Tips for Classical Musicians

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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13 Qualities of a Successful Musician

Written on February 23, 2011   By   in Auditions, Discipline, Musician's Life, Personal Development

1.Is Responsible

2. Have Many Goals

3. Is a Smart Planner

4. Cares about Music Theory

5. Is a Hard Worker

6. He/She Practice with different patterns and rhythms

7. Is best friend with the metronome

8. Take notes in Lessons or right After

9. Is a Good Listener in Chamber and Orchestral Music

10. Study his/her own repertoire with the full score

11. Respects Contemporary music

12. Is Ego free

13. Is Constantly growing and learning new things

 

Carol

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An Amazing Journey With an Amazing Orchestra

Written on August 15, 2010   By   in Composers, Musician's Life, Symphony Orchestra

We have been touring with the Orchestra of the Americas for a month and a half now. It has been really fun but I believe a lot of the musicians are getting really tired of traveling- including myself. We learned the different cultures, how to play their music , some of us learned how to dance, and some just watched- all this thanks to classical music. We are on this tour to play classical music mainly, but in our free time anything could’ve happen. We all went sightseeing. The tour visited 4 countries; Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. In this countries we shared unforgettable moments with our colleagues, coaches and specially guest artists. We were lucky enough to meet Joshua Bell and party with him- also with Ilya Gringolts (Russian violinist) who played with us a few concerts in Brazil and, composer in residence Philip Glass for whom we had the honor to record his cello concerto. I think those memories will be in our minds for a long time if not forever. As classical musicians, when we get to be with the big guys and work closely with them- you feel like all these years worth of practice are finally paying off. It is the end of the tour but not the end of our careers. We will look forward to the next time we get to do this again and play with people like them-it is a great learning process for all of us. We can watch and listen closely so that one day we can be like them.

Many bad things happened but I believe good things dominate the tour. The worse thing was when the staff of the orchestra sent home one of the cellist due to his behavior but the best thing was how we interact as musicians from 20 different countries and learn a little bit from each other. Our different ways of music interpretation became one to form a unique sound, the orchestra of the america’s sound. We all have new friends for the rest of our lives that share the same passion, the same love. It is such a small world that when you meet a fellow musician you are 95% sure that he will know someone you also know. You might find out that you have lots of mutual friends on Facebook, it’s crazy! And it is because it is a small world that we have to maintain it unified ! We own the classical music world and we have to protect it and promote it so that people can learn art- and enjoy art.

It was a great tour I can’t wait for next year!

 

Carol

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The Reality of the Music Business

Written on August 4, 2010   By   in Composers, Musician's Life, Symphony Orchestra, Violin

When we listen to music, we are providing our mind and soul some sort of relief and pleasure. That is why we do it! We simply enjoy to listen our favorite artists and it feel so good to sing along or even hum an instrumental piece. As musicians, we enjoy music the same way non-musicians do- we have more knowledge regarding the structure of the music but in the end it’s the same pleasure. We do music because we like to perform it as well- it feel so good to participate in a concert and play with your colleagues, and even more if we play a solo or as a soloist.

As a young musician I was told by a composition teacher that I will find success only if I look for it, only if I keep doing something to make it happen- ALWAYS. Since then, that advice have been in my head and will continue to be there for the rest of my life. It has make a difference in my approach to the business.

Being in the music business is not easy stuff, we all know it’s hard to make it in to a symphony orchestra- the competition is huge. Make it as a teacher would require a certain amount of degrees and certifications. And all the other branches in music are really hard to achieve due to the competition and the fact that we probably have to work in multiples places on different tasks. Teaching, performing, composing and gigging have been my duties for the last few years- and I am still working on my masters!

I always say to younger students that want to major in music- “ Think twice! or maybe more than that! But, if, after you think about it for a while, the only thing you see yourself doing in the future is MUSIC and you will be unhappy doing anything else-Oh yeah! GO FOR IT! Know all the sacrifices that you are about to do- all the energy that you will need to practice hard- the stamina you will need to produce quality content, if you are a composer. If you analyze the possibilities, they are endless. If you are into music and work hard in any branch, I am 100% sure you will have a job! there is no reason to be afraid of failure. There is a lot of things you can do as a musician, so, no worries it will happen.

Think about it!… and if you think this is for you- why not give it a try? After all, it is what you really want to do!

 

Carol

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5 Reasons Why You Should Like Classical Music

Written on April 15, 2010   By   in Discipline, How To, Personal Development

It Helps Your Brain Activities

When you listen to classical music, you can fine tune your brain to:

  • Improve memory
  • Control pain
  • Enhance creativity
  • Increase motivation

Reduce Stress and Anxiety

In a hospital study, researchers found that heart patients received the same anti-anxiety benefits from listening to 30 minutes of classical music as they did from taking the drug Valium.

Has a Positive Effect on Your Linguistic Abilities

Researchers had found that those who listened to Vivaldi while exercising had increased scores on verbal fluency tests after their workouts compared to those who exercised without music.

It Will Make You Smarter

Listening to Mozart (especially the piano concertos) may temporarily increase one’s IQ and produce many other beneficial effects on mental function.

It is the most complex of all the music genres

Classical music can be explained by professional musicians who analyze the structure, harmony, form and orchestration of a piece. It takes a considerable amount of knowledge and technique to work in depth the structure of classical music and perform it with great level of understanding.This is why classical musicians are more likely to play any other music genre very easily.

 

Carol

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