Tips for Classical Musicians

Tag: Classical Music

50 Things to Remember in the Practice Room

Being Aware/Conscious

After a couple of weeks of intense practice we musicians tend to run in automatic mode. We know what to do and when to do it—but that doesn’t mean we are getting the most out of our routine.

That’s when we have to bring back a little consciousness to renew our contract with music.

Here’s what you should consider during your practice sessions:
1. Feel comfortable with the temperature of your cubicle. You can only learn when you are comfy.

2. Have all your accessories in one place.

3. Breathe and slow down—you are about to start something religious.

4. Focus on focus. Leave everything behind, clear your mind and enter the PRACTICE mode.

5. Warm-up! 15 minutes at least. Take care of yourself so you can make the art you love so much for years to come.

6. Stretch before playing your first note.

7. Have your pencil ready to jot down your progress and make markings.

8. Once you are ready to STUDY, keep your “mental control”. Focus on what you are learning—not about the pizza you’ll eat afterwards.

9. Use a mirror as part of your practice. See how you look like and what can improve your tone/performance.

10. Posture is essential to improve sound—and other things.

11. Prepare a plan before your sessions and stick to it. Know what each minute of practice is dedicated to.

12. Follow your plan no matter what. Trust your preparation beforehand.

13. Build the music. Don’t practice everything at once. E.g. The first hour you learn notes, the second intonation, then rhythm then everything together. Then everything separate again and building it one at the time for a couple of weeks. It’s a long process but it’s the most efficient.

14. Spend time building your technique. When inspiration finally arrives you will have a viable way to express yourself. Get into those etudes!

15. Listen to a lot of music and hear the professionals’ interpretations. Learn from styles and composers.

16. When you practice slowly, you forget slowly. Mr. Perlman said that!

17. The metronome is discipline’s no.1 ally.

18. Repetitions will engrave things in your brain forever.

19. Know the structure of your piece. A little music theory never hurt anybody 🙂 .

20. Imagine the rest of the orchestra while you play your part. Keep them in mind while performing.

21. Phrasing a line is making music. Not phrasing is playing notes.

22. Make a good dynamic contrast—but don’t lose the sound in the (p) pianos.

23. Style is what characterizes the piece.

24. Rhythms HAVE to be accurate.

25. Play in tune. All you have to do is: LISTEN. Mr. Perlman said that as well.

26. Read a book or two about the history of the composer you are interpreting.

27. Get free scores at imslp.org or get them on Amazon.

28. Once you know the style of a piece, you’ll perform the right strokes.

29. Vibrato has to be controlled.

30. Articulate! Play clean.

31. Coordinate both hands.

32. Re-check posture. You’ve been working a lot and might’ve move into a more comfortable position. Adjust.

33. Your breathing has to support your playing.

34. Take a break when your mind is exhausted, don’t waste time.

35. Stay hydrated to maximize efficiency. Drink a lot of water.

36. Take vitamin C to stay healthy.

37. Don’t Facebook while on breaks – stay with the music in your head as long as possible.

38. Keep your mind focused on what you practiced. Keep practicing in your mind. Think and rethink rhythms, notes, etc.

39. It’s all about surviving, really. Effective practice takes a huge amount of concentration. Survive your 3 hours session and then you can rest.

40. After a couple of hours you will leave the focus-house and that will be fine.

41. Push your limits. Stay longer if you can.

42. Leave when you are not productive, not when you get tired.

43. Remember: Practice is the only thing that will get you there.

44. You want to be good; then you have to give it all.

45. Be constant. Do it every day.

46. Move drip by drip and SMILE. There is no finish line.

47. Believe in your dreams and do give up what you are not passionate about. Then, follow what you are passionate until you get there. Enjoy the ride, and don’t stop until you reach it.

48. Remove distractions while working. It helps concentration.

49. Live a calm life.

50. Love what you do.

Now you have something concrete in your hands (a list)—it’s time to take action.

It’s fun and entertaining to read lists like the above but only when you take action can you improve your persona.
Remember: smart practice is a combination of:

· Knowing what to do

And

· Sticking to it no matter what.

I hope these items serve as inspiration to work at your best level.
FOR THE EMPIRE,

Carol

October 27, 2013     0 Comments   , , ,

The Ignorant Musician (ME)

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,

it’s grown.

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!

Carol

July 14, 2013     0 Comments   , , , , , , ,

Great Resources for Classical Musicians

Are you a bookworm? Me too. Although I don’t have a glamorous historic past among the books, I’ve found that books help me write better and have top understanding on the subjects I discuss here on Tips for Classical Musicians.

Great action novels (which I enjoy very much) are a great resource too. They get my vocabulary going and my imagination escaping away from this world.

These books gave me so much and hopefully they’d do the same for you.

Remember that if you control your personal life, you will succeed in your professional.

First, I’d like to introduce you with two of the greatest books I’ve ever read in the financial and business department. Want to set small business in music? No problem. The $100 startup will give you tons of ideas—not a music related book though. When I read it, I found myself constantly getting new ways to start a business in music.  The book was written by the same guy who introduced me to Travel Hacking.

I Will Teach You to Be Rich is another essential read. Rami gives you an inside on how to manage a life where you take 100% control of your money. If you apply his advice, your future will brighten. Great way to be on top of your life.

                  

Now, these next 2 books you have to buy. Not if you want to or feel like it. You MUST

They will guide you through your complete formation as a classical musician. But I am already a professional? Buy it! You will still learn so much from these guys. Everything from scales practice and stage fright all the way to careers in music and strategies to succeed. You have it all in these 2 books. You won’t regret it, I promise.

                   

Personal Development

As a personal-development freak, I read many blogs and always try to remain efficient and productive. Most of the time I have a book or two (usually more) on the subject in my tablet. Among my favorites, here are 4 of them. Easy to read, lots of good stuff and advice you can’t get anywhere else.

TREASURES FOR LIFE!

                                     

Fiction

I’m a little picky with fiction. I usually give the book about 50-100 pages and if I’m still bored, that’s it. Believe it or not, I have stopped many books half way because I’m bored. I recently finished these two and they got me hooked all the way to the end.

Girls, read The Tombs if you are not into action-videogames-guns-manly adventures .

Guys, Hitman is AWESOME! get it right away.

 

What I Look Forward To

The first part of Hitman was incredible, and the second part just released only a few days ago. Oh, I’m getting it. The Secret of Success have great reviews and I’ve heard a lot about it lately. Tim Ferriss and Chris Guillebeau are two of the people who I really admire. Reading their stuff makes me want to give the extra mile in search of expanding the possibilities and enjoying every moment while doing it. I’m sure that The 4 hour Body and the Art of Non-Conformity will definitely enlighten my path.

                                                  

A Survival Guide for Classical Musicians

I can’t finish this post without recommending my own work, ooopsss! A Survival guide for Classical Musicians is the companion guide to my blog. Over the years I’ve been studying personal-growth and how to apply it in the practice room. How to grow as a person in order to become a better musician is kind of my slogan. If you get the guide (only $7) you’ll get a free report on Travel Hacking. And you will be supporting the website, the community and the stability of the content being produced. Your support will ensure the future of this blog.

Thanks again for your sponsorship!

 

Carol

 

November 13, 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   , , , , ,

4 Steps to Cook a Good Piece of Music

I am still a young musician. Unlike my professors and people who have been playing for many, many years, I am still learning.

In fact, that’s one of the reasons I started this blog, to share what I’ve recently learned and hopefully help other musicians find a higher level of musical understanding easier and faster.

Lately, I have been trying to practice a good amount of hours, and as usual, trying to do so as smart as I can.

It’s good to remind ourselves what’s really effective, what really works. After many weeks or even moths of practicing, one can stop thinking. You get used to a routine and stop looking beyond your own boundaries.

Slow practice.

Yeah, yeah, I know you’ve heard it before. But you haven’t heard my approach yet.

Every musician take notice of it in master-classes, seminars, YouTube, lessons, etc.

It’s everywhere.

Now, what does it take to practice slowly in an extremely productive way?

You practice slow and then it’s perfect?

Do they mean slow scales?

Slow movements?

Here’s what I think. I’ve done a series of experiments and this is what I believe slow practice is about:

 

1) Music must be built up the same way you build up your muscles.

You work different parts, all separately.

  1. a) Intonation
  2. b) Phrasing
  3. c) Dynamics
  4. d) Bowings

Etc.

After working in detail each of these technical issues, you can then put them together one by one.

  1. a) Legato + Intonation
  2. b) Intonation + Articulation
  3. c) Intonation + Legato + Articulation

And so on…

This will take a long while. I’m talking about weeks if not months, depending on the difficulty of the piece. Be patient, you’ll get there the smart wayHave You Practiced 10,000 Hours Yet?

You need a strong base to support a heavy piece of music with hundreds of details. You can then get deeper into the music and work aspects like musicality.

 

2) Slow practice needs time. Your brain is an awesome machine. Make sure you learn how to operate it.

You need time in order to cook your food and get the maximum out of it.

  1. a) Select hard passages.Slowly analyzing.Watch how your fingers move and how you get to the new note.

Example:

Your fingers learned how to get to “B” from “A”. But they haven’t learned how to get to “B” from “C”. (Yep, it’s that hard)

  1. b) Practice your excerpt really slow focusing onas many details as you can. After 15- 20 minutesleave it. You brain, muscles and mind get tired, it’s hard to focus longer that.

Like I said, the brain is an amazing machine. Next time you come back you will notice a difference. Your brain it’s still working on it even though you are not physically involved.

BRAIN POWER!

3) Control your instrument with your mind. You don’t have to be a psychic though. Instrumental playing is really delicate. You can change something by moving your pinky slightly forward (string players) or by relaxing your right shoulder.

  1. a) Sometimes it only takes tobe aware of the problem. If youthink what you need to do (yes, only by thinking) you will perform it as well. Not always, but when the “fixing” is small.

Example:

Through slow practice you figured that the fourth finger is a little too flat. Be aware of it and don’t try to play it higher, think about it, then perform it. Next time you play it, you’ll fix it immediately.

 

4) Be aware of your body. With slow practice you will have enough time to notice a variety of things including how your body behaves.

Are you tensing up 5 measures before that hard passage?

I bet you will notice if you practice slow.

  1. a)Feelyour shoulders, fingers, hands, forearms, mouth, cheeks and every other part of the body that could be involved in your playing.
  2. b) Replay the excerpts with a new mind set- relaxation.

If you understand your machine’s needs and give it what it needs, then it will repay you by giving you a strong base. You two must work together as a team (yes, I mean you and your brain). It is the only way to feel the owner of a piece of music.

Slow Practice Means More Time for the Brain to Think

When you study slowly you forget slowly.

– Itzhak Perlman

 

Carol

October 11, 2012     0 Comments   , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Reach Your Goals in Music

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

August 7, 2012     0 Comments   , , ,

5 Reasons Why You Should Like Classical Music

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

April 15, 2010     0 Comments   , , , ,

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