The New Year traditionally provides an opportunity to reflect on the past, and resolve to make changes for a better future. Every year, people make New Year’s resolutions which typically consist of eating better or exercising more. Often, these well-meaning resolutions are quickly forgotten, but sometimes they turn into brand new habits. For musicians, the New Year provides a great opportunity to adjust their behavior and make some changes that can take their skills to the next level. If you’re a musician, and you want to take advantage of the opportunity the new year provides you to become an even better musician, here are a few suggestions for New Year’s resolutions.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The first, most important, and most obvious New Year’s resolution for musicians is to “practice more.” It’s true, that most musicians would benefit from more practice, but setting a vague, unquantifiable resolution is a good way to ensure that you forget it or lapse. If you’re determined to practice more, make your resolution specific. The more specific you make it, the easier it’ll be to hold yourself to it. Instead of saying “I’ll practice at least four times a week,” say “I will practice for 30 minutes on Sunday through Thursday.” Take stock of your family, school, and work obligations and really plan your practices around them. If something comes up that causes you to miss a day, don’t become discouraged and abandon your resolution. Things happen, so plan a contingency. Once your new practice schedule becomes more of a habit than a resolution, your musical and instrumental abilities will certainly improve.
Take Better Care of Your Instrument
Many musicians will admit that they could probably be taking better care of their instrument. Whether you’re a guitar player or a trombonist, maintenance is an important part of playing an instrument. If you’re looking to use your New Year’s resolution to become a better musician, but already practice regularly, consider resolving to take better care of your instrument. Depending on which instrument you play, there are many ways this can be accomplished. One way that’s applicable to all musicians is to set a cleaning schedule and stick to it. Don’t wait until so much debris has built up in your trombone that it affects your sound before cleaning. One advantage to this resolution is that, depending on your instrument, it isn’t terribly time-consuming but offers a great deal of benefits.
Saving money is a pretty good resolution for everyone, but for musicians it’s especially important. Repairs and occasional maintenance can be costly, so why not reduce the financial impact of owning an instrument by proactively saving for such occasions? Put a little aside each month in a piggy bank or savings account so that when something does come up you’re prepared. One advantage to this is, if nothing significant comes up, over time you’ll save enough money for a new instrument, an upgrade, or a few sessions in the recording studio!
Look for More Opportunities to Play
If you practice often and properly take care of your instruments already, one great resolution to consider for this year is searching for more opportunities to play. If you work on getting more gigs, you’ll get more exposure and make more money. Additionally, playing music for other people can inject new passion and enthusiasm into your life. If you’ve been learning and playing for years, without taking advantage of opportunities to perform for other people, you may start to feel dissatisfied or unfulfilled. Playing more gigs will also enable you to meet other musicians and people who are interested in the kind of music that you play. You’ll have the opportunity to make new friends and connections which can lead to even more musical opportunities down the line. No matter what instrument you play, there are performance opportunities out there for you to enjoy.
It’s often said that 20 minutes of concentrated sight-reading each day is necessary for improvement. If you’re practicing often and you’re making sure your instrument is well-maintained, perhaps you could make it a resolution to improve some of your other musical skills. Your ability to sight-read is important once you begin to perform music professionally. The more quickly you’re able to play the music that you’re reading, the more comfortable you’ll be performing in general. Good sight-reading skills are one of the marks of a true professional, so resolve to spend a little time each day improving your skills.
A New Instrument?
The final New Year’s resolution you might consider is to learn a new instrument. Just because you start learning a new instrument doesn’t mean you have to put aside the instrument you’ve been playing. Learning a new instrument can be an exciting way to broaden your musical horizons. In some cases, the skills that you’ve already developed can be put to good use with a new instrument. In other cases, the progress you make with a new instrument can help you refine how you play your original. If playing a whole new instrument doesn’t interest you, consider playing a different type of the one you already play. For example, if you’re an experienced guitar player, maybe you could try to learn to play on a 12 string. If you’re a drummer, maybe you could experiment with all of the possibilities afforded to you by a set of electric drums.
When it comes to playing music, the sky’s the limit for learning new things and experimentation. This new year, make it a resolution to expand your interests and abilities.
photo via hrlori, CC