5 Helpful Musician Tips

Written by Ryan Kershaw.

Put Down the Devices

It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy pace of modern living, especially for those of us that live in suburbs and cities. Checking emails too often and being on social media every 5 minutes only adds to the mental fatigue, so keep these to a minimum. A common trait with people that get things done successfully is focusing on one thing at a time. That does not mean that you can’t have multiple projects on the go, but it does mean that when you are undertaking a task or practicing an exercise or song, give that task your complete attention.

Cutting back on the frequency of email checking gives you more time to focus on what you want to do – play the guitar! You will be more energized, and remember – checking your inbox is following other people’s agendas. Watch Brendan Burchards video How Millionaires Schedule Their Day where he explains this concept beautifully.

My action step for you: after watching the video mentioned above, make your time a priority and set a low maximum number of times that you will check your email and social media (e.g. 1 to 3 times per day only). Stick to it for 4 weeks and notice the difference!

Set Goals

Musicians should have goals. Goals you direction and something to aim for, which creates momentum and helps you to feel like you are moving forward. Even if we don’t quite achieve the goal, it is through the working towards the goal that we learn, grow and get out of feeling stuck.

Goals can be set at your own intensity level, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that goals are not interesting, or too formal for music. A lot of people recommend using the ‘S.M.A.R.T goals’ system (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely). This can be useful for smaller goals however if you have a bigger dream in your heart, the A and R part of it can be limiting (too many folks’ version of realistic means easy and many musicians don’t give them enough credit for what they are able to achieve).

The reason that I don’t favour “smart” goals for bigger ambitions is because a goal should push you enough, so that by working towards it you achieve things that you haven’t before. When you do that you gain confidence through experience.

Action step: Set 3 goals for yourself this year (this column is focused towards musicians but these principles can be applied to any endeavour).

Set one ‘short-term’ goal, one ‘mid-term goal’ and one ‘long-term goal’. Always remember to put a date with your goals, as the specific deadline increases focus and boosts drive to achieve it in time.

Listen to Positive Audio

What you hear on a daily basis has a big impact on how you feel, and in turn affects how well you practise and how you enjoy what you do. There is so much negative information going into our minds from the news, moaning people and outside stresses; making it is easy to start doubting what we do. The good news is that we have the ability to change our thinking. One of the easiest ways to help this along is to listen to positive audio each day – preferably in the morning.

Action step: You will benefit from advice and input from successful people with strong, constructive thinking. Listen to positive audio every day this week starting with The Success Principles audiobook by Jack Canfield, Set of the Sail by Jim Rohn, or The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale.

Take Responsibility and Action

Your fingers need to move if you want to see improvement on the guitar. It still almost amazes me to talk with guitarists who don’t put effort in with physical practise, but are still confused as to why they can’t get their legato clear, or their chord changes smoother.

Knowing how to get things better is all fine and well, but without action it is dormant knowledge and unproductive. You need to physically move and practise what it is that you want to achieve, and start to be how you imagine yourself being. Check yourself for pointing the finger. It is too easy to blame the radio DJ for not playing your song, or your parents for not encouraging you as a child, or the state of the industry for being different to your perfect picture. None of this blaming will help you and it can even hold you back. Take no less than 100% responsibility for your reactions to challenges and setbacks, and keep this formula in mind: E = R = O (Event + Response = Outcome).

Action step: Make a list of your current challenges. Common concerns are often to do with time, money or feeling stuck. Rather than let these issues continue to linger in the back of your mind, work on solutions for each of these problem areas. Focus on the solutions more than the problems and, using small steps every day, take action this week to turn the problems around.

Interact with Good Musicians

Creative people aren’t always the most sociable of creatures. Coupled with work or school hours and other responsibilities, it can be easy to become a bit of a hermit. It is crucial though, that you get used to interacting with other people. Whether you like it or not, having a music career involves other people.

Clubs and organizations are a great place to start, as there will be like-minded people who relate to your way of thinking. You will also unlock opportunities for your own growth as a musician through jamming with others, or even just observing and taking things in.

Action step: Make a list of local music organizations related to your field. For guitarists you could start with the Guitar Association of New Zealand, or the Auckland Blues Club. If you would also like to learn more about the music business or industry side of things there are also organizations such as Independent Music New Zealand and the Music Managers Forum. Set aside a day this week to do some research and list at least 5 other music clubs or organizations that you haven’t previously heard of.

Author bio: Originally from New Zealand, Ryan Kershaw is a musician and music educator, author of “Use Your Buzz To Play The Guitar” and creator of the Musicians Confidence Course. He helped to strengthen the music education community in New Zealand by bringing organisations together including Music Education New Zealand Aotearoa, Smokefree Rockquest, and Independent Music New Zealand. He is the founder of the New Zealand Underground Festival, which provided New Zealand underground musicians with a platform to connect with the industry, and currently writes for The Guitar Association of New Zealand, Audioculture and Muzic.nz. Ryan is now based in Ireland and continues to record, play and teach music.

Web: ryan-kershaw.com Consultations available for musicians, music teachers and music organisations. Email: [email protected] to enquire

Originally from New Zealand, Ryan Kershaw is a musician and music educator, author of 'Use Your Buzz To Play The Guitar' and creator of the Musicians Confidence Course. He is the founder of the New Zealand Underground Festival, which provided New Zealand underground musicians with a platform to connect with the industry. Ryan is now based in Ireland and continues to record, play and teach music. Consultations available for musicians, music teachers and music organisations. Email: [email protected] to enquire