While many people around the world will take music lessons at some point, far fewer pursue an instrument to the point of becoming highly proficient. Those who do choose to make music a significant part of their lives work hard to the meet their goal. Here are eight habits proficient musicians don’t do.
1. They don’t get discouraged easily
Learning to play a new instrument can leave people feeling frustrated when progress seems slow or a piece of music is particularly complicated. However, people who become proficient musicians always find a way to push through the difficulties that often accompany the process of mastering an instrument. Great musicians recognize that playing well requires determination, and they don’t give up on the art form when they encounter adversity, choosing instead to see it as an opportunity for growth.
2. They aren’t lazy about their approach to learning music
People who become great musicians know that proficiency does not come without hard work, and they don’t expect to find a shortcut to greatness. Proficient musicians recognize that plenty of practice is the only way that they can learn to play an instrument well, and they are purposeful when they go about it. To become a talented musician, great players set realistic, achievable goals for their practice sessions rather than lazily running through scales or idly playing through whole songs.
3. They don’t hate to practice
In addition to practicing often and purposefully, the best musicians also find enjoyment in the process of practice. For great musicians, practice isn’t seen as a chore or merely another task to be completed, but instead as a positive, personal time that they are dedicating to an activity that they like. To be a truly brilliant player, a person must genuinely love the art of music, which makes practice less of a forced task and more of a pleasant, therapeutic one.
4. They don’t forget the importance of humility
No matter how proficient great musicians become, they remember that there are always new things that they can learn from others. The best musicians recognize and respect that other musicians may have something to teach them, and they remain open to gaining new skills from players who are more experienced than they are or who play in a style that is different from their own. Humility is a crucial part of being a great musician, and those who remain humble about their abilities allow themselves to be open to the development of a more diverse set of musical skills.
5. They don’t see high-quality instruments as a wasteful investment
While beginning musicians can start out by practicing with an instrument of generic quality, musicians who become highly proficient recognize the benefits of investing in a high-quality instrument. Instruments that meet high standards hold tune better, are easier to play, and produce better sounds than their cheaper counterparts. Owning a quality instrument also allows a musician to perform to the best of his or her ability. Additionally, great musicians dedicate effort into the care and keeping of their instruments in order to keep them in prime playing condition.
6. They don’t try to replicate what others are doing
Great musicians don’t aspire to play exactly like everyone else. Instead, they develop their abilities well enough to discover their own unique style and aim to set themselves apart from others. Combining skill and creativity can yield the kind of music that people are enthusiastic about, and it allows a musician to take his or her work from uniformly good to outstanding.
7. They don’t take criticism personally
To be a great musician, one must have a thick skin. The best players do not take constructive criticism personally and find value in the opinions and advice of professionals. Musicians who cannot handle criticism are limited to their own subjective view of their abilities, and will never be able to see their music from a well-rounded perspective. Rejecting constructive criticism can prevent musicians from improving their craft, something that the greatest players always strive to do.
8. They don’t take bad advice to heart
Just as important as knowing when to listen to criticism is knowing when to ignore it. While some suggestions will have merit and allow a good musician to become even better, others rooted in personal opinions will do nothing to improve a musician’s abilities. Great musicians are masters of separating the good advice from the bad and ignoring critics who want to tear them down rather than build them up. The world would be missing the music of some of history’s most beloved performers if those who were rejected for their style, like Elvis Presley, Lady Gaga, and the Beatles, had simply given up.
Although the popularity of classical music has declined among the general population in recent generations, its profound influence on all genres of modern music is undeniable. In fact, much of today’s music incorporates stylistic elements of composers who broke barriers and set musical trends far ahead of their time.
To better understand the impact of classical music, music fans should learn about the following four men considered to be among the most timeless and influential composers in history, along with the contributions they made that drove the progression of music forward:
1. Johann Sebastian Bach
A German composer in the baroque style, J. S. Bach was known in his own time for his abilities as a harpsichordist, an organist, and as an organ repair specialist. Today, however, he is considered by many to be the greatest composer of all time. Though his contemporaries considered his pieces to be slightly outdated, later composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, and Schumann acknowledged his genius and drew inspiration from his work.
Part of J. S. Bach’s fame is due to his profound exploration of the baroque style. His compositions incorporated more notes, deeper harmonies, and more advanced technical command than any composer up to that point. He was also very prolific, writing more than 1100 works. His best-known pieces include Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Arioso, and the Brandenburg Concertos.
2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart was an Austrian child prodigy who began studying music at age 3. By age 6, he was composing his own pieces on the harpsicord and touring to perform them around Europe. In addition to the harpsicord, the young Mozart played the organ, viola, and piano. He was famous in his own time for the dramatic complexity of his work as well as his mastery of every musical style, including symphony, concerto, chamber music, and opera.
Like Bach, Mozart stretched the limits of the musical style of his time and brought enriched melodies, harmonic clarity, and perfect form to the art in a way that no previous composer had. In his operas especially, Mozart was able to conjure a depth of emotion in music using elements like tension and shifting key centers. Of his more than 600 works, some of his most famous are Requiem, Symphony No. 40, and the opera The Magic Flute.
3. Ludwig van Beethoven
The compositions of Ludwig van Beethoven mark a turning point in the classical style. In his work, Beethoven expressed a fierce originality and wrote music that met his own standards, rather than those of patrons, wealthy courts, or religious entities. His pieces pushed through boundaries set by standard classical form and played a significant role in ushering in the new age of romantic classical music, which was powerfully emotional and rejected the rigid orderliness of earlier iterations within the genre. His greatness is amplified by the fact that he continued to compose music despite a condition that caused his hearing to deteriorate drastically during the last three decades of his life.
Beethoven created lengthy compositions that were louder and more dramatic than anything previously written. His piano concertos and sonatas, for example, broke new ground, taking full advantage of the instrument’s newly expanded keyboard. His works include some of the most iconic classical music of all time, including the Fifth Symphony, Sonata No. 14 (known as Moonlight Sonata), and Bagatelle No. 25 (known as Für Elise).
4. Frederic Chopin
Born in the early 19th century to a middle-class family in Poland, Frederic Chopin demonstrated his virtuosity early, playing piano adeptly without any formal lessons as a child. When he composed and published his first piece at the age of 7, he drew comparisons to Mozart and would later receive private music lessons from Polish composer Joseph Elsner before attending the instructor’s Warsaw Conservatory. There, Elsner encouraged Chopin to reject traditional playing patterns in favor of pursuing his own original style.
Unlike the composers mentioned above, Chopin was singularly devoted to the pursuit of piano, and while he created the majority of his works for solo piano, he also created a number of concertos and sonatas. His legendary improvisational style was simultaneously tender and frantic, with his feet appearing to constantly be in motion while playing. In fact, he is credited with the first consistent use of half and quarter pedaling.
Chopin’s complex harmonic methods and poignantly reflective melodies influenced many late 19th- and 20th-century composers. Some of his most famous works are Nocturne in E-flat major, Funeral March (also known as Prelude in C minor), and Revolutionary Etude.