This balancing act between analysis, emotion, and personal identity can mean that the process of solving problems and understanding harmony, melody, rhythm, and other facets of music can be especially grueling, since the study of music is often tied up with how a musician determines their self-worth as a person. A problem that might deter a mathematician for an afternoon might deeply affect a musician for a lifetime, in other words.
Finding A Balance
For these reasons, it is best to take a positive and forgiving attitude to the process of personal growth in developing as a musician. As autumn rolls around, here are just a few ways to build on the qualities that will make you into the best musician that you can be. Firstly, however, remind yourself to enjoy the journey and give yourself a break now and then. Remember that growing as an artist take time and lots of practice. There has never been a great artist who was not a profoundly hard worker, so don’t look for the shortcuts, and don’t let yourself be derailed by the inevitable stumbling blocks we will all come across!
1. Reacquaint Yourself With Music Theory
If you haven’t yet, studying music theory is one of the fastest ways to improve as a musician. If you have studied music theory in the past, now may be a great time to brush up on the fundamentals of harmony and melody.
A great way to do so is by brushing up on first-, second-, third-, and fourth-species counterpoint. Counterpoint can help us become better musicians because, as a branch of study, it reduces music to its most basic building blocks. If you can learn to write clear and melodic pieces of music for four voices using strict rules of harmony, your music will most certainly become more beautiful, even if you end up writing for sixteen voices or more in the future.
2. Understand Why You Want To Make Music
For many of us, becoming a musician is at best a daunting proposition in today’s marketplace. Few musicians in contemporary society are able to make a living from their art, and as the recording industry stagnates, it looks unlikely that more positions that can provide a living are going to open up anytime soon.
All of this should be okay with us, because it is unlikely that the kind of extrinsic success that the music industry can provide would make us as happy as we would be if we just made music for its own sake. At the height of his success with Nirvana, Kurt Cobain once said that he felt as though he were faking his enjoyment of playing concerts, and that doing so made him feel severely depressed. To wit, he was as successful as any musician can hope to be, and yet he did not even enjoy playing music anymore.
3. Understand That Success Is Fleeting, But Personal Growth Is Perpetually Rewarding
Indeed, studies suggest that when we base our happiness on extrinsic goals such as earning money or being popular, we are more likely to experience dissatisfaction in our lives. Conversely, people who base their happiness on intrinsic goals such as personal growth, self-acceptance, and a feeling of community tended to show far higher degrees of well-being. That is, if we base our sense of contentment in life on what other people think of us, we’ll never feel satisfied, since such moments of “acceptance” are often ephemeral and not particularly meaningful in and of themselves. (If popularity were a strict measure of quality in music, after all, Crazy Frog would be better than Franz Schubert and Nick Drake, both of whom died in obscurity.)
For these reasons, using the coming months to improve who we are as musicians and who we are as people can be a great launching pad towards realizing our potential as artists. And that is perhaps the greatest journey an artist can experience. As an artist, it is important that you remember to enjoy the path you’re on while you’re on it; the final destination may be great to experience, but it’s the many things we learn along the way that really matter. Whatever path you take, be sure to find joy in creativity, and you will find a wellspring of happiness that never falters.