Music and Career Advice

  • Check Out: Jazz Advice

    It’s been quite some time since we’ve shared an online jazz resource that we dig and so we’ve decided to change that and share with you. We hope to return to doing a monthly feature and are thrilled to begin with such a wonderful site.

    Jazz Advice is run by saxophonist Forrest Wernick and trumpet player Eric O’Donnell. Both have Master’s degrees from William Paterson University, and are currently active performers.

    The site is an excellent place to find improvisation tips, practice advice and more.

    A few places to start:

    We hope you enjoy checking out Jazz Advice.

    If you have a favorite online resource for jazz or music advice, we’d love to know about it! Please feel free to share a link in the comments below.

    May 20, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1445

  • 9 Articles from Writers that All Independent Musicians Should Read

    In the past, I’ve discussed how I think reading about and studying industries with business models similar to that of music can be extremely beneficial. One of my favorite industries to study is that of independent authors.
    Much like musicians, authors deal with product releases and marketing, tours, motivation when working as a freelancer or independent author, etc. They can certainly relate to many other day-to-day decisions and worries that musicians face.
    Here are a few articles written by authors about writing, book releases and more. Just change the words “book” to “album” and “writing” to “practicing.”
    Chuck Wendig
    Kameron Hurley
    Russell Blake 
    Joanna Penn
    The Write Life
    What about you? Do you have any articles from other industries that can be applied to music? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

    April 27, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1659

  • 5 Great Online Music Tools

    Today’s featured online music tools aren’t all necessarily tools but some cool things we found around the web. Check them out below. Let us know what you think in the comments!

    5 Great Online Music Tools

    + Sellbox // Sell your music directly to your fans from your website. Using either Dropbox or Google Drive, you can sell digital files directly! Learn more about Sellbox here or watch the video below.

    + 49 Ways to Get Free Music Promotion // This is a really great resource from Music Think Tank. Check out their ideas for free music promotion.
    + Artiphon // Now your phone can be an instrument! You can sign up to learn more here.

    + Incident Gtar // Learn to play guitar with a fretboard that lights up and directs you on where to put your fingers. Learn more here.
    + Album Collector // For the hardcore music fan. Looking to complete your album collection? Here’s a fun way to do it.

    April 13, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1636

  • The Ultimate CD Release Package

    The Ultimate CD Release Package

    Prepare for the release of your next album with our ultimate CD Release Package!

    Get both The Album Checklist and 30 Days to a Better Music Brand for only $4.99.

    Learn to Effectively Release and Promote Your New Album

    The Album Checklist is a 56-page guide and workbook to help you prepare for the release of your next album. It was assembled to help simplify the album creation process, provide you with the tools and information to help you make sense of the album planning and recording process with our album guide and workbook. Regardless of whether its your first album, second or third, the templates in this book can help you manage your project.

    The Teen Jazz Album Checklist bundle, a guide and workbook to help with the planning of your next album. | Teen JazzTopics Covered:

    • The recording process
    • Mixing & Mastering
    • What to do when the recording is complete
    • Distribution
    • Marketing
    • Product launching
    • Creating your album press kit
    • A case study

    It includes customizable Word Document worksheets to help you keep track of where you’re at in the recording and marketing processes along with the PDF book. It also includes sample email inquiries.

    “This book is a must have for anyone working on a cd project. I wish I would have had this resource years ago!
    Shannon has put together the most thorough worksheets, and checklists one could possibly want to make the process as streamline as possible. The old quote is true, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” This resource will keep you on track from start to finish! Her insight and experience that she shares in this book are worth far more than the asking price!” – Mitch Ross, drummer

    Improve Your Music Branding

    One of the best ways to give your music marketing that extra push is to focus in on your branding. The way you present yourself and your music is crucial to your success as an artist. Learn how to present a clear image and wow your audience and keep them coming back for more. 30 Days to a Better Music Brand gives you the tools and information you need to develop your music brand.
    30 Days to a Better Music Brand | Teen Jazz

    Topics Covered:

    • Brand imagery
    • Writing a compelling artist or band biography
    • Which social networks to use and how
    • How to track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts
    • How to monitor and influence the way your brand is presented
    • Tips on building a community and following
    • A case study

    Each chapter includes advice and an easy challenge to follow in order to improve your music brand over 30 days. It also provides you advice on how to maintain your brand in the future. It includes sample emails and more!

    You get both the PDF and Kindle versions of this book.

    “Excellent book. Many good tips for developing one’s skills, performances, products, and overall promotional ability. Anyone who incorporates even just a few of the 30 tips in this book can’t help but improve his/her operation as a self-styled musician.” – Fred Cavese, saxophonist

    Have questions? Feel free to get in touch.

    March 30, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 3483

  • Get the Most from Networking at Music Events and Festivals

    Hey all, NAMM is over and things have been settling down here. It was great getting to catch up with old friends and meeting new ones! We can’t wait to do it again next year!

    In honor of the recent music conference, we thought we’d share a few networking tips to help you get the most out of any music conventions or meet-ups in your area (or even those that you plan on traveling to).

    Being up on stage in front of an audience is a completely different experience than walking into a room and introducing yourself to a bunch of strangers. It can be tempting to stick to the arms of people you already know and avoid starting a conversation with someone you’ve never met.

    So how do you get past that fear?

    By going into it prepared.

    Here are our tips for preparing for a networking event or conference:

    1. Decide on how you’ll introduce yourself in advance.

    Have you heard of an elevator pitch? If not, read this. If you have, good. Now go create your own. If you want to make a good first impression, get your introduction down. Who are you? What instrument do you play? What style is your music (and none of that wishy-washy it’s a mix of everything but you’ve never heard anything like it nonsense)? What’s one or two of your most notable accomplishments? Get it down so that you can say it without any hesitation.

    2. Now that you’ve created your sales pitch, forget it.

    It’s only there if you need to fall back on it (or if someone specifically asks you what you do). Networking events are about creating relationships not about hard selling. Just do what you can to get conversations started and keep them going. Companies and musicians have people coming at them all day with their “sales pitch” about why they should be endorsed, who they are, etc. Don’t be yet another musician who assaults the artist rep with a list of reasons why they should be sponsored by the company. Get to know people, exchange contact information, enjoy conversations about things other than work, and then follow up on business stuff AFTER the conference is over.

    3. Get interested.

    Ask the people you meet questions about who they are and what they do. Get interested in other people. No one wants to get stuck talking to the person who only knows how to brag about their own accomplishments. So don’t be that person. Ask easy questions that show your honest interest. It’s a great way to get a conversation going and avoid hanging out on the fringes of the room/booths waiting for someone else to approach you.

    And when you ask questions, make sure that you actually listen to the responses. When you follow up, throwing something they told you into your message (in a way that makes sense) can be a really great way to keep the relationship and conversation going. “Hey so-and-so, I was thinking about our conversation on xyz last week and…”

    4. Be enthusiastic.

    When you have an opportunity to talk about yourself and what you do, don’t downplay it. Share your enthusiasm for your music and your craft. It’s contagious. If you constantly tell people “it’s not a big deal,” they’ll start to believe it.

    5. At the same time, however, be humble.

    Don’t let your ego get in the way of making new friends and business partners. It’s a fine line between enthusiastic and humble, but it’s one you’ll have to learn to walk eventually.

    6. Make an effort to remember others’ names.

    It can make a huge impression at a large event with a ton of people – like NAMM.

    7. If you’ve arranged a meeting, don’t be late.

    It’s easy to get caught in the crowds or get drawn too long into a conversation you didn’t mean to fall into. If you made a commitment to someone to meet them at a certain time, stand by it. Excuse yourself from whatever you may be involved in, make arrangements to meet back up if you need to, and honor your commitments.

    8. Go on, be happy!

    If you look grumpy, people will perceive that as you being unapproachable. If you want to get to know other people, make sure you look like someone they can walk up to and talk with. Plus, you’ll feel better. Smile before you enter a room, walk into a booth, or while you shake hands with someone you’ve just met. Show them that you are happy to be there and that you are pleased to meet them.

    9. Dress comfortably.

    You’re going to be on your feet all day so make sure you wear something that won’t be painful and that you don’t have to worry about adjusting.

    10. Follow up.

    If you’ve agreed to follow up with someone at an event, make sure you keep your word after it’s all said and done. Wait a few days to give them time to get home, back to work and settled after the event and then send them a short message to tell them you enjoyed meeting them and a short summary of what you discussed so that they’ll remember you.

    What to Bring With You to a Music Event or Conference

    The networking itself can also be supplemented with a few tools. Here are some things I bring with me whenever I attend a conference or music event.

    1. Business cards. And lots of them.

    2. Mints. You’re going to be up close and personal, leaning in to have conversations over the din of trumpet players fighting to play higher than one another and drummers sampling every bit of percussion known to man. Make sure your breath is nice and fresh so that people will want to continue the conversation with you rather than run away.

    3. Aspirin. So that a headache doesn’t take you out or make you grumpy.

    4. A phone charger or extra battery. But if you bring a phone charger, be prepared to battle it out with a dozen other people for the accessible outlet.

    5. Snacks. The food at conventions is often overpriced and terrible. Bring some stuff to munch on so that you survive the day.

    6. Ear plugs. Protect your ears! You are a musician. They are a part of your livelihood.

    7. Hand sanitizer. Just trust me on this.

    8. Something to write with – pens or sharpies. Sharpies are usually better as they’ll work on more surfaces than a normal pen.

    9. Demos or cds if you have them. But not too many because you will be carrying the ones you don’t hand out around with you all day.

    10. Flyers. Have a new cd or website you’re trying to promote? Create a postcard flyer our handout to pass around at the event.

    Before I close out the post, I should also mention that you should make the effort to stay healthy during music events. It’s easy to push yourself too hard, trying to go to every performance, every demonstration and signing, running yourself ragged. Learn when to call it quits and take it easy. You’ll end up getting more out of the event that way because you won’t be trying to function in an exhausted, Red Bull-fueled stupor. Get a good amount of sleep the night before, take Airborne or Emergen-C if you need to and eat as healthy as you can. And wash your hands. Often.

    There you have it. What are some of the things you do to prepare for music conferences or events? How do you get the most out of them? We’d love to hear your answers in the comments below.

    January 28, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1623

  • 11 Ways to Improve Musically in 2015

    It’s getting to be the end of 2014 and everyone’s making the New Year’s Resolutions for 2015. Have you started to make yours? I’ve made mine and I’ve written about them on my blog and you can read them here. If you’re getting ready to make yours, have you included improving on your instrument as part of your plans?

    If so, here are a few ways to help make it happen.

    1. Learn a new instrument. Learning to play another instrument can give you a new perspective on the one that you already play. It can also help develop your songwriting skills if that instrument is, for example, keyboard or guitar.

    2. Learn a new skill. Can’t play altissimo or a certain style? Tackle it this year by setting aside more time to work on it.

    3. Write a song, or if you’re already writing music, try to write at least one song per month or one song per week if you’re feeling ambitious.

    4. Record yourself. Try to record your practice sessions and shows at least once a month so you can hear your progress, hear what needs improvement and then devise a plan to improve.

    5. Read about the music industry or musicians in your genre.

    6. Make it a goal to clean and take of your instrument more often. Have you been neglecting to take your instrument in for a check-up about every six months? Make it a goal for this next year.

    7. Practice with a metronome and/or tuner more often.

    8. Work on sight-reading.

    9. Work on playing by ear. Transcribe some of your favorite artists by playing or singing along to their recordings.

    10. Teach someone to play your instrument. Sometimes teaching helps you understand and implement different aspects of your playing better. It forces you to analyze what you’re doing so that you can explain it and in result, you better internalize that information yourself.

    What about you? What are your plans to continue to improve musically this next year?

    If you’re looking for things to practice, check out this post.

    December 31, 2014 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1321

  • 8 Ways to Practice Your Instrument While Traveling

    I try to practice for at least an hour everyday, but when I’m on the road, it’s hard to squeeze time in for practice. Last year, I completed a project 365 where I committed to practice everyday whether in sickness or in health, at home or on the road.

    This resulted in my practicing in some rather strange places such as my car, hotel rooms or wherever else I could manage and so, I’d like to share a few tips with you for finding time to practice while traveling.

    1. Bring a music class with you. There are tons of great music classes online on everything from music production to songwriting to improvisation. Even if you can’t bring your instrument along, you can find time to practice other aspects of your music with an online course.

    2. Visualization. Read your music without your instrument. Pay attention to the dynamics, the articulation, the accidentals. Go over it in your head.

    3. Air guitar. Or saxophone. Or trumpet. Take your visualization practice to the next level by trying to finger along. You might find it more difficult than you think.

    4. Bring a smaller instrument along. Sometimes this isn’t ideal, but it’s a great way to work on a double (unless there’s a smaller version of your instrument available). For example, you could bring your soprano sax along rather than your tenor or even flute/clarinet. If you’re a keyboard player, you can bring a small keyboard along with you. As trumpet player you can bring just your mouthpiece to do exercises and warm-ups with. As a guitarist you could bring a mandolin or ukulele or a backpack travel guitar.

    5. Your voice. We’re already equipped with an instrument! No need to take an extra one along. Practice ear training by using your voice to sing the music you’re working on or sing along to recordings.

    6. Find local jam sessions. If you’re staying at a hotel, the other patrons might not appreciate you practicing (depending on how loud your instrument is), so before you travel, check out local jam sessions in the area. It’s a great way to meet musicians, get some playing time in and explore the local music scene. Check out our jam session directory to get started.

    7. Active Listening. Really listen to music. Stick some headphones on, close your eyes and do nothing but listen. Take notice of the structures of the songs, if you can transcribe any parts of the song in your head without your instrument, the melody, etc.

    8. Take a break. Sometimes a break away from your instrument and practice can do wonders for your playing.

    November 26, 2014 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 2125

  • How to Work From Home and Actually Get Stuff Done

    When working as a freelance musician and recording artist, I find that I can spend a lot of time at home in between gigs and sessions. While this is a great thing – I get to work on my own projects, continue to book gigs, etc. – I still have to make sure that I’m actually using my time at home to do those things. When working from home, it can be easy to get distracted by any other task – cleaning, the Internet “black-hole,” cooking, organizing, gardening, you name it – especially when I’m not feeling particularly motivated.

    Without a deadline or someone checking in to make sure I’m getting stuff done, my productivity sometimes needs an extra push. It can be especially difficult to get motivated when you don’t have your parents or teachers providing that extra incentive to do what you’re supposed to do right after school or when you first move out on your own (something we kind of get used to as teenagers). So how do you keep focus and become a self-starter?

    Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Eliminate distractions. If things like Facebook, Buzzfeed, YouTube, or Twitter are too distracting while you’re trying to work from your computer, consider disconnecting the Internet or installing an app that blocks the websites you’re distracted by so that you can’t access them for a specific blocks of time.

    2. Work behind a closed door. If you have a spouse, siblings, or parents that often distract you while you’re trying to work, consider working in a room where the door can be closed. When others are allowed to come talk to you, keep the door open, but when the door is closed, you’re in “work mode” and are not to be disturbed. Sit down with them in advance to let them know of your intentions so that they can support them. Trying to implement a new technique like this without discussing it first can be hard for both them (and you) to adjust to.

    3. Track yourself. Use an app like RescueTime to see how much you’re actually working and how much you’re getting distracted by other things. Even if you think you’re a diligent worker, you may be surprised at how much time you’re spending doing tasks that aren’t work-related.

    4. Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique requires that you set a timer for 20 minutes and then do nothing but work for that time. You can then take a five minute break to do whatever you like – eat, check Facebook or Tumblr, read emails, etc. Once that five minutes is up, you then need to start another 20 minute work period.

    5. Assign certain time slots to certain tasks. If you create the habit of composing or recording from 1-4pm everyday, your body and mind start to transition into that mode more easily when the time comes. If you set up certain routines before you start a task, you’ll find that focusing and switching into that mode are much easier.

    6. Find the right motivation. When you’re working on your own and making the effort to complete a variety of tasks (some of which you may not enjoy), it’s important to find the time to do the things you enjoy as well. Maybe emailing promoters is taxing, but practicing isn’t. Find time for both. Balance out your schedule with a mix of tasks you enjoy and tasks that are difficult. This can help keep you from feeling too stressed out. Just be careful – it’s easy for fun/work to get unbalanced. You may have a ton of work-related tasks you don’t enjoy that you need to complete and so you drive through them. Going at it this way could easily lead to burnout. On the other hand, it’s easy to get distracted with the tasks that you enjoy while avoiding those you don’t particularly want to do.

    7. Focus on the greater goal. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when we’re working on specific and often frustrating tasks. Yes, it can be discouraging to send email after email to promoters with nothing but rejections (if you even get a response). The key to push yourself to continue doing it is to remember exactly why you’re doing it.

    8. Reward yourself. When you have a particularly productive day, reward yourself with a nice dinner, a night out, or even a treat (buy yourself a new CD, book or movie). Whatever works for you. With some tasks, there are no immediate or obvious rewards so we often wonder “why am I even doing this?” Keep yourself on track with a small reward for getting one step closer to your ultimate, “big picture” goal.

    What about you? What do you do to stay motivated and keep you music business running smoothly?

    November 12, 2014 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1484

  • Advice for Saxophonists: Article Roundup

    As a saxophone player I tend to write quite a few articles for sax players here on Teen Jazz. Here’s a roundup of all the saxophone advice you can find on the site so far.

    General Saxophone Advice

    College Audition Preparation for Saxophonists – guest post by sax player and Cal State Long Beach professor James Barrera

    Sax Mouthpiece Buying Tips – looking to buy a new mouthpiece? here’s a great place to start

    Sax Playing Tips – just a few general tips

    Tips for the Advanced Saxophonist – a bit of advice for the high school aged sax player

    Tips for the Beginning Saxophonist – a bit of advice for someone just starting to play sax

    Words of Wisdom from Phil Sobel – tips taken from an interview with saxophonist and educator Phil Sobel

    The Difference Between Tenor Saxophones With and Without the High F# Key – advice from Rheuben Allen on making a saxophone purchase

    My Tenor Sax Setup – what’s yours? share in the comments

    Repair Tips

    Emergency Saxophone Repair – written by repairman Rheuben Allen

    Basic Saxophone Repair – written by repairman Rheuben Allen

    How to Adjust the G-Sharp Spring Tension on a Saxophone


    Video Sax Lessons – from saxophonist Bob Reynolds

    Up and Coming Sax Players on Teen Jazz

    Interviews with Established Sax Players

    November 3, 2014 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1740

  • A Basic Introduction to Breton Music

    Breton Music is a style of Celtic Music that originated in the North Western region of France. The Breton music tradition dates back several centuries, and much like Irish music, it recently saw a regrowth in popularity following the 1970s folk revival.

    “Traditional” Breton music (and I say this very generally) typically is defined by pairs such as bombarde-biniou (a oboe-like instrument and the Breton version of the bagpipes) or a call and response style of singing called kan ha diskan. More recent variations of the genre include everything from Celtic style instrumentations (guitar, flute, violin, harp, etc.) to Rock (electric guitar, bass, drums) to jazz fusion (saxophone, trumpet, bass, keyboards, drums) to jazz manouche (accordion, clarinet, saxophone, etc.) and more.

    The repertoire consists of vocal music, hymns, ballads, shanties and instrumental music. Because of the music’s expansion into other styles, it also includes quite a bit of modern repertoire in the rock, jazz and pop styles.

    The music is deeply rooted in the region’s geographical, political and linguistic history and so the music can often be quite politically charged (sometimes this is the choice of the performer while other times it is often because of the performance environment). The Breton music repertoire can be quite nationalistic – it often celebrates the Breton language and the region’s history.

    Popular performers of the style are primarily based in Brittany, although there are Breton musicians in other areas of the world. The music is not well-known outside of France. Some of the genre’s key figures include Alan Stivell, Jacky Molard, Jean-Michel Veillon, Kornog, Skolvan, Red Cardell, Glenmor, Gilles Servat, Patrick Molard, Barzaz, Gilles Le Bigot, Jacques Pellen, Nicolas Quemener, Christian LeMaitre, Erik Marchand, Les Soeurs Goadec and Yann-Fanch Kemener.

    The majority of the resources surrounding the genre are in French, but here are a few I recommend:

    October 27, 2014 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 1472