For most aspiring, young musicians, the goal is to eventually go on to a career in performance. The unfortunate reality is that many do not.

So what’s one way to help increase your chances of becoming an outstanding performer?


Pure and simple.

If you’re serious about performing, listen to as much music as you can as often as possible. Whether you want to become a classical performer, a rock star or anything in between, you need to be aware of what music is out there, what other performers are doing and begin to develop your own sound and style.

If you really want to take your performance to the next level, there are a number of ways listening can come into play. Here are just a few.


It can be hard to think of your influences and other performers as your competition when you’re starting out, but every performer out there is competing for their audience’s attention. They are selling tickets to their shows which may be the same night as yours, they’re marketing their albums that directly compete with the sales of your releases, and their communicating with fans through the same social media networks as you.

Successful businesses don’t ignore what the competition is doing. They watch it closely, observing what works and what doesn’t, then taking that information to make their own products and services better. And that’s exactly what your performance is – a product, one of many you’ll have along the way – and that’s exactly how you need to look at it.

Musicians need to be aware of what is going on the industry. It’s important to know what’s been done, what is currently popular, and where the most appropriate performance venues are for your genre. Listening to music is one of the best ways for a performer to research the industry for fresh ideas and popular trends.


Listening to other music and researching how it was released with help you develop your own marketing efforts. Following the efforts of other musicians will help you better present your own.

How does the music sound in comparison to other musics in the same genre? How commercially viable is the music?


Listening to music is also one of the best ways to build up your musical vocabulary. Playing along to records, transcribing the chord structure, analyzing the forms of the songs are all great ways to fine-tune your own compositions and performance. Other musicians can teach you a lot.

When you hear a line or a style of playing that you like, imitate it and then make it your own. Incorporate it into your style. When you hear or see something you dislike as part of performance or recording, take note of it as well! Figure out what you like and what you don’t like and then write or perform the music you would like to hear!


If you get frustrated while practicing or hit a roadblock when composing, pull out a record and listen! Sometimes taking a break allows your mind and body to work out those issues subconsciously.


You should also listen to what others are telling you. More established musicians can offer a lot of great advice, so hear them out.

Your fans can also have a lot of great input. Pay attention to songs they move to during your performances, which ones they seem to ignore. Listen to their feedback at the end of shows or during breaks, read what they say in comments online.

You don’t have to do everything that everyone says, but at the very least, consider what they’re saying.

So, how do you use listening to become a better performer?

Want more tips like this? Check out our popular FREE eBook – Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals.

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Published by Shannon Kennedy

Shannon Kennedy is a vocalist and saxophonist living in Southern California. She is author of "The Album Checklist" and the founder of Teen Jazz. She has been contributing articles to music magaizines and websites since 2004.

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