Every exercise and song you play today, do with metronome.
Try different speeds too and note what was challenging or easy.
Every exercise and song you play today, do with metronome.
Try different speeds too and note what was challenging or easy.
This month, I’m going to bring you some of the most interesting, informative and musical videos I can find.
This one by Stefon Harris features his quartet followed by a short talk and demonstration of the title.
I really like this video because it supports everything I have been writing to you about including the importance of being able to:
Here is the video, with a band performance for the first 6.10 minutes followed by his short but very interesting talk.
But what’s going to happen with your music?
While some of you will be looking forward to a break, others will be looking forward to having more time to practice.
This Article is for all of you and contains links and suggestions suited to your practice ideals for this holiday season.
Taking A Break?
Of course that’s fine and for some those of you who have been working very hard on your music it could be the best thing for your progress.
However, for others, the decision to take a break may be forced by circumstances – either you are going away and won’t have your instrument or space to practice and/or you have to meet many social engagements and just won’t have the time.
It’s always a good idea to acknowledge your reasons or circumstances for not being able to practice and to be honest and real about it. (Reflective writing is always good for this.)
If you won’t be practicing but want to stay in touch with your music, I suggest you read this article which is full of recommendations for inspiring music reading, dvd’s and listening.
If you can’t take your instrument with you but still desire to keep your music learning going, this article has suggestions of how you can accomplish that.
Keeping The Routine Going?
If keeping your regular practice routine during the holidays is what you wish to do, the only advice I would give you is to cut yourself a bit of slack.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned, especially if you are out of your ordinary work or day-to-day routine.
I am sure there will be at least one or two social engagements and you just may feel different as those around you begin to wind down.
Use your Practice Diary to keep track of your learning and perhaps set yourself some achievable goals for this short period and if you’re having trouble keeping up the routine, this article is sure to help you.
Practicing Like Mad?
Some of you may have a lot of music work commitments to meet and will have to put in some extra hours of rehearsal and practice.
Others of you will just want to take this opportunity of having more time, to practice more.
Again, don’t be disappointed if you don’t meet your expectations of learning. We can only learn as fast as our brains and bodies allow us to.
Also, (and this may seem obvious) try not to get sucked into any excessive partying.
Today, take a piece of music you know very well and play it in a different key.
For example, if you know how to play a blues very well in C, try playing it in G.
If you are a singer, take a song up a couple of semitones so you work the transition area of your voice.
Remember, this is just an exercise. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it pushes you out of your comfort zone.
That can be a stressful situation.
Whether you have an impending music exam or performance, there are times when there is a lot of pressure to learn.
So, how are you going to deal with that?
Even if you have whole days in which to practice, you can only learn as fast as your brain and muscle processes allow you to learn.
So here’s a few tips which can help you get through (and hopefully succeed) in those times of high pressure.
My situation at the moment is that I have about five new songs to learn for the Band (rehearsing tonight) and a gig on Saturday night which I need to be in top shape for.
I therefore, have to prioritise the learning for the gig because it’s important to me that every public performance I do, I do my best. However, there is an impending gig for the Band and there’s a lot of learning to do there as well!
Your priorities may be different to mine in the same situation. What is important is that you are honest about what is most important to you (not anybody else) and focus on preparing your work in accordance with that.
Sometimes it will be a close call but the work you do for one performance will invariably benefit the other performances too.
2. Practice Other Skills
Yes, you need to practice the pieces you will be playing but it’s also very wise to keep up the technical work, even if you are pressed for time.
This article outlines all the other exercises that are good to practice in order to support a successful performance.
3. Break It Down
When you look at all the activities you have to accomplish in a week, it can seem daunting. You may even feel like you don’t even know where to start, or have the feeling that all those tasks will be impossible to get through.
But when you look at what you have to do day by day, and just try to accomplish those tasks, those tasks seem much more manageable.
The same is true for a stressful music workload.
If you can, look at what you need to accomplish by the end of the week and plan out, day-by-day, using your Practice Diary, what you are going to do to meet those tasks.
Think about how much practice time you will have and plan what you will do in those practice sessions to get the maximum benefit.
A lot of time can be wasted with unplanned and unfocused practice. However, with knowledge and planning on how to practice, you have much more of a chance of meeting your goals.
This article on time management has a great tip in the last video which I use all the time now and it works!
If there is really too much on your plate, there are several ways you can handle it:
In other words, try to avoid getting yourself into a situation where you are going to let yourself and/or others down. It’s just much simpler and better to be honest and let others know where you are at.
For example, shortening the form, or taking out some movements, or playing songs you already know.
In performance, always take the options you are most confident with.
Ok, well now I’m going to take my own advice and it’s off to the practice room!
This Article will take a look at what these qualities are, just so you know and just so you’re a little more prepared.
The Teaching And Learning Experience
We can learn so much from our students and also, the act of teaching music can enhance our own learning.
The key to being able to teach well is to draw on your own experience as a learner.
I also feel that it is important to keep learning as you teach. This way, the two experiences become almost one inseparable process, helping you to inspire your students and make your teaching more meaningful.
When starting out in music, you will likely have more than one teacher and some will be better than others. (This Article can give you some advice on choosing a music teacher).
Remembering what was inspiring about the teachers you loved and why other teachers made music seem difficult will also inform your best teaching practice.
If you can take some time to reflect on your learning experiences to this point, you may find out more about what you need as a student of music and/or how you would like to teach.
One of the most interesting and best exercises I’ve had to do, as part of putting this blog together, was to write out my own story in music so far. You can read it here.
Whether you are new to music or have been doing it for a while, I do suggest you take a trip down memory lane.
It is not only great for your students to read it (if you want them to) to get a better understanding of where you are coming from and what your experience has been so far, but also for you to remember what inspired you in music in the first place, what your most embarrassing moments were (if you’ve had any – I most definitely have) and to see on paper how much you have put in to work towards your dream of making music a part of your life.
Going It Alone
We never ever stop learning music and that is what is so great about the Art – there is always more to learn and always ways you can become better at it.
However, there will inevitably be times in your learning where you have no teacher at all and all you have to rely on is yourself.
This is true for most professional musicians. (Although, by that time they have had so much experience as students, and some will be teachers, that they know how to best pursue their progress.)
What can be difficult is if you are new to music and want to teach yourself.
There are many “how to” books on the market as well as online tutorials but there is so much more to going it alone than simply having the information.
Again, this is one of the reasons this blog is in existence and why I have put together the Practice Diary – because the “going it alone” requires you to:
If you are starting out in music and are serious about it, I do suggest you find a teacher but if that is not possible, check out some of the above articles and try to implement the use of the Practice Diary, which you can download free by signing up to the Newsletter.
The Ups – The Downs
Something I am always telling my students is that their development won’t happen like this:
But more like this:
If you know that when you sometimes feel really down about music and you feel you are going nowhere and actually feel like giving up is an indication of an impending breakthrough, maybe you will be able to relax with the process a lot more.
It doesn’t matter how long you have been playing, the highs and lows are always going to be a part of your musical experience.
Learning how to deal with these feelings and understand how you are developing is important.
This is where a good teacher can really help by way of support, mentoring and giving direction.
In order to really understand your development and see what has past and what is coming up for you, I suggest you regularly reflect and keep a Practice Diary (sign up to Newsletter).
That way you can look back, read your reflections and see how far you have come – especially when you feel you are getting nowhere.
This can really help you get through the lows and provide motivation to keep you practicing.
Eventually, you will share your music, whether casually with family or other musicians or professionally.
These experiences can again be full of highs and lows but there is really no better way to gauge how you are going with music than to do some performing or recording.
These Articles should help you to be better informed about how to tackle some of the issues performing brings up:
If you are not performing or recording, try to change this and make it part of your music experience.
The above articles should give you some ideas on how to do this, or if you are not sure, please leave me a comment explaining your situation and I’ll try to suggest how you can incorporate this into your work.
This week has been interesting indeed.
I enjoyed working on the rap for the choir and can see that there is even more to explore here.
It’s fascinating and complex as much as it’s simple. So now I have a new appreciation for writing rap lyrics.
Choir was good and I realized that it’s so important to be able to hear ones part and to pitch your notes.
It helps to listen to my part each day and will need to do that each day this week because we are recording next week – that will be interesting indeed.
I have found a nursing home to do a short jazz set, so now just need to find a date that I can do, most likely after Christmas.
I finally caught up with my harp teacher who I haven’t seen in over a year, and it’s such a beautiful instrument.
At first I was thinking that I wouldn’t remember anything, but I was surprised at how much came back so quickly.
I must say I feel a bit guilty that my guitar has fallen to the side, so will try to make an effort to practice this weekend.
I’ve been busy on design and construction and the house is a demolition site and inbetween I’m wrapping presents!
Sometimes I marvel at the things I take on!
Signing out for a good nights sleep.
It was good to work on the lyrics for your rap last week and here is a recording of them…
Of course, we wrote the lyrics and recorded them in the same session, so they do need work in delivery but I really like them because they have a message and it’s a message that strongly comes from you – that’s authenticity and you know how much I think that is an important quality in music!
I know you will have no problem with the recording if you do the practice you intend to do.
You are so right. You need to know your part so well, it becomes a part of you too! With music, you will get out as much as you put in. Do the work and you’ll be fine.
I’m excited about working on the Jazz gig and delivering it at the nursing home. They will love it and it’s a great way to get performance confidence. So yes, let’s do it after Christmas.
I love the fact that you are picking up your harp again. If you have worked on music it does seem to stay in your body memory, so I’m not surprised you remember as much as you did. It must have felt good to play it again.
As far as guitar goes, just keep chipping away. You’re doing great and learning a lot of instruments at the moment anyway, so go easy on yourself!
You also seem happy to be doing the building work. I think we can all take on a bit more if we love the things we are doing.
That’s why I think that if you can follow and do the things that make you feel happy, life is more than a pleasure!
www.jango.com offers a range of services but by far the best one is their radio stations.
If you like a particular artist, it will put together a special playlist for you with that artist as well as similar music from that genre.
This is a great way to find new music.
Go there and give it a go. I guarantee you’ll love it!
FoxTab MP3 Converter is a free downloadable program. It converts all popular audio formats including (converted from MP3): *.mp2, *.mp3, *.aac, *.au, *.ogg, *.ape, *.flac, *.aiff, *.m4a, *.mpc, *.ac3, *.wav, *.wma1, *.wma2
Free YouTube Download allows you to download YouTube videos, single videos as well as whole collections. I’ll definitely be using this one!
Adobe Audition and Audio Performance is a try before you buy audio program, which allows you to do post-production work on tunes you record or lets you restore sound quality to music and video. Very handy for those old files you have converted, such as my 20+ year old demo tapes!
Virtual DJ is a music mixing application for Mac Computers. It allows you to use your laptop as like a traditional vinyl mixing deck and the Home edition is completely free to use for no commercial usage. So good for practice!
TunePrompter makes creating your own Karaoke videos easy.
It’s absolutely free and you can create your videos, export them to iPod, iPhone, QuickTime or AppleTV format (which TunePrompter automatically does for you) and then burn the results to disc.
You need Karaoke tracks of your favorite songs to load into TunePrompter. But you can easily access these at http://www.karaoke-version.com/
Corripio is helps you to manage your music library as well as find new artwork and lyrics to all your songs. You can customise Corripio to make it work for you.
If you haven’t been able to find the right music recording and production program yet, try MixPad. It let’s you mix multiple audio tracks together quickly and easily.
It’s always important to work on your aural skills as a musician. Here is a site with loads of programs and games to help you sharpen your hearing.
Yay! Finally an app to help you improve your music reading.
And this one’s for the more advanced reader of music.
I have been thinking about writing an article on transcribing for quite some time now but whenever I have come to do it, it has proven almost as hard as transcribing itself!!
Transcribing is the act of writing down music that you hear.
Many musicians use this technique in order to learn songs, improve their ears and theoretical knowledge, find out how other musicians interpret music and a lot more.
Learning to transcribe and the act of transcribing can take a lot of time and patience but is worth every ounce of this for what it can deliver to your musicianship.
Finally, I am biting-the-bullet, so to speak – which is also the same way I feel when I set out on a transcription project – but it was an incident which brought me to this point.
Myself and another band member had to transcribe a song for the Band to perform, however, when we got together for rehearsal the results we came up with were completely different.
How could this be? We both had ears, surely there was only one definitive answer to what was going on in this song.
I was perplexed until I got together with this person and realised we had heard the same thing but our approaches to transcribing were different.
He was right and I was right, we just had to put our work together to get a good chart.
Let me explain….
When I learned to transcribe the first thing I was taught to listen to was the bass line.
This is the most important part of working out what the harmony is doing because it provides you with the root note on which the rest of the chord is built.
In this blog, I have written about basic harmony, however, this is only the beginning of where chords can go and there are a myriad of different sounds and flavours you can add to them.
Also, as spoken about in this article, there are also some very common and repetitive harmonic progressions, so hearing the bass line also provides you with a clue to what the chords are going to be.
I am good at hearing bass lines, so my basic chords were correct.
The guitarist, who also transcribed, only transcribed his part, which was obviously based on the chords, but which didn’t necessarily give the correct root notes and chord names, therefore chordal notation for the other instruments (bass and piano) was incorrect.
What his transcription did provide me with, however, was the missing “flavours” of the chords, e.g. flat 9’s, sharp 11’s etc.
When we got together, I was able to improve upon the basic harmony of my chart by figuring his chords into mine.
When I explained to him what I had done and what he had done, he realised that it was important to notate chords based on the root notes and would do so from now on.
But because he had trained his ears, always to pick up on the “added” notes, he was quite easily able to get them, whereas I had more difficulty.
It was therefore a pleasure to work together to get the right answers.
So, the moral to this story is…. Well, there is a few morals:
There are several ways you can go about transcribing music (as illustrated above).
Here are a few tips:
If you are a beginner at transcribing
Start by doing some ear training. This means learning to hear a pitch and sing it or play it on your instrument.
There are a few programs out there to help you do this that you can research. Meanwhile here are a couple to get you started.
If your ears are happening
The next step is learning how to transcribe.
As I said, I always start out by working out:
Start by choosing relatively easy songs. You will get to know what these are as you experiment.
This website also has some good suggestions.
If you want more detailed transcriptions, i.e. written on the stave, you will need to learn how to notate music, and especially rhythm dictation.
This should really start with learning to read music, just the same way we learn to read and write our language.
Again, you will have to be patient with this process but the key is just to enjoy it.
Please refer to this article if you are a beginner and learning read music.
If you don’t want to learn to read and write music, you could always choose from a number of notation programs where you can play the music into the computer and it will notate it for you.
However, sometimes this notation isn’t as clear and simple as it could be so I would recommend you take it to someone who knows music and who can help you to edit it.
In this Article I will outline the different ways teachers and students can use the Practice Diary.
The most important thing to remember is that the Diary is a flexible resource and that you can, and should, improve upon it so that it serves you in the best possible way.
The main purpose of the Diary is to teach students how to practice music so that when the time comes for them to be independent from a teacher they know how to keep pursuing learning and playing by themselves.
The most important aspects of the Diary are that of reflective learning and making sure all aspects of music are getting the right amount of attention.
You will find that some students love using the Diary and they fill it in religiously while others barely look at it.
Whether your student fills in the Diary or not, it is still a useful resource in the lesson and just by keeping track of exercises and writing in it, your students will eventually come to see how it can support their learning… the information you give is better absorbed because they are hearing it and seeing it.
For some students, that’s all they need and they will remember what has been covered and find a rhythm in their practice that suits them.
What is important is that you use the Practice Diary to keep track of your students’ progress.
If they are reluctant to do the reflective work, spend the first part of the lesson discussing similar questions to the following:
and simply write a paragraph for them in the space provided. When you revise these reflections at the end of the Diary, they will see the benefit doing regular reflective work.
Another tactic is to get them to write in the reflective space, spending 5 – 10 minutes of the first part of the lesson doing this.
Just be sensitive to the literacy level of your student and always offer to help them.
It can be quite embarrassing for adults to have literacy problems, many do and many don’t admit it, so please bear this in mind when using the Diary with your students and support them as much as you can.
If your student simply doesn’t want to use the Diary, you use it to keep track of what you are currently doing in your lessons with them.
Circle exercises and write down comments during the lesson, so that in the next lesson it is easy to pick up where you left off.
This saves a lot of time trying to recall where you are with a certain student and if you have many students, using the Diary really makes teaching a lot easier and efficient.
Explain to your students that the more information they can provide for you (i.e. how much time they spent on exercises, how often they practiced, what they practiced, reflective work etc) the more you can guide and help them and the faster they will be able to learn and the more value-for-money they get.
This may encourage them to use the Diary.
You can also experiment with pre-planned practice schedules or discuss with them ideas they think would work best for them and keep track of these in the Diary.
Don’t be disheartened if this resource doesn’t get used the way you intend it to be. Everyone is different and everyone has their own way of doing things.
Use the Diary to illustrate how each of your students learn and help them to realise what works best for them.
That way, they will have a lot more chance of success.
I am a list kind of person, so the Diary works well for me. I have used it for about five years now and will probably always use it because it helps me to:
I know that a lot of people are not “list” people and never will be and that’s fine.
You can use the Diary any way you wish and it’s just really helpful for your teacher and you to work together using this resource, writing down goals, achievements and keeping track of what you are focusing on.
Just remember the more you guide your own learning, through reflective practice, the better your relationship to music and your teacher will be and the easier it will be for you to eventually become and independent learner.
The Diary isn’t meant to be a resource you have to use forever.
By using the Practice Diary for a period of time you will eventually develop the mindset you need to ensure your future learning encompasses all the aspects of music necessary for you to succeed.
Many people fail to continue with music because they don’t understand their own processes and have false expectations of themselves and the learning process.
This is why I developed the Diary.
Don’t worry if the Diary in its current format doesn’t work for you, instead, think about what will help you to learn and try to put that into a useful format.
You may come up with a more brilliant version than what has been offered!
Remember, if you have any questions, please leave your comment below.
Comments don’t automatically go onto the blog, so if you are worried about confidentiality, you can just let me know that you would like me to answer your query personally.