How to Motivate Yourself

Music is fun. And it should be. But it can be hard to find the motivation to pick up your instrument when you could also watch Netflix or take a nap. I struggle with personal motivation for many things, but it’s important to know how to motivate yourself.

Killer Harmony | How to Motivate Yourself |It can be hard to motivate yourself to practice sometimes. But, motivation is important to getting stuff done, especially when you don't HAVE to do it.

I am still learning what works best for me, and that might always change. Knowing how to motivate yourself is key to getting work done in all facets of life.

I have figured out a few different things you can do to find motivation when you really don’t want to do anything. Here are my tips for motivating yourself.

1. Get started early.

I know I have said this before, but it is much easier to get things done earlier rather than later. If you wait too long to start practicing, it will be more difficult to actually do it than if you started earlier.

I know that I can easily get distracted by work, errands, or even the internet. Those distractions make it much harder for me to find the desire to practice.

Picking up your instrument either first thing or right after breakfast allows you to practice before you tackle the rest of your day. That way, you won’t have to worry about it later.

2. Find some fun music.

It is much easier to do something that you enjoy, so find some fun new music to learn. Even if you don’t have any performances coming up, it is a good idea to have something to work on that you enjoy.

Enjoying what you are working on is a great way to motivate you to get to work. The same is true for music. You can find music of almost any genre and of any difficulty, so you should be able to find something you like.

Just because you play a specific instrument, you shouldn’t feel limited to a few genres. There are many resources out there that arrange music for all different types of instruments. You can find some great online resources here.

3. Turn practicing into a game.

If you have a really hard time beginning to practice, make a game out of it. You can use tools like recording devices to record yourself to see how you improve. Compete with yourself to get better each time you play something.

Play against the clock.

Another game you can play with yourself is time based. There are many different time tracking methods for productivity, but I like the Pomodoro technique.

With Pomodoro, you set a timer for 25 minutes and then you get a five minute break. Knowing that a break is not far away can be a great motivator for getting out your instrument and for getting stuff done.

4. Don’t force it.

There are going to be some days where you simply don’t have the energy or the time to get in a good practice session. That’s okay. I think it is perfectly fine to have a day like that every so often.

If your body is telling you that you need a break, listen to it. Our bodies have a pretty good idea of what we need and are good about telling us. So don’t force it if you can’t find the motivation.

Remember that music should be fun, and you shouldn’t have to force it to much. If you do, you could lose some of that interest and enjoyment.

5. Reward yourself.

If you are the type that works well when rewards are at stake, this could be a good method. Set up a reward system where after X minutes of practice, you can watch one short YouTube video. Or after X repetitions of an exercise, you can have a few minutes of a break.

Create a reward system that works for you, otherwise you won’t follow it. Your rewards can be anything, but make them reasonable. Don’t say after fifteen minutes of practice you deserve an ice cream. That sort of reward won’t do much to motivate you.

6a. Just start.

Sometimes, the hardest part is getting started. Once you have your instrument out and your music on your stand, it becomes much easier to practice. You just have to start.

It is definitely hard to do, but starting is the first battle you face when practicing, or doing anything. You just have to start.

6b. Let the act of practicing motivate you.

After you start practicing, you will see how you enjoy it and how fun it is to play music. Let that be a motivator. Once you start and you hear yourself make great music, you may not want to stop.

You can start a timer for fifteen or twenty minutes. Tell yourself you only need to practice for that long. Then you can do something else. There will be times when you then stop, but maybe not. You just might find that you don’t want to stop practicing.

7. Practicing burns calories.

While it won’t burn as many calories as an intense run, it can be a fun way to get a “work out” in. Especially if you choose to stand while practicing, you can keep active.

The acts of breathing, moving your fingers, bowing, etc. all contribute to your body’s energy output, thus burning calories.

If you are not a fan of the gym, you will probably find it much easier to practice your instrument than to go work out. The added bonus of burning calories during your practice just might be enough to make it worth it, if nothing else does.

So…

What do you do to motivate yourself to practice? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

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How to Manage Multiple Instruments

If you are a musician, odds are you have thought about playing different instruments. Maybe you have thought of playing multiple instruments, or you already do.

Killer Harmony | How to Manage Multiple Instruments |If you want to play multiple instruments, you need to be smart about it. Keep everything organized, and know how to prioritize when you are short on time.

Playing multiple instruments is super common in music, especially for professionals and advanced amateurs. Whether you play multiple instruments in the same family, or you play all sorts of instruments, it can be tough to handle.

You have to be able to give each instrument its own time and attention, and you have to be able to keep track of them all. So, here are a few tips for managing multiple instruments.

1. Prioritize.

I know I say this a lot, but prioritizing is the key to success when you have a lot going on. Odds are, you cannot treat all of your instruments with the same priority. You have to choose which is the most important.

Pick a primary instrument.

If you haven’t already, you need to pick one instrument that is your main instrument. That is the instrument that will always get attention before the others. It is what you play in ensembles. It is also, usually, the instrument you have played the longest.

By picking a primary instrument, you know just what to practice if you are severely limited on time.

2. Determine the instruments’ relationships and purposes.

How are the instruments you play related? Do you mainly stick to string instruments? Are you a flutist who plays piccolo and alto flute? Or do you play instruments from different families.

Once you determine how all your instruments are related, and what purposes they serve, you can better organize your collection of instruments.

You may be a trumpet player who dabbles in piano, because your music degree requires piano proficiency. Or, you may be an oboist who still plays clarinet sometimes so that you can join marching bands or play in musical theatre shows.

Your instruments’ relationships and purposes will help you further prioritize and manage all of your practice. If you have a piano exam next week, you should probably focus on piano. If you only want to play guitar for fun, let it be a stress reliever.

You get it, right?

3. Get organized.

The more instruments you play, the more equipment and sheet music you will have. When you have more stuff, it is hard to keep it from becoming a huge mess in your room or your locker.

Organize your sheet music into different folders based on instrument and even the type of music. Get different bags or folders to organize your music equipment.

Keeping organized means you won’t be searching for a clarinet reed when you need it. Your reeds will be with your clarinet, and your rosin can stay with your violin. You will be less stressed.

4. Make a schedule.

If you have a certain amount of time to practice any instrument, you should make a schedule to stay on track. If you only have an hour, you should probably focus on your main instrument.

Have more time? Warm up and practice your main instrument, and then move to your other ones. Use your upcoming events to figure out what needs the most attention.

If the marching season is over, odds are you won’t need to spend time on the mellophone. Are methods exams coming up? Get out those beginner books and practice for your test.

5. Get the right gear.

If you have a ton of instruments to deal with, you want to get some gear that will help. There are cases which can hold multiple instruments, if you play combinations often. You can also find instrument stands for just about any instrument.

As a flutist who frequently plays piccolo, I love having a flute bag that will fit both. I can grab my flute bag knowing that both instruments I need will fit, and I can cut down on bags to carry.

If you play a larger instrument, you can even find a case that has a pocket for your music. Instead of carrying your instrument and also a music folder, you can keep everything together.

For the pianists, you can get a binder, a multi pocket folder, or a good tote bag to keep your music and metronome in.

Related: Supplies for Every Musician

6. Be flexible.

If you play more than a couple of instruments, you probably won’t play all of them every day. That is completely okay. Things happen, and we might not have as much free time as planned.

This is where it is important to be flexible. If a guitar string breaks and you’re out of replacements, move to another instrument. If all your reeds have gone bad, take a break and practice piano or something.

Flexibility is hard, but it is necessary when you have a lot going on.

You need to remember that you chose all of these instruments, and you should be able to go with the flow that they all bring.

7. Music should be fun.

Whether you are an amateur or you want music to be your career, keep at it for the music. Music should be fun. Adding multiple instruments to your arsenal is awesome, because it adds to the amount of music you can play.

If you want a career in music, it will help you to play multiple instruments, but play music because you love it. If you only add in another instrument because you think it will get you more money or fame, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

So…

How many instruments do you play? I play flute, piccolo, piano, and I have also dabbled in many other instruments. So, let me know if you would like to hear or see me play!

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Get Rid of Performance Anxiety

If you are a musician or any other type of performer, odds are you have had some performance anxiety or nerves. This is totally common, and even the greatest performers sometimes get nervous.

Killer Harmony | Get Rid of Performance Anxiety | Performance anxiety is totally normal, but you can do a few things to get rid of it. So, I am sharing seven tips to get rid of performance anxiety.

I have had my fair share of stage fright, anxiety, nerves, whatever you want to call it. But over time, I have managed to overcome those feelings and to turn that nervous energy into positive energy.

It takes practice to get rid of performance anxiety, but you can do it. So, here are some of my tips for getting rid of nerves and giving your best performance.

1. Practice ahead of time.

This sounds obvious, but it needs to be said. The more prepared you are for a performance, the less you have to worry about it the day of. Leading up to a performance, you want to make sure you give yourself enough preparation time.

Give yourself at least a month, or longer depending on the nature of the performance. You need enough time to really learn and study what you will be performing. No “winging it” as they say.

Now, I do believe there is a limit to practicing. I have found that if I practice a piece too much or too often, I peak before the performance. You don’t want that. You want to peak during the concert or show.

2. Break it down.

If you will be performing an entire sonata, for example, you want to break it down into more manageable parts. First break it up into the different movements. Next, look for the big sections of the movement. Then, find the phrases and even look at the separate bars.

By breaking something down, you can focus on individual parts of the work. There will be easier sections, and there will be harder sections. When you see each section and can isolate them all, you can quickly see which sections need the most attention.

I will admit that I don’t always do this, but it is super helpful when I do. I can focus in learning a small phrase or two instead of an entire movement. One or two phrases sounds a lot less intimidating than a whole movement, right?

3. Memorize the difficult bars.

If there are a few difficult bars in your music, you should try to memorize them. Even if you are playing with music, it is important to have everything under your fingers. Memorization will help build muscle memory, and you won’t have to worry as much about those sections.

There will be at least one or two of “those bars” in almost every piece. Memorizing them will help with your memorization skills, and you will get to know those difficult parts really well.

But obviously, don’t just focus on those bars. You want to make sure that you learn the entire piece.

4. Recreate the stage.

While you are working on a new piece to perform, try to practice it on stage a few times. If you can play it through on the stage you will perform on, that’s great. If you can’t, then recreate that environment.

Practice while wearing the shoes you will perform in and the outfit you plan to wear. It sounds silly, but doing that will get you ready so that you know you can do it.

Normally, you won’t be practicing in fancy clothes or dress shoes. But that’s commonplace attire for performances. If you are only used to wearing sweats and tennis shoes while practicing, then of course the different clothing would make you nervous.

Recreating the performance environment to the best of your ability will help prove to yourself that you are ready to give the best performance of your life.

5. Take a break.

It may sound counterintuitive, but taking a break close to the performance is a good thing. A break will give your mind and body time to rest and be ready for the performance.

I like to take a break for about thirty minutes to an hour before the performance so that I can breathe and take in everything. I do warm up before that, but I don’t usually run through what I am performing, unless there are still some rough spots.

This is because I want to avoid overworking the piece. As I said earlier, you want to peak during the performance, not before. Giving yourself a break before going on stage is a great way to recharge your muscles and give you a boost of energy.

6. Perform a lot!

There more you perform, the easier it will get. I have been performing since I was really young, and I performed even more often when I got to college. That performance experience helped me and one of my classmates get over stage fright.

For my music degree, I had to give two solo recitals, perform on two other recitals each semester, perform for a masterclass each semester, and also perform as part of any ensembles I was in.

All that performing made any bouts of nerves just go away. Any nerves I get are quickly turned into adrenaline. I am able to coast through a performance without worrying about everything else. I can just play.

7. Understand that it’s normal.

Everyone has gone through periods of stage fright, nerves, performance anxiety. And it’s okay. It is super normal to be nervous. When I do feel nervous, I remind myself that there’s not much to be scared of.

Is the audience the big scary thing? Well, they aren’t there to see you fail. They want you to play well, and they want to hear good music. Why else would they have come to a concert?

Are you afraid of making mistakes? It happens to everyone. And odds are, no one will notice. As long as you keep your composure, you can make it seem like you meant to play that note or that rhythm.

It’s easier said than done, but don’t worry about it.

So…

Do you have any other tips for getting rid of performance anxiety? Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to sign up for the Killer Email Squad to receive music tips right in your inbox!

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Are Private Lessons Necessary?

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If you have been singing or playing a musical instrument for quite some time, you might have asked this question. The short answer is: it depends. On your goals, your current experience, your budget, and a whole lot more.

Killer Harmony | Are Private Lessons Necessary? |Are private music lessons necessary? It depends on what you want out of them. They can be helpful but also expensive. Here's what you should consider.

If you are interested in private lessons and can afford them, they are definitely a worthy investment. This is especially true if you want to make music a career.

For some students, private lessons might be out of the question due to location, lack of funds, or a number of other reasons. Here are my thoughts on who should or should not take private lessons.

Another disclaimer: Everyone is different, and we all have different needs. While you may fit one of the categories below, your opinion on lessons may be different. This post is merely meant to be a guide for those unsure of the pros and cons of private music study.

For College/Career-bound Musicians

If you are in college or otherwise preparing for a career in music, private lessons are a worthwhile investment. Private lessons give you one-on-one time with a professional.

You can learn a lot from a private teacher, from how to practice effectively to the most important works for your instrument. A private instructor will know more about your instrument than your school band director. Unless, of course, your director plays your own instrument.

Starting with a thirty minute lesson once per week is a good way to get going. If you have not started college yet, you will have to take lessons as a music major. It is good to get a jump on private study if possible.

If you are out of college or will not be attending college for a music degree, lessons are still important. If you see music as a career option at all, you should study privately to improve your craft.

For Hobbyists and Amateurs

If a music career is not in your future and you want to play for fun, the choice is up to you. I am not going to tell you that you should or should not take private lessons.

Taking regular lessons can be a good motivator to keep up with your practice, but lessons can cost a lot of money. If you can’t afford weekly lessons, you could take lessons once or twice a month, so that you get good instruction but can save money, too.

You can also join community music groups to play music and learn for free. Networking with other musicians and learning about free or cheap resources is a great way to save money on something that is a hobby.

Each instrument also has its own standard method books that you can invest in. If you are a flutist, I suggest purchasing Trevor Wye’s Practice Books for the Flute. For pianists, the Hanon exercises are the best. If you play another instrument, you can ask around for what books you should use.

For Musicians on a Budget

If you are serious about music, taking lessons is not something to consider lightly. Investing in private study of your instrument can lead to great rewards down the line.

However, if you are on a very tight budget, there are some things you can do to still reap the benefits of lessons without making a huge dent in your bank account.

One option would be taking lessons less frequently. This might not be the best option for college bound musicians, but it can work when you don’t have the means to study privately every week.

Another option is finding a student who is willing to give lessons. Especially if you are only pursuing music for fun, you don’t need to study with the most well known professional. Ask around to see if a college music major would be able to give you lessons.

The third option is finding a teacher who could do a service exchange. Is there something you could offer them, like organizing their music or finding them new students? See if a private teacher is willing to work with you to adjust their rates.

For Beginners (Young and Old)

If you are starting an instrument for the first time, lessons are a great idea. Unless you have access to a top notch school music program, you won’t learn much in a group setting.

Private lessons will help you learn how to hold your instrument correctly to avoid injuries. Specialist teachers will also know the struggles facing a beginner.

As you start your musical journey, it is wise to take lessons for a while to get a grip on the instrument. Once you have mastered the basics, you can start to learn more on your own.

However, having a teacher at the beginning will make the learning process go much faster and easier.

For those in the Country

If you do not live close to a good private teacher, it can be hard to justify taking lessons. The long commute can drain you of energy before you even get to the lesson.

There are options out there, such as online lessons. While these lessons, done over video chat, are not as ideal as in person lessons, they are a great way to learn if you cannot get to an in person teacher.

This is also an option for anyone who wants to study with a teacher out of state. You can use programs like Skype or FaceTime to connect with a teacher without leaving your house.

If you live in a rural area, far from a decent private teacher, look online to see if you can find a teacher that works for you.

So…

Have you taken private music lessons before? Were they worth it? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to download a copy of my goal planning sheet so you can plan your music goals more effectively!

Thanks for reading!

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Time Management for Musicians

Sometimes it seems like we have all the time in the world. Other times, we need to focus more on time management. Especially if you have a lot of work coming up, managing your time is necessary for staying on track and getting stuff done.

Killer Harmony | Time Management for Musicians |When you have a lot to do, it's hard to do it all. That's why time management is so important. Here are a few time management tips for musicians.

Just like everyone else, I have fallen pray to procrastination, but I am able to overcome it. I can get myself back on track fairly easily, and I am going to share how I do that in this post.

Time management seems daunting at first, but it is not that hard after you find what works.

Experiment.

The tips I share in this post might not work for you. So, after reading this post, look for other ways that you can manage your time. You can find tons of ideas online or even come up with your own ideas.

With any change you make, experimentation is important. You have to figure out what works best for you and your life.

Be willing to change up how you mange your time, too. What works one week may not work the next. Figure out what you want out of your day or week and then decide what you need to do to manage your time.

Get started early.

This goes for all of those night owls reading this. If you stayed up late watching videos or practicing your instrument, try and wake up a little early.

You don’t have to get up before the crack of dawn. But, the earlier you start your day, the more time you will have. You won’t have to feel rushed to get everything done.

If you cannot practice your instrument right away, try and do some other tasks. Clean your room or home. Do some laundry. Listen to upcoming repertoire. There are dozens of things you can do that don’t actually involve playing music.

Make a list.

Write down everything that you want to accomplish that day. It can be anything from going grocery shopping to memorizing a section of a piece. Making a list of all your daily tasks puts everything on paper.

You can see how much you have to do that day, and then you can prioritize  tasks. Writing everything down will help you see the bigger picture. It may be that you have less to do than you thought.

If that is the case, take your time with things, and don’t rush. Enjoy living, and enjoy what you are doing. Live in the moment.

Set your priorities.

If you have a lot of stuff to do, decide what matters most. If you have a concert next week, you should probably practice the music for it. When you don’t have any performances coming up, you can focus on other things.

Get your household chores out of the way or search for prospective students and gigs. Your priorities will probably change with each day, and that’ okay.

Setting your priorities will help you figure out what really needs to be done and what can wait a day or two. If you have time for some low priority tasks, get those in so you don’t have to do them later.

Use a planner or calendar.

If you want, you can use a planner or calendar to keep track of everything. You can use a paper calendar or a digital one, and you can customize what you use it for.

I have found that paper planners don’t work for me. I use them for a day or two, and then they end up in the bottom of my bag, untouched. So, I have switched to a digital calendar.

I use Apple’s iCal on my laptop and phone. The calendar is great for events and other deadlines. For to do lists and other tasks that are not scheduled, I use Reminders or Notes to keep track.

Figure out what works for you, and create a system to fit your lifestyle.

Create a routine.

In a lot of cases, your day to day life will be different. You won’t always have the same performance gigs, rehearsals, or private lessons. However, do your best to set a routine.

Wake up at the same time. Eat the same breakfast and/or lunch each day. Do something consistently so that when big changes occur, it won’t take such a toll on your body.

I try to wake up at the same time each weekday, but I do let myself sleep in on the weekends. My menu for breakfast and lunch is the same, unless I go out for a meal. Keeping a consistent waking and eating schedule allows me to prepare for the rest of the day.

Hand off what you can.

If you have too much to do in one day, find some help. You can ask a roommate or friend for help or hire someone. While you have to show up to rehearsals and performances, you don’t always need to do everything.

If your kitchen is in need of some organizing, see if someone you know could do it. If your website needs updating, hire a virtual assistant or content manager for the day. The money you spend on help will be worth it if it means you aren’t up for a full 24 hours.

I try to do what I can, but sometimes, I have other priorities that need my attention. When I can’t do something, there is nothing wrong with asking for help.

So…

As a musician myself, I know how hard it can be to do everything you need to do. There have been times where I had to let things slip, and I wish that I could have hired someone to do those tasks for me. If you ever need help, please contact me. I would be glad to help another musician out.

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