Use the Habits of the Greats to Form Your Habits for Greatness

I've written before about the importance of a daily ritual, the need to eliminate choices through creating habits and the way in which routines and discipline actually lead to freedom. Today I wanted to share a few samplings of routines that successful musicians have used in their life to enable them to leave the legacy we now look upon in awe.


Franz Schubert
Schubert had no problem composing anywhere and everywhere but would primarily write first thing in the morning (even to the point that he would sleep with his glasses on in case an idea struck him the moment he woke up). From 6am till noon he would sit and write preferring in the afternoon to take a coffee and smoke while he read the paper. In the evening he would either attend the opera or theater or head to a local tavern to discuss art, theater, literature and music with friends.


Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky 

Tchaikovsky held a firm belief that a daily walk was necessary. (A belief also held by Beethoven and Mahler.) So necessary in fact that he thought "he had to take a walk of exactly two hours a day and that if he returned even a few minutes early, great misfortunes would befall him." He would take notes while on his walk and found that much of his composing stemmed from his time outside. When he returned he would apply his ideas to the piano after taking tea and reading. Dinner was always served at 8pm and his evenings were spent with guests.


Igor Stravinsky

Stravinsky told an interviewer in 1924 that "I get up at about eight, do physical exercises and then work without a break from nine until one."


Louis Armstrong

Although much of Armstrong's later career was spent touring and traveling on the road, he developed a very set pre-show ritual that entailed arriving to his dressing room two hours early dressed and ready for the gig.


Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff found that roughly two hours of practice time was all he needed each day to keep his piano skills at the mastery level required of him in his professional life. He would aim for four hours of composition time beyond that but often felt as though he never had enough time for all the ideas in his brain.


What changes to your schedule can you make to better set yourself up for greatness? Do you need an afternoon walk? A set amount of time for practice? A buffer before gigs to get you in the right headspace? Being a working musician is great! But have you sacrificed your artistic expression for it? What sort of greatness would you like to be remembered for?


Every great athlete has a strict routine for training their body, mind and craft, so do great musicians! So train like an athlete to play like a musician.


Less pain and more music!


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  • May 07, 2018
  • Category: Blog
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