The One Attribute Which All Musicians Need
By Aldo Chircop
We live in what is known as the ‘information age’. A very apt name indeed, seeing how information is easier to find nowadays than ever before. It’s estimated that the average modern age person is bombarded with more information in a single day than his or her grandparents would have encountered in a whole year!
Like everything else in life, this abundance of information can be a double-edged sword. As the most fundamental law of economics – the law of demand and supply – teaches us, the harder it is to obtain something, the higher it tends to be valued. Conversely, the more a market is saturated with a certain commodity, the more its value tends to drop.
This seems to hold true for information as well. The information age, largely powered by the Internet, has multiplied the volume of information on every subject under the sun so dramatically, that it has become overwhelming. We are bombarded with so much information nowadays that we quickly grow numb to it.
For this reason, content producers and service providers are always scrambling for new ways to stand apart from the pack. The name of the game is to always come up with new and ‘revolutionary’ content, in the hope of seizing the ever-diminishing attention span of the general public, if only for a little while.
The result of all this is that we are constantly being conditioned to seek the new and exciting ‘magic bullet’ or ‘secret to success’ to whatever problem we want to solve or new skill we are trying to acquire. The world of music is certainly no exception.
So, in a few words, why is this a problem for the budding musician? Very simply, it’s this:
The constant search for the ‘new’ and ‘revolutionary’ distracts us from the few important fundamentals which actually matter.
The truly important fundamentals tend not to be glamorous nor revolutionary, and certainly not new. But they are what works, and I’m willing to bet they are also what you need to work on right now to make that quantum leap in your musical ability.
Here’s a truth I want you to absorb down to your bones:
YOU ARE ONLY EVER AS GOOD AS THE QUALITY OF YOUR FUNDAMENTALS.
If you’re wondering what constitutes fundamentals, they are those skills and attributes which will affect everything you’ll ever do on your instrument. They are in fact the very foundation of your musical ability.
As the title of this article promises, I’m going to tell you about the one fundamental attribute which is essential for every musician, regardless of which type of instrument and musical genre they play. Ready? Here it is. Your number one fundamental attribute as a musician is:
HAVING GOOD TIMING!
Yes, it’s the good old ‘being able to play in time’. Hardly a new or revolutionary concept, is it? Yet think about it. No matter what instrument you play and what genre or style of music you want to perform, there is no getting away from the need to play in time.
The presence or absence of good timing is also what will instantly determine, by itself, whether you sound like a professional or a total hack. Yes, it’s that important.
You can purchase the finest and most expensive instruments and equipment and practice the flashiest and most impressive techniques you can think of. But if you can’t combine all that with good timing, you’ll still sound like a total amateur who has no idea what he’s doing.
Conversely, you might not be a ‘flashy’ player nor own very expensive instruments, but if you can play solidly and reliably in time, your chances of employment with a band or orchestra and of giving a favourable impression to any audience, will go up 1000%.
So, in conclusion, if like most musicians you’re looking for that ingredient that will give you that jump in quality you covet, here’s my recommendation to you:
Forget looking for revolutionary secrets or magic bullets and stop thinking that spending massive amounts of money on new equipment will make anything but a tiny difference. No, most probably you don’t need that new cool gadget you’ve been considering draining your bank account for, either.
If you want the best bang for your buck, invest your time and effort in becoming really, really, good at your fundamentals. Chief among those is training your ability to play with perfect timing in every situation.
So, break out your metronome and / or backing tracks, resolve to be brutally self-critical and to ruthlessly eradicate any timing problems you might have been neglecting for ages, and get to work. The results will be well worth the effort, I promise you.
Happy practicing! 😊
About the author:
Aldo Chircop is a guitarist, composer, producer and guitar teacher based in Malta. He is president and chief instructor of Malta Rock Academy, home of the best blues, rock and