Tips for Classical Musicians

Tag: Auditions

Musician’s Guide to “Playing Fast”

 

It has always been the ultimate goal of many musicians. Sometimes, it’s even the reason young students sign up for music lessons; and definitely the “why” you and me spent so many hours locked up in a practice room.

 

 

We want to play it “A tempo”

From day 1 you imagined yourself on stage playing your solo with a great orchestra. That’s the goal. It’s hard to realize we must go through certain stages; an inevitable process. Playing fast is more than just being awesome, it’s actually knowing what it takes to earn that awesomeness. It is also being able to notice every single detail going on while you are performing.

Are you in tune? Is your performance clean at this tempo? Is my hand(s) working to facilitate movement? Play fast is one thing. Playing fast with all of the above completely mastered it’s another thing. After listening to a live performance of all the Paganini caprices, I personally get really excited. I feel the need to be able to execute/have the technique to play these caprices. I believe it’s vital to watch the pros in action. Get pumped up and find the motivation to start taking small steps in the right direction.

All the Elements Together

Playing Fast Requires Time. How much? It depends.

1. On the difficulty of the piece—

2. How many time you’ve done it, and

3. How bad you want it.

If you want it badly you are half way there, said someone I can’t remember right now. Every time you do something, anything, your brain carves some tunnels. These tunnels can brume away easily if they are not deepen enough. How?

Repetition and Time

At some point after hundreds of repetitions you won’t need to do it anymore (don’t worry it will take years so don’t even think about it). For now keep repeating smartly and you’ll be on the right track.

1. Think you are a turtle. It helped me. Move from one note to the other and feel everything; your finger playing that note, intonation, the distance between the new note and the old one and so on.

2. Understand the learning process. It’s not 3 days of slow boring practice. You need a plan.

3. As a rule, practice what you learned the day before (so it can be carved deeply) but still move on to new things.

Patience

…it’s also a big ingredient. Knowing that it won’t be “a tempo” tomorrow morning is a big realization. I understand, your eager to play it the way you would at Carnegie Hall. Yeah, that’s the goal but not now. The soonest you get to really understand that, the better and more efficient will your sessions be.

Believe in your abilities and wait.

1. Follow a working plan. Spend at least a month to see bigger improvements.

2. Don’t get frustrated. Big things are not accomplished overnight. Baby steps are essential.

3. Look forward to the end but don’t rush it. Try enjoying the process of building your different techniques and applying musicality.

Musician’s Best Friend; Mr. Beat

Or any other kind of metronome. He is your best companion. He will help you play accurate and evolve with conscience. Mr, metronome will treat you like if you were a baby. And that’s a good thing ;) .

Things to consider:

1. He is your best friend only if you follow him. Don’t lose him. To be efficient is to follow your best friend.

2. Work strategically. Select some excerpts of the pieces you are working on and perform them really slow simulating the conditions you will be executing when you play fast. (e.g. Same part of the bow).

3. When you are satisfied move up. Perhaps 5 points up and try to stay on top of your technique as well as the musical understanding.

Slow Practice

Separating all the technical difficulties and practicing them one at a time can very much helps the final result. It will allow your brain to cook things better.

As you work your way up, individual technique practice will enhance each area so that the entire technical aspect works towards one another.

1. Remember the tunnel carving. Repetition makes these tunnels deepen to the point that the info stays forever.

2. Slow practice is crucial for coordination of both hands.

3. To have a smart practice session, you must analyze from different points of view at all times.

Final Thoughts

As you continue to grow as a musician, you will find that organization is probably the number one thing to focus in order to have a satisfactory performance. You want to play fast? Great! Now, let’s see how we can do that with a good level of musical and technical understanding. You must know your music, the orchestra parts, accompaniment, main lines, how your part develops and where to, and how your line fits among the rest.

When the fast part arrives, controlling your emotions will play a big role. Staying steady and being a good musician should be the priority at all times. Have fun, show off what you have practiced and keep growing as a musician. If you did your homework, you will be growing as a person as well.

Carol

November 16, 2012     0 Comments   , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Make Scales Fun to Practice

Let`s face it—practicing scales isn`t much fun. Most pianists see scales, along with arpeggios, as a necessary evil on the road to musical dexterity. On the flip side of the coin, those boring exercises are crucial if you want to be a good pianist or instrumentalist.

Whether you`re a singer, saxophonist, guitarist or keyboard player, technique is vital to your craft. You`ll be glad of those hours of practicing scales and arpeggios when you`re playing hard stuff.

Likewise, if you decide to become a pop or jazz performer, you`ll still need the manual dexterity you acquire by leaning your scales.

There`s no way to avoid them if you want to play really well.

There are, however, things you can do to make practicing scales more entertaining. Here are a few tips to make your scale practicing more endurable and even enjoyable:

  • Find some imaginative scale studies to work on. You don`t have to do the same scale exercises day in, day out. There are plenty of creative books on the market today that are geared toward making scale practicing more interesting. Visit a music store or go online and find some new exercise books.
  • Make it more exciting by taking your scales all the way up and down. You`ll be panting for breath after the first couple of scales and you`ll feel as if you`ve run a marathon, but it`s good for your muscle memory and adds some excitement to your practicing.
    Set some imaginative and creative goals. Try to play a scale perfectly 10 times in a row, or try to play the scale 20 times in three minutes without making a mistake.
  • Practice hands separately and then together (pianists), as this creates a little variety. You can also practice your scales in syncopated rhythms, accenting certain notes. This not only adds interest, but it also helps you build your muscle memory.
  • Remind yourself how much the scale practicing is going to help you in some of the repertoire pieces you`re working on. For example, if you`re working on a Bach Prelude and Fugue, you can easily see how much your performance is going to benefit from some intensive scale practicing.
  • It’s important to find some books that will make scale practicing a more enjoyable activity, instead of the tedious, boring chore that it can be. With the right choice of exercises and a little imagination on your part, you`ll be amazed how quickly the minutes will fly by as you practice your scales. You`ll also be amazed at the improvement in your playing when you`re working on your repertoire.

Just remember, technique is vitally important, but it`s a means to an end and this end result is the skill with which you play your musical repertoire.

Carol

October 19, 2012     0 Comments   , , , , ,

What About Technique?

As a classically trained musician, you know that the most important thing you can do is work on and solidify your technique. No matter how talented or expressive you are in your musical skills, it`s technique that gets you through.

 

Without having a strong technique to support you, you`re not treading a path to success; you`re treading quick sand. On the flip side, however, some musicians rely so heavily on technique that they`re virtually swamped by it. They`re so wrapped up in practicing scales, arpeggios and other exercises that they neglect to work on their repertoire.

 

When this happens, it`s important to prioritize how much of your practice time should go to technical warm-ups and exercises and how much should go toward practicing your musical pieces. It`s important first to remember what technique is for. You use these strengthening skills to fine-tune and hone your skills as a musician.

 

Once you`ve got a firm grip on your technique, you can put it firmly in its place as a background to your performance.

 

If you`re a singer, particularly an opera or concert singer, you have to be especially careful about not over-practicing. Many experienced professional singers are content with 20 minutes a day of warm-up scales and arpeggios before jumping right into repertoire.

If you practice your vocalizes and exercises too long, you`ll tire out your voice. As to how much you should practice your technique during a single session, here are some thoughts to consider:

 

  • Mindless practicing is a waste of time.Most musicians agree that endlessly playing scales and arpeggios by rote over and over again without thinking isn`t a particularly valuable way to spend your practice time. If your head space isn`t in what you`re doing, your muscle memory won`t develop and muscle memory is the backbone of technique.
  • Mindless practicing causes sloppinessand soon you`ll find yourself falling into bad habits that will make your practicing destructive rather than beneficial. Neglecting your repertoire leads to a lack of confidence. After all, you`re going to be performing your pieces, not your scales, in front of an audience.

 

If you concentrate on technique at the expense of your repertoire, your repertoire will surely suffer.

If you have extra practice time, devote it to your musical repertoire, not to your technical exercises, especially if you`re preparing for a performance. Set aside a time for scales, arpeggios and technical exercises and don`t go beyond it. Unless there`s something you specifically want to work on, such as a helpful exercise, keep your technical practicing in its place. It`s valuable, but you don`t want to practice scales at the expense of your repertoire.

Just remember, technique is vitally important, but it`s a means to an end and this end result is the skill with which you play your musical repertoire.

Carol

October 16, 2012     0 Comments   , , , , , , ,

How To Be The Best Performer

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.

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

Carol

September 20, 2012     0 Comments   , , , , , ,

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