Professionals, no matter the field, are great at what they do. With musicians, the pros have spent countless hours honing their craft. With other professions, people spend years in school and earn multiple degrees. In any field, though, there is a lot that pros can learn from beginners.
My recent ebook, “Become a Musician” is for beginners, but it can remind us pros and advanced musicians about the basics. As we progress in a given field, it can be easy to forget how hard certain things are at first.
Whether that thing is getting a sound out of the flute or learning how to read music, the concept is the same. Professional musicians can easily forget those first days as a flutist.
I know I don’t remember my initial struggles. And that was only a few years ago.
A Beginner’s Mindset
Newcomers to the flute, or any instrument, usually have an idealized view of their pursuit. The flute is such a pretty instrument, it must be easy to play, right?
Pros and advanced amateurs know that is not the case. The flute can be beautiful, but it can also be finicky. It can go in and out of tune, and alternate fingerings are sometimes necessary for good intonation.
Thinking like a beginner can help more advanced players break through walls in their playing. While I don’t support rushing through pieces or exercises, beginners just want to play. They have yet to learn the importance of technical exercises.
Set aside time to just play your instrument, no rehearsing, no practicing. Just play. Remind yourself why you even started music in the first place.
Music should be fun, regardless of why you play. If music is your livelihood, your career, you should still enjoy it. It can be easy to become stressed when music is your job, but you can overcome that stress.
Whether it is playing a duet with a friend or playing along to a pop song, do something you love and that isn’t attached to a paycheck.
Take Things Slow
When you are comfortable with your instrument, you might be tempted to rush. It could be a piece, or your practice session, or something else. Time is not always on your side as a musician.
But beginners can’t speed through things like the pros can. Taking it slow is something every pro can learn from beginners, in every field. If you only have 15 minutes to practice, choose something that is doable in that time.
You may be tempted to rush through your whole practice routine, I know I am. But stop. Take a minute, and be mindful about what you’re doing. Do you feel rushed? Do you wish you had more time to practice?
That’s normal, but it should be the exception, not the rule. Being a musician in the 21st century means much more than practicing. It means scheduling lessons and rehearsals, writing blog posts and emails, and more.
You won’t always have hours to practice. Some days you may not practice at all. So appreciate the time you do have to practice and practice what you know you can improve. A slight improvement is better than none.
Solidify the Basics
If you come across a high note or a symbol you don’t understand, stop. What is the fingering for the note? What is the symbol? Can you look it up?
Beginners are constantly working on the basics of their instrument; they are beginners, after all. After years of playing, you may think you know everything there is to know about music theory or the flute.
Yes, us pros know a lot, but that doesn’t mean we should stop learning and studying the basics. If you don’t understand something in your music, learn it. Consult a teacher or another musician.
Be constantly learning and growing, even as a professional musician.
Know your key signatures, time signatures, and other notations. Get comfortable in the common range for your instrument. If it’s a transposing instrument (a key other than C), know how the transposition works.
Sometimes, Less is More
Many music teachers recommend that beginners practice no more than 20-30 minutes a day. To professionals, that can seem too short a time to practice.
There’s orchestral excerpts, etudes, and solo rep to learn. How can we accomplish anything in less than half an hour?
I’m not saying you have to limit your practicing to 30 minutes a day, but I am saying that longer practice sessions aren’t always better. Overuse injuries do exist, and they are no joke. They can put you out of commission for weeks or even months.
While you should spend enough time practicing in order to accomplish your goals, you should be focused. If you are uncomfortable or in pain, or simply exhausted, don’t practice. Stop after that 30 minute mark.
It’s better to stop playing before you get injured. Also, practicing under less than perfect conditions can be pointless. If you’re head’s not in it, that mindless practice can come back to bite you in the form or unnecessary mistakes.
What else can pros learn from beginners when it comes to music? Leave your answer below in the comments!