Whether you’re a beginner or a professional musician, the accumulation of knowledge and skill never really ends. There is always room for improvement and it’s important to not get stuck in the same place for too long. Making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process, that’s what pushes you to take a step forward. However, there is also a chance of repeating the same mistakes over and over again – that’s when you should evaluate the situation, pinpoint what’s wrong and enhance your skills. The following tips will help you become a better musician.

1. Set Concrete Goals

Setting goals is a crucial step in getting from where you are to where you picture yourself being. Choose one large goal and break it down into small parts. Make sure each small goal is clear and achievable. Include some type of time frame and don’t go big from the get-go – regular short-term activities are easier to digest and stick to.

For example, playing an instrument every day for an hour or mixing one song in a week can be short-term goals you set to reach the bigger long-term goal to put on a full performance or write an album. Accomplishing small goals brings a greater sense of achievement along with a productive attitude, inspiring us to move forward and gradually develop.

2. Practice with Purpose

Just playing doesn’t cut it. If you want to progress, you need to practice for a reason. Don’t go for something too broad either, pick specific objectives. For instance, you may target the development of technical skills – learn physical movement patterns required for your instrument of choice, and aim to get to the level where you can freely use these patterns in performance situations.

Another example is practicing to address specific problems. You may know a music piece by heart and play it front to back numerous times but still have some trouble spots. Determine what is challenging for you, figure out why and what you can do about it. This is a very valuable type of practice as it trains you to be patient, encourages you to use your mind for problem-solving, and as a result, greatly speeds up your growth.

3. Narrow Your Focus

Concentration is a major factor in your progress as a musician. When you’re learning and practicing, pull focus to what matters most – this way you will spend less time and gain more knowledge and skill. The amount of required concentration depends on the task at hand.

If you’re working on new technical skills, your main focus is doing the exercises properly so that you don’t pick up bad playing habits which won’t only set you back but may very well lead to physical injuries. Anyhow, learning something from the get-go is easier than unlearning incorrect techniques and starting anew.

If you’re practicing to problem-solve, the only things you should pay attention to are what you want to sound like and what you sound like at the moment. Think of ways to make the two match and work on bringing yourself close to the goal, nothing else matters.

If you’re preparing for a performance, the major objective is continuity. Keep a strong picture of the musical piece in your mind and where you are in it. Make sure you stay in key and time, concentrate on playing the piece from beginning to end without any pauses or hesitation.

If you’re honing your existing skills, like perfecting particular exercises you’ve done many times in the past, the level of concentration you need is lower than for the above tasks. Improving techniques you already know is way less demanding than learning brand new techniques.

4. Record and Play Back

Recording your practices is a great way to evaluate yourself and enhance your skills. If possible, record not only in audio format but also make videos from different angles. This will help you pinpoint the specifics you need to work on.

It’s better to record the practicing of music pieces you’ve already played several times beforehand. The very first tries are nearly never any good, so save recording for your problem-solving practices.

5. Seek Advice And Constructive Criticism

Practicing in vacuum delays our musical development. It’s hard to be objective regarding our own sound, techniques and skills, even if we try to be as critical as possible. If we can’t look at ourselves from the outside, we don’t improve as much and as fast as we actually could. This is why getting feedback from others is essential.

Ask your music teacher, bandmates or skilled musicians you know to be your critic. Prepare to the possibility of hearing some harsh words about your musicianship and try your best to not get your feelings hurt by them. It’s always better to learn about your mistakes than living in an illusion. Feedback is one of the most valuable tools for improvement and growth, treat it as such.

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In addition to the above, it’s also beneficial to get out of your comfort zone as much as possible, challenge yourself, listen to a variety of different music genres, take music lessons and watch online tutorials – if you do at least some of these on a regular basis, you will continuously progress as a musician.

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