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Building Technique as a Musician

Building Technique as a Musician

The beauty about a player’s musical journey is that it is their own. Whether you are just starting out or in the intermediate to advanced stages of your career, there are some steps that should never be overlooked or skipped before moving forward.

Now that you have learned some of the basic building blocks, such as good posture and the fundamentals of your instrument and playing, it is time to focus on the next stepping stone which is building proper technique.

 

Building Technique Into Your Practice

 

Although it may be different for every instrument and genre, powerful skills come from regularly practicing your technique. For any instrument, the exercises (or etudes) that build dexterity, speed, agility, lyrical playing and muscle memory are scales, arpeggios, tone or sound quality exercises, rhythm studies and chord changes. If played daily as the basis of your practice routine, no matter how much time you have, these kinds of exercises will build an unshakable scaffolding on which you can build your style. Without strong, mastered technique you may find it difficult to progress to more advanced playing or may plateau at specific, simpler pieces of music. Strong technique gives you freedom to play multiple styles of music as your tastes or musical situations change.

 

Building Technique with Limited Time

 

If you have difficulty establishing a rhythm to your practice routine, because you don’t have enough time in your day or week, technique building is where you would want to focus every time you practice. Although it may be more fun to play pieces you know when you have the time, progress as a musician requires honing the fundamental techniques that empower you to play the music you love. Focusing on the fundamental skills and exercises is also a surefire way to warm up and optimize your practice with a limited time frame. Mandolin virtuoso, Mike Marshall, is a strong advocate for fundamental technique building. One of the lessons in his mandolin course here at ArtistWorks, called the “Finger Busters,” helps students of all skill levels be able to navigate any sort of musical obstacle they might face in a tune. Whether it’s lyrical playing or trying to execute something fast that has to be played quietly, building your technique is important so that there is nothing you can’t play going forward.

 

Keep Your Instrument in Plain Sight

 

As mentioned in part 1 of our “Becoming a Musician” video tutorial series, there is value in having your instrument out in a safe but accessible place so there is no barrier to your inspiration to play. When it comes to practicing, our master ukulele instructor, Craig Chee, always has his instrument readily available. He might be watching Netflix, or have time between programs, where he finds a few free minutes to play. What does he play? Finger rolls, scales, chord changes or a difficult passage he struggles with. It’s his technique he works on, even if he’s only got 10-15 minutes. This is a very common tactic used by seasoned musicians whose schedules are always busy because it is more in line with their demanding lifestyle. Having immediate access to your instrument makes it easier to refer back to the scales, arpeggios, tone exercises and chord changes — all of the techniques that are bedrock to strong musical progress.

 

Expand Your Musical Vocabulary

 

Players interested advancing their skills need a vast musical “vocabulary”. This consists of phrases or licks typical to the genre, approaches the legends have used, standard chord progressions, tasteful ornamentation and of course, scales and arpeggios among many other elements considered fundamental to the instrument or genre. By building a bigger arsenal of techniques, musicians don’t have to invent all new material when they are improvising or creating a solo. They simply rearrange fundamental techniques in a musical, coherent way. Grammy® Award winner and bass legend, John Patitucci, encourages his students of all skill levels to expand their vocabulary by practicing a wide variety of technique builders that become part of your musical style. He advocates listening to the recordings of great jazz icons and reading their books to better understand the tools they used that elevated their playing to a distinctively, higher level than others. Practicing and building your technique, as simple as it seems, may become the core to a great jazz solo or inspire a much more complex piece.

 

Play Musically

 

If you ever experience uncertainty in your playing, it is helpful to refer back to the simplicity of the scales and arpeggios and practice them musically. Add phrasing, different dynamics or change the articulation so that each sounds like part of a piece of music. These basic techniques are often encountered in pieces because they are the foundation of all music. Mastering these fundamentals expands the skills on which you can musically draw. You will find that it is almost second nature to incorporate these cornerstones in your playing. They become a valuable part of your originality and musicality. Make practicing fundamental techniques fun and creative by playing these techniques melodically and musically. They will act as the inspirational force to something more musically profound down the line.

 

Don’t Miss Out

 

Although these are crucial steps that some musicians overlook or skip, it’s never too late to go back and incorporate them into your musical journey. Don’t underestimate the power of scales, arpeggios, tone and technique  exercises - they are the bedrock to strong musical skills. Incorporating these foundational building blocks into your regular practice routine will improve your technical skills and will help you navigate all passages and music with ease. There will be nothing you can’t play if you have a solid technique.

 

Wherever you are learning, whether with an in-person instructor or through an online resource, you may not get to where you want to be unless you devote some time to your technique. Maybe you aren’t aware of all the required techniques or maybe the source of your instruction does not include the important fundamental building blocks of being a good player. Perhaps you need another resource to provide all the necessary tools so that you can become the musician that you always wanted to be.

 

Regardless of where you are in your musical journey, we are here to help! Check out our “Becoming a Musician” video tutorial series as we offer valuable insight to players of all skill levels to take their playing to new heights. Investing in these essential building blocks will help you set the stage for more meaningful and lasting progress in your musical career!

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