5 Tips to Improve Your Musical Performance Technique

Author: evan

This week we’re going to look into some tips on how to improve your technical agility. One of the main abilities a musician must have is to have command of the technical aspects of his/her instrument.

Tip #1: Play everything slowly

“Slow is the same as fast”. Maybe you’ve heard of that phrase. I’d like to interpret it as understanding that all movements that you make while playing rapid passages must have the same relaxed feeling as though you were playing slowly. What better way to do that than practicing slowly?

You’ll have to practice slowly and do NOT increase the tempo at any time! Breathe relaxed, concentrate but don’t let your muscles stressed or tight in any way. Practicing slowly give you a chance to hear the music exactly, listen intensively and therefore make your brain learn it “inside-out”.

Tip #2: Concentrate on problem areas

Learn to isolate difficult passages. Listen into them. Figure them out harmonically, mechanically and rhythmically. After your practiced the difficult passage, connect it back to the music a few measure before and after. This way you are “de-isolating” the passage back into the music.

Tip #3: Remember, it’s about making music

Once a new student came to me for lessons and played a few things for me that he’d been practicing up to that point. He commenced to play an exercise in a very technical, non-emotional fashion. I stopped him and asked why he has played like that. He answered, “Well, it’s just a technical exercise. It has nothing to do with music.”

So, I said, “OK, so throw it in the trash!” The point here is that we have to understand something. We play a musical instrument. We do it to play/perform music with it. In order to get the best performances out of ourselves on a consistent basis, we have to “practice performing”. So it is imperative that every time we practice, we should make music.

If something has NOTHING to do with music, we shouldn’t practice it. Think about it. When you practice your major scales, why do you do it? Possible answer are “To better my technique”, “To gain mastery of my instrument”, “to learn to hear the major key”, “to improve my intonation” , etc.

Such answer as “because it’s my homework” or “because my teacher said so” are weak answers and they are NOT going to inspire us to make good music. We need better answers. If an exercise is boring you, ask yourself “Why am I practicing this?”

Look for an answer that is going to motivate you! If you don’t come up with one, LOOK for one! Call a friend, ask your teacher, send ME an email! Do something! Give yourself good reasons and the HOW will take care of itself.

Tip #4: Practice with rhythmic variations

If you’re practicing even scale material, instead of repeating an exercise over and over again the same way (and possibly boring yourself), try playing it with different rhythms.

For example, I’m playing:

  1. C – D – E – F – G – F – E – D – C. All eights. Play it 3 times.
  2. Then play it as a dotted eighth and sixteenth rhythm. (Or swing eighths) 3 times
  3. Then play it as a sixteenth and a dotted eight rhythm (reverse swing) 3 times
  4. Then play one group of eight note triplets and a quarter note. 3 times
  5. Then the opposite – a quarter note then a group of eighth-note triplets. 3 times
  6. Then mix this set – 1 group eighth-note triplet, quarter, quarter, eighth-note triplets. 3 times
  7. Then the opposite mix – quarter, eighth-note triplets, eighth-note triplets, quarter. 3 times
  8. Then play the original rhythm from the beginning. 3 times.

What does this do? You’ve played the same exercise 24 times without it getting boring. You’ve learned to hear this combination of notes in different rhythms, which aids you to hear deeper into the notes. The speed of the fingers between the notes has varied, eventually strengthening your technique.

I guarantee that if you practice your technical exercises with this method, you’ll reach desired results faster than you have had in the past. You’ll accomplish a lot more in less time.

Tip #5: Learn how to take a break

Practicing 6 hours a day, 7 days a week can be great if you have time to afford yourself this luxury. If you do, my advice is DON’T DO IT! After spending so much time to learn new techniques, new repertoire, new whatever, you can destroy it all by practicing too much!

The brain can only take in some much information at a time and it does it best “piece by piece”, in small relaxed dosages. Even then, the brain needs a rest. Saxophonist Phil Woods has been said the he always plans a day NOT to practice. This day for him is Sunday. He goes fishing. He even stays away from music on this day.

It’s good advice to follow. Plan a day right now that you will NOT practice. Learn to relax. Do something else on that day.

Evan Tate is a Faculty member at the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich, a Julius Keilwerth saxophones endorser, podcaster and author of the book “250 Jazz Patterns” and more. You can contact Mr. Tate at EvanTateMusic.com.

Article Source: ArticleAlley.com

Captivating An Audience

By Miguel Andoor

Learning proper singing technique is of course vital to your success as a performer. However, more important than this is the sense of your core, and your empathy with others — in short,your humanity. Without these traits, a performer cannot hold an audience’s interest, let alone captivate an audience. How do you develop these traits?

Be a social creature. Mix with people and nature, and realize that you are a member of both groups. When constantly engaged in a dialog with your fellow humans, you will recognize the essence of a great singer; it is the same as the essence of a great human being.

To develop this recognition, simply meet and greet people with warmth every chance you get. Greeting audience members before or after a performance is a good start. There are opportunities throughout your off-stage life for you to do this, also. Consider that even though you may be in a checkout line in a supermarket, or eating a meal in a Chinese restaurant, you’re still on stage and still performing. The personas we unconsciously don when we interact with the external world can help us connect with others, or distance us from others. The choice is yours. Decide to connect, and you’ll discover resources that penetrate your persona. These resources can only help your singing.

Recognize that you are your first audience, and critic. You may not be your best audience or critic, but you can develop greater objectivity about how you sound. First, identify what it is about your singing that you like. Are there particular songs, or songs by a particular composer that make you value your singing more? Conversely, are there songs you sing that make you cringe at the sound of your voice? Write these distinctions down, and find patterns in them to help you discover what exactly it is you like best about your voice.Continue reading Captivating An Audience

Do You Have Musical Talent?

Is talent something we are born with, or something that can be developed in anyone?  Maybe a bit of both.

David Shenk wrote about this on the the Genius Blog: The Genius in All of Us.

How can we explain the vast differences in musical ability? How can one species produce Paul Simon and William Hung? Are we born with musical talent, or do we develop it? Let’s sort through the research:Continue reading Do You Have Musical Talent?

Vocal Performance Preparation

Whether you’re going to be singing in a live performance or a recording situation, proper vocal preparation is essential.  Warm up exercises not only improve the quality of your singing, they also help protect your vocal instrument from damage.

But it’s not just the singing that can cause damage. Screaming, too much talking, or talking in noisy surroundings can also stress your vocal chords.

The lead singer in a band I was in had to stop singing for three months due to damage to her vocal chords.  We were playing every weekend in a local bar, and, in between songs, people would come up and talk or request songs.

The damage was caused not by her singing (her singing technique was excellent), but by having to lean over her keyboard and talk over the crowd noise.

Some other good suggestions for vocal performance preparation come from an article on a discmakers blog:

When preparing for a vocal performance or studio date, “the obvious thing to do is rest,” recommends Ebbers. “But there are environmental things you might not be aware of or consider an issue, like being in a place where the decibel level is much higher than you think it is. In order to compete with the sound, you have to strain your voice to speak louder to be heard or understood. Many times, people are unaware that they’re in such an environment, because there are so many noisy places in our world, and we’ve come to accept them and adjust. But when you’re a singer, you have to be more aware of these environmental conditions.”

If you’re playing club dates, bars, or parties, the quality of your performance and your vocal health can be severely impacted in the hours leading up to your set by talking and socializing before you get on stage. “Don’t go screaming at a football game or tax your voice before a performance or session, even if it’s two weeks before a session,” says vocalist, studio owner, and producer Jon Marc Weiss. “That can take its toll on your throat and vocal chords and can really mess you up. Keep in mind that you need to keep your voice in tip-top shape so that when you’re called on, you can perform.”

Read more: Don’t Tax Your Voice Before a Vocal Performance


Getting the Right Volume for Practicing and Gigging

How do you determine the right volume for practice and gigging?

This can be a difficult, and sometimes contentious, problem.  Different band members may have different opinions (desires, requests, demands), and audience members are no different.

Some solutions that can be attempted are:

  • talking to the other band members (Hey! it could work … or not)
  • individual monitors and monitor mixes
  • in-ear monitors or headphones
  • ear-plugs

Some of these solutions will work for problems with the audience as well.  However, in any audience you are always going to have some who want it louder and some who think you’re already too loud!

… and we all know how annoying that can be.

Here is a question and answer webpage with some more comments and ideas:  Musical Practice and Performing.



Questions and Answers for Independent Musicians

When you are starting out as a musician, or even when you’ve been at it for a long time, there are questions that are specific to independent musicians.

Some of these questions may be related to making a living as a musician, or they may be about how to become a better or more successful musician.

You may be wondering how much money you might eventually make, or what your lifestyle will be like. Do you need a back-up plan?  How do you make the connections to get the gigs you want?

If you already an established musician, whether locally, regionally, or nationally, you may find yourself being interviewed and asked questions about what it’s like to be a musician.

Here, from an article on grassrootsy.com, are a few of the questions and answers.

What skills/personal attributes are most important to being successful?

Most importantly, you need to be a good business person. There are so many talented artists out there, but not very many of them know how to make a living off of their talent.

So the most important aspect of being an musician – an independent one – is knowing how to book shows, capitalize on opportunities, be assertive, and ascribe value to your work, so much so that people want to invest in what you have to offer.

You also need to be extremely flexible and have an easy time engaging with different groups and types of people.

It’s common for musicians to be out of work for long periods of time. How can you supplement this time without work? How can you transition out of this period as quickly as possible?

I think when you’re first starting out, you might not have as many performances. It will take a while for people to get to know who you are. But eventually it shouldn’t be hard too find work. People are always in need of entertainment for their events.

The real question is, are these good jobs that can help you pay your bills? Sometimes they are. Sometimes they’re not. When you’re out of music work, it’s extremely important to fall back on your other skills.

This is why I highly recommend going to college and having another skill. I have many friends who are graphic designers, photographers, and videographers. They do other flexible types of jobs to help them subsidize their music career. And these are all great skills for a musician to have.

What are typical mistakes people make when trying to pursue this career?

They are selfish. They only look out for themselves and what they want. The more you get to meet, share, and collaborate with others, the better your experience will be.

For the person who just wants to “get ahead”, they can often feel threatened when others come into the picture as “competition”. But I think if we could operate off of a framework where one artist helps another, then everyone would succeed.

They compare:  I strongly feel like more artists need to spend less time looking at what others are doing.

Stop acting like we’re in a competition. If you set your own trajectory then you will be right on schedule. Stop comparing and just do what you do.