Whether you have just started playing music, or you are a dedicated and experienced, or even professional, musician, it’s always important to make sure you are improving and working upon your own style as best as you can. Music is all about genuine expression and creativity, and it’s important to make sure that you are doing all you can to hone your style and perfect it as much as possible.
But how do you actually do this? In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the ways in which you can hope to hone and perfect your style much more effectively. That will make the act of writing and performing much more enjoyable for you, and it will make your music more pleasurable to listen to for your audience, too.
Continually Practice The Basic Techniques
One of the important distinctions that you need to get clear in your mind as an artist is the difference between playing your instrument and actually practising it. You can play all of your favorite songs and go over your own old riffs as much as you like, but this is not really practising it in the same way. True practise is more like sitting down at the piano to practice left and right hand coordination with specific exercises, or playing scales on your guitar to improve dexterity. You need to make sure you are carrying out these basic techniques regularly.
The problem is that, when you have been playing for a long time, you start to think that you can do without these kinds of techniques and exercises. But the best musicians are actually those who repeatedly go back to these techniques on a regular basis. If you want to improve your style, having these basics down again and again is a great way to set the stage for more and more progress.
Try Out New Methods
Much of music is all to do with innovation, trying out new things and seeing what works and what doesn’t. That’s why you should consider trying out new methods wherever possible, and especially if you are stuck in a rut at any point. If you do find yourself wondering how to continue improving, the issue might well be that you are ready for a new method. But how you go about this, and what you actually do, will of course depend on a lot of factors, not least what instrument you are playing.
To take the guitar as an example, there are a lot of methods you might like to try that you might not have tried before, which could help and encourage you to improve your style a little. For instance, you might try finger picking if you normally use a plectrum. Or you might decide to play around with a looper pedal or a wah-wah. It actually doesn’t matter too much what it is, as long as you are trying out something new and putting all of your effort and joy into the act itself.
Play With Different People
For most people, music is a collaborative act first and foremost, even if you tend to play alone. If you are keen to improve your skills and perfect your style, there is practically nothing better for it than to simply start playing with different people as often as you can. Whether it’s a monthly jam session, performing live, or just playing with a friend, it is a great way to keep your instincts sharp and your skills honed. It even works just if you play along to some music, especially if it is not something you always listen to. In fact, that in itself is another important thing to think about.
Listen To Something You Would Normally Avoid
You have to listen to a lot of music if you are going to gain the perfect style and make your skills as close to perfect as possible. Just as the best writers read a lot, the best musicians have a library of different genres and styles in their heads. In particular, you might want to aim to widen out your tastes purposefully by occasionally listening to something that you would normally be keen to avoid. You’ll be amazed at how much this can help you to improve your style, as you pick up different ideas from genres or bands that you had deemed unworthy in the past.
Focus On Authenticity
As a musician, there is almost nothing quite as important as being authentic. The more that you try to fake it, the less genuine your music is, the less you feel it, and the less the audience feels it. You need to focus on authenticity to ensure that you are going to hone your style as perfectly as possible. As long as you prioritise being true to your own style, you should find that this helps you to keep on improving, no matter what. That is obviously the main thing that we are trying to achieve here, so it’s important to think about.
It’s not just freeform jazz that benefits from a little improvisation. When you get down to it, most music appears from this same place, and it’s all about allowing yourself to just be a little spontaneous from time to time. As long as you can do that, you should find that you are going to start creating much more amazing music before you know it, and a lot of the time it comes down to just allowing yourself to let go and see what happens. A lot of amazing music comes this way, and you will be developing your style a little more and a little more each time you approach your music in this way.
Train Your Ear
A lot of this, as you can probably see, is the kind of stuff that you can never complete – there is always more to learn and more to get out of it. That is certainly true of this next thing too, which is training the ear to hear music in the right way. The more finely you train the ear – to hear chords, notes, progressions and so on – the more intuitively you can engage when you are playing music yourself, especially when composing and jamming with other musicians. Actively train your ear using ear training exercises to help increase and improve your natural ability here. It will make all the difference in the world, and you are going to feel more like a real musician as well.
Show Yourself Some Patience
Throughout all of this, you need to make sure that you are being patient with yourself. After all, none of this happens overnight, not for anyone, so you need to do all you can to allow yourself to gradually flourish and improve. Being patient with yourself in this way, and just enjoying the process of gradually getting better and better rather than trying desperately to get to a certain level of proficiency, is a much more enjoyable and gracious way to play music. You’ll find it leads to a better attitude and approach, and you will be able to perfect your style in a much more enjoyable, engaged manner too.
Learn Some Theory
There is an age-old debate in the music world about music theory and whether or not it is necessary. Some say that you don’t need to know any of it in order to make great music. These people might cite great bands such as The Beatles who reportedly didn’t know any theory – at least not when starting out. However, there are certainly a lot of benefits to be had from learning at least some basic theory, of which most people agree. If you know some basic theory, you can apply it in an intuitive way without being too overwhelmed by it – and actually, this is an important point to make too.
While learning theory is likely to benefit you, you have to take care not to think about it as such while you are playing your instruments. The idea should be to learn it, and then essentially forget it, so that you can let it do its thing in the background instead. This is a much more effective way of perfecting your style, and a more enjoyable one too, so make sure that you are thinking about this as best as you can in order to improve your abilities.
Finally, remember that the whole point is to actually, actively enjoy the process. If you are not enjoying it, there’s no point, so this is an important thing to bear in mind. If you can love what you are doing, it doesn’t really matter what else happens while you are doing it, but you will also find you probably improve as you play naturally this way much more effectively. Loving it is the most important thing of all, so make sure that you are allowing yourself the freedom to enjoy it as fully as possible too.