If you want to know how to be a great musician, adopting these 5 musical habits should certainly help…

If you’re reading this blog, then you almost certainly have some interest in how to become a great musician. At the very least, you probably have a desire to become a better musician.

For some, there may be a nagging thought that you don’t have as much ‘talent’ as those who are great. Well, the truth is that whilst some might have a greater aptitude for music than others, becoming a great musician is largely due to hard work.

If you look at the musical geniuses of our time, a cursory perusal of their musical past nearly always reveals that they spent huge amounts of time practising and honing their sound. So, if you want to be great, practice is key. However, all practice is not created equal. If you want to succeed, you have to practise smarter.

If you want to learn how to be a great musician, here are 5 small habits that can really make a difference…

How to be a great musician - Roland HPi-7F

Practise in a suitable environment

This is a detail that often gets overlooked, but the environment that you practice in makes a massive difference. How many guitarists have thought ‘I’ll practise in the living room’, and ended up doodling around and watching TV. So, firstly, find somewhere with minimum distractions.

It doesn’t have to be a dedicated room, just somewhere comfortable where you can practise without having to spend hours setting up your gear, and can get going at a moment’s notice – convenience is the mother of invention, as the phrase goes.

Also, if there are other accessories to ensure that you are playing in a correct position, such as stools or footstools, these can be very valuable. Whether you’re a drummer or a piano player, you’ll spend a lot of time sat at your instrument – make sure it’s on something comfortable…

How to be a great musician - get a routine

Get a routine

In many ways, it is better to have 30-40 minutes of constructive practise every day than hours of less focused practice with no routine. Having a regular slot in which you always practise provides a great framework to structure your progress. If your time is packed, schedule particular times in which to work.

How to be a great musician - Give yourself a goal

Give yourself a goal

The biggest mistake during practice is having no goals. Every practice should have at least one goal; otherwise it’s just aimless playing (which is always fun, but when learning how to be a great musician, doesn’t contribute very much).

Make sure the goals are realistically attainable. Aiming to learn how to play your favourite shredder guitarist’s latest album, cover to cover in one session is going to be more than most players could cope with. Picking a particular section of a piece you’re aiming to play, and aiming to play it several times with no mistakes, however, is far more achievable, and the basis of productive practise time.

When you move from one section to the next, it’s worth tagging the last bars of the last section practised onto first of the current section. This way, when it comes to playing the whole piece, the changeovers between segments practiced individually should be seamless.

Whatever you do, plan what you will fill your time with.

How to be a great musician - metronome

Don’t be scared to practise slowly

Often, there is a temptation to try to play pieces at true tempo straight away. Aside from being a rather larger task, not succeeding is a real de-motivator. Slow it down, however, and things can be played far more easily. Once you are confident, you can speed things up. When used in conjunction with practising sections of a piece, you have an effective formula for getting a piece of music nailed in a constructive manner.

How to be a Great Musician - Review your practice

Review your practice

One of the most useful things you can do whilst practising is recording the session. Nowadays, just about everyone has a recording device, in the form of a mobile phone. These can record an audio track that is, well, reasonable (if I’m being kind) for reviewing your technique.

Currently, there is a huge range of portable digital recorders available, which are perfect for this purpose (and will even do a great job of recording your gigs, or anything else). Pocket sized, with built-in stereo condenser microphones, the quality of audio is staggering, meaning that you can hear your practice, warts and all.

So there we have it. If you want to know how to become a great musician, the key is not ‘practise, practise, practise’ so much as ‘practise smart, practise smart, practise smart…’

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