Would you like to be a better musician? Don’t know how to improve? Through years of teaching I have discovered similar characteristic study habits in myself and other successful students. Here are the basic concepts that seem to set them above the pack. Follow them and you will become a more valuable asset to your worship team. Share them with the other members of your worship team and raise the level of musicianship of the entire team.
PLAN: You know how you’d like to sound so how are you going to get there? Map out a plan for yourself on how to improve your skill, knowledge and creativity. Plan exactly what you are going to work on each day. Decide how much time you will spend practicing fundamentals, theory, songs, licks, writing, etc. Most players fall short of reaching their playing goals not because they don’t practice but because they don’t practice the right stuff the right way. Find a good teacher or a systematic instruction program (like GuitarCollege.com) that will help you reach your playing goals. Stick with the plan, stay focused and keep on track.
PRACTICE: In order to grow and improve as a musician you must practice on a regular basis or your skills will back slide. Discipline yourself to keep a consistent (key word) schedule of frequent practice sessions. Practice time is when you explore and master new ideas, not play the same things you already know and always play. It’s important to find the right material that will take your playing and knowledge to the next level. It should be well organized, thoroughly explained, demonstrated and played for you (at multiple speeds if possible). Too many players learn bits and pieces of a lot of different things but don’t know how to put all the information together to make it useable in their playing. It is not important for these practice session to be long, just consistent, frequent and productive. To make the most of your practice times read the ten steps to effective practicing below.
PRINCIPLES AND IDEAS: Open yourself up to new musical ideas and concepts. Make the effort to learn and fully understand essential harmony and theory and how it relates to your instrument. Always listen for something new or different than you’re used to, licks, chords, voicings, fingerings, etc. and acquaint yourself with a variety of musical styles like jazz or classical. New ideas keep you in the learning mode, challenge you and fuel your enthusiasm. When you get locked into the same old things over and over you can’t learn or grow and you become bored and frustrated. Music is far from boring and at any level there are so many new and exciting things to experience if you just “Keep an open ear”.
PERFORMANCE: Learn to apply your developing skills out in the real world of music. You can play for your friends and family, at church, rehearsals, jam sessions, gigs, recording, or wherever else you may have the opportunity to play in front of others. The point is “Use it or lose it!” Try to perform weekly if possible, even if it’s just for your family, or if necessary record yourself and play it for friends or co-workers. It makes you accountable for your musical growth and it gives you the motivation to learn something new or improve what you’ve been working on. You can usually find some place to play even if it’s for free. Many libraries, coffee houses, bookstores, music stores, churches, parks, etc. have some sort of an open mic session, showcase or local concert where you can perform. Performing in front of others is where the joy of playing music is at it’s highest level.
MAKE MUSICIAN FRIENDS: Musician friends can be a tremendous asset to improving your playing. You have music in common and you can help and encourage each other. This is another great source of accountability for improvement. Make the first move in making music friends; don’t wait for someone else to approach you. Many musicians seem snobby at first because they are usually insecure about playing. Break the ice, cut through the bull, ignore the attitude, lay aside your own defenses, offer a sincere compliment and try to make a new friend. You both may benefit greatly from your encounter even if it doesn’t turn out to be the music buddy you were looking for. Make as many friends as you can with musicians on both a higher and lower level than yourself. This networking can be a source of future bands, gigs, knowledge, support, accountability and friendship for both of you.
SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE: Not only show others what you know, offer to teach it to them if they ask or are interested. Not just the little things you always play, but your prize licks and tricks that you worked so hard to figure out. Share the secret discoveries you think no one else knows about, the very things that you think set you apart as a player. Clean out the store house and don’t be greedy. If they know what you know you’ll be hungry to learn more to stay ahead of the pack and you’ll need some new “Stuff” to show them next time you meet. Never be stingy with your books, lessons, tapes and knowledge. It will make you feel good to help someone else play a little better and it will inspire you to improve and share more. In turn you’ll meet musicians who are willing to share with you and what you share will be returned to you ten fold. Start a guitar or music club at church. Play a little worship and discuss the nuts and bolts of the music, groove, feel scales, chords, or stretch out of your comfort zone and work on some theory.
PERSEVERE: The most successful musicians are not always the most talented. They’re the ones who keep at it relentlessly. Don’t give up, just remember that at one time your music hero, whomever that might be, played just like you do right now. Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be someone better than you (and worse than you) and who knows more than you. Let them be an inspiration to you, not a stumbling block.
PRAY: Pray that you can play skillfully before the Lord. For all of us this is the most important step of all. We can do all things with God’s help; He is our Strength, our Joy and our Song! Be the best you can be to glorify Him more.
Too many players spend a fortune on instruments and equipment hoping that will improve their playing. What a disappointment! If you’re serious about being a better player find the right material and get to work.