Category Archives: Music Notes

Blog post for tdbstudio.com

Collaborating Fears

I’ve been considering using a virtual assistant service to make my family life easier. It’s a great idea to delegate those pesky tasks you don’t want to be bothered with like researching ideas for kids’ birthdays or scheduling doctor’s appointments. Just contact your trusty assistant by email, phone or text and it’s done and booked on your Google calendar. This kind of delegation can save you both time and energy.

I’ve thought about how this same idea could be used to help with managing my time and energy when it comes to music composing. As I’ve mentioned on other posts, I have been struggling to keep up my writing since my life has become busier (being a new wife and mom). I can’t delegate work out to my trusty virtual assistant. I can’t even really outsource the composing work to someone for hire as first, I hate work-for-hire and couldn’t do that to someone and also because I don’t see this being a great way to write with another person.

So this leaves collaborating with another writer. When it comes to being open to collaborating with another writer, I have been a reluctant participant. It feels like a commitment that I cannot make right now and I don’t know why. The thought of it makes it hard for me to breathe. This is something that I want to change. There are some real benefits to music composing collaborations including:

  1. Accountability – Having a partner makes you accountable because there is someone else to keep you on track.
  2. Learning Opportunity – There’s a chance that your partner will know how to do something that you don’t and vice versa. Take the opportunity to learn from them.
  3. Eliminating writer’s block – If you are having writer’s block, your partner may not and this can move a project along. It may even spur your creativity to get you out of the block.
  4. Using Less Energy – Having a partner conserves your energy because you are not having to do it all yourself.

I’ve thought about the benefits, but they haven’t compelled me to even try because of some hidden fears I have.

So what is holding me back?

  •  I have a reoccurring vision of myself having an argument with my writing partner.
  •  I fear that this person will be critical of my writing and make me feel inferior.
  •  I feel like I may not be open to their ideas and end up hating the project in the end.
  •  I’m scared that this will be a disaster and I will end up walking away.

I’ve been close to having a few music composing collaborations, but they didn’t work out.

  • The first time was one was with a guy I was dating but the collaboration ended because we as a couple ended.
  • Another possible composing collaboration opportunity didn’t even get off the ground because, again, this was a guy that I was sort of dating and I found out that he was just trying to use me for my ability to write (He was an R Kelly wannabe and couldn’t sing in key).
  • My third attempt for collaboration was not music related. I partnered in a web business with a woman I met in a business course. This partnership became a burden and I realized that I didn’t get along with her.

However, I have secretly begun collaborating again, just with someone I don’t know. I’m using loops that someone else created. I used to actually write everything myself including drums patterns (nothing wrong with this). Using loops is a big step for me, but it’s not enough. I need to take the big leap to partner with someone.

I don’t have all of the answers right now to move forward, but I know I will soon. What is most significant about this is that I realize now why I have such a fear of music composing collaborations. It has so far been unpleasant. I believe I am going to have to do some soul searching and create a list of things that I would like my writing partner to be and have. I will also continue to work on myself as I don’t want to be the partner from hell and ruin a great partnership.

Do I Dare Work for Hire?

As long as I can remember I have been warned about the disadvantages of working for hire.  When I came across a freelance website that listed a lot of online music related jobs, I noticed there were some jobs listed by companies that wanted to hire composers to create music for a flat fee, but they wanted to keep the rights.  Almost all of the jobs offered compensation that is way too low.  It’s insulting what they are willing to pay for original music, but that is the price to pay for being in a global market.  There will always be someone willing to do work for peanuts.

Although I am very insulted, I am tempted to apply for some and here are the reasons’s why:

  • I am trying to raise over $21,000 in five years or less so that I can quit my job.
  • I would be writing music, which would be a plus.
  • I can still add this to my portfolio even if I don’t own the rights.

If a company is not willing to pay me decently, they shouldn’t expect the world.  I would happily compose this on Soundation studio for 15 minutes while I’m at work.  Then I can submit my music for the bid.  If I don’t get it, no problem.  If I do, score!

Unblocking Writer’s Block

I’ve been struggling with writer’s block lately. I thought I would ponder about how I can get over this with a blog post so don’t mind my ramblings. You are welcome to read along.

Reason  1: Physical Discomfort

I have been distracted with becoming a new mother and dealing with the physical stress my body has gone through with pregnancy and childbirth.

Solutions:

  • I’ve been taking Rhodiola, an herb that helps to repair the adrenal gland, which is partly responsible for handling certain hormones that will calm you down during stressful moments.
  • I’ve been taking Epsom salt and baking soda baths to help replenish magnesium in my body which helps with my energy and achy joints.
  • I am also thinking about doing meditation again, but I am cautious to make a commitment to do this because of my busy schedule.  Maybe I will casually date meditation like I talked about in a previous blog post about creating better habits.
  • I am also casually dating exercise again since I have access to a fitness center at my job and can do this during the middle of the day which is better for me.

Reason  2: Depressed About Having a Day Job

I am a little depressed because I haven’t been able to break free from the day job which is something that I thought I would have done by now.

Solutions:

  • I need money in order to leave my job and not leave my family destitute.   I am making plans to leave the day job in no more than 5 years from now by:
    • paying down the rest of my students loans in 3 years ($800 a month)
    • creating an income stream (doing WordPress websites for musicians) to save money in a MMA or savings account.
    • keeping a savings or MMA account and saving $350 a month which will get me to $21,000 in 5 years .
    • Looking at grants to fund my jazz education program which could also be another income stream that will go into my MMA or savings account.
    • Finish creating my 5 year plan with all of the music projects and ideas incorporated in the plan.  Whenever I get depress I can pull out this plan and read it and know that I have a road map to follow.

Reason 3: Writing For An Unfamiliar Genre

I have been asked to write 12 hip hop tracks for a music library and even though I am excited about the challenge, I am completely inexperienced with writing this way.  Everything I write sounds like garbage.

Solutions:

  • Analyze hip hop songs that are popular and that fit what the clients likes and emulate them.  Don’t judge.  Just write.
  • While in the writer’s block, use Soundation Studio to create ideas and write every day.  On music-light days just create some quick ideas.  Again don’t judge and don’t erase anything.  On music-heavy days, listen to all of the quick ideas and work on improving them to make something cool.  The breakthrough will happen if you keep writing.

Reason  4: Disorganized Music Studio

Ever since I moved to our new place my music studio has been a mess.  I really don’t have the space organized and settled the way I did in my old place.

Solutions:

  • Shred all information sensitive papers that you don’t need anymore and throw away the rest.
  • Use office closet to create an office supply/filing system to keep all important documents and important things organized.
  • Purchase an appropriate desk for music studio equipment.

If I follow all of these solutions, I should see an improvement with my writer’s block.  I will keep you posted.

Make a Commitment to Write Music Everyday (Updated)

Are you an aspiring songwriter or a composer? Do you want to be a professional in the music business? The only way to become a professional is to do what professionals do. Pros develop good habits and they make no excuses. As a songwriter/composer, music is your product to market and the only way you are going develop a decent music library is to write everyday.

Tip#1: Create a symbol to remind you of the promise you made to compose for at least 10 minutes everyday.

Making the commitment to write music everyday is not easy. There are so many distractions in life that make it hard to commit, but there are ways to get around these obstacles. You can start by creating a symbol that represents the promise you made to yourself to write music everyday. For example, I chose a red ribbon as my symbol that I look at everyday. It helps me to focus, and it reminds me of the promise that I’ve made to form good habits.

Tip#2: Communicate your commitment to write everyday to your subconscious mind.

In order to make this habit stick, you must involve your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind is always working. For most of us, the subconscious mind is working against us. It is like a computer hard drive in which programs are loaded on to it, and it performs the functions of those commands. The commands, in this analogy, represent the internal self-talk that you have with yourself everyday. If you repeatedly tell yourself that you don’t have the time or energy to write music everyday, then your subconscious mind will make sure that you don’t have any time or energy to write. It’s that simple.

Once you start sending the message to your subconscious mind that you do have the time and energy to write, it will stop working against you and start working with you. You will notice that your energy level will increase and you will have the energy to write everyday. You’ll also become more aware of the time that you have throughout the day to jot down your ideas. Musical ideas will flow to your mind with ease. It’s amazing how brilliant your subconscious mind really is.

To find out more about how to communicate with your subconscious mind, I recommend going to Steve Pavlina’s website and listening to his podcast entitled “Consulting your Intuition”:
http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/09/stevepavlinacom-podcast-003-consulting-your-intuition/

Another great resource to check out is the book, “What to Say When You Talk to Yourself” by Shad Helmstetter.

Tip#3: Reward yourself for reaching your goal to write music everyday.

It is important when forming the habit of writing music everyday that you set up a goal to use as a measurement of success. Once you reach your goal, reward yourself so that you will look favorably on this habit. This will encourage your subconscious mind to continue helping you. When I first starting forming this habit, I told myself that if I did this for the first month, that I would reward myself by going out to see a musical performance. I saw a performance of the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

Your goal can be defined as a period of time in which you perform the habit, or as a completed piece of music. It’s up to you. It is very important that if you reach your goal, that you go through with the reward. If you don’t, you may find it harder the next time you attempt to form another good habit.

Tip#4: Use technology to help you write music on the go!

One way to make sure you write everyday is to set up ways to write while you are on the go. I know that many aspiring songwriters and composers are working day jobs and don’t have time to sit in front of their home studios or to jot down their ideas on paper whenever an idea comes to them. Sometimes ideas come to me while I’m out and I have created a few ways that I can capture those ideas. I use the voice recorder on my cell phone to sing and record musical ideas as they come to me. Then I transfer those ideas over to Soundation Studio, a digital audio workstation that exists online on a cloud server to make it more of a solid idea. I use Soundation to develop ideas while I’m not at home near my studio however, I find it too limiting to use it instead of my current DAW (Sonar X2) because of the limited virtual instruments.  Then later on I transfer the data from Soundation to my computer-sequencing program. If you don’t have a voice recorder on your cell phone, you can always go out and buy a voice recorder and carry it around with you. These technological devices can be a lifesaver when catching those brilliant ideas that come to you in the middle of the day.

Tip#5: Decide which days are music-light and which are music-heavy and plan accordingly.

I know many of you have day jobs, which means you have days in which you have to work and days in which you don’t. Recognizing this means that you can plan what kind of composing day you will have. On the days that you work, these will be what I call music-light days, in which you compose for at least 10 minutes. On the days you don’t have to work, you have more time to devote to writing and this is what I call a music-heavy day. On this day, you can take all of the music ideas that you wrote on your music-light days and develop these ideas into completed songs. These are the days in which most of your music construction will take place. By having music-light days, you make it easy to get down to business on your music-heavy days because you already have material to work with.  Again, I like to

Tip#6: Break up your day with a nap or a walk.

For those who want to compose music when you come home from work, it may be a challenge because of the lack of energy. One way to get past this is to break up your day with a nap or walk. You need a barrier to separate your workday from your music writing evening. Taking a nap will make you feel rested and will give you enough mental stamina to write for a few hours before resting for the evening.

Walking or performing other forms of exercise before you write is another way to break up your day. It helps to relieve stress and helps you to focus. It also helps to improve your mood by increasing the production of endorphins. Once you are able shake off the stress of the day and improve your mood, you will be ready to sit down and focus on composing for the evening.

So there you have it! Six tips that will help you form the habit of writing every day. Once you successfully form this habit, you will crave writing music. Making it a part of your daily routine will help you become more productive and it will feel good to get those musical ideas out of your head. Once your see your music library growing, you will feel so good and you will be more confident when networking with industry professionals. So don’t delay! Start writing every day. No excuses!

Creating Better Habits

I am reading an article on Life Hacker about creating better habits. It’s not your typical article about setting goals and sticking with them. The title of the article as actually called “Are Your Goals Holding You Back?”  Dan Shipper talks about the importance of creating a good habit before you can make it into a goal. He talks about how when he started forming the habit to exercise, that he would just  exercise and he didn’t set any expectations. He did what he wanted for as long or short as he wanted it. It had to feel good to him.

I had an A-HA moment. It’s like dating someone. In the beginning you may just want to meet up with this person for a short date over coffee. If things go well, you will set up another date. Maybe a little longer. You have to give yourself time to connect emotionally with this person before you can start with the commitment talk. Goal setting is the commitment stage. Forming the good habit is the casual dating stage. For something like exercising or practicing piano or anything else I’ve struggled with, I need to casually date before I commit. Form those good habits by casually dating and building emotion to go along with it.

Career Balance Sheet

As I continue taking the mentoring program, I am more and more impressed with what we are being exposed to. I’ve heard of balance sheets in financial matters but I never though about creating a list of assets and liabilities and then assigning values to them in order to assess myself. So here I sit creating a list of positive and negative things that could either help or hinder me. Then I have to give each item a number from 1-10 to see how much it applies to me. Then add it up to see what the numbers come out to be. I’ll give you the results in a later post.

Mentoring Program

You are never to old to be mentored. I have joined a mentoring program for musicians and I have to say that I am enjoying it a lot. Many things being talked about have to do with how you think. You can be “Do” unless you can “Be” first. Part of being is how you think and what you think about. What you think about determines what you feel which then determines your actions and finally your results. Thoughts-Feelings-Actions-Results.