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The #1 way to become a better musician

Posted by christianhowes on Wednesday, July 20, 2011

 

The #1 thing you can do to become a better musician without working too hard

I’ll tell you the easiest thing you can do to improve your musicianship.

The single best thing you can do to improve as a musician is to listen back to recordings of yourself practicing or performing.

The key is listening frequently, and critically, in order to shorten the gap between what you think you sound like, and what you sound like in reality. In other words, when we play there are two things happening:
1)The sound our playing makes
2) What we perceive our playing sounds like.

John Blake Jr., Bill Contreras, Christian Howes, Camille Howes
Four Generations of Jazz Violinists!! (John Blake Jr., Billy Contreras, Chris and Camille Howes)

During the moment you’re playing, you may not have a clue what you actually sound like. When you listen back, you perceive something closer to reality, and the more you listen back, the more you shrink that gap in the moments when you’re playing. The goal is to be able to hear what we really sound like while we’re playing.

This is important: When we hear things we don’t like in our recordings, we can make a mental note to refrain from those bad habits in later performances. For example, as long as I remember, I can restrain myself from playing that same tired lick, habitually sliding into notes, playing long run-ons, etc… as long as I focus/remember to inhibit these bad habits and keep checking updated recordings, I’ll get better.

Consider this analogy: The best way to live healthier is to STOP putting bad things in your body. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, buy fancy foods or learn a new skill set. Identify and stop bad habits and you’ll be twice the musician. Quit doing stupid stuff when you play and you’ll sound twice as good. The trick is in being aware of those bad habits.

An awesome way to expedite this process is by using looping technology. I like pedals, such as the digitech jamman or the boss RC50,( I got mine from www.electricviolinshop.com,) Cellist, Adam Spiers discovered a FREE way to do this and I’ll let you in on his secret.

First, here’s a loop-pedal video featuring a tune I named “Pat From Memory” in honor of guitarist, Pat Metheny.

 

I edited the video to skip over the loop setup, but the lop was made in three parts
1)strumming pattern
2) bass line
3) long notes/ pads..

You can LIKE or SHARE this blog, email me that you did it, and I’ll send you the music in the next week.

Want to know about that FREE looping software?

Adam Spiers is an I.T. professional from the U.K. who recently quit his job in order to pursue jazz cello full time.
He’s been an active student in the cool online program I mentioned before, and he also takes regular private lessons with me via skype.

He’s very thorough and takes you step by step in this awesome blog about how to use Audacity for free instead of spending money and lugging around fragile loop pedals:

if you’re seeing this before 10 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday July 21, you’re in luck!! I’m doing a rare public webinar on ustream. here’s how to join in on the ustream at 10 p.m. Eastern Thursday July 21:
Go to http://www.ustream.tv/login-signup/ and sign up for a free account.
Use the search bar to search for my channel (Christian Howes Creative Strings) and join in on the stream. I’ll answer all questions and take on all challengers!

What did you think about this blog?? Feel free to comment!



9 comments on “The #1 way to become a better musician”

richdissmore Says:
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 @12:37:15 PM

another way to get better don,t give up on your self try and keep trying a teacher can help grately and speed things along i had a stroke and now i can play simple tunes music can heal the mind and body. you don,t have to be a physical therapist. what helped me was going back through the basics relearing every thingi had my stroke 2004 march 6 to day 7/20/2011 i can play simple tunes i have a teacher her mother had a stroke and used what she learned from that to help me

nickc Says:
Thursday, July 21, 2011 @10:21:57 AM

Totally agree! I've been recording myself on the banjo since i began learning and it's proved most educational. I know for sure that my banjo teacher Leon Hunt records himself very frequently too. I've been learning the Fiddle for 5 days now and i have already recorded my firts screechings. I'll spare you all the video though!

Nick

christianhowes Says:
Thursday, July 21, 2011 @10:10:14 PM

rich that's an amazing story. thanks for sharing.
Nick- all power to you in taking up the fiddle!!!! all best chris

richdissmore Says:
Friday, July 22, 2011 @8:56:23 AM

i,m doing my best my bow ing arm gets numb from time to time my teacher said use the wate of your arm you do not need more presser on the strings. i think about playing all the time.but wishing does not make it happen you have to do the work at it. now 10-to 15 minits is all i can play at any time. it will get longer. i should tell you. i was a union member local 42 racine wis. i played guitar and bass guitar for 40 years then i had this stroke on the day i had a gig helping out another band i didn,t make the gig i can play some guitar thanks to guitars4vets.org they help out vets like me give you a new guitar gig bag tuner guitar strap books and six private lessons. i pick with a old creidit card i can,t hold a reglar pick . you sound very good your blog is rigth on keep fiddlen

tsaimichael Says:
Friday, July 22, 2011 @12:42:40 PM

@ Rich - you are awesome. Thanks for your service!
@ Christian - thank you for the information, great advice that will help me close the gap! Appreciate the info on looping with Audacity. I hope to hear more from you.

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Saturday, July 23, 2011 @6:17:59 AM

Exactly, Christian! I've noted the difference betwixt how I first perceive I sound and how I sound when I listen back to my recording, and it's often different. I listen to my practices and gigs on the H2 at night, and I'll think, "Okay, this little roll on 'Red Haired Boy' works...but wow do I want to change my bowing the first couple measures of the B part," and so on.

What are your favourite non-jazz things to play?

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Saturday, July 23, 2011 @6:17:59 AM

Exactly, Christian! I've noted the difference betwixt how I first perceive I sound and how I sound when I listen back to my recording, and it's often different. I listen to my practices and gigs on the H2 at night, and I'll think, "Okay, this little roll on 'Red Haired Boy' works...but wow do I want to change my bowing the first couple measures of the B part," and so on.

What are your favourite non-jazz things to play?

christianhowes Says:
Saturday, July 23, 2011 @11:01:56 AM

@humbled... I actually LOVE bluegrass, and some oldtime stuff too.. I've been working on this the past few years. I'm really into songwriters, r and b, fusion, latin, jazz, and classical music too.... thanks for asking. I think "jazz" is kind of a confusing term. for me, it;s just mainly a body of knowledge that helps me approach ALL music, and doesn;t have to do as much with a "style" or vocabulary....lot;s of people are turned off by jazz because theyve had limited exposure, or only exposure to a limited portion of the tradition...

dwoolsey Says:
Sunday, July 31, 2011 @7:33:27 AM

Going over the older Blogs~~glad I didn't miss this one. Lots of good ideas to ponder.

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