Tag: Musician’s Life
In order to level up your complete persona, you must try everything.
That’s right! You have to try it all.
But it looks gross!! It doesn’t matter, eat it. You might be missing the best flavor your tongue could ever experience.
Musicians don’t always take this approach. I mean, we are artists. We are supposed to be the craziest living beings on earth. Look at modern art and you’ll understand what I mean.
Besides, in what other profession you get to be the slave of a piece of wood or brass or otherwise lose your tone, pitch and complete feeling of the instrument?
We lock ourselves in the practice room so that we could play from decent to really good performances. And that is awesome, the work really pays off. But there are other ways to keep experiencing life and put it in context with your music career.
For example, when I travel and get to witness fascinating place, I can somehow communicate those feelings through my instrument later on. What I have experienced in the past helps me understand those emotions—then I just have to find a way to communicate them. That’s where my violin comes in.
You have to go out there! Live! Experience stuff, do crazy stuff.
Set yourself free.
Do the things you are more scared of! Prove that you have the courage to face what gives you Goosebumps. It’s all part of the learning experience. You go through things in life so that you can be prepared the next time it happens or so that when something bigger arrives, you can deal with it.
Try risking more, more often. You’d be surprised of the consequences. They will not be as bad as you originally thought.
One day at the Time
It is the number one rule to be an efficient and productive person (my opinion). You may have these million projects on your mind but they won’t come alive if you don’t take the first step.
Baby steps are essential. Organize your “to do” list and set a deadline.
Persistence and Perseverance will get you there. Work only a few things every day, know what comes for the future but don’t worry about it.
Take a few tasks and tackle them. Feel the joy of accomplishment. Then do the same the next day. Before you know it, you’ll get to the end.
The 21 days to change a habit
As a musician/person, we’ve built many bad habits over time. It’s important to identify them and correct them applying the right techniques.
According to the people who like to do research, changing a habit is as easy as spending 21 days doing the opposite. Painful, not cool and sometimes horrible—but it is a proven method. You could start by going to the gym every day for 20 minutes. Or by drinking 3 full glasses of water every day (additionally to those you would normally drink).
To be a complete person/musician you have to take small bites in a strict manner. You can’t miss a day for at least 21 days. There is a quote that I really like; When you want really want it, you are already half way in.
Last advice; travel, risk more than you usually do, persevere, take one thing at the time and wait 21 days to get used to new things. All of this will grow you into a greater person/musician.
Music. Life. Humans. It’s what we are. What we do. We start every day exactly where we left it the day before. It’s a continuous cycle that builds a “new you” over time. But life is more than growing and becoming a professional. I would say life is mostly about being Happy. But also about some mystical behaviors that enhance who we really are.
Sadly, we often forget about these holdings. Most of the time, life goes by without any appreciation for the things we have. An average day can be forgotten easily. When we are bored we find something to do to get rid of our valuable time.
At the end of the day, you look back and the time was just gone. We could spend a few years “living” and the same thing may happen. You look back and Zap! Time is gone. And then I think… Is that what I live for? am I entirely happy by having this kind of life?
Should I be taking 100% advantage of the time? Maybe trying to become a productivity buff? Is it OK to play video games an entire day (once a week) and forget about practicing? What’s right and what’s wrong? What’s healthy? According to who?
What’s cool about life is that as you age, you get wiser. You’ve lived enough to tell what’s worth spending your time in. But for now, you must learn as you go. Try different things no matter what.
What old people usually say is that failure can be considered your best friend, for it teaches you some valuable lessons. On the other hand it can be your mortal enemy because it makes you feel like crap.
For me, happiness it’s a vicious process in which you feel that life stops for a certain amount of time until you prepare for the next scene. You maintain happiness as long as there is no happiness anymore. Then you have to ask the inevitable…
What happened to happiness? How do I get it back?
Imagine a person standing and looking themselves from the shoes up. You have a whole body, you are the owner. You can do with it whatever you feel like. You can be fit or eat unhealthy—you can be awesome or be dull.
It is actually your responsibility to protect your assets. As you gain conscience, you will feel that happiness can be attained in matter of seconds. The cool thing is, that it can also stay as long as you want it to stay.
One thing we usually associated with happiness is our own professional goals.
Example; If you are a grand soloist, you are definitely happy!!. Why?
Because you have a very exposed career? Because you go on tours?
What if I am a music teacher and change the lives of thousands of kids? am I successful? Should I feel happy then? Again, according to who?
You determine what success means.
… then you can create your own interpretation of happiness.
Know that you were selected among thousands of organisms to be a human being—the highest class of living organisms (you could’ve been a giraffe ). But instead, you were chosen (in our case) to make an impact with your music.
When you work toward changing people’s lives, you will be happy.
(whether you are a soloist or not)
But is not going to be easy. You will have to Persevere.
Yeah, I know you’ve read that word before on many of my blog posts. But it’s actually how you can keep the joy of being who you are.
As you persevere, you will have several encounters with your own persona. Those will be inevitable, sooner or later, you will realize that every single thing that makes you unique, counts.
Uniqueness works on your favor to help you stand out among the crowd.
Organization is also essential to define what you want to accomplish—what in the end will keep happiness around you.
It’s OK not to have an answer for everything right at this moment, the important thing is that you persevere and organize your life so that you remain in certain paths that lead to your main goal.
Stay on Earth.
Be grateful for what you have. Health, friends, family, etc. They complete the human being inside you—not the 8 hours a day in the practice room. Is the people around you who define the real you. When you go out, notice what’s around. Be grateful you have eyes to appreciate. Be grateful for as many things as you can—that satisfaction sends you through the right paths I talked earlier. That feeling, will help battle those “learning moments” so that you stick to your plan and avoid pitfalls.
Believe in learning. Believe in appreciation. Be aware of how small you are as an individual but also, how big and privileged you are to be alive and breathing.
You will make a difference in this world. Your music will change the life of thousands of people that you may not even know.
Reflect on that.
You are home practicing scales, stressed and overwhelmed by music but think of the final result—is a huge miracle. A miracle so big that you may not understand it completely.
The joy of being who you are should remain within yourself for the rest of your days. The spark that turns on when you are happy about something, can make a difference in other people’s lives. If we find a way to keep it alive by applying basic techniques of self-development, perhaps we could build a small army of self-disciplined people that influences a bigger mass by showing off the final result.
When you and me understand what make us who we are, the actual purpose of our existence, many elements unify. The universe itself will turn positive vibes in favor of our ideas. We will find success as a crowd and not as an individual. We’ll be able to strengthen the laces of human kind. Only by having this kind of behavior, may we prove, that this fictional world I just created could one day be a reality.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
- a) Intonation
- b) Phrasing
- c) Dynamics
- d) Bowings
After working in detail each of these technical issues, you can then put them together one by one.
- a) Legato + Intonation
- b) Intonation + Articulation
- 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 way. Have 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.
- a) Select hard passages.Slowly analyzing.Watch how your fingers move and how you get to the new note.
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)
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- a)Feelyour shoulders, fingers, hands, forearms, mouth, cheeks and every other part of the body that could be involved in your playing.
- 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
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)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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!