RJ Ronquillo published a YouTube video where he shares his perspective on how to become a better musician.
I’ve paraphrased his points a little:
- Find your inner rhythm, the drummer within.
- Play with others
- Take chances and go outside your comfort zone
- Listen to music, really listen to music
- Don’t take it all too seriously
Like many things in life, the journey of a musician takes a lot of discipline and effort to master an instrument. Much of it is physical and mechanical. Learning where to place your hands. Learning how to play in time. Learning how to make an instrument sound good. All of which could be described as developing the conscious musician.
There comes a point where the advanced player transcends the conscious musician. The physical and mechanical attributes of playing an instrument fall into the shadows. The musician discovers a musical voice. And that musician can speak with their instrument without conscious thought. There is no active consideration of where the hands need to be placed. There is no active consideration of how to create music through the instrument.
For want of a better term, the music flows through the artist. And you can see it when that happens.
All too often I see players fixated on reading charts. Unable to be free of the mechanics of what to play when, they invariably play poorly. Almost stilted. As if the chart itself is somehow making them play the correct notes.
For myself, I try to move from conscious to unconscious play whenever possible. And that usually means freedom from a chart. In addition to RJ’s tips, I have found that learning arrangements, committing them to memory, and playing them without worrying about where the tune is going, provides so much opportunity to play with freedom. And playing with freedom generally means playing better.
Here is RJ’s 5 tips to becoming a better musician.