Use a Metronome  

Music is all about keeping time. If you practice with a metronome regularly, not only will you learn to play in time, but you will also learn to use rhythms to accent your playing. Beware the trap of sitting down with an exercise and attempting to play it to ever-increasing metronome settings. This approach puts a lot of pressure on you to go as fast as you can, rather than executing the part well. This is why you see martial artists practice their forms at slow speed; because speed without precision is useless. Try keeping a journal of your workouts, recording the exercises and metronome settings you are using. Begin with a tempo where you can play the exercise perfectly every time. Each time you become proficient at a given tempo, make a note to increase your metronome speed the next time you practice. If you work out every day, those settings will go up very quickly, but you will find yourself to be more relaxed and confident when approaching the routine. If you can't play accurately to a metronome, you won't be able to play well with a drummer either. And even though the drummer is the time-keeper of the band, they shouldn't have to wrestle with a player that rushes or drags the beat regularly. Relax and get in synch with the metronome in practice, and you will settle right into the groove when you play with other musicians.

Diligent and effective practice habits make the difference between becoming a better musician and merely spinning your wheels. Avoid getting stuck in a rut by planning your practice to improve your skills where you need it most. Work consistently with a metronome and your time will become consistent as well. In the next part of the series, we will discuss how to master one style at a time, and how to work well with other musicians. In the meantime, sit down and create a practice regimen that will help you achieve your goals effectively. What are some practice habits that you have discovered which help you workout more effectively?



11 Responses

Kurt Purello
Kurt Purello

November 13, 2020

A Practice Journal where you take notes each day after practice and refer to before practice. Takes extra effort but well worth it!!

Jerome
Jerome

November 13, 2020

If I meet one more drummer who says “I don’t count, I just feel it”, I’m gonna shoot myself!

david Kitazono
david Kitazono

November 13, 2020

To paraphrase Jamie Lee Curtis: Be the first one to show up, be the last one to leave, and bring cookies (for the crew). Showing up on time is 90% of the gig.

Andy Bowman
Andy Bowman

November 13, 2020

Above all else, HAVE FUN!! If you have any kind of “ear”, my motto is, “If it feels good, it will sound good.”

Al
Al

March 18, 2020

Slight error on my last comment. It was “I’m So Glad” from 1st Cream album I learned the guitar solo, not NSU.

Al
Al

March 18, 2020

I learned how to play from figuring out licks and using a chord chart, playing along with my records. Every day after school, came home and learned and re-learned. Figured out Eric Clapton’s lead on 1st Cream album, song NSU. Beatle records, Rolling Stones, Kinks. That was my school. Played with the great bands. When I met musicians, we shared. Different era, but what a great time. Everyone was learning. It was all new!

Don Siels
Don Siels

March 18, 2020

If you are playing a Stringed Instrument,, Before beginning Practice,, TUNE your instrument (Use a Tuner,,, Please,,) I have seen many “Pro” Musicians that are out of Tune and don’t know it. Your Instrument will be much more enjoyable to play.

kempmusik
kempmusik

March 23, 2020

@!human monkey, the worlds greatest lie is that at some point in our lives, we lose control of where we go and what we do.

Jack Dringoli
Jack Dringoli

May 23, 2019

Very good advice. Thanks

Brett Groh
Brett Groh

May 23, 2019

Thanks for the great article. It serves as a good reminder no matter what your level may be. Something I find useful, motivational and a fun extension of the metronome is practicing to backing tracks (there are thousands on YouTube). You’re forced to play in time, think about phrasing and anticipate chord changes. Thanks again.

Human Monkey
Human Monkey

May 22, 2019

You can only become as good as your inborn ability allows. Being able the accurately critique yourself is invaluable.

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