Hit the right chords: 7 ways to improve music skills
Depending on the instrument and the commitment, music teachers typically state that it can take up to 10 years to master an instrument after practicing for 1-3 hours daily. You can’t become a professional musician overnight. You need dedication, passion, and time to develop your musical talents.
However, around 85% of beginners claim they quit after two years because they got impatient and wanted to see results or didn’t have the time and energy needed to become a good musician.
Undoubtedly, you must put in immense hard work to improve your musical skills – it’s not just about being creative and talented. So, if you want to dive into music or pick up an old instrument again, here are some tips to help you hear results.
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Master basic music theory
Learning the basics of music theory builds your commitment to the art. As a beginner, you can learn about different elements that create music, like key signatures, chords, or scales. Understanding their patterns and qualities can help determine how well they blend to create a melody.
Music theory teaches you rhythm and rhyme that you can utilize to develop personal symphonies.
Though you can learn this yourself, you can also consider getting musical education. If you are a passionate music lover and can see yourself as a successful music artist in this industry, you can consider getting a degree in music, which was America’s 43rd most popular degree in 2021.
Moreover, music degrees offer many opportunities to expand into fields like business and education by becoming a brand developer or a professor. But besides professional development, pursuing a music degree gives you significant musical exposure.
Some institutions like Peru State College have bands and choirs you can join that go on annual tours to local high schools. You can get valuable stage experience and benefit from private lessons this college offers for instruments such as piano, brass, and even vocal lessons.
Learning the placement of chords is the easy part. But practicing them repeatedly until they become part of your muscle memory is tricky. You may understand the basic chord positions on a guitar.
However, until you practice playing them thoroughly, you won’t be able to switch between them effortlessly. The same goes for every other instrument.
How can you focus on the music if you’re constantly worrying about where the chords are? If you’re a beginner, you should practice daily to ensure you don’t forget whatever you learn.
Visualization is a tool for learning music, according to a 2021 study by the Psychology of Music. It highlights that mental practice improves musicians’ memory retention, enhancing their performance. This technique is basically imagining you’re doing a task repeatedly.
You vividly think about your experience and feelings while playing an instrument and trick your nervous system into believing you’re actually doing it. You can combine mental and physical practice if you struggle to remember chords, patterns, or rhythms.
This technique ensures that you recall and practice even when you can’t hear the instrument’s sound, which can help you memorize every key.
Good music sounds good, and you should listen to it before performing for anyone else. You may not notice stray notes or missing chords while playing in a flow. However, recording yourself and then playing it back can help you hear any mistakes. Remember not to judge yourself harshly but instead evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.
Try to stay objective and play pieces that you have practiced with before. Avoid recording songs you’ve just learned and don’t have much command over because they may rarely be good.
It would also be best to make a video recording instead of only audio to see your hand placements and identify any room for improvement regarding your form. These recordings can be great for looking back to see how far you’ve come, so document your music journey as much as possible.
Practicing without an aim will get you nowhere. You should know what you want to work towards it. According to a study, people who set attainable goals, regularly monitor their progress, and write them down are 75% more likely to succeed. So first, establish what you want to work on. Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you want to practice a new song or learn different chords?
Are you preparing for a performance?
Do you want to hone your existing skills?
Are you improving your technical skills?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
How long should this take you?
By deciding what you want to do, you can focus on that area without wasting time and effort on other things. However, remember to keep your goals realistic to prevent overburdening yourself. You can also create a timeline and ask your peers to periodically check in to ensure you stick with it.
Do jam sessions
The best way to improve your skills is by practicing and jamming with other people. Try to forget about doing everything perfectly and have fun. You learn techniques you could not have learned alone, like improvisation, timing, and ad-libs.
By practicing with other musicians, you learn to synchronize and play in a team, which is much more complicated than playing alone. Jamming is simple and not something you overthink.
The more spontaneous, the better! This method allows you to play from your heart alongside other talented musicians. Besides teaching you new skills, it also exposes you to different genres of music.
The critical element of music is passion; if you’re not having fun, dedicating yourself to it can be challenging. When you enjoy a task, you are more motivated and eager to do it because you’re happy.
A study by Oxford University investigated the link between these two factors and found that workers who enjoyed a task were 13% more productive. So if you’re struggling with a tune you can’t grasp, switch to your favorite music for a while and remember why you enjoy music.
Music is an art that you can’t force or rush. It comes from your heart and grows with your passion. As a beginner, do not expect overnight results. Instead, expect results once you genuinely start enjoying it.
Your musical journey needs a mix of passion and continuous learning so you can reach your goals. Remember that while these tips can help you make fewer errors, actual progress comes from dedication.