Anyone can make a resolution to "be a better musician" but how you reach those goals is the true challenge. Here are 3 approaches to listening your way to better musicianship in 2023.
Expand Your Pallette
Inspiration and growth comes from exposure to new and interesting ideas. Instead of going back to your tried and true music, stretch your musical taste. I find the best time to do this when I'm working on projects like this Greenroom post and I can listen to new music in the background and wait for something to grab me. When it does I quickly add it to a new playlist for listening later. Then when I'm in a place to dive a little deeper (like in the car, doing yardwork or dishes), I've got a ready-made list to start with. This does backfire on occasion as right now I'm listening to The Smile's Tiny Desk Concert and it's forced me to pause numerous times because it's so dang interesting. Time to switch it up!
How often do you listen, and I mean really listen, to music when you're not trying to learn it for a worship service? It's one thing to take in a song but it's another thing to analyze and learn. Pull up a song that you threw on that playlist mentioned earlier and start listening critically. Take note of when each instrument comes in, how the bass and drums interplay, and what the guitarist is actually doing. As weekend worship musicians it's easy to default to what we know; throw some delay and reverb on that guitar, play a couple pretty notes and call it good. When you really listen critically you hear what an instrument can really be and use it to inspire your own approach. Check out how the guitar interacts with the horns in this clip to get an idea of what's possible.
Listen to Yourself
Nothing will spotlight your flaws and strengths like recording yourself and listening back. It can be a harsh reality but it can also be enlightening. I am perpetually unhappy with my voice but recording and editing myself during Covid worship sets really helped me to adjust and fix things I didn't even know what I was doing. Nothing has helped me grow as a vocalist more. In the same way, recording songs I've written has helped me identify all the boring repetive parts and work to make them more enjoyable to listen to. You can't truly hear yourself while you are playing so take the time to record and listen back. You might be shocked at what you find.
Listening well leads to playing, singing, and writing well. Invest your time where it matters and hear yourself grow. If you're having trouble deciphering what you're hearing, Worship Artistry has over 600 worship song tutorials available with with a free trial. Give it a try and see if it's a good fit for you.