It's a simple fact. If you want to become a great musician, you have to practice. But there's plenty of different ways to make practice more fun; and playing with others is a perfect example.
When it comes to practicing, some people find it harder than others to get motivated. But when you practicein a group, you're making it more of a commitment. And in turn, this helps everybody stay consistent with their practice schedules.
If you're considering a practice with a band or ensemble, you should try to develop your own performance skills first, just in case you need to keep up with more experienced players. We all fumble and make mistakes, but you should still have the necessary skills to get back on track with your fellow musicians. Reversely, if one of them makes a mistake, it helps to be skillful enough to keep the performance moving along. For this reason, you should have plenty of solo practice before considering a practice with others.
Another idea to consider is practicing with a music instructor, a mentor, or a friend who doesn't mind coaching you. Consider practicing with an acquaintance who shares your desire to improve. You could even arrange an informal musical gathering of people who understand each other's skills and are willing to allow for a wide range of ability.
When you're finally ready for group practice, the upsides are tremendous. One of the more obvious benefits is getting immediate feedback from others on your abilities. Because your skills are on display, you have to go in prepared. This will make you hyper aware of your performance weaknesses and flaws, but it will also make you more aware of improving on them.
Group practices are one of the best environments to be in when it comes to increasing your capabilities as a player. From pitch and tone matching, to harmonization, and synchronizing with the group's rhythm, it's the perfect setup for improving as a musician. It's also an excellent opportunity to gain hints and helpful ideas from other players. Whether you're learning how others interpret a song, or how they break down the steps of a song until they master it, group practice is the ultimate interactive learning experience.
If you plan on taking a stab at improvisation, you need to be capable of building on top of what the group or ensemble is playing in the moment. Group practice is the perfect opportunity to improve on this skill. Before practice, you can prepare on your own by playing to tracks or using music-minus-one recordings. But if you desire hitting the stage with this skill, it's crucial to practice improvisation with others in real time. Doing so will help you find cues easier, recover from your flubs, and cover up the mistakes of others.
If more mistakes were made than you were expecting, just imagine that you're a candid onlooker. It's easy to feel self-conscious by letting the critical voice in your head take over. But you can avoid this by removing yourself from the situation, and assuming the viewpoint of someone else watching your arms, hands and fingers in motion, listening to your instruments sound, and paying attention to your tactile senses.
By trying this exercise, you can better observe the parts of your performance that need improvement. How can you identify the errors during practice so you can move beyond them? What part of your technique can be more focused on and improved?
However you meet your musical colleagues, group practice can bring you great fellowship, fun, growth, and lots of opportunities to display your collaborative skills. It's important to push yourself in those kinds of situations. Listen attentively to the best musical partners you find. It helps greatly to practice with musicians who are more experienced as well.
Try to avoid unhelpful comparisons when playing with musicians who are more skilled. Although comparisons and competitiveness can improve your musicianship, it can also destroy the confidence of both yourself and others. The most important part of music is connecting with other people. Just because you can't hit as many notes as someone else, that doesn't mean you aren't capable of expressing your gifts with fewer notes.
Last but not least, by using the same techniques that help you make individual practice more adequate, the benefits you acquire from group practice can also be further enhanced. Stick with regular practice sessions, set goals for each one, warm up before starting, and concentrate on the harder spots until you have them down smoothly.
In conclusion, you'll improve your ear, broaden your musical vocabulary, become a better sight reader, and your overall playing abilities will flourish when you practice with others. So make group practice a part of your musical development today. You won't regret it.