Tips for Classical Musicians

Tag: Personal development

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   , , , , , , ,

How to be Uncomfortable

What do a first violinist, second violinist, violist and a cellist need in order to play completely together?

(it’s not a light-bulb joke 🙂 )
The Answer: Get Uncomfortable
Counting calories is uncomfortable, so is practicing at 6 am. But what choice do we have? What about the results you are seeking?

Quartet rehearsal is not comfortable when the violist keeps rushing (we violinists never, ever, ever, ever rush, especially when playing 1st). Wouldn’t it be great if you all just play it incredible the first time?

But it isn’t that way.

So, how do we deal with being uncomfortable?

Fear no more! I’m here to lead the way! (Cheers, applause, mass noise, wooooooo). Thank you, thank you!

First of all, if you think about it, uncomfortable doesn’t mean you are in pain.

It means you are not within your comfort zone.

And that is also OK because when you jump out of your comfort zone, you explore new possibilities.

If my math is right, you’ll be exposed to a bizillion new things (good and bad) that you weren’t exposed before when you sat in your comfort zone. Exposure will leads to experiences and experiences will make you smarter. Isn’t that what everybody wants?

Is there any way at all I can make the uncomfortable

comfortable?

YOU CAN’T. But there are some tricks you can use to soften the process and still get incredible results.

How to be Ok with Uncomfortable
* Savor Every Moment – Put your first vegetable in your mouth and touch it lightly with your tongue. Now chew. It tastes bad but it’s not painful. Immerse yourself in the flavor, even if it gets uncomfortable, realize there is no pain. I bet you never tried this way before. Repeat the process various days and see if it gets better.

* Realize you are not alone – There are 7 billion people with the same problem. For them a couch is more comfy than flossing. Uncomfortable will always be uncomfortable, you can only learn how to soften the impact.

* Become the Hulk – Man up! Scream, awhhhahhhahahahhhh for a few seconds and just do it. Then freak out!

* Get a little uncomfortable – Start waking up at 10 am. The next day at 9:50 am, then 2 days later 9:40 am and so on, until you reach 7 am. Changes are gradual—otherwise you won’t succeed.

* Look for it – Find discomfort and get into it. Practice being uncomfortable and adjusting. Keep thinking about the results.

* Observe yourself – Develop the ability to see yourself running away from discomfort. Go back and say: “No, I’m learning to take discomfort” and then immerse again.
ARE YOU PART OF THE EMPIRE YET?

Carol

May 15, 2013     0 Comments   , , , , ,

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   , , , , , , , , , , ,

Be a Complete Musician/Person

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?

Only music.

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 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 everyday 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.

Carol

November 9, 2012     0 Comments   , , , , , , ,

The Joy of Being Alive

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?

Solution:

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.

Somehow.

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.

Carol

October 27, 2012     0 Comments   , , , , , ,

Productivity for Musicians (Planning)

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)

http://www.guitartricks.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11952

http://www.violinist.com/blog/weekendvote/20094/9974/

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.

Planning

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.

30 Minutes

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).

My Schedule

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.

Happy practicing!

Carol

 

October 2, 2012     0 Comments   , , , , , , , , ,

The Reality of the Music Business

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

August 4, 2010     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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