Category Archives: Music

Women and Music

My composition class/seminar was composed by thirty guys and one girl. I remember our teacher (he was a joker) explaining how every time he asked a question, she would have to answer first, because, you know, ladies first.
And then I asked myself, only one girl? Do girls struggle more than guys when it comes to convincing their circle of people (parents)? For general audiences—and that includes most of our parents—the image of the musician is a dark one. Musicians mean for them: bar musicians; long haired creatures with electric guitars and dirty t-shirts.
I met a girl whose father, a musician himself, didn’t want her to follow his steps. He explained how hard this career is, and there was no way his little girl will go through hell like he did. Perhaps that’s the reason we only had a girl in our seminar.
Well, the good news is that 2014 is a good time to be a happy woman and major in trumpet performance; because you can.
Don’t get caught in people’s opinion of what you should or not do. Yes, listen to your parents but if you like the trombone, you know, they offer degrees in trombone performance for a reason. You can work and EARN MONEY doing trombone stuff, right?
Get your parents informed.
As for yourself, happiness is more important than money. Go after what makes you happy, not for what women “should do.” Trombone is what you should do whether you are male or female—because it makes you happy.
If you are a woman, I salute you. You are reading the best blog for classical musicians in the world :), joke behind and more importantly, I would like to hear what’s been your experience. What struggles did you have and what did you do to overcome them.

The Last 10 Minutes of Practice

You look at the clock on the wall, one hour left. Crap! You can’t go, not until five o’clock sharp.
Whatever you are doing I know it’s not fun because you are looking at the clock. Time passes slowly. You may be practicing a tedious etude or working a bad shift. And then you think again, why am I here—why do I have to do this?
Is this really going to help me?
Chances are that the answer is YES. Hard work ALWAYS pays off. But how do I put up with it?
Here’s a tip: The last hour is the hardest, and the last 10 minutes are almost impossible to finish.
Because as Steven Pressfield said in his War of Art, Resistance gives all it has to beat you down when the finish line is visible.
The last pages of your book are going to be the hardest to write, and so do the last measures of your etude (to play or study).
Keep that in mind and when the time comes stay strong, man up and scream “I am beating you arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh” and then focus and then do your best job.
Awareness is the first step, the second is screaming (it can be in your mind but you must do it, it will give you the courage).
And that my dearest colleague, is how you get the job done

The Chatter in Your Head

The chatter in your head is keeping you from enjoying the moment—and from learning. When you read a book and realize you are just reading but thinking about something else, the chatter got your attention. Either you go back and reread that paragraph, or stay chatting with your own thoughts.
That chatter is evil. It kept you from enjoying your book, but it didn’t stop there. When you are studying your Brahms symphony, you enjoy the first couple of minutes and then the stupid chatter interrupts again. The music keeps running, you still wearing your headphones, and your mind is in Pandora with Jake Sully.
Freaking chatter is everywhere. You start with your scales, playing long notes to warm up and after 7 minutes, bam! You play in automatic mode while the chatter explains in detail how boring the exercises are, how beautiful the day is, and how great will be if John could pick you up at seven instead of at seven thirty. Your scales are ruined.
Everything is when chatter interrupts.
So, how do you ignore the chatter?
I’ve found meditating very helpful. You train your mind to stay still, and then you can transfer your skills to your every day life. Here is the workshop I’m doing now. You can also go to and try their free audio sessions.
If you have to choose one, then grab a copy of this month’s selection for the TCM book club (The Inner Game of Music). It tackles the chatter topic in detail and provides you with exercises and solutions to shut the inner voice.

The Big Leagues of Classical Music

You committed to practice for years and leveled up in status and musicianship, now it’s time to move on.
You decide to move forward and enter the Big Leagues.
What you may not know, is that in the big leagues they play a different game.
Entering the big leagues is a brave act; entering the unknown always is.
But once you decide to move in that direction, which is by all means a respectable decision, it’s important to be ready for a huge slap in the face (like never before; minor leagues slaps can’t compare).
Even if you were the king of the minor leagues, you will feel the slap.
As you enter this new world, don’t be discouraged by what it looks like unreachable. The ones ruling that scene started the same way you did.
So, when you decide it’s time to make the upgrade, get ready for your first slap and hold on tight; you are stepping on new grounds played by new rules.
Don’t worry; we are there next to you, surviving the same wave.
I help you, you help me.
I think it’s the best strategy to one day make it up there

On Phrasing

When you play notes, you play notes. When you play notes in a context, you are making sense of the music. When you play each individual note with a correlation to the next one and then the next one, you are phrasing—in other words, you make good music.
To play a phrase, you need to know more about what you are getting yourself into. It’s not about taking the instrument out of the case and playing—that’s playing notes (read the first sentence of this post).
The composer, probably a beast in his field, spent years perfecting his craft. And you will have to as well in order to interpret his will.
Everything worth takes time; every award requires you to become awesome first in order to earn it.
As a growing musician you can learn from everything. Really pay attention in your classes. Be present and learn what it takes to make good music. A big portion of music making is about phrases that sing; phrases that tell a story.
To tell the story that Beethoven wrote for your instrument, honestly, you’ll have to know the guy. You have to learn the reason he wrote it, for whom and where, why, when and who was with him that night.
The more you know, the better you will phrase; and the higher your musicianship will get.

Money, Music and Happiness

Everything that IS; everything around you, will one day disintegrate. Every book, computer and trash-cans—all gone—even your instrument (God noooo!). Nothing material is eternal. I’m not talking you into something religious or spiritual, but I think as an alternative to buying stuff for pleasure, we should look for happiness inside us rather than outside.
You kind of have to; you entered the classical music business for the love of the craft, not the money (there isn’t much money in the Beethoven world).
Instead of buying, practice gratitude and enjoy leveling up. Every practice session moves you closer to your goals; you are making good art—that should suffice to make you the happiest person in the world.
But no, we are trained to find happiness in Mercedes Benz’s. Damn system.
Challenge it. Challenge the system and the status quo. Don’t be like others. Be yourself and think as an independent unit. Don’t buy Mercedes because others buy it. Consider cultivating happiness from within so it lasts. Enjoy every little success you have. Chances are your successes are not as little as you think.
Spend your money on experiences (ahem, learn travel hacking) instead of buying Mercedes Benz’s. Play music from the heart and fill it with happiness as you go. Never stop learning.

How to Teach Music

Three students playing out of tune will require three different ways to explain the fix; because each one of them has grown individually. They learned in different ways. Their unique path brought them to the same place (if they are playing the same concerto or having the same intonation issues) through different kinds of challenges. They survived using different techniques, different time schedules and using their own individual abilities—which are drastically different from one another.
Teaching is like an experiment. You try and see the effects, if it’s not what you want, you try something else.
After a couple of hours of teaching you WILL be tired; it cannot be reflected in your teaching.
These students put their trust in you. They believe you can help them achieve their musical goals. And after 4 hours of teaching, you still have to stay strong and identify the problem to find a smart solution—a unique one, for her.
The environment you create through a positive attitude and your commitment will be reflected in the success of the lesson. You are allowed to be grouchy once a year, for human purposes, but that’s it.
It’s a lot of work, but you create artists, what a better way to live life?
One other thing, everything you teach will help you remind yourself of the little details required for an excellent performance. You’ll stay in the game.
Teaching music is a big responsibility, it’s not an extra income opportunity. Take it seriously and you will grow as a person and as a musician.

Gene Bertoncini – The Most Legendary Jazz Music Guitar Personality Ever!

Over the decades, mainstream jazz guitarist Gene Bertoncini has solidly established himself as one of the most sophisticated and versatile masters of the plectrum steel string jazz guitar and fingerstyle nylon string traditional classical guitar! With elegance and ease, he bridges jazz, classical, pop, and bossa nova styles – integrating his own spontaneous and tasteful jazz guitar music improvisations together along the way. He has attained the highest critical acclaim for his artistry on both the classical and electrical guitar! Gene was fortunate enough to have studied guitar when he was younger with jazz guitar masters Johnny Smith and Chuck Wayne who had published their own collection books of jazz guitar tabs and jazz guitar tablatures.
Bertoncini’s music roots go back to his early years in the Bronx where he grew up in a house filled with tunes. His love affair with the guitar commenced when he was seven years old and by the time he was 16 he was playing on New York television broadcasts. His career had an unusual turn once he decided to fulfill an additional long standing interest and earned a degree in architecture at Notre Dame. He was swiftly swept into the musical scene at the college and the first thing he did soon after getting his degree was to perform opposite Carmen McRae in Chicago. He came back to New York to work with vibraphonist Mike Manieri and after that with a quintet led by drummer Buddy Rich. He describes his architectural experience as something that offers his jazz guitar compositions their finely wrought form and style. He wins continual praise for the outstanding form of his solo jazz guitar pieces and improvisations that serve as a vehicle for his virtuoso pickstyle and fingerstyle guitar technique.

Gene Bertoncini has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Benny Goodman Sextet, singers Tony Bennett, Morgana King, Lena Horne, Vic Damone, and Edye Gorme, jazzmen Buddy Rich, Wayne Shorter, Hubert Laws, Clark Terry, Paul Desmond, and Paul Winter, as well as arranger/composers Burt Bacharach, Lalo Schifrin, and Michel LeGrand among others! He worked regularly on the Merve Griffin and Johnny Carson TV shows and has been one of the most prolific and well-liked studio guitar performers in New York City. In the late 1970s and the early eighties Gene performed with upright jazz bassist Michael Moore in a duo which The New York Times identified as “one of the best pairings of jazz strings”. They recorded various albums with each other that are thought of by many to be some of the most unbelievable jazz guitar recordings ever released.

Bertoncini’s instructing credits include the Eastman School of Music where he regularly works and conducts summertime workshops for jazz guitar performers, the New England Conservatory, New York University, and the Banff School of Fine Arts. He has been an extremely sought after guest clinician in colleges and universities throughout the country. Luckily for aspiring guitarists, Gene has gone on to publish several instructional jazz guitar tab books and DVD programs that explain his harmonic arranging concepts and techniques.

Do You Keep a Practice Journal?

How to you keep track of your progress? In your mind? Tsk, tsk ,tsk! Your old pal remembers a lot of things, but you can’t rely on your mind when you need details; it’s simply too much information. You can help it by getting a $0.69 cent notebook.
Keeping a practice journal will help you:
· Work toward specific goals
· Have a clear practice schedule
· Save notes and important findings
· Organize strategic practice
When you write your ideas they become concrete. They are printed on the page for you to see for years to come. A problem you may have detected today may also be the problem tomorrow, or in two years.
Sometimes you just get caught up in the music and can’t find the cause of a particular technical problem. But you worked on it three weeks ago and found a solution; it’s in the fourth page of your journal.
Organization is as much part of your success as dedication. Use a journal and keep track of your thoughts. It can’t hurt, try it.

Why Getting a Record Deal is Harder Than Before

Here is one of the reasons why getting a record label is harder than before.
We need to understand that we live in a digital era where music consumers are now downloading/purchasing music digitally and the physical CD world is slowly getting swiped out from the market.
Now with that being said. Record Labels are now on a low budget (since most of their sales really came from physical copies back in the days) so most of them stopped doing artist development.
If you want to get an A&R or Record Label’s attention you must have an established fan base first. If you don’t have an established fan base already, your chances of getting a record deal are very low.
Record labels are like banks who lend their money to artist that they know for a fact will make them sales, so it wouldnt make sence to lend money to an artist who doesn’t have an established fan base or makes any sales on his own right?
The Internet is a powerful tool that we all have to create and brand ourselfs to the whole world, but in order to do so you must know how to propertly market online.