Tag Archives: Musician Advice

Practise Schedules – February Blog 2016

Practise Schedules – February Blog 2016.

I realise that practise is a topic that I write about a lot in my blogs and I don’t in anyway mean to come across like a broken record by constantly repeating myself on the subject, but the bottom line is this: If you want to be great, you have to practise! 

Unfortunately there is no quick way to suddenly become an amazing musician (or amazing anything for that matter). It takes years of hard work, time, and of course, good quality practise. The great news however, is that ‘genius like status’ can be achieved. It just takes the right mixture of determination, self-discipline and motivation.

With each year that passes (and as I get older and take on more responsibilities), the more apparent it becomes that I no longer have the luxury or messing about on my instrument for hours on end while my parents take care of all the household and bill duties. (Ah, those were the days, ha ha).

Having a well worked out practise schedule still allows me to get a sufficient amount of time to practise and learn new ideas on my instrument and I firmly believe that putting together a schedule (as disciplined as it may sound) will really help you on your journey to becoming the best musician you can be. 

So with that in mind, here’s my recommendation on how you can alter your daily lifestyle to include your ‘creative needs’ and become a better musician at a realistic pace, whether it’s daily/weekly/monthly or yearly, and whether you’re a part or full time musician. 

Rather than sharing my personal schedule with you, I’ve worked these out based on stereotypical assumptions, and highlighted potential practise times in red. They can of course be applied however you like in order to suit your own personal needs.

Let’s start with the part time musician. Your day might look something like this: 

6am   – Potential practise for an hour
7am   – Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast etc.
8am   – Leave for work
9am   – 5pm – Work
5pm   – Leave Work
6pm   – Eat dinner, relax with family etc.
10pm – Potential practise for an hour
11pm – Sleep

Now for the full time musician. Your day (provided you’re not touring heavily) might look something like this

9am   – Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast etc.
10am – 2pm – Potential practise for 4 hours
3pm  – Eat lunch and load gear for tonight’s gig.
4pm – Potential rest/nap (if required), otherwise plan gig logistics (set lists, merch etc).
5pm – Leave for gig
6pm – Sound-check. Socialise, eat dinner, warm ups
9pm -12am – Actual performance
12am – Load gear and leave gig
1am – Sleep

In each scenario there are good times for potential practise sessions and it varies for everyone. Some people might find practising for 1 hour is too little, whilst others might feel that 4 hours is too much (especially given that the average human can only process new information for short periods of 45minutes at a time before the brain needs a break). Needless to say, the above examples are simply a guideline in case you don’t know where to start. 

One of my guitar teachers (a wonderful man named Luke Van Der Merwe), helped me work out my first ever practise schedule and it completely changed how I approached my time at my instrument. So, while I wish I could take credit for the above way of thinking, I have to mention him. If you ever get the chance to watch him play, you totally should. 

Anyway, until next time, work hard, play hard and practise – diligently. 

Travis Marc.

P.S – Don’t forget to follow my personal account on Twitter – @TravisMarc

Be Prepared – October Blog 2015

Be prepared – October Blog 2015.

There’s an old quote that says ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. It’s a saying that can be applied to most aspects of life, but can be particularly true for musicians, whether they’re hoping to be viewed as sidemen in other people’s projects or as musical artists themselves.

If you’re a regular reader of these blogs you’d know that practise is a topic that I’ve written about many times over the last year. It’s a subject that I’m extremely passionate about because simply put, I really enjoy the way that practising and working on ‘myself’ makes me feel. The reality though, is that while some people do spend time on trying to make their craft better, there are many musicians who find the process boring and mundane.

While that’s perfectly ok, (each to their own at the end of the day), I often wonder how prepared these types of musicians might be if they were to suddenly have the opportunity to play in a musical situation away from their usual musical comfort zones.

Hypothetically (and purely for example purposes) lets’ say that you are a hard rock drummer.Your band just finished touring and you’re going through a bit of a quiet period. Money is running a little low and you’re super close to taking a part time labouring kind of job before next year’s tour begins, when suddenly you get a call to tour as the drummer for a new emerging reggae type act. Would you be ready?

If the answer is yes, then my friend you have done your homework. You’ve put in the time and should feel confident that you can take on some work out of your usual comfort zones and do a good job while doing so. If the answer is no, well then you should get back in that practise room because you have unfortunately done no preparation and will end up ‘winging’ the gig should you accept to take it. In which case you make yourself and the musicians who hired you look extremely amateur, which isn’t even the worst part. The worst part is once the gig (or tour, or whatever they were hoping you could do) is over, they will never call again because there will be someone out there who is simply better prepared and suited for their situation. You’ll then feel terrible about yourself and probably go take that part time job you were dreading having to take while your own band was taking some down time, because mentally you might convince yourself that music simply isn’t meant for you.

So what can we do to try and be as prepared as possible, should that random call (or email) come one day?

I’m not going to preach about this one, if you don’t know what it is, go check out the previous blogs.

Broaden Your Horizons.
Stop playing or practicing that John Bonham chop that you’re so great at and start focusing on things that you’re perhaps not too good at. If you’re a punk drummer and struggle to play slow, try playing along to some ballads. Likewise if you’re a jazzer, listen to and start trying to play along to some Megadeth etc, etc. It’s all going to make you better and a more rounded player, which will ultimately make you more prepared for gigs out of your comfort zone.

Focus On Your Weaknesses.
But don’t beat yourself up about them. Make notes about the aspects of your playing that really need work and well, work on them. Eventually, you’ll find that the mistakes you frequently make are no longer mistakes and you’ll feel pretty good for it. Don’t get too cocky though, because there is always room for improvement.

Find Your Own Voice.
It’s tough out there, and many drummers are after the same gigs. While it’s great to be after the sideman job as drummer for the latest popstar, there might already be someone who gets those calls before you do. Instead focus on a few aspects of your playing that give you your own voice that people will want to call you for. But while developing this voice, make sure you continue to broaden your horizons in case that random gig does come about.

Only Be A Yes Man If You Can Really Do The Job.
While we all want to believe that we’re drummers of all styles, if you do get a call to do a gig that you don’t feel you can truly do justice, please don’t do it ! You’re going to embarrass yourself and tarnish what might be an already established reputation. Rather recommend the gig to someone who you know, could do the job. Trust me, people will remember this type of honesty and start to trust your judgement should your recommendation check out. Plus (more often than not) if the person you recommended got the gig ever gets a call for a gig they can’t do the favour might be returned.

Good luck, and I’ll chat to you all next month. Keep rocking.

Travis Marc.

Passion – September Blog 2015

Passion – September Blog 2015.

My goal behind this months’ blog idea is a simple one…

I want you to understand how important passion for your instrument is, how having passion can help you to improve faster as a musician and even how it can be a ‘make or break’ factor in regards to your career.

To start let’s look at the definition of the word ‘Passion': Passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm, or excitement for something, or about doing something.

If we look at some of the worlds most accomplished people, it’s often easy to see how passionate they are about the things they love and more often than not, how their driving passion (along with lots of hard work) has helped them get to where they are. Think about it. Can you imagine Dave Grohl having done the Sonic Highways series if he wasn’t passionate about music? It would be interesting to see what someone like Gregg Bissionate’s career would’ve turned out like if his passion didn’t shine through like it does. Obviously hard work and time are huge factors too, but would the work or required effort even have been done if it wasn’t for the initial passion or love these personalities had to start off with?

Recently, I seem to have taken on a small influx of drum students who, although on the surface appear to want to play the drums, don’t really seem very interested in the actual instrument, the influential players who came before them or ever practicing in order to try and improve. In fact most of them (stereotypically speaking) just want to bash things, rather than taking the time to realise that there’s so much more to drumming than simply trying to break them. When asked about what music they like and want to learn, I find I’m often answered with an “I don’t know”, or “I don’t really care about music” type of attitude.

After lessons like these, I tend to find myself thinking back to my early years as a drummer and, as old as it makes me sound, I wonder about what drumming and music in general will be like in the next twenty (and more) years.

I think about how I couldn’t wait for Friday’s to roll around so that I could get to my weekly drum lesson, show my teacher the progress I’d made and see what we were going to do next. I would go through such effort to find out about drummers and different techniques and concepts.
I try think about what elements might be missing from the mind sets of my students and what I might be able to do to help them be more enthusiastic about what I’m trying to teach them.

The missing ingredient, as far as I can see (and I’m probably stereotyping of course), would definitely appear that there’s a lack of passion in these types of individuals and I personally feel that the wanting to learn (as great as it is) simply isn’t enough. After all if you can’t be passionate about what you’re wanting to do, or at least passionate about working towards what you’re hoping to achieve, is there really any point?

This is purely my opinion, food for thought you might say. I’m not trying to deny anyone their place in this world and I believe that every single person (rich or poor, old or young) has the opportunity to ‘make it’ in whatever field they’re trying to be successful in. All I’m saying is, if you can’t find a reason to want to do what you’re doing, and be somewhat passionate about it, you might be setting yourself up for failure from the start.

Until next time, keep pushing, keep working and keep doing whatever it is you’re doing. Just do it to the best of your ability.

Travis Marc.

Common Courtesy – August Blog 2015

Common Courtesy… Remember that? – August Blog 2015.

So I recently viewed a video that was making the rounds on social media where, as a social experiment, a guy pretends to be disabled and reliant on crutches. He is going to keeps drop his keys near people to see how they might react. No big deal. Th idea is that the bystanders (not knowing that they’re being filmed) will see that he can’t bend down to pick up his keys and as such they will simply pick the keys up for him. I mean that’s common courtesy right? Well, thats what I thought was going to happen, but it didn’t…

I was totally shocked to see that most people that this guy would drop his keys near, simply refused to pick them up for him. Almost as if picking up this guys keys was ‘beneath them’, or that they might somehow catch this man’s disability by touching something of his. This same (sad) reaction was repeated time and time again, until eventually the man pretending to be disabled drops them near a homeless man sitting on the street and without hesitation, the homeless man picks up his keys and hands them to him. Crazy huh, video or not, it potentially says a lot about where we’re headed as a civilisation (or ‘uncivilisation’, if such a word exists).

The video (which you an find here – https://www.facebook.com/Oli96.8FM/videos/881108125312633/?pnref=story) really got me thinking about people. Is this truly how we act now? Are compassion and courtesy traits that a lot of us no longer have? Do they make us appear weak? I had so many questions going through my mind. Surely as humans, we haven’t stooped so low?

Then I started to think about music and how the music industry has changed over the years, how we all interact now etc. Could the way that we want to be perceived online (via our social media accounts) contribute towards how self indulged a lot of us are now? I mean every second person is a mini celeb of some kind right? So maybe that makes us feel entitled in some way. I’m not sure, maybe the truth is that we simply don’t care anymore?

Now I’m sure that some of you might be thinking – ‘dude, what has this got to do with music or drumming’, but it’s got loads to do with it. How many times as a musician have you sent out an email without a response? Or left a voicemail on someones phone only for them to not get back to you? Often, when the person you left the voicemail with does get back to you, the common excuse is how sorry they were and that they’ve simply been so busy blah, blah, blah. My personal favourite is the ‘sorry I never had the time to learn that song for tonights gig excuse’ .Aren’t these all just different forms of excuses which could fall under the ‘we don’t care, or have no common courtesy umbrella’?

Sure, maybe they’re not as hardcore or selfish as not wanting to pick up a disabled mans keys but in some shape of form I personally regard the above behaviour as really rude .Maybe we all need to take a little step back from our own lives (I’m sure our Instagram Model careers won’t suffer), and remember what it’s like to be good humans again, to interact using our voices and eye contact rather than status updates and help those in need out in hopes that should we ourselves ever need some help, that our fellow man might be there. Be courteous people, try do something nice for someone at least once a day and you’ll see the world change. We’re better than this.

No one wants to be in a band with someone they can’t stand. Be courteous, be friendly, be on time and work hard. Till next time.

Travis Marc.

Stop worrying about everybody else – July Blog 2015

Stop worrying about everybody else and start worrying about yourself – July Blog 2015.

Ah, musicians… We’re probably among some of the most confident people walking the planet, yet isn’t it interesting to see how quickly that confidence can take a knock when we feel that we aren’t doing well enough, especially when comparing ourselves to others in our same industry?

Which brings us to our July blog amply titled ‘Stop worrying about everybody else and start worrying about yourself’. Spiteful right? WRONG, because when I say the above phrase I don’t mean it in the charitable sense. I’m not saying that we need to become self indulgent and no longer look out for our fellow man. If history has taught us anything, it’s that while having self worth is important it can sometimes get confused with greed and arrogance, and these are traits that could easily contribute towards our own downfall. So help each other and love your neighbour as much as possible, mmmk.

I am of course meaning to use the above phrase in a career context that will hopefully allow you to stop complaining about others (and yourself), stop comparing yourself to your peers and focus on your own achievements and goals. At the end of the day music is art and art is open to interpretation. It shouldn’t be judged or seen as competitive, it should be enjoyed and made with thought, love, effort and pride.

So, how do we stop comparing ourselves and our playing ability to the new ‘wow check out this guys amazing chops video of the week’. Hopefully these simple steps will help you…

Don’t compare – Unless you maybe know the person personally, you have no idea what the person you are comparing yourself to has had to go through to get to where they are now. You don’t know how much time, effort, blood, sweat and tears they’ve put into the things that they’re doing, so don’t for a second allow yourself to base your own self worth on their achievements.

Focus on your own thing – Even if you’re striving to reach the same level as a player, writer, composer or pop/rockstar. The only way that you’re ever going to get to where you want to be is by focusing on your own goals and working towards them. Trust me (as someone who has done it in the past), beating yourself up mentally about something or someone that you wanted to do or be is a complete waste of time. Plus, think how much you might’ve been able to achieve if you put that same time into productive use.

Take it all with a pinch of salt – While social networks (yup I’ve mentioned this before, see the blog from January), are great for connecting with friends, and networking. A lot of it can be deceiving, so if you’re timeline is anything like mine and all you’ll see everyday are pictures and videos of your friends touring, gigging, teaching, practicing and traveling the world while having the time of their lives. There is no need to compare yourself, believe it or not these same people see the same thing on their own timelines and here’s the kicker – some of those posts even come from your personal page. However, if this affects you in a way that makes you think you’re not doing well, put your phone down and limit your time on these platforms. After all every second away from FB or Twitter contributes towards extra time in the practice room right?

Work hard and don’t believe the nay sayers – Pretty self explanatory really. Hard work pays off. So put some elbow grease in, stay humble, always give 110% and you’ll see the work start to come in. Sure, there are going to be some nay sayers along the way but don’t let them upset you, rather use there words as fuel to allow the passion inside of you to burn even brighter than before.

Keep a gig diary – When those gigs start to come in and you can see your diary or calendar taking shape each month and you suddenly realise that you’re actually making enough money to pay your rent from ‘music’ you suddenly won’t want to compare yourself to anyone else anymore. Sure you’ll still see videos of Olympic/Alien musicians that will make you think ‘gee how the heck did he/she do that’, but you might actually start to realise that there is enough room in this industry for everyone and that even little ol you deserve your place :)

Wicked, well I hope that this helps some of you. That’s it for this month, oh and remember, practice doesn’t make perfect but it sure as hell helps :) Stay safe and have fun.

Travis Marc.