Tips for Classical Musicians

Productivity for Musicians (Planning)

Written on October 2, 2012   By   in Discipline, Musician's Life, Personal Development

What is exactly is being productive? Does it mean staying focus for a period of time? Is it what I need to do in order to play at my best level?

Those were some of the questions I asked myself when I first approached the term productivity. I wanted a straight to the point guide. How can I prepare the Tchaikovsky concerto the fastest, easiest and most effective way?

Fear no more! I will explain productivity with stuff I’ve tried and what others have taught me.

Here we go!

If you subscribe to my colleague Dr. Noa Kageyama at his Bulletproofmusician blog, you will get a Practice Hacking Guide. This guide will get you on the right track.

It is evident that you need to be willing to work hard in order to change bad habits for good ones, but keep in mind that as a musician you’ve already build strong elements to do it. By spending many hours in the practice room you already considered a disciplined individual.

Now, the question is—how long should I practice?

Here are some good answers to that question! (You can come back after reading the whole post) J

How Many Hours I day Should I Practice (Must read)

http://www.guitartricks.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11952

http://www.violinist.com/blog/weekendvote/20094/9974/

Today I want to provide you with an effective productivity plan. Not just my opinion on how long you should practice but more like how to take 100% of your efforts home.

Planning

In order to take advantage of every second you destined to practice, you must have a plan.

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • How are you going to do that?
  • What strategies are you going to use?
  • How long will it take?

Planning a practice session is like planning out your life. You give direction and try to reach those goals while preparing other tasks. You can’t waste time—it’s limited.

Let’s say that you have 30 minutes to practice.

How would you get the most out of it?

How do you take 100% of your efforts home?

With 30 minutes you can easily take a big excerpt of music and work many things. Hopefully you picked a hard passage. Pick some technical as well as some musical problems.

30 Minutes

5 minutes| tuning each note. Slowly watching your fingers from note to note

5 minutes| figuring how you would phrase that passage

5 minutes| actually playing the phrase with dynamics, etc.

5 minutes| repeating hard fingerings, bowings,etc. Cleaning everything up.

10 minutes| using the metronome and trying to get it up to tempo.

30 minutes will change the life of those measures forever. You were completely focus on those measures and actually worked things separately. You can even combine tasks by working on technical and musical problems at the same time.

I can personally focus for only 40-50 minutes at a time. After that, I am not really100% concentrated. I get distracted and start playing things without thinking much.

Many experts on the subject talk about 50 minutes practice and 10 resting (1 hour of work).

My Schedule

40 minutes – Warming up, technique, etudes, scales

10 minutes- Break

50 minutes- Concerto

30 minutes- Break

40 minutes- Mozart concerto

10 minutes- Break

50 minutes- Orchestral music

Total = 3hour practice with 50 minutes resting.

If I do it twice a day I will have practiced 6 hours and rested 1 hour and 40 minutes.

To practice 6 hours (the healthy way) I will need at least 8 hours available.

By doing the above, I give my body and muscles the essential time to rest. My mind will also pay me later by retaining more information.

Productivity =  wanting to reach a certain level under a certain amount of time. (Read Increase Your Productivity by Shortening Your Day )

It’s been proven that when you work with a deadline, you do so more efficiently. You accomplish more in less time.

Finally, I would like you to read how this guy is productive.

Happy practicing!

Carol

 

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Be A Smart Musician

Written on September 29, 2012   By   in Composers, Musician's Life, Symphony Orchestra, Violin

Believe it or not, your knowledge on music history and theory will be reflected in your playing. It will help your performance unconsciously by understanding and visualizing patterns, hidden harmonies, structures etc.

Not convinced yet?

Go on YouTube and watch any interview by one of your favorite soloists!They often talk (know) about the time period the piece was composed, its relation to the modern orchestra and general impressions the contemporary audience may have. They also know the score (orchestra parts) like they know their hands.

Not convinced yet?

Yeahhhhhh, I know you are! 🙂

Anyway, as performers we approach music from a totally different angle. If we were composers, for example, elements like orchestration, harmonies and colors are supposed to be the primary focus. For us it’s sometimes technique, technique, technique.

So what can we do to expand that horizon?

How can we performers take it to the next level?

I believe the right answer stands by studying and analyzing how composers think.

If we understand composers then we can understand their music.

For example, let’s say that the composer is writing for the orchestra. He/She thinks and studies that instrument as a whole. Balance, melody line, accompaniment, colors, textures, harmonies, dynamics, contrast, ranges-that’s what’s going on in their heads. But, on top of that they have to know at least the basics of each instrument and their capabilities to write successfully for them.

Our job as performers constitutes to play those dynamics. Our job as a section is to play those dynamics as a section. If we play (p) instead of (pp), when (pp) is marked, then it is another piece. That (pp) has been thought as a complementary part of what’s going on around the orchestra–assuming we are working with a professional composer.

He studied orchestration. You studied clarinet. Trust him/her. 🙂

12 Things the Composer Might be Thinking While You Play Your Part

1. Dynamics are not being played as strictly as I thought them.

2. The oboist is not aware that his/her line is being doubled by another instrument.

3. Cello section is rhythmically helping the melody line. Please notice that!

4. They are obviously playing the root of the chord. It feels like they don’t even notice.

5. First violins are now complementing the harmony.

6. First violins tend to play sharp in upper positions. Why? Focus on the harmony guys!

7. Seconds can play more. I don’t hear them. They are really important.

8. Violas, forget the viola jokes you guys are essential in my music.

9. There is a xylophone in this piece. I don’t think the orchestra knows it.

10. That line is impossible to play, but is ok… I don’t care about the notes they are building a color.

11. I hope the musicians don’t notice I copied those measures from John Williams.

12. This composition was created to have an impact. Not so much about beautiful chords. I hope someone understands my purpose with the piece.

 

Carol

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How To Be The Best Performer

Written on September 20, 2012   By   in Auditions, Discipline, How To, Musician's Life, Personal Development, Violin

Want to be among the top 1% of classical music performers?

Then you have to be different.

First, you must behave like the musician you want to become. That way you will trick your mind to do the same things you already do but differently. It’s all a psychological game. You think it, you do it!

You can do it only if you really, really, want to.

(1 really is not enough—you need 2 reallys to be an “elite” performer)

Next, you’ll like to dedicate some time to master the following:

The Basics of your instrument.

Did you get it?

They are everything.

You think you know legato but you really don’t.

Know what?

You can play for 50 years and you will still have to practice legato to maintain the same level.

Basics are for life and if you try to make them your best friend, they will accompany you and protect you from the evil (technical problems).

If you apply this, you will be among the top 5% of the performers out there. You hear them playing the big concertos—so what? If it’s not clean, in tune, rushed, why bother?

Basics are for life, don’t forget. Do it constantly for a couple of years and I will see you at the top of the mountain.

Becoming an Elite

You are not a complete “elite” performer until you reach the 1% of them—let’s get you there.

You have to go through all of this: Survive an Audition, Follow Your Dreams Like You Follow a Score, Live Through Music, Watch 3 Ted Talks for Classical Musicians, Tell a Story, Reach Some Goals in Music, Be a Good Orchestra Musician,Make a Living as a Classical Musician (or at least try), Practice Performance,Recover From a Bad Performance, Convince Your Mother that You Should Major in Music, Develop the Art of listening, Keep the Magic in Music After 10 Years of Playing,Grow as a Person in Order to Grow as a Musician, etc, etc, etc.

You have to experience a life in music, let the years go by and understand what you are getting into. If you survive those years then you are almost good to succeed.

A positive attitude/mindset is all you need to make it happen.

As you probably know, music is hard as hell! Achieving your goals in music will require love for what you do—always (for the rest of your time on earth).

You will fail and you will have to get up, just try to learn fast.

You will play horrible; it’s ok, for you can play better another day.

You will… a million more other things, but you will overcome them because you love it, remember?

What is elite after all?

Elite means a group of people that are considered to be the best in a particular society because of power, talent or wealth. Yeah, of course I Googled that.

For musicians I would reorder it like this: talent, power and wealth. Talent leads to power as it leads you to wealth. But you don’t care about that right? You just want to be an awesome performer? 😉

(If you want to make money that’s another post: How to Make Money and Find Gigs or Make Art and Money at The Same Time )

Being part of the elite is more than just practicing and performing.

Read carefully!

It is a way of life that requires a lot of sacrifices with and extraordinary paycheck—not money though—but self-respect, gratitude and wisdom. A life so rewarding that money could not get even close the final product.

To sum it up, achieving something of this magnitude requires a lot of focus for many hours a day. Only those who persevere will win. If you are involved already for many years, you might as well give the extra mile to get those awesome results!

This post in a few words:

· Basics (daily)

· Experience a life in music(years, it takes time)

· Positive attitude/mindset—at all times

· Love for what you do

Get the DISCIPLINE ASAP, it is the # 1 enemy. Well, procrastination is really the enemy but you get the point.

If you’d like more advice on the subject I have combined personal development with musicianship in this guide. Check it out!

I wish you great success and good vibes toward your elite status.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it! On Facebook or Sumble Upon would be great!

Feel free to reply to this email and/or share some comments!

Carol

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5 Motivational Tips for Musicians

Written on August 31, 2012   By   in Discipline, How To, Musician's Life, Personal Development

How awesome would it be if you could lay on a couch to watch Family Guy for hours?

If you ask me, I would tell you

that is 100% awesome

and probably the best hobby/activity/marathon ever invented by the human race.

Well, I’m 26 years old, just finished my master’s in music performance and I’m not married, yet. I don’t have to support anybody but me. The truth is that I could probably do those marathons for as much as 4 days straight, no problem.

Actually, I think I’ve done it once or twice.

Although I am not completely ashamed (just a little), I can explain

why!

It’s so damn hard to open my case and play one scale.

For what! I’ve been playing scales since I know myself.

Boring stuff to enhance a technique that doesn’t seem to be enhancing or that it will ever be enhanced.

It happens to all of us! ( I hope so! )

If you are like me, you feel really bad after those marathons because you were not productive.

Don Juan could’ve been perfect by now, Mozart No.4 should’ve been the cleanest of all time—but you chose to watch Family Guy!

How awful! Shame on you! 🙂

heh, it’s ok! It won’t happen again right?

SURE!!!!

If you want to avoid a moment of regret after a 4-day-marathon, here are some tips that can help motivate the musician inside you and start doing NOW!

I’ve said it before but it needs to be said again; Often, the hardest part is to get started. So,go crazy! sit down for a minute and think ‘‘in 1 minute I will start running to open my case and do 1 scale”. I tell you, just that keeps me hooked for the rest of the day.
Exercise first thing in the morning. The benefits are incredible and a lot, your mind will be clear and your energies all boosted, ready to hit the practice room.
While you watch Family Guy, bring your sheet music with you. Play the passages mentally on commercials. It could get you going after that episode 😉 .
Sit down with full score in hand and your favorite recording. Learn from it and study it with your heart.
Eat fruits and hydrate well. They will keep you healthy and happy—2 vital elements to practice with your whole senses.
Now that you know what to do pick one and try it out.

Carol

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What Does it Take To Be A Soloist ?

Written on August 28, 2012   By   in Auditions, Composers, Discipline, Musician's Life, Personal Development, Symphony Orchestra, Violin

You know them. You venerate them. They are the whole inspiration and possibly the reason why you play an instrument.

If you are a young musician, chances are that you have a favorite player, usually a famous soloist. On the other side, if you are a veteran, you know how the business works, the good and bad things of a solo career as well as the ups and downs of an orchestral career.

Either way, a world-class soloist is always a person we all admire. We look up to them whether we admit it or not. They have been there for you since the beginning. You know, that time where you picked up the instrument for the first time.

For some reason musicians and colleagues of mine, always try to find a bad habit or gossip or something to hurt the soloist’s reputation in any way.

Soloists equals high level of achievement in many forms—they must dominate not only the technical part but things like marketing, psychological behavior, people skills, concentration, perseverance, endurance, self improvement, etc.

That exactly is what we all look for—a total immersion of our person/musician that develops into a complete professional. (This guide can help you achieve that)

We often associate success with traveling, big audiences, and strong presence among the classical music community.

But being a soloist is way more than we think it is…

It’s like being an astronaut. You go to space and work orbiting earth—or somewhere else. You are privilege enough to have the first words ever spoken on that surface and the whole world looks up—you are “in the spot”.

What we don’t realize is, perhaps, that astronauts have hundreds of people backing up their projects and helping the crew succeed from earth (the orchestra). They couldn’t have landed on the new world without that backup from earth.

Astronauts are the most visible members of the whole operation but not the only ones—and because of that, their failures are more exposed to the world. They become more vulnerable.

Yeah, you may be famous and perhaps able to send greetings to your family from a new world, but if an oxygen hose breaks up there by accident, who is going to be in trouble?

Not me, I’m safely on earth telling you what to do from an air conditioned office.

Same thing happens with soloists—they have to go through many stages, all exposing great deal of delicate matter. Their lives are part of a beautiful journey that “maintaining a status” becomes the ingredient that separates them from everybody else.

If a renowned soloist play less than expected, social media will take care of the rest. You and me will find out and their reputation will change their status.

I believe soloists earn their position in this game.

That is why I admire Joshua Bell. The whole world talks crap about him and he knows it, nevertheless, he remains intact. He maintains a status and has a very unique way of selling his product—watch him playing 😉 and you’ll see.

(Read this blog post “Why I Think Joshua Bell is Successful”)

As if it wasn’t enough already, soloists have to deal with jetlag, cultures, languages and food. You can probably imagine what the term “family” means to them—a world-class soloist is on the road 85% of the year.

These are some of the disadvantages soloists confront. Of course I didn’t mention the advantages because we all know them.

Having a close look at these points can help us understand what soloists are made of—the unavoidable exposure that puts them on the “spotlight” and the small details that makes them human beings.

I’m no expert on the subject or even close but I’ve work with many of them and seen them in action. What I can tell is that whether they are on their best shape of their career or not, world-class soloists will always join us (spiritually)(death or alive) and inspired us to do better and keep growing as professional musicians.

Again, here is the link to the Survival Guide for Classical Musicians guide.

Do you know any world-class soloist? What have they told you? Any cool ideas you’d like to share?

 

Carol

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Michael Jordan’s Advice to Musicians

Written on August 11, 2012   By   in Discipline, How To, Musician's Life, Personal Development

If you’ve read Dr. Noa Kageyama’s articles at the Bulletproof Musician, you’ve heard about the use of sport psychology with classical musicians. Athletes and musicians go through many stages in which they must overcome a series of challenges in order to be considered among the top people.

We train every day—to be the best we can be. To perform at the highest level possible and to keep opening doors for the future.

BUT, to be as successful and legendary as, say, Michael Jordan or the equivalent in the classical music world, we’ll need to work as hard as him.

He didn’t fly from the free-throw line to the basket from one day to another. It took years of goal settings and purpose. When he was in high school, the school team didn’t take him because he was not good enough. Michael worked his career from the bottom up—and we can certainly do that as well.

As you’ve probably figured, he was one of my childhood heroes and today I want to translate some of his quotes into classical musician’s language.

I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.

Uffff, this one is my favorite of all. He said in an interview: “I’ve been trusted with the last shot over 100 times and missed, I’ve lost more than 900 games, missed a million shots. All that, contributed to what I have achieved to this day”.

You will lose auditions, play horrible, have bad days, bad experiences, etc. It is not what you do when everything is beautiful, it is what you do when things get hard. Those moments will teach you like nothing else. If you persist, you will win an audition eventually. If you play out of tune and keep working on it, you will play in tune some day.

The key is to keep working and find your way around your problem. Know it exists, and work consistently on it.

The only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to be average

You know, I am such a big fan of Jordan that even though I’ve read all these quotes already I still get goose bumps every time I go over them again. The amount of energy I get when reading this quotes it’s incredible. I feel like I don’t want to be average myself either, I want to practice 8 hours a day until a reach my dream. I want to be as good violinist as he was a basketball player.

That quote is very well related to the next one…

I was the first one there and the last one to leave

No doubt about it!

In one of those million documentaries I’ve seen of him, he said that when he left basketball and started professional baseball, he was up really early and trained 4-5 hours more than the other players.

Of course, he was not professional but his reputation as a basketball player got him into the baseball team. He wanted to get better more than anything in the world and that was the right attitude at the right moment. When is the right moment? Always.

Although he never really became a star as a baseball player, his skills improved immensely over time. He was born to be a basketball player the same way you were born to play that clarinet. 😉

Sounds familiar?

I’ve known many musicians who started playing the piano but ended up playing something else and became professionals in that other instrument.

These quotes are all connected in one way, find inspiration and passion for what you do, work with a future in mind and you will rise.

Write me back!! Do you have any favorite quotes that inspires you as a musician? Do you believe sport psychology can help us? What else can give us musicians energy to keep dreaming and working toward personal goals?

 

Carol

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How to Reach Your Goals in Music

Written on August 7, 2012   By   in Discipline, How To, Personal Development

Have you wondered what exactly is the hardest part of being a musician?

In my opinion, keeping the performing level you are at.

That means staying in shape—working against procrastination, our #1 enemy.

What if you’ve been playing over 10 years, how can you still open your case to practice your instrument?

It is not so easy to think about playing scales when you have done it for what feels like ages, right?.

I’ve wrote many articles on motivation but today I want to take a different approach on the subject.

If having strength to open your case is the main problem, I invite you to take one second and visualize your goals.

Where do you want to go?

What do you want to achieve while living here on earth?

Imagine for a second that you have all the money in the world—what would you do?

Would you buy an orchestra and play principal flute just because you can?

Would you hire the Hollywood Symphony to record your compositions?

What would be your wish if you didn’t have limitations?

The answer to those questions will take you to your passion—the thing(s) you really want to achieve in life, your goals.

Musicians must realize what they want in order to change the brain into “taking action” mode. Once your brain send the right signals you will move toward it immediately.

You have to play those etudes. Scales are not boring if you don’t make them boring. Think and re-think bowings, phrases, intonation, counterpoint, etc.

Remember that the greatest musicians have the basics abilities of their instrument completely mastered.

That is where you want to be. It is the only common goal for us performers—to master the basics of the instrument. To take the overall control of that piece of wood, brass or whatever material your instrument is made of. You know etudes get you there! you also know scales help with these problems as well. The reason you are in music is because you love everything about it, even scales and etudes, you just haven’t realize that yet! 😉

To love those things is to dream and believe that it will help you get to Carnegie Hall, or not, but they will help you become a better competitor 😉 . The main goal is to be at the cutting edge of your technique so that you end up achieving personal and professional goals in music. Because you want to move forward in your career, everybody wants that, but only when you are clear on what you want, you can actually move toward it with ease.

No matter how far your goal may be, taking baby steps is the only way to make it come true. Those small steps will have enough time between each other to mature—building the essential tools to arrive completely prepared to what is going to be an achieved goal.

 

Carol

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Adventures of a Classical Musician

Written on July 27, 2012   By   in Composers, Musician's Life, Symphony Orchestra, Violin

I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I updated the website, the reason? I am having a blast in Chile (I wrote a report detailing how you can do it as well, get it here).

What an excuse! you may think. The truth is I needed a break from real life. After many auditions, finishing my masters and getting ready for what’s next, my mind screamed for a break. I didn’t actually give it a very long one but at least I’m doing something out of the ordinary.

Summer means new experiences and getting to know new people, new frontiers. I try to expand my horizons, learn, and then put it to work toward a new goal.

My new goal: Making it into a professional orchestra ASAP.

But on the meantime I will work hard, practice and have some fun in Chile 🙂

I must say, playing with the “rock stars” is an amazing treat. Having them so close inspires me to be like them–or at least play like them. Check this out…

Yep! That is Sarah Chang and YEP, that’s me using my bow to praise her. Wow, and to think that I first heard about her so many years ago. I’ve always wanted to meet her and listen to her playing live. Well, luckily that night I got my wish—awesome spot, the pleasure of accompanying her and listening from the first stand.

Cool Stuff!

Carol

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Weezic : Play With a Symphony Orchestra at Home

Written on June 12, 2012   By   in Auditions, Composers, Musician's Life, Symphony Orchestra, Violin

How many musicians play alone with their score and metronome? How many musicians dream of playing concertos but will never have the chance to play with a real orchestra? Too many!

http:/weezic.com is a new website for classical musicians, aiming to give them the opportunity to play with orchestra accompaniments. On Weezic, you can find thousands of titles in sheet music for free and play along with a virtual orchestra. Contrary to all the “minus one” CD backing-tracks, accompaniments on Weezic are completely customizable:

– each instrument part has a separate track so you can choose which part you want to hear or not.

– it is possible to set your own tempo: slow down the accompaniment and accelerate progressively, in order to work slowly any hard part.

– you can even change the tonality of the accompaniment. This last feature allows musicians with instrument tuned differently (pianos tuned slightly above or below A=440 Hz, baroque flutes tuned at A=415 Hz etc.) to play with the accompaniments.

It is then possible to save mp3 files of your customized backing-track, in order to use it where you want.

With this new website, every musician can practice great classical works at his own pace, and feel the thrill of the soloist or the orchestra musician, at home.

Hundreds of classical works are available (duos, trios, quartets, symphonies, concertos..), and new accompaniments are released every week.

Bored of practicing alone? Visit Weezic, and never play alone again!

 

Carol

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Why I Think Joshua Bell Is So Successful

Written on May 15, 2011   By   in Discipline, How To, Musician's Life, Personal Development

If you are a musician, especially a string player, chances are that you’ve heard bad things about Joshua Bell. Everybody seems to hate his movements or something- I haven’t found out yet what it is that people hate the most from him. Many of my colleagues were discussing the other day how he always plays out of tune, how dramatic his expressions are and how much he sweats when he performs. I barely hear good things about this violinist other than the fact that all the girls love his hair.

 

I think that Joshua Bell is a great artist despite his ability to move all over the stage. He is confident in what he does, he works extremely hard and he has a good sense of what the business of music is. It is well proved that in all of his concerts he totally sells what he is offering not only by making an entire “show” while playing, but also with his capacity of being confident on stage. This shouldn’t be that hard for him since he has been doing it since he was 4. Anyway, Bell believes in what he does and although he knows a lot of people criticize his work, he remains intact. He practices every day, he records a new album every few months, he collaborates with pop artists and over everything he maintains the same stamina on the things he does. This may not have anything to do with his personality or how he treated you in that last concert where you couldn’t take a picture with him, but that is certainly why he has a 4 million dollar Stradivarius. He travels all over the world convincing an audience that he is the man. The one man who’s going to make you feel exactly what Bruch wanted to say in his second violin concerto or what Tchaikovsky meant in his Souvenir d’un lieu cher. It is obvious that he wants to connect with his audience in a unique way like any soloist.

My conclusion is that those musicians who gossip and talk about Bell in a bad way don’t understand his abilities nor appreciate those positive characteristics which made him the famous violinist he is and his successful career. They might be jealous of him- I thought, there is no other explanation for so many complains. He has been awarded many times and is considered one of the best violinist in the world by top reviewers, why in the world people say he is a bad violinist? I guess he is a bad violinist with a lot of luck, perhaps.

I believe it takes a lot of talent to do what he does- it also takes a lot of work to be giving as many concerts and also collaborating with the film industry and the pop world. He might not be the best violinist but if my mom watches him perform she will love him, and most of the people who go to his concerts are non-musicians, of course. He knows how to play the game of winning your heart, especially when it comes to convince the general public that he is the rock star of classical music. No matter what your fellow classical musicians think- he still has a 4 million dollar violin-and that means he knows how to run this business. That is why he is where he is today.

 

Carol

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