About Lou Mars

Find more from Lou Mars at http://loumarsofficial.com and http://musicmotive.com

Back to School? Form a band!

It’s that time of year again, when summer break comes to an end. As a result a mass exodus to return to our scholastic programs begins. Whether it be College, Highschool or even Grade school; many artist fail to see a hidden opportunity that education programs bring. The opportunity to mingle, meet and gather other ‘like musicians’ desiring to perfect their craft in a group setting also known as a ‘band’. There are too many famous bands to list that have been formed in this manner.

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I started my first band at age 13, and surprisingly I was the only one in the band that was enrolled in a music class. I found my guitarist playing an acoustic guitar on the school yard lawn. We located our bass player while playing loudly in the garage where we practiced. He was cleaning a pool nearby and heard our racket. A knock on the garage door and few minutes later he was performing with us. The keyboardist was located through friends at an adjacent school. This process was no accident, as I used every opportunity I could to tell others I was forming a band, and it worked. Word of mouth spread and the other like-minded musicians found me. I was the youngest in my first band, but I was the one that got it started…so can you!

Other tools that can be used to find your future band members:
  1. Music Shops and Music Schools (Some still have bulletin boards with musicians seeking one-another or events where musicians can meet and perform).
  2. Craig’s List (Post or review ads online from others),
  3. Linked In (for more advanced band member searches),
  4. ReverbNation (Popular Band and individuals can be found here by location),
  5. Band Mix (Online site that can be searched by location, instrument needed etc),
  6. Word of Mouth (Still a very powerful approach, simply tell people what you are doing).
  7. Open Mic (For our more mature players many clubs offer open jam nights for musicians)

    The above is just a sample of what has worked for me.

1617611_788238024564482_6265535853277723506_oWhat about home schoolers?
Many private music instruction studios now have programs that introduce students to other players and aid them in forming bands together. One such program is the“Rock Lab” at Music Motive located in San Luis Obispo on Higuera street.
More information for this program can be found here: http://www.musicmotive.com/happenings-and-events/rock-lab.php

7 Tips to Creating a Successful Practice Routine

7 Tips to creating a successful practice routine

PracticeHow often should an individual rehearse their instrument? As an instructor, it is a common question asked by my students and their parents. Is there a magic number of days or hours that equates to proficiency? What I do know is that I can tell when my students do not practice at all. I can also tell when I have slacked off from my own private time to rehearse and/or learn new progressions.
As a result I have provided a list below of seven tips to get your rehearsal schedule on track…

1) Discipline. Create a checklist chart and stick to it: A daily checklist practice chart is a great tool, as it is not only a constant reminder, but a fantastic measuring device. Place your chart in a location that is always in view such as your bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, etc. Create a table splitting the week into days, next breakdown each day into hours or minutes. Each time you pick up your instrument, check off the allotted time rehearsed. This will provide you with historical data, by recording your patterns or lack of. Such information can be very useful to review, by providing patterns that can be studied and used to improve your scheduling times, increasing session count etc. I have included a link to a chart I created, that you may download and print for your own use if desired.
Downloadable chart link-> Get Busy Practice Chart
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2) Choosing the proper time of day or night: We all have what I call power hours. A time of day or night that we excel in more than any other part of the day. Identify your power hour, and if possible schedule your practice time accordingly to take advantage of your accelerated greatness during that period of time. Sometimes a good time slot is more relevant to not being disturbed. If that is the case, identify the most private time you can rehearse your instrument and get into the zone.
3) Don’t play to a failure point: Physical fitness organizations have discovered this rule. They tell you to not exercise to failure, i.e. which means don’t keep doing push ups until you cannot do anymore repetitions. The same concept carries over to music, such as a new guitar player with tender finger tips. If your hands begin to hurt, stop. Wait until they do not, and start again. It is better to have several segments through-out the day, than one long segment that could equate to injury or thwarting your desire to play due to pain.
4) Quality not Quantity: I had a drummer friend who would boast about how long he would play each day. His time on his instrument was indeed impressive. However, when I stopped by multiple times to watch him, I found that when he did rehearse he simply repeated the same exercises over-and-over again never introducing anything new. This is a common issue among musicians, to get comfortable with a fixed routine and stuck in a loop. Sure some areas such as your warm-up and basic routines are great to repeat, but make sure you constantly insert new techniques, charts, and your own experimentation on a regular basis.
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5) I’m a natural. A prodigy, do I still need to practice?: Yes. As a matter of fact, if you are indeed a natural/prodigy, you should find it more enjoyable than the average student to play your instrument. As a result a natural or prodigy rarely has to be coaxed to rehearse, as they are naturally in the zone with their instrument.
6) I don’t want to be a pro, I just want to be good enough: Remember that you chose this instrument because you enjoy playing it. Good enough equates to as good as you want to be. I find playing my instrument to be a stress reliever, relaxing and in some cases even a spiritual experience. If you are going to shoot for the stars and be a pro in the music business, then I do recommend nothing less than one hour a day minimum. 
7) Never stop learning: So you’ve been playing for 30 years, do you still need to rehearse? Yes, you do. There is always more to master. There are always new techniques and styles of music being created and yet to be discovered. Being at the golden stage of your instrument is often thought of as “I don’t need to practice, I’ve got it down.” But that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t take your gift for granted. Polish it, sharpen it, practice it.

And most of all…enjoy it.

Stage Fright (Friend or Foe?)

 Written by: Lou Mars
Stage Fright

Stage Fright

Most musicians at one time or another have had to deal with stage fright. For those that don’t know what stage fright is, Wikipedia defines it as follows: Stage Fright – is the anxiety, fear, or persistent phobia which may be aroused in an individual by the requirement to perform in front of an audience.

Many don’t know this, but my sister is an excellent classical pianist. Most do not know this fact as she will only perform in private, she is absolutely terrified to perform on stage or in front of people in general. For those of you who do not perform on instruments and cannot understand this emotion, think of it like ‘public speaking’, listed second only to death in the all time phobia list.
Lou Mars Ogden Theater Denver Colorado

Lou Mars Ogden Theater Denver Colorado

I have personally struggled with stage fright for years. In my younger days my hands would get so wet from sweating (nerves) that I would find myself struggling to hang onto my drum sticks during a live performance. I would average one drum stick flying out of my hand ‘per show’ from age 10 thru 15, usually during a critical drum solo or fill. Later in my 20s I learned to hold onto the sticks, but I would snap sticks like toothpicks out of the gate with my amped up nerves. Next I graduated to struggling with tempo by coming out of the gate too fast at the start of a show due to hyped nerves. Today, I can’t wait to get on stage, keep a solid tempo, smile and put on a great show. I’m just thrilled to be here and that somebody wants to watch me perform.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

I found that in my case, my stage fright would never really go away, I would simply learn to harness the energy and channel it differently. I now use stage fright as a means to actually improve my live performance. For example, I once witnessed a drummer dropping a stick, pausing, then calmly picking up another and twirling it. He had turned the error into showmanship. You can do the same with nervous energy. I used to Marvel at great front men like Elvis Presley, that seem to be able to perform on large stages as if they were in their own living room. That is until I watched a documentary showing Elvis backstage trembling and sweating profusely in his seat prior to walking on stage. I then realized for the first time that being nervous was not limited to amateur or intermediate performers, but in fact “all” performers, no matter how polished, professional or great at their craft.

 Next week, I’ll offer some tips on working through stage fright. Stay tuned!

Music Knowledge is Power or (Why isn’t anybody listening to your music?)

bo-diddleyI recall an old interview with Bo Diddley that I witnessed. Bo was famous for playing his home made box shaped guitar. He was asked, “Who are your influences?” By which he sniped back in Bo Diddley fashion, something like: ”Nobody, I don’t listen to nobody else so I don’t sound like nobody else.” At the time I thought that was one of the coolest responses I had ever heard. I found myself imitating Bo Diddley when asked the same question through the years. But the reality is that it may have worked for Bo Diddley, but my wiser self has found that the statement in my opinion is simply untrue. As an artist, we all have influences whether it be musical or simply our environment that inspires or colors our world. This mixture or concoction of life is what creates our output. The bigger issue is that for many artists, the input stops at early stages of life. Like the last high school haircut style you donned years ago, that to this day still never gets modified. Our music production gets stale in the same manner.

Is anybody buying your music? Only a few friends or family members downloading your MP3s? Does your music you are creating sound dated? These can be signs of a lack of growth. And please, don’t use the Bo Diddley line here, or the over-stated: there just aren’t any good bands to listen to since _ _ _ _ (enter year here). That’s simply not true. Every decade including the current has incredible, very talented performers/artists on the charts, under the charts, unsigned and signed now more than ever.

billboardSo if I asked you: “Who’s in the top ten on billboard right now?” Could you answer the question? How about, “What genre is dominating the top 100? How many units did the artist sell to appear on the charts? Are they signed or unsigned?” I can hear you muttering under your breath in disgust, “I’m an artist not a statistician, that’s simply not important to me, my purpose is to create music not follow others on charts.”

Wrong answer.

musictrendsYour purpose is to be a professional musician. The only way to truly accomplish this goal is to know your environment. To know your profession. To be aware of what is going on around you and with your fellow artists. There are daily equipment/gear improvements, trends, and break-out artists that you should be aware of and inspired by.

My tips for keeping in tune with the constantly changing direction of all music genres:

1) Check billboard charts Top 100 and the Genre you are categorized under (Indie, Country, Rock etc) weekly. Note the artists on the move, and how many unit sales it took to get them there.

2) Access an online radio streaming resource where new music is intermingled with current or classic music like: Spotify, Itunes, Pandora and Jango. This way your exposed to new music within your genre, i.e. I personally listen to the Indie Top 100 daily.

3) Note the recording and production approach of the new music. What instrumentation is being favored? What style is the tone? What instruments are in the front of the mix or missing all together? How is the vocal phrasing being delivered?

4) Ask yourself, “If my song was playing within this list, would it fit, or stick out in an awkward fashion?” Sticking out doesn’t always mean you are original, it could simply equate to being out of touch. You need to write ‘some’ main-stream music within your genre that will attract listeners to discover your more abstract material. Many times an artist’s most popular song or best seller is not actually their best work. But it’s how the listeners will find them.

5) Watch for and observe new Music Video releases on VEVO and YouTube. What is the style of the music and video?

6) When applying for song contests, soundtracks or live show performance positions; note who is being selected over/instead of you. Visit their website, Sonic or ReverbNation page and listen to their music. Ask yourself, “Why did this band get selected instead of me?” Switch sides and act as the promoter and analyze why you would have selected that song or band as the winner. Was it the venue location? The genre of music? The expected type of audience? Or, perhaps your song just sucks? Being honest with yourself is the first step to improving your craft.

In summary: No, I’m not asking you to “sell-out.” I am not asking you to plagiarize someone else’s sound. I am advising you to be aware. Ignoring current trends, equipment improvements, and new music styles that listeners are buying; is like being a dentist and ignoring the invention of Novocain for your patients.

Be smart, be aware, be a pro.

Auditioning for a Band

Steve Ambarian last year with "Stereo Steve".

Steve Ambarian with Stereo Steve

I’ll never forget a comment made by a fellow drummer friend. Shortly after he had auditioned for a local band in Northern California he said, “That didn’t go well. I just didn’t play well.” I am quite familiar with my friend’s playing capability, and know for a fact that he is a top-notch musician. This knowledge generated my response, “There is no such thing as a bad audition, there are only bad matches.” Sure, I have had my share of performance slumps, and errors during auditions. However, most professionals can tell if you have what it takes within seconds, even if you botch a performance. With today’s online technology your style and versatility can be reviewed in detail before you even show up.

I have found that the culprit to a poor audition result, is more-than-likely a lack of chemistry or a poor match-up with the type of music or musicians involved vs. the playing style of the musician. Case in point, I have experienced many singer songwriter type bands that will jump at offering me an audition after viewing my website videos. It should be noted that most of my videos show me pounding on the drum kit and being compared to the likes of Keith Moon and Gene Krupa. Next, I will show-up at the audition, and the leader of the band will ask me to play with brushes throughout the set. I think to myself; that is like asking Keith Moon to come over and play tambourine all night. What a waste. Again poor playing, or poor match?

426419_151986161635211_1409967550_nIf you’re a guitarist and you’re being told you are too loud, find a loud band. A vocalist that is singing too low, find an Indie band. A keyboardist that wants to perform originals, locate an original band! It’s that easy. Your other option is to adjust your performance style to match the act, also known as the hired gun approach. I can personally vouch that adjusting your approach to fit another’s can work well over the short term. However, your personal inner artistic ways will more-than-likely resurface again overtime; and possibly cause remorse or frustration.

To sum it up, if your audition didn’t go well, don’t be blue. Auditions are also for fact-finding on your end, you are also auditioning the prospective band. If it didn’t work out, then you are that much closer to finding the right band for you.

Good luck and good auditioning!

Resolution of Music and Fitness

Just in time for the New Year 2015!

Music Motive

Lou Mars Working Out Is Drumming Considered A Fitness Workout? Lou Mars, photo by Brian Peterson Photography

Here we are again, at the end of another year; pondering our goals for the New Year. One of those goals always involves getting healthier and more fit, i.e. exercising. Yet, professional health & fitness organizations report that the average new fitness club member will only last up to three months before they resign and return to their unhealthier ways.

This time around, consider trying something that might last by utilizing a more creative approach.

Many of us do not like to work out.

But, we all love the benefits.

Working Out On The Drum Kit Working Out On The Drum Kit Photo by Stefanie Hilstein

With that said, most of us love to listen to, and if capable of; perform music. Imagine if you will combining the two? Did you know that Scientists and Doctors have recently conducted tests on drummers, and…

View original post 243 more words

How To Gift A Musician

By request for last minute shoppers!

Music Motive

Musicians can be both the easiest and most difficult individuals to gift during the holidays. However, what seems like a sure thing at first, can quickly become complex if you don’t know what you are doing. Sure, the easy way out is a gift card, but where’s the sentimental value in that? Whether it be a guitarist, drummer, brass player, keyboardist, vocalist etc., that you are shopping for; one thing is usually fairly safe: accessories!

gear-page-drumsEach instrument has an item associated with it, that is constantly in a state of replacement. For drummers it is sticks and drum heads, guitarist: pics and strings, brass: reeds and mouth pieces.

Wait, not so fast. Each artist will have a brand preference, therefore, buying just any product type will not suffice. Like knowing someones shoe size, take a moment to find out the brand and type that your favorite musician is using ‘before’…

View original post 149 more words

Resolution of Music and Fitness

Lou Mars Working Out

Is Drumming Considered A Fitness Workout? Lou Mars, photo by Brian Peterson Photography

Here we are again, at the end of another year; pondering our goals for the New Year. One of those goals always involves getting healthier and more fit, i.e. exercising. Yet, professional health & fitness organizations report that the average new fitness club member will only last up to three months before they resign and return to their unhealthier ways.

This time around, consider trying something that might last by utilizing a more creative approach.

Many of us do not like to work out.

But, we all love the benefits.

Working Out On The Drum Kit

Working Out On The Drum Kit Photo by Stefanie Hilstein

With that said, most of us love to listen to, and if capable of; perform music. Imagine if you will combining the two? Did you know that Scientists and Doctors have recently conducted tests on drummers, and found that their levels of performance match professional athletes? It’s true. One of the first reports came out of the BBC, and many have followed since, documenting

Photo Courtesy of BBC News

Blondie Drummer Clem Burke Photo Courtesy of BBC News

drummers using high-tech diagnostic measurement equipment for the human body, and attached to a drummer while they performed. The findings were conclusive that the calories burned, dexterity increased, muscles developed and the brain areas activated were all at high performance levels while playing the drums. There really isn’t much more of a main-stream physically taxing instrument out there today, than a drum set.

How much more interesting is it to not only become fit, but to perform and learn music at the same time!?! Talk about exercising both sides of your brain as well! Brain implementation, along with the physical effort necessary to perform the drums make this instrument one of the best for those seeking a combination of fitness, music and mental exercising combined. This combination also leads to less boredom during the process, equating to not quitting in three months. If you are having fun getting fit, while learning a musical instrument at the same time, you will stick with it.

Worst case scenario is you’ll learn how to play the drums.

Best case is you’ll Love it.

I call that a win-win.

May your new year be the best one ever.
Be safe and keep the music alive.

Written by Music Motivator Lou Mars

How To Gift A Musician

Musicians can be both the easiest and most difficult individuals to gift during the holidays. However, what seems like a sure thing at first, can quickly become complex if you don’t know what you are doing. Sure, the easy way out is a gift card, but where’s the sentimental value in that? Whether it be a guitarist, drummer, brass player, keyboardist, vocalist etc., that you are shopping for; one thing is usually fairly safe: accessories!

gear-page-drumsEach instrument has an item associated with it, that is constantly in a state of replacement. For drummers it is sticks and drum heads, guitarist: pics and strings, brass: reeds and mouth pieces.

Wait, not so fast. Each artist will have a brand preference, therefore, buying just any product type will not suffice. Like knowing someones shoe size, take a moment to find out the brand and type that your favorite musician is using ‘before’ you buy. To you it’s another name, but to many brand-loyal artists, it can be part of their signature sound and style.

Other popular accessories that are always in need can be: music stands, blank sheet music, mic stands, headsets, etc.

POWERTIP:

Still confused as to what and how to buy?

Did you search online only to be met with a larger array of product options?

IMG_7291Stop in or call the Music Motive’s San Luis Obispo location. First, it’s fully equipped with your musicians’ favorite gear and accessories. Second, there will be a knowledgeable representative at the front desk to answer your questions. Third: The building is fully stocked with professional musicians, of all types. Any and all of which welcome such questions and can provide valuable tips plus advice that you just cannot find elsewhere.

Happy Holidays and See You Soon at Music Motive!

Written by Motivator Lou Mars

What is the Best Age to Learn an Instrument?

It’s a question instructors at Music Motive receive all of the time. When should I start? !cid_20EF3C1B-2EAA-41A0-9703-B937751D3796Is he or she too young? Am I too old? Is there a magic age to learn an instrument or artistic talent? First the easy answer, “The best time to start is now.” With that said, please allow me to present some variables to complicate matters a bit further.

Some instruments appear easier for the younger set to pick-up at earlier ages than others. Case in point: the drums. Drumming is a great starter for children, perhaps as young as 4 years of age. A good second choice would be another instrument from the percussion family, the piano. *Where-as guitar and/or other like stringed instruments can be a bit more challenging; due to very small hands and awkward fingering positions necessary to present a plausible note.

!cid_7DB363F5-3291-4310-BEED-3D330ED5AF3AWhat about the other side of the spectrum such as mature adults in their golden years? Is it too late? No, it’s never too late. And, it is in my opinion (supported with much observation); that more mature students take their lesson plans much more seriously. Yes, it may be more difficult, and test your patience to learning something new during your later years of life, but isn’t that what life is all about? If we stop learning what are we? How exciting it is to learn something new, and to release the beautiful sounds trapped for so long inside our minds, body and spirit!

*Prodigies: A prodigy as defined by Dictionary.com, is a person, especially a young one, endowed with exceptional qualities or abilities. However, in my experience prodigies come in all ages, shapes and sizes. I have witnessed a blind youth walking up to a piano without any prior documented experience and suddenly playing a song. I also watched a 3 year old walk up to a snare drum, and perform a proper star tuning pattern on the head’s lug nuts. I asked the father, “Are you a drummer,” he replied, “No.” I continued, ”Then how does he know how to tune a drum? He’s implementing the proper pattern, as if he has a tuning key in his hand.” “It’s the first time he’s ever seen a drum,” the father replied.

Some things we simply can’t explain. If at age 50, you find yourself sitting down behind a guitar for the first time, and a song just comes out. That’s called heart. The more of it you have, the more you will enjoy your time at Music Motive.

Perhaps today is the day to start.

Written by Music Motivator Lou Mars