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The Most Important Skill Successful Musicians Have Might Not Be What You Think…

A common question I’m asked by students is, “What is the most important skill of being a successful musician?”

The answer I give is based on many years as a musician and many, many failed attempts at succeeding before finally figuring out a small part of the mystery.

Drum roll please…

The most important aspect of being a successful musician, from my experience, is what I call “Hang Chops.”

Before explaining, I want to provide a couple of quick definitions.

Success =
My definition of a successful musician is not necessarily fame and fortune. While those things are nice, they are only by-products of attaining true success. To me, success is being a trusted, respected and liked musician in my local community of professional musicians. Without these three elements in place it’s almost impossible to earn a steady income as a musician which I’ll shed some light on in a bit.

Hang Chops =
In short, hang chops consist of the ability to socially interact with others in an entertaining, organic and meaningful way.

Okay. Now we have the foundation laid and can begin discussing this very important skill. While you must demonstrate a high level of skill on your chosen instrument, your ability to make others feel comfortable and have fun is way more in demand. Maya Angelou said it all with the following quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

How…

The big issue facing us all is how do we make others feel comfortable and provide a memorable experience… Here are a few things that have helped an introvert like me build solid hang chops:

  1. Always be positive. This is a mindset, as well as a social issue. We are responsible for our own mindset and allowing negativity to take hold will only poison our social interactions. Here is the best piece of advice I can give. Never gossip or say negative things about others, PERIOD! What you feel and what you choose to say are separate issues. If you don’t have anything nice to say, ALWAYS choose not to say anything.
  2. Always find something in common. This is pretty easy in the music scene. Always try to stay up on the latest music trends and be ready to discuss or ask questions about those trends. If musical tastes differ try using sports, food or entertainment as subjects to find common ground. It also helps to try and find common friendships you may have with other musicians in your local scene. People enjoy hanging out with others who share their passions, interests and/or mutual friendships.
  3. Always be a fun hang. Helping people have fun and making them feel welcome and appreciated is a great way to be asked back for more gigs. While music is a serious business, our job as musicians is to provide an environment that encourages fun and creativity. This includes other musicians, club owners and staff, gig patrons, etc. That said, know your craft well enough that you can remain relaxed and approachable before, during and after the gig. NO BROODING ARTISTS ALLOWED! Making others more comfortable will really help them remember you for future opportunities.

Take away:

Developing the best hang chops possible will make you an asset to any musical situation you’re in. It’s my experience that the most skilled player usually loses out to the musician who brings a strong social game to the table by being friendly, approachable and fun whenever possible. Become the person people want to hang out with and you’re well on t he path to being a successful musician.

Until next time, stay focused, stay consistent, and expect the best from yourself. 🙂

About the author: Ty Morgan is a professional guitarist in the Phoenix, Arizona area. He also owns and operates one of the premier guitar education academies in the area. If you’re searching for rock/blues guitar lessons in Mesa, AZ and ready to discover the science of learning and mastering guitar be sure to contact Ty!