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.
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?
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