The type of music you make is influenced by a variety of factors from individualistic to environmental. These influences can be positive or negative depending on how they are handled.
As commonplace as they may seem, they strongly influence your musical output, productivity, and ultimately your musical career.
1. The Music You Listen To
The type of music you listen to (especially from childhood) shapes your musical perception, preferences/tastes, and even your musical abilities. You generally tend to reproduce the kind of music you listen to consistently.
I once asked a contemporary choir to sing a phrase in a classical manner.
The result was horrible.
Why? Most of them had never really listened to classical music before.
It therefore behooves you to stock your music library with intent. If you want to sing/play jazz, listen to all the various genres of jazz you can lay your hands on.
How can you listen to “Voice of the Cross” 24/7 (no disrespect intended) and expect to sound like Tye Tribbett??? How?
Music is a language; hence, what you pick up and reproduce greatly depends on what you listen to.
2. Personal Music Etiquette & Value Systems
What is your view of music?
How do you do music?
Do you strive to constantly learn and improve yourself?
Do you pay attention to details when learning a piece, or do you just skim the surface to take the obvious parts and discard everything else especially when it looks complex? What structures have you put in place to ensure sustained musical growth?
You could watch a thousand music videos, hang around with the greatest musicians in the world, give them gifts to “tap into their grace,” etc., but if you do not cultivate the right musical value systems and etiquette, you will not go far.
Guys, this does not mean you should stop giving me gifts. I like the gifts, but I have to tell you the truth.
Discipline yourself musically.
Pay the price.
3. Your Musical Environment
What is your musical environment like? Are the singers/musicians around you hardworking or lazy? If it is a choir, does your music director pay attention to details, or is he/she okay with shoddy preparation and performances? Are the musicians around you desirous of growth or are they complacent and comfortable?
A good environment will push, stretch, groom, challenge, and encourage you to develop musically. However, a toxic and lax musical environment will become a lid to your career. Two things will likely happen if you desire growth and you are in a toxic environment:
- You will be flowing against the tide and it will wear you out soon enough because you will be a lone ranger in your push for growth and excellence. Over time, you will be labeled as “I-too-know (ITK),” or “over-sabi,” and people may dislike you because you want things done well.
This will breed contempt and envy towards you and your music.
- In an effort to pipe down, take things easy, and avoid the trouble (as will be suggested by some of them), you will become complacent, and it will rid you of your musical edge, zeal and creativity.
I have met quite a number of very talented singers/musicians who have complained bitterly because they belong to church denominations that do not place much value on music, singers or musicians. It is a frustrating experience.
On the home front, some parents see music as just a hobby and aspiring professional musicians as ‘unserious,’ so if a child begins to take music seriously, they put a rein on the child.
You have to do something about your musical environment if you really want to grow musically. Your action point will depend on the peculiarity of your circumstance and how far you want to go with your music.
4. Role Models and Mentors
You have probably heard someone say to a singer “you sound so much like (insert artiste name).” If you ask further, you will find out that the said artiste is their role model or mentor.
A role model serves as an example of the values, attitudes, and behaviors associated with a role. A role model is often someone you do not have direct access to, but you can study from a distance.
A mentor on the other is one who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time. A mentor should be someone you can get access to.
Studying a role model and/or getting a mentor can streamline the growth process for you by giving you a guide on what works and what does not, helping you grow at a faster pace.
We generally tend to adopt the mannerisms, approach, and modus operandi of our role models/mentors because they are people that we look up to and as such they have a strong influence on our musical career.
So it behooves you to choose them wisely – and in line with your musical goals and vision.
5 .Rehearsal Routine
How fast you will grow musically is directly proportional to how often you practice –provided you are practicing the right material and using the right technique. Most of what we do as singers and musicians is based on muscle memory which implies that the more we do it, the better we get. Therefore, it is pertinent that you make out time to practice EVERYDAY even if it is just for thirty minutes. Draft a rehearsal schedule and follow it religiously.
What you should do during your practice time depends on the peculiarity of your voice/instrument.
As a songwriter, artiste, musician, producer, etc., these factors will to a great extent determine your musical strength, sound, uniqueness, and originality. The good news is that most of them lie within your control.
So take charge of these influences. Grow.
Written by Nsisong Udi