Music Advice: For Musicians From Musicians
by Jess and the team
We’re a couple of weeks into 2018 and it’s around this point where people are wondering how realistic their new year’s resolutions are. Rather than challenge myself to a resolution, I’m a big advocate of bettering what I already have.
With this in mind, it got me thinking…
How can we help our music students?
How can they build on what they’ve learnt previously and better it in 2018?
Is there a way to get more enjoyment out of the music?
My thoughts then moved to our tutors – the list is getting quite long now! With them all being professional musicians, they’ve got an encyclopaedic knowledge and advice that can be passed onto to our students.
So, I asked them…
What is the best piece of musical advice you have been given……?
One of the best bits of advice I was given, as a performer, was from Jools Holland’s Manager (ooh er) and that when describing your band genre, pick three words to identify it, such as “Bluegrass, close-harmonies, up-tempo” or “thrash metal, dramatic, all-women” etc.
I think we can get caught up with not wanting to label ourselves into a specific genre, but those two examples above are different enough to show you the difficulties a Bookings Manager has if you don’t let them know roughly what genre you are. It’s been great to see so many bands developing within the Academy recently, make sure you know your genre when approaching venues for gigs!
The best piece of advice that I have ever been given as a musician came from my biggest living inspiration, Liane Carroll, a most wonderful singer with more soul than you could possibly imagine. Although it sounds counterintuitive, her performance advice to me was to “Stop thinking so much! Just be honest and enjoy it.”; At the time I didn’t fully understand, but now I repeat it to myself on a daily basis. Overthinking can tear the fun out of performing, and if you’re not enjoying yourself, how do you expect your audience to?
In terms of musical advice, being told not to worry about what other musicians are doing, and to stay true to myself and my musical ideas. This has been helpful in preparing for auditions, and also if/when I worry what other people might think about my playing.
I was once told that your brain can’t process two opposite emotions at once and that it connects certain emotions to physical impulses e.g smiling. The science is far more complex, of course, but in layman terms this means that if you smile you can trick your brain into thinking you are happy and excited. When I am most nervous, I smile as much as possible and before I know it I think those butterflies are excitement. You have the power to be in control of yourself and your nerves and the more you practice shifting your perspective on those pesky butterflies the more in control you are of any performance anxiety you might be having. The power is in your hands (and eating a banana always helps too)!
The superhero pose! The pose that inflicts the feeling of power and control. When someone told me to stand like that before going on stage I thought they were barmy. But actually once I tried it, I realised that simply putting your hands on your hips and your legs slightly apart, making yourself a bigger person, really gives you a positive boost. Now I stand like that before every audition and concert, and my quintet even goes as far as group superhero poses before our gigs.
Someone once gave me a great quote about worrying (in particular, worrying about upcoming auditions, exams or performances). ‘Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.’ It really resonated with me. Then they said if you are fully prepared and have done everything you can, then you are ready! Preparation is the key! Coz when nerves kick in if you’re prepared then instinct, memory and all your hard work will prevail!
The best advice I’ve been given is to make beautiful memories.
It may seem like a strange one but music and life are intertwined and if your whole life becomes confined to the four walls of a practice room then your music will start to reflect that. Practice hard, yes. But never forget to live and infuse your music with your experiences!
Work and practice hard and don’t be afraid to take risks or make mistakes. In fact, make loads of mistakes, because the best way to learn is from our mistakes. Continue to go outside of your comfort zone because the moment you start to feel “comfortable” you’re probably not learning and therefore need to find a way to challenge yourself again.
A teacher of mine told me the best piece of advice:
“Always play for yourself, not for others”
Hopefully some of this advice resonates with you and can be used in your musical life. All the best for 2018.