Here are 15 tips that you should already be incorporating into your career as a professional musician. With everyone making resolutions for the New Year, I prefer to call them reminders. I remind myself of the goals I had, and check in to make sure I am still on track, or adjust them as necessary (or add new ones to replace completed ones). This post is full of knowledge I learned in high school and college that I continue to put to good use on a regular basis. These are pointers you should already be doing, and will be a gentle reminder to keep doing them. If you aren’t already doing them, then you should start, as the most successful musicians on a daily basis practice these.
First things first. Break out that list of goals you made last year. Hopefully it is still somewhere you can see it everyday. It is time to see if you stuck to what you set out to accomplish and see what needs to be adjusted. If you have been doing something each day to get closer to your goals, then there shouldn’t be too much adjusting necessary. If you have been slacking, it is never too late to get back on track. The advice below isn’t numbered because they aren’t in any particular order. They are ALL important!
-Show up on time (early), and be reliable. No one likes a flake. If it is important enough to you, then you will find a way to be there, and be on time (early). You can navigate curve balls or possibly be rewarded with new opportunities if you just show up (early).
-Knowing what to play, more importantly, what NOT to play (when in doubt, leave it out). Serving the song is way more important than serving your ego.
-Don’t be afraid to ask for help, say I don’t know, or even know when to pass on something you may not be qualified for. You will be more respected for recommending someone more suited, rather than performing poorly.
-Having a basic piano proficiency and being able to sing simple harmonies will aid in the process of understanding and manipulating music (it also makes you more likely to be hired, ESPECIALLY being able to sing and play).
-Take care of your instrument AND your body. In some situations, this is one in the same.
-Be prepared means doing your homework (learn the music). It also means bringing the right tools for the job (this counts for instruments and musicianship)
-Practice. A lot. Your musical ability should not be why you didn’t get the gig. You need to make it undeniable that your skill sets are on point.
-DO track your progress. Use a metronome. Use a mirror. Record yourself (audio and video if possible). Then go back and make adjustments as necessary.
-Listen to recordings of your musical heroes. Listen to recordings of your hero’s heroes. Listen to several recordings of the genre/style you have to play. When you’re listening, be sure to listen to all the instruments, not just the ones you play. Keep listening!
-A bad reputation spreads a lot faster than a good one.
-Try not to be the best one in the group. If you are, then its time to surround yourself with better players to help you grow more.
-Deadlines (and fear of failure) can get you to produce results.
-When it sees a C, it sounds its key (this little rule has helped me when having to read and/or transpose charts that may not be written for my instrument).
-Gratitude is the best attitude. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities I have had; and I am not shy about letting the people responsible for helping me get them know that I appreciate them and the good fortunes I have received. I also try to return the favor as often as possible.
-Perform as much as possible with as many groups as possible. You never know how expanding your musical knowledge (styles/genres), as well as your comfort zone can help you in the long run. You also don’t know if someone from one band can recommend you for a totally different band (as long as you did your homework).
This should get your year off to a great start or keep it going if you’re already on track!