With this article, we're introducing a brand new feature on the Metro Music Makers blog called Student Corner. Articles with this label are written for your student! Print it out or read it together and you'll both learn something new. We hope you'll enjoy our first ever Student Corner article from our teacher, Matthew Talley!
Most teachers say, “ Just practice and you will be there in no time”. But is that really all you have to do? The best musicians do practice on a daily basis, but they also do a lot of other things that make them successful. Here’s a list of five things that great musicians do that you can do to be better musician, too!
1.) Go to live performances
Live performances are so much fun, and seeing musicians in person gives you a thrill you’ll never get from television or YouTube. It never ceases to amaze me how rarely even my own students take the short trip to enjoy an evening at the Atlanta Symphony, Cobb Energy Center, Fox Theatre or Alliance Theatre, just to name a few. But, what performances should you go see? Well, 9 times out of 10 your teacher knows a lot about what’s going on in town! Ask your teacher what you should see, and you’ll get lots of great ideas. Then all you have to do is get off that couch, (ask your parents for a ride, if you’re not driving yet), get dressed up and head out for a fun night at your local theatre or concert venue.
2.) Record yourself.
You may think you know exactly what you sound like when you sing or play your instrument. After all, you hear yourself every time you practice, right? Guess again! You sound completely different to someone who is listening to you play or sing in an audience. There’s only way to really gage if that high note sounds as great as it feels when you’re singing, or if that piece you’ve been working on sounds as good as you think it does...record yourself on video and/or audio and play it back to hear what you really sound like to other people. Then you can really pat yourself on the back if it sounds great, and you’ll know what to work on if it doesn’t sound as perfect as you thought.
3.) Give yourself a break.
Musicians get told what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong all day, every day for their entire career. The last thing you need is to tell yourself that you aren't good
enough or you will never get it. Don’t be too hard on yourself! It’s important to know what you’re doing well and what you still need to work on, but think positively while you do it. Find something you’re doing really well that you couldn’t do a week, a month or a year ago. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come, then find the things that you still need to work on. Next week, next month or next year, you’ll be feeling proud of those things, too!
4.) Practice smart!
I’m not the first person to say this, but I think it’s so important that I’ll say it again: Practicing for the sake of just saying you practiced is not such a great idea. Have a plan for practicing! Set realistic goals and make time for breaks. Do not, for example, go around the house (or your friends’ houses) belting out your brand new high C thirty seven times because it’s cool and you want everyone to hear it and be really impressed with you. It may sound cool now, but your voice will pay you back later! Make sure you’re really working on improving something when you practice, not just repeating what you already know so you can say you practiced. Maybe your goal is to learn one particular trouble spot in your music, or play a scale you’re working on just a little bit faster. Set a goal for yourself before you begin your practice so you know you’re going somewhere instead of just spinning your wheels.
5.) Make good connections with teachers, conductors and other musicians.
This next part is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for musicians. EVERYONE you meet could be a future coworker, employer or reference. Even if you’re very young and you aren’t really thinking about work yet, the way you behave and the way you treat people now can have an effect on you later when you do want a job. It’s a great habit to get into now! People often decide whether they should hire you based on the what they’ve heard about you from others, how they’ve seen you behave in the past (even when you’re just hanging out with friends), and how you acted when they worked with you. Trust me, people remember behavior and it is far better for you to be a kind, friendly and open person in the world of music. Remember people’s names when you meet them, follow through on your commitments and whatever you do, never show your teachers, fellow performers or conductors a bad attitude. Be cooperative, positive and always give your best.
No matter what your age or level, these five steps can make a big difference in what you know and how you perform. Of course, these aren’t the only things you can do to improve, but they’re a great start that will make a big difference. Happy music making, all!