What is the best musical trait?

What is the best musical trait? Talent? Strong work ethic? Persistence? Great people skills?

While all of those things are important, I have come to believe that durability is the most important "talent." Prowess and technique can only get you so far. Students brag about super long practice hours, how little sleep they get, how late they study or are in a practice room. A strong work ethic and persistence can lead you to practice/work too much. In your desire to excel, you stop listening to your body! An injured musician is not able to practice efficiently. Sadly, they may never find out how good they really could become.

Most traits I typically hear connected with musicians are traits that could lead to burn-out or injury. Durability allows you to continue for the long haul. The uninjured and resilient musician has a better chance of long-term success and enjoyment. You are freed to be yourself. So how do you begin to be free?

#1 Train the overall person. Go for a walk. Exercise. Eat right. Take a yoga or dance class. Be social. Go out with friends. Sleep 8 hours a night (studies have show the vast majority of people need 8 hours). These things seem common sense and simple. But, how many of us actually do them? We get so focused on doing that we forget the rest of our lives. This can come back to haunt us. Example - raising the heavy lid of a piano to full stick requires muscles, and if you have not been exercising, you may injure yourself just setting up the piano to begin practice! People are not attracted to a concert because of finger action. They are attracted because of what they see in you as a person. What is the real you? And are you developing that person?

#2 Know who to go to if you are injured. Doctors are just starting to understand the way a musician uses their body. Find one who knows. "Just take 6 weeks off" isn't exactly a cure. Sometimes the cause of the injury is far away from where you feel pain. You may need to go to a few people to figure out what is going on: massage therapist, physical therapist, medical doctor, acupuncturist, etc. See someone who has certification in helping injured musicians analyze their technique. A slight inefficient muscle use in one passage could have set things off. Going to someone who does not understand what you do and how to fix it can aggravate your problems!

#3 Smart training. Be aware constantly of your body and how it feels. Train for shorter sessions so that you can keep up this high level of awareness. Vocalists are very in tune with their voices and can tell when they are "off" or beginning to get sick. This is a trait that we all could stand to learn from. Other instruments can continue to practice for far longer hours than vocalists...yet, is that additional practice really necessary and productive? Or are you just setting yourself up for injury because your brain is no longer on the task at hand? Practice with your full focus. Practice smart.

© 2020 by SAE