1. Practice – if you aren’t spending time with your instrument, then you won’t get better. Period. All practice isn’t equal. Noodling while watching TV isn’t nearly as effective as focusing with your metronome and working on specific rhythms, scales or chords. Playing songs is not practicing – working on parts, and learning a new aspect or being intentional about getting better at a part of the song you struggle with – that’s practice. Playing the song is simply playing the song.
2. Listen – when you are with others in a rehearsal or live situation, be an attentive listener to all those you are playing with. I often talk about the “sonic pizza” - how there is only 100% of the sound possible – and the more people involved the less and less of piece of the pizza you are responsible for. The best way to be good at this and not to “over-play” or “under-play” – is to listen and be aware of your environment.
3. Be a generous player. If you are in a 4-piece and you are really doing a lot of “fills” you might be hogging things and not being generous. If you allow others to “fill” and give people space the whole thing goes better. Why? Because people like it when they get a chance to play – when they feel like they contributed – and if each member feels that way – then the whole thing gets better. The easiest way to achieve this is by being a generous player – give others the chance to play. This is like listening – and the whole “sonic pizza” thing – but it’s different in that you can listen to the pizza thing and understand it – but you can be a “hog” and take everything that comes your way – and then some. Give it some space – and allow others to fill it – you’ll be surprised how happy the people you play with will become and in turn how much more you’ll get the chance – because someone was generous with you.