Thursday, March 21, 2013

SOUND ADVICE: How To Become a Better Musician

Wisdom is the bridge to more thoughtful musicianship. We asked our teachers to weigh in with their best advice for musicians at any stage in the game. Here's what they had to say:

Always be a student. The older I get, the clearer it becomes to me that there is still SO much to be learned! 

- Anna Fagan teaches piano for The ZOEN and blogs at

To be a musician, you must listen to the music that's in your heart and share your own expression of it through the way you perform the notes.  The music must transcend mere notes on paper if it is to be performed and heard in its full magnificence.

 - Wayne Land is a virtuoso saxophonist with 45+ years experience teaching all genres of saxophone from R&B to Jazz

 photo ID-10064782_zps91e84503.jpg
Practicing with an audience is the best practice there is! Playing for your own personal enjoyment is a fine and worthy reason to pursue music, but to truly get the most out of your musical study you must perform at some point, whether it's in front of a crowd or just a few friends.  It gives you something to work toward and increases the pressure just enough to make you push yourself. And it get's easier every time you try. 

- Jason Campbell teaches piano and voice for The ZOEN and blogs at Ivory Man.

Listen! Ours is the business of sound, so whether you are in it just as a hobby or if you are planning on auditioning for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, be listening to other successful musicians and emulate the sounds you hear. 

- Fran Beaudry is a clarinet teacher with 30+ years of experience in music education.

Rhythm may be the single most important element at any stage of playing. Without the element of time to guide us, music loses definition and  structure.  

- Eddie Sundra teaches both clarinet and saxophone and is pursuing a degree in Clarinet Performance at Penn State.

Whenever you are bummed out about having to practice, imagine yourself in a vast sandbox full of notes, rests, licks, and phrases. In the grand scheme of things, music is about making something out nothing, about pulling music out of thin air. You are lucky enough to set time aside to participate in that activity. Who wouldn't be excited about that?! 

- Daniel Joseph Dorff Jr. teaches piano and drums in addition to working as a touring musician.

Never lose sight of what makes music important to you. Regardless of how much a passage is frustrating you or how much you want to throw your instrument at the wall, remember that music is a medium allowing intangible structures to pass through our souls. 

- Eddie Sundra teaches both clarinet and saxophone to students of all ages.

Don’t listen with your eyes.  We live in a world of overstimulated multimedia. Instead of just looking at a Guitar Tab, playing what it says, and thinking that it’s correct, take the time to close your eyes, and listen to what you’re playing.  Make sure the notes are correct,  make sure you’re bends are to pitch, make sure all the little nuances are there.  There is a big difference between playing the instrument  and practicing it.  Playing will always sound better....after you've practiced.  

At any level, in any style, for any purpose, playing the music you love is what it's all about

- Phillip Amalong is a composer, performer and recording artist who teaches intermediate and advanced piano.

Do you have any advice to add? Has a piece of advice shaped your development as a musician? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. What terrific tips! I particularly appreciated:

    • "Listen! Ours is the business of sound" from Fran Beaudry
    Easy to forget amid the drive to perfect fingering and technique... Remembering to listen is powerful for though, and vital to musicianship!


    • "Don’t listen with your eyes." from Matt Brechbiel
    Yes! So much musicality is lost through over-focus on the written form, and distraction of music videos and music artists' fashion... Let's close our eyes and get back to the music itself.

  2. These are some very helpful tips. I am currently studying music and I am looking forward to using this knowledge that these teachers have shared. Im really trying to improve my musical ear and develop my listening skills. I really enjoyed the part music being something out of nothing, interesting theory but I think it rings true. This knowledges will continue to resonate my musical soul.

  3. Solid advice - if you are not learning and trying new musical ideas you are not growing. One other bit of advice given by a mentor of mine Moshe Paranov - "If you don;t know, ask." There is always someone willing to keep you on track. Also, Miles Davis would say ..."every tune has it's groove". Don't discount the possibility of learning something new from music you dislike. Always play your best regardless of the gig.


Add your comments