10 + 1 More Ways to Improve Your Playing

  1. Thom
  2. January 24, 2008 4:59 pm

In the beginning of the month I wrote a post called “10 Ways to Improve Your Playing.” It was so popular that I decided to write about 10 + 1 more ways! This list I feel in some ways dives a little bit deeper than the last, though that doesn’t mean the first list isn’t still incredible important!

  1. Surround Yourself With People Who Are Better Than You

    When you surround yourself with high caliber players well above your level, you will learn much more at a faster rate through multiple streams. Think of it as having multiple informal mentors you can ask for advice on a particular niche. This will also make you more aware of your own playing, forcing you to concentrate on what and how you produce your sound. Sometimes even the simple association with these people will rub off and level you up.

  2. Find a Reason – Why Are You Trying to Improve?

    Do you want to play in an orchestra, ensemble, or rock band? Maybe you just want to play socially or for yourself. Whatever the reason, find it and write it down in your journal! Also include what it will mean for you literally and emotionally to achieve this purpose.

  3. Jam with Friends

    “Jamming” or improvising completely with friends is a fun way to get to communicate musically while learning musicianship and the notes on your instrument. First hear where you want the music to go, and then try and translate that to your instrument.

  4. Learn a Song/CD by Ear

    This is the absolute best way to get to know your way around your instrument. By having to figure out how to re-create melodies and harmonies you are literally building a musical vocabulary. Just as a cunning linguist can form better sentences, so will you be able to form more interesting musical phrases.

  5. Attack Your Trouble Spots

    Where is your technique lacking? Is it impossible to control your bow? Do your fingers get too tense? Identify your weaknesses and strive to overcome them one at a time. Use the Three Minute Rule (Spend just three dedicated minutes to your technique). Remember the Classroom Analogy

  6. Join a Group/Orchestra

    Joining a formal group will do you wonders for your musicianship! Learning to play together and follow a central source is essential! You will learn how to move as one with your section, and often times the entire group. Your peers will also appreciate your experience, especially if they group experience.

  7. Active Listening

    Following along with a recording while reading (not playing) the music is a great way to see how everything intermingles. If you are lucky enough to have a score and not just a single part, you will quickly determine the importance of your part versus others at any given measure. If you don’t have music, try to listen that much deeper and pick out which instruments are playing what. Pay attention to their dynamic levels and tone as well as how they fit in with the other instruments.

  8. Drills

    Yes I know everyone hates drilling, but when done correctly with the right attitude it can really work wonders! Take a problematic part and slow it down. Play it over and over again with a metronome at a tempo slow enough that allows you to play comfortably and correctly. Do not increase the tempo until you have played it at least twelve consecutive times perfectly!

  9. Compose

    Writing and composing is not only fun, it gives you a chance to challenge yourself! There are many times that I have written a riff or idea that was too technically challenging for me to play. The result was hours of practice so that I could finally pull it off!

  10. Family Involvement

    Engage your family and friends and ask them to encourage you as you play. Offer them free concerts to get over your anxieties of performing while also receiving constructive criticism.

+1 Set up a practice space

Take an area and dedicate it to your music. Leave your music and instrument stand out in the open. Some essentials to have:

  • CD player
    To play along with recordings
  • Comfortable Chair/Couch
    For those much needed breaks!
  • Free Flowing Layout
    No clutter! Keep the room clean and inviting.

If you have a spare room, feel free to convert this to your own private studio! One of my violin teachers loves the color purple, and so she painted the walls of her studio and even bought a purple music stand! If you make this a fun place to be, you are more likely to walk in and spend some time playing!


  1. Reanna M. says:
    Posted September 27, 2008 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I Encouraged my family to listen to me play. It helps me get rid of Stage Fright.

  2. I agree strongly with No. 1 this is by far the fastest way to get better at violin

  3. I definitely agree you should attack your trouble spots. Too often as musicians we get carried away playing things we already know – let’s face it, it’s a lot easier than learning new stuff. But you never really progress as a musician until you are willing to struggle through the hard stuff.

    All it takes is a change of mind. When I can’t play something I look at it in a good way. Cool, I don’t know how to play this but now I have identified the problem and I can learn it.

Leave a Reply