One thing I have noticed is that people who don't reference their playing fall into the trap of not knowing what they actually sound like. When you are in the moment practicing or playing music your brain is most likely focusing the majority of your brain function to what your limbs are doing. Once you are comfortably performing your piece of music you are able to dedicate more or your brain power to listening. I call it being in an instrument bubble. High school students are very much culprits of this. There are the odd few who listen to their peers and start developing this technique, which is good but.. back to referencing. There are two ways to reference. A) Record yourself and B) Have a friend listen to you. This is important for two reasons. The person listening has 100% of their brain power on listening which means they can pick up on minor things that you may not notice in the moment. Once these things are identified you can tweak them and repeat them until you are happy with it. I'm talking here mostly about rhythm. You need to understand and be able to "feel" the space between each beat and place your notes within this space. Beginner and intermediate musicians have an inconsistent sense of time-space and play notes late enough or heaven forbid early enough to sound "amateurish". On the flip side there are musicians who have such a solid sense of time-space that they push and pull within this. This is beyond being in time...
Moral of the story, get a friend to listen to you and give quick and concise feedback about your rhythm. You will be all the better off for it.
Bonus info: Making the cd skip
I call this technique making the CD skip. Lots of people say to practice small sections of your music to become familiar with it and feel comfortable playing it. The trick is to loop your section paying attention to keeping the time-space the same. Loop it and make the chunk seem like there is a cd skipping. Even go one step further and loop a section that is irregular ie in a bar of 4/4 play the last crotchet from the last bar and turn it into a 5/4 loop. What this does is train you to place your notes consistently and gives you the anticipation to not be flustered by the upcoming section. Also looping a section of music in this way also lets you experiment with minor tonal and rhythmic subtleties or nuances.
Rhythm is the skeleton of music. Without rhythm you can't lock in and your music will always sound undercooked..
Written by James
Owner Founder of JTM Music