The Ins and Outs of Recording a Demo

Record musicIn a big boom for the music industry, Adele has surpassed the 5 million sales mark this week, the first artist to hit that record in one year since 2004.  The feat is great for the industry, which as a whole has been struggling the past few years.  According to Reuters, album sales have been decreasing an average of 8 percent each year since 2000, with a jump to 13 percent between 2009 and 2010.   As more fans turn to digital music, it will be interesting to see how this affects album sales in the future.

If recording an album is on your bucket list – or if you’re hoping to make it big in the industry – it’s time to stop making excuses!  If you don’t have the funds for a studio session, there are tons of recording programs available to help you become a pro in your own home.  And once you have that demo, the sky’s the limit.  Send it out to record labels, sell it at any open mics or gigs you go to, and don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth.

Here’s a great list we found to keep your to-do list in check as you prepare for recording a demo:

1. Pick your recording venue. Are you going to book a studio? Are you going to record at home using your computer? Make sure whichever venue you choose is equipped with everything you need, and if you’re recording at home, make sure you understand the acoustical quirks of the room.

2. Choose your recording method. There are two basic choices available to you:  Recording live – that is, all instruments and vocals being recorded in one take – produces a raw, rough sound.  Or multi-track recording – each instrument being recorded independently on its own track- gives cleaner and more polished sound.  The right one for you depends on the music you are making. Hardcore punk? Go live. Radio friendly pop? Go multi-track.

3. Set up. For the drums, each individual drum should be miked, and the cymbals should each have two mics. The bass and guitar should each go through a DI. If you have a double guitar part, or to get a really clean sound, the guitarist can have a mic plus be hooked up to an amp in separate room, to prevent bleed of the amp sound into the mic.

4. Record. Time to do the actual recording. Don’t get caught up in the details and don’t record for hours on end. A demo should be short, sweet, and to the point.

5. Mix your recording.
Remember that labels don’t expect a demo to be perfect.  If you’re recording at home on a computer, and mixing is easy enough, don’t feel pressured to execute a perfect mix. A rough mix is fine.  If you’re recording in a studio, the engineer or producer can mix your recording for you.

6. Master your recording. (This step is completely optional.) Mastering involves a final EQ process and also adds a bit of compression. Keep in mind that people who master recordings have styles all their own; no two people will master the same recording in the same way. If you decide to get your recording mastered, make sure you get an unmastered copy as well, in case you don’t like the finished product.

Looking for music recording lessons?  Search for a teacher nearby here!

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5 Tips for Making Sure Your Band Doesn’t Suck

Today Paul McCartney announced his upcoming album, set for release on February 7th, featuring cover songs he deemed as key influences for his and John Lennon’s songwriting, as well as two new songs.  The album will come as an answer to the topic that Beatles fans have often analyzed, even four decades after the band’s break-up: what exactly inspired the guys?

Of course, despite their fame and fortune, the Beatles’ career wasn’t always smooth sailing.  But if you’re considering starting a band, it’s usually best to avoid the drama.  Here, check out advice from on starting and maintaining a band:


Know your place
Are you a lead guitarist full of great solos? That’s beautiful, just don’t start spamming solos where they don’t belong. Are you a rhythm guitarist? Good, then keep rhythm and don’t start doing whacky stuff. The same goes for everybody: know what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it, and then do what you have to at the right time. A lot of people forget this.

Criticize each other
Don’t be afraid to point out mistakes, no matter how small. Chances are that whoever makes a mistake doesn’t even realize they do, until it gets pointed out. And be as blunt about it as you can. If someone can’t take the criticism, get rid of him/her. It sounds harsh, but it’s necessary. Nobody likes getting rid of a band member, but sometimes you just have to. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Your band members are great people and good friends, if you’ve done things right so far, but sometimes they just don’t fit with your band.

Learn to compensate for mistakes
One important point when playing live is learning what to do when somebody makes a mistake. This is something you have to feel as a band, simply because you can’t go over every possible mistake during rehearsal. But something you shouldn’t do is try to catch up when you miss a beat, e.g. play the notes you should have played, only at the wrong time, to arrive back at where you are supposed to be at some point. Play something else, or play nothing at all and let your band handle it. A general rule is that if it sounds good, it’s not a big deal. The exception is a solo; these are usually really hard to pick up once you’ve made a mistake, and you can’t just stop playing. Usually, the only options you have are to accept that you messed up and just keep playing, or to signal the band to skip the solo in some way.

Listen to your audience
This can’t be stressed enough. Listen to all the feedback you get, negative or positive, and if they have a valid point, do something with it. Your audience listens to your music in an entirely different way than you do, so listen to what they have to say. You may feel you messed up, but chances are nobody even noticed. Or maybe you feel like you made no mistakes, but somebody noticed something after all.

Make a good setlist
This is more important than you might think. A setlist can make or break a performance. You need to make sure every song you play belongs in your setlist, and you need to put the songs in the right order. All this depends on the kind of music you play and what you’re going for as a band. Do you want to just start with a bang and get the audience going immediately? Start with a high-tempo song with a fast solo. Or maybe you want to get the audience going slowly, ease them into your performance? Then start with a nice, slow ballad. It’s all a matter of feeling things, trying things, and listening to what your audience said about past performances. Do what feels right, and think of what you would like to hear if you were in the audience.

More often than not, it’s not only about how talented you are – if you don’t have a good rapport and friendship with your band members, it can end up a disaster.  Do you agree?  Let us know!  Leave a comment below.

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Discover Lady Gaga’s Get-Rich Secrets

Lady Gaga may have a “Bad Romance,” but it’s no secret she also has a exceptional bank account.  Forbes recently named her the top-earning female in the music industry, leading the list with earnings of over $90 million in the past year in album sales, touring and endorsements.  Sure beats being a starving musician, right?

Fortunately, you don’t have to sell out to be successful – here are 5 tips that will help you get on your way to making money as a musician, courtesy of Keith Hatschek at Artists House Music:

Rule #1: Always Bring Your “A” Game

Making the decision to spend your life as a professional musician is a big commitment. Once you’ve made that decision, you need to focus on bringing your “A” game to every interaction that impacts your music studies, performances, networking and other points of contact with what we loosely call the music industry.

Never put a half-hearted effort into anything musical. First, the competition to get work and keep working is fierce in every city and town in the world. Second, since so much of the music industry is based on personal relationships and reputations, if word gets out that you gave a weak effort at a gig or rehearsal, chances are you may not be getting a call back in the future.

Rule #2: Get Out of Your Practice Room

Isn’t practicing supposed to be the road to musical success, more gigs and maybe even superstardom? Well, no, it’s not.  Actually, your musical chops, whether you are a shred guitarist or a composer of madrigals, is only one part of your overall career skill set. Not to say that playing, singing, of composing extremely well is not absolutely essential. It is.  But there are thousands of talented guitarists who can play every lick by whoever the hot guitarist of the month is but seldom play a gig. Why?

They spend their lives studying music, perfecting their skills, however they are unfortunately violating one of the most important rules of music career building. You must develop connections to people and institutions (think clubs, radio stations, booking agents, other bands, etc.) that are like-minded and can help you.  Ask around your local music store or music school about meeting up with some people who are interested in similar types of music, careers, etc. Find a club that hires bands like yours to play, go to a show, get the phone number of the booker and get your promo kit into their hands.

Rule #3: Nurture Your Network

All of us have a network of friends, family, and most of us have various professional connections. This is your current network. To fast track your career you need to continually work to expand your network, adding persons who can help you grow your career and you need to keep in touch with your network.

Start today by making a list of everyone who you would consider supporting your music career goals and ambitions. Then, set a goal of adding a few people each month to your network, as well as giving support and aid to the members of your network.

Rule #4: Get a Music Industry Day Gig

This is counterintuitive to many talented young artists. Why should I get a day gig when I could/should be practicing my brains out, much less a music industry day gig?  Aside from keeping home and hearth together, using your love, knowledge and passion for music to help a music industry company meet some of their goals is a fantastic way to expand your network, and learn more about an area of the industry that you will be involved in when your career takes off.

For example, a rock musician may learn quite a bit about record distribution or radio airplay by working at a well-managed record store or a radio station that features the types of music you perform.  An aspiring opera singer can learn a tremendous amount about how opera companies or other non-profit arts organizations are managed by working for an opera, theater company or orchestra.  An aspiring jazz drummer may forge many useful connections by teaching beginning drummers at a well-managed music store, opening up the opportunities to meet drum manufacturers, clinicians and other drum and percussion professionals.

Remember, flipping burgers is not likely to help your career onto the fast track we all want to be on!

Rule #5: Keep Your Sense of Humor

Did anyone tell you the music industry is a pretty crazy way to make a living? One minute your life can be filled with the rapture of a musical triumph, and the next day you’ll be wallowing in agonizing doubt because you didn’t get a call back for a crucial audition.  In order to cope with the stress and struggle of a career in music it is absolutely essential that you maintain a sense of humor, as well as a few non-musical outlets to allow you to keep on an even keel.

Take charge of your career and good things will start to happen.  Really!

Any additional tips you’d like to share?  How do you keep your sanity if the money isn’t rolling in?  Let us know – leave a comment and join the discussion!

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5 Things To AVOID For Aspiring Musicians

If you’re an aspiring musician, you’ve most likely researched all of the great advice to reaching your goals – build a strong network, and of course, practice! – but what are some things you should avoid?  While those are great “Do’s”, we found some great “Don’ts” on and thought it was important enough to pass along.  Check out just a few things to avoid here:

1. Stress. Yes, stress! Stress causes fatigue and fatigue is a no-no for a musician because it can affect your voice.  It can block your mind and hinder you from being creative.  Lastly, you can’t function very well under stress, and this means you can’t produce or process things normally.

2. Procrastinating. This is very important – a musician is all about inspiration, and procrastinating is not a very good habit to have when you suddenly get inspired.  When that creativity hits, get to work!

3. Not setting goals. Goals are what motivate people and drive them to wherever or whatever they want to achieve. By not setting goals you are asking for a career suicide.

4. Not doing anything to become known. If you are an indie or underground musician, you should start working on getting your name out there – every famous musician was unknown at one point!  Applying for gigs is one good way of promoting yourself.

5. Giving up. No matter how many trials and errors or how many unsuccessful song you have made, if you are a true musician, you will never give up.  Instead, you will strive to create a name for yourself and a genre of your own.

Readers, what do you think?  What other things are YOU avoiding along your musical path?

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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 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, 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 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!