July 13, 2016

What makes a good musician?

One can be a good musician even if one is not a full time professional .  What makes a good musician? If you're a regular reader, you might think that this is where I would say, "practice, practice, practice"! 

But there is so much more to it than that!  You see, musicianship is a journey not a destination – which is cool because it always gives you something to work toward!  In that vein, here are six things that make a musician different from someone who just plays an instrument: 

  1. Persistence and Practice.  One could argue that practice is the working definition of persistence.  But really, persistence involves more including focusing on continuing to grow, finding new music that inspires you, and pursuing places to play that fit your goals and still let you grow.
  2. Knowledge and Learning.  There is so much to learn to be a better musician and real musicians are always learning.  Whether it is gaining new tunes, mastering a new technique (coupled hands anyone? solid harmonics? you get the idea), or studying music theory, gaining knowledge can only result in stronger playing.
  3. Community.  Even soloists are part of a community!  We have communities of harp players as well as the greater communities of musicians (orchestra, sessions, workshop participants, etc.) and the environments in which we play – those communities help us grow and provide milieux in which development can be nurtured.  Communities give us a base for our other developments.
  4. Listening.  Just as we make sounds, we listen to sounds (music) from others (and ourselves).  And as we listen, we learn more about music, what we think of it, what we like (and don’t like) and other perspectives on the music we make – you cannot listen to music enough!
  5. Be willing to take (and use) critique.  Whether it is family members, audiences, or judges, gaining feedback, analyzing those inputs and using that information is a sure way to become a better musician.
  6. Enjoy the challenges you set for yourself – related to all of these is setting challenges for ourselves and enjoying stepping up to them.  These challenges don’t have to be big – they just have to be yours (and they do have to be challenging!) so that we can learn and enjoy them.

So, the next time you think you’re not a musician, check to be sure your wrong!  And just keep being you while you continue to develop into a good musician.

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