Musical Development List

November 25, 2020

Below is a list of all the areas of musical development that seem to be relevant to a modern, practicing musician or composer. This list can't be comprehensive or objective, but is maintained to help us structure the content of the Lean Musician website.

The Lean Musician Facebook Group has been really generous in contributing ideas to this article together through discussion. If you have thoughts of your own - jump into the group and share your thoughts.

Areas of Musical Development

  1. Inspiration
  2. Organisation
  3. Mindset
  4. Ear training
  5. Rhythm
  6. Harmony
  7. Transcribing
  8. Repertoire
  9. Performing
  10. Improvising
  11. Notating & Reading
  12. Composing
  13. Arranging
  14. Producing
  15. Teaching
  16. Marketing

1. Inspiration

This is number one for good reasons. Everything hinges off one's inspiration. Inspiration affects your motivation as well as the direction you move in. It seems obvious right, but when we choose to treat this as an area of development, to actually invest in our inspiration, you take charge of the motivating force that drives you as a musician.

  • Maintaining a music library for reference, enjoyment, transcription etc...
  • Going to see live music
  • Continually discovering new music
  • Drawing inspiration from other forms of art
  • Interacting and chatting with other musicians

2. Organisation

Yes... it's a little dull. But organisation of your work, whatever it is that you do, is critical. At Lean Musician we cover numerous areas where you can enhance what you do through general organisation, but also as a modern, digitally orientated musician.

3. Mindset

It's often said that 80% of what you do is psychology and 20% is mechanics. Whilst this not always the case, it does highlight how important one's approach and psychology is toward anything.

4. Ear Training

There are a number of things that go into ear training. Essentially it's all about internalising music so that you can recognise and recall the detail in sound immediately. Everything plays into this and it evolves naturally, but there are ways we can enhance it quicker.

  • Ear training (recognising what you are hearing)
  • Audiation (recall and recreate stored sound in the mind)
  • Vocalising (singing or embodying the sounds & rhythms of music with your voice)

5. Rhythm

Before we even get to harmony, theory etc - rhythm comes first. So many western musicians lack the neccessary vocabulary and feel that good rhythmic training gives.

  • Rhythmic training
  • Basic drumming
  • Rhythmic independence at the piano
  • Deep understanding of groove

6. Harmony

After rhythm, harmony is the context in which music is written. With a strong understanding of it, the complexity of music fades away and you simply see patterns within harmony.

  • Keyboard skills
  • Diatonic harmony
  • Jazz harmony
  • Harmonic reduction
  • Reharmonisation

7. Transcribing

After gaining ground in ear training, rhythm and harmony, transcribing is the bedrock of your self-directed improvement as a musician. 

Picking apart music by ear is one of the best ways to internalise and integrate the music you study. 80% of music of course is not written down and 80% of the detail that makes music sound the way it does isn't detailed when it is written down! By transcribing, you connect directly with all aspects of the music as you learn.

You can focus on any area of music that you like, arrangement, phrasing, harmony. Check out this post to learn more about transcribing.

More coming soon....