Posts Tagged working musician

MUSIC: Some Interesting Professional Skills

 

You hear a pro band play or solo instrumentalist play and notice how cool they sound. (I mainly refer to piano or guitar.) One of reasons they sound cool is they probably know what they are doing! They are professionals. Right?

In addition to being professional musicians, behind the average listener’s awareness are these additional pro skills:

1. Faking it! As professionals we have learned to make stuff sound good even if we don’t know what we’re doing, or just can’t play a certain part of something well. I’ve done it, my friends have done it, and I’ve seen top acts on YouTube do it. (Maybe you’ve done it too!) Non-professionals can fake it too, if they can, as it’s sort of a “human skill,” you could say. Of course there are times when you don’t fake it. When I’m doing a reading session, I read what’s on the page and can either play it correctly or not. Sometimes you only get one chance, sometimes you can take some time and work it out. And at certain gigs you fake it!

2. Only playing what you can actually play. A pro knows what he can and can’t play well. When it’s time to sound good, we play what we know we can play. If the gig is a little loose we might try for things that could be a little out of reach and blow it… but who cares! Shooting for the next level is always fun. But there’s a time and place, and a pro knows when and where those are. And sometimes the feeling of what is played supersedes the notes being played so it doesn’t really matter.

3. Finding your way after getting lost. (Especially when reading music.) You’re playing a reading gig, get distracted for a minute, look away from the page… then have to find the exact location where you were in all of about a few seconds. This can happen to anybody. And without losing the beat for an instant. Also, you take your eyes off of the page to look at your instrument for a second then have to find your place on the page again. This is a common skill with guitar, bass and piano players. You might have experienced this while reading a book. You’re reading along and someone asks you a question, you look at them and talk a minute, then relocate yourself on the page you were reading. Has it ever taken you a few moments to find your place again? Well… on the bandstand you don’t always have a moment. Sometimes we only have a second. But when a pro does need a few moments to get reoriented we can do it without standing out, causing a scene, losing the rhythm or screwing something else up. It’s a nifty pro skill. (And I suppose this could apply to finding your way back to your car after playing a party on the 12th floor of a major hotel while having to go through the kitchen and service doors!)

4. Taking cues. Pros often have eyes in the back of their heads and telepathic powers. And sometime we can just feel exactly what’s going to happen next, while other times it’s noticing a slight head turn, finger movement or eyebrow lift. Cues can be very subtle, or very overt!. This important skill entails being comfortable enough with what you are playing so you are extroverted and can have your attention on the environment, and most importantly, being aware that you should be aware and are willing to do this. When a group of musicians are playing together, there times when everyone should be aware of everyone else.

Well…, there are four interesting pro skills. Non-pros can have them as well, and sometimes a pro doesn’t display one of the above qualities as needed. Whatever—it’s not always cut and dry.

I was talking about this with one of my students the other day and thought you might find this interesting.

I hope you did. If not… fake it and act like you did!

:-)

Marty B.

(818) 242-7551

Buttwinick Musical Services

Personalized Music Lessons

 

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Pro Musicians’ Tips #2 of 4: Cords, Earplugs & Gloves!

 

As a supplement to the large bodies of valuable information available, these lists of “Pro Musicians’ Tip” has been compiled from years of personal experience, observing others and by personal survey of about a dozen working professionals spanning all echelons of the business from local clubs to major-venue players and stage hands. In my book, How To Make A Living as a Musician, these were listed as appendix material, called “Miscellaneous Tips & Advices.” These tips represent dues well paid over many, many, years. Though this is a hefty list, there are hundreds of other tips around to be discovered. Use them to enhance your prosperity as a musician!
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Pro Musicians’ Tips #1 of 4: About Instruments & Equipment

 

As a supplement to the large bodies of valuable information available, these lists of “Pro Musicians’ Tip” has been compiled from years of personal experience, observing others and by personal survey of about a dozen working professionals spanning all echelons of the business from local clubs to major-venue players and stage hands. In my book, How To Make A Living as a Musician, these were listed as appendix material, called “Miscellaneous Tips & Advices.” These tips represent dues well paid over many, many years. Though this is a hefty list, there are hundreds of other tips around to be discovered. Use them to enhance your prosperity as a musician!

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The Musicians’ Basic Gig Checklist

 

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The Musicians’ Gig Checklist lays out all the things you could need at a gig: a fuse can blow, a string can break, a strong wind can blow your music off the stand, your guitar battery could go dead or you could be swarmed with bugs on a hot day. It’s a drag to be at a gig and not have something that you need, and knowing the possibilities prevents potential disasters.

 

 


    BASIC SET-UP

  1. Instrument(s), cables, wiping cloth and any needed accessories your instrument needs. E.g., extra reeds for sax players, valve oil for brass players, rosin for string players, etc.
  2. Amp, if not acoustic
  3. At least one extra instrument cable if playing an electric instrument
  4. An extension cord, three prong adapter, junction box and a small flashlight
  5. Any tools you use (screwdrivers, pliers, keyboard stand tighteners, drum key, etc.)
  6. Instrument tuner
  7. Extra fuses for your amp
  8. Extra batteries if you use them
  9. Extra strings if a string player with a wire cutter and extra picks if a guitarist or bassist
  10. Effects units with all the cables if you’re using these
  11. Anything else you might need, i.e., a towel if you sweat a lot, a hygiene bag, umbrella, rain boots, musicians’ earplugs for extremely loud music, etc.
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How To Make A Living as a Guitarist

 

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This is the original, unedited version of my GUITAR PLAYER magazine article called “FREELANCING — How To Get Hometown Gigs Now!” (Nov 95) It is a summation of what it takes to be a successful freelance guitarist. GUITAR PLAYER magazine loved my main book and wanted a condensed version for the guitar players of the world… so I gave them one!

 

 

 

Many guitarists want to make a living in the music business. You get an instrument and learn to play because it looks fun, exciting or cool—and off you go. After awhile you’re jamming, and making a career with music sounds like a good move. At some point this “good move” can become a fruitful career… or a disaster.
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Slang Terms and Physical Gestures Every Musician Should Know

 

The Musicians' How-To Series "How to Run a Band"

 

Professional musicians have developed certain slang terms and “sign language” gestures to communicate various instructions to the other musicians on the stage. Knowing these is an important part of being a functional, gigging musician.

 

These are a few “must know” terms for any working musician or singer.

 

  1. Bows, walk-ons, intros and play-ons — Specialized music used to introduce people when they are to “take a bow.” This music usually consists of short, well known melodies from popular songs or orchestral works. Bows are used for exiting as well as for making an entrance. Here they are called bows, walk-offs, outros and play-offs.
  2. Calling tunes — Deciding what the next tune to play will be, and telling the rest of the band about it.
  3. Count off — Counting aloud before the tune starts to establish the tempo and meter (how many beats in a bar).
  4. Cue — A physical gesture, audio signal (specific melody, rhythm, lyric, etc.) or lighting effect, signaling that some change is going to happen.
  5. Fingers in the air — either designate what chord you are on, or what key you are in. A “I chord” would have one finger in the air, a “IV chord” would have four. For showing what key you are in; fingers going up represent sharps, while fingers going down represent flats. Since the “Key of G” has one sharp, one finger going up is the “Key of G.” Since the “Key of F” has one flat, one finger going down would be the “Key of F.” (Definition: Roman numerals have been used as chord symbols for hundreds of years. A chord built from the first note in a scale is called the “I” chord, a chord built from the fourth note in a scale is called a “IV” chords, etc.)
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Musicians: How to Deal with Bad Attitudes

 

Human beings can be pretty complex life units. Some people are easy to work with while others seem impossible.

In the professional work-a-day world of a freelance musician there are fewer attitude difficulties than when guys are just starting out. Why? Well, when you have attitude problems that make getting the show on the road difficult you get fired. Period. When rehearsals and gigs need to occur, there’s no room for wasting time on people with attitude problems or lack of commitment when commitment is needed. One of the hallmarks of a professional is not letting his emotions, personal feelings or hobbies get in the way of productivity. The only people who get away with problem-attitudes are guys that are so great at what they do that they are in great demand. (This is NOT the way to go!) Even so, they don’t last long!
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