Musicnotes.com Blog http://blog.musicnotes.com The official blog of Musicnotes.com Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:23:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Honor Flight Donation Drive a Soaring Success! http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/29/honor-flight-2/ http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/29/honor-flight-2/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:23:57 +0000 http://blog.musicnotes.com/?p=7730 MADISON, WI — July 29, 2014 — More than a dozen military veterans will be honored with a trip to their respective war memorials, thanks to the help of Musicnotes customers who purchased patriotic sheet music between Memorial Day and Independence Day this year. The annual six-week Musicnotes Honor Flight donation drive provides $1 from every patriotic download to local chapters of the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s war veterans through tours to Washington D.C. memorials. Exceeding previous years’ sales and reaching this year’s goal, 2014 proved to be the most rewarding drive yet. A total of $8,000 will be divided equally between the Badger Honor Flight in Madison, Wis. and the
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MADISON, WI — July 29, 2014 —

More than a dozen military veterans will be honored with a trip to their respective war memorials, thanks to the help of Musicnotes customers who purchased patriotic sheet music between Memorial Day and Independence Day this year. The annual six-week Musicnotes Honor Flight donation drive provides $1 from every patriotic download to local chapters of the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s war veterans through tours to Washington D.C. memorials.

Exceeding previous years’ sales and reaching this year’s goal, 2014 proved to be the most rewarding drive yet. A total of $8,000 will be divided equally between the Badger Honor Flight in Madison, Wis. and the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight in Milwaukee. The cost of the trip is about $600 per veteran, and all expenses are paid for those who so honorably served our country.

Musicnotes has held the annual Honor Flight donation drive since 2011, when Musicnotes Chairman Tim Reiland presented the idea after witnessing an Honor Flight homecoming . Since the drive’s inception, Musicnotes is proud to have donated more than $25,000 to such a deserving cause, Reiland said.

For more information about and/or to contribute to your local honor flight program, visit http://www.honorflight.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Songs of Summers Past, Do You Remember These 20 Hot-Weather Hits? http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/25/songs-of-summer/ http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/25/songs-of-summer/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:27:33 +0000 http://blog.musicnotes.com/?p=7698 There are certain things we absolutely can count on each summer (we’re especially thinking back to the days of marching band practice). Strange tan lines, endless bottles of water, copious amounts of sunscreen, and that one summer song that we absolutely love in May and have no way of escaping come August. Enter: the big summer hit! Each summer there’s quite a bit of buzz about what song will be ‘the’ song of summer.  After all, this is the singular popular jam determined to define what the past 4 months have been all about. And, undoubtedly, these ‘earworms‘ work their way into our collective consciousness, dominating airwaves, spawning YouTube covers and infiltrating nearly every barbecue and
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There are certain things we absolutely can count on each summer (we’re especially thinking back to the days of marching band practice). Strange tan lines, endless bottles of water, copious amounts of sunscreen, and that one summer song that we absolutely love in May and have no way of escaping come August. Enter: the big summer hit!

Each summer there’s quite a bit of buzz about what song will be ‘the’ song of summer.  After all, this is the singular popular jam determined to define what the past 4 months have been all about. And, undoubtedly, these ‘earworms‘ work their way into our collective consciousness, dominating airwaves, spawning YouTube covers and infiltrating nearly every barbecue and pool party we attend.

Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE these songs of summer. They wouldn’t shoot to the top if they weren’t cool, catchy and fun to play. And, who doesn’t enjoy reminiscing about good times of summers past? What song will be declared 2014′s official summer anthem is yet to be decided. Until then, let’s take a look at the past 20 years’ worth of unofficially official songs of summer!

2013: Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke The song that might still be stuck in your head spent 12 consecutive weeks atop Billboard‘s Hot 100 during the summer of 2013. It also was the best-selling digital single of the year.

2012: Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson MTV’s top song of 2012 similarly was the best-selling digital single of its year. You know you’ve made it big when you’re parodied by Cookie Monster!

2011: Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO We’re partial to the dancing hamster version of this song, which spent an impressive 68 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.

2010: California Gurls by Katy Perry The title itself just screams summer fun! Even The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, arguably the all-time song of summer kings, declared the tune “infectious.”

2009: I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas Spring debut? Check! Controversial music video? Check! Contagious beat? Check! No wonder the Black Eyed Peas’ hit spent all of Summer 2009 atop the charts.

2008: Viva La Vida by Coldplay The 2009 Grammy ‘Song of the Year’ shot to the top of of the charts immediately following its June release. It’s also the ONLY song on our songs of summer list to also have been featured on our misheard lyrics list!

2007: Hey There Delilah by Plain White T’s This one-hit wonder actually was released as a single in May of 2006, but  wasn’t deemed a hit until a year later when it was the most-played song on American radio from July 3 through July 28, 2007.

2006: Crazy by Gnarls Barkley  Rolling Stone named “Crazy” the number one song of 2009, and its 100th greatest song of all time. And, while the single catapulted to the top spot on charts around the globe, it remained at number 2 on the Billboard 100 for seven consecutive weeks due the popularity of close-runner-up for our summer 2006 song, Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous.”

2005: Don’t Cha by The Pussycat Dolls  Produced by one-half of the 2006 song of summer duo (Cee-Lo Green), “Don’t  Cha” was unapologetically manufactured to be a pop  hit. And a pop hit it was, both in the U.S. and abroad during the summer of 2005.

2004: If I Ain’t Got You by Alicia Keys Summer 2004 was all bout the R&B hits! In addition to the fabulous Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” which peaked in July, Usher’s ‘Confessions’ album produced two hot hits, “Burn” and “Confessions Part II.”

2003: Crazy in Love by Beyoncé and Jay Z Beyonce’s much-anticipated first solo album did not disappoint, with its debut single hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 even before it was available for purchase!

2002: Hot in Herre by Nelly Sampling the hook from Chuck Brown’s ’79 R&B classic “Bustin’ Loose,” “Hot In Herre” was the first number one single for Nelly, and it even took the year-end Billboard singles top spot.

2001: Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me) by Train Securing a Top 40 spot for 29 weeks spanning the summer of 2001, the rock hit won two Grammy Awards, including an instrumental accompaniment honor for strings arranger Paul Buckmaster.

2000: It’s Gonna Be Me by ‘N Sync The pop group’s only number one single, “It’s Gonna Be Me” is perhaps best remembered for its music video, featuring each member as a boxed doll breaking out into the toy store.

1999: Genie In a Bottle by Christina Aguilera Back when ‘The Voice’ coach was still a fledgling vocalist, Aguilera scored THE hit of summer 1999 and the second-best selling song of the year with her first single.

1998: Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) by The Backstreet Boys And back they were with a second international album. The first single from their sophomore release spent 22 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 following its February radio debut.

1997: MMMBop by Hanson  Originally written as a ballad, the brothers Hanson decided to release an uptempo version produced by The Dust Brothers. MMMBop 2.0 hit the number one spot in 27 countries following its April 15th release.

1996: Macarena by Los Del Rio It’s boarder-line impossible to listen to “Macarena” and not dance along! The international phenomenon spent 14 weeks at number one one the Billboard Hot 100  in 1996 and was played nearly everywhere, from Major League Baseball games to wedding receptions.

1995: Waterfalls by TLC  Another single success aided by its accompanying music video, which cost a nearly then-unprecedented one million dollars, “Waterfalls” ranked 8th on  VH1′s  list of “100 Greatest Songs of the 1990s.” Fun fact: Cee-Lo Green provided backing vocals on the album track!

1994: I Swear by All-4-One and John Michael Montgomery  Initially debuting on the Hot 100  in 1993 via John Michael Montgomery’s country single, pop group All-4-One covered the song, released it in April the following year, and saw it spend a total of 18 weeks at either number one or number two on the charts.

Do you have a favorite front-runner for the 2014 Song of Summer? Are there any songs you just can’t seem to get out of your head (or escape)? Share in the comments section below!

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Q&A with Lyricist, Composer, Musical Director and All-Around Broadway Pro, Georgia Stitt http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/22/broadway-pro-georgia-stitt/ http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/22/broadway-pro-georgia-stitt/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:03:35 +0000 http://blog.musicnotes.com/?p=7680 Dressing in a nun’s habit while singing in Latin on national live television? All in a day’s work for the supremely talented conductor, vocalist and writer Georgia Stitt! You may recognize Georgia from her role as a member of the nunnery in NBC’s ‘The Sound of Music Live!’ or as a vocal coach on ‘Grease: You’re the One that I Want!.’ You might also be a big fan (as we are) of her many  acclaimed written works including ‘Alphabet City Cycle,‘ ‘Sing Me a Happy Song‘ and ‘My Lifelong Love.’ We asked the lovely Broadway songstress to share a bit about her writing process, why she fell in love with the theatre, her best
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Dressing in a nun’s habit while singing in Latin on national live television? All in a day’s work for the supremely talented conductor, vocalist and writer Georgia Stitt!

You may recognize Georgia from her role as a member of the nunnery in NBC’s ‘The Sound of Music Live!’ or as a vocal coach on ‘Grease: You’re the One that I Want!.’ You might also be a big fan (as we are) of her many  acclaimed written works including ‘Alphabet City Cycle,‘ ‘Sing Me a Happy Song‘ and ‘My Lifelong Love.’

We asked the lovely Broadway songstress to share a bit about her writing process, why she fell in love with the theatre, her best tips for aspiring professional vocalists and the five ‘desert-island‘ songs she wouldn’t live without.

You continue to wear so many musical hats, writing, composing, arranging, performing and teaching. How do you switch gears from one activity to the other?

G.S.  Honestly, I don’t know how people can make a life in this industry if they CAN’T do many things. When I am sitting alone, composing, orchestrating, or arranging, I miss being around people. I love making all of the little detailed decisions on my score paper but I ache to hear the musicians play the notes, to hear the singers shape the words.  And then when I’m in rehearsal for too long, I get antsy to be back at my desk and my piano at home. There’s this balancing act that has to happen. I have both the desire to make something that will last forever and to make something that will fill up the space with music RIGHT NOW. So as projects appear on my desk I guess I have a kind of barometer that guides me.  I will admit that it’s hard on a given day to shift gears between something internal and something external, but it’s more like my schedule has chapters: this is a writing time, this is a rehearsing time, this is a performing time.  And, let’s face it, sometimes the job that’s paying the bills is the one that gets the most attention.

What are some of your sources for songwriting inspiration?

G.S.  I find myself wanting to write when I experience other people being enormously creative. A good novel, a beautiful piece of art, a perfect poem — all of these things can send me into my writer’s head. I am always on the lookout for adaptable material. Everything I read is colored with, “but is this a story that could sing?” Most things aren’t great fodder for musicals, but sometimes even a flawed piece of someone else’s work can make me want to take a pass at telling the same KIND of story. Once I know what I want to write about, I try to find a way to expresses a universal emotion or a common experience in a unique and personal way. The perfect response to hearing one of my songs would be, “I have felt that way before, but I have never thought about it quite like that.” I love songs that have great lyrics, I love songs that have interesting and surprising music, and I love songs that make me laugh.  So I look for stories and situations that open themselves up to those possibilities.

Are there variations in your writing processes when composing to others’ text (as in “Sonnet 29” and for ‘Alphabet City Cycle’) in contrast to writing music and lyrics together? 

G.S.  Oh yes, absolutely. When I’m working with pre-existing text, the words dictate all kinds of choices. Words, especially pre-existing poetry, have their own rhythms and their own energies. The vowels demand to be held for certain amounts of time and the meanings of the words claim prominence that I then echo with musical architecture. Sometimes when I’m setting a poem to music I feel like my job is closer to archaeologist than composer. I’m there to uncover the music that the words are showing me. It’s already there; I just find it.

When I’m building a song from scratch, however, the prep work is about finding a way of saying something that allows both the text and the music to communicate their ideas at the same time. Are the words and the music saying the same thing, or are they providing subtext for each other? Is the music telling you that the singer doesn’t mean what she says? Is the energy of the music supporting the energy of the text or is it providing an obstacle the singer has to overcome? Where are the moments of unison, and how can they be most powerful? I often make these structural decisions before I know exactly what the words are, and then the job of fitting the words into the music becomes this massive task. Then I rewrite it about forty times and finally I layer in the orchestrations and the vocal harmonies. So many layers. A good song, like a good lasagna, is very thick with layers.  That, I think, is what makes classic songs able to stand up against repeated listening. A timeless song reinvents itself to you every time you hear it.

“A good song, like a good lasagna, is very thick with layers.”Georgia Stitt

 What drew you to musical theatre, in particular, and how does writing for theatre vary from other musical art forms?

G.S.  When I was in college I was majoring in music composition at Vanderbilt and I was writing string quartets and art songs, but I was also playing piano and accompanying a lot of singers for their lessons and their recitals. My conducting teacher, John Morris Russell (who is now the conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra), asked me if I’d be interesting in joining him that summer as an accompanist for a summer stock musical theater company on Cape Cod that did nine musicals in eleven weeks. It sounded like a fun job but I had no idea how life-changing it would be. In addition to JMR and me, the music staff that summer also included Joseph Olefirowicz, now a prominent conductor in Europe, and Eric Whitacre, now a celebrity choral composer and conductor. It was as satisfying a musical experience as I’ve ever had. I turned 21 that summer, played my little fingers off and decided that there would nothing more satisfying than being a person who got to create musicals for a living. It was the first time I understood how my love of words and my love of music and my love of storytelling could all come together to make something powerful. By the end of the summer I knew I was in the right place, but I wanted a bigger piece of it. I went on to be a conductor for several seasons, and then I applied to NYU and got my MFA in Musical Theater Writing.  That led to the beginning of a career writing and conducting musicals, and I am very lucky that I’ve been able to do this work for all of this time.

Writing for musical theater is such a collaborative art form. You simply can’t make a musical by yourself. You need partners for the writing part, the performing part, the producing part, the selling part, the recording part, the promoting part… and so on.  You are constantly throwing ideas back and forth with other people. It’s art by team, or art by committee, and that comes with its own set of challenges, for sure.  I happen to enjoy people, especially smart, talented, creative people. But if you just want to sit in your studio and create something, musical theater is probably not for you.

What was it like working on ‘The Sound of Music Live!?’ How was it different from or similar to your previous roles on television (as vocal coach for ‘Grease: You’re The One That I Want,’ ‘Clash of the Choirs’ and ‘America’s Got Talent’)?

G.S. Working on NBC’s “The Sound Of Music” was a real kick.  I’d done a number of jobs in TV/film production before, as you stated above, but most of them were behind-the-scenes kinds of jobs. I have worked one-on-one as a music director or vocal coach for many of those music competition shows. In the film world I’ve also had music supervisory jobs on the ABC TV movie of “Once Upon A Mattress” and the not-yet-released feature film “The Last Five Years.” But on “The Sound Of Music” the job came with a twist. I was hired to be the music director for the nuns.  There were 20 of us in the nun-semble —  24 if you count Audra McDonald (Mother Abbess) and the three featured nuns.  Our job was to sing a cappella, in Latin, on live TV. I know that David Chase, the music supervisor of the entire project, hired me partly because he knew I could sing and that I had both conductor and TV-production experience.  So I taught the vocal parts and conducted the nuns (under David’s leadership), and then I actually got to BE IN THE SHOW as a nun. I sang alto. I wore a habit. I had my own trailer.  I conducted off-stage. It was pretty wild and so much fun.  The music-making on that show was out of this world, and the company of women in our nunnery was not to be surpassed.

Are there any essential words of wisdom to share with aspiring vocalists and/or young folks auditioning for musical theatre?

G.S.  I say get all of the experience you can in all areas of music.  Sing different styles of music. Sing in ensembles, sing with bands, sing with pianists. Audition for things that sound like fun and be willing to go on the adventure. Most of the projects we get asked to do are short-term, so even if it winds up being less spectacular than you expected, it’s still going to add something to your musical bag of tricks.  Work with people who have something to teach you, people who inspire you, people who can connect you.  And then, learn how to say no to things that don’t sound like fun, or things that don’t add to your experiences, and especially say no to things that take advantage of you. Your talent is your commodity. If you choose to give it away, it is just that: a gift. Lend your gift to benefits for organizations you believe in or people who need your help or causes that inspire your passion and your rage. But don’t give it away to people who don’t respect it or value it or understand it.  You have worked too hard to be invisible.

And lastly, you’re stranded on a deserted island, and you get to bring one instrument and five song recordings. What would you bring with you and why?

G.S.  Well, nothing’s going to stay in tune anyway, and the piano that I know I wanted to bring with me probably went down with the ship.  So if I can’t amuse myself by playing through all of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (which is really what I would most like to be doing), then I suppose I’d choose the ukulele.  I am learning the ukulele and it is quite versatile and fun.  But I don’t think I can really play Bach fugues on it.  Hmm.  A dilemma.

Five desert-island songs:

  • MIGRATORY V — I have a demo of Mandy Patinkin singing this Adam Guettel song. Just glorious.
  • MAMMA, MAMMA — from “The Most Happy Fella.” One of my all-time favorite moments in one of my all-time favorite shows.
  • SPEAK LOW (WHEN YOU SPEAK LOVE) - Kurt Weill. Sexiest song in the whole world.
  • ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET - This is the song I sing to my kids to cheer them up. So, any recording, really, so long as it has some life and some pep.
  • MY ROMANCE - My very favorite song. It was sung by Jessica Molaskey at our wedding. My 4-year old knows all of the words because I sing it to her every night. Perfect song.

Musicnotes would like to offer our sincerest thanks to Ms. Stitt for taking the time to share with all of us. And, be sure to browse the excellent collection of sheet music by Georgia Stitt, which includes an awesome selection of great vocal audition pieces.

 

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Facts, stats and interesting tidbits about the Musicnotes sheet music team! http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/18/sheet-music-team/ http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/18/sheet-music-team/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 18:00:00 +0000 http://blog.musicnotes.com/?p=7398 Did you know that more than 4 million awesome musicians trust Musicnotes for their sheet music? And we’re proud to offer close to 250,000 digital arrangements covering nearly every genre and instrument. But none of it would be possible without our super team of talented musicians, programmers and designers here at MNHQ in Madison, Wisconsin. We thought it’d be fun to survey our staff and learn a little more about the people behind all the great sheet music! Take a look at our results in the infographic below. Interested in learning more about Musicnotes? Check out our ‘About Us’ page for additional information. Want to join our team? See current
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Did you know that more than 4 million awesome musicians trust Musicnotes for their sheet music? And we’re proud to offer close to 250,000 digital arrangements covering nearly every genre and instrument.

But none of it would be possible without our super team of talented musicians, programmers and designers here at MNHQ in Madison, Wisconsin. We thought it’d be fun to survey our staff and learn a little more about the people behind all the great sheet music! Take a look at our results in the infographic below.

Meet the team behind the sheet music

Interested in learning more about Musicnotes? Check out our ‘About Us’ page for additional information.

Want to join our team? See current job openings.

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A Songwriting Competition by Songwriters, for Songwriters http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/15/shof-songwriting-competition/ http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/15/shof-songwriting-competition/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 18:00:15 +0000 http://blog.musicnotes.com/?p=7631 Calling all serious songwriters! Musicnotes is excited to share this amazing opportunity launched by our friends at the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Universal Music Publishing Group, the first ever Songwriters Hall of Fame Song Competition! Conceived by the talent and brainpower behind both great organizations, the Song Competition offers an opportunity for songwriters, both amateur and professional, to submit their work for a chance to win the Grand Prize: a publishing contract with Universal Music Publishing Group, an Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE guitar, two tickets to the 2015 Songwriters Hall of Fame Annual Induction and Awards Gala, and recognition from the stage at the ceremony. (This gala is really an
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Calling all serious songwriters! Musicnotes is excited to share this amazing opportunity launched by our friends at the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Universal Music Publishing Group, the first ever Songwriters Hall of Fame Song Competition!

Conceived by the talent and brainpower behind both great organizations, the Song Competition offers an opportunity for songwriters, both amateur and professional, to submit their work for a chance to win the Grand Prize: a publishing contract with Universal Music Publishing Group, an Epiphone Masterbilt DR-500MCE guitar, two tickets to the 2015 Songwriters Hall of Fame Annual Induction and Awards Gala, and recognition from the stage at the ceremony. (This gala is really an outstanding experience!)

In addition, four second-place winners with receive amazing prizes, including a one-hour creative and career mentoring session with a Songwriters Hall of Fame songwriting legend, two tickets to the gala and an Epiphone guitar. All contest winners will be featured in the 2015 Gala Dinner Journal (seen by the who’s who of the music industry) and will get a bio profile on the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame website.

Jimmy Webb, SHOF Chairman (and a legendary songwriter himself), said the event was created to help foster a welcoming environment for new songwriting talent, a cause that we here at Musicnotes also are passionate about.

“It has long been the dream of the Songwriters Hall of Fame to launch an online song competition, offering the opportunity for a winner to actually plant their feet in the music business,” Webb said. “Universal Music Publishing Group’s participation has made this possible. We hope to see this become the most prestigious in the arena of songwriting competition.”

So, you might be wondering how to enter. The Songwriters Hall of Fame and Universal Music Publishing Group have set up a page on the Sonicbids website. (Note, you’ll receive an entry discount if you’re a Songwriters Hall of Fame Member.) Entry is open through September 22, 2014, and songs will be judged based on melody, composition, originality and lyrics. Happy writing and good luck!

 

 

 

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Maximize Your Time with These Practice Tips http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/11/practice-tips/ http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/11/practice-tips/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 18:00:27 +0000 http://blog.musicnotes.com/?p=7602 Why do we practice? Sometimes it’s fun to pick up or sit down to your instrument and just play around, but that’s not really practicing. Practice, by definition, is a repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency. We as musicians are continuously honing our skills, reaching for the next level of competency and ultimate mastery of our instruments. Practice is work! And with these practice tips, you’ll be able to make the most of all the effort exerted during those precious practice hours. We’ll go through simple dos and don’ts of maximizing your practice time. And, like anything new, it’s going to take some practice
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Why do we practice? Sometimes it’s fun to pick up or sit down to your instrument and just play around, but that’s not really practicing. Practice, by definition, is a repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency. We as musicians are continuously honing our skills, reaching for the next level of competency and ultimate mastery of our instruments. Practice is work! And with these practice tips, you’ll be able to make the most of all the effort exerted during those precious practice hours.

We’ll go through simple dos and don’ts of maximizing your practice time. And, like anything new, it’s going to take some practice to get used to practicing at your highest level. Be patient, try your best, and, most importantly, enjoy the music!

DON’T WORRY When you’re worried, you’re more than likely not giving 100% of your attention to what you’re practicing. Distractions like running through your grocery list or thinking about tomorrow’s math assignment will keep you from being able to fully engage in the moment.

One tip for worrying less is to think about what can be done in the immediate moment to remedy the situation. An example would be to tell yourself, “I’m worried about the math assignment, but worrying about it won’t help the situation. I’ll focus on practicing now, and deal with that math assignment later today.” Or, in the case of the grocery list, “I’ll write this down now, so it doesn’t distract me during my practice.”

Worrying about an upcoming performance can hurt your productivity in the practice room as well. Read about practice tips specifically related to performance anxiety here.

DON’T PRACTICE MINDLESSLY Mindless practicing is one of the worst ways to hinder your musical advancement. Sure, you can repeat a passage over and over again again until you memorize it in the moment, but studies show that that that those gains in ability will be short-lived and not translate into actual learning.

“Massed practice,” or the repetition method, will give the illusion of learning, but progress is actually an effect of short-term memory. However “random practice,” or mixing up your playing of difficult passages up with other passages during a session, will pay off the next day, when you’ll notice measurable improvement and skill retention.

DON’T MAKE IT A CHORE If you begin a practice begrudgingly, chances are you’ll not be able to avoid the previous DON’TS on our list. If possible, pick a practice time in which you’re most aware and alert. If you’re a morning person, practice after breakfast. If you’re a night owl, practice before bed. (So long as you don’t bother your roommates, we’re not advocating for that!)

Similarly, it’s optimal to customize the length of time you practice to your own concentration span. If you only feel fully engaged for 20 minutes at a time, that’s fine! Just sit down for multiple 20-minute practice sessions throughout the day. If you can practice mindfully for an hour or more, that’s fantastic as well. Tailor your practice times to what works best for you.

Now, let’s look at practice tips for what you SHOULD do to make the most of your practice time.

DO SET CLEAR GOALS Write your specific, measurable goals in a practice notebook, and check them off as you achieve them. Studies prove that the act of writing down your goals will boost your likelihood of reaching them. The key in this is that the goals must be measurable, meaning you’ll clearly be able to gauge when you accomplish each one. Also, set due dates for your goals to help hold yourself accountable.

Say you’re having difficulty with phrasing in a new piece. An example of a goal you’d write down would be “I want to play through this piece 3 times without a phrasing mistake.” Of course, we’ve already learned that all 3 times should occur spread throughout the practice (see second DON’T). Once that’s completed, you can check it off your goal list for the day.

A great bonus to writing down and checking off goals is the confidence you’ll feel when looking back on all that you’ve accomplished!

DO PRACTICE IN PERFORMANCE MODE One study found that about 47% of our waking hours are spent thinking about something other than the matter-at-hand. That’s a lot of mind wandering!

Try to approach practicing just like you do performing. Stretch and warm up the same way you do prior to a big performance. The familiarity of the movements not only will help you focus during your practice session, it’ll also help calm possible nerves on performance day.

DO MONITOR YOUR PRACTICE It takes a little getting used to, but recording yourself practicing can provide a world of helpful insight. Either via video or just sound, you’ll be able to observe and adjust  slight nuances you don’t necessarily notice in the moment.

You’ll want to listen to the recording a while after your practice session ends as well. Objectively listening with fresh ears will offer the greatest benefit. Plus, you’ll be able to look (and listen) back on how far you’ve come and appreciate all that hard practice work you put in!

Do you have additional practice tips or activities that have helped you achieve your goals? Are there any practice methods that you’ve found to work really well? We, and your fellow readers would love to hear them! Share your insights with us in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Tips for Overcoming Stage Fright http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/08/overcoming-stage-fright/ http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/08/overcoming-stage-fright/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 18:00:54 +0000 http://blog.musicnotes.com/?p=7571 Your palms start sweating, your muscles tense up, your heart beats so loud you think that, certainly, the whole audience can hear. Stage fright, also called performance anxiety, is a common ailment that affects many musicians, from beginners to professionals. If you’re one of the millions who suffer from stage fright know that you’re not alone, that it’s not your fault, and that there are activities and exercises you can do to help naturally overcome the anxiety. First, let’s understand why we feel stage fright. It’s all a natural reaction due to the body’s fight or flight response, a biological survival adaptation that kicks in when we feel threatened. We
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Your palms start sweating, your muscles tense up, your heart beats so loud you think that, certainly, the whole audience can hear. Stage fright, also called performance anxiety, is a common ailment that affects many musicians, from beginners to professionals. If you’re one of the millions who suffer from stage fright know that you’re not alone, that it’s not your fault, and that there are activities and exercises you can do to help naturally overcome the anxiety.

First, let’s understand why we feel stage fright. It’s all a natural reaction due to the body’s fight or flight response, a biological survival adaptation that kicks in when we feel threatened. We naturally want the approval of others, and when we’re front-and-center under a spotlight, we can experience the threat of not gaining others’ approval.

What’s curious is that even after performing countless times and garnering nothing but praise, we still may experience stage fright. Barbra Streisand is known to use a teleprompter during live performances due to anxiety, Adele has spoken openly about her fear of audiences, and John Lennon would get physically ill prior to performing as a symptom of stage fright.

Thankfully, there are measures we can take to lessen the severity of our stage fright symptoms, both on the big day itself and between performances. We’ve pulled together 10 activities and exercises that we rely on to perform without fear.

1. Prepare

We all know the importance of practice prior to a big recital or performance, but if you suffer from stage fright it might be helpful to take it one step further. While practicing your piece, think about exactly what you’ll think about while performing the piece. Don’t allow yourself to go into auto-pilot practice mode, but rather fully engage with the music. Visualize upcoming difficult passages while you play and  immerse yourself in the rhythm.

Next, instead of practicing by yourself at home, ask close friends and family that you feel comfortable playing in front of to serve as your audience. Also, it’s ideal to practice at the venue you’ll be performing at, but if that’s not possible find a similar location, or try playing at a variety of locations, which can help eliminate setting distractions altogether.

2. Skip the Latte

You may think it’ll help you be more alert, but caffeine and sugar actually can agitate the negative symptoms of stage fright. It’s best to avoid sugary foods or caffeinated beverages the day of your performance. Believe us, the natural pre-performance adrenaline boost will be more than enough to keep you alert and energized! (Feeling too pumped up still? Try eating a banana. Its natural beta-blockers may help regulate your energy levels.)

3. Accept the Fear

Accepting that what you’re feeling is a natural biological response can be incredibly freeing and allow you to work past your stage fright. Have faith in your preparedness and…

4. Don’t Focus on Yourself

Think about how cool it is that you have the opportunity to bring enjoyment to those in the audience.

5. Be Confident

Don’t fixate on what could go wrong, but rather imagine all your preparation, skills and musical talent aligning perfectly. Remember the audience is there to support and encourage you. Avoid any and all feelings of self-doubt.

6. Listen to Music

Sport psychologists have long encouraged athletes to listen to music prior to big competitions, and some of the same benefits can cross over to musicians as well. For one, we can choose songs to put us into the right mood. Need an added boost? Pick a song that fires you up. Too worked up and need to relax a bit? Listen to your favorite chill-out song.

7. Breathe/Meditate

We all have our own way of entering the ‘zone.’ Practice your relaxation technique ahead of time, so that it’s ready to go when you need it. One suggestion is to find a quiet spot to sit.  Slowly take 10 full breaths, in and out, through your nose. Count each breath as you go.

8. Stretch

Stretching will help loosen tense muscles and allow you to focus on something other than your jitters right before the show. Take it easy, concentrate on your movements and shake it out when you’re done. Imagine all the negative energy leaving your body.

9. Use the Facilities

It may sound silly, but DON’T FORGET TO USE THE BATHROOM. Believe us, we speak from experience when we say there’s nothing worse for stage fright than having to ‘go’ when you step onto the stage.

10. Enjoy Every Moment

Smile as you walk onto the stage and look at the audience. Imagine all the people who supported you during practice out there cheering you on. Play as you know you can and graciously accept their applause at the end. Not only did you kill your performance, but you overcame your stage fright to do so!

Do you or have you ever suffered from stage fright? If so, what tips would you add to the list? Share your helpful suggestions in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

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They Started on the Stage: Popular Artists Who Began in Musical Theatre http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/04/artists-from-musical-theatre/ http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/04/artists-from-musical-theatre/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 18:00:29 +0000 http://blog.musicnotes.com/?p=7526 Singing, dancing, acting… the trifecta of musical theatre talent. In fact, many Hollywood careers have been launched thanks, in part, to musical theatre backgrounds. We’re all fairly well aware of the fine musical pedegree of some of Hollywood’s elite: Hugh Jackman, Lea Michele,  Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli, to name just a few. But you may be surprised by some of the former theatre kids who became even more famous for their on-screen rolls and mainstream music careers. It just further proves how much we theatre kids rock! Read about a few our favorite stage-trained actors/artists below, and answer our trivia question at the end for your chance to win
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Singing, dancing, acting… the trifecta of musical theatre talent. In fact, many Hollywood careers have been launched thanks, in part, to musical theatre backgrounds.

We’re all fairly well aware of the fine musical pedegree of some of Hollywood’s elite: Hugh Jackman, Lea Michele,  Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli, to name just a few. But you may be surprised by some of the former theatre kids who became even more famous for their on-screen rolls and mainstream music careers. It just further proves how much we theatre kids rock!

Read about a few our favorite stage-trained actors/artists below, and answer our trivia question at the end for your chance to win an exclusive Musicnotes theatre kid t-shirt for FREE! (CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED)

1. Amy Adams

Amy Adams

As a teen, Amy Adams sang in her school choir and danced ballet, aspiring to dance professionally after graduation. However, instead of pursuing a career in dance, Adams used her talents to land rolls at dinner theatres in Colorado and Minnesota. Adams then returned to musical theatre in 2012 with a roll in Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods‘ as art of the The Public Theatre in New York’s Shakespeare in the Park festival.

2. Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm dabbled in musical theatre in high school, but it wasn’t until college at University of Missouri that Hamm began to consider a career of it. He starred in  UM productions of ‘Cabaret‘ and ‘Assassins,‘ then taught acting classes prior to landing rolls on television.

 3. Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman

Before starring in blockbuster films, Morgan Freeman commanded the Broadway stage in a supporting roll of ‘Hello, Dolly!‘ (alongside Cab Calloway and Pearl Bailey) in 1968. Freeman also understudied for the title roll in ‘Purlie‘ two years later.

4. Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick

You only need to see her initial “Cups” audition in ‘Pitch Perfect‘ to notice Anna Kendrick’s stage star power. The actress has some serious musical theatre credentials! Her role as Dinah in ‘High Society‘ at age 12 earned Kendrick a Tony Award nod, making her the 3rd-youngest Tony nominee of all time. And, she has more plans to bring her triple-threat talents to the big screen. We can’t wait to catch her in the film adaptations of  Jason Robert Brown’s ‘The Last Five Years‘ and Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods‘ later this year, as well as ‘Pitch Perfect 2‘ slated for 2015.

5. Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

When she was still best-known as Stephani Germanotta, Lady Gaga was lighting up the stage in high school productions of ‘Guys and Dolls‘ and ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.’

6. Joe Jonas

Joe Jonas

Joe Jonas was a long way from Disney when he auditioned for, and was cast in, Baz Luhrmann’s Broadway production of Puccini’s ‘La Bohéme‘ at age 12. The middle Jo-Bro of course would go on to become a household name after uniting, and subsequently disbanding, with his siblings.

7. Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep

Yes, one of the most acclaimed movie actresses of all time cut her teeth singing, dancing and entertaining in musical theatre. As a child,  Meryl Streep took opera lessons and participated in high school musicals.  After graduating from the Yale School of Drama, Streep first embraced the theatre, leading the cast of ‘Happy End’ on Broadway and the all-singing ‘Alice at the Palace’ off-Broadway, before beginning to audition for film roles. Her thespian talents joined forces in ‘Mamma Mia!‘s 2008 big-screen adaptation.

8. Kristen Bell

Kristen Bell

For the first time in forever we all got to hear Kirsten Bell’s tremendous vocal talents on display as Princess Anna in ‘Frozen.’ Before she befriended snowmen and cracked cases as Veronica Mars, Bell was very active in musical theatre, starring in numerous high school productions and pursuing a degree in musical theatre at NYU. Bell left college just before graduation to play the role of Becky Thatcher in the musical version of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ on Broadway.

Now it’s quiz time! Of course, there are many other tremendous talents who’ve graced the stage. We’re thinking of one ‘city’ girl in particular, who’s married to another movie and Broadway actor. She may have felt a bit like a ‘square peg’ after emerging from her ‘hard knock life‘ start, starring on Broadway at age 11.

Who is the actress we’re thinking of? Leave your answer in the comments below to enter our drawing for a FREE theatre kid t-shirt, and display your love of the stage with pride! (WE’RE SORRY, THIS CONTEST HAS CLOSED AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Q&A with virtuosic pianist, performer and composer Jarrod Radnich! http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/01/jarrod-radnich/ http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/07/01/jarrod-radnich/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 19:03:22 +0000 http://blog.musicnotes.com/?p=7488 First things first, if you haven’t yet watched the new YouTube video of Jarrod Radnich performing “Don’t Stop Believin’,” scroll down and watch it! Really, we promise, it’s that cool. Heck, even if you have already seen it, watch it again … we’ll wait. Inspiring, right? We are so excited to share with our blog readers more about the man behind the piano. Jarrod Radnich is a modern classical pop star who’s perhaps best known for astonishing audiences and inspiring piano virtuosos with his re-imagined arrangements of rock, movie soundtrack and video game standards. He started professionally instructing piano at age 11, received a full scholarship to Berklee at 14,
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First things first, if you haven’t yet watched the new YouTube video of Jarrod Radnich performing “Don’t Stop Believin’,” scroll down and watch it! Really, we promise, it’s that cool. Heck, even if you have already seen it, watch it again … we’ll wait.

Inspiring, right?

We are so excited to share with our blog readers more about the man behind the piano. Jarrod Radnich is a modern classical pop star who’s perhaps best known for astonishing audiences and inspiring piano virtuosos with his re-imagined arrangements of rock, movie soundtrack and video game standards. He started professionally instructing piano at age 11, received a full scholarship to Berklee at 14, was named a Mason & Hamlin concert artist in 2012, and, we’re proud to announce, is now an official Musicnotes artist. We’re thrilled to offer Jarrod Radnich’s downloadable Virtuosic Piano Solo™ sheet music for “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Nights In White Satin” and “Come Sail Away.”

We asked the innovator to talk a little about how one becomes a virtuoso, what inspires his amazing arrangements, why giving back plays an important role in his life and how YouTube is changing the music landscape. Oh, he also provides some great piano performance tips to live by!

You’ve been enthralling audiences with your talent since you were a child. Do you remember the definitive moment when you thought, “OK, this is what I’m meant to do”?

J.R. I think that if I were to identify one single moment, it would have been right after I watched the movie “Titanic” as a pre-teen.  Since the time when I was very young, I was captivated by the story of the ship sinking (I actually built a plastic model of the ship that I lit on fire and sank in our pool), but then I became fascinated with the music and I started understanding more about it.  I became consciously aware that music moves people in profound ways and that it communicates a part of our being unlike any other form of expression.  I knew I wanted to create and give people something beautiful, or help give them the tools to be able to create and express themselves more fully.

 Congratulations on your latest Virtuosic Piano Solo arrangements! (We’re so excited to get to offer them to you fans on our site.) Would you be able to share a bit about how you go about creating/composing them?

J.R. Thank you! It is an honor to be named the first “Musicnotes Artist” and I am excited to continue building an ever-growing library of virtuosic piano solos for people to enjoy for years to come.  The “Virtuosic Piano Solo Series” began out of my childhood frustration with not being able to find contemporary piano music that kept the integrity of the original piece or song intact.  Normally, the solo piano arrangements would sound incomplete as they would be missing major rhythmic or melodic elements and they were rarely (if ever) geared toward accomplished pianists.  Consequently, if I wanted to play something that was pianistically exciting that wasn’t 100 years old, I had to create it myself.  I normally start creating a new arrangement by analyzing the original piece and determining what I believe to be its most important musical elements – those elements that people “expect” to hear when it is played.  I then approach writing the new arrangement as if the piano were an orchestra – making sure to incorporate the most important musical elements so as to make sure that the piece doesn’t lose its “spirit.” This results in challenging arrangements that are fun to play and translate well to the audience. Oh, they also have to be able to be played with just two hands.

Amongst your many solo projects and professional endeavors, you also make sure to give back to the musical community. Why is philanthropy important to you, and could you tell us a little bit about the Joshua Tree Philharmonic?

J.R. Philanthropy and giving back to the musical community is an essential part of my philosophy in the musician/audience dynamic.  As musicians, we are blessed to have been given the opportunity to spend time learning and accomplishing music.  I feel it is our responsibility to give back to others at the same time.  And actually, giving back to the musical community often translates to giving back to the entire community, as the nurturing and healing aspects of music and art extend far beyond the circle of musicians.

As a teenager I founded the “Desert Music Foundation” which offers music education and scholarship opportunities for aspiring musicians and later I started the pioneering intergenerational community orchestra, the Joshua Tree Philharmonic (J-Phil).  For the J-Phil, I compose orchestral arrangements so that each member of the orchestra, regardless of skill level, can participate in and contribute to each of the full-scale orchestral movements.  The orchestra has grown tremendously, with some families having three generations performing together.  Also some of our musicians have learned a lot about the scoring techniques so that they assist with preparing these special scores.

Joshua Tree Philharmonic

Joshua Tree Philharmonic image courtesy of JarrodRadnich.com

Do you have any pre-performance rituals you’d be able to share or tips for current and aspiring musicians getting ready for a big performance?

J.R. For me, I NEVER DRIVE MYSELF before a performance. . . I have been known to run stop signs and red lights, not because I am late, but because I just don’t see them.  My mind is so occupied with musical thought that I don’t see things (or hear things) right in front of me.   As far as other “rituals,” I recommend trying to avoid “cramming” before a performance.  The extra stress and anxiety translates into tension, which translates into bad technique and potential problems.  The fact of the matter is you can only hit a block of wood with your fingers so many times in a row in any given amount of time before your finger tips cry-out for more “Second Skin,” lol.  Create a plan, map-out your time in advance, practice smart, and always be efficient when determining and implementing good technique.

How do you think technology, in particular YouTube, is changing the way people experience music?

J.R. I think it is fantastic.  Having co-invented PianoTubeLIVE! and having helped pioneer other amazing Internet-based technologies that enable real time interaction between pianists and musicians, I have always been a big advocate for the benefits that technology can have on the music-making process.  As musicians, friends, and colleagues, the ability to be able to interact with each other, share knowledge, share musical ideas, share recordings of our performances, and so much more through new technologies is truly exciting and inspiring on so many fronts.  YouTube gives individuals the world as their audience, it shines light on new talent and breaks down all physical and socioeconomic barriers so that the musician — the person, the very soul that spent countless dedicated hours by themselves honing their skill — gets the opportunity to say what they want musically and then broadcast it to the world for all to enjoy and share. . . that’s pretty cool.

What’s up next for you? Is there any additional news you’d like to share with your Musicnotes fans?

J.R. Besides lots of new YouTube videos and sheet music that will be coming-out (make sure to subscribe to the JarrodRadnichMusic YouTube channel and Musicnotes e-newsletter!), I have been composing two significant original works that I am hoping to be finishing and releasing soon.  They are dark, powerful, rhythmic and yet melodic and ultimately uplifting in tone.  We are beginning to storyboard the pieces’ different movements for new YouTube videos, and though the word “epic” gets thrown around a lot, these pieces truly will be as there has never been something done quite like this before. One of the pieces, ARMAITA: La Vendetta Dell’Angelo – Piano Concerto No. 2, is in an orchestral setting where the piano will be punctuated by high-powered electric guitar, bass, and drums.

A BIG thanks to Jarrod Radnich for taking the time to answer our questions. If you haven’t already checked out his sheet music, you may do so here. And, if you’ve already downloaded his sheet music, do you have a favorite to play? Are there any arrangements you’re working on now? Any dream songs you’d like him to create Virtuosic Piano Solo sheet music for? Share with us in the comments below!

 

 

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Song for Thought: The Many Benefits of Playing Music http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/06/27/benefits-of-playing-music/ http://blog.musicnotes.com/2014/06/27/benefits-of-playing-music/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 20:00:46 +0000 http://blog.musicnotes.com/?p=7448 Encouraging young ones to take instrumental or vocal lessons not only will  help them foster a love and appreciation of music, studies prove the benefits gained through music education will last throughout an individual’s lifetime. If you’re a musician yourself, you likely can vouch for how music has helped shaped your life, and the measured benefits of playing music that you’ve enjoyed when performing and when pursuing other interests. That’s because learning to play music may actually re-wire your brain, bringing about a wide array of beneficial traits that extend beyond the music room. The varied skill sets we develop while learning to read, play and perform have helped bring
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Encouraging young ones to take instrumental or vocal lessons not only will  help them foster a love and appreciation of music, studies prove the benefits gained through music education will last throughout an individual’s lifetime. If you’re a musician yourself, you likely can vouch for how music has helped shaped your life, and the measured benefits of playing music that you’ve enjoyed when performing and when pursuing other interests.

That’s because learning to play music may actually re-wire your brain, bringing about a wide array of beneficial traits that extend beyond the music room. The varied skill sets we develop while learning to read, play and perform have helped bring about some of history’s greatest artists and thinkers. Did you know Thomas Edison played piano? Albert Einstein also was a pianist, as well as a violinist. Benjamin Franklin played a variety of instruments, including guitar and violin. Take a look at some benefits of playing music that have been scientifically documented, and share your thoughts and observations in the comments below!

Music helps our memory.

There have been numerous studies suggesting that musicians are more capable of remembering words when compared to non-musicians. Researchers have hypothesized that the act of rehearsing music can help students with preparing for other tasks, such as memorizing information for a test. Additionally, when learning to read music, you activate both the visual and memory areas of the brain simultaneously, training the two to work in conjunction with one another.

Musicians are ready for math.

Without math, music wouldn’t exist. Every musician learns basic theory including time, rhythm, meter and notation, which translates to an understanding of fractions, decimals and percentages. Plus, the fixed intervals and repeating structures in music help prep a developing brain to understand complex mathematical theories later on!

We have great hand-eye coordination.

Observing a child hold his or her instrument or play piano with both hands for the first time always reminds us of how quickly coordination develops, especially in kids. Hand, finger and wrist control improve after just a few lessons, and when a student progresses to sight reading those skills become essential.

Musicians can hear better.

Studies have found that musicians actually may hear better than non-musicians, even though there is no difference in ear sensitivity. Researchers think this could be an effect of listening to the sound of your own instrument amongst others when playing in groups.

We’re staying sharp!

Along the sames lines as memory, learning to play music can keep your brain healthy longer. “Lifelong musical training appears to confer advantages in at least two important functions known to decline with age—memory and the ability to hear speech in noise,” said auditory neuroscience researcher Nina Kraus in a journal article.

We’re better at focusing and relaxing.

Anyone’s who’s played through the complete “Goldberg Variations” can vouch for the harrowing concentration of a musician. No matter the piece, music requires us to focus on rhythm, pitch, tone, key… all at the same time. The ability to use multiple areas of the brain at once helps us focus on any task-at-hand, be it studying for a test, finishing a complicated work project or painting a masterpiece. Plus, after finishing an especially difficult arrangement, we feel a great sense of accomplishment which provides a well-deserved boost in self-esteem!

Likewise, researchers have observed that playing music recreationally can switch off the receptors in our brain that cause us to feel stress.

We’re social!

Band, orchestra and choir are like automatic friend-makers. Participating in musical groups builds confidence, provides a sense of belonging, and teaches us team work, cooperation and mutual support.

The Musicnotes team jams out together at our summer party.

The Musicnotes team jams out together at our summer party.

Now it’s your turn! Do you have a specific example of how your musical background has helped outside of the music room? Are there any benefits of playing music that you’d add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

 

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