By Tim Brennan
The following is a comprehensive, but not exhaustive list of things that successful musicians do. There are undoubtedly more to be added to the list, and there may be some that are more important than those listed below, but these are some of the ones that helped me in my career as a musician. If you even do a portion of these things, you will be well on your way to being a well trained, well rounded musician.
The number one thing that successful musicians do is practice. Daily is the most preferable, but life gets in the way sometimes so try to keep your practice habits as regular as possible. Also practice in the same place and same time of day. Don't try to jam all your weekly practice time into one or two days. Spread your practice out over the week, an hour at a time. Regular muscle conditioning will serve you better in the long run than trying to get it all done at once.
You can never listen enough. If you are an instrumentalist, listen to a pro who plays your instrument. If you are preparing a solo, find a copy of your favorite player performing that solo. Try to model your performance after his or her performance. Who better to copy than a person who has attained all the skills you are trying to learn. If you are an instrumentalist, listen to a vocalist. Expand your horizons. Vocalists can produce great emotion in their singing and that is not a bad characteristic to emulate in your playing. Listen to ensembles - duets, trios, and large ensembles as well. You can never listen enough.
3. Have a Private Instructor
Find a teacher who can help you on your way. Not just your band or orchestra director, although they most likely would be an excellent choice, but a private teacher who can sit with you, play with you, and build your confidence. You must be willing to accept criticism from this person because they have reached a level you are trying to attain. Your teacher has been there and done that.
4. Never Stop Reading
Never stop reading. Not just music, but books, newspapers, articles about music. Reading, like playing music, makes you smart. It can expand your horizons and help you develop new interests.
5. Make Music With Others
Last but not least, play or sing with a friend or another person or group of people. That is why bands and orchestras and choirs are so important. Being in an ensemble gives you a group of friends who automatically share your passion and interest in music. Performing in ensembles gives you one of the most important tools you can have as a musician. A critical ear. Not just to critique others, but yourself as well. When you are in an ensemble, it's like you are part of a team. Each person has a different job on the team and it is your job to be able to listen and adjust to the other team members so your sound blends well with them and doesn't overpower any one voice or instrument in particular.