January 13, 2023
Not everyone goes in for New Year’s resolutions. In fact, even among those who do, most resolutions go unfulfilled. Still, the end of one year and the beginning of another is as good a time as any to take a step back, reevaluate, and plan for improvement. Here are some thoughts on upping your musical game for 2023.
Before you can decide how to improve, you’ll need to know what you’re trying to improve upon. Are you trying to improve your business and income from music? Get more gigs? Get better gigs? Make more music? Or maybe you just want to be a better player at the end of next year than you are today. There are a million ways to up your game – so first you need to decide which game you want to up!
Once you know the general area you want to improve on, work to create a S.M.A.R.T. goal. That stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based. For example, in fitness, coaches encourage overweight clients not to settle for goals like “I want to be healthier” or even “I want to lose weight.” Instead, a “smart” goal would look something like “I want to lose 8 pounds in 8 weeks.” That goal is specific, it can be measured, it’s attainable, it’s relevant (weight loss improves health), and it’s time-based.
In music, a smart goal might look like “book 10 summer gigs by April 1” or “be able to play Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto in concert in December 2023.” Once you set this goal, you can break it into manageable chunks that you work toward day by day and week by week.
Once you know what you’re really after and you’ve set a solid goal, you’re going to need to know what’s in the way. If you want to play the Rach III, for example, take note of what skills you lack that keep you from playing it now. Part of that is simply that you haven’t tried yet, but you may also need to improve things like hand flexibility or left-hand coordination. If your goal involves your music business, be honest with yourself about what’s missing. Do you need better branding materials or a good demo to give to venues? Do you need a stronger set list, more repertoire, or a solid band?
Don’t stop at weaknesses though. Make note of the advantages and strengths you have, so you can be sure to maximize them, and so you remain encouraged and inspired. Nothing shuts an artist down faster than thinking they’re not good enough. So, remind yourself about your assets as well as obstacles – and how you can use them. Use this information to further refine the steps toward your goal.
It’s highly unlikely that your day-to-day life isn’t booked solid. If you want to accomplish something new, you’ll have to fit new actions into your life, and that won’t happen if you don’t look at your schedule and book the time. Of course, if rehearsal and practice is already in your schedule, then working toward skill goals is straightforward – but you should still make sure you plan to do that new work in rehearsal, lest you fall into playing older stuff and spending up practice time maintaining existing skills.
If you’re trying for a whole new result, you’ll have to look through your schedule and figure out what can move or get cut to make room for new work. This can be hard if you’re always busy but look for inefficient actions, things that don’t serve your goals, or time you tend to waste. For example, most of us spend more time on social media or watching TV than we mean to. You can gain back time by honestly evaluating your schedule.
Put your new actions into your calendar, and don’t be afraid to schedule out for the whole year. Just remember to be flexible and that you may have to rearrange at some point.
Once you know the goal, break down the steps, and schedule the work; all that’s left to do is work the plan. If the plan is solid, you don’t need to question it every day. Just wake up and follow your own directions. Depending on your goal, you may need to evaluate at regular intervals to see if it’s working. For example, if your plan says you should have written so many songs by March and you’re not there, you may have to rework the plan a little. In some cases, you may find that your plan isn’t leading you to your goal. That may require a big pivot, but don’t do so too early without giving the plan a chance to work. A good rule of thumb is to promise yourself no pivoting for at least three months. Evaluate then and look for subtle tweaks before abandoning it all together.
Finally, no matter what you’re doing, sometimes the most effective way to improve anything is to get coaching. Going to back to the Rachmaninoff’s Third, you can break that down yourself or you could go ahead and take lessons again from a master and tell them your singular goal: play the Rach III in concert in December.
Whatever it is – whether it’s skill, business, better gigs, more songs – getting great help is the most efficient way to improve.
New Year’s doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, and you may be perfectly content to just keep rockin and rollin – that’s ok! But if you’re looking to up your musical game this year, you can do that too. Just make a plan and follow through!
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November 06, 2023
One of the most misunderstood things in mixing is bass – whether it’s getting the low end right in general, letting the bass guitar cut through without overpowering everything else, or just making the bass interesting and cool. It can be tricky to get it right, but there are plenty of tried-and-true tricks for getting there quickly. Let’s go over a few of those.
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