Have you ever struggled with wondering if you truly have what it takes to become a great musician? If you’ve asked how to become better at music you’ve probably heard the same advice time and time again: practice your instrument, learn classic repertoire, drill your scales, study the theory, pass the exams… and so on.
But what if there’s another way?
There are actually a wide range of ways you can become more musical – meaning to nurture that inner musicality and hone your natural instinct for music. The instinct that lets you play by ear freely and easily, and improvise or write your own music.
Here are 5 ways to become more musical which might seem like strange suggestions at first… but each one can rapidly transform your musical abilities.
1. Play Games
If you learned an instrument growing up your parents probably told you to stop playing video games and get on with some practice.
But pick the right video games and they can actually help you to become a better musician. From Wii Music to Guitar Hero, music video games have hit the mainstream, and if you play them with mindfulness and an intention to become more musical they can actually help you hone your musical instinct for rhythm and pitch.
There are also more specialised games you can use which are specifically designed to help you become a better musician. Dedicated ear training apps like our own best-selling RelativePitch app provide simple, fun, interactive ways to improve your musical ear. We’re also big fans of the wide range of ear training games provided by Theta Music.
And don’t forget there are also some great real-life games you can play with friends to develop your ear for music. Check out these articles for some suggestions.
So music practice doesn’t have to be dry and boring! Use some of these games to become more musical in a fun way.
2. Chat Online
Specifically, if you join the right music community you can surround yourself with smart, passionate, creative musicians who are developing the same skills as you. That means you can share your journey and help each other along by exchanging tips, tricks and suggestions to help everyone improve faster.
So we’re not just talking about hanging out on Facebook and discussing pop music trivia. Talk to other musicians about your music learning and you’ll be surprised how quickly it can accelerate your progress. Learn more about finding your musical tribe.
3. Listen to Music
Right. But listen to music actively – meaning you are truly paying full attention and exploring the music with your ears and brain – and you actually can become better at music just by listening.
The wonderful thing about this is that you can use almost any music to do it. You can explore your own favourite tracks and hear them in a brand new way using active listening. You can also discover new kinds of music and stretch your ears in a different direction.
Studies have shown that musicians actually listen to music using a different part of the brain to non-musicians: they are employing their analytical skills to actually understand what’s happening in the music as they hear it. This is an ability you can cultivate, and the more you practise active listening the more you’ll hear and enjoy in all the music you listen to.
4. Sing Do Re Mi
If you’ve only ever encountered “do re mi” solfège in the context of The Sound of Music you could be forgiven for thinking it’s just a toy for children. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Solfège is probably the most powerful framework ever created for being able to understand and recognise notes immediately as you hear them. When you’ve learned solfège you can easily transcribe music or play it by ear, and you can also sight-sing any written music from the page.
If you learn solfège as an adult, it can seem strange at first. You need to figure out how to relate it to your existing instinct and understanding of music, the theory you know, your instrument skills, and so on. And using special syllables to sing and recognise notes does take a bit of getting used to!
But spend time learning solfège and you’ll find it’s the wisest investment you’ve ever made in your musical development.
5. Get Good at Goals
Goal-setting… Sounds dull! Traditionally, the process of setting goals and planning how to accomplish them belongs in the business world, full of Gantt charts, weekly TPS reports and tedious meetings. Or perhaps in the world of “Just dream it!” personal development.
Of course when you really think about it though, goal-setting is very simple and logical. If you want to get somewhere, you need to know clearly where you’re trying to get. If you hope to reach that destination quickly and efficiently, you’re going to need to plan a route. We all understand this when it comes to road journeys – but we rarely apply it to our musical development.
Learn how to set musical goals and create a plan for reaching them and you can easily accelerate your musical development by a factor of 5 or 10. It’s the power of focus and clarity, and once you get the hang of it you’ll wonder how you went without it for so long.
So there you have 5 unusual suggestions for becoming a better musician – and no scales or lessons in sight! Pick just one or two of these and try to incorporate them into your musical life, starting today. If you need help or support along the way, join the community of passionate and knowledgeable musicians over at Musical U.