The secret to gaining skill

Recently I have been learning how to draw. I signed up for a class in drawing and I have come a long way in my skill since I first started. Taking this class opened up my eyes to something that I already knew, but put it in a new perspective. Repetition.

For each object we learn how to draw we spend approximately 3 – 6 hours drawing the same item over and over again. The first few times are rough, but then it gets faster and more accurate. Eventually hidden details start to show themselves. We have learned a minimal amount of techniques, but my skill has greatly improved. The trick is to pick something that I can not draw, but practice it over and over again.

This approach to learning was how I also learned music. I would learn a new chord and practice it over and over again. In college I use to turn this into a game. I would play an etude at a specific tempo and each time I played it perfectly I would put a mark on a piece of paper. I would try to play it perfectly 100 times.

Every skill we learn, we perfect it by doing it many times. This is the trick to gaining skill. Do not be afraid of wasting time by practicing something a lot. It is better to master a few techniques than to barely use a bunch. Put it this way. If you focus on 1 thing for an hour a day each week. You will become very good at that one thing. You will be very good at 52 things by the end of the year. 52 things is more than enough to play well.

Music Business Part 2

Are you in a band and want to learn how to be a better member of it? Do you have an audition for a band coming up and want to learn how to impress the other band members? Here are three simple tips that will make them impressed.

First: Be early to all band related engagements. No matter what it is, you should try to be at least 30 minutes early. If the rehearsal starts at 7:00, you should be there at 6:30 setting up. If it is for a gig, you may want to be there even earlier than that. The absolute worst thing you can do is show up 10 minutes late for a gig, and hold the show up. For an audition this is important as well, because to the band, this will represent how you normally are.

 

Second: Bring your music with you to rehearsals or gigs. If you don’t use music, memorize it and work on it before you go to the practice or gig. When you are auditioning it will really impress the band leader that you took the time to learn their songs before you got the gig. It shows dedication. If you are already part of a band, it will save time in rehearsal and make the band sound better during the concert. It is annoying to show up to a rehearsal and spend 20 minutes letting one person practice their part that they should have already worked on. Forgetting your music will also hurt your rehearsal time, unless someone else was prepared enough to bring an extra copy of the music for you. You don’t need to rely on others for your success though, do you?

 

Third: Bring more equipment than you need. One time I was hired to play the national anthem on guitar for a sporting event. I brought my amp, guitar, and pedals. I was all set to go. Once I got there, I set up in the middle of the stadium where they wanted me and I realized I did not have power. I asked if they have one of those orange electrical plugs, but they did not. Eventually someone found one I could use, but that looked very unprofessional on my part. It is a good idea to think through all possible worst case scenarios and bring whatever equipment you might need. You should not rely on others for your success. You should spend the extra five minutes carrying equipment to your car that you might not use, just in case you need it. What will you do if you break a string? Do you have an extra set to change them? Did you bring an extra guitar? Think about these things. It will eventually save you.

 

I hope these suggestions will work themselves into your life. Keep an eye out for more career tips coming up.

Becoming a businessman and a musician

It is now 2015 and I want to wish everyone a good year. I want to talk today about the business side of music. Every musician, amateur or professional will deal with business. Its something that is unavoidable. Here are some suggestions on the business side of music.

1) People. You cannot avoid them. You will either play with them, for them, listen to them, learn from them, speak to them or any other number of kabobs. The way you interact with people will change your whole outlook on music. People are also in charge of your success. You could learn a lot about this topic by studying social skills in general. (I’m not saying you have bad social skills.) Here are a few more suggestions

Be polite to everyone and anyone. Believe it or not, I have seen other musicians act in horrible ways such as wishing someone pain. Then when they don’t get hired back they are confused. You should act professionally and politely to everyone.

Become friends with people. people tend to help friends. Likewise people will forget about you if you don’t leave a good enough impression the first time. If you keep in touch and build friendships this will be better. Also friends like playing with other friends.

2) Preparedness. Pretend for a minute that you are a soldier. You are posted in a war zone and the commander tells you that a group of guys are going out on a patrol. You go out and someone shoots at you, and you find the direction they shot from. You put your finger on the trigger, aim and pull the trigger. Click! Nothing! Oh man, I forgot bullets! This is a bad situation. Don’t be that guy.

If there is a chance you may need certain equipment bring it. You can always ask the leader if you need it, but if you don’t know bring it anyway.  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to make a list of the equipment you need for a gig so that you don’t forget and realize it when you are 40 miles away from home.

Under this section it is worth mentioning that business cards is considered being prepared. Any kind of promotional items. If someone wants to offer you a gig in the future they will need to know how to contact you.

Be early. I can’t emphasize this one enough. You can be late to set up, but you cannot be late to the gig. And if you happen to run late for a sound check tell the person in charge. Communication is very important.

3) Knowing what you don’t know. This one may seem strange but its important. This subject can be broken into 2 categories.

first: knowledge. You need to have a good idea of what you know and don’t know. This can be hard to learn. If someone asks you if you know a musician and you don’t. Be honest. If someone asks you to play a chord and you forgot the fingering, tell them. You will learn and grow more being honest. This can be helpful in the practice room as well.

Second: Confidence. If someone asks you a business question such as “how much would you charge for blah”, you do not need to answer their question immediately. You can inform them that you will get back to them with a price. You may ask what this has to do with confidence. If you immediately say “oh I’ll do it for 5 dollars because i’ve never played in front of someone before” you just lost a lot of value in that persons eyes. Just remember, if you don’t know the answer to a question you can advise them that you will get back to them. That will give you time to consider their question and to consult other people more experienced than yourself.

These are just a few thoughts on music business to get you started. Hope you enjoyed. Happy 2015.

Being A Musician Verse Being a guitarist

You may think that a guitarist is a musician, but there are actually distinct differences between the two. It may be hard for non-musicians to see the difference, but it does exist. I encourage everyone to try to be a better musician, because being a better musician will make you better at the instrument of your choice, the guitar. There is not a conclusive list of all the differences, but I want to point out a few differences to open your eyes to what they may be.

1) A musician wants to learn more about all aspects of music. Have you ever met another guitar player who doesn’t know the name of the chord he is playing and he doesn’t care to learn what it is? This is a sign he is not a musician, he is just a guitar player. A true musician wants to learn about music theory, so that he can understand why certain things work. A musician might want to learn about other instruments too. In fact many musicians play multiple instruments.

2) A musician is not satisfied with where he is at. This one may seem strange, but most musicians want to be better. For another example, have you ever met a guitarist who thinks he is really cool because he can play the intro to sweet home Alabama with heavy distortion? A musician may be at that level, but he desires to be better.

3) A musician knows that music does not come out of the instrument, rather music is made by the person behind the instrument. A musician understands the music, as well as the instrument. Learning the instrument is just one part of being a musician, taking that extra step to becoming a musician means the music is part of you. It means that you are confined by your knowledge of music rather than your instrument.

4) being a musician is knowing the art of music. When you learn the art of music, you learn certain skills and lifestyle habits that can be transferred to other aspects of life. The discipline that is learned through practice can then be transferred to other activities such as sports. Being a musician is about learning these aspect of the art of music. If you only learn how to play an instrument, you may never fully grasp the treasure hidden.

Being a musician does not mean you are an expert. In fact it means the opposite, you can never master music. You may wonder why being a musician verse being a guitarist is import. It is because it will make you better at your instrument, It will teach you life lessons that can be transferred to other parts of life, it will give you deeper satisfaction in the long run and you will more easily switch instruments in case you ever thought of doing so. Anyone can be a musician, and it is easy to learn how to become one. Use music in a deeper way. You will be surprised how your guitar playing will change, and you might be surprised at what life skills you can learn.

Listening to music a different way can improve your appreciation and knowledge of music

The typical person puts music on while they drive, work out, do homework and any other daily activity. This is fun and you can still get something from music doing this, however you are not going to get the full benefit and enjoyment out of music this way. If you are more conscious about what you are listening to you will notice new stuff about music, and you will enjoy it more. Every musician would benefit from active listening to music.

What is active listening? Active listening is the act of giving undivided attention to music. You are listening for specific details.  This is a style of listening to most people do not naturally do.  Active listening can be approached like you are in a class room. You can take notes, ask questions, and look for specific details. If you have questions about the music you can write them down and try to find an answer. Active listening is a mental exercise like doing push ups.

How do you approach listening to music? Listening to music like this may require you to re-listen to a song a couple of times, but as you become more familiar with this style of listening it will be easier and faster.  First you need to listen to each instrument separately. Try picking a tune and listen once through for the drummer. Hear what he is playing and try to explain his playing in your words. You can write this description down on paper. Next re-listen to the song for the bass player and describe his playing. Do this with every instrument. Practice doing this for 5 – 10 songs. You will start to better hear the specific instruments. Then you can continue to listen to more tunes, this time you can listen to multiple instruments at a time. You can listen for bass and drums together.

If you want to go even deeper in your descriptions of the performer’s playing you can analyze what he is doing with different parts of his instrument. For example, you can analyze a drummers, snare, high hat, bass drum, or ride. Another example would be the pianist. You can analyze what he is doing with his different hands. Another way you can describe the music more in-depth would be to analyze the range (high or low pitch) and thickness (big or small chords) of what the pianist is playing.  The more music you listen to, the easier listening will become and the more you will enjoy it. Listening like this is a great way to learn to appreciate a new style of music and is a great educational tool as well.

Listening to music can be passive or active and if we give our undivided attention to music we are actively listening. Concentrating on each instrument can give us a new insight into music, teach us, and help our appreciation for music. The more music you listen to the more you will get out of it. Music is fun and enjoyable, so sit back and listen to the musicians jam out.