I was confused. Musicians were using the word “technique” in seminars and master classes and I felt they were speaking Mongunese. To me, it sounded like I needed tools from the Home Depot and work on my technique.
Yeah, laugh all you want. But that was a tough year. I had been playing my instrument for 3 years and was recently accepted to major in violin performance.
The term “colors” was another confusing one. How do you explain colors in music to a guy who is lost in a conservatory?
I was lost—and the worst violinist there. I felt bad. Who likes to be the least awesome? No body. And if you are last chair of the second violins (me), it’s pretty obvious.
I had to do something about it immediately. I studied my options but had no clue how to come out of that last chair. The only thing I knew was that my life was about to change…
I didn’t appreciate being the sucky violinist and I should’ve.
The first year as a conservatory student was the best for my development. I was lost and my skills sucked. But when you are the worst musician you can learn from everybody, not only the star players but from the average as well.
They are still better than you.
No matter what you hear or see or experience inside the conservatory, everything will affect you directly. You will level up rapidly because you’ve never seen or heard that before.
If you are passionate you’ll catch up quickly and I promise you’ll leave them behind. At least those who don’t commit the same way you do. Get rid of those first, then follow the star players.
Listen to their performances and don’t envy their playing. Admire them and know they’ve been doing it longer and working harder.
Awesomeness doesn’t come from drinking natural water,
When you find yourself in the last position, analyze your options and learn from the guys on top. Your goal should be to be like them, no less.
You’ll be up for a long and difficult ride. Welcome to the path of the erudite.
For the empire!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Feel free to reply to this email and/or share some comments!
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?
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.
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!
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!