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

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