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15 Traits, Mindsets and Habits of a Successful Musician

In Guides for Musicians by Jake LLeave a Comment

Last updated on May 29th, 2019 at 08:41 am

There’s a reason that a lot of musicians and artists become successful in their field. These musicians have similar traits, mindsets, and habits that may correlate with the reasons why they’re so successful. We’ve put together a list that will help musicians and artists develop an idea on what it takes to be successful. Here are 15 traits, mindsets, and habits of a successful musician.

1. Always a Student Willing to Learn

Two guitarist writing a song together

One of the most important mindsets/habits of a successful musician is always having the willingness to learn. They adopt the mindset that no matter how talented they become at their craft, they’re always a student who is capable of learning something new. This is a very important mindset to have as the habit of always wanting to learn will push you to continue to grow as a musician.

Successful musicians are also active in their learning, as they are constantly practicing and applying the things they learn into their music and career. They’re also actively seeking opportunities to learn, whether it be from teachers, books, experiences, and even other musicians. Always maintain the mindset of a student who is willing to learn. You’ll see that this is capable of pushing you further as a musician.

There’s so much out there for us to learn in this world of music, we just have to be open to learning it.

2. Always Practicing

Similar to the first topic we have discussed, another habit of a successful musician is always trying to find time to practice their craft. While it is important to always be willing to learn something new, you still have to apply and practice them. Without any practice, how do you expect yourself to ever improve?

Like they always say, “Practice makes perfect.” Since we’re on this topic, it’s also important for us to mention the 10,000 Hour Rule.

The 10,000 Hour Rule

This rule states that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of work and practice to master any skill. While this is a great idea that pushes you to work hard and practice, do take this rule with a grain of salt. While many swear by this rule, it’s also good to keep in mind that the results can vary drastically. If you are going to prioritize this rule, then make sure you’re putting in the time to practice and doing so in an effective matter. This ensures that you don’t waste time during your practice sessions.

Here’s a video of singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran giving his advice regarding the 10,000 Hour Rule.

3. Ability to Keep a Clear Head

The ability to keep a clear head is important if you want to be successful in anything, in this case, as a musician. It can be overwhelming for musicians to balance everything in their lives, from their practice sessions, gigs, and their life outside of music. Allowing all of these overwhelming pressures and responsibilities to run your life can be detrimental to musicians and their goals. This is why it’s so important to develop the ability to your clear head.

When you have a clear head, you can make better decisions, work more effectively, and even have more focus during your practice sessions. You’ll also be able to align yourself with your overall goals and ensure that you’re taking the proper path towards them.

Life can be difficult, but if you ever find yourself overwhelmed by everything, take a deep breath, relax your mind, and become present. This will take some time to practice, but it is a skill that will benefit your life as a musician and everything else.

4. A Great Attention to Detail

Guitarist practicing his guitar in his bedroom

Always paying attention to the details is one of the most important habits of a successful musician. Successful musicians are a perfectionist to an extent when it comes to their work. You’ll rarely see a successful musician say, “Yes, this will do.” What you’ll most likely hear is something similar to, “It can be better” or “It’s good, but something’s missing.” Successful musicians are constantly striving for perfection when it comes to their work, which is why it can be very helpful to have someone trustworthy to consult with.

Consulting with someone you trust takes away the pressure that comes with the perfectionist nature. Removing this pressure makes it possible for musicians to actually finish projects that are worth releasing. Successful musicians are always their own biggest critic, resulting in never being satisfied with an average final result with their work. This can be frustrating.

While being a perfectionist is extreme, still, try to work on developing better attention to detail. You’ll be able to pick up on what sounds outstandingly good and what sounds mundane. This will ensure that you’re only putting out your best work that will best represent you.

It will also help you make better decisions throughout your music career and in life.

5. Having a Thick Skin

A singer focusing on stage

In any creative field, especially music, having a thick skin is very important. Like any art form, in music, you expose yourself to an environment where people are constantly judging and analyzing your work. It’s even more intense as artists and musicians have personal and emotional attachments to their work. An important thing to keep in mind straight from the beginning is that not everyone is going to love your work. Trust me, it can be a hard pill to swallow at first, but it’s very necessary if you’re going to pursue a career in music.

This is why having a thick skin is so important. If you find yourself losing the motivation to working on your craft because of someone’s negative comment about you, then you’ll never improve as a musician or artist. Being able to keep moving forward even after being put down by someone else is a necessary skill to have if you ever want to advance in your music career.

It can be hard for any creative to take criticism, but it’s also important for artists and musicians to take them into consideration. You might learn something valuable from it. This leads us to our next topic.

6. Learning From Criticism

Artist performing in front of crowd

Like I previously mentioned, a lot of people in a creative field find it difficult to take criticism. While there are circumstances where the criticism you receive isn’t helpful, there are a lot of times where you can actually learn from them. There a big difference between destructive criticism and constructive criticism. Understanding the differences between the two will give you the opportunity to pick up valuable information that can help you improve.

Yes, criticism can hurt, but you can’t let your ego prevent yourself from being aware of the things that need work. Remember, you are constantly learning and growing as a musician. Criticism is just part of the process.

7. Always Looking Forward

Musician on stage looking forward to her future.

One of the important habits of a successful musician that you should be aware of is the habit/mindset of always looking forward. So what does this mean?

There are many musicians who get attached to the successes and achievements from their past. Maybe you released a popular song that everyone loved. Or maybe you won first place at a talent show back in high school. These moments are great, however, don’t let them hold you back from the future. Successful musicians are aware that in order for them to continue to be successful, they have to keep working towards the future. They must keep moving forward.

This means new projects, new ideas, and even new goals. It’s part of the journey of being an artist or musician. Always look forward to what the future has to offer and what you have to offer to the future. Of course, never forget about your past success, but instead of being content with these achievements, use them as a motivation to work even harder.

8. Socially Skillful

Socializing with people with a sunset view

In general, it’s very important for people to develop their social skills. The act of constantly seeking opportunities to socialize is one of those habits of a successful musician that’s often overlooked. Great social skills normally correlate with more connections that lead to opportunities. Its never been more important to network and connect with others in your industry. It also has never been easier, thanks to the internet world we live in today. The internet has made it possible to connect with people halfway around the world. We can collaborate with other musicians without having to fly over to each other. It’s truly an amazing time to be an artist or musician.

Resources to build relationships are there, but you still need to have the social skills to utilize them. If you’re able to network properly and build relationships, more opportunities will open up for you, including collaborations, chances to perform, recording sessions, and much more.

You also have to utilize social media. Your online social life is just as important when trying to make a name for yourself. Developing your overall social skills, whether for online or in person will be one of the most beneficial things you can do.

9. Always Be Humble

It can be very challenging to be humble and exhibit genuine humility in the world of music. This world is filled with ego where the idea of having to be better than everyone else is common amongst other artists and musicians. It’s all part of the competitive atmosphere that music sometimes creates.

While it is important to be confident in your own talents and abilities, too much ego can close many doors, causing you to lose out on opportunities. It can also destroy the links you have with the connections you have made.

Be confident, it can take you a long way and lets people know that you mean business. Just remember to do it in a respectful manner and don’t be arrogant. No matter if the people are above you, of the same level, or even those who aren’t as experienced as you, give them your respect.

Not only will this help you make the connections that you may need, but it also shows everyone that you’re someone that people enjoy being around.

10. Understanding Music Theory

There’s a myth that learning music theory is harmful to creativity, being detrimental to one’s playing and their composition. The reasoning behind this belief is that music theory influences musicians to follow musical rules that can limit creative expression, something that is supposed to be a free-spirited and unrestrained form of art.

The truth is that learning music theory enables musicians to understand everything that goes into a musical piece or song. This gives musicians a bigger appreciation for the music they listen to, and the music they create. Understanding music theory also makes it possible for musicians to learn new pieces faster. You’ll be able to see how the piece was constructed musically, making it easier to familiarize yourself with the song.

It’s also very good for songwriters to learn music theory. Many successful musicians and songwriters utilize their understanding of music theory to write their songs. Their process isn’t just sitting around trying to put together chords that might work well with each other. They understand what chord progressions work and what would be the best way to construct their songs because of their understanding of music theory.

There are so many different benefits that come from learning music theory. To discuss them all would require its own dedicated article.  Every musician should at least try and put an effort into learning music theory. You don’t have to become a master who knows everything, but the more you know, the more you will benefit from it.

11. Patient About Progress

Hands playing piano keys

Many of us can be impatient when we want to see ourselves at the level we wish to be in. Whether it be your technical skills with an instrument or achieving the goals that you have set for yourself, it can be frustrating at times when you still feel as if you have a long way to go.

If you put in the time and work, you will see progress, but it can take a longer time than you expected. Patience is important to assure that you do things the right way to get the results you want. Impatience and rushing is a recipe for disaster that can hinder your progress.

Be patient, and continue to work hard. It’ll all be worth it in the long run.

12. Versatile

Versatility is important in the world of music. Being versatile will allow you to adapt to many different situations. As the music world is constantly changing, constantly adapting to how the landscape changes will be the key to a successful career in music.

For example, thanks to the internet many artists and musicians are being discovered. These artists are gaining fanbases that weren’t possible before without a label distributing your music. Artists and musicians who were able to adapt to these changes were able to see their careers begin to prosper and grow. For those who weren’t able to adapt, they’re finding it much harder to see any success in this new musical landscape that’s influenced by the internet.

It’s something you’ll have to work on, so make it a goal to be as versatile as possible in everything you do. This gives you a better chance of achieving success and getting ahead of those who choose not to be more versatile.

13. Open Minded

Having an open mind is another trait that successful musicians need. It’s also one of the habits of a successful musician to constantly be open to new experiences. You’ll be more open to trying out new things and accepting new ideas. This could potentially lead you to the next big step for your music career. Being open-minded to different genres and styles exposes you to different parts of the music world, adding to your overall influence as a musician.

New ideas, opportunities to meet more artists and musicians, and having more of an understanding of different music are just some of the benefits that come with being open-minded.

There’s so much untapped potential that’s inside all of us. Sometimes having an open mind is all you need to start tapping into this potential.

14. Great at Problem Solving

Problem solving. Bulb showcasing an idea for resolution.

As a musician, you will encounter many different situations and problems that will challenge you. Those who are successful in the music world are musicians who can overcome these problems and continue to work on their careers. Being a great problem solver is important if you ever want to make it as a musician as the road to success can definitely be a bumpy one.

Having the ability to clear your head will be important in becoming a great problem solver. You’ll be able to work towards a solution more effectively with a clear head.

While problems and situations can sometimes come out of nowhere, the first person you can depend on in resolving them is you.

15. Great Under Pressure

Photo credit: eflon on Visual hunt / CC BY

Successful musicians are great under pressure as they find themselves in many pressured situations throughout their music career. It can be important performances, the grind during practice sessions, or even in recording sessions as you’re literally charged for every minute at the studio.

Being able to handle pressure means that you can control your emotions and focus on what needs to be done. Where does this pressure come from? Well, it usually derives from the expectations and demands you create for yourself about how you think the outcome should be.

This then begins to feed thoughts of worries or an obsession of the outcome, even before you’ve gotten started on whatever it is that’s pressuring you. This is why constantly thinking about results can be detrimental to you and your success. The first step to overcoming any pressures is to notice when you are focusing too much on results.

Once you’re aware of this, you must shift your focus to the important elements that are relevant to your performance and success of whatever it is you are working on. This shift in focus allows you to be more present and will lead to even better results.

Bonus: Do Cool Things, Even if it’s Outside of Music

Since you’ve made it this far into the article, here’s a bonus for you. We’ve already discussed the important traits, mindsets, and habits of a successful musician, but what about the amazing things they do outside of their music career? While it’s important to focus on your music career and constantly putting in work towards it, musicians should seek to do awesome things, even if it’s outside of their music career. Doing things like giving back to your community in any way is a good place to start.  If you have other hobbies and talents that you’re passionate about, let them shine as well. Show everyone that you’re not just a musician whose life revolves around their music career.

Be versatile and overall a well-rounded person. This adds to what makes you unique as a musician and as a person. There’s also a chance that you’ll make multiple connections that can help your career and have more opportunities, whether they are musical opportunities or not.

Show everyone that you’re not just a one trick pony. You will definitely catch more attention, possibly leading to more success for your musical career.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it. These are 15 traits, mindsets, and habits of a successful musician. Now that you’re aware of them, the next thing you can do is work on them and improve. The road to being a successful musician can be a long one. While it is important to understand the habits of a successful musician, the traits they have, and their mindsets, you still have to put what you learned today into practice. Remember to always work hard, stay motivated, and practice everything that you learn throughout your music career and your life.

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