Use Your Five Senses to Become a Better Musician!

  1. Thom
  2. February 1, 2008 12:28 am

What if you could tighten up your group for a totally impressive performance? What would it be like to have your entire band sounding totally professional because they knew how to communicate to each other on stage? Here is a crash course on live musicianship.

Eye Contact

I have many friends in garage bands, as well as different groups I played with in high school. One of the biggest problems they have is their lack of eye contact. Eye contact is one of the strongest forms of connection and communication. By simply connecting your gaze you can clean up entrances and overall make your group tighter.

Even if you are a drummer in the back of the band, be watching your people up front instead of staring at which drum or cymbal you are planning to hit next!

  • Watch the other members in your ensemble!
  • Make eye contact often!
  • Don’t stare at your fingers!


Always tune your instrument before a performance. Use your ear to tune your instrument to whoever is considered the “control” or one in tune. By having the group tune to each other versus a metronome, you are much more likely to blend more cleanly.

Do you overpower the melody when you are playing backup guitar? Are you the first violin playing too loud when the 2nd violin/viola have the melody? Listen to the rest of the group and recognize what is more important. If what you’re playing isn’t as important as something else, back off on the dynamics!

Two sections could have the same dynamic marking of Forte (loud) while one of them is playing straight eight notes and the other is playing a high melody. Generally those eight notes aren’t quite as important and should be played slightly less Forte.

Learn to blend and paint the palette with complimentary colors and sound vs. having a wall of noise. Listen for intonation; if there are two of you holding a long note…be sure that the two notes are in tune!

  • Listen and Blend: Are you the most important piece of the music, or a complimenting harmony/rhythm?


Are you always hogging the limelight or jealous of other people in your group? Maybe its time you took a look at yourself and realized its good to take a step back every once in a while. Sometimes less is more! You don’t always have to be the lead guitarist tearing away, instead let some one else take the solo. Be sure to compliment them on their abilities!

On the other side of this as well, don’t sling mud onto your rival groups and individual musicians; it can only come back at you. On the other hand, treat them well, and they are sure to do the same.

  • Do you have a big head?
  • Look out for and care about the other members.
  • Don’t talk smack about your rivals.


To anyone who has never done this before, you may feel stupid and funny, but this technique does something totally cosmic, synchronizing everybody together. Whatever your time signature is, you will breathe the length of a beat before the entrance.

For example if counting off in 4/4, “One, two, three, ::SNIFF!::” the sniff being the length of the quarter note you are counting. Have all of your members breathe in time before each entrance and you WILL have an incredibly tight group provided that you can all keep time.

  • Incredibly simple, yet incredibly powerful: Breathe!


One of my students made a great pun, “Metronomes tick me off!” Though I thoroughly enjoyed puns and was sure to compliment him on this, I still make him use a metronome!

Pull up Itunes, Winamp, or your CD player and turn on any song. Can you tap your foot or nod your head to the beat? Can you feel the beat internally? This sounds like something incredibly simple but if you can’t tell the when the downbeat is, this is something where you could spend some time!

I have met many phenomenal (and some not so phenomenal) players who have no problem playing their instrument with virtuoso abilities, however, they couldn’t keep a steady tempo to save their life! They will complain “I hate metronomes, they throw me off!” The real problem is that the metronome doesn’t deviate from the tempo, and they don’t know how to play without rushing/dragging. Learn how to use it, and use it often.

  • Feel the beat both internally and externally.
  • Count!
  • Purchase and learn to use a metronome, and use it often!

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