5 Action Steps To Achieve Great Musicianship

You may be a skilled musician, but do you have skilled musicianship?

What exactly is musicianship?

Musicianship combines the "thinking" and the "feeling" of great music making. Musicianship includes your approach to your instrument, but it’s also more than that. It’s the ability to develop a great musical mind, along with the physical ability to bring what's in your mind out into reality.


If you perfectly connect what you hear in your head with what you’re doing on your instrument, then you have perfect musicianship. Isn't this the dream of all musicians? Too bad none of us are perfect....

The good news is that this can be developed. And having great musicianship will bring the following benefits:

1) You'll learn new instruments faster. 2) You won't overthink things when you play live. 3) You'll have more musical confidence. 4) You'll have what it takes to be a pro and get paid.

great musicianshipThink about the whole right brained / left brained thing.

I did this short test to find out where I was, and it turns out that though I have a little bit of both, I am stronger on the right brain side.

This makes sense because I'm naturally inclined to intuition and curiosity. Most artists are in this category.

But musicians can have a unique combination of both.

My take-away from the picture to the left is I need to develop more of the left-brain part of my musicianship.

This would be folks who have an understanding of music theory. If this is you, then you have a serious edge. You'll be ahead of the curve because you will be able to speak the language of music. You'll have the right vocabulary, and mental capacity to "think" like a great musician.

But it's not all you need...

You must also learn to "feel" like a great musician.

Contrary to popular belief, people aren't born with a great ear. It must be developed and trained. Sure there are those who have more raw talent than others, but they also have to develop. Combine these skills (ear and theory) and you will supercharge your potential to have great musicianship.

Want to get started?

Five action steps to achieve great musicianship

  1. Study An Artist

  2. Find an hour to do the following exercise: Choose a song from a favorite artist and get out your journal or a notebook. Listen to it a few times as you write down the musical reasons you think it's great. What do you hear? Listen to each instrument in the track. Ask yourself questions like "why did the drummer do that?", or if you're a songwriter ask, "how is the second verse different than the first?" Do this often enough and you will move beyond mimicking artists to thinking like an artist.

  3. Memorization and Internalization

  4. Learn how to internalize music by putting everything you do to memory. Charts and notes may be necessary at first, but get away from them ASAP. Internalizing a song helps tune your ear to the heart of the song itself, breaking you out of the pure clinical, left-brained approach to music making. This is where many classically trained musicians struggle the most.

  5. Take Lessons

  6. Like. Seriously. This is a no brainer. Continue to take private lessons, practice, and guess what happens? You get better!

  7. Keep Your Instrument Out

  8. Watch what happens when you bring your instrument into your daily activity. If it’s guitar, get it out of its case and onto a guitar stand. Whatever it is, bring it out in the open. You'll naturally play it more.

  9. Play music with other musicians

  10. Probably the biggest sign of a person with great musicianship is someone who selflessly plays with others. If you play in a band long enough, it's inevitable that you will have to learn how to play together as a team. This means you do what serves the big picture. You play less, and not more. You let the song, and the entire group, be in the spotlight.

    As my friend Will McFarlane says, it's not about the notes you play, it's about the notes you leave out.


No matter what instrument you play, nothing will help you improve more than having a long-term vision of showing up every day to do the work. Achieving great musicianship will not happen over night, but, after years of experience, you'll look back and see the growth.

As a believer I take great comfort knowing that if God has called me to pursue something, he will provide the grace I need to do the work necessary on that pursuit. But even more than that, my identity isn't in my level of performance or ability.

Don't forget that if you're Christian, all of this is so that Jesus would be more glorified in and through your life. We don't improve or grow so that we might be made great, but so that we might make Jesus look great.

And guess what? As you do that, you'll love music more than ever without it being your idol. And that is when it get exciting!

Can I Ask A Favor?

If you have a Facebook account, and you found this blog post to be helpful, would you mind sharing it with your friends? Just click on the social share buttons to your right! I greatly appreciate that!

Also, if anything I said resonated with you, let me know in the comments below!

The One Mistake That CanGreatly Hinder You As A Musician

Do you want to balance inspiration and discipline?

Before I get to that, let me share a story.

When I was a teenager, there was a group of my peers who got really into learning the guitar. I was actually a drummer first, and didn't really have much interest, but when a couple of these guys started learning some songs and invited me to learn with them, I got inspired.

I took that inspiration, went to my dad who was a guitar player, and asked him if I could use his guitar. Our group of guys were all learning at the same level. We were all inspired.

But then something very normal began to happen.

After a while, fingers got sore. Interest began to wane. We had all hit a ceiling, and things started to fizzle out.

In short: The inspiration was dying.

But then something amazing happened. My dad bought me my own guitar for my birthday. Dad was a real guitar player. Something in his gift communicated to me that I could become a real guitar player too.

If I worked at it.

This form of inspiration was far greater than that of the first kind. It was more than just fun, cool, and exciting. It had purpose attached to it. This is what pushed me over that first hurdle of discipline and musical pain, and guess what happened?

I actually got more inspired, and more disciplined.

Approaching inspiration the wrong way can actually be the biggest mistake that can set you back for years, if not hold you back forever.

Becoming so addicted to the first feelings of being "inspired" that you never work unless you have that "magical feeling", is what most beginners settle for.

You end up plateauing, and your skills and abilities become stagnant when you don't move beyond inspiration into perspiration. This is why so many people who start new and exciting things only get so far. They reach a ceiling, and the ceiling has to be pushed through - if you want to improve.

But there's a problem with "pushing through" that we can all relate to.

It's not fun. It's not inspiring.

Staying in the realm of your comfort and inspiration is much more appealing. There will be many days when the best thing you can do for yourself is to sludge through the nitty-gritty of musical craftsmanship. To put your nose to the grindstone and get to work. But guess what?

Very soon, if whatever you're working on is tied to your purpose, you'll get inspired again. Because you'll notice your improvement.

So please don't misunderstand me. I'm not throwing out inspiration at all.

In fact, the most driven people on earth are more inspired than the ones who simply look for that easy, magical feeling. They have a deeper sense of why and purpose, getting them through the hard work of stretching themselves.

Their growth looks like this....

photo (6)

So how do you find this perfect balance of inspiration and discipline?

It might sound cliche, but you don't quit. Simply place one foot in front of the other. Eventually, you'll experience a natural cycle of discipline and inspiration that's like a beautiful dance. Don't lose heart! Soon enough, the balancing act actually takes care of itself.

There's been a lot of theory here, so let's get actionable. Sound good?

Here are 6 steps you can do to push through the hard part and get that second wind.

1. Write A Purpose Statement For Your Life

If you do this, you'll be in the minority. Millions of people don't do this. It doesn't have to be perfect the first time. Just write something down, look at it everyday, and edit it as you need to. Companies do this, churches do this, so why not individuals? It doesn't need to be long. It shouldn't be. Write it down in just a few sentences.

2. Invest In Yourself

Improving in anything takes investment. Do you have a sense of the worth that surrounds your purpose and calling? Whether you're musical or not, you are called and gifted to become someone that contributes value to the world. Every dollar spent, or every hour committed to your growth isn't a static transaction of time and money, but an investment that will yield fruit and reward down the road. You need to think this way. Look for private lessons or a training course. Something that will stretch you.

3. Commit To A Schedule Of Practice And Development

We spend time on the things that we assign value to. Having the mindset of investment and value will make it easier to set aside scheduled time for your practice and development. Have a vision for growth with a 20 Mile March system in place.

Start small and grow from there, don't bite off more than you can chew.

4. Get A Coach

I have some bummer news for you. You will have blind-spots. Bringing in a coach to help you see the chinks in your armor is vital. Get someone to come along side your work to give you the perspective and motivation you need to improve. A great coach is one who understands your purpose, reminding you that everything you do must point back to that.

All the pros have coaches. Why would beginners think that they're exempt?

5. Share Your Progress

There's something awesome that happens when someone notices that you've improved. And it's a great feeling when they tell you about it. But how would they know if you always stayed in your bedroom or basement or garage (or wherever you practice) and never shared your gift with anyone?

If you were just a closet musician all of your life, then your impact on the world as a musician would be pretty negligible. Besides, sharing your work is a great way to improve too. You can humbly solicit feedback and apply it in your investment and practice. Which brings me to point 6.

6. Rinse And Repeat

Repeat steps 1 through 5 until you stop breathing. Growth and change is a lifelong pursuit, not an overnight transformation. This is a marathon and not a sprint.

What about you?

I almost made the mistake of only looking for that first feeling of cheap inspiration, but I had a greater form of inspiration to push me through. It's called purpose and calling, and it's what you need in order to push through the hard days.

What gives you the ability and power to push through?