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5 New Years Resolutions For Musicians, To Help Eliminate Bad Habits

As Christmas is very near, it is the time where some musicians take a break from making music to spend more time with family and friends. After that little break and as we go into the new year, it is a great time to make some musical resolutions.


Mark Xmas Euphonium


In this blog post, I am going to suggest 5 resolutions for musicians to try, that will hopefully help eliminate some bad habits.



Always Practice Only Good Habits


It would be easy to just set the goal of doing more practice. That would be brilliant but it isn't all about the time you put in. Time alone will not eliminate bad habits.


As a student, I once told a very well known brass player that I practiced for six hours a day. Their reply to that was, "Why are you not a much better player?" A bit brutal but completely true. I did practice a lot, but I did not get a great deal better.


As I have now found out, the key to improvement is practicing good habits. You get good at what you practice, so if you do something wrong, you will just get better at doing it wrong.


  • Maybe you practice at the same mezzo forte dynamic all the time. You will get better at only playing one dynamic.


  • Maybe you do not warm up correctly or fully before starting and consistently get good at tiring yourself out as a result.


No practice at all, could sometimes be better than teaching yourself badly so always practice only good habits. Set this as one of your resolutions.



Stop Cutting Corners


What are all the things you want to achieve as a musician?


It might be performance based or technique based. Maybe you want to be able to play faster or have better stamina or a better range. Wanting these things will not help you get them. You have to assert yourself in your practice and keep chipping away at the things you need to achieve.


Put your phone away. Get a metronome that isn't on your phone. It is very easy to get distracted during practice. Plan your daily practice out in advance, write down how long you will practice in each session and what you will cover. This regular structured practice, mixed with the right practice is guaranteed to be successful.


Never be under prepared for a concert, no matter how easy the music is that you are performing. Sometimes getting a gig is all you care about but remember, how you perform will be the difference between getting asked back or not.


No matter how trivial, make this your resolution, put the time in and you will get noticed more.



Start Practicing for Performance


I always break my practice into two big chunks, see the table below. Make sure you know which type of practice you are doing and if you are preparing for a performance, always do performance practice.


Most musicians are good at doing technical practice but not so good at performance practice, which is more about positive thinking than anything else. Some unfortunately are good at doing mindless practice where you just play without any goal or plan. It can be tricky because fundamentally, performance practice is teaching you to ignore mistakes or slips during a performance.


Technical practice is the time to fix the issues, so you can perform perfectly. In a performance, if you make a mistake, you have to just move on, you cannot change it and the chances are, it will not distract from the performance anyway. If that one slip causes a lot more slips then that is a big problem.


PERFORMANCE PRACTICE

TECHNICAL PRACTICE

Imagine the audience

Stop and start when needed

Do not stop, run your performance from start to end and ignore any slips

Use a metronome and tuner, practice slowly

Record your run through

Repeat parts over and over

Evaluate after and fix issues in your technical practice

Fix any issues from your performance practice

Practice the mindset you will have on stage

Work on specific areas of technique

Believe that the audience will love your performance, imagine being congratulated

Alter the music to make it more challenging eg faster tempo

Try dressing in concert dress during practice

Run through and repeat small chunks of the music


As a musician it is essential that you get rid of bad habits, practicing more for performance as a musician would make a brilliant resolution.



Be More Proactive


Gone are the days (if they even ever existed) where you can just sit and wait for the phone to ring or an email to arrive offering you a paid musical opportunity.


I always think of the phrase, "If you don't ask, you won't get" and just accept that it is up to me to be proactive to find new opportunities.


If I send ten emails asking about opportunities to perform or teach, I might not get a reply, but if I send twenty emails, the chance of a reply goes up.


Offer to volunteer or do something for free because people are much more likely to say yes. Then use that opportunity to grow. I have done some free things in the past and then been asked by someone to do something else where I got paid. You have to hustle as a musician.


If you get the chance to perform but are not getting paid, ask if someone can record your performance. Then use the recording on your YouTube channel.


Write down exactly what you want to achieve, then go after it. This is the only way.



Stop Comparing Yourself to Others


This one is basically for me but I know many musicians do this as well. Over recent years I have made improvements towards not comparing myself to others but I still find it hard. You have to be strong minded and can get caught out when you do not expect it.


We often raise up people we respect or even our musical idols to a point where they are like Gods. If you meet them however, they are just normal people.


Everything that is achieved by one person can be achieved by anyone.


Some people, even though it is an important topic, get all fixated on equality and suggest that certain groups of people do not have the opportunities that others get, they give up without even trying and blame the government or their environment.


Yes okay, in some parts of the world it is true but if you think locally to you, everyone has the same or very similar opportunities. The difference is in how much they really want to work to achieve their dreams. Be inspired by your competition and always wish them the best.


Sadly, many people have no dreams at all, but moan all day about having no opportunities.


Every day I try and think about this quote that I once read, I cannot remember where it was from:


"When you are you and I am me, the world works. When you try to be me or I try to be you, problems will happen."



Work harder in the New Year to pursue your own dreams, take all competition out of the equation. I know I will be doing this. Please feel free to write in the comments what your dreams are for the year ahead.


Good Luck!


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Mark Glover

18/12/23

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