Patience: Music’s Most Understated Virtue

If you’re good at waiting for things, music just might be the career for you. Whether it’s the thought of a young band breaking out after playing together for just a few months or the unprecedented access to a constant stream of new music delivered via playlist, patience is a profoundly impactful asset not nearly associated with music as much as it should be.

We all know that patience is an essential ingredient in the recipe of learning how to play a musical instrument. From the arduous process of building up callouses, finger strength, and dexterity needed to play the guitar to the weeks, months, and years needed to fully master the gripping and timekeeping techniques needed to become a proficient drummer, patience is mandatory in learning how to play music.

Possess, develop, and protect your patience, and you’ll have a massively effective tool that will help you sustain a career in music that could last decades.

But not many musicians talk about a need for patience in their work that reaches far from the realm of struggling to master an instrument for the first time. Patience is absolutely crucial in all aspects of being a serious musician. Possess, develop, and protect your patience, and you’ll have a massively effective tool that will help you sustain a career in music that could last decades. Neglect, forget, and disregard it, and the chances of you making music over the long-term become slim.

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Everything from waiting to release a new song until the mix is just right to the persistence it takes to book your own shows, run in-house PR campaigns, and self-release music are mandatory parts of building a music career that take a remarkable amount of patience. A lot of the time, especially when just starting out in music, patience, hard work, and talent aren’t met with any tangible positive results. This can be absolutely crushing, but you won’t make music very long if you don’t have the patience to weather disappointment after disappointment.

The reason patience in music isn’t talked about enough is because the story of a band working hard, slugging it out over the years, and eventually gaining some meaningful success just doesn’t make for as sexy of a press release as the story of a band making it big overnight does. Yes, sometimes artists find a remarkable amount of success after making music for only a short time, but for the other 99.2% of us, patience will have to be an integral part of how we approach everything from songwriting to finances in music.

Success can be difficult to find in music, but as an artist, you’ll get to define what “making it in” music really means. And while it can get easy to become jaded and dismayed if you’ve made music over the years without meeting your goals, for those who do, the rewards are that much sweeter. Overnight successes sometimes flame out and fade away quickly because they lack the important context and infrastructure to make music over the long-term that only years of patient music-making can give. So if you haven’t found the success in music you’re looking for, sit back, keep working hard, and wait for something remarkable to happen.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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  • White Lioness - April 19, 2018 reply

    Very encouraging thanks for sharing!

  • Johnny - April 20, 2018 reply

    I love mi musique

  • Emma - April 26, 2018 reply

    Wow! Thank you so much for this! I’ve been at my career for over 15 years and it’s so hard to not keep thinking “I should have outgrown this desire by now.” But I am so much more skilled and grounded than if I’d “made it” at the start. Thank you again for the encouragement.

  • joel - April 26, 2018 reply

    word up

  • Johnny 2 - April 26, 2018 reply

    Don’t forget to write good songs while you are at it.

  • Marc Schuster - April 26, 2018 reply

    Great article… I’m reminded of one that I use in my intro to writing course, “The Power of Patience” by Jennifer L. Roberts. She’s a Harvard art historian who teaches her students the value of patience by requiring them to sit in front of a painting for three hours and record their observations. Worth looking up!

  • Lori Lynn - April 26, 2018 reply

    Thank you for the article…It took me several years before I met my husband and then several years after(with him) to write and develop worthy of the public ear…but we are grateful for the journey…We learned not only know how to write great songs, but how produce them and master them as well

  • Ramlin Green - April 26, 2018 reply

    This is powerful stuff, thank you very much, i’ve always had a patient spirit…
    now i know that i a on the right path.

  • Abdoulaye - April 26, 2018 reply

    Meaningful!!! This is so stuck to me that I can’t quit. My family since over stressing at what I have to get from it with a consirable pressure to do something else with my poor life… I just can’t leave it! Thank you for this great word: “patience”.

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