How Much Should You Practice?

This is such an important question.  In my opinion, practicing an instrument should be given the same attention that you give to studying any subject that you take in school.  When you have good study habits, you get better grades.  The same concept is true for practicing.  When you have good practicing habits, you become a better musician.  Below are the 2 suggestions that I always make to my students:

  • Only practice on the days that you eat.
  • Your at home daily practice sessions should last as long as your weekly lesson.

The first suggestion may sound a bit harsh, and any reasonable teacher knows that there are just going to be some days when you’re not going to be able to practice.  I do not advocate starving yourself or your child in the name of music.  The reason that I use this particular wording is to make sure that I set the expectation for my students that sustained progress can not be achieved without consistent practice.  Even the most gifted musicians among us have to put in the hard work.

If your weekly lesson is 30 minutes, then you should practice daily for 30 minutes.  If your lessons last for an hour, then your at-home practice sessions need to last for an hour.  This is a general rule that works well for most students.  If you have aspirations of becoming a world-renowned concert musician, then you’re going to have to practice a whole lot longer than an hour on most days.  If this applies to you, then you should speak to your teacher in more detail so that he/she can make recommendations for keeping your body healthy and injury free during rigorous practice.

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Marketing Your Music

9-Music-Marketing-Is

Photo Credit: Shaun Letang –
MusicIndustryHowTo.com

I found this “Music Marketing Is” image while searching the internet and just had to add my personal notes to it.  It’s very difficult to make a living as a musician without putting yourself out there in a consistent and professional manner.  Before you even think about marketing your music, you need to make sure that your skill level is where it needs to be and that the music production is high quality.

Gigging
Playing gigs is a great way to introduce new crowds of people to your music and talent.  This is also a great opportunity to interact enthusiastically with any future fans who could potentially become lifelong supporters of your music.

Interviews
There are certain media outlets that are always looking for new music and new artists to feature.  You can find these opportunities by doing a little research on the internet or by joining a site such as Music Clout.  These interviews are perfect for getting exposure to larger fan bases that you don’t have to spend time or money building yourself.  This is a mutually beneficial way to capitalize off someone else’s popularity.

Submitting Music For Review
You can submit your music to designated blog sites or podcasts that have the moderator and listeners review your music.  This is a great way to get valuable feedback and exposure to potential fans.

Networking
No man is an island, and that is especially true in the music business.  The most successful musicians have assembled a network of industry professionals who are able to contribute to the success of their careers.  You don’t have to bring everyone into your circle, but I think that you should at least be courteous when interacting with others because you never know when someone is going to be in a position to assist you.  You should also be mindful when reaching out to individuals in your network.  Try to offer something of value instead of always asking for people to do things for you.  I recommend keeping your communications on a business level until you mutually reach a comfort level that allows for more informal social contact.  You can begin networking by joining professional organizations or attending industry events.

Collaborating
Working with other artists is another good way to get your name in front of different fan bases.  This is also an opportunity for you to build your network and to really shine so that your name gets passed around to more artists and producers.

Building Your Image
Branding yourself helps to make you more memorable to the general public.  Even though it’s been said that any publicity is good publicity, you don’t want to run the risk of tanking your music career before you’ve given yourself a good chance.  What do you want people to think or associate with you and your music?  This is a good question to start with when building your brand.  You want to try to control the perception that people have of you.  Social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook are probably the quickest and easiest way to get your message out there.

Recording Videos
Creating quality, interesting videos can set you up to go viral.  Visual images can be so powerful.  Video links are easy to forward amongst followers.  You can set up your own video channel on YouTube dedicated to your music so that you can capture subscribers for your mailing list.

Radio Play
Getting your music played on a traditional radio station is almost impossible for independent musicians.  It’s much easier to get played on one of the non-traditional radio stations such as satellite, internet and podcasts.  Each station or podcast will have their own set of submission guidelines, so make sure that you do your research.  Here is a list of internet radio stations that you can look through to get started:  Internet Radio Stations

Related Articles

Work-For-Hire Sample Contract

Online Metronomes

A good metronome is an invaluable accessory for every musician.  While it’s probably best to purchase the actual device, there are some free on-line metronome options that are just as good.

  • Metronome Online:  This site has a metronome on the home page that’s very user friendly.  You don’t have to download any software to use it, and you can have a little bit of fun changing the color.  There are ON/OFF buttons so that you can turn off the sound as needed, and there are tempo markings to help you choose the right speed.  An added bonus is the concert A440 pitch that you can use to tune your instrument.
  • Web Metronome:  This site features an online metronome (no tuner) that doesn’t require a download for use.  There is a START/STOP button to pause the metronome.  There are also 3 ways to change the tempo….a single arrow to move the BPM (beats per minute) up or down by single increments, a double arrow to move the BPM up or down by 10, and a sliding bar.  There is also a sliding bar to change the number of beats per cycle.  For example, if you’re practicing a song with a 2/4 time signature, you’d want to change the beats per cycle to 2.  A song in 4/4 would have 4 beats per cycle.  The display window at the top of the metronome shows which beat in the cycle that you’re on.
  • Stopwatch.com Metronome:  This metronome can also be used very easily from the web page.  The center dial can be moved up or down the stick by using the mouse.  This is how you change the speed.  Once you select a tempo, the text box in the bottom right corner lets you know the corresponding tempo marking.  There is also a START/STOP button to pause the metronome.
You may also find the following links helpful:

EQ Frequency Chart

I was so thrilled to come across this EQ chart on the www.independentrecording.net website.  I’m still very much an amateur when it comes to the technology surrounding the art of the recorded sound.  Since I’ve started composing and producing my own music, I thought that it would be in my best interest to really understand the science of sound waves.

  • The orange on the chart below represents the fundamental frequencies for each specified instrument.
  • The yellow represents the harmonic frequencies for the indicated instrument.
  • At the bottom of the chart below the keyboard, you will find a correlation between various sound qualities and their matching frequencies.  This section is helpful when you’re trying to minimize background noises or maximize the quality of a recording.

Key Signatures and Key Names

The vast majority of music is written in a specific key that can be figured out by looking at the key signature.  The initial key of a song is determined by looking at the first measure of the sheet music between the clef sign and the time signature.  The image below points out the location of the key signature.


Naming The Key When There Are Sharps In The Key Signature
If you have 1 or more sharps in the key signature, the rule for determining the name of the key is to find the last sharp and then go up a half step.  The sharps will always be in order from left to right, so the last sharp will always be the one farthest to the right.  In the example below, the last sharp (B#) is highlighted in red:
If you play a B# on the piano and then play the note a half step higher, you will land on a C#.  Therefore, this key signature represents the key of C# Major or its relative minor key of A# minor.  To determine if your song (or section of music) is written in the major or relative minor key, look at the last note(s) or chord(s) in the last measure.  Most of the time, the notes in the last measure will either belong to the major or minor representation of the key signature.  Below is a table of last sharp names and the major/minor keys that the key signature defines:
Last Sharp(#) Major Key Minor Key
F# G Major E Minor
C# D Major B Minor
G# A Major F# Minor
D# E Major C# Minor
A# B Major G# Minor
E# F# Major D# Minor
B# C# Major A# Minor


Naming The Key When There Are Flats In The Key Signature
The general rule for determining the key when there are flats in the key signature is to find the 2nd to last flat, and the name of that flat will be the name of the major key.  The flats will be in order from left to right.  In the example below, the 2nd to last flat is highlighted in blue:

The flat highlighted is E♭, so this key signature represents E♭ Major or its relative minor key of C minor.

Exceptions To The Rules
  • No Sharps/No Flats.  If there aren’t any sharp or flat signs in the key signature, then you can’t apply either rule.  This key signature is either C Major or A minor.
  • One Flat.  The general rule for flats doesn’t work if there’s only 1 flat in the key signature.  The key will be either F Major or D minor.
You may also find the following links helpful:

New Song: "Reflections at Sunset"

You can listen FREE of charge by clicking on the player below:

I didn’t have a title for this song when I started working on it.  I thought I was creating a backdrop for another song, but this one began to take on a life of it’s own.  The string trio part at the end of the song was the first section that I created.  The piano melody line came second.  The cello and guitar parts came next.  The other filler parts such as the string pizzicato and drums took a lot of experimentation to create the right balance of sounds and textures, but everything eventually came together.

This whole song was recorded and created in my very small home studio using Logic Pro 9, a digital piano, a cello and an Apogee MiC.  In the process of creating my own music, I’m also learning audio engineering skills which is a fun benefit for me.  I’m really looking forward to becoming a better songwriter as well.

I would love to know what you think about my new song!!


You may also find these links helpful:
Adding Markers To Your Songs in Logic Pro 9
Work For Hire Sample Contract

Piano Maintenance and Care

With the proper care, your piano can last for many lifetimes.  Below are some tips for taking the best care of your instrument so that you can enjoy playing for many years to come.

Do NOT eat or drink at the piano.
It’s never a good idea to eat or drink around your piano.  That’s just an accident waiting to happen!  Crumbs and liquid could potentially fall between the keys making them sticky.  If this should ever occur, you will need to call in a professional who will be able to safely remove the keys, if necessary, to clean up the mess.  Condensation from drinks can ruin wood or lacquer finishes.  If you have a digital piano, you risk frying the electronics inside of the piano.

Keep the lid and fallboard down when not in use.
This helps to keep dust and other debris from settling inside the piano or on/between the keys.  If you have a piano that won’t be used for very long periods of time, it’s a good idea to occasionally leave the lip open to allow some daylight and air circulation to help prevent mold from growing on the inside.

Do not use harsh chemicals to clean or polish any part of the piano.
When cleaning your piano, it’s best to use either a dry soft cloth or a slightly damp one (using clean water).  Feather dusters are also great for removing loose dust particles.  Don’t clean the interior of the piano on your own.  Interior cleanings are best left up to a professional to ensure that the fragile interior mechanisms aren’t damaged.  It’s highly recommended that polishing should be kept to a minimum.  Before polishing, make sure you know exactly what material the finish of your piano is made of.  Different materials need to be polished differently to avoid causing severe damage from the chemicals.

Get your piano tuned and serviced on a regular schedule.
This section only applies to acoustic pianos; not digital or electronic ones.  The general rule is that your piano should be tuned each season since seasonal changes are accompanied by temperature and humidity changes.  This breaks down to 4 tunings a year at 3 month intervals.  If you practice and play frequently, you should also get the felt hammers and internal action mechanics checked out approximately twice a year.  The parts integral to the hammer hitting the strings to produce sound and the felt on the hammers can wear down.  When these parts wear down, it will affect the sound quality of your piano in a negative way.

Only used qualified professionals for repairs and servicing.
You should never tune your own piano unless you are a trained professional certified in the art of piano tuning.  Also, you should never attempt to make repairs to the keys or internal parts.  You could potentially turn a minor repair into a more costly one.  Before hiring a professional, make sure you ask about their credentials and certifications.  You can also check with professional piano technician organizations for a registry of reputable individuals or businesses.

Keep your piano away from extreme humidity and temperature changes.
The wood, strings and other materials used to make your piano will contract or expand as the temperature and humidity changes.  This process will cause the pitch of the piano strings to go either flat or sharp.  Your piano should not be placed directly over or under heating or cooling sources.  You should also try to control the humidity in your piano room.

You may also find the following links helpful:
Music Terms and Symbols For Pianists
Suzuki Method For Piano
Parts of The Piano
Piano Pedals
Correct Piano Posture

ABOUT AUDREY WILLIAMS
I am a professional musician and music teacher.  For more information, please visit my website at www.AudreyWilliamsMusic.com.  You can listen to samples of my music by clicking HERE.