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  • A Look Back at 2015

    Happy New Year’s everyone! To celebrate the start of 2016, we thought that we would share a few fun facts and accomplishments on Teen Jazz in the last year.

    Towards the end of 2015 we took a bit of a break – Teen Jazz Founder Shannon Kennedy was quite busy on tour promoting her new album with Groove LTD. But we’re back and we have some fantastic things in store for the next year!

    Teen Jazz is nearing the 450 article mark and we’re so excited. In 2016 we’ll see more than 500 posts since the site was redesigned in 2012.

    Our family of up and coming artists reached 61 members from all over the world – Canada, Sweden, the US, the UK, Venezuela and Argentina. You can join our community by applying here!

    We currently have a team of 13 contributing writers including: Shannon Kennedy, U-Nam, Rheuben Allen, Andrew Gordon, Cyrene Jagger, Richard Simon, Peggy Duquesnel, Sean Winter, Kenn Hadnot, Joel Perkosky, James Barrera, Adam Larson, and Dana Brenklin. If you’re interested in becoming a part of our team, please get in touch!

    OUR 10 MOST POPULAR ARTICLES WERE:

    1. A List of Summer Jazz Camps // This post has been in our top ten for about as long as the site has been up! If you’re looking for something music oriented to do this summer, this post is a great place to start.
    2. What Songs Should I Learn for Jam Sessions // We worked with a lot of great musicians to craft this list just for you.
    3. Saxophone Playing Tips and Practice Suggestions // Shannon Kennedy wrote this one after a masterclass with Jay Mason and James Barrera.
    4. A Beginner’s Guide to Playing “Outside” // A great guest post from Teen Jazz Artist Sean Winter.
    5. Learn Jazz Lingo and Slang // A list of words used both past and present in the music industry.
    6. College Audition Preparation for Saxophonists // A guest post from James Barrera.
    7. Guitarist Adam Fallen // We’re so thrilled to know that one of our artists made it into the top ten for the first time this year!
    8. How to Adjust the G# Spring Tension on a Saxophone // This is a great repair post from guest contributor Rheuben Allen.
    9. Interview with Mindi Abair // This is another post that almost always makes it into our annual top ten.
    10. Check Out: Jazz Lessons with Tim Price // A post about my music teacher and the importance of studying with a great instructor no matter your age.

    Thank you all for making 2015 such a great year! We look forward to the continued growth of our little community in 2016!

    December 30, 2015 • Music and Career Advice, Teen Jazz • Views: 1009

  • Mariea Antoinette Straight from the Harp Review

    In an industry prevalent with saxophonists, guitarists, and keyboardists, it’s not often that you come across instrumentalists of a different sort, but Mariea Antoinette is one such musician paving her own way as a jazz and soul harpist.

    On September 25, 2015, with the release of a special edition of her Billboard Top 5 charting album “Straight from the Harp” with MAH Productions, harpist Mariea Antoinette celebrated her recognition as a Phenomenal Women in Entreneurship with an award from the National Council of Negro Women. The new version of the album features two bonus tracks and updated artwork.

    “Straight from the Heart” was produced by Allan Phillips and includes a combination of both original music and R&B classics such as “Rock Wit’cha”, “Give Me Your Love”, “Boogie Nights”, “Waiting in Vain”, “Human” and “I’m Gonna Love You”.

    Several of the tracks feature a live horn section and string section, and violinist Karen Briggs even performs as a guest on “Walk the Walk.” I had the pleasure of seeing Ms. Mariea Antoinette perform several of the tracks from her project at an event in Los Angeles last year and the energy of her live performances are certainly reflected in the recordings on “Straight from the Harp.”

    One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Special Treasures,” a tune that is somewhat nostalgic for me with trumpet parts that make me think of a lot of the music I heard in films growing up. Her rendition of “Boogie Nights” is another fun track as is “Single Dance”.

    Mariea Antoinette transcends the ways in which many may have perceived the harp – showing that it’s more than a classical instrument and that artists can pursue the performance of the music that they love and not just the styles that their instrument may have been traditionally used for. It’s certainly an inspiring message to send to the next generation of musicians.

    Based in San Diego, California, Mariea Antoinette made her debut with “Sexy Paradise” in 2003. Since, she has performed around the world for events including a performance for Barak and Michelle Obama, backing Ne-Yo at the BET Awards, and playing for a Vanity Fair Grammy soiree. She currently performs as a part of Jazz in Pink.

    Get Straight to the Harp on Amazon

    Title: Straight to the Harp
    Artist: Mariea Antoinette
    Year: September 25, 2015
    Genre: Jazz, R&B
    Label: MAH Productions

    01 Fly Away
    02 Rock Wit’cha
    03 Special Treasures
    04 Give Me Your Love
    05 Single Dance
    06 Spend Some Time
    07 Boogie Nights
    08 Journey
    09 I’m Gonna Love You (Just a Little More Baby)
    10 Waiting in Vain
    11 Human
    12 Straight from the Harp
    13 Walk the Walk

    Get Straight to the Harp on Amazon

    November 12, 2015 • Reviews • Views: 1071

  • Groove LTD Releases Debut Album “First Class”

    Teen Jazz Host Shannon Kennedy and guitarist U-Nam are proud to announce the release of their debut album as Groove Ltd. The new project, “First Class” features guests including Myron, Maysa, Jonathan Fritzen, Paulhino da Costa, Michael White, and many more.

    The first day of its digital release saw the album attain a #1 place for Smooth Jazz and #6 for overall Jazz on Amazon.

    You can purchase the album here.

    September 14, 2015 • Reviews, Teen Jazz • Views: 946

  • Why Do Young Clarinet Players Play Flat?

    This is a guest post from Rheuben Allen, taken from his site with permission.

    Why do young clarinet players play flat?

    Elementary school and middle school students who choose to play the clarinet often have an issue playing in tune. But they’re not necessarily to blame.

    The manufacturers of many student clarinets sell instruments with barrels that are simply too long for the beginning player. So if you, or your child, are playing a clarinet straight out of the case and are having an issue with pitch, the solution might be simpler than you think.

    Young students who are just starting to produce sound on their instruments but have not yet developed a good embouchure are better off using a shorter barrel at the beginning. By using a longer barrel, they can actually develop a few bad habits that will be harder to change later on down the line. These habits can include biting the reed or tightening the bottom lip in order to get the pitch up.

    In result, these bad habits cause the tone to become thin and affect the response of the instrument. Students then struggle to play unnecessarily.

    The majority of student clarinets come with a 65mm or 66mm barrel. These barrel lengths usually require a thicker reed (3.5 to 5 strength) to get the pitch up to where it needs to be and many young students aren’t yet ready for a hard reed.

    Because students aren’t yet ready for harder reeds, the better option would be to use either a 64mm or 63mm barrel so that they have the opportunity to develop a more relaxed embouchure. This will allow them to more easily produce a better tone and they will be more comfortable playing. It will make their experience that much more enjoyable!

    September 9, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1012

  • Build Your Music Brand Platform Online

    Now, more than ever before, your next fan is more likely to discover you and your music online than they are to find out about you at a show.

    So how do you make sure that you’ve built a strong music brand platform online so that discovery leaves a positive impression?

    How do you make sure that potential fans who discover you online stick around, listen to your music, and check in with you for updates?

    But before we get into how to keep fans coming back for more, there’s something else that’s worth mentioning.

    It isn’t just artist discovery that’s primarily online.

    Album launches and marketing are also mostly on the web now.

    Many performers are opting to go the indie route, releasing their music on their own. But even if you’re hoping to one day get signed, labels are now more likely to take a chance with an artist that already comes with a built-in and engaged audience.

    Whichever road you’re planning to take, however, your online brand platform needs to be strong because it serves as your main channel to promote and distribute your music.

    Let’s make your brand platform give you the most bang for the time you invest into developing it.

    Don’t rely on third-party platforms to promote your business.

    Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter aren’t enough. Even if you have a huge following on one of those social media sites, you need to use it to send people back to your website. They shouldn’t be the main vehicle for your promotion.

    Social media platforms rise and fall quickly (read: Myspace) and if you build your audience via social media, you’re likely to lose them when it loses popularity.

    Your website, on the other hand, will forever be yours to update and control. Unless you neglect updating it, it’s impossible for it to become obsolete, and as your career progresses, the amount of content and usefulness of your site only grows with it.

    Bonus Tip: Your website should have an about page, photos, video and audio clips, your concert schedule, and a contact page at the very least. If you have albums or projects out, they should also have their own pages (and you should also have a discography page). I also personally suggest having a tour blog up on your site so that your fans can get to know you. It also gives them a reason to keep visiting you in between album releases.

    Build an Email List

    Even if you don’t have an album out or you’re not on tour, you should constantly work at building your email list. If you’re planning on launching an album or a tour at any point in your career, it’s never to early to start building up your email list. And when you finally launch your album, that list will be a great tool to help you ensure the success of the release.

    As an incentive to get fans to sign up, you can offer a free mp3 download to those who sign up or even a link to an unlisted video on your Youtube channel.

    As far as the content of your newsletters, offer your subscribers something that they won’t get on your website or blog. Every so often, you should send them exclusive information and offers, links to videos or new music before any one else, and maybe even links to other artists that they might enjoy.

    Bonus Tip: Using your email list for constant self-promotion is a no-no. You want your newsletters to be something your fans look forward to, not something they’re likely to get annoyed by. Create something useful and entertaining for your audience.

    Ask for Reviews

    Use the email list you’re building above to offer fans a free advance copy of your new single or album in exchange for reviews on Amazon. Those reviews will go a long way to getting your music discovered on Amazon by new listeners.

    Bonus Tip: Do this right before you’re getting ready to release an album so that your album launch gets started with a bang.

    When you do use social media, focus on a few channels rather than, well, all of them.

    It’s impossible to manage a consistent and strong brand image across an infinite number of social sites, so pick 3-5 of your favorites and focus on them. Focus on the platforms where your audience can be found and work on building a strong presence.

    It will take time to build up your music brand platform, but once you start to get some momentum, you’ll find it was worth the effort and time. Even if you don’t yet have anything to promote, it’s never too early to start. Once fans start to find you, you’ll have a built in audience ready to hear about your new project. Don’t wait until you’re trying to release an album to launch your artist platform. It will be too much at once.

    Bonus Tip: In addition to providing useful and entertaining content to your fans through your various social media channels, make sure that you give them incentive to head over to your website. Save certain photos, content, and clips for your website only and link back to it from the social media sites you’re using.

    For more tips like this, check out our Album Checklist and Music Branding bundle here.

    September 7, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1011

  • There Are No Shortcuts

    Amongst the language learning community, there are a lot of products marketed to learners as being the newest and fastest way to learn a language.

    The problem with this, is with how they’re defining what it means to have learnt a language.

    Is this to fluency? To basic conversation ability? It is rarely clear just what they’re offering and what they mean by just how much of the language you’ll learn.

    From my personal experience, and that of my language learning friends, there isn’t any way to learn a language other than by putting in the time and using that time effectively.

    There is no fast or easy way.

    It’s all about putting in the time on a consistent basis.

    When you’re trying to develop a skill, going weeks without study and then cramming in a ton of practice into a short window before taking another long break is a disservice to you and it ruins your potential growth in whatever you’re trying to do.

    But a lot of products are marketed in a way that would have you believing you could learn something quickly.

    And this phenomenon doesn’t just exist amongst language learners. Its prevalent amongst nearly every craft that requires any sort of skill.

    Nearly everyone is looking for the next bigger, better, faster way to improve at one skill or another, but are shortcuts really the right way to go?

    It seems that people are looking for a way to reap the rewards without putting in any of the work to earn them.

    So what does this have to do with music?

    The same exact thing as it has to do with any other field.

    There. is. no. shortcut.

    The only way you’re going to get better is by sitting down and putting hours into practice and making the most of that time.

    And playing isn’t practicing.

    If you aren’t spending the time in the right way, it can be as unproductive as not practicing at all.

    Look Beyond the End Result

    In music, like many other vocations, we often just see the end result. We see the successful musician, the adoring fans, and hear the well-produced music after all the hard work has been done in the background.

    What we miss is what goes on behind the scenes.

    It’s easy to forget or write off all of the things that we don’t see. All of the hours of rehearsal, of practice, of coaching and training, of recording, of writing, and of laboring that go on to create that finished “product.”

    It’s easy to ignore because that isn’t what we see. We see the end result, not the preparation. It all seems like a magic. Someone waves their hands and we get a polished performer with a hit record.

    But that isn’t the case.

    It’s important to remind yourself of all the hours that go into a performance, an album, or a video. There’s so much more to each of these things that you don’t see just because they happen behind the scenes (although we’re seeing it more and more recently as artists give us a look into their lives via social media).

    You can’t ignore all the work that an artist or musician puts in to create their “greatest work”. They (often) aren’t geniuses, or exceptions to the rule, and their art often doesn’t come as naturally to them as we’d like to think.

    99.9% of the time it isn’t natural talent or luck. It’s hard work.

    So why do we want to believe it’s talent or natural ability that allows people to excel?

    Because we either don’t want to put the work in ourselves or because we want to make excuses about why we can’t do something.

    We are often also attracted to the possibility that someone has a natural gift or that they were destined to do a certain thing which why they have a knack for it. It gives us hope that we’ll find that thing we were destined for.

    Even though this way of thinking often leads to our admiring those who excel at certain things (which isn’t so bad in itself – they deserve recognition for their hard work), that admiration allows us to set other musicians on a pedestal. It gives us reason to think, “oh, I could never do that.” And by thinking that, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage before you even begin.

    Developing a skill is already a struggle, but if you look at it as impossible, you’ll struggle even more.

    Learning can be frustrating, and so, it can be quite easy to understand why we want to skip that step and move quickly from learner to expert. No one wants to experience frustration intentionally and at certain stages, when we sit down to practice, we know that’s what we’re going to feel.

    So why do we keep submitting ourselves to that frustration?

    Because the end result is worth it.

    If we want to accomplish something meaningful, do something great, then we need to deal with the frustration that comes with learning our craft.

    If music is something we want to do, something we want to become great at, then we need to pour all of the blood, sweat and tears required into improving.

    We need to sit down in front of our music stands or put our headphones on and work.

    But we also need to use the time we spend working at our craft and practicing the right way.

    When you’re woodshedding, it isn’t enough to just play your instrument, you actually need to take things that you struggle with and work them out.

    If you’re comfortable, then you aren’t growing. You aren’t pushing yourself enough. You aren’t teaching yourself new things and you aren’t making aspects of your playing that are difficult for you now easier for yourself later.

    If you want to do great things, then you need to make great efforts.

    In Conclusion

    Music is a way to be creative and it is a way for us to express ourselves. It should be something that we find enjoyable. Even though you should stretch and push yourself when you practice, it’s important to find the time to do the things you enjoy musically as well. It doesn’t have to be all work, no play, but if you’re driven to improve it should definitely be more of the former and less of the latter.

    In fact, by putting in the work, you may find that you enjoy music more just because you’re reveling in the results of all of your hard work the next time you head out for a performance.

    So the next time you find yourself envious over someone’s “natural ability” to do something you’d like to do, remember that it’s not impossible. You can get to that point to if you’re willing to put in the work.

    September 2, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 923

  • How to Learn Something from Any Situation

    When we make the transition from school to the real world, maintaining our learning curve can present a challenge. In school we’re often handed things that we need to work on in the form or homework or assignments, and so we rarely have to think about the next step.

    But what happens when you no longer have someone telling you what to do to get better?

    How do you find the direction that you need to continue improving?

    One of the easiest ways ways to get direction whenever you feel as though you’re struggling is to study with a good teacher.

    No matter how long we’ve been out of school, you’re never to old for a private lesson with someone who can provide you with good feedback!

    But if you’re not able to take lessons for whatever reason, there are a few things that you can do on your own to improve and overcome any plateaus in your learning that you might be facing.

    Learn from the bad

    Start recording yourself as you practice and as you perform. Audio is great but video is even better.

    The next step is the hardest one.

    Watch it.

    For some, watching a video of a performance or listening back to a practice session can be an awkward (or even frustrating) experience. I, for one, don’t like to watch videos of myself performing.

    But how am I going to improve my live performance if I don’t watch videos?

    If I don’t take the time to look at what I’m doing, there are likely things that I’ll miss. Perhaps I believe I’m more dynamic on stage or that I’m moving around more than I am in reality. Perhaps I don’t realize that I’m constantly reaching up to run a hand through my hair or not looking out at the audience enough.

    The only way I’m really going to catch all of those little things that can truly amp up my live performance (if I work on them) is by analyzing past performances.

    I need to look at the bad things that I’m doing and iron them out.

    But you can also learn from the “bad” things that other players or performers are doing.

    Perhaps you went to a show and there was something about it you didn’t enjoy. Maybe the musicians didn’t engage with the audience or their set list was too eclectic. Perhaps they weren’t well rehearsed. Or maybe it was just the way the lead stood with bad posture that bothered you.

    Whatever it is, learn from it. Make a note of the things that you dislike about other performers and make a point of never doing them yourself.

    Learn from the good

    When you are watching the videos of your past performances, don’t just pay attention to the things you want to work on. Keep track of the things that you’re doing that you like.

    When you’re listening back to the audio recordings of your practice, take note of the things that you do that are unique to your playing.

    And then keep doing them.

    When you go out to other performances or when you listen to albums from other artists, listen and watch for things that impress you.

    Then learn how to do them yourself before adapting them so that they become your own.

    Listen to musicians that inspire you to work harder and get to the next level with your playing and performance.

    If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to go out and see performances put on by the musicians that inspire you, spend some time browsing videos on YouTube. And even if you are able to go out and see live shows, spend time studying the performances of other musicians on Youtube as well.

    You can learn from any situation – whether good or bad – and use what you’ve gained from that experience to improve as a player and grow as a musician. It’s up to you to collect those experiences and put them to use.

    August 31, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 856

  • 13 Things No One Told Me About Being A Professional Musician

    I began my career as a professional musician while in high school and I’ve learned more outside of school these past few years than I did in all of my time in school (and I went to school through a Master’s degree).

    Some of the lessons that I’ve learned were much harder than others, but I’m grateful for all of the knowledge I’ve gained throughout my career.

    Despite the fact that no one told me the following about being a professional musician, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned with you.

    1. Finding the motivation to work as a self-employed, independent musician isn’t always easy. There are some days that you just don’t feel like doing anything, but you need to push through it and sit down to do the work anyway.
    2. How little your the role your actual playing plays on a day to day basis. It isn’t hours of practice and nothing but performances all day, every day. There is so much other work that goes into being a professional. Business stuff. Image stuff. Networking stuff. Promotion stuff. Finance stuff. Contract stuff.
    3. How much time (or money) it actually takes to put out quality content. Creating an excellently produced album isn’t as simple as jumping into a basement recording studio with your high school buddies. While it can be done, it isn’t the best way to do it. And album costs aren’t just the production costs (what it takes to create the album), there are also promotion and distribution costs.
    4. It’s hard. And sometimes you want to quit. Sometimes you wish you had decided to do something else. But then are other times where you laugh at yourself for ever even playing around with the idea of doing something else.
    5. It’s okay to have hobbies. Not all of your free time needs to be spent working on and improving your music. A lot of it should, but not all of it. It’s healthy to get away and do something else every so often.
    6. Depression is a thing. For most artists – whether it be aritst, writer or musician – depression is a thing and if you struggle with it, do something about it. You aren’t alone. And if you need to, you should talk to someone about it.
    7. People can be downright cruel. But they can also be incredibly and surprisingly supportive.
    8. Creativity blocks are real. Oh, so real. It isn’t all free-flowing compositions, inspired improvisation, rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes your playing downright sucks. Sometimes you have a bad day. Sometimes you just don’t feel like writing or practicing. Just try to work through it so that it doesn’t become too many days in a row.
    9. Stick-to-it-ness is one of the best talents you can have.
    10. You aren’t just composing and performing for yourself. A lot of people will tell you this, and in a way, they aren’t wrong. You need to create music that you want to hear first, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore you audience. What I think that really means when you break it down is that if you’re selling out and trying to ride trends, your audience will see you as inauthentic. You need to create the music you want to create and that you enjoy. Something you can put your heart and soul behind. That’s what others enjoy and want to hear. That’s what matters most. But, don’t write and record music for the sake of numbers, do it because you’re trying to reach out and connect with your audience (however many people that may be).
    11. You’ll very likely do a lot of gigs that you really wish you didn’t have to do.
    12. But you’ll also do gigs that are amazing and meet amazing people along the way.
    13. That you cannot afford to stop learning. There is always room for growth.

    So there you have it, thirteen things I’ve learned about being a professional musician. What are your experiences? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

    August 26, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 801

  • A review of Al Di Meola’s Elysium

    With more than four decades in music, three gold albums, and more than six million record sales worldwide, Al Di Meola is ready for his next success with Elysium.

    The album consists of 14 original tracks with Di Meola accompanied by guests such a Philippe Saisse and Mario Parmisano on keyboards, Rhani Krija on percussion, and Peter Kaszas on drums.

    Al Di Meola can be heard blending the sounds of his Conde Hermanos acoustic prototype model with his ’71 Les Paul electric throughout the songs on Elysium, bringing two usually distinct guitar styles – a sometimes hard rock and sometimes classically romantic – together.

    Elysium opens with “Adour,” in which Di Meola accompanies an electric guitar melody with acoustic guitar. “Babylon” has a ostinato part over which Di Meola something action through a fusion-influenced melody, definitely our favorite on the project. “Purple and Gold” is somewhat cinematic in nature, but something nonetheless fitting with the other tunes on the project.

    The title track, “Elysium” has a lighter feel to it and a melody that transports you from where ever you might be listening to an intimate sonic landscape. “Amanjena” begins with a slow and something introduction before delving into a full-something with Di Meola improvising over the track on electric. The album closes with the mysterious and vibraphone driven “La Lluvia”.

    The project is definitely one that will be undoubtedly poured over by guitarists and fans of Di Meola.

    Al Di Meola has worked with Return to Forever, Rite of Strings, his Guitar Trio along with John McLaughlin and Paco Lucia, and more. He has more than 20 albums as a leader and is world renowned for his blending of world and Latin musics with jazz. He attended Berklee College of Music and soon joined Chick Corea’s fusion group Return to Forever at the age of 19. He will be honored with the 22nd Miles Davis Award at the Montreal Jazz Festival this summer (2015).

    Get Elysium on Amazon.

    Title: Elysium
    Artist: Al Di Meola
    Date: June 09, 2015
    Genre: Jazz, Jazz Fusion
    Label: inakustik Label Group

    Tracks:

    01 Adour
    02 Cascade
    03 Babylon
    04 Purple and Gold
    05 Esmeralda
    06 Elysium
    07 Amanjena
    08 Sierra
    09 Etcetera in E Major (Intro)
    10 Etcetera in E Major
    11 Tangier
    12 Stephanie
    13 Monsters
    14 La Lluvia

    Get Elysium on Amazon.

    August 19, 2015 • Reviews • Views: 1068

  • The Essentials for Any Musician

    I’ve recently had a few of my students’ parents ask me about the music equipment that their child should have and so I decided to answer it here.
    While this varies slightly from instrument to instrument, there are a few essentials that every up and coming musician should keep with them in their case at all times.
    1. Cleaning cloth // This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It could be anything from a microfiber cloth to a special cleaning glove or an old cut up t-shirt. This is the one that I use.
    2. Tuner // With fresh batteries!
    3. Metronome // Again, with fresh batteries! On Amazon you can find an affordable metronome that is also a tuner. I use this one.
    4. For woodwinds // non-stick powder or sheets, cork grease, extra reeds, a neck strap
    For brass // valve oil and slide oil
    For bassists or guitarists // extra strings and picks (if you use them)
    5. Music // I recommend a good method book at the very least. Your school teacher can usually recommend a good one.
    6. A way to listen to your music (an mp3 player, computer or cd player)
    7. Your instrument (and that doesn’t have to be something overly expensive) // Don’t forget to bring any part of it to your lessons or your classes. I’ve had saxophone students do silly things like forget their neck or mouthpiece. Also double check to make sure everything is in your case!
    8. A practice journal // This can be any notebook that will hold together well enough to be carried around back and forth from your house to your lessons. I just use a composition notebook.
    If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a note in the comments.

    August 17, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 665