The 5 Qualities of Great Musicians

What makes music powerful? Take a minute and ponder that question.

What are the qualities that make for engaging, powerful musicians?

Because it’s obvious that some have it and others don’t.

When certain musicians take hold of their instrument, magic happens. Still others who may have more experience or taken lessons longer, don’t have it.

Think about it—how many times have you heard someone who’s taken lessons for many years only to find out they weren’t very good?

So if lessons aren’t the key, experience isn’t the answer, and time isn’t the x factor—what is it?

Why I Want to Be the Best I Can Be

I’m not discounting the value of lessons, experience and practice time—all of these contribute to what makes a good musician.

But I do want to talk about some more obscure things that make a unique, memorable, powerful, engaging musician. I’m assuming that’s what you want to be, right?

I want to be the best musician I can be so that when the Holy Spirit decides to use me, I am ready for anything He wants to do.

I want to be the best musician I can be so that when I preach the Gospel on my instrument, it is a worthy accompaniment.

I want to be the best musician I can be so that the music I make moves people, inspires others and draws them closer to Jesus.

Are you with me?

5 Qualities of Powerful Music Performance

Let’s get started. Powerful musicians …

1. Are Thoughtful—I’m not talking about “thoughtful” in the sense of getting roses for their spouse (although that is super great). I’m talking about being thoughtful of their lives. Powerful musicians think deeply. They are reflective about what they believe in and what moves them to their core. This is then reflected in their playing.

It’s never just mechanics or rapid finger movement on their instrument. It’s an expression from deep within. They think, they believe, they feel, they express. Obviously, this would apply to a Jesus-loving musician as well as a “secular” musician. They express their deep beliefs in their playing. It’s an expression of who they are.

2. Are Aware—You would think that the best musicians zone in and get lost in their own world to create great music. But the truth is, the best musicians are aware of what is going on in the room. They notice who is there, what is happening, and “speak” into the situation, in a sense. For the Christian musician, that is noticing what God is up to in the room and interpreting that through their instrument.

3. Are Immersed—Have you ever watched a great musician? It’s not just what comes out of their fingers or their voice that is entertaining. It’s watching their entire body become immersed in the experience. Matter of fact, that is what makes their music even more powerful. They are fully present, feeling the music flow through their entire body.

Sure—this can look weird. But you must understand that music performance is hardly just about your fingers or your voice. It’s about immersing yourself in the music. You have to forget about what you look like, lose the self-consciousness and be expressive. Trust me, it will make a difference.

4. Are Intentional About PracticePractice for a great musician is very intentional. Over time, they develop a sense about what needs practicing and how to practice it most effectively. It’s not just about “putting in the time” and playing through songs. It’s about distilling difficult passages down to their core and repeating them until it becomes second nature. It’s about showing up even though you don’t feel like it.

5. Are Intentional About Joy—Whenever music becomes boring, or a chore, or anything other than a gift of joy, it loses its meaning. Great musicians keep this front and center because they know their best music will come from a place of joy.

The moment you stop loving the creation of music is the moment you lose your effectiveness.  

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David Santistevan
David is a Worship Pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA.

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