The journey to success for any great musician usually becomes public knowledge once the musician is well known. And even then, most people will simply never know the work that went on behind the scenes before that success was achieved.

If you are a musician at the beginning of your career, it always helps to hear the stories of those that have gone ahead of you. Even if you are not a novice, there are pitfalls that will come up on your upward path. However, the following insights should help you navigate more easily:

man playing playing the accordion
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Handling Fear

Fear is something that everyone experiences, and it is important to know how to deal with it. This often negative emotion is crippling at worst and devastating at best. As a musician, the nature of the job is to perform in front of people – it could be a large crowd or an audience of one. Knowing how to confront fear will be your first secret to success.

The greatest cellist, Jacqueline Du Pre, knew very well how to deal with this, as explained in the following post:

At age six, she was running, cello over her head, down the performance hall where she was one of the performers that day.

She was smiling and laughing and running.

A janitor, figuring she must have just performed and was relieved and happy at how she did said, “You must have just performed. Congratulations!”

And she said, “I didn’t perform. I’m about to!” Via Medium

You may find it absurd that she was in such a jolly mood just before her cello performance. Most people would be jittery and full of apprehension. You might even suspect that she did not know what was about to happen. However, this is the very reason she was able to conquer her fear:

But that day, at age six, she was so excited to perform that she was running TO something.

She was running towards an exciting and uncertain and even scary future (“I have to perform and do well!”). She wasn’t running with relief and the fading of fear. She was running towards the fear.

She grew up to be one of the greatest cellists of all time. Via Medium

plucking the gutar strings
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Handling Praise

If fear is to be faced boldly and courageously as Jacqueline did, how should you handle praise? As a performing artist, you will often be praised. How you respond to praise will determine how well you perform in the future and is another secret you should master. While it may encourage you to go on, praise can also make you complacent or nervous. Even worse, it could make you focus on people’s opinions rather than focusing on your musical growth.

Yevgeny Sudbin, a great pianist that has won awards for his work, had this to say when asked about this in an interview:

You were also nominated as Gramophone’s Artist of the Year. Congrats! How important are awards and acknowledgements to you?

I have mixed feelings about this. Because I have no control over these things, I try not to get distracted and focus on my performances and recordings. There used to be a time when reviews would make me more nervous and anxious, especially overly positive reviews. I have observed that for every reaction, there is usually an anti-action and there were times when I felt that too much positivity and high praises would only make others annoyed or create strong and unnecessary polarisations. Via Primephonic

Aware of the way positive reviews affected him, he had to find a solution that would help him deal with the unending phenomenon once and for all. This is how he did it:

The solution for me was obvious: not to read them! Nowadays I have stopped worrying! I am also more relaxed about these things I think. Opinions come and go but recordings however are here for posterity, at least one would hope so. Via Primephonic

Musician Metal Table Decoration Snowman Trumpet
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Balancing Life

Yet another thorny issue for great musicians is finding the balance between music and the rest of their lives. If you are going to succeed in your musical career, you need to learn the secret of balance.

Ryan Brahms, a young successful musician talks about this challenge in the following interview:

What were some of the obstacles you ran into being a young musician? Was it ever school versus music, football games versus gigging, etc.? 

It’s always a struggle to find balance. Being a musician isn’t just a job – it’s a lifestyle, it’s a calling, it’s a curse, and it’s kind of great when it is all-consuming. Then you realize you need some balance or you start to get weird. Via Sonicbids

The need for balance demands an understanding of your priorities and an awareness of the challenges by both you and your loved ones, as he continues to explain:

Family is always first, but it gets blurry after that. Relationships are a challenge. Being a musician is not a nine-to-five, five-day-a-week gig. You’re in the studio all hours of the night, [or] a show will pop up and you have to cancel plans. Then there’s the business side of it with meetings and schmoozing. A mate has to be near saint-like to deal with that. Never mind having to explain to someone new who all of those songs were written about! Via Sonicbids


These three secrets will keep you going strong on your musical journey. Remember, you have the potential to become a successful musician. These are by no means exhaustive, but they are a crucial starting point for all great musicians of the future.

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