Updated: May 11
There isn't always a clear indication that your music is improving over time, as we gain more experience and our expectations grow, our self-critical side does too. I've compiled 3 of the best ways to consistently improve your music, all of these take self awareness and ability to withstand criticism to grow, which can be difficult as a creative.
Recording yourself in any capacity, whether it be through phone voice memos, or a home studio setup, allows for transparent self-reflection and over time, will show your improvement. Recording song ideas allows you to have a tangible indication of your current ability as well as a record of that idea so it isn't forgotten. Listen without harsh judgement and understand your strengths and what you can implement going forward to improve your music.
Playing regularly with other musicians as well as sharing your ideas with trusted friends or peers is a great way to improve. Although it can be initially daunting to collaborate even throrugh a jam session, it's a great way to learn how to work with other musicians and will improve your understanding of the communication between musicians, all the while improving your music ability.
Having a sounding board of close friends or peers to occasionally send your music allows for you to receive constructive feedback. It can be difficult to process constructive feedback and it's not uncommon to feel defensive, overcoming this hurdle is one of the best ways to move towards bettering your music. Take all the feedback in and implement the parts you agree with. I'd be selective of the people you share your music with (prior to release) and not spam people with constant minimally changed mixes. This can be a powerful tool if utilised correctly, with the right people.
Actively listening to your favourite music can allow you to discover elements of the song that may have been previously undiscovered, perhaps the complex panning in a pre-chorus or the subtle spring reverb in the guitars creating atmosphere. Take inspiration from your favourite songs and intentionally add some of those elements to your own music, chances are your favourite musicians did the exact same with the heroes of their generation.
Some general takeaways - Recording yourself allows for a clear indication of your current ability, playing with other musicians will improve musical fluency, having a sounding board of people to send your work will help you if you are receptive to feedback and finally, take inspiration from your favourite musicians by actively listening to their work.