Getting better at something doesn’t always require adding skills or knowledge.
-Become a better listener by talking less.
-Make better decisions by waiting and restricting impulses. (My favorite rule of negotiating is to say “let me think about it and get back to you”, instead of agreeing to anything while under pressure.)
You can become a better musician by changing how you spend your time and energy, instead of practicing more hours.
In this post, I address what I think is the single most important thing you can do to improve your musicianship, and it doesn’t involve adding any new skills or knowledge.
So what is the easiest thing you can do to improve your musicianship?
Socrates said, “Know thyself.” The easiest way for you to improve is in three steps:
- Record yourself (practicing, rehearsing, and/or performing_)
- Listen back (whenever you have free time- in the car, during meals, before bed, etc)
- Make notes about things you don’t like (especially unforced errors), and then stop doing those things
How it Works
During the moment you’re playing, you may not have a clue what you actually sound like. When you listen back, you perceive something closer to what you actually sound like. You want to be able to hear how you really sound, not how you think you sound in the moment you’re playing.
When you hear things you don’t like in your recordings, make a note to refrain from those bad habits in the future.
-If you hear yourself using the same lick over and over again, make a note to limit your use of that lick.
-If you always play flat in third position, make a note of it.
-Notice your rhythm. Do you rush or drag? Notice it first and then stop doing it.
By becoming aware of unconscious habits and actively rooting them out, you’ll improve, and as you continue to listen to recordings, you will see evidence of that progress.
Healthy living starts with kicking bad habits. The same is true for musicians. Identify and stop bad habits and you’ll become twice the musician you are today.
You can “keep score” of many aspects of your playing, from timing, tone, phrasing, et al… One way to expedite this process is by using looping technology like in this video.
If you begin to regularly listen to recordings of yourself, I guarantee you will quickly start to see measurable improvement in your playing.
Of course, if you’re really interested in accelerating your musical growth, there’s no substituting the level of support and accountability you can get from a private teacher.
Right now you can take a free private lesson with me when you sign up for a one month trial of my premium home study course. One lesson can do a lot in terms of helping you focus and getting you on a straighter path to your goals.
Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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