Top 10 Behaviors of Successful Musicians – by Mike Overly

June 13, 2014



Do you want to be a successful musician? Of course you do! Then it would be beneficial to learn all you can about how to effectively and efficiently approach the development of your musicianship.

Don’t worry if you feel as if you don’t exhibit these Top 10 behaviors already, the good news is, you can begin to cultivate them now. And best of all, as you acquire these ways of being, you will become more effective, efficient and successful in other aspects of your life as well.

If you surf the internet for advice on how to become the musician you’ve always wanted to be, you will most likely become overloaded with endless suggestions. So, for now, let’s just focus on the Top 10 behaviors that will guarantee your musical success.

1. Successful Musicians Practice Consistently
Successful musicians maintain a regular practice schedule and practice every day. Practicing is easier than most believe it to be. Just 15 minutes a day, everyday, will have you progressing steadily – little by little each day. The key to efficient and effective practicing is time management. In other words, successful musician creates the habit of practicing at the same time each day, every day. Some like to practice in the morning, while others like to practice at night. The time of day doesn’t matter as long as you practice daily. The important thing is to pick a time and do it. Remember, you can’t skip a couple of days and then practice for hours and hours to make up for the lost time – it doesn’t work that way. Slow and steady wins the race.

2. Successful Musicians Are Inquisitive
Successful musicians are curious and ask many questions to get the answers they need in order to progress. They are interested in what other musicians are doing and are happy to learn from them. Start by looking for different ways to approach your practice. Seeking new systems and methods of learning is always healthy and beneficial. Remember, contrary to the old cliche, curiosity did not kill the cat – she just played better!

3. Successful Musicians Are Analytical
Successful musicians don’t practice without thinking about what they’re practicing. They stay focused to avoid distraction and diversion. Successful musicians practice with attention to detail to ensure their success. So, be sure to think through your problems to find ideas that will solve them. Try out several approaches until you find the one that leads you to success. By staying on course you will discover what works and what doesn’t.

4. Successful Musicians Are Lifelong Learners
If you’re new to playing music, you will more than likely face a steep learning curve. But don’t let that stop you, learning and practicing gets easier after you’ve been playing awhile. And no matter how long you have been playing, there is always something new to discover that will keep you inspired and challenged.

5. Successful Musicians Plan Ahead
Successful musicians know where they’re going. They have a plan and stick to it. They realize that prioritization is the key to the success of any endeavor. Successful musicians put things in order and choose what etudes and songs to practice at the beginning. This makes it easy to follow through to the end. Successful musicians work on their plan daily, weekly, monthly and yearly so that they may reach their goals based upon importance rather than urgency. It’s important to periodically evaluate whether your efforts are propelling you toward the achievement of your goals. If they are not, then clarification of your goals and the means needed to achieve them will be necessary. Plan your practice and practice your plan.

6. Successful Musicians Are Self Motivated
Successful musicians take the initiative and are proactive self-starters. This is the primary determining factor for their effectiveness in music and life. Being proactive rather than reactive will quickly lead you to success. If you like the idea of playing an instrument, and perhaps even impressing people with your skills, then you will need to manage yourself. Successful musicians know that through self mastery many wonderful things may be accomplished. Remember, no one will fire you if you don’t show up to practice, and no one will remind you of the deadlines you’ve set for yourself. To paraphrase Smokey The Bear, only you can make yourself a successful musician!

7. Successful Musicians Think Win-Win
Perhaps it is your goal to be in a band or orchestra and play harmoniously with other musicians. If so, it’s important for you to value and respect others, as this will lead to the best long-term relationships. Genuinely striving for mutually beneficial solutions and agreements will guarantee success for all. Win-win relationships are much better than having only one person get their way. When everyone feels included and involved in an environment of trust and loyalty, everyone succeeds.

8. Successful Musicians Listen
Successful Musicians understand that listening to another first and then having them listen to you is the fastest way to create an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive conflict resolution. This skill of empathetic listening cultivates an environment where misunderstandings can be avoided to facilitate harmonious music making with others.

9. Successful Musicians Realize That The Whole Is Greater Than The Parts
Synergy, or combining the strengths of many people into one positive team, will make possible the achievement of goals that no one person could do alone. Successful musicians know that creating the most prolific performance by a group of people is best achieved by encouraging meaningful, inspirational and supportive leadership by all. It is essential to understand that everyone is a master of something – but not of everything. Be the one who takes the positive approach with other musicians in your group, then everyone’s potential will come together for the best result.

10. Successful Musicians Are Persistent
Successful musicians understand that success doesn’t happen overnight. If you persist in working toward your vision you will eventually realize it, even if there are a few rough patches along the way. Know that constant improvement of one’s self, along with the development of one’s skills, is necessary in order to achieve success. By balancing and renewing your resources, energy, and health you will experience effective musicianship throughout your life and become the successful musician you have always wanted to be.

Okay, now ask yourself which behavior is the most important for you to become a successful musician. It might be one of the Top 10 above, or, you may believe that it’s something else. I, and the others who are reading this post, would like to know what you think, so, please leave a comment… thank you.

image ©Joshua Wells

The Process of Progress on Bass Guitar – by Mike Overly

April 24, 2014

Tone Note® Music Method for Bass

There are many reasons why students quit their bass lessons. Sometimes it’s because the teacher doesn’t inspire them, or because the lessons aren’t focused enough on their specific goals. In some cases, it could be that the teacher isn’t qualified and really doesn’t know how to help the student become the musician they would like to be. Then again, it could be that the student’s relationship with the teacher and the teachings aren’t as focused as they need to be in order for the student to progress.

Having taught fretboard music successfully for many decades and to many students, I have come to realize that the way in which a student relates to the teacher has a very meaningful effect on the student’s development. Different students get varied results from the same teacher and teachings. This is because different students approach the learning process uniquely. For example, one student might believe to know better than the teacher and eventually quits, while another student learns and applies everything that is presented and becomes a world-class bass player. We all understand the wonderful attitudes, aptitudes and behaviors of the student that goes on to become a world-class player, however, let’s look more carefully at different types of behaviors commonly displayed by students who can easily become frustrated and quit their bass lessons.

I want to be perfect.

Some students want to master everything that is presented in a lesson before moving on to something else. This may seem like a good idea, but in reality, it is not the most effective way to progress. Music is best learned when many elements are worked on simultaneously without worrying about mastering any one given component. For example, the student must work on the technique of playing the bass, while at the same time learning the theory of harmony, improvisation and composition. The point is, after learning something new, don’t hesitate to begin combining it with everything else you have previously learned. Application and integration are essential elements that must be developed from the very beginning. By proceeding in this way, the student will not let one aspect of their learning get too far ahead of the other things that they know. Approaching music and the bass in this multi-tasking manner will keep the student in balance.

I only want the new.

Some students think that each lesson should consist mainly of new material. However, this isn’t necessarily the best approach. The simple reason is that too much new information leads to the feeling of being overwhelmed. This is because there is not enough time to integrate this new information with past information. Being overwhelmed is what causes most students to become frustrated and quit. Here’s an important point: simply learning new information will not improve technique. Technique takes time to develop and demands more than just simply being aware of a new musical concept. In other words,  it requires lots of  practice to achieve the fluency of technical skill needed to play the bass proficiently. Remember, you can buy knowledge, but can’t buy technique — technique must be earned!
Said again, the student may think that learning something new in each lesson is a good thing, but, as time goes by they will notice that they are not making significant technical progress. At this point, the student may want to quit because they think lessons aren’t effective, however, that is not really the reason for their lack of progress. Said a different way, learning new musical information is an important part of lessons, but, if the student is only interested in learning the new, they will probably not continue with lessons and will miss out on one of the most important aspects of taking lessons which is the unfoldment of knowledge. Unfoldment being the in-order process which leads to the progress of information presented. It is this in-order presentation of knowledge that makes bass lessons so valuable. The student will need to practice patience to realize this and gain the benefits of unfolding learning over time.

I know what’s best.

Some students have been playing for a while and perhaps have studied with other bass teachers. These students may have preconceived ideas about what their lessons should be and may wish to control what and how they are taught. Asking questions and expressing goals to the teacher is a good thing, but trying to direct the teacher as to what and how to teach is not. If the student seeks help from a qualified teacher, they should trust the teacher and accept the fact that the teacher knows more about music and bass than they do and therefore can successfully teach the student.

With that said, all bass teachers are not the same, some are more qualified than others. This is why the student needs to clearly communicate their goals, and challenges to the teacher. That way, if the student is not receiving what they communicated, then they should seek a different teacher. What’s important is that the student needs to have faith and belief in the teacher they have selected and commit themselves to the lessons.

If the teacher has helped others to succeed, then probably that teacher will be able to help you as well. Just remember, the teacher’s ability to help you will be limited and delayed if you constantly question everything that is taught. Working with a qualified teacher is the fastest and most efficient way for you to achieve your goals. So, if you truly want to accelerate the process of progress, then you should think about your relationship with your teacher to see if there is any room for improvement.

There are many other factors that affect the rate of progress when learning music and the bass. But, if you study with a qualified teacher, follow the most effective music method, for example the Tone Note® Music Method for Bass, and develop rewarding practice habits, then you will become the musician playing bass that you have always wanted to be!

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