4 Ways to Stay Musically Sharp

Every once in a while I’m reminded of how important it is to stay musically sharp and just how easy it is to become musically dull.

This can especially happen with worship music.

So much of what we play today in the contemporary worship style is drum and bass-driven, supported by chords on the keys and lead lines from the guitar. For the most part it’s all the same

Learn about a dozen grooves on the drums and you’ve got every worship song out there. Learn about six different chord progressions on keys and it’s pretty much the same. Saturate your guitar with a generous amount of delay, verb, and FX while playing a few nice lead lines and you’ve got yourself a worship tune.

Now this is all fine and good, but if that's all you do, that’s as far as you will grow.

One of my hobbies outside of full-time music is cooking. I love to cook, and I learned a long time ago that one of the most important tools for any chef is the knife. I can’t tell you how many knives I’ve gone through over the years, mostly because I bought poor-quality knives.

Then I started buying higher quality knives and still ran into the same problem they became just as dull. I finally found out why: I wasn’t sharpening them enough. I’d try to cut a tomato and it was as if I was using a hammer. Even sharpening it didn’t do any good. Why? Because I hadn’t been sharpening it from the start. I waited until it was dull before trying to sharpen it when it was too late. Now I sharpen my knife before every use and immediately after I wash it, before I put it away. Now it will always be sharp enough for any situation and will last for years.

There can be a vast difference between simply playing frequently and being musically sharp. If you want to grow as a musician, increase your skills and abilities, and be ready for any situation, then try out these four keys to staying sharp.

1. Spice it Up

One of the easiest ways to become dull is to stick to the same genre of music. Listen to rock, pop, country, jazz, indie, and even bluegrass. Not only listen to it but imitate it. Figure out what they are playing and replicate it. In playing these great musicians you will, over time, develop your own style.

2. Back to Basics

Practice the fundamentals. When people hear the word “scales”, they usually roll their eyes. Scales are foundational to technique, so practice them more than you think you need to. Practice in a variety of tempos, ranges, and rhythms.

3. Can't Go Wrong with Classical

Break out the classical books. I was trained classically through college, so periodically I revisit those great books. I love Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, and others. They were the Corey Henrys of their day!

4. Just Jam

There’s nothing like getting together in your friend's garage or living room for the simple enjoyment of making music together. Jam sessions are important because they teach you to listen to each other. This is vital if you want to stay sharp. Playing live and unplugged in all of its rawness is one of the best ways to grow musically ask any blues or jazz musician.

Now, if you are completely comfortable with playing 4 chords and a capo, then by all means continue to do so. But if you want to grow past that and stay sharp for any occasion, then use these four keys and you’ll be well on your way.

Ryan is currently the Worship Director at The Church at Wills Creek in North Alabama. He has been the keyboardist for many Christian artists and has served with several churches including Christ Fellowship and Church of the Highlands. Ryan is the keyboard instructor for WorshipArtistry.com and also works as a producer, music educator, and studio musician. Ryan has two children, Josiah and Vivy, and they love spending time on their 100 acre farm.

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