Just Breathe: Breathing Techniques For ALL Instruments

Lady Gaga released her 13-minute “Marry The Night” video this week, resembling more of a short film than a typical music video.  But with Gaga – or the Mother Monster, as she calls herself – what else did you expect?  She continues to influence the music world today, one theatrical video at a time.  And along with her creativity, one thing is for certain: she’s got the golden pipes of a true star!

While you might think good breathing is only important for singers and for wind instruments, the truth is, it’s essential for everyone to master.  Proper breathing means you’re more relaxed, which helps with any performance, on any instrument.  Here are some great breathing exercises that will help musicians of all kinds, as published on the Music Made Easy blog:

For Singers:
If you are a singer, your whole body is your instrument, so in the following exercise, try to be aware of how your body feels in relation to your breathing.

– Focus on your posture and your breathing. Standing, make sure your feet are at shoulder-width distance apart and you maintain a relaxed and grounded posture, feeling the support of the floor.
– Place the palms of your hands just under your rib cage so that your fingers are just touching.  Focus on your natural breathing and notice how your fingers come slightly apart as you breathe in, and as you breathe out, they come together again.
– While doing this, mentally check your body for any tension and purposefully relax muscles in you neck, shoulders, arms, upper and lower body which may be tense.
– On your in-breath, through your nose, count that breath as ‘one’ and release it naturally through your mouth and adding a relaxed vocalization.  Be aware the whole time of the movement of your diaphragm as well as relaxing your body.  Try to exaggerate the ‘out’ movement of your stomach, so that the air flows deeper into your lungs.  Then let the air out, making sure all air is expelled.

For Piano Players:
– Place the five fingers of your right hand on any consecutive five white notes above middle C and press down all the notes at once.  Your left hand should be relaxed by your side or on your lap.
– Focus on your posture and your breathing, sitting on the edge of your seat with your feet flat and firmly on the floor, so that your weight is on your feet.  Relax your wrists and make sure they are in line with your hand and the tips of the fingers are resting on the notes as the weight of your arms help to press the notes down.  Fingers should be rounded and comfortable.
– Focus on your natural breathing.  Mentally check your body for any tension, purposefully relaxing any muscles in you neck, shoulders, arms, upper and lower body which may be tense.  Continue to do this throughout the exercise.
– When you take a natural breath in, lift up your 5th finger (while all other notes are held down) about a centimeter off the key and when you naturally breathe out, press the key down again. Repeat the exercise, this time with the 4th finger (this will be difficult at first).  Remember the 5th finger should be holding its note down now too. Repeat the exercise through 3rd, 2nd and 1st fingers and then do the same exercise over again but with your left hand, choosing notes below middle C and relaxing your right hand in your lap or by your side.

For Drummers and Percussionists:
Tension in the body and breathing are linked.  If you are able to focus on your breath, you will be able to purposefully relax your body.  It is important to be able to relax because tension can interrupt your ability to play when you are attempting new and more complex rhythms and/or soloing.

– Focus on your posture and your breathing.  Sit on the edge of your seat with your feet flat and firmly on the floor, so that your weight is on your feet, and the palms of your hands resting on your legs.   You can also stand, making sure your feet are at shoulder-width distance apart and you maintain a relaxed, yet grounded posture.
– Place the palms of your hands under your rib cage so that your fingers are just touching.  Focus on your natural breathing and notice how your fingers come slightly apart as you breathe in and as you breathe out they come together again. While doing this, mentally check your body for any tension and purposefully relax muscles in you neck, shoulders, arms, upper and lower body.
– Count your in-breath, through your nose as ‘one’ and release it naturally, being aware the whole time of relaxing your body and the movement of your diaphragm. As you breathe in, try to exaggerate the ‘out’ movement of your stomach, so that the air flows deeper into your lungs.

For Wind Instruments:
Developing good breathing technique is vital for playing a wind instrument because it dictates the way notes begin (intonation), the sound quality of the note (tone quality), how long you can hold notes (sustaining), how loud or soft the notes are (dynamics) and how you get from one note to another (flexibility).

– Focus on your posture and your breathing.  Sit on the edge of your seat with your feet flat and firmly on the floor, so that your weight is on your feet, and the palms of your hands resting on your legs.   You can also stand, making sure your feet are at shoulder-width distance apart and you maintain a relaxed, yet grounded posture.
– Focus upon your natural breathing.  While doing this, mentally check your body for tension and purposefully relax any muscles in you neck, shoulders, arms, upper and lower body, which may be tense.  Continue to do this throughout the exercise.
– Breathe in through your mouth for two counts and be full of air by the end of this count then breathe out through your mouth for four counts, being empty of air by the end of it.  When you breathe out make an ‘s’ sound with your mouth (like a snake).  Make sure you push all the air out.

Need help with breathing exercises?  Enlist the help of a music teacher for more personalized feedback.  Search for a teacher near you here. Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.





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Find Out the Secrets of the Top Music Bloggers

Do you have a music blog, or aspire to start one? Whether you’re hoping to get into music journalism or if you simply want to publish concert & album reviews for your friends, blogging is a great way to sound off on all things music.

But if you want to become the next hot music blogger, you’ll need to get ahead of the pack.  Just being a music fan isn’t enough these days, so check out these industry secrets (courtesy of Mashable.com) to get you on your way…

1. “Hot For Teacher”

Yes, it seems like a rather obvious tip, but to write about music, you need to know about music –- and not just the vinyl in your own record collection. Andrew Phillips, former editor in chief of MOG, advises: “Listen to an inconceivable amount of music, especially if you don’t like it. There’s a huge difference between being a music fan and a music advocate…. The most effective bloggers (and writers) are the ones drawing from a genuinely deep well of knowledge.”

And don’t limit the fact-finding mission to sitting in your room like a tragically hip, headphoned Boo Radley –- go to shows. Go to “good” shows, bad shows, basement shows, loft shows, shows where the only people in the audience are you and the bartender. You never know who’s going to be the next big thing; as Nicole Wasilewicz, senior music editor of FREEwilliamsburg.com, says, “As knowledgeable as you may feel about music, there’s always someone out there that’s smarter than you and has more time on their hands. It’s a constant game of catch-up. Also, pay special attention to opening bands.”

2. “Can’t Buy Me Love”

So you’re all studied up and ready to write. The only question is: To what illustrious publication should you lend your vast and impressive skills? Well, if you’re skint on experience, chances are that unless you’re that kid from Almost Famous, it’s going to be a while before pubs are going to be beating down your door.

And with that, we bring you perhaps the most disdainful piece of advice out there: Write for free.  You can’t get ahead without clips, and sometimes the payment you receive for said clips is experience and a foothold in the industry.  Jason Diamond, editor in chief of Jewcy.com and founding editor of Vol. 1 Brooklyn, says: “If you’re offered to write a low or non-paying piece by a website that is influential, has a lot of traffic, or you just totally respect, take it.”

Now, that’s not to say you should keep writing, sans cash, indefinitely. But doing some writing for a website you really dig can get you exposure and, subsequently, the momentum you need to launch yourself toward a legit gig.

3. “Here I Go Again (On My Own)”

Still, if you don’t want to submit to the wily ways of “the man” (i.e. someone else’s blog), might we suggest you start your own? Really, there’s no excuse in this day and age for an aspiring blogger to not be in possession of his or her very own URL.

Furthermore, once you have your own blog in place, you can either try to leverage it into its own, money-making entity by selling ads, etc., or you use it as a kind of portfolio. You can also form link exchanges with other blogs –- just shoot the editor an e-mail –- which will help you build connections in the space, or join a blog aggregator, like MOG.  However you use it, it’s as essential for any up-and-coming music blogger to have a domain as it is for him or her to have ears.

Whatever your goals may be with your music blog, make sure to have fun with it!  Write about what you love and let your personality shine.  What’s your favorite music blog to read?  Do any of you own there have your own blog?  Leave a comment below! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

 

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How to be a Rockstar… On a Budget

If you haven’t already seen it, the Rolling Stone recently released their list of 100 Greatest Guitarists, and none other than Jimi Hendrix has topped the list.  We thought this was an excellent pick – his distinct style continues to inspire and influence musicians to this day.  Hendrix is a true rock legend – and if you want to get to that status someday, you’d better keep working hard.

Yesterday we discussed 7 must-read tips for planning your band’s tour as you start organizing and contacting promoters.  If you don’t have a lot of cash saved up, though, the idea of a tour may be much more difficult to conceptualize.  Luckily, it’s still possible to tour while on budget.  Just consider that a part of the adventure!  Here’s how to make it work:

1.  Consider how you will be traveling. For most bands this will mean long hours in a van of some type. Before you set out, have the vehicle serviced at your local shop. Have your mechanic change the oil, check the spark plugs and wires, air filters, radiator fluid, washer fluid, tire pressure, A/C operation and anything else that you can afford. This will help to uncover any issues before you find yourself on the side of the road outside Podunk, Iowa. Repairs on the road can be costly and interrupt your schedule.

2. Prior to leaving, determine how many hotel rooms that you’ll need and any special requirements. Do some homework and know how far you will travel each day and where you plan to spend the night. Check the Internet for hotels in the area and for special deals. Some of the discount websites can offer great savings, but be sure to read the fine print. Sometimes calling the local hotels directly will actually get you a better deal. Ask to speak with the general manager or reservations manager and explain your situation. If they can rent several rooms together, they might offer a lower price.  It never hurts to ask!

3. Food can also be a major expense if not handled correctly. In the van, bring along a large cooler and purchase drinks at the grocery store prior to departure. These are cheaper than at a gas station and will prevent some unnecessary stops.  For breakfast, consider the complimentary breakfast if your hotel offers one.  Also: sometimes before your show, the venue you’re at may provide food.  Always ask the venue owner about this possibility and you can even use it as a negotiation point.

4. Payments for gigs should be immediately deposited into a bank account. This can be done via an ATM or bank drive-through. Before you leave, check your bank for locations in the area of your gigs. This will prevent you from spending this money and limit you to the budget that you have prepared before departure.

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Hittin’ the Road with Your Band? 7 Must-Read Tips

We’re stoked to hear that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have announced an upcoming U.S. tour – especially since they haven’t hit the road here since 2007.  So far just six cities have been released, kicking off in Charlotte, NC, on January 25th – will you be part of the crowd?

If you’re in a band yourself, touring is a great way to get your name out there and of course, do what you love best – play music!  But it’s also something that takes a lot of planning.  Take a look at these 7 essential tips to consider before planning your tour!:

1. Make sure you have written at least one album. Not a couple of songs, an entire album; you’ll need a lot of songs for your shows. Plan on having enough material to play a 45 minute to hour-long set, plus one or two encore numbers (think positive – you want those encores!).

2. Save up money for a few months. Each person should have enough money to pay for his/her own food on the tour and the band should have some money to get started off with – you will need gas for the van, some upkeep money for oil, transmission, brake fluids, etc., and sundry money for sundry needs – maybe one of you will get a cold, and need some NyQuil or something. It’s best to be prepared with more than you think you’ll need.

3. Come up with a route or plan for your tour. Plan which town/city you would like to play on which days. Try to plot a route that makes sense, i.e., try to make a circle rather than playing in one city one day, traveling 150 miles to the next city the next day, and then doubling back to play back in that same starting city the day after that! Instead, try to book two shows in City #1, a day apart, and then travel on to City #2, 150 miles away. Make sure all of your band members are available during the entire time allotted.

4. Search for contacts in each city you hope to play in. The best contacts are local bands that play in the area and venues. Send the band/venue/promoters in each city a message asking them to check out your band and let them know that you are interested in playing a show with them/at their venue on such and such day. You can’t always get a show on the day you are looking for and sometimes have to change your route or find a different venue to play at.  Of course, make sure you aren’t playing on a night when another, bigger band is in the same town. (i.e. If you are an AC/DC tribute band don’t play in Denver on the same night that AC/DC is in Denver, because no one will go to your show).

5. Write up a contract for promoters and venues. You don’t need to hire a lawyer to write it up, just use common sense. Make a form with spaces for venue name, address, phone number, load-in time, sound check time, show time, and pay. This works both as a means of making sure you do not get screwed over, and also is useful as an itinerary. That way you have a contact sheet for every show and know when you need to be there, and other important information.  Send these contracts through e-mail or regular U.S. Mail to each venue or promoter you have arranged a show with. Have them fill it out and send it back. Keep all of the forms they send back for use as an itinerary and also to make sure things go the way they were agreed on.

6. Make up a flyer for each of the shows with the venue name, show date, address and what bands are playing as well as start time and send them to the venues/band/promoters you are playing with. Sometimes promoters or other bands do this for you and send the flyer to you. Either way, make sure it is up on your MySpace and website, if you have one. If you’ll be playing a large number of dates, you may want to make a template poster with a big blank spot to write in the date, time, location, and cover. Make sure your website is on the flyer, so you don’t have to write it out.

7. Get merch made and CDs pressed. If you only have a demo or a three song “EP” you can still get them pressed and labeled packaged inexpensively. You can also do it yourself; it doesn’t really matter, just as long as you have them available to sell/give out on tour. If someone hears your band and likes it but can’t get a CD, odds are they will not remember you. Make sure to include your band name, a track listing and a website/MySpace URL so that they can find you online.

Start planning these things and you’ll make some great headway on organizing your band’s tour.  However, you may also want to keep one thing in mind: Plan for making zero dollars. Most bands just starting out are lucky to just get a gig with a bigger name band – they rarely get paid. You do it for exposure (to get your music out there) and because you love it – not because you have to make a lot of money doing it.  But keep doing what you love and who knows?  Maybe RHCP will open for YOU someday!

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Practice Makes Perfect, But Are You Doing It Right?

Piano practiceYesterday we discussed some common excuses for not practicing and how to overcome them.  If you’ve already read that and corrected your mindset, the question remains:  How much do you really need to practice?  There’s a difference between mindless practicing and deliberate practicing – read on to find out how to get the most out of your practice sessions, courtesy of this Bulletproof Musician blog post that we loved:

Deliberate Practice

So what is deliberate, or mindful practice? Deliberate practice is a systematic and highly structured activity, which is, for lack of a better word, scientific. Instead of mindless trial and error, it is an active and thoughtful process of experimentation with clear goals and hypotheses.

Deliberate practice is often slow, and involves repetition of small and very specific sections of your repertoire instead of just playing through (e.g. working on just the opening note of your solo to make sure that it “speaks” exactly the way you want, instead of playing the entire opening phrase).

Deliberate practice also  involves monitoring one’s performance (in real-time, but also via recordings), continually looking for new ways to improve. This means really listening to what happens, so that you can tell yourself exactly what went wrong. For instance, was the first note note sharp? Flat? Too loud? Too soft? Too harsh? Too short? Too long?

Few musicians take the time to stop, analyze what went wrong, why it happened and how they can correct the error permanently.  Make that a habit during your practice sessions.

4 Keys For More Effective Practice

1. Duration
Keep practice sessions limited to a duration that allows you to stay focused. This may be as short as 10-20 minutes for younger students (or if that’s all you have time for), and as long as 45-60 minutes for older individuals.

2. Timing
Keep track of times during the day when you tend to have the most energy. This may be first thing in the morning, or right before lunch, etc. Try to do your practicing during these naturally productive periods as these are the times at which you will be able to focus and think most clearly.

3. Goals
Try using a practice notebook. Keep track of your practice goals and what you discover during your practice sessions. The key to getting into the “zone” when practicing is to be constantly striving to have clarity of intention. In other words, to have a clear idea of the sound you want to produce, or particular phrasing you’d like to try, or specific articulation, intonation, etc. that you’d like to be able to execute consistently.

When you figure something out, write it down. As I practiced more mindfully, I began learning so much during practice sessions that if I didn’t write everything down, I’d forget.

4. Smarter, not harder
Sometimes if a particular passage is not coming out the way we want it to, it just means we need to practice more. There are also times, however, when we don’t need to practice harder, but need an altogether different strategy or technique.  Think creatively.

Make the time you do have count, and you’ll be well on your way to mastering the music.  Readers, do you have any of your own strategies to share?  As always, we’d love to hear – leave a comment below!

 

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5 Excuses for Not Practicing – And How to Overcome Them

Sometimes, no matter what our age, practicing just might not sound appealing on a given day.  If you’re starting to learn an instrument later in life, you might get home from a busy day at work and feel like relaxing on the couch instead of breaking out the book of scales and etudes.  Unless you have a specific goal you’re working on, it can be all too easy to lose focus and think up a dozen excuses to avoid practicing.  Sometimes it’s just easier to be stubborn.

Still, practicing is an unavoidable part of learning anything – so it’s about time to face your excuses head-on.  Here, Lisa at the Music Made Easy blog tunes us into the most common excuses for not practicing… and how to overcome them:

1.  Not Having Enough Time

Solution: This barrier is simply perspective.  Sometimes you may feel like you haven’t got enough time to practice because you think your minimum practice time should be an hour or half an hour.  It’s ok to practice for five, ten or even three minutes at a time.  Doing these short amounts of practice with focus is still better than not doing any practice at all.  When I ask students if they could find five minutes in the day to play their instruments, they always answer that they can.  If you adopt this mindset, you will find you will practice more and feel better about your music.

2.  Lack of Motivation

Solution: Most commonly, lack of motivation is due to not having any goals for your music or having unrealistic expectations of what your progress should be.  So, start by setting some realistic goals for yourself, one that you can achieve in a single practice session, one you can achieve in a week and one that you can achieve in a month.  Once you have something to work towards and something you want to achieve you will find your motivation levels improve.

3.  Not Enjoying Practice/It’s too Boring

Solution: Make sure you have some goals for your music and design your practice activities towards achieving these goals.  Having resources you like to work from is also important.  Practice can only be boring if you are stagnant, repeating the same exercises and routines over and over.  So try to change this if it is your habit.  Try to have a practice goal for every session you do and collect resources that will help you achieve these goals.

4.  Being Too Tired or Not in the Mood

Solution: If you practice a lot and this happens every now and then, that’s ok, take a break.  However, if this is a recurring theme for you, you may need to do some reflection work and see if the cause is something a little deeper, like not feeling motivated or not having goals or not knowing how or what to practice.  If the problem is simply that you are a busy person and tired at the end of the day, you need to have the mindset to just play your instrument for five minutes, beginning with breath focus and relaxation, knowing that this five minutes is like a meditation and a break for you.  It means framing your music practice not as work and effort but as a relaxing and energizing activity.

5. Not Having the Right Equipment / Don’t Like Current Instrument

Solution: Firstly, don’t be under the illusion that you have to have the best equipment in order to learn music.  You can definitely start simply and build from there.  Secondly, if you haven’t got the money to get the equipment you need, you have to think creatively about it.  You could borrow a friend’s instrument, hire a practice space, or rent an instrument.  Where there is a will, there is usually a way!

Continue reading the article here.

Do any of these excuses sound familiar?  As you can see, it’s all about mindset.  At one point, you were excited to try a new instrument – set some goals and do what you can to get that excitement back.  And don’t be afraid to talk to your teacher about it if you’re at a loss – they’re here to help!

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How to get from “Who?” to U2: Publicity Tips for Bands

U2 has been a hot topic in the media these days because of the upcoming re-release of their 1991 album Achtung Baby. With 22 Grammy awards, a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the #22 spot on the Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, U2 clearly has a huge presence in the music industry.  And Bono (and his signature sunglasses) is well-known across the globe, given all his humanitarian work.

These heavy hitters have had a long and successful career, and have worked hard to get there.  Many bands just starting out dream of this kind of popularity – but how do you actually get to that level?  If you’re new to the music scene, it’s essential to get your name out there to bridge the gap between your fans and your music.

Indie Music Planet has some great tips for boosting your music career and making a name for yourself:

Promo Tip #1: A music artist must start somewhere.  Create a plan with some ideas and set goals as to what you need to accomplish weekly, monthly, and yearly. Start small and make it progressive. Reach benchmarks and keep at it.

Promo Tip #2: Image is everything. Image is the complete package – artist/band name, look, performance, merchandise, and style, to how that brand is marketed. A stage name can be a descriptive statement of the image you or your band project. Be unique and interesting to look at in some way, and build your own unique stage persona.

Promo Tip #3: Be innovative in your promotional efforts! The Internet has made it possible to hear a LOT more music, from a LOT more artists. You are now a very small fish in a very large pond – you will need to find a way to stand out, above and glow in the dark. Think beyond the box on every promo tip.

Promo Tip #4: Announce every song, every CD, decent chart position, contest win, top sales on releases, announce anything and everything to stay in the public’s eye. If you can’t write a decent article up for the press release, get someone that can. Write a review of every gig and get feedback from local VIPs, fans, whomever matters and include the best quotes. Is it news worthy? Write and promote it. Get the most mileage you can from your promotional tactics.

Promo Tip #5 Professional photos mean you take yourself seriously. All photos in your press kit should be quality photos, not just your main bio picture. The money spent on a photographer that can capture your music “image” is money well spent.

Promo Tip #6: Collect email addresses to keep your fans current on what you are up to. When building your lists, try to list their location – city, state and zip with a bit of personal input about that fan. This is a great way to create a more personal and targeted mailing list without bombarding people that are too far away to attend a show.

Promo Tip #7: Create a video and get on YouTube. Place your video on all relevant video sites. Video scrapbook your music,  progress, accomplishments, and jam sessions. This could make for good clips in other projects.

Promo Tip #8: Elevator Pitch – If you only have one shot to make an impression in 30 seconds or less, can you do it? You will need to, so practice it!

Promo Tip #9: Attend music conferences, indie showcases, and music festivals. Gain exposure and network.

Promo Tip #10: Be easy to work with and be flexible. A good reputation carries a lot of weight. Flexibility can also mean possibly adjusting areas of your work or image so as to get your foot in the door, if need be.

Promo Tip #11: Play for free if you have to, anywhere, and any time. Create an event with a cause and donate the proceeds to a charity. This can open up some interesting contacts and opportunities. Or, sponsor an event.

Promoting is an ongoing process, but the more time you spend doing it, the wider your fan base will become.  Your success relies on the effort you put forth, and with any luck, you’ll go from a “who?” to the well-known reputation of U2.

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Find Out What It Takes to Rock Beyonce-Style Confidence

It’s hard to ignore the stage presence and larger-than-life personalities of divas like Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Tina Turner.  They’ve certainly made a name for themselves, and this year on December 19th, VH1 will be celebrating these women at the VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul concert series.  The show will pay tribute to the “great cities of soul music,” recognize the impact soul music has had on the 21st century’s music and pop culture, and feature performances from the likes of Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, and Florence + The Machine.

As our own tribute to these fearless females, today we’re exploring how you can become a more confident performer – something that these divas radiate with each breath – courtesy of Bulletproof Musician (see also: our tips earlier this week for overcoming stage fright).  Learn how to strut your stuff and you’ll be sure to make a Beyonce-style impression at your next audition or performance.

First off, let’s discuss the misconceptions of self-confidence.

The good news is that confidence is something you can change – and that you actually have quite a bit of control over your level of self-confidence. This may come as something of a surprise to you, as there are many who believe that confidence is largely a character trait, that you either have it or you don’t. Others think that only success or positive feedback can build confidence, and that you can’t make mistakes or experience “failure” if you want to become more confident.

Well, it turns out that these are all just misconceptions. Many musicians suffer from a great deal of self-doubt and insecurities, despite great success.  So what do you have to do to become more confident, you ask?

Ready to be like Beyonce?

One of the keys to becoming a more confident performer is mastering your self-talk.

Self-talk is the term that psychologists use to describe that internal dialogue we all have with ourselves throughout the day. You know, the one that calls us clumsy when we stub our toe on the bedpost, or an absent-minded idiot when we get back from the grocery store and realize we’ve forgotten the one thing we went there for. Some of us talk out loud or mumble to ourselves, others keep it all inside, but we all have that voice inside our head that is often very difficult to turn off.

Mastering Self-Talk

Keep in mind that your subconscious mind is listening to everything that you say to yourself, and that it doesn’t have a filter. It will take in everything that you say, and over time, unconditionally accept the most consistent messages as reality – whether this is actually true or not.

The vast majority of the thoughts that your mind generates when you are under pressure are unhelpful. They are often irrelevant (“Hmm…I wonder what I should eat for dinner”), overly analytical (“Keep your thumb unclenched, fingers light, elbow around, shoulder down…”), or self-destructive (“Uh-oh, here comes that passage that I screwed up in rehearsals”).

If you can identify these thoughts, the next step is to create a self-talk log.  Pick a piece that you’re working on that’s particularly challenging, and record yourself performing it.  While playing, pay attention to anytime you have a thought – pause, and repeat it out loud so your audio recording captures it.  When you’re done, take note of all of the thoughts you had throughout your practice session.

How many of them were critical, unsupportive, irrelevant, distracting, and the type of remark that you would never say to a friend? Did you insult yourself or make personal attacks? Were you able to keep your mind rooted in the present, or did your thoughts linger on mistakes or even review past incidents when you’ve made that same mistake? Did your thoughts project into the future?

If you notice a pattern, it’s time to make a change.  From now on, each time you hear yourself engaging in negative self-talk, “overwrite” it with more supportive, constructive and self-supporting thoughts.  For example, instead of thinking “Why do I always rush that passage and mess it up? I’m such a screw-up!”, think  “Hey, take it easy. Even the best make mistakes too. Get refocused and move on. Plenty of time to figure out why this happened later.”  Even if the positive thoughts seem corny or fake, the idea is to come up with thoughts that help you feel more positively inside, and ultimately keep you moving towards success.

Follow these steps and your new-found confidence will help you with auditions, performances and more – in fact, it might be the most important facet of your success as a musician!

Readers: what strategies do you use to keep your confidence level up?  Do you practice these tips of monitoring your inner voice?

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Overcoming Stage Fright: 4 Important Steps

Boy with stage frightDo your palms sweat every time you get up in front of others to perform?  If you get nervous when all eyes are on you, you’re not alone.  Most musicians, at some point in their careers, have experienced stage fright or battled nerves.  But forget the age-old advice of imagining the audience in their underwear – here the steps to follow that really work for overcoming stage fright…

Step 1: Self-Assessment
Get to know yourself as a musician and as a performer.  For example…
– What are your capabilities and limitations as a performer?
– Ask yourself: “What am I really afraid of?” Worst-case scenario—you run off the stage and everyone laughs hysterically. That’s unlikely, and might give you perspective into the realities of what it is you are really afraid of.
– Try not to confuse self-assessment with self-criticism!

Step 2: Gradual Exposure and Preparation
– Look for opportunities for exposure to mild to moderate levels of stress that challenge but do not overwhelm your coping skills, such as visualization of the performance.
– Other examples: practice performances, dress rehearsals, taping yourself and playing back.
– Be thoroughly prepared. Nothing replaces adequate time spent in rehearsal and practice! (See also: How to REALLY Maximize Your Practice Time).

Step 3: During the Performance
– Rather than blocking out the audience, or seeing them in their underwear, try seeing them as allies who are generally supportive and want you to do well.
– Remember, most performers have to contend with anxiety – it comes with the territory. You’re in good company!
– Feelings of anxiety are natural, and can be used to your advantage.
– Act calmly, even if you feel nervous. The more you dwell on anxiety, the more you are likely to remain preoccupied with it.
– Try to overlook errors when you perform. Overall impressions are more important to the audience than note-perfect performances.
– Enjoy what you’ve accomplished! Others are more likely to enjoy it this way, too.

Step 4: After the Performance

– Temper external feedback with internal beliefs and expectations you have already established.
– Asking others for feedback without asking yourself first might be depriving yourself of a significant source of valid information about your performance: YOU.

View the full article, Coping With Music Performance Anxiety, here.

If your music goals involve overcoming stage fright and building your stage confidence, we hope these tips help you perform your best.  And if your nerves still get the best of you – don’t dwell on it afterward.  Celebrate your accomplishments, and keep working toward your goal!

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You might also like…
What’s Causing Your Stage Fright?
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Music Lessons for Adults: It’s Never Too Late to Start!

guitar students

For adults with hectic schedules and limited free time, learning to play an instrument at this stage in their lives may seem like a pipe dream.  Sure, it would be fun to fulfill that childhood dream of learning to play the piano or jam on the guitar, but other priorities such as work or family commitments often prevent many adults from leaping into music lessons with the same enthusiasm they might have felt at a younger age.

But if you have the passion and desire to play music, it’s never too late to get started with lessons; in fact, there are many positive benefits for adults who take music lessons, including the following:

–Music lessons help with job skills such as creative thinking, collaboration, social aptitude, expressive communication, and confidence.
–Music lessons provide a creative outlet that balances work life, family life, and personal time.
–Music lessons can help lower stress.
–Music lessons provide a way to be involved with others that share similar interests.
–Music lessons help seniors stay active, vibrant, and mentally sharp.

For adult students who are just beginning their musical journey, the process of learning to sing or play an instrument can certainly be daunting.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Keep expectations realistic. Regardless of whether or not you have ever played an instrument before, there will be a learning curve.  Don’t expect to play like a pro straight away; instead, set realistic goals of milestones you’d like to achieve in the next week, month, and so on.  Track your progress and make the necessary adjustments to ensure you are on track to meeting your goals.

Trust your teacher. Your teacher is there to help you reach your goals.  More than likely, this person is a professional with many years of experience – take advantage of the fact that you are working with someone who is an expert at playing their instrument, and ask for their advice.  In turn, your teacher should take the time to learn about you as a student, identifying your strengths and weaknesses and then tailoring each lesson to your needs.

Success takes time. We’ve all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect,” and if you want to master your instrument, you need to practice.  This time commitment can be a deterrent for those with busy schedules, but you can still learn an instrument even if you don’t have much time to practice – just expect the process to take longer and your progress to be slower.  As long as you stay focused and motivated, you will be able to achieve your goals.

TakeLessons offers music lessons for adults and students of all ages.
Want to learn more? You might also like…
5 Key Benefits of Taking Music Lessons as an Adult
Is Your 9-to-5 Draining Your Creativity?
Excel at Music By Acting Like a Child