Tag Archives: Practice

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.

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.

Inspiration away from your Instrument – May Blog 2015

Inspiration away from your Instrument – May Blog 2015.

Anyone who’s ever really taken their instrument seriously will probably tell you that practice is the key to truly defining what you are able to do musically while performing. It’s like that old mantra says ‘practice makes perfect’. It really does. I suppose it just depends on what you define as perfection.

Sometimes though, practice itself is not the hard part for a lot of us musicians. The hard part is actually finding the inspiration/motivation to want to practice when we know that getting better can be a very long, lonely and boring task. For me personally, if I set my mind to it I find it quite easy to get into a routine that allows me to work on the things I’m trying to achieve, and even if there’s not enough time in the day to do it all I believe that visualising the things I’m trying to play can be just as beneficial and rewarding. But, just because I’m able to do this and feel that I have a strong sense of self discipline doesn’t mean it’s always something I want to do and finding the motivation can be difficult sometimes.

A few years ago a friend of mine (who happens to be an incredible drummer) decided that he no longer wanted to do music professionally and wanted to rather focus on a normal 9 to 5 type career as the pressures and uncertainties that can come with being a full-time musician had made him loose some of the passion he had for his instrument. He was really excited about his decision, and happy that he could once again play drums on his own terms and not just because he had to keep someone else in a band happy or follow ever changing drumming trends just to be regarded as a good drummer. After a few months he even started to tell me how it was the best thing he’d ever done and that I should try find something away from music to inspire myself the way he was somehow doing with his new hobby drumming career.

And so, after months of trying to think of different things that might interest me I came to the conclusion that away from music, there really wasn’t much that I felt happy giving my time up for (family and dogs aside of course). I decided to take a slightly different approach and use the things that were inspiring me as a guitarist to motivate me on the drums, and the things that were inspiring me as a drummer, motivate the way I approached my drumming. I decided to start paying more attention to tones and sounds on my drums in the same way a guitarist would mess about with pedals and different amps. On guitar I tried to think more about how drummers would play specific rhythms I was trying to play and started to sequence drum rudiments in the same way that a guitarist might sequence chords or scales. I found all of this extremely motivating and started listening to music in a completely different way, which kept the inspiration flowing.

The above approach started making me think about how a lot of actors get into certain characters that they’re playing and only ‘change back to who they really are’ after filming various movies (think of actors like Leonardo DiCaprio or Al Pacino), and I tried to start ‘playing certain characters’ while on my instrument. If I was playing a ‘Beatles’ song as a drummer – I tried to be Ringo. If I was trying to play a really heart felt guitar solo, I’d pretend I was Clapton’ etc, etc. It all helped to keep me motivated and become a better musician.

Once again (as with previous blogs) I’m not in anyway trying to say that you should want to copy other players and sound like them rather than being yourself, (after all, only you can sound like you). I’m simply saying that the above method has worked for me and it might for you too.

You knows, you might find inspiration/motivation by watching the latest action movie featuring Dwayne Johnston or reading a book about a nurse who had tried her best to save dying soldiers during the war. It could even come from the way certain dancers appear to completely defy gravity. There are no rules, the choice is yours, (even Buddy Rich was inspired by Bruce Lee). So go for it, and be the best that you can be (not because it’s you job) but because you shouldn’t accept anything less for yourself.

Travis Marc.