You Need These Things to Become a Good Musician

So, you have started playing an instrument or studying voice, and you have decided that you want to be a good musician. What does it take to become a good musician? Do you have what it takes to get there, and do you have what you need? You need these things to become a good musician. Keep reading, and I will tell you seven essential things you need to become a good musician. (And one thing you don’t need!)

You Need a Decent Instrument

A decent instrument is a requirement for becoming a good musician. Now, I DO NOT advocate spending thousands of dollars on an instrument for a beginner or young player, but still, you need a decent instrument. What qualifies as a good instrument?

  • Your instrument must be in good working order – keys, pads, valves, triggers, slides, etc.
  • You need an instrument that can play in tune with itself, and that can be tuned.
  • Your instrument should be the right size for you (primarily for string instruments).

You Need a Reliable Music Stand

Unless you are a keyboard player, you need a reliable music stand. Why a music stand? You need somewhere to place your music to easily see and read that music while at the same time maintaining good posture. Putting your music on your bed and then turning sideways and bending over to read that music will not help you become a good musician!

A sturdy and adjustable music stand will help you position your music where you can easily read it and maintain a good playing position and posture. Nothing is more frustrating than having your music always falling off your stand! Here are a couple of tips to prevent that from happening:

  • Use clothespins (or long plastic clips) to clip your music to your stand
  • Place your music (or copies of it) in clear plastic sheet protectors and put them in a notebook.

You Need Light to See your Music

Good lighting is essential for many tasks, and practicing your music is no exception! Practice with plenty of good lighting to easily see and read the music on the page. And if you can see your music well, you can maintain a better posture for playing and breathing. Good lighting will also help you avoid mistakes in playing.

You Need a Good Instructor

I know you can find many “How to Play…” videos on YouTube today. And while those might get you started on an instrument or give you some ideas about playing, those videos can never take the place of a personal instructor! A video does not provide feedback about fingering, embouchure, articulation, tone production, posture, musicianship, etc. Even virtual lessons are better than video instruction! While in-person instruction is best, virtual lessons can be effective as well. (See here for information about the virtual lessons I offer.)

A good instructor will work with you to correct mistakes, be sure you understand technique and fingering, and perfect your posture. Your teacher should also work with you on musicianship and tone quality. And, perhaps most importantly, a quality instructor will teach you how to practice effectively!

See HERE for info on finding a good music teacher

You Need Music

It seems obvious that you need music to learn to play, right? Of course, you need music! And yes, you can go to the internet and print out all kinds of music. But you need music chosen to lead you through what you need to learn to progress to better musicianship. Your music should start where you are and gradually introduce you to new concepts and techniques as you learn and build your skills and abilities. Your music should be both enjoyable and challenging. If you only play easy music, you will never get better. If you choose “hard” music as a challenge, you may not have the skills necessary to learn that music. So, your instructor should lead you to and through music to help you grow your abilities.

You Need Dedication

Becoming a good musician does not happen overnight. Or even over a month or a year! If you want to be a good musician, you need to dedicate yourself to working on your music for a long time. Like, years! Just like anything else, becoming a good musician takes a long time. Think about your favorite athlete. When did that person start working on their sport? Consider all the after-school practices that athletes endured. How many sports camps or sports lessons did he attend? A musician is no different. It takes a long time to develop all the necessary skills and techniques to be a good musician. Please don’t give up on your music because it takes a long time!

You Need to Practice

Learning music does not just happen; you must practice! Anything worth doing takes practice to develop your skills! And don’t miss this: Practice is more than just playing things over again. Practicing means finding problems and working them out until they are no longer problems. Practicing also means looking for ways to play a piece or a passage better, make it sound better, and make it more beautiful. Never forget this – practice requires listening! If you don’t hear a problem, how will you correct it?

For more ideas about practicing, read this post.

And this post.

You need all these things to become a good musician. But, here is one thing you don’t need!

You DO NOT Need Natural Talent

Get this straight: Natural talent is the least important thing in becoming a good musician! Sure, you may not become the world’s best or most famous musician, but if you work hard, practice diligently, and keep at it, you can be a good musician. Hard work, practice time, effort, diligence, and even more practice time are the essential ingredients for becoming a good musician. Think about those amazing musicians you have heard perform. Most of what you hear is because of hard work and diligent practice! You can do that!

Now that you know you need these things to become a good musician, what will you do about it? Go forth and practice! Put in some diligent practice time and effort on your instrument. Work at the skills that will make you a better musician. Always look for progress, and always strive to get better! You can do this!

Let me know in the comment section what music you are currently working on. I’d love to hear from you.

Looking for more info on music lessons? Check these out:

What to Expect from your first Music Lesson with a new Teacher

Music Lesson Survival Guide

Beginning Music Lessons – A Parent’s Survival Guide

Has your child just started beginning music lessons? Let me guess – you were all excited for your child to start music lessons. Your child was excited, the instrument was great, the music books were captivating…and then your child came home to practice. And the sound is driving you crazy! This wasn’t what you signed up for! How can that lovely instrument produce these horrible sounds? Or maybe you are wondering how your child can play so many wrong notes! Perhaps the incorrect rhythm is grating on your nerves! Relax. Give them time. Your child will improve.

But in the meantime, here are a few ideas to help you handle the sounds of beginning music lessons.

        Positive Attitude/Smile

        Patience

        Perseverance

        And Perhaps, Ear Plugs

Have a positive attitude!

Smile! Your child will get better with practice, I promise! He will learn to produce a better sound. She will learn to play in tune with herself. He will start to count the rhythm correctly. She will play more right notes than wrong ones.

How you can help:

Encourage your child to keep practicing. Praise any progress he makes. Don’t complain about the awful sound, or the wrong notes. Don’t tell all the relatives about your child’s problems with his instrument. Smile and make them continue to practice. Take your child to concerts and recitals to inspire him. Let her talk to more advanced musicians who can encourage her to keep practicing. Smile!

Be patient! And realistic.

Most students will not be playing at an advanced level after their first few beginning music lessons. Give them time to learn! Just like any other skill set, music takes time and effort to learn and do well. Give them time! Some day they will be able to practice on their own. Sooner or later they will remember to take all their music with them to their lessons. But until that time they will need some help from you.

How you can help:

Smile! Encourage them to keep practicing. Make a recording of your child after the first couple weeks of practice, and then again after a few months. Play the recordings to them so they (and you) can see how they have improved. Make this a regular practice. Celebrate milestones – finishing a book, learning all the fingerings, getting a great sound, the first concert or recital, etc. Sit with them while they practice. Establish a practice routine. Help them keep all their music and supplies organized and together.

Persevere!

Don’t let quitting be an option! (Or at least not for the first year). Especially, don’t have them quit because you don’t want to listen to them practice! You will soon get beyond the sound of beginning music lessons. Things will get better! Practice will not always be their top priority. There will be times you will have to “force” your child to practice. But that’s ok. You “force” them to do their homework, to brush their teeth, just add music practice to the list.

How you can help: 

Smile! And insist that they practice. Don’t let them argue about it with you. Just make it part of the daily routine. Set reasonable goals and give rewards when those goals are met. (Work with your child’s teacher for some mutual goals.)

Perhaps Ear Plugs!

Let’s be real here – it is not always pleasant or enjoyable to listen to students practice, especially beginners! You may think the poor tone quality is going to drive you crazy. Or the mistakes. Or the intonation issues. So, put in some ear plugs to keep you from constantly commenting on (criticizing?) their playing. Or go for a walk! (providing your child is old enough to be home alone, or that someone else is home with him!) I have done that! When I couldn’t stand the mistakes, and couldn’t constantly correct my child about the same mistakes, I just walked out the door and around a couple blocks – figuring that by the time I got home my child would be finished practicing and I wouldn’t be tempted to say something I would later regret!

How you can help:

Realize that beginners will occasionally screech, squawk, blast, etc. They will play wrong notes. They are still learning! If it bothers you, take a break. Put in ear plugs, go for a walk. But don’t criticize and discourage them!

I remember trying not to listen to carefully to my beginning string players when they practiced because too often the intonation issues would be almost too much to handle. But they improved! Now I miss listening to them practice.

When one of my sons was first learning to play French horn his tone quality was awful! The sound was something like a sick elephant sneezing. I was afraid we had totally chosen the wrong instrument for him! And then he got it figured out. I am so glad we let him keep going with his horn. I loved listening to him play!

And then there were the times when my kids were practicing piano and continually making the same mistakes. I could only correct them so many times before we both went crazy. So, I shut my mouth, put on my shoes, and took a walk until they were finished practicing. They had to learn to recognize and correct their own mistakes!

Your child will improve; give him time! Don’t give up on them – give them time to figure this new instrument out! You will be happy you did.

Still trying to figure out what instrument your child should play? Read this post for some help – Which Musical Instrument Should my Child Play?

Which Musical Instrument Should my Child Play?

It’s the beginning of the school year, the band and orchestra teachers are pushing for students to join their groups, and your child comes home from school asking to join the band. Or the orchestra. Or maybe all your child’s friends are starting instruments and your child doesn’t want to be left out of the fun. So, which musical instrument should he play? Here are five things that will help you with that decision.

Which musical instrument does he/she want to play?

Always start there! If your child shows an interest in a particular instrument, there is a better chance of her sticking with it. Ask questions. Why that instrument? Who else is playing that instrument? What do you like about it? Get your child’s opinion! You can offer some guidance, or limits, but let your child have a say in the matter.

How old is your child?

What difference does that make? Does it really matter? For some instruments, yes. Band instruments require a certain amount of muscle development around the mouth in order to produce a good sound. (Did you know that there were muscles all around your lips?) Is your child old enough for the responsibilities that go with playing an instrument? Like putting it together? Cleaning it? Not dropping it or sitting on it? And doing all this without you watching over him like a hawk? (Just a suggestion – Check to see if your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will cover damage and repairs to instruments!)

What physical limitations will affect your child’s ability to play his instrument of choice?

Does your child have the physical strength and stamina to hold the instrument properly? String instruments come in different sizes for younger children; band instruments do not! (for the most part) Will your child’s arms and fingers be able to reach the keys on his chosen instrument? Can your small child reach far enough to get the trombone slide to 6th or 7th position? Sometimes compromises work – Encourage your child to start on a similar instrument and then switch to the desired instrument when they are older/stronger/bigger.

Example: Your child wants to play trombone but can’t reach to the far positions. Start with a baritone (bass clef). Note reading will be the same as it will for trombone. Sound production is very similar. Then, when his arms are longer, a switch to trombone will not be difficult at all. Same idea with tuba (baritone), bass clarinet (clarinet), baritone saxophone (tenor sax), etc. Ask the music teacher at school for compromise suggestions.

Which musical instrument does the group need? (Or, does the school band really need 27 trumpets?)

If 20 kids sign up to learn violin, and only 2 want to play viola, which instrument has the potential for greater (faster) advancement? The competition is almost always less in the viola section! Same idea for flute and oboe. For every 15-20 kids who want to play the flute, there is probably only 1 or 2 asking to play the oboe. Again, talk to the music director at school for more suggestions. Maybe he/she has some incentive to offer for kids willing to play the less popular instruments!

What if your child really wants to play an instrument but isn’t ready for the traditional band or orchestra program at school?

In this case, you have a couple options. One would be to start your child on his instrument privately, with a teacher outside the school. Usually this is primarily an option for string instruments. If you (parent) are willing to invest the time (and it will take a lot of your time) and resources, children as young as 3 or 4 can successfully start on violin.

The other option is to have your child start with piano (keyboard) lessons. Again, children often start piano lessons at early ages with great success. Those children who do start music lessons on piano have a great advantage when it comes to starting other instruments later in school. They already know how to read notes and rhythms so they can concentrate more on learning good tone production, fingerings, etc.

You might also like to read our blog about whether or not your child should take music lessons. Check it out here.

So, what instrument will your child be learning this fall? Let me know in the comments!

And check back next week for our Beginner Music Lesson Survival Guide for Parents!

5 Questions to help your child decide which musical instrument to play.