2017 is here, and it’s time to be a better person. Whether that means eating less meat, drinking more water, or getting more sleep, the time to break bad habits is now. As a musician, bad habits not only impact your enjoyment of the instrument, but they can prevent you from growing as a musician. Whether you’re a guitarist, a saxophonist, or a violinist, the bad habits on this list can apply to virtually every musician. From avoiding self-deprecating behavior to skipping your exercises, here are five bad music habits to break in the new year.
Having Unrealistic Expectations
Just as you couldn’t expect to lose twenty pounds after working out for only a week, you can’t expect to become a professional musician after just a few months of lessons. If you aren’t setting realistic expectations right off the bat, you’re only setting yourself up for failure down the line. For example, if you expect your very first show to be a packed house, with everything going off without a hitch, you’ll only set yourself up for disappointment if the venue is half empty and you break a string halfway through. If you’re taking music lessons, ask your teacher to help you set some realistic goals. If you’re self-taught, coming up with something that’s achievable shouldn’t be too difficult.
Some musicians beat themselves up over every single thing- they’re the type to be in a bad mood for a month if nobody paid to go to their show. Stop tearing yourself down, stop pointing out your mistakes, and stop apologizing over and over again. If you made a mistake during a show, chances are nobody in the audience even noticed. The last thing you want to do is bring even more attention to yourself by storming off the stage in a huff. It’s tempting to tear yourself down. After all, we’re wired that way. But it does nothing to propel you forward and it doesn’t make anyone feel better. Just learn from your mistakes, and move past them.
Skipping Your Exercises
As a musician, it’s tempting to skip over your exercises and jump right into playing your sheet music. While this is probably okay once in a blue moon, you should never let it become a habit. Here’s why: exercises are intended to strengthen your skills. Whether you’re a pianist who needs stronger fingers, a guitarist who needs better grip, or a saxophonist who needs to work on their embouchure, your music teacher will assign exercises intended to improve your weak areas. Sure, you’ll still be able to progress somewhat without proper exercise, but your progress will be slower and you’ll be a weaker musician overall. If you want to become the best musician you can be, exercise!
Practicing Without a Metronome
If you’re practicing your instrument without a metronome, you aren’t practicing to your full potential. When two or more musicians are playing together, they’re tied together with one core element: rhythm. And, at its core, a metronome teaches musicians rhythm and tempo. Not only does practicing with a metronome prepare you to play with others in a group setting, but it’ll improve your listening skills, help you find errors, and help you be more efficient with your practice time. Playing with a metronome is one of the hardest things for beginning musicians to get into the habit of doing, but it’s super important, so start as early as you can to form (or break!) this habit.
Having Bad Posture
Once you’ve mastered playing with a metronome, it’s time to focus on your posture. Having poor posture can cause a lot of back pain, and can add tension throughout your whole body, making playing your instrument tiring and difficult. In return, your body tells your brain that practicing your instrument is uncomfortable and doesn’t like what you’re doing. In 2017, pay attention to your posture each and every time you sit down to practice or play. Regardless of the instrument you play, your posture should be straight and focused, yet relaxed and comfortable. For specific tips about your posture and how it relates to your instrument, speak with your music instructor.
Need to find a music instructor in the new year? Check out our Tips for Finding a Music Teacher.
Photo via Sippanont Samchai, CC