Expectation and pressure can be good for you as a musician, whether you’re performing on stage in front of a huge crowd or paying by the hour to record new music in a studio. Without a dog in the fight, what you’re doing as a musician is a carefree hobby. But, like so many other aspects of a healthy music career, a balance has to be found between striving to perform well and living up to what’s expected of us and not overthinking and questioning everything we do. When we let doubt, insecurity, and fear guide us in music, we stifle our best ideas.
We can all be better musicians. It doesn’t matter if we’ve been musically active for a couple of months or multiple decades when it comes to finding areas that need improvement in our musical lives. Making real progress towards big goals like learning how to play an instrument or starting work on a new album can be challenging if you’re musically inexperienced or find yourself years into your music career and losing steam. Doing any one of these four things will help you become a better musician right now and get you closer to hitting your targets in the future:
With its uncanny ability for canceling tours, summer festivals, and weekly band practices all over the world, there’s plenty for musicians to despise when it comes to COVID-related social distancing measures. Since few living people have experienced a pandemic like this, music makers are being forced to dig deep for ways to be productive and inspired during the crisis. One spot of good news for music creators is that there’s no shortage of longing out there in the world right now, and the fact that some musicians will be able to transform their understandable feelings of loneliness and pining into powerful inspiration for their work.
If you’re a decade or two deep into your music career, stack up the music you’re making now against what you were doing when you started. What’s different and what’s the same? If you’ve been working from the same musical playbook for years, you’re essentially writing someone else’s music. Songwriters and producers have the best shot at creating engaging music when they embrace curiosity, newness, risk, and exploration. Everyone changes over time and your music should change along with you. But keeping up with your changing musical persona demands a willingness to fail and start over again in your creative process.
In times of intense turmoil and uncertainty, creativity can give artists meaning, comfort, and direction when they’d otherwise feel aimless. Musicians are just one of the countless groups of people seeing their professions get upended during the COVID-19 crisis. Embracing creativity during this painful time won’t bring your life back to normal or fix what’s wrong. But it can make some of our lives better in a meaningful way.
The world has a romantic image of how music is made that often involves scenes of musicians caught up in moments of passion and despair expressing their emotions through music. Sure, this sort of thing does happen to some of us from time to time. Yet, the truth is that great music almost always takes hard, consistent work to make. Inspiration is essential for creating music that connects with people. However, it’s up to us to be listening and ready for when it comes to us. That’s where the importance of a consistent, productive songwriting practice comes in. No matter who you are, making songwriting a part of your routine will result in you creating better music. Here are four tips for building a strong, fruitful practice:
I want to say this right off the bat. Music can’t fix what the world is going through right now. It doesn’t have the power to cure COVID-19, bring someone’s job back, or heal the sick. But what it can do is comfort and relate to people. That’s no easy task in a world chock full of despair and anxiety everywhere you look. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance your music plans have dramatically shifted over the past couple of months. Mine certainly have. I don’t know what the future holds for my music career, especially when it comes to performing live. However, I do know how crucial music is in the lives of countless people right now. That gives me a lot of hope and purpose.
It’s becoming obvious that this crisis has already transformed the world beyond recognition, and there’s no sign of things slowing down or becoming easier anytime soon. But when the dust settles and we adjust to a new normal, I believe that music will have been an integral part of helping everyday people cope through what they’ve been through.
There’s no getting around how monumentally bad repercussions from the COVID-19 are impacting musicians. From indefinitely rescheduled festivals to canceled tours, musicians are being challenged in profound ways. There’s no silver lining here, but trying to stay as creatively engaged as possible during this time can help. Not every musician will be able to stay productive while stuck at home. However, many can use the time to plan their next career steps, write new songs, and engage with fans.