Happy 2018! Still trying to think of a resolution or two for the new year? Here are some ideas of ways to improve your musical life:
1. Improve your practice habits
Practicing is an important part of every musician's life, and if you want to improve your skills, improving your practice habits is the best way to achieve that goal. This doesn't just mean increasing the amount of time that you spend practicing (though ideally one should practice at least a little bit every day), but also making sure that your practice time is spent effectively. Here is a great article from NPR with some tips for optimizing your practice time.
2. Take care of your instrument
All instruments require routine maintenance and care to function. This is especially for new players, who don't have the experience yet to know whether they are making mistakes or that their instrument is just not working the way it should. Just like you would bring your car in for regular oil changes, so should you bring your instrument in for regular repair. Depending on the instrument, you may want to bring it in at least once a year, or for some instruments two or three times a year. I try to bring my bass clarinet in for maintenance at least once every three months to keep it in good playing condition. Besides maintenance with a technician, instruments require cleaning and care that can be done at home. Wind instruments especially need to be cleaned out after each playing session so that the sugars in your mouth don't ruin the instrument. Take time to learn what things you can do at home to keep your instrument playing as best as possible, and be sure to take it to a professional repair tech at least once a year for general maintenance.
3. Try a new genre of music
There are so many different genres of music out there, and the only way to find out what you like best is to experience them for yourself! Whether that means listening to an artist you've never listened to, or picking up a book of music in a style you've never played, trying out many different styles keeps things interesting. Plus you never know when you'll find your new favorite genre of music. I've found so many songs that I now love to play just by buying a book of songs that I've never heard of and learning them on the piano. The new year is a perfect excuse to add some new tunes to your repertoire.
4. Seek out more performance opportunities
Music is a performing art, and is meant to be shared with others. While it is fun and rewarding to play for yourself, there is no better way to showcase your talents and progress than to perform for other people. Performing doesn't have to be scary, and it doesn't have to be formal. It could be playing for your family in your home, going to an open mic night, or performing in a recital. Having a performance on the horizon gives a player something to work towards and keeps them motivated.
5. Join an ensemble
Another way to share music with others is to join a group. You can make a band with friends or join an established group. There are so many community bands and orchestras across the country for musicians of any level to participate in. For younger players, ask your teachers about youth bands and orchestras in the area to play in. For older students and adults, there are always opportunities to play with a community band or orchestra. Each time that I've moved, I always consult these two lists of community bands, this one from the Association of Concert Bands and this one from the Community Music email list, to find people to play with. See what bands there are near you!
6. Try a new instrument
What if you don't already play an instrument? Or what if you want to try something new? Good news! It's never too late to try a new instrument! If you don't know what instrument you may like to try, a good start is to go on Youtube and listen to people performing on different instruments. What instruments do you like the sound of? What instruments are typically used in your favorite genre of music? From there, the next step would be to find an instrument to practice with and to find a teacher to help you get started. Having one on one instruction is especially important when you are first starting out on an instrument to build good habits and learn proper technique. Many musicians play multiple instruments (myself included!) so dont' be afraid to try something new!
Hope you have a great start to the New Year!