How to be clear AND fun with your opera chorus

Many opera choruses consist of amateur singers who are there for the fun of it.

It can be hard for the music director to keep rehearsals fun while getting the production underway, particularly when people have different editions of the score, and may not understand musical lingo to find a specific spot.

Conductor Andy Anderson's answer to keeping everyone on having a good time AND on the same page is to give nicknames to specific passages that he knows will be frequent starting points.

For example in Rigoletto, he nicknamed a spot "Jaws" because it sounds similar to the music of the movie "Jaws." Everyone gets a good laugh out of it, and everyone always knows just what to sing.

Photo from http://www.portlandopera.org/company/chorus


3 reasons why we don't want to practice

We all go through times when we do NOT feel like practicing. But knowing why we do not want to practice can actually help us practice better, so here are three common reasons.
  1. Overwhelmed: Too much music to learn in a too short amount of time can make us scared of practicing because we don't even know where to get started.

    When that happens, the most important thing to do is to find the hardest spots by either playing through the whole music up to speed and see where we fall apart, or listening to the whole piece while looking at the music and marking down the tough spots. It is more manageable to learn a few important spots than to learn three hours of music. 

  2. Negative self talk: We can't practice well when we are harsh with ourselves, so it's important to deal with our fears before we even try to practice.

    Negative self talk can be self-defeatist: "I'll never reach the level I want," "I hate how I play," or "No matter how much I practice, my teachers and colleagues will still think I'm not good enough." It can also be self-pressuring: "I have to prove to my parents that I made the right choice by picking this career," "I'm gonna practice until this spot is absolute perfection"

  3. Fun: Sometimes we don't want to practice because we want to do fun things like hang out with friends, enjoy beautiful weather, or simply sleep. When that's the case, many of us push through that feeling and go practice anyways, and then get frustrated because our practicing isn't going well.

    Why not follow our needs and take some time off? Because we're afraid that if we listen to the voice of fun, we'll never go practice ever again. However, the best practice sessions come from being excited and inspired to play, and that often happens when we have a good balance in our lives.

Photo from http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-violin-on-grass-image15540237


Living with a musician 101

Considering moving in with a musician? Make sure you know what to expect with these four aspects.
  1. Practicing: You will hear a lot of practicing, often the same music played over and over again, many times along to a metronome.

    What this means to you is that you may not be able to play your own music at the same time, and that you'll always hear background sound even when you're watching tv.

  2.  Schedule: Know ahead of time not to expect your musician to be home every evening, or the whole weekend. Rehearsals and concerts are often during those times, and musicians will often use their free time to practice. Embrace the lifestyle because changing it rarely an option.

  3. The space it takes: Musicians take up a lot of space with sheet music, gear and instruments. This is normal and often necessary, even when piles of scores never seem organized, and gear or instruments lay on the floor between practice sessions.

  4. Listening to music: Many musicians are quite particular with the music they listen to. Some need to listen to what they're working on at the moment to get ready for a gig, some prefer to listen to the opposite of the style they play, and some even need complete silence after rehearsal and concerts. It's best if you can follow their lead on that one.

Picture from http://www.arnewde.com/interior-design/contemporary-bedroom-decoration-for-boys-stemik-living-by-flyteam-creative/


    Why apply to that job when you know you're not gonna get it?

    Looking and applying to gigs takes time, so it's tempting to weight our chances before wasting our time applying to a job we don't think we would get.

    But here are the three reasons why we should always apply.
    1. Put our name out there: When an opening has been posted for a while, it's likely the position will have already been filled. The reason we still need to apply is to get our name known in the company.

      We may not get that job today, but we may get another job with that same company down the road because of that first application we sent in.

    2. In case things happen: Things happen. The company may not have hired someone yet. Or they may have hired someone who ended up falling through.

      In any case, if you sent your application at a later time, they'll be happy to receive a brand new application, and will look at it more closely than they would have if it would have come in with the previous couple hundred applications.

    3. For fun: When we only apply for a few select gigs that we think we match perfectly, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, which makes us doubt ourselves if we don't get the expected outcome.

      But when we apply to many gigs including the ones we don't think we'll get, we can stop worrying about the outcome and start enjoying the process more. In other words, applying for more jobs than we can keep track of helps us keep your sanity, so that we can remain focused on our music.

    Picture from http://work.lifegoesstrong.com/functional-resume-right-you


      Is it your turn or mine?

      Some singers sing along the piano part during transitions and postludes.

      What would happen if pianists sang along the vocal lines during the song?

      Photo from http://www.ronrobinson.com/STYLOBJECTS-Tamara-Hensick-Your-Turn-My-Turn-p/15675.htm


      What determines how much you make?

      Think you'll get paid more the better you are at your instrument? Think again!

      In his book Attitude 101, John C. Maxwell writes the following:

      "The Stanford Research Institute says that the money you make in any endeavor is determined only by 12.5 percent by knowledge and 87.5 percent by your ability to deal with people."

      "87.5% people knowledge + 12.5% product knowledge= Success"

      "That is why Teddy Roosevelt said, "The most important single ingredient to the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people."

      "And why John D. Rockefeller said, "I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun."

       Picture from http://www.thesafelist.net/blog/?m=200902


      How to make time to practice

      It can be hard to find time to practice, which is why this article listed 33 ways to make more time for music-making.

      Here are some excerpts:
      • "Disconnect. Power down your computer–or if you absolutely need the thing for some reason related to your practice and studies, sever it from the internet. Switch off your router. Close all unnecessary windows."

      • "Banish Television. On your deathbed, will you regret not seeing this particular episode of “Generic Man and his Comical Family”? Alright then."

      • "Timer. Every day, set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Within that time, work on a particularly mundane task related to your instrument or music theory."

      • "Shut off your cell phone. You don’t need the added distraction of incoming texts from National Geographic’s Twitter account. Unless you’re writing about giraffes or the indigenous peoples of New Guinea."

      • "Purpose. Before you pick up your instrument, take a moment to decide what you’ll be practicing. Fix it clearly and firmly in your mind. Then get to it! Stick to your plan and don’t allow yourself to wander."

      • "Set a timer for 15, 30, 60, or 90 minutes… however much you can stand. During that time, chip away at the tiny corners of a big, intimidating project."

      Photo from http://letstalkindia.wordpress.com/page/2/


        Where to park for that gig?

        As freelancer musicians, we often work in places, and even in cities we've never been to before.

        That leaves us wondering with all sorts of questions such as: How much is parking? Is there even parking around? Can I park overnight? Should I take public transportation instead?

        There are now a lot of resources that help us answer those questions. Here are the best two:
        1. Best Parking: This site covers all the main cities of the US and a few in Canada as well. They offer options for daily and monthly parking, and you can do a search by neighborhood, by address and by attraction.

          To have an exact estimate, you simply have to enter the dates and times of your stay. A map of the area shows you which parking is free, which parking is metered, or even if there is no parking. This site is also available as an app on any phone.

        2. Primo Spot: Primo Spot covers New York City, Boston and Seattle exclusively. It gives you an overview of garages and lots pricing.

          The best part of this site, which is also an app, is that it gives you a real-time overview of on-street parking around your current location, with a colored legend that divides the spots in four categories: more than 4 hours, cutting it close, dangerous and bad idea. It also includes bike racks, and it has a special option for holiday parking.

        Picture from http://www.themusiciansguide.co.uk/blog/12/how-to-choose-a-tour-van-and-what-you-need-to-consider-guest-post-by-vans-for-bands/


        Is passion a good thing?

        Passion is a big part of musicians' lives. But there are two kinds of passion, one good and one bad, as described in this article by Scott Kaufman for the Harvard Business Review.

        Harmonious Passion 
        "Those with harmonious passion engage in their work because it brings them intrinsic joy. They have a sense of control of their work, and their work is in harmony with their other activities in life.

        At the same time, they know when to disengage, and are better at turning off the work switch when they wish to enjoy other activities or when further engagement becomes too risky."

        Obsessive Passion 
        "Like those with harmonious passion, those with obsessive passion perceive their work as representing a passion for them, and view their work as highly valued.
        A major difference is that they have an uncontrollable urge to engage in their work. As a result, they report feeling more conflict between their passion and the other activities in their life."

        Photo from http://www.123rf.com/photo_9370384_attractive-musician-playing-guitar-on-his-knees-and-making-a-rock-and-roll-gesture-over-white.html


        How to negotiate your pay

        When a pay for a gig is not set in stone, it's important to know how to negotiate.

        This article gives practical advice on salary negotiation, by recruiting consultant Bill Humbert. Here are some excerpts:
        • "Don't offer salary requirements: When you are asked to include salary requirements with your resume, that is typically a company’s first screen, and it can be used against you. Humbert's advice is to simply put “Open” in that spot."

        • "Don't give away too much: In many job applications, an employer will ask for your salary history. It is perfectly acceptable to write “Willing to discuss at appropriate time during interview process” and leave those numbers blank."

        • "Keep networking: Once you have a job offer, it’s not a done deal until you accept it. Until that happens, keep networking and looking for jobs. It may give you valuable market-worth data about the position you’ve been offered."

        • "Accepting the offer: Asking “Is there any flexibility in this offer?” may help to open a discussion of increasing the offer."

        Picture from http://kizie.com/blog/business-negotiations-and-strategies.html


        What to do when you're feeling down?

        Most musicians wonder at some point or another if they'll ever get better at their instrument, and if they'll ever reach their goals.

        How to stay motivated when that happens? This article mentions the following solution:

        Watch a project of yours that you love.

        Listen to recordings you've done in the past and watch videos of concerts you've given.

        Looking at your past accomplishments will give you the strength to keep on working toward accomplishing more.

        Photo from http://reachforthesky.wordpress.com/page/2/


        Do students' throw-away comments matter?

        Sometimes, students make comments that seem trivial, but we need to uncover their importance, so that we can address them.

        Here are a few cases in point. 
        • "Oh, I'm just nervous:" This is one of the most frequent throw-away comments from students, which really means: "I have no idea how to handle my nervousness, and it is noticeable in my playing." This is the best time to explain to students how normal it is to feel nervous, and to give them concrete tools on how to deal with it.

        • "Oh, I'm just a slow learner:" When students mention that they are slow learners, it's time for a conversation on practicing. We need to figure out their process for learning, and offer them more options to try until they find the one that clicks.

        • "Oh, I just wish there was a mirror here:" Singers are the ones who mention the need for a mirror the most, and it is important we ask them why they want it, to see if we can help them even without one.

          If they wanted it to check their posture, we might be able to offer solutions such as standing against a wall in a certain way, or gently putting tape on the back of their neck for them to feel when their head goes against the position they wanted to hold.

          If they wanted it to check on their acting, we can have a talk with them about the fact that to be an actor is to be in the moment, and that a mirror may take them out of the moment. 
        Throw-away comments are really questions in disguise. Don't miss out on the chance to help your students, even when they don't seem to ask for it.

        Photo from http://gypsyshaven.blogspot.com/


          Can accompanists mark?

          Marking is a common concept for singers, but rarely heard of for pianists. And yet, accompanists can also mark.

          1. Play softer: The basis of marking is to cut all of your dynamics in half, while keeping the right proportion between them, and of course making sure to still phrase, and put in the right articulation and accentuation.

          2. Play fewer notes: Playing fewer notes is a great way to preserve yourself. You just need to be careful when you take notes out that the singers still hear what they're used to hearing, such as rhythm and harmony. Great ways to go about this is to play single notes instead of octaves, and to take out any inner notes in one hand that the other hand is already covering.
            1. When your singer is marking: When your singers needs to mark, for example because they are focusing on the new staging they've just been given or because their voice is sore, you actually help them when you mark alongside of them, so take advantage of that. 

            2. When you're physically tired: When your fingers and arms are getting fatigued, or your back is hurting, you need to take care of yourself. The best way to do that is by marking, particularly when you're practicing on your own. 

            3. When you need to pace yourself: When you know that you have many hours of playing ahead of you, you need to know in advance when you'll need to be at your peak, and pace yourself carefully until that point.

            Picture from http://gizmodo.com/5563778/this-is-the-pianists-equivalent-of-a-laptop-bed+table-right


              Need clearer direction in your career?

              Do you ever wish someone could help you see all of your options as a professional musician, and help you successfully achieve your full potential?

              That's what musician's coaches are for! Here are some of them.
              • Valerie Kampmeier: Has testimonials and offers complimentary evaluation session.

              • Rick Goetz: Specializes in strategy and business planning for musicians.

              • Kelli: Explains what coaching can do for you, and she gives a free sample session.

              • Chris Coward: Helps performers as well as songwriters and composers, and provides a free coaching session.

              Photo from http://www.truenaturewellness.com/s/individuals/2/


              How to know if you're doing enough (or not)

              We all want to get more done, and at the same time we all want to have more free time.

              So how are we supposed to know if we're doing too much or too little?

              Author Dave Navarro mentions in his manifesto More Time Now that we just have to ask ourselves the following question.

              How many things do you regret not having accomplished, attempted or experienced over the last ten years?

              Answer it honestly, and you'll know just how you're doing.

              Picture from http://cutcaster.com/photo/800895787-time-passing-clocks-and-gears/


              How to create an online choir

              In case you've missed it, this video is a must see for all of us!


              Should you tell how much you make?

              At some point in our life, we've all worked the same job as someone else in the same company, such as two clarinet players in the same orchestra, or two music teachers at the same camp.

              When that happens, the question of how much each person makes tends to come up. Should we share that info with each other or not?
              • YES: When you are in your job for the long haul, the information will definitely be helpful in future negociations.

              • NO: When you are in a short-term gig, you won't be able to make use of the information. When one of you realizes that they are being paid less than the other, it will create resentment.

                However, if one of you is not sure what the going rates are, it's ok to tell how much you both make once the gig is done, for future reference.

              Picture from http://freelanceconsultingadvice.com/page/2/


              Are you a live musician?

              Many ads ask for live musicians for events.

              But what are performing musicians that are not live?

              Picture from http://gheecheeni.wordpress.com/


              6 resources to find a sub

              We all need subs at some point or another, so here are the 6 resources that make finding a sub much easier when your regular subs aren't available.
              1. Friends' recommendations: Ask your musician friends to help you pass the word along by posting what you need on facebook, and by sending them an email to be forwarded to potential subs.

              2. Local universities and conservatories: Find a local university that offers degrees in music, and contact the chairman of the department you need. Tell them precisely what you're looking for, and ask them to pass your email around to anyone they judge qualified and interested.

              3. Craigslist: Craigslist works best for bigger cities, but there are some great musicians looking at the ads on there, and it's free so there is no reason not to give it a shot. 

              4. Local musicians' union: Simply search for the local AFM website, and look for a representative's phone number and email address. There is sometimes a special page designated to hire musicians, where you just have to fill in the form with your needs.

              5. Online listings: Online listings are a great resource, such as pianoaccompanists.com, violinist.com, and gigmasters.com.

              6. Musicians' websites: Do a Google search of musicians in the location you're looking for, and take a look at their professional websites to see if any of them would suit your needs.

              Picture from http://www.encore-editions.com/wanted-a-substitute/canvas


              Why it's ok to not always be productive

              Do you ever find yourself practicing your instrument and feeling that you're not getting anything done?

              Here is why it's completely ok, from the following excerpts from an article on productivity by Jason Fried published in the latest edition of Inc.

              "A few weeks ago, I was on fire." "Every day, I felt as if I were accomplishing two or three days' worth of work. I was in the zone, and it felt fantastic."

              "It lasted about three weeks. And then I found myself back at my old pace. Instead of being super productive, I was sort-of-productive. Some days, I felt as if I barely accomplished anything."
              "So what was wrong? Nothing at all."

              "I believe it's perfectly fine to spend some of your time, maybe even a lot of your time, not firing up on all cylinders. Full capacity isn't always great for your mind."

              "Motivation, productivity, efficiency- these things are not constants. In my experience, they come in waves. They ebb and flow, and there's no sense in fighting it. The key is to recognize a productivity surge when it appears, so you can roll with it."

              "I think about work the same way I think about the weather. Sometimes it's snowy or rainy or foggy at work. When that happens, I stay 'inside'- and take care of the busy work, the boring stuff, the small things that need to get done."

              "But when things warm up, it's time to head 'outside,' to get creative, focus on the interesting problems, and ride the wave of creativity as long as it lasts. It may be days, weeks, even months."

              Photo from http://www.123rf.com/photo_4815489_music-instruments.html


              Should musicians go on vacation when they don't have gigs planned?

              For regular 9-5 workers, a period of no-work means vacation. So when a musician has an upcoming period of no-work, friends and family assume that musicians are free to go on vacation as well.

              However, for freelance musicians, a period of no-work ahead of them simply means that gigs will come in at the last moment. 

              If they were to leave for vacation, they would have to turn down those last minute gigs. And a gig turned down once means less gigs offered in the future.

              Picture from http://www.portableathlete.com/2010/11/acupressure-to-relieve-vacation-stress/


              How to network on the gig

              Networking is a big part of getting work as a musician. But we think of networking for new people, while it is also important to network with the people you're already working with.

              Here are the six rules for networking at work, from this article published on the Harvard Business Review.
              1.  Build outward, not inward: "Start by remembering that the point of collaborative networking is to connect people who wouldn't ordinarily work together. Don't waste your time deepening connections with people you already know."

              2. Go for diversity, not size: "Rather than aiming for a massive network, focus on building an efficient one. This requires knowing people with different skills and viewpoints. They should be different from you, of course, but also different from one another."

              3. Build weak ties, not strong ones: "A strong tie is probably someone who knows a lot of the same people you do, whereas a weak tie forms a bridge to a world you don't walk in. And to keep a weak tie, you only need to touch base a couple of times a month."

              4. Use hubs, not familiar faces: "When facing a problem at work, most of us will ask a close contact for help. But because we tend to befriend people at our own level, our closest contacts are unlikely to know more than we do. Instead, identify the "hubs" in your company — the people who are already great organizational networkers — and ask them to connect you to someone who knows more."

              5. Swarm the target: "Say you've built a diverse network of weak ties. Using the help of a hub, you've identified someone who can help you: a target. Before you approach that person, you need to enlist the help of your network to increase the odds that she will come through."

              6. If people aren't pulling together, strengthen ties: "If you're managing a project that requires crossing organizational silos, and following the previous rules has not provided results, it's worth investing the time and resources to build stronger connections. Help the team get to know each other better. You'll start to see results."

              Picture from http://www.ybskin.com/careers.html


              Why you should take a gig you're not ready for

              We all believe we have to work our way up.

              So when an offer comes asking us to play at a higher level than the level we are on, we may think that it is in everyone's best interest to turn it down.

              After all, what we do in the practice room is reflected on the stage. So why take a chance?

              Because the opposite is true too. What we do on the stage is reflected in the practice room. So when we do a higher level gig, it forces us to work quicker and better, and to adjust our work in the practice room.

              When we turn down a higher level gig because we want to get to that level on our own first, we actually turn down the best way for us to learn how to get to that level. 

              Photo from http://www.parentsconnect.com/articles/music-for-babies.html


              How to be proud when you screw up

              When you are working on a new piece and a section isn't working, it can be tempting to get frustrated.

              However, it is the perfect time to feel a sense of pride. Why pride when you just screwed up?

              Because it's a reminder that you know what all the options are to fix that spot!  All you have to do is go through each one of those options to figure out the one that will make that section work.

              With every option you try that doesn't help, you can get prouder and prouder of yourself for having more and more tricks in your tool bag to try.

              Practicing is so much more fun when you turn every mistake into a way to be proud of yourself!

              Picture from http://toolmonger.com/2008/01/16/hot-or-not-vetos-topless-tool-bag/


              8 steps to kickstart your wedding band

              Making your place in the wedding industry can be quite hard, but when you follow the following 8 steps, you will increase your chances of getting gigs for your wedding band.
              1. Have a website: This is absolutely mandatory. Clients think that when you don't have a website you don't exist, or that you're not serious enough. Make one.

              2. Put a video reel on your homepage: Make sure to film the first few wedding gigs you do, then add up 30 seconds of different songs you played back to back. This is the most important aspect of your website, that will help couples decide if you're right for their wedding or not.

              3. List your songs rep: This is a way for people to see what style you specialize in. Some bands do more classic rock, some more contemporary songs, and some do a mix of everything. Make sure you know which category you fit in, and make that obvious on your repertoire list.

              4. Have a FAQ page: answer people's questions before they even ask them. Reassure them that you will Emcee at the wedding, that you have replacement musicians in case of emergency, tell them what sorts of equipment you use, what your band will wear at the wedding, how you handle volume, if you will bring party lights or not, etc.

              5. Contact page: many bands and other wedding vendors have an inquiry form for couples to fill out. Couples end up having to fill in too many of such forms, and they will be most grateful when you simply put an email address that allows them to copy and paste the same introduction email to different vendors.

              6. Introduce band members: A simple way to connect with your potential clients is to put headshots and bios of your band members. Some bands also put the bios of regular subs.

              7. Have a facebook page and a twitter account: A lot of bands have been around a long time and aren't on facebook and twitter, which means that you will have more chances to be found on there and hired by the population using those sites than the older bands.

                Provide value to your followers by adding tips on weddings, to show that you know what you're talking about: you may talk about song options for first dances, link to articles about parents dances, suggest ceremony musicians, etc.

              8. Encourage reviews: The cheapest and best form of advertisement is word of mouth, and these days word of mouth happens as online reviews.

                To encourage your clients to post reviews of you, offer them incentives to do so: a free cd, $50 off their final bill, etc. Help them suggest you to their friends by offering a 5% discount to whomever they refer you to. 

              Picture from http://www.spaweekblog.com/tag/wedding-band/


                Are you as clear as your students need you to be?

                To help our students, we tell them what to do better.

                Support. Phrase. Breathe.
                Be clearer. Take time. Express. 

                But while our advice is true, it is only beneficial to our students when they know what those concepts mean, and how to use them.

                Sometimes the best advice is not to tell, but to ask.
                Not "do this," but "do you know how to do this?"

                Picture from http://johnwilkenson.com/?q=node/39


                The difference between performing and sight reading

                When we perform, the role of our body is to be an extension of the music and to show in a visual way what the music is doing.

                However, when we sight read, the role of our body is to be efficient. When we move our body the same way we do for a piece we know, our body actually becomes in the way of our sight reading.

                The more we move our back and head, the more difficult it is for our eyes to focus on the music. And the more we move our arms and elbows, the harder it is for our fingers to quickly move to their next notes.

                Sight reading takes too much energy for us to use it up on extra movements.

                Picture from http://www.fotosearch.com/photos-images/musical-scale.html


                Is it work or is it "work"?

                Non-musicians think that musicians don't have "real" jobs.

                On the other hand, musicians know first hand that being a performer takes a lot of hard work.

                And yet, we're often the first ones to refer to work as "work."

                That can't possibly help non-musicians get it.

                Picture from http://www.lehigh.edu/~clb208/site/terremoto/earthquake_immag.html

                Cuts in budget for military bands

                This article states that last week, "the House of Representatives passed Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s amendment to reduce the Department of Defense’s spending on military musical bands by $120 million," from $320 million to $200 million.

                One of the comments following the article talked about the story of Winston Churchill, who was told by his finance minister during the Second World War to cut funding for the arts to help with the war.

                Churchill's answer, “Then what are we fighting for?”

                Picture from http://wapedia.mobi/en/United_States_Marine_Band


                How to get your students to practice

                Even when students want to become professional musicians, it can be difficult to get them to practice enough. 

                Here is the simplest way to make them practice: don't let them pick which ones of their pieces they play in their lesson. Be the one to do that.

                Keep them on wondering, and they'll keep on practicing.

                Picture from http://www.artcommunication.com.au/Graphic%20Design/Graphic%20Design.htm


                How to handle a rejection phone call

                When you get a phone call telling you that you didn't get the job you wanted, it is easy to want to hang up as quickly as possible.

                However, it means that it is the perfect time to prove how great you are! Here are the steps to follow so that next time they call you, it will actually be to hire you.
                1. Use a cheerful tone of voice: even though you're the one who's hurt, you want to make the other person understand hat you're not mad at them. The quickest way to send that message out is with a cheerful tone of voice.

                2. Thank them for considering you: You're grateful for having been considered for the opportunity, so make sure to let them know that. 

                3. Ask them to keep your resume on file: You know that you'd like another chance with them, but people aren't mind readers. Tell them that you would really love to work for them in the future, and that if anything comes up you'd love to be considered again.

                4. Thank them for calling you: So many places nowadays don't even let you know when they decide not to hire you, that the person who took the time and the courage to do so definitely deserves to be thanked.

                5. End on a positive note: Thank them again, remind them how much you hope to work with them in the future, and wish them well.

                Picture from http://blogs.democratandchronicle.com/editorial/2008/12/05/snl-skit/


                Don't miss out on this free promo tool

                The more sites you're on, the more people you can reach, and the more google results will come up in searches for your name. 

                A current tool to not miss out on is Reverbnation. It is a fantastic website that allows you to create a great looking, and free, artist profile.

                In a few simple clicks you can add photos, audio samples, video samples, concert dates and links.

                Make sure to check it out.


                Would this side job be great for singers?

                When you're looking for a job in an area other than your own, it's best to get one that will still help you in your area. 

                As I was at the Red Sox game Monday night, I realized that being a vendor could be a pretty cool summer gig for singers.

                Here are the two reasons why.
                1. Support and stamina: To be heard in a cheering crowd, you got to be loud. To be loud for hours on end every day and not break your voice, you have to use support and build your stamina. Aren't those direct applicable skills or what?!

                2. Workout: Being physically fit has become important to have a career as a singer. Walk around for hours every day, while carrying around about 30 pounds of food for an entire summer, sure will get you in great shape. It probably even works your breath!

                Picture from http://www.guidespot.com/guides/baseball_fans


                Why the Red Sox make me feel lucky

                My husband and I went to a Red Sox game last night.

                The game was pretty close the entire time, and by the 7th inning some supporters decided to destabilize the other team by screaming out some pretty mean stuff at them.

                That reminded me that no matter how much competition there can be between musicians, we can always play concerts without other musicians fans screaming mean stuff at us.

                Booing and tomato throwing are things of the past, so we may just be in the most peaceful era for playing music!

                Picture from http://bostondirtdogs.boston.com/2005/05/


                Are we friends or competitors?

                There are two ways musicians can think of other musicians. Either as friends or as competitors.

                In The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin talks about that dilemma.

                "As a TV writer in Los Angeles, my sister works in a notoriously competitive, jealous industry. When a friend of hers cowrote the screenplay of a movie that was a box-office hit, I asked her, "Does it give you the funny feeling that your pal had such a huge success?"

                She answered, "Well, maybe a bit, but I remind myself that 'People succeed in groups.' It's great for him to have a big success, and his success is also likely to help me be successful."

                By contrast, I have a friend who described her brother as having a zero sum attitude toward good fortune: if something good happens to someone else, he feels as if something good is less likely to happen to him. As a result, he's never happy for anyone else. "

                Which camp are you on?

                Picture from http://incedebrands.com/web_design_marketing_Search_engine_optimization.html


                4 money situations where you need to think twice before saying yes to the gig

                As freelance musicians, we want to say yes to as many gigs as possible. However, here are the four money situations where you may want to think twice before saying yes.
                1. How much does it pay? It's not a good idea to accept a gig without knowing how much you'll be paid. You'll expect to be paid more than you'll be paid in the end, and it'll be too late to ask for more.

                2. Does it even pay? There are so many reasons playing for free is wrong, I had to dedicate an entire post to the issue, which you can find here. The only times you can play for free are for friends, as long as you follow these guidelines.
                3. Is there more to it? If a gig pays a fair price but comes with a major commute, terrible hours, or any other big difference from your regular gigs, think twice before taking it. You might end up resentful, exhausted, or both, and that wouldn't be to either yours or your employer's best advantage.

                4. Does it have a set amount of hours? When you're paid with a stipend, make sure that your contract includes a set amount of rehearsal times and performances in it.

                  You don't want to end up in a situation where all of a sudden you have to cancel other paying gigs, because major hours are being added on to your load without making up financially for your lost hours.

                Photo from http://www.onlinecommunityreport.com/tag/community-social-media-research/page/2/


                Have you read these articles?

                Here are the articles that made me think recently.

                Find out here what the Crosse-Eyed Pianist thought after having to evaluate someone else's student on her ability to pass an exam.

                When you have some students constantly struggling, make sure to try this suggestion by Piano Addict. 

                If you are interested in playing concerts in churches, you will find this article by Gretchen Pianos very helpful.

                I often talk about changes academia should make, but I never stop to consider that when it stays like it is, it isn't changing for the worst. That is, until the Collaborative Piano Blog brought it up to my attention here.

                To know more about how to get work on Broadway, this Musician Wages series is an absolute must-read.

                Photo from http://www.thinksmartgames.com/blog/kids-learning-activities/


                Are musicians successful or struggling?

                Many people think that musicians are either completely successful or completely struggling.

                However, the same way engineers are neither Bill Gates or unemployed, musicians are neither at the very top or at the very bottom. 

                Most are happily in between.  

                Picture from http://www.thisnext.com/tag/chess-board-table/


                How to know who is in charge when playing

                You don't always need long conversations to decide which player is in charge of what in the music.

                Here are five music passages where the music makes that decision for you.
                1. Pick up: the person who has the pickup gets to be in charge.

                2. Held notes cutoff: When a piece ends with held notes on all parts, the person who needs to cut off is in charge.

                  For example, strings who are at the end of the bow, or singers, brass and woodwinds who are at the end of a breath.

                3. Start together: when all players start at the same time, the player with the melody, or the most important part, leads.

                4. Final note cut-off: the musician with the last note of the piece is in control of the cutoff.

                5. Rubato passage: the musician with the most notes in a rubato section gets to direct that spot.

                Picture from http://alphamom.com/your-life/the-in-law-tug-of-war/


                How to teach singers a difficult interval

                The best solutions are sometimes the simplest.

                When singers struggle with a particular interval, have them repeat the two notes of the interval out of rhythm and at a quick pace, over and over again.

                Simple. Efficient. Works every time. 

                Picture from http://www.vocalessentials.com/therapy.html


                How to impress in 1 minute

                Because we all meet so many people so often, it is crucial to be able to explain quickly what we do and what our goals are. 

                To help you do just that, the Harvard Business School created this awesome and free speech builder.

                It walks you through each step and lets you write down your thoughts as you go, before analyzing your speech with the amount of words you used. It even calculates how long it will take for you to speak it!

                Picture from http://www.finearttips.com/2010/06/3-tips-for-artists-to-promote-themselves-their-galleries/


                4 discussions to have with students about performing

                Instrumental lessons focus much more on playing than on performing.

                Here are four aspects of performing that need to be talked about.
                1. Dress appropriately: Many young performers do this right on their own, but I have still seen enough of them dress too casually or too over-the-top that it is still a good discussion to have.

                  Dressing appropriately means wearing evening wear, with hair groomed, and make up for women.

                2. Walk on stage, bow: Most common problems arise on the way out of the stage, and on the second bow at the end of the concert.

                  Students need to be told at least once before each recital where to go and how to go about it, until that thought process becomes mechanical for them.

                3. Body language: Many young performers think of their body only as it pertains to the technique of their instrument, and forget about the essential role it plays in transmitting music to an audience.

                  Besides not looking bored, the body should indicate what the music sounds like, by matching its phrasing and intensity. The sooner students learn to do that in their lessons, the better they will apply it on stage. 

                4. Poise: Next to the actual playing, poise is the second most important and impressive aspect of a performance.

                  Students need to know that looking confused or laughing nervously when something goes wrong (tripped, scores fell)  on stage is not acceptable.

                  Poise is about being at ease, in charge, and dealing graciously with things that would otherwise have become awkward.

                Picture from http://www.lunacystageworks.org/give.html


                How to deal with tempo issues

                One of my wonderful readers sent me this question: "Do you have any advice on keeping steady rhythm and pulse and not allowing dynamics and intensity to cause rushing or dragging?"

                Tempo issues are a symptom and not a cause, so here's a look at some of the causes.
                1. Excitement: When we play intense pieces with dramatic dynamics, we can lose ourselves in the music as an audience member would, and let the emotions of the piece carry us away.

                  When that happens, we go from being in control of the music to having the music be in control of us, and that's why tempos rush or slow down.

                  It's the same situation a comedian face when they can't stop laughing at a joke they have to perform. They have to get it out of their system in order to perform it, and so do we for an emotional passage.

                2. Technical difficulty: When we're facing a difficult technical spot, our body goes into panic mode and takes over our mind.

                  The key here is to use our practice sessions as a practice for our mind to remain in control, by always playing at tempos that allow us to stay in charge.

                3. Nerves: When our nerves take over during a performance, we stop thinking of the music to think of a million other things instead, such as what the audience is thinking or if we picked the right outfit.

                  Our fingers are left playing on their own, which impacts the tempo in a big way. The solution is to make sure we keep a cool mind at all times.

                Picture from http://www.patentspostgrant.com/lang/en/2010/08/uspto-pilot-program-aimed-at-reducing-ex-parte-reexamination-pendency


                Is a musical phrase the same as a spoken phrase?

                We teach the concept of a musical phrase by comparing it to a spoken phrase.

                However, in order for students to understand phrasing best, it is necessary to point out to them the similarity and the difference between a musical and a spoken phrase.
                • Similarity: The similarity between the two is in the space between the phrases.

                  The same way we breathe in between spoken sentences, we need to breathe in between musical phrases as well. Punctuation and cadences relate in a direct way.

                • Difference: The difference between a musical and a spoken phrase is in the actual shape of a phrase.

                  The inflection of a musical phrase doesn't change from a country to the next, while the inflection of a spoken phrase clearly changes from a country to the next.

                  For example, French speakers emphasize the very end of a phrase, and English speakers emphasize words according to their own accentuation, and neither translates into the shaping of a musical phrase.  
                While the space between phrases can be taught through the comparison to spoken phrases, the inside of a musical phrase has its own inner organization, which we need to spell out clearly to our students.


                How music makes you happy

                Why does music makes us happy?  

                One of the most recent studies explains that it's all about the release of dopamine.

                "You're following these tunes and anticipating what's going to come next and whether it's going to confirm or surprise you, and all of these little cognitive nuances are what's giving you this amazing pleasure," said Valorie Salimpoor, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal.

                "The reinforcement or reward happens almost entirely because of dopamine."

                So does it mean musicians are happier than non-musicians?

                This interview actually states that "there's no evidence that (talented people) have a different brain structure or different wiring than the rest of us initially, although we do know that becoming an expert in anything -- like chess or race-car driving or journalism -- does change the brain and creates circuitry that's more efficient at doing what you're an expert at."

                Is there a specific kind of music that makes us all happier?

                The author of this article explains that "there is some evidence that our musical tastes may be innate, for example, 4 month-old babies seem to prefer consonant to dissonant music (4), but the evidence doesn’t seem conclusive."

                "What I really wanted, but didn’t find, was a study comparing the effects of different genres on various emotions.  Does jazz flute make you happy?  Does emo make you depressed?  Do boy bands make you want to puke?  Big questions, but apparently, scientists have not yet considered them a valuable addition to the knowledge base."

                To leave on a happy note, according to this source when you listen to happy music, everyone around you looks happy!

                Picture from http://www.maxmusic.net/


                Are you not professional when you're not memorized?

                The following paragraph comes from a wedding pianist's website, on an article titled "How Much Does a Wedding Pianist Charge?"

                "I offer you 5 hours of professional, appropriate, memorized repertoire. You want your professional to interact with your guests, be inviting, approachable, and ensure your guests feel welcome! For weddings/events that may require special music, there would be sheet music on the piano as the only exception."
                I personally believe a musician can interact with guests and be inviting while reading music.

                I also think that musicians nowadays need to be more versatile than ever, and that it isn't a reasonable expectation to request memory at all times from them.

                Picture from http://www.youdidntdidyou.com/Photography_Blog/2010/04/22/wynyard-hall-weddings-its-about-the-brides/
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