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  • Writer's pictureBrent Mead

"Can you give me some advice?"

During masterclasses or after concerts, I often get asked for advice by young musicians; perhaps a magic tip to instantly become a better musician. This question makes me think: What could I possibly tell them to make a lasting impact? Sure, I could say something abstract like “the key to trombone playing is ultimate relaxation” or “trombone playing is only allowing your soul to speak through the instrument, nothing more.” Maybe technical advice like “always practice with a tuner” or “understand how to manipulate the speed of your air to sound better in the extreme ranges of the instrument.” What I usually tell people is this: just seek musical concerts & experiences, ask questions, and love what you do.

The best way to improve at your instrument is to love playing your instrument. Satisfaction and happiness leads to chasing more happiness. Seek ways to have more fun playing your instrument. If you have a favorite song, learn to play it. As music students, we learn to play classical music but generally aren’t introduced to that music as a child. I find that if students learn to connect with their instrument as a tool to make their music, then they tend to succeed and become more joyful.

Also, spend time listening to new music. Becoming a better musician must begin by being inspired by better musicians. Listening also provides listeners with opportunities to hear new compositions and performers. As a performer, what you play is a complex combination of what you know and what you have heard. Educators, help introduce your students to new music often. Students, listen more! Explore the vast world of music: jazz, classical, R&B, hiphop, rock ‘n’ roll, African, European, Asian, Pacific Islands, Baroque, Classical, Renaissance, Medieval, new, old, and contemporary. Listening to any musician has benefits. So if you are looking to improve your musicianship, start by listening & playing more.

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