10 Traits That Prove You Were Born to Be a Musician



It’s not a secret that musician brains are a little different from “normal” brains. As with any skill or profession, most of it can be learned, but certain things that you need to be a good musician come from nature, not nurture.

Do you show the symptoms of musicianship? Here are 10 established correlations.

1. You’re naturally curious

That door in your apartment that’s nailed shut? You’ve got to know what’s behind it. That trail through the woods that you see when you’re riding the bus? Sooner or later, you’ll get off a stop early to explore it. What happens when you put a bunch of big ball bearings on piano strings? You’re just the person to find out. Curiosity, exploration, and experimentation are bread and butter for musicians.

2. You’re not slowed down by rejection

Like salespeople, musicians have to hear “no” on a regular basis. No matter how great your act is, it won’t be right for every gig or every venue. No matter how talented you are, you’ll lose opportunities to someone who got there just a little sooner, someone who knows someone, or someone who sounds a little bit more like that club owner’s favorite artist. Although these rejections always sting, they also don’t deter you. You believe in your own voice and will keep working until it’s heard.

3. You have systems and rules for yourself and your surroundings

If musicians have a hard time accepting external structures, we tend to be eager to impose rules and restrictions of our own making. Musicians know intuitively what the right thing is. We’re likely to have strong opinions about domestic issues like dishwashing, laundry, and home organization.

A musician might have a no-eating rule in his or her car, or insist that all T-shirts have to be hung up rather than folded. This sense of correct practice is what builds the conventions and habits that form an artist’s personal style.

4. You’re reasonable in your dealings with others

Musicianship takes a lot of teamwork. You collaborate with bandmates, session players, studio staff, live sound techs, and (of course) your audience. You might be the brightest light in the room, but it’s highly unlikely that you’re the biggest diva.

If someone has unreasonable expectations or inflexible demands, it’s not you. Whether this skill is learned through your art, or whether your natural talents led you to become a performer, you’re always more likely to be peacemaker and negotiator than an instigator.

5. You don’t stay down for long

Ever work in the studio all day and hate the result? Ever lose a bandmate right before a series of shows? If you tackle anything passionately, you’ll have lots of little triumphs and little disappointments along the way. But if you’re moping on Monday, you’ll be back in the studio or on the stage on Tuesday. You don’t let a bad mood engulf you and color what you’re trying to do.

6. You have a lot of empathy

What makes a good songwriter? It’s not just wordsmithing – it’s empathy. How many great songs have been written about hardworking people crushed under some harsh system? Songwriters feel for others, so much so that they write songs from others’ points of view. This is why you’ll see so many musicians who have day jobs in caring professions, particularly helping the disabled in schools or job-coaching environments.

7. You get along well with animals

That empathy also translates into a love for animals. Tons of musicians have pets and many are animal lovers. Quite a few are animal rights activists. I challenge anyone to think about Sarah McLachlan without visualizing that ad with the sad puppies and hearing “In the Arms of an Angel.”You probably cried, too, even if you’re in a nasty punk band and have a safety pin through your nose.

8. You like science fiction books and movies

The real world? Boring. Artistic types like to create new worlds and explore worlds created by others. We like sci-fi and fantasy for this reason, and enjoy shows in which new viewers would be completely lost because they don’t understand the complex backstory.

Of course, since we’re veterans of creating things ourselves, we also tend to deconstruct scripts, calling out predictable lines that actors are about to utter. We like making fun of bad special effects, clunky direction, and bad acting.

9. You like fixing and building things

Music is a hands-on field, made to order for people who hate lectures and chalkboard notes and want to just jump in and do it. That’s why so many musicians modify their instruments, customize their band vans, and build all sorts of hacks in the studio or rehearsal space. A lot of us are drawn to carpentry, computers, electronics, and mechanics. We’re not afraid to rip things apart and see what makes them tick.

10. You laugh a lot

News cycle got you down? We’re all stuck on planet Earth, dealing with violent extremism, climate threats, and atrocious fast food. And we all have two weapons to battle the blues: art and humor.

Musicians are some of the funniest people you’ll meet, especially in groups. Ride to a show with any band that’s been together for a while, and you’ll be spitting out your drink. It’s a kind of amazing, vulgar, politically incorrect banter that screenwriters rarely get right. If we could just record chunks of that, we’d have enough material for a stand-up routine… or the lyrics to our next album.

Jesse Sterling Harrison is an author, recording artist, and part-time farmer. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three daughters, and a herd of ducks.


Duchess of Kent: ‘My love for teaching music at Hull state primary school’


The Duchess of Kent has spoken movingly of her “love” for teaching at a state primary school in Hull, after ill health forced her withdraw from official royal engagements.

By 

In a touching television interview, the 78 year-old spoke of her excitement teaching music, mostly anonymously, for eight years at Wansbeck Primary School.

The Duchess, whose husband the Duke of Kent is the Queen’s cousin, admitted she got a “tickle” of excitement when she recognised talent in pupils.

Known as “Mrs Kent” to her students, the royal said she was proud to have given some the confidence to go on to university or pursue careers that previously would have been unachievable.

But she said she feared for the future of music in the English school curriculum, which could deprive underprivileged children of valuable stimulation.

She said music was powerful enough to help children climb the virtual “Berlin Wall” that surrounds many council estates across the country. It is thought to be the first time she has publicly spoken of her time in teaching.

In a pre-recorded interview, broadcast on The Alan Titchmarsh Show later on Friday, the duchess also gives a rare insight into her life and discloses that she is an avid user of her iPhone and is a fan of popular music.

After her self-imposed exile from public life in 1996, she agreed to a friend’s request to visit Wansbeck Primary School after they moved to the city.

Upon her visit, the head teacher disclosed that the school was in desperate need of a music teacher, and she volunteered. She was involved with the school for the next 13 years.

“When I was teaching the first thing I began to notice was the power of music as a stimulant to these children to give them confidence and self-belief. I began to see that happen all the time,” she told the ITV1 show.

“Some of the children I taught haven’t necessarily become musicians, but the confidence it has given them, some have joined the Army, some to university, which they might not have done otherwise.

“I have always loved talent, I love that tickle up the neck when you see talent and I began to realise I was teaching some very, very gifted children.”

She added: “I love those children, I loved being there and I love Hull, I wouldn’t have stayed there if I hadn’t.

As a schoolgirl the Duchess learnt to play the piano, the violin and the organ and narrowly missed out on a place at the Royal Academy of Music.

She pursued her passion for music through finishing school in Oxford and held dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall.

Asked if music was underrated in schools, she replied: “Oh my goodness is it underrated. I would love to see one of the arts being compulsory at GCSE level. I think that would be wonderful.

“Someone asked me the other day, why wasn’t music as popular as football and I couldn’t answer at the time because I was nervous but then I realised that music is so much more popular than football.

“There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t tap their feet to music.”

Since leaving teaching, the duchess has launched a music charity, Future Talent, which aims to help gifted children develop their musical prowess, the Daily Mail reported. The charity now works with orchestras such as the Halle in Manchester and links them with primary and secondary schools.

The duchess has three children with the Duke of Kent – George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews, Lady Helen Taylor and Lord Nicholas Windsor.

But following the stillbirth of her fourth child in 1977, she suffered recurrent health problems and her withdrawal from the royal circuit prompted claims she had become a recluse.

Public appearances also became rare following her decision to convert to Catholicism in 1994, becoming the first senior royal to convert publicly since the passing of the 1701 Act of Settlement.



Why Learn Music Theory?







Music Theory… that dreaded subject!

Music Theory seems to divide opinion more than any other subject in music. “It will ruin my creativity!” “I don’t like rules! It’s too complicated!” “Unless you know music theory you can’t be a real musician!”, etc.

To a certain extent I agree with the above. I don’t like rules, but rules are there to be broken. If you don’t know the rules you don’t even know you’re breaking them. It’s much more fun when you know you’re being subversive!

“It will ruin my creativity!” Well, music theory actually serves various purposes. One of the most important is that it gives us a set of terms that allows us to write things down (I forget loads!) and also allows us to communicate effectively with other musicians so we all know what we are taking about. After all, saying ‘play a G chord’ is music theory!

Music theory is changing all the time as we adapt to new forms of music that break the previous set of rules, theory in the 16th Century would be very different compared to today! It is the cumulative effort of lots of people analyzing music and trying to work out what ‘sounds’ good and why (rather than having to do it yourself!!).

We can take advantage of the work that has already been done to help us work out what to do or play next, what will sound right. You could just keep experimenting, looking for the next chord that sounds right, but usually that chord turns out to be the one that music theory says would sound right anyway! So music theory saves time and hassle, double win!




“It’s too complicated!” Yes, I agree that the way it is usually taught or written about is over the top. Music theory actually is relatively straightforward when you understand the concepts. There are some terms that seem particularly archaic but having a knowledge of them will help you understand some of the music books you may come across in your travels.

On the flip side of all of this are the music theorists who believe that unless you know music theory, you aren’t a real musician. This is also a misnomer. There have been many talented musicians over the years who have only played by ‘feel’. I suppose the unfortunate thing is we aren’t all blessed with this innate ability, although it can be learned through a lot of trial and error.

Some fundamentals in music theory can help anyone, as it forms a common language for us all. But, if someone doesn’t know the ‘correct’ terms, it is up to each of us to find another way of communicating what we mean.

-Duncan Richardson – MU Columnist

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Using Music to Close the Education Gap






Rock Robbins

Rock Robbins is the Marketing Director at Music Teacher’s Helper, and a tech enthusiast, musician, and music teacher out of Southern California.

Created by Kent State University’s School of Music, this infographic shows that music not only has educational merit, but that it can be used to close the educational gap among students and schools. As a private teacher, how much do you value the importance of music in schools? Or what is your reaction to the data in the below visual? Let us know in the comments.

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Music education books to inspire. 2017-18 UK

Learning Strategies for Musical Success (2nd edition) demonstrates how the quantity and quality of practice is the greatest predictor of musical success, so that aspiring musicians of all ages and abilities can best bring about expert performance.

This inspiring, accessible guide will equip students, teachers, and parents with the methods and mindset to improve the likelihood of learning music successfully.

Superb reviews, available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle, or Alfred Music.

Bumblebee! Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs.

More than just a collection of 130 choir exercises.  Timeless wisdom to help you get your choir into shape.

“An excellent publication, fun and varied. I have many different books with warm ups, but this is definitely my favourite.” – Sandra, UK

Available Amazon stores J.W. Pepper or Alfred Music.

Developing Musical Skill – for Students is a student guide for improving the quality of musical practice.

An original medley of timeless wisdom, evidence-based strategies and encouragement, Developing Musical Skill offers invaluable insight on the essentials of reaching musical excellence that are within anyone’s grasp if they possess the correct perspective and the correct way to practice.

Developing Musical Skill is guided by the philosophy that achievement in music, and indeed most other pursuits, is largely a result of intrinsic belief mindsets coupled with the quantity and quality of practice. By creating the optimal circumstances to retain and further accomplishment, any student can further their skills and abilities dramatically.

“A really great book! Well organized, clear and concise. I will be recommending it to my students.” – David Coleman, OHIO USA

Amazon or Alfred Music.

Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony is a clear and well organised text is suitable for students of harmony, arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to further grasp the simple logic of jazz harmony.

Included in the 116 pages are comprehensive explanations, examples, exercises, and solutions. For school students, the course can be started in year 9 and worked through to year 13. The exercises and solutions are available separately as Sibelius files.

Amazon or Alfred Music.

Children and Learning provides guidance on how to support children’s education and all-round development. It includes clear explanations on the most effective and important strategies for cultivating self-determined, life-long learners.

Parents are disadvantaged in that they are mostly unaware of the teaching expertise of those in charge of their children’s education. This book concentrates on a few select fundamentals for reaching success. Essentially, this entails a can-do mindset, an understanding of the mechanics of how learning occurs –  and the time it takes, and the development of character traits such as commitment and perseverance. Amazon.

The Music and Keyboard series is for KS3 general music classes. Students work at their own pace through the exercises, and more skilled students are involved in assessing others. This is both fun and motivational. The course is not intended to be a full music course, but supplements singing, Orff and other parts of a rounded music curriculum. Given that the course can be continued over 2 or even 3 years, it is ideal that students have their own book. Bulk purchases attract a considerably reduced price (return email for this option)

Amazon

All books Amazon, paperback or Kindle, or direct via return email. 

Developing Musical Skill – a presentation to music students, parents and teachers about how to practice.

It’s a simple connection but a powerful one. The internal drive required to pursue an activity relies heavily on the greatest of all motivators – making progress. For musical progress, nothing is as important as the quality and the quantity of practice time. This inspiring interactive, differentiated presentation will equip students, teachers, adult learners, and parents with the methods and mindset required to maximise the prospect of learning music enjoyably and successfully.  Content and concepts include repetition (blocked, variable and spaced, brain myelination) chunking (the brain looks to recognise patterns, why theory matters, short-term memory considerations) slow practice (the brain’s learning preference) the quantity of experts (Ericsson’s violinists), and of course the core importance of cultivating a growth mindset.

Sistema England-Changing Lives Through Music

Our mission: To transform the lives of children, young people and their communities through the power of music making, as part of the international Sistema movement.

Our vision: In 5 years, we aim for Sistema England to be a recognised leader in the global ‘music for change’ field, through enabling both high ‘Musical Return on Investment’ and high Social Return on Investment (SROI) for children and young people.

Our aims: 

  • Empower children and young people to become agents of their futures and global citizens
  • Enable children and young people to make great music and art together
  • Increase the workforce of engaging and effective teaching artists
  • Strengthen the community of ‘music change makers’ to spread best practices

Our objectives:

  • To build a Youth Company that provides high quality musical progression and life skills development for the most committed young musicians on Sistema programmes
  • To deliver high quality teacher training, investing in future leaders of ‘music for change’ work
  • To run innovation labs and action research for music professionals
  • To provide instruments for young musicians in England where otherwise unaffordable

Read about our projects here.

Sistema England is a member of the Cultural Learning Alliance, a collective of committed individuals and organisations working to ensure that all children and young people have meaningful access to culture.


6 Qualities That All Successful Musicians Have





The music industry has always been competitive and cutthroat at heart, and these days, income is becoming harder and harder to find. Making a little money playing music on the side isn’t so hard, but in order to turn a passion into a career, you have to want it more than anything else. Though there is a ton of luck involved, many factors can be influenced to put you in a position to launch a musical career. However, it’s important not to have unrealistic standards about how things will be once you’re able to quit your “day job.” Here are six qualities that successful musicians possess.
1. They have no other choice
Some professional musicians got where they are today due to the fact that they struggled to get other work, or just weren’t capable of doing anything else. When you have no Plan B to fall back on, Plan A will have to be what works out for you. In an interview I did with violinist Jenny Scheinman earlier this year, she described moving out of the house at age 16 and busking around Santa Cruz to make ends meet. Though this alone will not guarantee you a successful music career, it sure is a good motivator to get started.

The bottom line: Successful musicians are confident and adventurous enough to dive into their music careers headfirst.




2. They’re willing to work hard and educate themselves
A professional musician must fill many hats these days. Often within a band, members will split the roles of manager, promoter and booking agent between the group. There are also many solo artists who take on all of these roles or more by themselves. Thus, it’s important to be able to educate yourself on the many different aspects of professional music-making, and to enjoy this process.

Of course, filling these roles results in a lot of work. John Roderick, who acts as the front man, songwriter and manager for his band The Long Winters, once told me about the 18-20 hour days he would put in while in the process of releasing and promoting a new record. Of course, the payoff is that there is one less person to pay, and he is thus able to make a sustainable income.

The bottom line: If you think that going into music will be an escape from doing “real” work, think again.




3. They don’t mind living modestly
Depending on the path you take in the wide world of music, it’s possible that you may never have a stable income. Even if it is stable, it might take years or even decades before it’s large enough for you to have certain luxuries. This doesn’t have to be a source of fear or anxiety as long as you know how to live within your means. Try to create some kind of stable cash flow in order to cover certain expenses such as gas, food or utilities. Teaching lessons or workshops is a great way to do this, if you feel comfortable educating others. That way, you can take a few things off your mind while doing your budgeting and focus more on making rent. In the end, it comes down to the question of living an easy life versus a fulfilling life.

The bottom line: It’s okay to dream big, but if the only reason you want to be a musician is because you think it’ll get you a large house with a yacht, you’ll quickly get weeded out of this business.




4. They have a patient, persistent attitude
This might be the most important out of the entire list. A career does not appear overnight, and especially not one in the arts. Even artists such as Lorde, who seemed to appear in an instant and blow up the charts out of nowhere, had been planning and preparing for that time for years.

Of course, very few people have the good fortune to be signed and developed by Universal at the age of 13. Whatever your musical craft may be, as long as you are making steps to improve every day, you will eventually be one of the best out there. However, it could take years before you’re capable of competing against other professional musicians. If you seek out new opportunities persistently, it’s completely possible to find the gig or job that sets you up into a more stable position, especially once more and more of your competition gives up and looks for other work.

The bottom line: Instead of becoming preoccupied with trying to get a “big break,” the most successful musicians nowadays focus on growing their careers gradually.




5. They’re willing to (and enjoy) working on their craft every day.
No matter which aspect of music or the arts you’re passionate about, it’s essential to practice your craft every day. By doing this, you will continue to improve while others stagnate, eventually being better than most others at what you do. In a first-year entrance speech that Derek Sivers (founder of CD Baby) gave to Berklee College of Music’s class of 2010, he recalled the old martial arts saying, “When you are not practicing, someone else is. When you meet them, they will win.” In order to not only compete, but succeed in this hyper-competitive musical world, it’s absolutely vital to be on top of your game at all times, and be consistently raising the bar for yourself. And in order to make the most out of it, you have learn to really enjoy the process of improving and practicing as well.

The bottom line: If you don’t want to put in time to practice, you might be better suited as a hobbyist.




6. They’re creative at generating income.
One of the best things you can do when trying to stay afloat with your music is to find multiple streams of income. A great way to do this is by licensing out your music to be used in television shows, ads and movies. Even beyond that, taking on the management of a more established artist in your area or teaching private lessons/workshops can provide a “day job” alternative that will still grow you as an artist and a person, while also providing you with some really great networking opportunities.

Depending on your location or time of year, it may be very difficult to keep multiple income streams flowing your way. That’s where the creativity comes in. If there aren’t any opportunities to showcase your talent, you have to create the opportunities yourself. Activities such as busking, if done consistently and in a good location, can generate a good amount of money over time. Another alternative would be to try and find a restaurant that you think would sound great with live music, and go to them with the offer to perform weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly. It all adds up in the end, and sooner or later, a little bit of cash here and there can evolve into something spontaneous and beautiful.

The bottom line: Successful musicians don’t wait for opportunities to come to them – they seek them out or create them themselves.

Dylan Welsh is a freelance musician and music journalist, based in Seattle, WA. He currently plays in multiple Seattle bands, interns at Mirror Sound Studio, and writes for the Sonicbids blog. Visit his website for more information.