How to Become a Better Musician
I played guitar by myself at home for many years starting at age 12. Mostly I would play electric or acoustic guitar and just sit back and jam. It was fun and gratifying in many ways but after a while I started to feel isolated and a little bored.
I discovered three ways of expanding my playing and growing as a musician and I’m outlining them below so you can avoid the mistakes I made. Check it out and see how you can grow and develop as a musician:
#1 Play with a looper – for about $100 you can buy a looper pedal that will allow you to hook up an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar with a pickup into an amp. Then you can play a rhythm and then play lead guitar or sing or play another rhythm guitar part. If you don’t have an amp or guitar that is suitable another alternative is to go on youtube and search for “backing tracks.” These backing tracks usually have drums, bass and sometimes a rhythm guitar part. Playing with a looper or with jam tracks will help you learn to play in time with other instruments and it will help you immensely with your improvisation and phrasing. Not only will it help you become a better musician, but it is just plain fun. There are many current artists that use loopers in live performing and do really cool things with them.
#2 Go to jams, song circles and open mics. This gets you out playing with other people. Most of us are nervous playing with or performing in front of others and going to causal jams is a great way to start. Many jams allow you to play along with others in a larger group setting so you are not playing solo in front of others. This really helps you begin to feel more comfortable playing with others. The next step when you are ready is to go to an open mic. It’s anxiety producing at first, but find a partner at your level and do a duet – that makes it a little easier. Making music with other people is what it’s all about. It’s so much fun and can be really rewarding to get together with others and there are those moments that things really come together that are just ‘magic.’
#3 When you play at home, imagine that you are playing to an audience. This gets you in the mind frame of performing in front of others. It’s also great to record yourself and listen – when you do this avoid begin self-critical. Listen with a constructive ear, discover what needs work and then work on that and record again. As you repeat this process you will, over time, get closer and closer to playing the way you intend. We cannot hear ourselves objectively while playing – it requires recording to really hear what we sound like.
You can do it! Take these three suggestions and work at them – before long you’ll be surprised at the results you see.
Andrew Bassuk teaches guitar in Ventura, California and can be found at www.harmonymusiccenter.com