Upskilling in Music – Marcus Robertson

1. Dedicate time to practise each day.

By setting aside time each day to practise, you're going to become more solid and confident in your basic skills. Regular time playing your instrument will also help you to learn new skills. Even if it's just playing through the songs for Sunday a couple times during the week, just do it. But also make sure that you're moving out of your comfort zone by learning new skills.

2. Learn New Skills.

Find ways to constantly get better and more diversely skilled at your craft. Even if they aren't usable in a church service context, getting better at complex things makes the easier things way more simple. Learning to finger pick and sing at the same time made me much better at singing and strumming. I think there are two main ways that you can learn.

Get professional lessons. This is my biggest recommendation because it is actually the most effective. Find someone who is better than you and get them to teach you skills. Even if the skills aren't super useful in a church context, they will improve your overall skill level and confidence.

Use YouTube. The internet is one of the most amazing resources for learning new skills. YouTube is an amazing resource because it's free and easily accessible. The hard thing with YouTube is knowing where to start. Choosing songs you already know and would like to learn is really helpful. Eventually you'll find channels that teach lessons you can learn. Subscribe to them. (For me, that channel was TXBA)

 3. Find musicians that you like, and copy what they do when they play and sing joyfully.

Sometimes our outward expression of our joy when we play music is hard to communicate because we don't have the tool set to show it. I've watched videos of Dave Grohl, Jack White, Wil Wagner, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer, and Keith Richards (plus a bunch of others) to see how they outwardly express their emotions when they sing and play. Give it a crack. You might even have to practise these things too.

4. Get reliable, honest feedback.

There are plenty of people around HBC who know what they are talking about when it comes to music. Talk to them and ask them to see what ways you can improve. Don't try to do everything at once, but work on things block by block from their feedback. This will require great humility, but it's a practise worth doing every once in a while.

5. Record and Analyse Yourself.

In your pocket right now there is probably a device capable of half decent video and audio recordings; the modern smartphone. Use this to reflect on your own skills and see the places where you can get better. Critique videos and audio recordings and see where your common mistakes are and where you would like to get better.

6. Bonus Tip: I got really good at making it up as I go by listening to the radio and trying to figure out chords to songs as they played. Helped me to listen and know what different chord changes sounded like and how to predict them. It's really simple, but super effective. Makes transposing on the spot 300% easier.