Yes, practicing is good for us, having a practice schedule helps, but the odds of us sticking to a practice schedule beyond February aren’t great. There are plenty of other things we musicians can do to develop our craft: here are our suggestions for more inspiring New Year’s Resolutions for musicians in 2021.
Let’s start with setting our intention for the new year. If you want to practice more, why do you want to practice more? If you want to “become a better musician”, what does it mean to be a better musician?
There’s no right answer, but just to throw out some ideas: Becoming a better musician can look like developing your ear to hear more nuance and detail, building up your technique to play closer to what’s in your ears, being a better listener or collaborator, and so on.
Whatever it is, let’s say this is the baseline for your New Year’s Resolution this year: you want to enjoy making music even more.
Here are some resolutions you can take up to amp up your enjoyment of music:
When you improvise, you channel your natural creativity and free yourself from the idea that you have to “get it right”. (The beautiful thing about improvising is that there’s no right or wrong.) If you’ve never improvised musically before, improvising can seem extremely daunting – but you just gotta do it!
Make it a point to dedicate a chunk of your practice to improvising, and have fun! Pick a key and a steady beat, and go from there. You can also find a backing track (like this one) to play over, to give yourself some structure.
If you’re already familiar with improvising, stretch yourself by exploring different meters, modes and genres.
A teacher once said to me, the metronome and the tuner are tools that bring you closer to the truth.
Whatever your metaphysical views on Truth are, it’s pretty undeniable that good rhythm, timing and intonation are vital for good musicianship. Just think about this: would you rather listen to a group that’s out of time and out of tune or a group that’s in time and in tune?
If you don’t have a regular habit of practicing with a metronome and a tuner, it’s never too late to start doing some “truth-seeking” in your practice.
Give your practice a fresh focus every now and then.
Expand your musical horizons by finding songs and pieces that stretch and challenge you in different ways. You can set a goal to explore a new genre every month, or learn a new song every week – whatever you’re interested in.
The idea is to do something that your muscles aren’t used to doing and explore new sounds that your ears aren’t used to hearing. (This is a great way to work on sight-reading too!)
Being a musician isn’t all about producing sound. You can learn a ton and get inspiration just by listening.
Your New Year’s Resolution can be to get your 2021 Spotify Wrapped looking totally different from your 2020 one – and maybe double that number of artists you discovered this year.
We often forget that music making is a physical activity. So many musicians get injured from the repetitive movements in playing our instruments – and in order to enjoy our music making, we definitely want to be playing without pain.
Pay attention to what strains might be imposed on your body from your practice. Find out what exercises can help you strengthen the necessary muscles (your core, for starters) and incorporate those into your exercise routine. And of course, don’t forget to stretch regularly and warm up your body before you play.
On a similar vein, making music is also a mental activity.
A meditation practice can give you better focus when you come to make music. Even a few minutes of calm, focused attention on your breath prior to your music making can help clear your mind from distractions – so you can make music in greater connection with yourself.
Collaboration can take many different shapes and forms. It can look like a casual jam, a song that you co-write with someone, or you reaching out to someone to mix your tracks.
Not only can you make magic happen as you bounce ideas off each other, but you also become a better listener and creator.
In times of social distancing, you can collaborate digitally by recording tracks and sending ideas back and forth, or by setting up fun challenges like this.
Tired of reproducing someone else’s creation? 2021 is a great time to finish that song you started last year, or to finally realize the ideas that have been brewing in your head.
Set a time and date, block off all commitments, and give yourself the space to express yourself.
An accountability partner is super helpful for providing support and structure around your goals. Find a like-minded friend – their goals don’t have to be the same as yours – and set up some milestones you want to hit by a certain time.
Put it in your calendars, send each other reminders, keep each other motivated and accountable.
If you’re unfamiliar with digital music production, 2021 is the time to start diving into the world of DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). There’s a learning curve for sure, but there are so many possibilities with computer music – and definitely all worth exploring.
Set a goal to create your tracks at a regular frequency, and you’ll pick up the skills and sounds along the way.
If you’ve always been a closet musician, 2021 is the time to show yourself! Music is more fun when you have people to share it with.
Upload a video or recording of you playing and share it on social media. Or, COVID-permitting, go perform at an open mic.
If this sounds incredibly daunting to you, you can start by sharing your music with close friends or family.
If you tend to just play through songs and pieces to enjoy how they sound, consider learning why it sounds good to you.
This isn’t about learning music theory (though the worlds may overlap), but about gaining more insight into the music you love to play, and getting to have a more fulfilling musical experience overall.
If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of resources out there, from more general “how-to”s of music analysis (like this and this), to theory lessons, to straight-up deconstructions of specific songs.
Hope these 12 New Year’s Resolutions for musicians give you some juice and inspiration going into 2021!
Soundbrenner is a company dedicated to help musicians stay focused on what truly matters: their music. By creating innovative devices, such as Soundbrenner Pulse and Core, our goal is to deliver the best possible practice experience for musicians. Click here to find out more.
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