Everyone starts out the same way when wanting to become a great musician. They sit in their room and fiddle around on an instrument that they know nothing about trying to sound like a musician they respect. In short order they realize that simply playing the instrument, much less becoming proficient at it is a monumental task, and that the thought of reaching legend level is something that only a combination of arrogance and naiveté would inspire.
For a few of those that plod on through the years of training a fewer number of these like guitar virtuoso and teacher Tom Hess, will become great. Through the journey of blood, sweat, and wrong notes, there are steps that can both continue to inspire one along and simply help one get better. Here is a list of the most important of those things.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Every musician you respect and admire at one point was a terrible musician, then spent years and even decades perfecting his playing skills. There is simply no alternative to practicing a lot if you want to become great on an instrument. This means you have to set aside a considerable amount of time for playing and do it. It is not unusual to hear of musicians who practice four to five hours a day to get themselves proficient on an instrument. You should expect to need to put in this type of time also if you want to get great. The best approach is to vary the type of practicing you do. Some might entail doing it with sheet music, others might be doing scales, a third option might include with other musicians where you practice playing live and in a group. There are also great online options such as Garageband Loops that provide a backing track for you to play against. You can connect with these apps through your computer or phone and away you go. Vary approaches to practicing s you don’t get bored, but practice all the time. It will make all the difference.
Record and listen back to your playing
In the beginning this will seem like a complete waste of time and truthfully at times it will be, but there will be other times when you will notice things that will improve your playing. One of these things will be actually hearing how you sound and your tendencies and beginning to develop a feel for the instrument. As you progress you will hear yourself getting better which is inspiring and then as you progress more you will begin to hear yourself actually developing a style of playing. You will also get more comfortable with the instrument.
Play with other musicians, often
Once you have learned how to play a little you should seek to hook up with and jam with other musicians. In the beginning it really doesn’t matter what level they are at and even what instruments they play, the goal is to be around players and to get comfortable playing in a group environment. As your playing progresses you will begin to spot better quality musicians and they will spot you, leading to your being more selective about who you play with, but in the beginning get around a group of players as often as you can and play. This will really pay off in the future if you join a band or even do session work. Knowing how to play with others is very beneficial.
If you can play with other musicians in the same room, this is the most ideal situation, but the Internet has created other options that can also be really cool. There are many sites where you can go online and set up jam sessions with real musicians all over the world. You simply set a time and everyone shows up in front of their computers and you all just play. You can also sue a pre-recorded loop that everyone can play on top of together. These online jam sessions are great for finding new friends and learning new tricks and of course building your confidence.