How to Memorize Any Piece of Music: 5 Easy-to-Follow Steps

Do you want to learn how to memorize music? Check out the five simple tips below from our friends at Soundfly. Note: This article was originally published on Soundfly…

Memorizing music is invaluable in the eternal quest of learning and growth. From strengthening your ears to widening your understanding of compositional structure and recognizing patterns, there is no quicker way to develop into a well-rounded musician than to leave your charts at home and memorize the music you play, practice, and perform.

Why write about how to memorize music? For one thing, I am of the belief that you can’t truly know a song until you no longer need to read it off of a piece of a paper. As rhythm players, once you can get off the page, you’ll be able to anticipate changes and sit comfortably in the groove, instead of reconciling your trouble spots and letting them dominate you.

And as lead players, a song won’t really come alive until you’re able to weave your way through the changes without constantly having to look at a piece of paper for a roadmap — it’s in your ears. So here are my five steps on how to memorize any piece of music.

1. Understand the whole piece

Never try and jump into learning a composition piecemeal if you aren’t familiar with it yet. The learning process will be smoother if you know how things come together in the long run. Do this by listening to recordings of the piece first — no instrument required.

2. Identify a song’s basic form and changes first

You’ll want to familiarize yourself with all the moments when the song changes, or where you hear repeated/thematic material. Here’s where you get to put your ears to work, for those who aren’t familiar with reading music (if you are interested in starting to read music, here’s a free online course).

But if you do have a chart, read along to see what you can use from the written material. More complicated music, such as jazz standards, will often have charts with the melody and the chords written, and to truly understand the song, there’s no substitute for knowing both.

Is the song in verse-chorus form, or an AABA, or a blues of some sort? The more you can recognize these types of structures for yourself, the easier it will be to keep learning new music.

3. Don’t always start memorizing music from the beginning

In fact, you can start wherever you want! By now you understand the form, and you can work within the roadmap of the material, if there’s a hook that’s already in your head, or just a few bars of the chord changes that you happen to recognize, you can start there.

You’ll be chopping up the music anyhow, so don’t worry about that yet — you’ll know it all like the back of your hand (does anyone actually know the back of their own hand?) once you’re done learning all the pieces.

4. Break it up into small, manageable blocks

Treat each block as its own unit to be learned, understood and explored. Let’s say, for example, that you’re setting out to learn a piece of music like the old Miles Davis classic song “Tune Up.”

This was one of the first jazz standards I ever learned. A quick listen to the song gives you the basic gist of the form and melody, and then looking through the chords and melody on paper provide some great clues for how to think your way through it. Here’s a chart to follow along with.

First of all, according to the chart, this is a 16-bar piece. No bridges, no first or second endings. We begin with a melody line and a harmonic pattern, the classic ii-V-I progression, that starts in the key of D for the first four bars, and then repeats in the second four-bar phrase, but down a whole step to the key of C. The third set of four bars is very similar to the first two, but introducing some variation to the melody — and briefly, in the harmony.

The last four bars function as a turnaround, to bring us back home to the top of the tune, with the chords to be played as a soloist improvises, weaving through the harmony. Just understanding the functions of these chords will help to improve your understanding of a piece like this, and while “Tune Up” isn’t the most complicated jazz standard, using this type of “break-it-down-and-put-it-back-together” mentality will help in the deciphering of other great composers such as George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

5. Then put it all together like a jigsaw puzzle!

Now the tune is in your head. You can leave the music at home. Use your ears. If there are discrepancies between bandmates on what the correct chords or melody are, the recordings always trump sheet music, but in the end what’s most important is what you decide to do together. Now you know the song and you can be an asset to your band, while continuing to develop your own learning and musical growth! And that’s what it should be all about. If you don’t yet know how to read music, don’t be discouraged. Of course, some of the greatest players didn’t have a clue about how to decipher tiny black dots on a page.

But if you’re looking for a quick shot of inspiration, start by marveling at the fact that humans created and developed a system of communicating sound and rhythm, from paper. Without needing to know any language, only the occasional markings to specify dynamics, two people who have absolutely nothing in common culturally and linguistically can learn the same composition from the same piece of paper. Music truly is the language of the heart — why not learn to speak it?


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100+ Online Tools and Resources for Musicians

Are you ready to take the music scene by storm? As a musician, you’re well aware of how difficult it is to make a name for yourself or your band.

Practicing until the wee hours of the night, juggling several odd jobs, and traveling to play multiple gigs are just a few of the sacrifices you make as a musician.

Luckily, there are a ton of online music resources that can help make your life easier, including platforms that help you find gigs and websites that assist in promoting your band.

Since we know you’re busy being a rock star, we’ve rounded up over 100 of the best online music resources that will help take your career to the next level.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in the game for some time, these music resources are sure to help you.

Sick of rehearsing in your studio apartment? Or is your current space too expensive? Here’s a list of online resources that you can use to find the perfect rehearsal space that fits within your budget.

  • Fractured Atlas: Through their SpaceFinder program, Fractured Atlas helps artists find the space they need, while helping venues promote and rent their spaces. It’s a win-win.
  • Musicnomad: Musicnomad does all the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is type in your zip code, specify the mile radius, and choose your perfect space.
  • Rehearsal space finder: Rehearsal Space Finder is another easy-to-use service. Just enter your location and what you’re looking for and you will be presented with a list of nearby venues.
  • Craigslist: If you’re looking for a low-cost option, browse Craigslist for a rehearsal space near you. Oftentimes, rates are more negotiable.

Booking gigs on a consistent basis is extremely important for both promotional and monetary reasons. Here’s a list of online tools that will help you book more music gigs.

  • Gigsalad: Gigsalad, a platform in which party planners can find and book talent, is great for local musicians. Signing up is easy; all you have to do is create a profile and wait to get booked.
  • ReverbNation: ReverbNation is dedicated to helping emerging artists build their careers. The platform’s “Gig Finder” tool helps artists connect with different venues, festivals, publishers, and labels.
  • Gigmasters: Similar to Gigsalad, Gigmasters is a platform where people can book various vendors, including DJ’s, singers, and live bands. The website allows you to create a customized profile and choose from a range of memberships.
  • Splitgigs: Splitgigs is a unique social network that allows artists to “split” their gigs with other artists. This website is great for those who are just getting their feet wet. You can also find music gigs uploaded by venues and organizers.

Additional tools:

Need some help promoting your band? Below are some great websites for getting your name out there and generating fans. Don’t forget social media too!

  • CDbaby: CDbaby has a number of different partnerships with brands that can help promote your band. For example, FanBridge, PledgeMusic, and
  • Dizzyjam: Dizzyjam is a free online service in which musicians can create and sell branded merchandise. To get started, create your personalized shop, and then develop products for sale.
  • BandPage: BandPage is another easy-to-use platform. Upload your profile, bio, pictures, videos, tracks, and tour dates and BandPage will update that information across the Web for you.
  • BandApp: Perfect for musicians who have a solid fan base, BandApp allows users to share music, tour dates, and news directly with fans—for free!
  • Music Gorilla: Music Gorilla connects artists with industry professionals. Artists can sign up, upload music, and create a profile page. What’s more, the company does live, label showcases and provides artists with film and television placement opportunities.

Additional tools:

Whether you want to share one song or an entire album, there are a variety of websites in which you can share your music with fans around the world.  Check out the ones below!

  • Radio Airplay: With Radio Airplay, musicians’ music plays on stations featuring the popular artists they choose. What’s more, artists have access to reports and data about their fan base.
  • Stageit: With Stagit, artists perform live online shows via their mobile device. Fans can ask questions or request songs. Fans can also monetarily support their favorite artists.
  • On SoundCloud: On SoundCloud is SoundCloud’s newest partner program for musicians. It allows artists to upload music, build a profile, and manage stats.
  • Melody Fusion: Melody Fusion is a website in which artists can share their music for free. Musicians can also get feedback from their peers, take master classes, and find a mentor.

Additional tools:

Keeping track of your finances, tour dates, and more can be exhausting, especially if you’re doing it all yourself. Here’s a list of online tools that will help you better manage everything.

  • Bandbook: Bandbook makes your life easier. Within the platform, you can manage your schedule, track your expenses, and send private messages to anyone with a Bandbook account.
  • Artist Growth: Great for both managers and musicians, Artist Growth helps individuals schedule events, create reports, track finances, and manage tour merch all from one place.
  • TeamSnap: With TeamSnap, you can manage member’s contact information, coordinate upcoming events, track group fees, and share files within the group.
  • BandHelper: BandHelper takes care of all the annoying logistical details—such as expense reports, set lists, and more—so you can concentrate on making music.

Additional tools:

Entering music competitions is a great way to get exposure, connect with industry folks, and earn some much-needed cash. Check out the music competitions below.

  • Unsigned Only: Unsigned Only was produced by the same team that created the International Songwriting Competition. Solo artists, bands, and singers can enter a wide range of categories, including rock, pop, country, and vocal performance.
  • OurStage: Artists can enter original music into any of OurStage’s genre-based channels for a chance to win. Winners are featured on Amazing Radio, which boasts an international listening audience of thousands.
  • Hal Leonard Vocal Competition: The Hal Leonard Vocal Competition is a music competition for voice students comprised entirely of YouTube video entries.
  • International Songwriting Competition: The International Songwriting Competition is an annual song contest for amateur and established songwriters. The contest is judged by an impressive panel of judges, offering great exposure for artists.

Additional tools:

Brush up on industry trends and get expert advice from peers by browsing through these awesome online music resources. Don’t forget to bookmark your favorite ones!

  • Making Music Magazine: Making Music Magazine is a lifestyle resource for all types of music makers, featuring professional musician stories, instructional articles, gear guides, and more.
  • Passive Promotion: Created by Brian Hazard, a music veteran with 20 years of experience, Passive Promotion gives artists applicable advice about music promotion. He also regularly features reviews about new platforms.
  • Hypebot: Hypebot features a variety of useful articles for artists. For example, the website features dedicated pages on social media use and music technology.
  • Music Industry Inside Out: Music Industry Inside Out is a music industry knowledge hub filled with expert advice from music industry professionals. The website offers different course topics, such as funding your music, book keeping, and applying for festivals.
  • Make it in Music: Make it in Music is a great website for emerging artists. It has a ton of advice about how to make it big, including how to build your fan base and how to approach a record label.
  • New Artist Model: New Artist Model, an online music business school for artists, has an amazing blog, which regularly features strategies and advice for independent musicians.

Additional tools:

Do you need a branded website or flyers for your next show? Here’s a list of online resources that can help you develop and organize different kinds of marketing materials.

  • BandZoogle: Bandzoogle describes itself as a website builder created by musicians for musicians. The website will help you create a customized website where you can sell merch, tickets, videos, and more.
  • CASH Music: This nonprofit organization helps musicians manage their mailing list, sell music, and organize their digital world—free of charge!
  • Haulix: Haulix is a one-stop-shop for musicians. Using the platform, you can create promos, manage contacts, track progress, and more.
  • Bandcamp: This free service does just about everything. Not only can artists share music with fans, but they can also get stats on who’s linking to them, where their music is embedded, and which tracks are most and least popular.

Additional tools:

Are you looking to join or start a band? Or maybe you just want to network with other musicians? Here are some music resources that can help you do just that.

  • Kompoz: Kompoz is the ultimate collaboration tool for artists. The website allows you to upload your song idea and collaborate with other musicians from around the world.
  • Indaba Music: Indaba is a place where musicians can collaborate with some of the biggest artists and bands in the world to create new music.
  • Bandmix: Bandmix is the largest musicians wanted and musician classifieds website. Users can search through thousands of musicians in their area.
  • AirGigs: With AirGigs, songwriters and producers can connect with top studio musicians, singers, and engineers and virtually collaborate on projects.

Additional tools:

As a musician, you’re always working on your craft. Here’s a list of educational music resources that will help you sharpen your musical skills so you can perform at your best.

  • TakeLessons: With TakeLessons Live you have access to live online classes led by high-quality music teachers who specialize in everything from ukulele to piano. Take music lessons in the comfort of your own home with its free app.
  • is a great online resource if you want to learn more about music theory. It has tons of free exercises and tools.
  • If you’re looking for sheet music, look no further than The website has tons of free sheet music in a wide range of musical styles, such as blues, classic rock, contemporary, and country.
  • Berklee Online: Berklee Online’s video library has a number of educational videos, including in-depth lessons, exclusive clinics, and course overviews that artists are sure to find helpful.

Additional tools:

Looking for some top-notch gear to help sound your best? Here’s a list of online music equipment stores that offer high-quality instruments and gear at great prices.

  • Music Go Round: Music Go Around sells used musical instruments, such as guitars, amps, drums, and violins, at competitive prices. As an added bonus, you can sell or trade-in your old gear.
  • Music123: From lighting and stage effects to orchestra, Music123 offers over 65,000 products. The website boasts in-depth product information and reviews.
  • Musician’s Friend: Musician’s Friend has a great selection of music instruments and equipment. Don’t forget to check out their blog, called The HUB, for artist interviews, product reviews, buying guides, and more.
  • Sweetwater: Sweetwater is dedicated to keeping its customers satisfied, which is why the company offers a wide range of gear at great prices and free shipping to lower 48 states.

Additional tools:

  • Notating: An independent community with forums, downloads, and news, Notating caters to composers, engravers, and anyone interested in music notation.
  • SongTrust: SongTrust ensures that musicians and songwriters are able to confidently manage their music publishing. The website simplifies everything from the administration of music publishing assets to digital licensing.
  • SonicAngel: SonicAngel offers several different options for artists. For example, musicians can crowdfund their campaigns on the platform of its partner,
  • CoPromote: CoPromote is a network of artists dedicated to helping one another grow their fan base by cross-promoting social posts.
  • Radar Music Videos: Need a music video? Through Radar, artists can reach out to up and coming filmmakers to get their music video developed.

Additional tools:

Let’s face it; making it in the music industry is hard–but not impossible. Take advantage of these 100+ online music resources and tools to help manage, promote, and distribute your music. Good luck!

Did we miss your favorite online music tool or resource? Tell us about it in the comments below and we will add it to the list!

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5 Ways To Make Money Playing Violin

5798939739_7bffcf4d6f_bWhen you think about making money using your skills as a violin player, violin teacher jobs might be the first thing that comes to mind. But there are so many more options! Here are some ideas from Brooklyn, NY teacher Julie P...


The ability to play the violin is a very marketable skill. If you’re looking for violin teacher jobs, working at a school or teaching private lessons is a great way to earn money. But if you’d prefer to just play and perform, there are a number of opportunities open for you to make money with your violin playing.

1. Special Events

Special events such as weddings, funerals, bridal or baby showers, and church services are great places for violin players to provide music. Any of these events may call for a solo violinist, but often they call for string quartets or trios. The types of music requested are usually classical and light jazz/pop, but it really depends on the event. Churches often use violinists as part of larger orchestras for special services around Christmas and Easter, or as a solo instrument for weddings and funerals. Some funeral homes keep a database of musicians to contact when clients request special music.

2. Playing in Bands

If you play any music in the rock/pop/folk/bluegrass/jazz genres, you could make money playing violin in a band. Since the violin is often a featured instrument in these groups, playing in a band is great for people who enjoy performing as a soloist. Some groups provide written music, but often the violin player improvises their own parts, so it’s important to be able to improvise and play by ear. You can also work your way up to soloing with musicians such as Celine Dion, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones.

3. Cruise Ship Entertainment

Many cruise ships hire string groups (often trios) to play mostly classical music in the dining room, as well as in places like the grand promenade on large cruise ships. If you have your own group and possess the proper repertoire, this can be a great opportunity to get performance experience while also seeing different parts of the world. Cruise ships pay a weekly salary and also provide room and board free of charge. Some cruise ship companies have websites that list opportunities for musicians, but often your best bet is to find an agency that books acts on cruise ships.

4. Musical Theater

Many musical theater productions call for violinists. If you enjoy this kind of music and don’t mind playing the same thing for multiple nights in a row, playing for a musical can be a great way to make money. The top level for this kind of playing is Broadway, where the pay is quite high. But opportunities exist in almost all major cities, as well as at high schools, colleges, and community theaters.

5. Symphony Orchestra

The violin sections of professional and semi-professional symphony orchestras are made up of some of the very best classical players in the world. Getting a job in one of these orchestras is very difficult and consists of passing at least one audition, if not more. The amount of money these orchestras pay their members depends on the number of services (rehearsals or performances) that make up their season, as well as the performance level of the orchestra itself. The top orchestras pay a full-time salary while the semi-pro groups often pay a set amount per service. Audition notices may be posted in union papers and some trade magazines/journals.

For any of the ways to make money playing violin listed above, you have to be a solid player as well as have good networking skills. Musicians are often recommended and hired by word of mouth, so it pays to know as many people as possible in your field. It’s also important to conduct yourself professionally in all work situations, and be easy to get along with. If people have a good time on the gig with you, chances are they’ll want to work with you again.

If one of these five ways to make money playing the violin appeals to you but you don’t have the necessary skills yet, private lessons are a great way to move toward your goal. Find the right teacher to help you achieve your goals today!

JuliePJulie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!



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What Does it Take to Become a Session Musician?


Want to earn money playing and performing music? Set yourself up on the path to success with these career tips from Corona, CA music teacher Milton J.


Many aspiring musicians dream of being discovered and becoming the next best superstar. However, many others must also face the music that there is a certain amount of luck and chance in getting that seven-figure record deal. In lieu of sitting, waiting, and wishing for that big break, creating smaller breaks for yourself could make that eventual discovery much easier for A&R representatives and record executives, not to mention creating a source of income for yourself in the industry you love.

Some of your interests may include songwriting, producing, band leading, or being a creative manager of a music project. These roles often define the dynamics of a band or production, and can help you achieve your eventual goal of sustained financial gains and fame. They also own the most profitable portions of the music industry — copyrighted songs and publishing and performance royalties. Yes, that means the person who writes the lyrics and the melodies can potentially earn just as much or more than the artist who sings and performs it.

If you have an interest in instrumental or supportive work in a band as opposed to or in conjunction with songwriting, session musicianship would be a perfect launching pad for you. Musicians who choose to engage in session musicianship work with lots of different people, which makes for a successful career by sharing technical and musical expertise with many walks of life in the music industry. In order to do this successfully, you need to build yourself a good reputation and network constantly to create as many connections as possible. If this appeals to your twinkling piano or guitar fingers or tickles your vocal cords, here are some helpful tips on readying yourself to be a successful session musician!

Be Technically Proficient

Whether for recordings or live gigs, you need to be able to get it right, and fast! Sight reading or the ability to pick up songs by ear are very useful in this case (that means private music lessons with your local TakeLessons teacher are a must!).

Be Stylistically Versatile

Being able to play in multiple genres of music will increase your possible session gigs, which will lead to more opportunities and financial gains!

Be a Diplomat

Give your opinion if someone asks for it, but don’t overstep your boundaries, as you’re there to help fulfill a vision.

Be Picky

To begin, accepting session gigs from anyone from various genres will help to build your name and enhance your session workshop aptitude, but after a while you should focus on choosing bands that are professional and give you an element of security in terms of work, tours, earnings, and payouts or shares of future royalties.

Be Flexible With Your Time and Money

You have to be prepared to be away for an extended period of time at the drop of a hat if you’re asked to go on tour with an artist. Also, sometimes you may have a downturn in potential session gigs, and you’ll need to be financially prudent. Prepare yourself for these possibilities with your housing, bills, and finances.

Become a Multi-Instrumentalist

Being able to play multiple instruments (I personally play guitar and piano in addition to vocals) gives you more opportunities to help out and fill in with various roles, which can both set you apart from other session musicians and lead to increased pay.

Know Your Gear

Being knowledgable about – as well as owning your own – equipment is important. It makes everything easier if you show up ready to go with all your gear, and you know what to do with it to help provide the sound the lead artist is looking for.

Know Your Rights

Make sure you have clear and written-consented agreements on recordings about any royalty entitlements.

Frequent a Place With a Thriving Music Scene

Although the Internet surely helps to solve this problem to an extent, it’s a good idea to frequent an area where you know and work with the local music scene and/or touring acts, which could lead to more work opportunities and good honest connections.

Identify With Your Music

This will make your career much more fulfilling, and will show the best and most expressive side of your musicality. Isn’t this what it’s all about?

If this sounds like something you would like to pursue, then the world is truly your oyster. Time is of the essence to channel your love for music into your job!

MiltonJMilton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!



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What Does it Take to Become a Music Therapist?

how to become a music therapist

Curious about some of the career options you have that involve playing and performing music — but don’t want to be on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans? Learn how to become a music therapist and what the job entails in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R


The therapeutic effects of music are no secret; just think of how much better your favorite song makes you feel after a bad day. One excellent way to channel music into a career – and to help others along the way – is to become a music therapist. Music therapy capitalizes on the soothing, healing aspects of music to help people in difficult situations.

Music therapists work with all kinds of people, from those with physical or mental disabilities to those dealing with terminal illness. By applying music in a scientific way, these professionals are often able to achieve impressive results. Whether you want to become a music therapist or simply looking to hire one, it helps to understand what it takes to become a music therapist.

What is a Music Therapist?

A music therapist is a therapist who uses music to treat patients. Unlike other therapists, who often work in offices (think of the stereotypical “therapist’s couch”), music therapists often work directly in hospitals, clinics, and other centers where their services are needed. They sing and play guitar and piano during sessions.

What Are the Benefits of Music Therapy?

Music therapists often work with specific demographics of people for whom normal therapy is less effective. This includes people suffering from mental illnesses such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease; drug and alcohol abuse patients; young children; and crisis and trauma patients. Plenty of research has been conducted on the subject, showing that music therapy is effective for treating dementia, anxiety, depression, and numerous other conditions.

How to Become a Music Therapist

There are two steps to becoming a music therapist: getting a degree in Music Therapy and passing the American Musical Therapy Association’s exam to become board certified. There are dozens of universities that offer degrees in Music Therapy across the country.

The Music Therapy Degree

Since music therapy is a combination of musicianship and psychology, music therapy students are required to study both. You are also required to perform internships in clinics, where you’ll get hands-on experience working with patients. Here’s a quick breakdown of what that means.

  • The Music Side: Music therapists take many of the same courses as music majors, including conducting, music history, theory, and composition. You are also required to study voice, piano, and guitar, as well as perform in ensembles (such as choir).
  • The Therapy Side: Expect courses in human development, therapy, and psychopathology. Music therapists also have to study the psychological effects of music, learn how to apply music in therapeutic situations, and practice applying them through internships.
  • The Internship: During internships, you’ll work with patients under the supervision of licensed therapists. It’s a pretty serious commitment involving 1,200 hours – that’s about 150 8-hour days – of working in clinics with patients with a variety of ailments. You will work in at least three different places during these internships, and advanced students perform supervised music therapy sessions.

The Test

Once you get your degree in Music Therapy, you are eligible to take the American Music Therapy Association’s exam. If you pass the exam, you earn a Music Therapist Board Certification that allows you to become professional music therapist.

The Power of Music

If you want to become a music therapist, know that it is arguably even harder than becoming a traditional therapist. Not only will you have to study therapy and psychology, you will have to study music as well (and become adept at three different instruments). But music is a powerful force, and musical therapists get to use that power to help others in an extremely rewarding career.

ElainaElaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She is currently working on a Master of Music at the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!



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What They Don’t Tell You About Becoming a Musician

how to become a musicianWhen you become a musician — whether you’re playing the guitar, the drums, or another instrument — you’ll notice a pattern when others find out about your skills. Read on to learn what they don’t tell you about becoming a musician, in this guest post by Brookings, SD teacher Carl S…  


Every musician has his or her own story. Some people play as a hobby and may play the occasional gig. Others are gigging frequently or perhaps teaching music. No matter what type of musician you are, you should ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Be honest with yourself, and whatever your answer is, well, that is just fine. What don’t they tell you about becoming a musician? At some point, you’ll be a music teacher of some sort.

Surprise! You’ve learned one song on the guitar — now people identify you as a guitarist. If somebody you know decides that they want to learn guitar, they will likely come to you for advice on how to get started. What do you say to them? If you haven’t experienced this scenario to some degree yet, you will.

Early in high school, I decided to be a multi-instrumentalist. Saxophone has always been my “primary” instrument, but I play and teach many instruments. Like many 15-year-olds, I had the desire to try my hand at guitar. Having had solid experience with another instrument, it came to me very quickly, albeit self-taught. One day, I was in our high school music room playing a song I’d figured out on the guitar, and one of my friends heard me playing. “I didn’t know you played guitar!” he said. This was immediately followed by a request to join a garage band, help him with his bass playing, and write songs together.

Whoa! Am I even capable of this? Well, I went for it, but as soon as I said yes, I felt the overwhelming anxiety of not being as virtuosic as I was falsely perceived to be. At this point, I had learned everything that I knew about guitar from a Walmart poster. I’m serious. Poster + guitar = now offering advice?

I needed to learn some things and quick! I immediately started thinking, “Who do I know that plays guitar well?” Seeing a pattern here?

No matter when we decide to give making music a try, someday, you’ll teach somebody something about music. Don’t be afraid of this; rather, rise to the challenge and let this be your inspiration to submerse yourself in thoughts and ideas that will in turn push you to the next level.

For example, I’ve always been sort of a hobbyist in regards to guitar. I teach music for a living at a university, so guitar has always been an outlet instrument for me. I teach big bands, so now I have college-level jazz guitarists coming to me for advice. The best way for me to teach them was for me to pick up my guitar and put myself in their shoes. I’ve had great success teaching them, and they go on and on about how much more things seem to make sense. I’m just having fun playing guitar with them!

Music is an art. This art of how to become a musician is passed down from generation to generation via friends, family, and mentors. On behalf of music teachers everywhere, welcome to the club!

CarlSCarl S. teaches saxophone, music theory, piano, and more in Brookings, SD. He completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in saxophone performance at the University of Kansas in 2014, and his Master of Music Pedagogy and Performance from Oklahoma State University in 2011. Learn more about Carl here! 


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So You Want a Singing Career? 3 Tips for Dealing With Rejection


As an aspiring singer, actor, musician or other kind of performer, getting comfortable with auditions is a big part of the process. Along with this comes rejection, which you might face a lot of before you make it big. Read on as Haddon Heights, NJ teacher Aaron K. shares his tips for moving on…


I’m currently trying to become a professional opera singer. I know, it’s a dying art form, no one really understands the plots, and it’s only for snobby rich people who actually enjoy listening to Arnold Schoenberg (sorry if you do, I still can’t get into it). While I understand (yet contest for many reasons) all the previous points, I am choosing this path and have to deal with something that is common to all performers, whether you’re working toward a singing career or something else in the industry: rejection.

You’ve trained for years. You’ve read all the articles on auditioning. Heck, maybe you’ve even researched your audition panel to try to play to their tastes. But after all that effort, you didn’t get the part. You didn’t get on American Idol. You didn’t get into the college you had your heart set on. I’ve personally had to deal with rejection more times than I like to think about. Here’s a few steps to help you with this difficult outcome.

1) Separate yourself from your performing.
The initial impact of being told “no” can be quite hard. What really makes matters worse, though, is when you take rejection as a personal attack. You are not your voice. You are not your interpretation of Hamlet. You are not your piano, cello, flute, or anything else you have been studying. You are a complex human being with many attributes that are unique and wonderful. Your auditioners are not saying no to you as a person. It’s much easier to say my singing was rejected rather than I was rejected.

2) Shrug off the “je ne sais quoi” factor.
After getting over the initial emotional blow, your mind can start churning ceaselessly with thoughts like “Why didn’t they like me?”, “Did they not like my high Bb?”, or “I knew I should have taken it at a slower tempo.” While it will be important to reflect on what you need to improve (the next step), for now it is important to recollect yourself. Realize that there are any number of things (some of which may be out of your control) that might have lead to the rejection. Perhaps the panel wanted someone taller. Perhaps the college wanted a student who couldn’t play as well but had better grades. Or perhaps someone else took your spot because they knew someone in the selection process. It’s impossible to know exactly why your performance wasn’t chosen. Rather, accept that you didn’t have that certain “je ne sais quoi” and don’t give it another thought. Instead, try to shift your focus and…

3) Ask “What I can do better next time?”
With a strong emotional reaction, it’s important to take a step back and rationally evaluate your weak areas. Do you lack flexibility and accuracy in your training? Work on scales and arpeggios. Did you lose your support on the high notes? Do more lip burbles in higher keys. Did your monologue seem vague and uninteresting? Make more specific choices in your delivery. When faced with rejection, you can either let it eat away at you and destroy your resolve, or you can face it as a challenge for the next time.

At the end of the day, rejection won’t matter if you’re pursuing a performance or singing career for the right reason. It’s not just something fun for you. You’re driven by a need to express and create. You have something meaningful to say and you want people to listen. If this is the case, it won’t matter that this audition didn’t pan out, because you have 10 more lined up. You may get rejected for years and work jobs you hate for pennies that can barely sustain your lessons and audition fees. But dealing with rejection will never be an issue because it will be as normal to you now as your morning cup of coffee. If this is the case, you don’t have to worry about “making it” in the performance world. If this is the case, you are an artist, and the only thing that matters to you is your art.

AaronKAaron K. teaches acting, singing, and piano in Haddon Heights, NJ. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Music from University of Miami and a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from Texas Tech University. Learn more about Aaron here! 



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5 Fun Summer Jobs for Pianists

If you’re looking to earn extra money over the summer, it may be time to consider putting your skills as a pianist to good use. With a little imagination and the right network, you can find several piano jobs that will give you a taste of what it’s like to earn a living as a musician.

Teaching Private Lessons

piano teacher

Are you an intermediate- to advanced-level pianist? Do you like showing friends and family how to play songs or piano exercises? The summer is the perfect time to try your hand at teaching! You can start small – if you know of any younger family friends or siblings of friends that are interested in learning piano, consider teaching pro bono or for a small fee. As you become more experienced, you can try advertising locally or listing your services on Teaching will not only help you pass the gift of playing the piano onto others, but it can show you a great deal about your own development as a pianist and musician – you may even discover you have a real aptitude for it!

Teaching at a Music Summer School

summer music camp

The main teaching positions at summer schools, camps, and music programs will be filled by experienced, professional teachers. However, there is often a marked shortage of student accompanists and repetiteurs, as well as junior members of teaching staff. Look for summer schools both home and abroad, and think about maximizing your chances of acceptance by applying with a singer or instrumentalist to form a duo partnership, especially if there is a large chamber music element to the course. Some summer schools offer generous scholarships for student pianists to attend, so you may find that in the short term, this is a more of an investment in your future as a musician rather than an addition to your list of piano jobs.

Playing at Weddings

piano for weddings

More couples choose the summer months to get married than any other time of year. Performing at weddings can be one of the most lucrative piano jobs for a reasonably advanced student, and once you play your first, it’s easy for word to spread about your skills! To prepare for this kind of piano job, spend time practicing both religious and secular works that are popular at weddings. Also, make sure that you know works such as Ave Maria – for which you may be asked to accompany a singer – in several keys, as there’s nothing worse than mastering your part in C major, then suddenly needing to play in five flats to accommodate the singer! Ask local bridal shops or churches if you can advertise your services or if they can recommend you to brides-to-be, and make sure that popular local wedding venues are aware that you are available to play.

Playing at a Restaurant or Hotel

piano player

Although this is traditionally a job for a professional pianist, you may be able to step in on occasion for a regular artist during the summer season. It’s likely that your own piano teacher does this kind of work during holiday season, so it’s worth asking them if you could step in from time to time, on quieter evenings, or perhaps to do a short set of your own during their regular stint. This isn’t one of those piano jobs where you can practice your Bach preludes, so be prepared with a repertoire of Broadway hits, jazz standards, and classic pop to cater to a wide range of tastes.

Working on a Cruise Ship


Possibly the pinnacle of all summer piano jobs, this really is the preserve of the college-level student or young professional. This is much more than just a side job, as you’ll be residing on the ship for the majority of the season. Again, you will need to know a wide repertoire of popular material, and don’t be surprised if you’re also asked for the classics for background music.

If you’re taking your piano lessons seriously and working toward a career in music, make sure your teacher is aware of your goals. He or she likely has spent many years in exactly the same position as you, and will have valuable advice to give. And don’t forget – everyone starts small. Don’t be above playing open mic nights for a while to get your foot in the door somewhere. Most of all, enjoy the journey!

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How to Start a Singing Career: On-Stage and Behind-the-Scenes

Tips On Starting A Singing CareerNo matter how proficient you are or how many voice lessons you’ve taken, the thought of being in the spotlight and working toward a career in the music industry can be daunting to some. But the wonderful thing about music is that there are so many facets — not only does it take a village to produce a musical event, but the avenues and directions you can go in the world of performance and production are practically endless.

For vocal performers, think pop, country, Broadway, and other types of music. Add to that teachers who inspire, composers and lyricists who write, members of choirs, Opera performers… the possibilities go on and on! Or for artistic people who prefer to be a part of creating the illusion, or like to set the stage, behind the scenes might be the perfect place for you. Read on for a glimpse into the available career choices, and how to start a singing career.

Vocal Performance – Popular

To do any job, training is essential. Most vocalists start with private lessons, and continue working with a vocal coach even when working in the industry. Having a background in music theory can be helpful, especially if your goal is to write your own compositions. Singers who want to perform have several options. The career paths are similar, although tailored to the type of music you want to sing. And if you’re wondering how to start a singing career – a popular singer/songwriter might get their start by taking vocal lessons, and perhaps learn an instrument for accompaniment, and then study music theory. Taking courses in college can also help – most college music majors learn far more than the specific genre they wish to explore, and that well-rounded knowledge will take you far. Plus, the exposure and experience you’ll get in your studies can make the transition into the music industry easier.


One avenue for vocalists who love to write music, but don’t love the performance aspect, is music composition. There are many talented vocalists that have found success behind the scenes; just look up who wrote some of your favorite top 40 hits and you might be surprised! The Carole Kings and Lamont Doziers gave other vocalists number-one hits to sing. Singer/songwriters, lyricists, and composers are at the heart of the music industry — without their talent, many singers, productions, and soundtracks wouldn’t have topped the charts!

Vocal Performance – Musical Theater and Opera

Musical theater is another popular path for performers. From Broadway to off-Broadway, the Met to movies sets — musicals and operas bring in huge audiences. Just the same, private lessons, coaching, and training can influence your chances of in landing roles. Being comfortable on stage is part of the gig, so brushing up on your acting skills can help a ton.

Behind-the-Scenes – Musical Theater

Musical theater also has an abundance of behind-the-scenes careers. Think director, stagehand, costuming, makeup, lighting, and set design. Training can start early in your school years — try volunteering to be a part of your school’s production in whatever capacity you are interested in pursuing, for example. Many state colleges have wonderful musical theater and drama programs. It’s as simple as researching which college program will be the best fit for you.

Voice Teacher

Another way to improve your skills as a vocalist, without a demanding performance schedule, is to teach. Before you assume that teaching is the easy route, think again. Teachers are masters; you’ll need to familiarize yourself with many different styles so you can help budding vocalists achieve their unique goals and dreams. You must have patience, wit, and inspire with words, building your students up rather than tearing them down. As a vocal coach, you can teach in schools or offer private lessons. Vocal teachers often have completed degrees in performance and teaching, and usually have a strong background in theory and music history.


Maybe you’re a vocalist who has a head for business. Maybe you prefer singing at your desk while scheduling a world tour. Maybe you’re talented at talking performers into playing at your venue. Or maybe you’re an incredible organizer that can handle contracts, payments, and travel plans — and simultaneously keep a band on track while touring the nation and beyond. A career in music business might be for you!

The music industry is composed of lawyers, accountants, managers, event planners, and more. Each aspect of the business side of the music industry is intricate, and if you can do it well, you will always be in demand. Having a background in music and a degree in business can help get your foot in the door. The industry is always looking for people with a passion for song, and a personality that can make things happen.

Music Producers and Audio Engineers

Audio engineering is perfect for those who love to play with the vocal track they just recorded. You might like singing it, but tweaking it is even more fun.  Another option is to work as a music producer, someone who oversees entire projects. You can think of a music producer like a project manager—they have vision, a good ear, and plenty of technological skills.

The music industry is vast, and vocalists can go in any direction. If you have a passion for music and are wondering how to start a singing career (or any of the other music-related careers listed above), start thinking seriously about your career path now. You might have to start by performing as a backup vocalist or wedding singer, or take an unpaid internship at a major music company to get your foot in the door.  Be prepared to work hard, study hard, and train hard.  Many vocalists who work in the industry say it started with a love of music and a couple lessons — then they were hooked.  It may take time to get there, but getting to live your passion is the ultimate reward!

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Cruise Ship Musician Jobs: How I Got The Gig & What To Expect

cruise ship musician jobsAs a musician, there are tons of different paths you can take, places you can perform, and ways you can do what you love. Here, Las Vegas and online teacher Nick B. shares his story of his experience auditioning to be a cruise ship musician…

Everyone wants to tour the world, play their guitar, and just rock out in front of a fun-­loving crowd, especially if they’re getting paid to do it! A few months ago, I found an ad which offered just that! It basically read, “We’ll fly you to Europe for free, and put you on a cruise ship in the tropics for six months to a year, where you’ll do nothing but play your guitar all day, eat, and drink for free, and have no bills.” I was sold!

I knew there had to be a catch. Certainly just my resume wouldn’t be enough. And it wasn’t. I had to perform an audition via Skype within 24 hours of receiving the audition material. Feeling confident, I had them send over the material and set­ up an audition time for early the next afternoon. That’s fine. I was determined.

They sent over a few MP3s of popular rock and jazz tunes, and their charts. I got to work. I knew that if I wanted to get this gig I had to absolutely nail the audition; they are looking for the best players they can find across the whole planet, and I only got one shot. I listened closely to the songs, reading along with the charts, and after I felt confident in what was expected to be recreated from the chart, I began to play along, making notes on charts as I went. I practiced until I was blue in the face, took a break, grabbed some food, and got ready for my Skype call.

The call started with friendly introductions, a short interview, and a brief description of what we would actually do during the “audition” part of the call. He said, “Go ahead,” and I was off and running. I played through all the tunes and felt good about them, because of the way I prepared myself. After a short pause, he told me that they could offer me the job right then, on the spot. This got me on their roster. They didn’t have a contract for me right away, but they assured me that they would be calling soon with an offer. And that they did. Within a week I had been offered three different contracts! There was a lot to consider and a lot of information to take in! I told them that I needed to talk the details over with my wife, and they understood and gave me a day to get back to them. After weighing all my options, I decided to decline their generous offers. It turned out to just not be the right fit for my life at that time. However, the experience of the audition was a lot of fun and learning about cruise ship musician jobs was very interesting!

Although I put in a lot of work and even landed the gig, I had to think long and hard about what I actually wanted for myself. It turns out that what I really want is to be here in Las Vegas to rock out with my band! And, I want to be here to teach you how to play guitar and bass! You know what you want, now go for it!

NickBNick B. teaches music theory, songwriting and guitar lessons in Las Vegas, NV, as well as online. He has transcribed over 12 books for Hal Leonard Publishing. His specialties include rock, pop, blues, technique, music theory, and ear training. Nick joined the TakeLessons team in April 2014. Learn more about Nick here!



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