The Importance of Listening

As a musician, listening is a must in order to keep up with your craft and to improve your skills. The importance of listening to music, to others, and to yourself should not be ignored.

Killer Harmony | The Importance of Listening | As a musician, you should use listening as a tool to improve your craft. Listening opens you up to different sounds you couldn't learn otherwise.

In order to make sufficient progress as a musician, you need good listening skills. You also need to be able to listen to different things, because the more you listen, the more you will learn.

In this post, I want to talk about a few things you should always listen to as a musician. I am not going to go into specific musicians or other details, but I want to cover the basics.

Your Teacher

The first resource you should use and listen to is your music teacher. If you are taking private lessons, your teacher has much more experience than you and probably knows what to say to teach you.

It may sound obvious, but listening to your teacher will help in more ways than one. You can listen to what your teacher says about your playing, and you can listen to your teacher play.

If you don’t have a private teacher but are in band or orchestra, you should also listen. Your director may not know much about your instrument, but they do understand how instruments work and what you can do to help the ensemble.

Other Musicians

Whether you go to YouTube in search of a recording by a virtuosic musician or you just want to listen to friends, other musicians can help you. You want to listen to a variety of players so that you can understand how your instrument works and what others like to do.

By listening to good recordings, you can of course learn your pieces, but you can also open yourself up to new and different sounds. If you limit yourself to only listening to one or two people, you are limiting your sound.

Other musicians, whether they play your instrument or not, have their own voice. I love listening to all sorts of instruments so that I can understand how I can make a better sound and to learn how I can blend with other instruments.

Yourself

This is so important, and I wish more people would listen to themselves. You can listen to yourself while you play or through a recording. I know it can be hard to listen to yourself, I will often cringe when listening to recordings, but you need to do it.

You can learn so much from listening to yourself. While you can start by just listening live, recording yourself is super helpful. When you are playing, you often need to focus on playing, and you can’t focus on listening.

A recording allows you to go back, follow along with your music, and listen for what you like and dislike. You can record yourself with nothing but a smartphone. So don’t give the excuse that you can’t afford any equipment. You already have a solid option.

Your Body

This one is often overlooked by a lot of musicians, and I don’t think that’s right. Your body is your greatest tool. It is how you make music and do just about everything else in life. You need to treat it well and to listen to it.

If your muscles are starting to tense up or you are getting tired, take a break. You might have been told by a teacher that you need to practice multiple hours a day. But if that is not realistic for you and your body, you can hurt yourself.

As much as I would love to play music all of the time, I can’t. My shoulders and fingers can get tired, and I need to take a break. I then switch to other tasks, such as doing work for this blog. Or I watch videos on YouTube.

If you only listen to one thing, please, let it be your body. The last thing you want is to have to stop playing long term because you overworked yourself.

Just Listen

Listening to other musicians, to your teacher, and to yourself can serve you for the rest of your musical career. You can learn so much from listening to recordings or by taking notes in a private lesson.

If you need to take a break from playing, don’t stop listening. You may not be able to practice your instrument, but you can think about what you want to do next time you pick it back up.

I am not always the best at listening, but I still think it is an important tool and skill for musicians. There are things that you can’t learn otherwise. As with language, you need some sort of reference when it comes to making music. You can only get that reference by listening.

So…

How do you incorporate listening into your music routine? Let me know in the comments. And don’t forget to subscribe for music tips and tricks sent right to your inbox!

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What’s in My Flute Bag?

With back to school season coming up, I thought it would be fun to tell you guys about what I keep in my flute bag. As an aspiring professional flutist, I like to keep a lot of stuff on hand.

Killer Harmony | What's In My Flute Bag? | As a serious musician, I have a lot of stuff to carry around. I keep a lot of important things in my flute bag. So, I decided to share what is in there.

Now, if you are just taking lessons for fun, you may not need everything here. If you are a music major, you are just curious about what I use, this post is for you.

Without further ado, here is what I keep in my flute bag.

About the Bag

The flute bag I use is the ProTec Flute Gig Bag. I got it for about $35 from a local music store, but you can find it online.The bag comes in different colors, such as black, blue, and purple.

I went with black, because black goes with everything, and it blends in on stage. I love being able to keep my case with me during performances, and you can’t do that with a bright colored bag.

If you want a full review, let me know, and I will get a post up!

My Flute

Um, duh. It is a flute bag. So I have to keep my flute in it. I have a Lyric Artisan Flute, which I love. Lyric flutes are a branch of Miyazawa, similar to the Powell Sonare line, for you flute nerds.

My flute has a silver head joint and a silver plated body, foot joint, and mechanism. I have a B foot, a split E mechanism, an offset G, and the more common features that you see on flutes.

I do keep my flute in its own case, because the bag doesn’t have the parts that keep a flute in place like a normal case. My flute is in its French style case, which means a case that doesn’t have a handle or any exterior storage.

My Piccolo

I have an Armstrong metal piccolo, which I used for marching band in college. Now that I don’t have access to a wood model, it has become my primary piccolo.

I have had the instrument for three years, and it has served me well. It was the best birthday gift I ever received. I do need to upgrade to at least a composite model, and I hope to do that soon.

If you are a serious flutist, you should consider investing in at least a student model piccolo. It will be greatly used, and the piccolo can open up many other doors than just the flute.

Flute Cleaning Cloths

I probably have more cloths than the normal person, but I need all of them. For my flute, I have and use four different cloths at least once a week.

The first cloth is a swabbing cloth. I use it with a cleaning rod to swan out the inside of my flute. Since saliva and condensation collect in the flute, it is important to swab out your flute after playing it.

The second cloth I use daily is a microfiber cloth. I use this to wipe off any dirt or finger prints that collect on my flute. Unfortunately, I can’t skimp here, because I have acidic sweat. My sweat has actually caused a bit of the silver plating to come off of my flute. I have to polish my flute every time I play it.

Another cloth I use to polish my flute after the microfiber cloth is a plain cotton cloth. I don’t always use this cloth, but it is great for a second go over the head joint.

The last cloth I have is a two sided polishing cloth. It is meant to get the serious dirt and grime off of your flute. I only use it once or twice a week, and I don’t use it on my head joint. I did that once, and my lower lip had a slight discoloration for awhile.

Piccolo Cleaning Cloth

I do also have a piccolo swab. The swab is just a silk cloth that I bought off Amazon. I use it with the piccolo cleaning rod that came with my instrument.

Instrument Stands

A must have for me is a flute and/or piccolo stand. I have a bigger stand that stays in my room at home and smaller stands that can fit in my case for rehearsals and performances.

My flute stand is by Hercules; it is the travel size one. I also have a piccolo stand that is by K&G.

Instrument stands are awesome, because you don’t have to haphazardly put your instrument on a chair or table. You can safely put it on your stand and know that it will not get sat on or knocked off.

A Pencil

You need a pencil. Whether you have a private lesson or an ensemble rehearsal, a pencil will save your life. You can mark notes in your music, write down important dates, and much more.

Avoid using pens, because you can’t erase them. You never know if your teacher will want to make a change or if they might take a change out. If you are borrowing your music, you especially shouldn’t use pen. Borrowed music needs to be returned in good condition; pen doesn’t allow for that.

Earplugs

As a piccolo player, I have to have earplugs. When I am playing in the high register or just playing loudly, my ears need protection. I love and use Etymotic earplugs. They allow me to still hear what’s going on so I can tune to others, but they lower the volume of everything by a slight amount.

If you play piccolo or any other piercing instrument, you should own a pair of earplugs and actually use them. They will save your hearing.

So…

What do you keep in your instrument case? Let me know in the comments. And don’t forget to sign up for the Killer Email Squad to get music tips and tricks sent directly to your inbox!

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22 Music Facts About Me

Today is a pretty big day for me. I am officially 22 years old. I’m like, a real adult now. It’s pretty crazy. While 21 was a big birthday, 22 is special in its own way.

Killer Harmony | 22 Music Facts About Me | In honor of my 22nd birthday, I wanted to share 22 music facts about me. Right here, right now. I'm getting personal, so you don't want to miss out!

To celebrate this special day, I wanted to share some fun music facts about me with all of you. I am not a professional musician (yet), but I have always had music in my life.

So, here are 22 music facts about me (with a bit of explanation for each).

1. I have played some sort of instrument since I was 6 years old.

I have always loved music. Even though I didn’t stick with my first instrument (violin), my passion for music is very much alive.

2. I have played over 15 instruments.

Piccolo, flute, alto flute, bass flute, soprano recorder, alto recorder, clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, oboe, penny whistle, Native American flute, piano, ukulele, guitar, dulcimer, voice, and drums.

3. No one else in my family is a musician (except for my younger sister).

One of my cousins played piano and sang for awhile, but he has gone on to other things.

4. I inherited two instruments from my grandmother.

My family thought they would be of more use to me, the musician. I have a Native American flute and an Appalachian dulcimer.

5. My favorite type of music to listen to is pop.

I am by no means a classical music snob.

6. My favorite type of music to play is Baroque.

All of the music from that time is so intricate, and one of my favorite pieces to play is JS Bach’s Partita in A minor for solo flute.

7. I played flute, saxophone, and piano in a contemporary band in high school.

My high school actually didn’t have the normal music curriculum. Instead, we had a contemporary band and a world percussion group. I played in the contemporary band, which was really fun.

8. With that band, I recorded some original music.

I got to record a flute line to an original song that one of my band mates brought in one day. That was a really cool experience, especially because our band room was an actual recording studio!

9. I own over 15 different instruments.

One piccolo, 3 flutes, 2 recorders, 2 penny whistles, a Native American flute, an electronic piano, a clarinet, 2 alto saxophones, a ukulele, a guitar, and a dulcimer. And, of course, my own voice.

10. One of my pet peeves is when non-musicians say music is “their life.”

It’s great that you love music that much, but I think the only people that can say music is their life, are the people that actually make music. Sorry, not sorry.

11. I met and played for famous flutist Leone Buyse.

For my first ever masterclass in college, I got to play a piece by Bach for Ms. Buyse. She is super nice, and I would love to study again with her one day.

12. I don’t get nervous before I perform.

After performing so much, I have learned how to turn any nerves I do have into positive energy that helps my performance.

Related: How I got rid of performance anxiety

13. My first piccolo was an early birthday present that I found for a really good deal.

I had wanted a piccolo for awhile and was in contact with someone who was looking to sell. I got a good enough deal that my parents bought it for me as an early birthday present. Three years later, I still play it!

14. I prefer playing flute without accompaniment.

Since I had played piano for awhile, I was used to playing on my own. The first time I played with someone else was a little weird for me. I still enjoy playing unaccompanied pieces. I love them so much, 3 of my 7 senior recital works were just me.

15. The first flute I ever played belonged to my high school band director.

I was at school one Saturday helping with set up for an event. The band room was open, and I stumbled upon the flute. I haven’t looked back since then.

16. My favorite composer is Claude Debussy.

Syrinx is an amazing flute piece, and I love Debussy’s other works so much. His piano stuff is amazing, but I can’t quite play it.

17. I started this blog as a way to help other young musicians improve their craft.

Blogging is tied with music for my biggest passion. I love being able to share tips and tricks with the world. It’s also fun to get to do personal posts like this once in awhile.

18. I see this blog as a way to grow my own skills and help me pursue music full time.

The internet has made it more easy for musicians to make a name for themselves. I hope to be able to continue to share blog posts and even some recordings and videos of my playing here on this blog.

19. Classical music is very underrated, in my opinion.

I think that everyone should give classical music a try. There is so much variety that there is something for everybody.

20. I first wanted to play flute when I was ten. Six years later, I finally got to.

I remember asking my mom if I could play flute in the fifth grade band, but she said no. Jokes on us, cause twelve years later, I have a degree in flute performance!

21. Music theory was one of my favorite subjects in college.

I have always been fascinated by music theory. It always comes easy to me, and I always enjoyed my theory classes.

22. I love sharing all of my musical knowledge and info on this blog and on social media.

I don’t think traditional teaching will ever be for me, so I love being able to teach others through this blog. The internet has become an amazing resource for musicians of all levels, and I love adding to that!

So…

What fact or facts surprised you the most? Did you know any of these facts? Let me know in the comments!

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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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