Warming Up and Practicing – Making the Most of Your Time

Most people that ask about my practice habits have the impression that I practice every day for hours. Truth is that there is a lot of my day where I am practicing but not with my horn in my hand or with my percussion gear. It is more along the lines of getting things that I want to do in my head so that I can call upon it when I do have the time and location to put horn to lips or hands to percussion.

Let’s start with my warming up for a gig. Since I am normally in my car alone on the way to the gig, I use this time to mentally prepare. I start with singing 5-note scales, up and down. Using numbers (instead of solfeggio) I pick a note and sing the first five steps of the major scale. Move up a half-step, and repeat. I continue this until I cover all 12 keys.

Then I move to the minor scales again doing only the first 5 notes up and down. Follow this with the diminished scale, whole-step – half-step, up and down. While doing these exercises, listen for pitch so that you can get your ear tuned the exactness of a whole step vs. a half step.

Next exercise is doing thirds, using numbers again, 1-3-2-4-3-5-4-2-1 in each of the modes, major, minor and diminished. Step up a half-step and again do all 12 keys. All of this generally takes me about 30 minutes but it might be a bit longer at first for you. Now on to practicing.

Practicing for me isn’t always a physical thing. I sometimes pull up a practice book, like the Klose exercises for saxophone, and study the exercises like reading a book. But like when practicing with horn in hand, if I come across a pattern that I find difficult to read visually, I go back, slow down and repeat it until I get back up to speed. I have this and a lot of the real books on my iPad so that I can practice these things wherever I am. Then, when I am at home alone, I can get my horns out and really play the things that I have studied visually and mentally. For me, I find that it makes it easier to play if I already know what the passage is. It’s kind of like memorizing lines for an actor, but for musicians.

So now that you are at your practice time you have a foundation that you have been practicing on the road and away from home. Start with the 5-note scales. Play them at a tempo where you can get thru all 12 keys without making a mistake. I was taught that the 5-note run establishes the mode and is the makeup of all scales. This was one of the things I retained from the Army/Navy School of Music.

From running all this warming up you can now pull out your tuner and check your warmed up pitch. Just so you know, once you get this warm-up under your belt, it will be a quick warm-up and you will be ready for whatever lies ahead in your practice regimen.

If you are looking for material to practice, visit The Petrucci Music Library and search your instrument and click and pick something to practice.

Have a great week, check out some of the other articles on Musicians Unite and think of ways that you can use the information provided. Spread the word, share the link to us and add your comments below!! Thanks for reading!!

If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below or message me on my Facebook page!!

-Frank Valdez – MU Columnist

Gibson Les Paul vs Epiphone Les Paul

In this video I’ll discuss why an Epiphone Les Paul is 25% of the cost of a Gibson Les Paul!!

Here’s the link to my American vs. Mexican Fender Strat video.

Thanks so much for checking out my weekly video featured at Musicians Unite!! I hope you found this review of Epiphones and Gibsons helpful!!

Also please check back next week for another video!!

And in the meantime, please subscribe to my YouTube Channel!!

Phil McKnight – MU Educator

The 004: Their Story

We Are Still One is a story about a group of friends, who are passionate about creating music together and having fun. The documentary gives a never before seen look into how the band started and how they have evolved over the years.

As a band, The 004 has been active for over a decade, covering popular songs and recently performing their own material.

Their latest release is “Song For Me”, which can be seen below.

Injecting 2017 with a dose of much-needed positive attitude, the Dutch pop group charms with their heart warming new song “Song For Me”. Produced by K3Y5HIFT3R (from Holland) and co-written by Brian (from Argentina), the song conveys a message of positivity and self-acceptance.

The 004 have been active for over a decade, perfecting known songs with their own unique interpretations and giving music lovers around the world innovative original musical pieces. Joining original members Kelly, Mike and Janet is new girl Gita, an accomplished dancer and professional singer.

The group will continue their worldwide conquest during 2017, with the release of a career-encompassing documentary and many more exciting things that will be announced very soon!

Producer: K3Y5HIFT3R (Holland)
Co-songwriter: Brian (Argentina)
Editor: Alex Lodge (UK)
Graphic Designer: Fernanda (Brazil)
Photographers: Jeroen & Stefan (Holland)
Recensionist: Simon (Finland) & Norm (UK)

The Brits 2017: everything you need to know

Britain’s second most-important music awards ceremony is fast-approaching.

This evening, British music’s second most important award ceremony (after The VO5 NME Awards 2017, obvs) The Brits 2017 will take place. Love it or loathe it, it creates a buzz each year. From Madonna’s cape disaster to the intense whiteness of last year’s ceremony, there’s always a pretty big talking point. To make sure you don’t miss out on the conversation, here are all the details you need to know about this year’s ceremony.

When are the Brits 2017?

The Brits 2017 will take place on February 22nd at London’s o2 Arena.

Who’s hosting the Brits 2017?

Emma Willis will be hosting this year’s Brits alongside Dermot O’Leary, making her the first female host since 2009 (Kylie Minogue). Your nan’s favourite crooner – Michael Bublé was originally booked to be taking the role, but has since pulled out to spend time with his son Noah, who is currently suffering from liver cancer.

Who’s nominated for the Brits 2017?

Skepta leads the way with three nominations – Best Album, British Male Solo and British Breakthrough – with the departed David Bowie picking up two nominations in British Male Solo and Best Album, and The 1975 picking up a pair too. See the full list of this year’s nominations here.

 Who’s going to win at The Brits 2017?

Considering last year’s grime resurgence, and the severe lack of recognition at last year’s Brits, expect Skepta to rightfully pick up at least a pair of awards. Plenty of the others are wide open. Bruno Mars is a Brits favourite so he could lined up to win International Male Solo, as are Little Mix, who could grab the gong for British Group and British Single. For the most part the rest are fairly tight, so bet carefully…

Who is performing at the ceremony?

The 1975, Emeli Sande, Skepta and Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and Little Mix have all been announced to be performing on the night, and they will be joined by a performance by Brits Icon winner Robbie Williams on the night. There are usually plenty more, so stay tuned for further announcements.

How can I watch The Brits 2017?

If you’re in the UK you can just stick ITV on at 8pm and put your feet up.

How can I go to the Brit Awards?

A handful of tickets are still available for the actual ceremony itself from the official website. Or alternatively, a select few nominees are playing exclusive shows throughout the capital in February to celebrate the swads and raise some money for War Child on the way. The 1975, Wild Beasts and Craig David are all lined up to perform – see the full dates here .

Will there be a George Michael tribute?

On Twitter the official Brits account confirmed that there would be a George Michael tribute during the night – but did not say who would be performing it.


Sharks: Killers Of The Deep

Back awhile, Sharks came together to take the world by storm except that it didn’t quite work out and until recently they have always been one of those “whatever happened to …” bands. Come forward a few years and after the sad demise of founding bassist Andy Fraser (fresh from playing with Free) they were brought back together for a film about the band. During the sessions for that project the remaining members – Chris Spedding, Nick Judd and Steve Parsons (aka Snips) found that they actually still enjoyed playing together and decided to give it a go. Recruiting Paul Cook on drums (yes the ex-Pistols founder member) and Tosh Ogawa on bass and with a fresh bunch of songs this is the result.

And bloody fine it is too!
There isn’t really a weak track.

Opener ‘Yaya Pop’ is loaded with pugnacious funk, Chris Spedding laying down some great riffing and Parsons vocals growling and confident as hell – one you can’t help but boogie to.

‘The Complete History Of Soul Music’ again has a riff that nags at you, Ogawa’s bass rumbling and popping in the back and Cook’s drums setting a beat. The production on the number is awesome, covering changes and moods without ever swamping the song. The final disco segment is very Chic and the backing vocals from Jade Williams take it to the bank.

The opening to ‘One Last Thrill’ leads you into a rollercoaster of a number; darkly intense one moment and pleading the next. Yet again guitar that adds to the melody and doesn’t dominate and a history of Soul music to add to the fun.
The album really is one killer track after the other.

Each song can be taken in isolation but as you delve into the album you are struck track after track by just how good a vocalist Snips is and how damn good a guitarist Spedding but also how good as a songwriting pair these two are. The other shock, for me, is just how fine Paul Cook’s drumming is – he has been involved in some fine bands since the Pistols but here he really adds to the band’s mojo.

Great rock album, just that and no more.

John Williams has just won his 23rd Grammy Award for Best Score (and they played the wrong music)

As if celebrating his 85th birthday last week wasn’t enough, legendary film music composer John Williams has just picked up his 23rd Grammy Award for his score for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

In the non-televised part of the Grammys broadcast, Williams picked up his 23rd Grammy and his fifth for a Star Wars film (after winning three for A New Hope and one for The Empire Strikes Back).

Williams wasn’t on hand to collect his award in person, but comedian Margaret Cho accepted on his behalf (after the band inexplicably played a small excerpt from ‘Live And Let Die’). Witness the strangeness here.

The win follows news that Williams is already scoring and recording his soundtrack for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, so that director Rian Johnson is able to edit the movie with music in place.

It was a big night for movie soundtracks elsewhere too, as Justin Hurwitz’s score for La La Land took home the Bafta for best soundtrack.

China in your hand: the lowdown on Chinese pop

in Beijing

Since the late 1970s, Chinese music has bloomed from a monochromatic array of traditional operas and communist anthems into a soundscape as diverse as the country’s 1.3 billion people. Pop divas vie for airspace with classical pianists, hip-hop artists and underground rock bands. Yet in China, just as anywhere, cash is king – and the most popular music, blaring from taxicab radios and department store speakers, is distinctly ringtone- and karaoke-friendly. Mainstream songs are synthy, saccharine, easy to sing; less established artists take pride in pushing the envelope, undaunted by the financial consequences.



Tang Zhi-kei, better known as GEM, is one of Hong Kong’s most popular young stars. GEM (“Get Everybody Moving,”) is Britney Spears to Peng Liyuan’s Barbra Streisand. She represents new wave of young Mickey Mouse Club-style pop icons, groomed from a young age to top the Cantonese pop (or “Canto-pop”) charts. The 21-year-old, often praised for writing her own material, sings immaculately produced love songs accompanied by drum machines and sweeping synth strings.



Formed in 1997, the three-piece indie-rock band unofficially preside over Beijing’s underground rock scene – over the past decade, they’ve climbed from the city’s smoky clubs into the raggedest edges of its mainstream youth culture. Described as post-punk, post-folk and DIY; they sport Chuck Taylors and tattoos. PK14 come across as more Brooklyn than Beijing, their sound a melange of distorted guitars, tortured vocals and driving drums, heavy and dissonant.

Lang Lang


Aside from being one of the most famous classical pianists in the world, Lang Lang is also a stock role model in China, where his early-childhood piano lessons have become a symbol of unbridled middle-class ambition. The 30-year-old studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia – perhaps the world’s most prestigious conservatory – and lives in New York. Fans praise his ebullient style (head thrown back, fingers arched above the keys), while critics deride his playing as maudlin and immature.

Wang Feng


Beijing native Wang Feng, 41, is a protege of Cui Jian, a 1980s rock star who found inspiration in earthy folk songs from the country’s arid northwest. Wang’s voice is gruff and his lyrics tend towards nostalgia. “I still remember the long gone spring days, when I still hadn’t cut my long hair,” he sings in 2009 ballad In Spring. “I didn’t have a credit card, I didn’t have her/ I didn’t have a home with hot water running 24 hours a day/ and yet, those days, I was so happy.”



Elka is a pseudonym. The real name of the Russian pop singer is Elizaveta (like one of the Russian empresses).

A nice combination of good vocals and originality.

Elizaveta moved from Ukraine to Moscow.

The song is about freedom, the opportunity to go on holiday wherever you want. And what great things can happen to you:

“… A cozy cafe…

With red wine…

You can say that this is just a silly dream …”


The real name of the Russian pop singer Slava is Anastasia Slanevskaya.

One day after work she was singing in a karaoke club and a well-known producer heard her. He waited for her to finish, and invited her to work together.

The song is about loneliness, about how hard it is to “keep the mark” and still crave a close relationship.

“Stone lady …

Never cries,

Believes no one…

It hurts all the same…”


Gradusy is the Russian pop group. The leader of the group is Dmitry Bakhtinov. He was joined by Roman Pashkov, Ruslan Tagiyev and, in different years, drummers Viktor Golovanov and Anton Grebyonkin.

Initially, the song was written using dark colors – the author experienced a personal loss. Then the song was rewritten in a positive way.

The song says that after a personal loss you need to get up and move on.

“In this movie I am the main actor,

I’m a writer and a director…

Unloved, forgive me,

My love – love me.”


30.02 is a non-existent date – February 30th.

In this music band there are two Russian musicians: Mikhail Shalmanov and Valentin Tkach.

The song is about the romance of a big city, about simple and light – about love.

“I want to share with you

Stars in the puddles,

Warm dinner want to share with you…

We have so much to say to each other

And let the world wait”


This Russian pop group consists of the singer Anna Pletneva and sound producer Alexei Romanov.

The song “Aquarius” is about women’s experiences.

“I gave it my all, and I don’t regret!

And despite all autopilots,

I live in spite of horoscopes!”


Serebro is a Russian female pop group. Serebro means silver.

The group includes Olga Seryabkina, Daria Shashina and Polina Favorskaya.

Serebro won the 3rd prize at the “Eurovision” competition.

This is a song about love from the point of view of a possessive woman.

“Never, never, to nobody

I will not give you up…”


Dima Bilan is the alias of the singer Viktor Belan.

Dima Bilan twice participated in the competition “Eurovision”: with the song «Never let you go» he took second place, and with the song «Believe» he took first place.

The song “Crazy about you” is about love.

“You are the bright sun…

We’ll wake up together…

A moment of true happiness…”


Sati Kasanova

Sati Kasanova

A duet of the Russian singer Sati Kasanova and Arsenium.

The song is a love story. It’s hard to think about the future. You should enjoy this moment.

“A little bit of money in the pocket,

And my friends and I are hanging at a bar…

And until dawn let love burn…”


Pizza is a music group with elements of pop, funk and something else.

City, and teen love carried through years – this is what music video “Arms” is about.

“The soul was flying over puddles, but April didn’t give me a cold.

I think I killed myself with your deadly weapon.”


Anna Semenovich (March 1, 1980, Moscow) – Russian pop singer. Interestingly, Anna used to be a figure skater.

The song “I’ll follow you” is about how a woman lost her head in love.

“I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth…

I’ll follow you in your footsteps…”


The Ingenium Academy International Summer School for Music

The Ingenium Academy offers four exceptional musical programmes: orchestral, vocal, piano and saxophone. Young conductors can also apply for our Conducting Week.

We offer our students a unique musical and cultural experience with exclusive tuition from world renowned musicians, performances in top British venues and the opportunity to meet like-minded friends from all over the world within our environment of creative excellence. Based in beautiful and historic Winchester College, Ingenium is a truly unique programme, an invaluable experience and an unforgettable summer.

The clock is ticking for Spotify

It’s amazing to think that just 10 years ago, flat-rate digital music streaming services were a mere gleam in the eye of industry executives.

It was as recently as September 2007 that Rick Rubin, then co-head of Columbia Records, put forward the idea as a way of combating online music piracy and file-sharing.

“You’d pay, say, $19.95 a month, and the music will come from anywhere you’d like,” he told the New York Times.

“In this new world, there will be a virtual library that will be accessible from your car, from your cell phone, from your computer, from your television.”

As it turned out, he was essentially describing Spotify, which launched just over a year later.

He even got the price right. In those heady days, when the pound was a lot stronger, $19.95 was equivalent to £10, which, give or take a penny, is the monthly cost of Spotify Premium in the UK today.

But Spotify is yet to make a profit, while plans to float the firm on the stock market have reportedly been delayed, raising a big question mark over its business model.

Industry accolade

Of course, Spotify isn’t the only streaming platform out there. Others have joined it over the past decade, including Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music and Deezer, as well as high-resolution music services Tidal and Qobuz.

But Spotify is seen as the leader, with more than 100 million users, 40 million of them paid-up subscribers to its Premium tier.

Daniel EkImage copyrightAFP
Image captionSpotify’s Daniel Ek is now the music industry’s most powerful player, says Billboard

The Swedish firm is now a major player in 60 countries, including the world’s biggest music market, the US, where streaming accounted for 51% of music consumption last year.

Reflecting the huge impact that Spotify has had, its chief executive, Daniel Ek, has just topped US music industry magazine Billboard’s latest Power 100 list of the biggest movers and shakers in the business.

“For the first time since [former file-sharing service] Napster decimated music sales, the recorded music industry is showing signs of growth, and that reversal of fortune is largely due to one man,” Billboard said in its citation.

The magazine also hailed Spotify as “the place fans discover music as well as consume it”, pointing to its promoted playlists, including its Discover Weekly service.

Royalty woes

However, the clock is ticking for Spotify as it hatches its plans to go public.

The firm originally planned to float this year, but according to the TechCrunch website, this could now be delayed until 2018.

There are various issues behind this move, not least of which is that Spotify needs to conclude new long-term licensing deals with the big three record companies – Universal, Sony and Warner – to avoid the risk of suddenly losing major chunks of its content.

It’s thought that Spotify currently pays 55% of its revenue to record labels in royalties, with additional money going to music publishers.

In the interest of finally becoming a profitable company, it would like to lower that percentage, but this is unlikely to go down well with artists, who argue that the royalties they receive from streaming are unfairly low as it is.

Brutal arithmetic

But if it waits too long before floating, it could face a serious cash crisis.

In March last year, the firm raised $1bn from investors at an interest rate of 5% a year, plus a discount of 20% on shares once the initial public offering (IPO) of shares takes place.

Spotify appImage copyrightAFP
Image captionIs Spotify now too big to fail?

However, under the terms of the agreement, the interest rate goes up by one percentage point and the discount by 2.5 percentage points every six months until the IPO happens.

So as time goes on, Spotify must pay ever larger sums to its creditors just to settle the interest on its loan, while the amount of money it can raise from its IPO is trimmed by an ever greater amount.

Unless Mr Ek can get the better of this brutal arithmetic, the future looks tough for Spotify.

But at the same time, as Billboard says, “the entire music business now has an interest in its success”.

“If it’s not already too big to fail, it’s headed in that direction quickly,” concludes the magazine.