Ok, it’s that time of year again, when things get a little bit crazy and all routine seems to fly out the window.
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.
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!
If you’re looking for some new music I absolutely can’t go past recommending this website.
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!
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:
When transcribing, first listen to the bass line to gain the big picture of the harmonic structure of a song.
When you have discrepancies with other musicians (such as the one described above), don’t jump to conclusions about the other’s musical ability. Instead, find out their approach to transcribing and work it out together.
Recognise your strengths and weaknesses and be open to sharing them.
The more transcribing you do, the better you will get at it.
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 you’ve read “My Life In Music”, you will find out that what I imagined for myself in music didn’t eventuate the way I had planned.
However, the life I am living now is what I wanted, perfect for me, and something I could never have imagined the pathway to all those years ago.
I think this is often what happens when you “follow your bliss”.
You may start out with a particular idea about where you want to be and how you want your life to look, but if it’s not really right for you, life will take you to a place where you can be a lot happier through a series of “happy coincidences”.
All you have to do is try to find what feels right for you and try to follow that feeling at every turn. (Not always easy, I agree!)
Many people begin their music career with a desire to be famous, mostly because they want to be seen, heard and loved.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be famous to possess or develop these qualities in your life and you can achieve this through a career in music in many other different and rewarding ways.
This Article aims to get you to think about options you may not have paid much attention to but which could work out well for you.
Many of these involve developing more than one skill, that of playing music, however constant learning is what keeps life exciting!
I had never even considered a teaching career and in a way, it found me.
I love it and there are many ways you could love it too.
set up your own business teaching music, as I have,
teach music in high school,
in adult education, or
teach in primary schools, as a freelance teacher.
For many musicians who begin teaching, this line of work can seem difficult or not rewarding.
Much of the time this is because they haven’t studied how to teach which is another skill (and I would even go so far as to say, art form) in itself.
If you want a career in teaching, especially if you are going to do it privately, find a teaching course appropriate to what you wish to do.
This will make your job easier, rewarding, even exciting and ensure you have many students.
This is an area I could definitely begin to move into (when I feel I have the time to do more study).
There are many kinds of music therapies and you can practice them privately or in the hospital and mental health system.
Here is a short vid to help you understand what music therapy is and to see it in action.
Have you ever stopped to consider how much demand there is for newly composed music?
Here is a list of what I can think of:
Television and Screen Productions
Incidental music such as on Radio Broadcasts
Computer and Interactive Games
And I’m sure there is a lot more you could add to this list.
I think some people shy away from composition because they think that it is hard to get into, however, as you can see, I am sure the demand is high.
You just need to know how the industry works, you need to love composition as well and learn to use the latest score and recording technology etc.
There are courses you can look into to study these aspects of composition.
Again, this video may help you decide your direction in music.
Theatre production is a major entertainment niche and theatres need musicians.
This can be a difficult area to break into but once you are in, there is a very good living to be made if you enjoy the lifestyle.
If you would like to ask any questions about this or read some great articles I would suggest going to this website.
Again, this market, especially at the top can be quite difficult to break but it doesn’t mean you can’t.
In order to be a session musician you need to have good reading skills and understand several different styles of music.
You can listen to Oli’s interview for a good story of how he came to carve a career for himself in this capacity.
Meanwhile, you may be interested to watch this.
There are several ways a producer contributes to the creation of music.
Producers have a good ear for instrumentation and production (lots of experience in the recording studio and in composition).
Ideally, a good producer would also have a good understanding of people in order to direct a musician to give their best performance.
There are many different shades and variety of producer, including someone who makes beats and dance music for DJ’s.
A good understanding of the recording studio and how to use it is part of the job.
Also, a savvy business nature is very helpful!
The options outlined in this Article are only the tip of the iceberg of what is possible for you in music.
It’s worth exploring what turns you on and taking steps to learn the skills necessary for that trajectory.
Please leave a comment and let me know if there’s anything you would like to add to this article.
What you may not realise is the importance of these in order to train yourself to pay attention to, and be able to tune into your breathing.
When you are nervous, often the first thing to be affected is your breath.
Holding the breath is one way you can be affected or not taking deep enough breaths is another.
This in turn causes your body to become tense and when your body is tense, it is a lot harder to make music.
Once you find it difficult to make music, your thoughts can become negative and again, impact even more on your music.
It doesn’t sound fun, does it?
By practicing your breathing exercises as well as some other kind of meditation, if you are so inclined, will help you to:
1. Become aware when your breathing is not natural, and
2. Help you to bring your breathing back to normal.
If you can do this, you will find your nerves will dissipate, you will become more present and your body will not suffer all the other affects like shaking or sweating which can be a result of tension and negative thinking.
Unless you are a seasoned performer (and even then sometimes), you can become distracted while playing.
The source of such distractions can be either internal (like self-conscious or negative thoughts) or external and it is important to learn how to bring yourself back to the music if you do become distracted.
Not long ago I was doing a performance after a long break and my daughter was running around the dance floor.
She tripped and started crying and boy, it was a huge dilemma for me as my impulse was to get up straight away and go to her aide, even though her Dad was close by to rescue her.
Needless to say, I became hugely distracted.
Fortunately, it was a solo gig so no-one was depending on me to keep it together.
I did keep it together but screwed up the form and some chords, however, I don’t think anyone noticed.
This is one of the most crucial aspects to develop in performance – being able to keep going and make something of your “mistakes”.
Besides getting a lot of experience in performance, the exercises that can best prepare you for this are:
Again, learning to bring yourself back from a distracting thought or presence of someone or something needs to be practiced.
You can do this by bringing your focus back to your breath and becoming aware of your thoughts, choosing not to follow them but rather focusing on your senses, what you are feeling, seeing and hearing.
I’m going to include this video again on this blog because I think it is so helpful for what has been mentioned above.
For some people unfamiliar surroundings can be off-putting and distracting, however, it is often the case that you will have to perform either on an unfamiliar instrument and/or in a place you have not been to before.
If possible, always try to visit the venue and play the instrument you will be using for your performance so you can become familiar with the equipment and the room.
It will help you to feel a lot more relaxed.
If you can do this, then you can also better visualise a successful performance in that space.
If you haven’t already, please read the article on visualisation, to gain an understanding of how this can help you prepare for success.
What Else Do I Need To Practice?
There are two last elements that will give you the edge on your performance.
The first is dedicating time to practicing technique.
All too often we can spend a lot of time on the pieces we need to play because there is a feeling of running out of practice time.
But if you make time to focus on technique you will be a lot better able to play your pieces and feel a lot more confident in your body’s ability and muscle memory to get around the music.
Lastly, being able to relax is really important.
There are many ways to practice this and you can choose these methods for yourself but if you are really finding performing difficult, you could try using a hypnosis method which helps you to be more relaxed and positive. There are plenty you can look up on the internet.
You can choose the sound of the metronome, the volume and best of all, whatever kind of division you choose, not just straight duple or triple time.
Well worth checking out. You really couldn’t want more from such an important piece of equipment.
Live Streaming Music Recorder
This program let’s you record any music coming through your computer, onto your computer. This means anything from sound on your microphone or a skype conversation to sound from a live internet broadcast. Very handy! You can download a free trial from here.
There are plenty of music notation programs based on inputting information through a keyboard but what if you are a guitarist?! Well, this one is for you. This free downloadable program can be used to create guitar sheet music (guitar tablature and bass tablature). It uses the most commonly used symbols in tablature, including chord names, chord diagrams, rhythm slashes, bends, slides, hammer-ons/pull-offs, harmonics and palm muting.
Tuition Program for Guitar and Bass
It’s always a good idea to look for a good teacher, however, if you are short of cash or just want to make a start learning your instrument, this is the site for you. Yet another free download, this program features:
Support for various instruments, tunings. Guitar (6, 7 string), Bass (4, 5 string), Banjo (4, 5 string), and Mandolin are supported by default. New instruments, tunings, chords and scales can be added easily.
Complete scale/chords/keys reference.
Tab editor with a Tab library function. Quickly browse all your tabs.
Ear training exercises: Chords, scales, keys, intervals, and fretboard notes. Great for any musician!
Fretboard notes exercises: Learn the notes on the fretboard.
Jam band: Quickly write a chord progression and play over it with this tool.
Audio samples from real guitars used.
They should really have one of these programs for all instruments! I’ll try to find them.
Fretboard Training Software
More for the guitarists! This free download contains a huge library of scales and chords displayed on a graphical fretboard, showing the position and the notes that are used in the scale or chord.
This is not for the pro guitarists but for beginners and intermediates.
The program also features a game mode where you are presented with a fretboard and have to correctly name the highlighted fret positions. You can choose which frets and strings to test. Practice against the clock and keep a note of your average note recognition time.
Here’s another training program which looks like it is very popular on this site.
This program isn’t free but it’s worth a look at, especially if you are a singer or a musician who needs to practice songs with backing.
Band-in-a-Box is an automatic-accompaniment program. All you need to do is type in the chord symbols to any song, choose a style, and press Play.
Band-in-a-Box then generates a five-instrument accompaniment of bass, drums, piano, guitar, and strings in more than 100 styles of music.
That’s the short explanation of this program. If you want to find out more, click here.
Band Minus One is a similar program, so you may want to compare the two.
This program is a extremely easy to use.
Again, just enter a chord sequence and choose a style. You can use the many thousands of styles in Yamaha format that are available on internet. The accompaniment can be recorded to create a CD with backing tracks.