Welcome everyone to 2019, to my new(ish) website, and to this, my new blog. The New Year always means a busy teaching period as many people decide to take the plunge into playing and set all kinds of musical resolutions. I am very excited to be launching this blog so I may help you all - new or veteran musicians - on your upcoming ventures!
You can keep your eyes peeled for any future blog posts by following me on my new social media channels via Facebook or Instagram. There will be an array of advice, from what guitar to buy as a beginner, to how to choose a theatre school for your child. I will answer questions received from students and explore common qualms amongst the professionals. Most importantly, I hope the advice I offer here will help inspire you along your journey!
ARE YOU UNDERTAKING A MUSICAL RESOLUTION THIS JANUARY?
If the answer is 'yes', then I'm quite certain you'll be aiming to still be singing/playing at the end of the year. Unfortunately, as humans, we can easily become dissuaded. To help you turn your musical resolution into a long-living hobby and passion, I've compiled my Top Five Tips for sticking to it: 1) PRACTICE LITTLE, PRACTICE OFTEN
I find those that are new to learning an instrument or singing can lose interest quickly because they don't see the results they want immediately. The main reason for this? They don't practice. Some people, especially those who have never experienced learning music before, assume that the moment they pick up an instrument or open their mouth they should be able to play like Slash, or Charlie Parker, or sing like Jessie J! They also jump right into the difficult stuff rather than taking it slowly and building up that crucial learning foundation and habit. They may become baffled and fed-up, asking 'but how do these musicians I listen to get to sound so GOOD?!' The simple, unavoidable answer is lots and lots and LOTS of practice.
I always tell my students learning instruments or vocal training is like going to the gym - you wouldn't expect the six-pack abs to emerge overnight or after one incredibly long, intense session, so why expect different from developing other muscle-based skills? The easiest way to keep interest and to see yourself improve is practice, running exercises little and often, building up muscle memory bit by bit. Before long, you will notice how much you've actually improved and both you and your teacher can continue to move forward onto more exciting things! (Starting off with long practice sessions is exhausting and it will make you bored.)
If you're taking lessons from a teacher, it's also important to not rely on that one hour a week. That lesson is not for practice; it's not for running scales or for going over the piece of music that they set you last lesson. That lesson is there to help you progress, to keep your interest and to drive your abilities forward! Remember this, if you're bored with running the same exercises again and again in lesson because you haven't practiced them at home, the teacher most definitely is too! A great teacher can work as hard as they can to make you progress and to inject you with enthusiasm, but if you're not putting in the hard work at home then you'll end up not moving forward and, ultimately, you'll lose interest. Your teacher whole-heartedly wants to see you succeed but, unfortunately, they can't play or sing for you!
(To keep up the improvements, just as with going to the gym, make sure as the year progresses so does the level of difficulty. The time you spend on your practice should increase as well. Not sure of how to practice? Ask your teacher for a routine!)
2) MAKE IT FUN!
This point is a simple one, and especially important for sticking to your practice!
In my lessons, no matter whether I'm teaching vocals or guitar or saxophone, I always make it a priority to mix the technical exercises with a song project of the student's choice - something they want to learn, that they enjoy listening to and, therefore, are excited to play. The same goes for your practice. Do your scales, practice your technique, but don't forget to have some fun with it! Flick through a book and find that tab or score you feel like playing. Sing a song you haven't done in lesson - that tune you can't get out of your head? Have a go!
Don't always dictate your playing to what you're doing in lesson. Be free with it! Music, after all, should be FUN.
3) DON'T LET A BAD DAY STOP YOU
We all have our good days and bad days - and that goes for learning an instrument or developing our voice as well. Taking on a new skill can be challenging; a bad practice session or unproductive lesson can make you feel like you've taken a big step back and ultimately make you want to throw in the towel on your resolution. But don't give up. We all get frustrated at ourselves from time to time - yes, even me - and that is the exact moment that you need to put down the guitar, unclip your saxophone, decide today is not for singing.
Being in the wrong mood, feeling tense and annoyed will not be any help to your practice - and that's okay! Take a step back, breathe, return to it when you're feeling in a more relaxed, confident place. This is especially true of vocals - our voices are first and foremost a muscular system. Our bodies are changing day in, day out. Some days you may be able to fly right up to that high note. Others, you may not. For females especially whose voices react to our ever-fluctuating hormones, you may notice your singing voice more supple one week to the next.
My advice is: be kind to yourself! Have patience. Take. It. Slow. Perhaps the next time you pick up your instrument or practice singing a song, do something that you feel confident with, that you enjoy, that makes you relax. You'll be back into the swing of things soon enough! And that exercise you struggled with that bad day last week? It's a piece of cake now.
4) SHARE YOUR PASSION!
Music is meant to be heard, and there is nothing better than sharing the gift of music with others. In fact, it's scientifically proven to be beneficial for our mental health and overall wellbeing! Singing in groups releases Endorphins (the happy hormone) and Oxytocin (relieving stress and anxiety), and even our breathing support regulates a nice relaxed heartbeat. Simply put, it feels great. Playing music in any group has much the same effect. Alongside developing bonds with others, it will help your resolution become an addictive hobby. You'll also be too busy having fun that you'll forget to realise you're practicing!
Putting your newfound skill into a setting with others is not only a great feeling but it can also offer you a purpose: joining a choir can offer a performance to work towards; forming a band could see there's a song to record; deciding to take part in your local dramatic society means there's an audition to prepare. If you feel like you're losing focus on your resolution, try and give yourself a goal to strive for!
Performing can also aid in building that confidence you and your teacher have worked so hard on developing, and performing as a group is a great way to taking that next step!
If you feel like sharing your talents by taking to the stage as a solo act, that's fantastic too! Start small and build big. Tell your loved ones what you're up to, surround yourself with support, show them what you're working on. The more of a support system you have around your new musical venture, the more likely you are to carry on pursuing your resolution.
Your teacher is there to develop your skill. Now, go show off all your hard work to the world.
5) EXPRESS YOURSELF
Music is one of the truest forms of expression. In order to keep to your resolution, make use of music not just as a hobby but as a creative way to express yourself. The more meaning you place into your pursuit, the more likely you will be to not only improve but to stick to your newfound skill!
I spend a lot of time coaxing out student's emotions and discussing how particular songs relate to them personally. The reason I do so? Being more open emotively allows the student to relax and to embody the mood and character of a song. As a result, they enjoy performing more, the performance itself is more believable, and the technique more solid due to the body being relaxed.
Playing/singing at home? Use song choice to match your emotions. Play when you're sad, play when you're happy. Pick up a pen and have a go at writing your own song or lyrics. Get used to using music for every mood - it may feel silly at first but it will feel natural soon enough.
Give meaning to your music and it will mean a lot more to you.
UNTIL NEXT TIME...
I hope the above helps guide you a little on your brand new journey - it may seem daunting but, remember, playing music is one of the most freeing and exciting things a person can do. And now you get to enjoy it too.