Ah, high school band practice. You’ve endured tedious marching band rehearsals, broken enough drum sticks that logging companies now know you by your first name, suffered thru family members asking you to sing “Happy Birthday” to their neighbors and watched your fingers and lips bleed from endless practice sessions.
Now you’re ready for your next step in your musical career:
You’ve worked hard for that scholarship and bless your family for believing in your talents. So are you ready? Really ready?
Great! Put away your cap and gown, take a deep breath and let’s get you prepared.
*SPEND YOUR SUMMER VACATION FALLING IN LOVE:
With your instrument. Literally get to know it intimately. Study the workmanship, the tones, the feel and it’s history. “The SOUND.” What makes your instrument different than the others and how does it “play well” with others? The more comfortable you are with it, the more confidence you’ll have playing it. Let it be an extension of you.
“Life and music. You need a Masterclass in both.” – Ricardo Cañez
*ASK FOR SUPPORT:
Your family have seen your talents and have encouraged you to continue mastering your craft. Your high school music teacher should also be a driving force in your next phase of your learning. If you’re already in a band, communicate your college experiences with them. All of you will learn and it will simply make you better musicians.
*Don’t be a statistic. Within two years of college, 50% of music students quit. Don’t even! You’re better than that.
“I love being a musician and the lifestyle. But I think it’s probably as difficult and frustrating as anything in life.” – Trevor Dunn / Avant-Garde Bassist extraordinaire.
*HAVE SEMESTER GOALS:
What do you want to accomplish? Set realistic goals and challenges for yourself. Do you need help with scales? Set a schedule where you can concentrate just on that task. Voice lessons? Set a time for private lessons.
Note: Make sure that if you are more advanced than other students in theory, that you don’t get placed in a remedial class. All it will do is frustrate you. Talk to your instructor and advisor and make the change to a more advanced class.
“In order to play with (Frank) Zappa, first, you have to be good and second, there was a 2 year wait list.” – Steve Vai
*THEORY IS MY FRIEND:
Commit to knowing all your scales until they become second nature. Study different rhythms. Not everything is in 4/4. Speak the language confidently. Fundamentals are the life’s blood of music and of life in general. Memorize your key signatures.
“Life is about rhythm. We vibrate, our hearts are pumping blood, we are a rhythm machine, that is what we are” – Mickey Hart / The Grateful Dead
*PIANO. PRACTICE. PATIENCE:
All things musically start with the piano. You don’t have to be a piano prodigy, but it will help your ear training, your arrangement and composition skills and your rhythm techniques. Practice as often as you can. Rhythm is everywhere. From hearts beating to the double time of a flat tire spinning to the syncopation of a dog barking. Melody is all around you as well. Listen. Don’t just hear.
Above all be patient. All things expressive just can’t be rushed. Need encouragement? Remember family, instructors and other musicians. Never lose the passion.
“You only need to practice on the days that you eat.” – Unknown
*FIND BUSINESS AND MARKETING CLASSES:
What could it hurt? You’ll need these skills for “real life” anyway. And since music is more business than talent these days, it helps to know how to navigate in the “music business.” Record companies are as good as dead now. Why not learn how to market yourself, your talents and keep all the cash for yourself? Hey, you could become the next Jay-Z. Not a bad life. And no, you’re not going to become a sell out. You’re going to become smart. Big difference.
“I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.” – Jay Z.
You should look at it as a sense of pride to ask an experienced musician / instructor for help with your instrument. Reality check: You don’t know it all and you never will. Music is ever evolving. It helps to have a different perspective on your approach to music. In other words, leave you ego in your dorm.
Once you get proficient on your instrument, maybe you too could offer private lessons. Extra money is always nice.
“To play a wrong note is insignificant. To play without passion is inexcusable.” – Some dude named Beethoven
*JAM ON IT:
Any college setting will have plenty of musicians that will jam at a moments notice. Get out there and play. Learn. Be a sponge. Soak up as many different genres as you can. There are no mistakes in music, just new frontiers to discover. Take what you’ve learned from those sessions and apply them to your “style”. It will also help you nail your auditions because of the confidence you’ve gained.
“Don’t fear mistakes. There are none.” – Miles Davis
*BEWARE “THE DREAMKILLERS”:
They’re out there. Your girlfriend or boyfriend who insist you spend more time with them because you just have a hobby and not a career. The friends who are so narrow focused that they don’t see the larger picture. These are the same people that will be buying tickets to your sold out gigs in a few years and telling their friends that they knew you back when you were starting out.
“I’ve never known a musician who regretted being one. Whatever deceptions life may have in store for you, music itself is not going to let you down.” – Virgil Thompson / Classical composer & musician
*GET SERIOUS ABOUT HAVING FUN:
Absolutely go out and enjoy the college life. Hang out with your friends. Make late night and early morning coffee your best friend. Experience life. Taking your mind off your studies is good for you. When it’s time to recharge, go all in. You’ll see that once you get back to your studies, your perspective and dedication will have changed for the better. Passion never fades.
“I’m a musician because I love it and it’s supposed to be fun!” – Norah Jones
*PRACTICE. AND THEN PRACTICE SOME MORE:
Did I mention practice? Give the two sides of your brain some muscles. Creativity cannot be restrained if you really dedicate yourself to your talents. Practice makes you intuitive, develops your ear, opens up your expressive juices and you’ll find that passion in what you do and what you create that much more satisfying.
“Practice makes perfect. And even if you think you’re perfect, you’re not. Keep practicing.” – Eric Moore / Suicidal Tendencies
Music is emotion. Restraining emotion causes stress. Music releases stress. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Enjoy your College experience. The world can’t wait to hear you.