Listening & Awareness for Musicians

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

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How often do we listen to a friend’s story, and realize halfway through that we weren’t really listening at all? How many times have we practiced playing a song, only to realize we’ve been mindlessly going through the motions?  Listening and awareness go hand in hand, and are both vital to our musical lives.

A large part of a musician’s work is to listen selectively and holistically. To be a selective listener means focusing awareness on a specific element of sound. Whether that’s the steady rhythm, an evolving harmony, or a quick change in dynamics, a musician has to pay close attention in order to keep track of it. To listen holistically means hearing the “big picture” of a song – how all the elements interweave and create the totality.

66713_522071644514456_1555723029_nAs teachers, we’re required to be intuitive listeners. We need to observe all the little details of a student’s performance – the subtle movements and positions, where the eyes are moving, or any moments of hesitation. We have to listen for changes in tone, and especially any emotions that come through the music. For a teacher to know which areas of the student’s musicianship need attention, listening must come first.

Musicians are always students – always learning and improving. Being aware of the self requires listening and staying completely in the present moment. There are never-ending opportunities for growth in our musical understanding and our performances. Ear training is a huge part of musicianship development, especially in collegiate music programs. But there is more to this kind of listening than recognizing the interval between two notes.

static1.squarespaceSelf-awareness asks that we look openly at each aspect of how we sing or play an instrument. It requires that we’re prepared to notice inconsistencies in technique, and accepting the idea that we can be wrong. Remaining open to criticism and change can be really difficult, and it’s often a hindrance to improvement. The other side of this is being skilled enough to notice when our technique is correct, which shouldn’t be underestimated!

Playing music is a doorway to learning about the self and building essential listening skills. These are especially important lessons for musicians, but can also be utilized in other areas of life. Being a good listener takes practice and consistent mindfulness, but the benefits definitely make it worthwhile!

Beat The Odds: Drum Circles For Kids

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich and Steve Hilstein

It’s no secret that music has extraordinary benefits for a person’s well-being. Whether someone listens to music for motivation, plays an instrument to release stress, or sings to communicate with another person, the music becomes a channel for healing and positive growth! When kids are exposed these benefits at an early age, they learn to use music as an effective tool in their daily lives.

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Recent session at Music Motive

REMO‘s Beat The Odds program is a facilitated drum circle where children come together as part of a community. The intention is to teach life skills and provide an opportunity for expression, rather than teaching perfect technique. This program allows elementary students to develop social skills and concentration, discover connections, and manage feelings. It helps to build an open and integrated community of children by encouraging cooperation and reflection

BeatTheOdds-Type-1Beat The Odds is a new opportunity for kids to experience group drumming with peers and a trained facilitator at Music Motive. This is an evidence-based program that is supported by experts in fields such as Music Therapy and Psychology. UCLArts and Healing has researched the effects of this specific program and found that it has tremendous benefits for schools and youth communities. The drums are especially therapeutic for kids because they are inclusive – they allow for participation regardless of previous musical experience, as well as options for participation that are comfortable to each child.

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This Summer, Music Motive has included Beat the Odds in their Summer Music Camp program, and in the Fall it will be offered to various elementary schools throughout San Luis Obispo County. Some of Music Motive’s teachers have trained in North Hollywood to learn about this program and become facilitators. The training brought together a group of people from all different backgrounds and with a common goal to help children through music. Music Motive is excited to bring Beat the Odds to our community and share it with local youth!

For more information, look at UCLArts and Healing’s website, or the Beat the Odds section on our website here.

Voice Connection: The Importance of Singing

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

There’s one instrument that we carry with us all of the time: the voice. In the history of the human species, our relationship with music has evolved tremendously. Music has become less of a community activity, and has developed into a performance-oriented business. With this comes the idea that people are either trained musicians, or they are part of the audience population. Humans are born with voices that are meant to express emotions, communicate, and sing!

The biggest barrier to finding our voices is this mental block – an ingrained cultural belief that somewhere along the way, we lost our right to use our voices. Some common phrases in our society today are “I can’t sing” or “I’m tone-deaf” (which is actually extremely rare). Singing isn’t about sounding perfect – in fact, most singers sound bad before they sound good – it’s about listening and adapting. The first step to getting your external voice to match the sound in your mind is to listen carefully to the initial sound, and persist long enough to make adjustments.

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Music Motive students singing at a Student Spotlight event.

Connecting to your voice is a liberating experience that allows you to understand sound and yourself in a new way. Singing freely is a true sonic representation of each being, and provides an opportunity for self-discovery and growth. Singing together is also an authentic way to communicate emotions or ideas, which greatly benefits connections and relationships.

Throughout indigenous cultures all over the world, singing is a universal phenomenon. There is no performer and no audience – everyone participates and everyone listens. Singing is ingrained in daily life and accompanies various activities, making them more enjoyable and memorable. There is no hesitation for using the voice because it is just a part of life, and there is no judgment surrounding the tone of anyone’s voice because there is no “correct” way to do it. People who sing in this natural way have a deeper connection to their voices and to the sounds that make up music.

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“Singing Alive” by William Leverette

Learning to listen to your own voice is an incredibly valuable skill, especially for people who want to improve their overall musicality. Regardless of your preferred instrument or level of singing experience, getting in tune with your voice is the most effective way to internalize different pitches and timbres. Listening to music and practicing any instrument can increase awareness of sounds based on auditory reception. However, singing leads to a different kind of awareness because the sound travels to your receptors through your body rather than through the air. Consciously externalizing your voice will lead to a stronger and more precise inner voice, which helps with learning any instrument!

Music Motive Locations

Written by: Darren Johnson

As an instructor at Music Motive, I frequently get asked about our studios and their locations. For anyone who has been wanting more information on this topic, look no further! This article will serve as your all-inclusive guide.

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Music Motive has studios in four locations; San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Templeton/Paso, and Nipomo.

SLO.5San Luis Obispo: This is the heart of the Music Motive studios, located at 3440 S. Higuera Street #130. Not only are there a multitude of studio rooms for private lessons here, but it’s a store with music accessories too! As if that didn’t make it cool enough already, the showroom there is the placeholder of many Music Motive events, such as the Band Jam, Student Spotlight, and the studio where the Bucket Busters rehearse.

unnamed (2)Arroyo Grande: The newest location of the Music Motive studios can be found on 1115 E. Grand Ave (next to Donna’s Interiors). It’s been converted from an old house into a private lesson studio with three studio rooms. The whole place has a really nice feel. It also has a sweet avocado tree in the back yard! What more could you ask for?

PASO.2Templeton/Paso: This studio is located at 130 Easy Street #5. This studio has a huge main room, big enough that you could do cartwheels all over the place (I won’t judge). There are also two studio rooms for private lessons; I particularly like the sound of the drum kits at this studio.

Nipomo: The quaint Nipomo studio is at 338A W. Tefft Street. This is the smallest of the four studios and has nice vibes. It has two studio rooms for private lessons. I’ve also recently heard from our director Steve Hilstein that Nipomo has the most consistent weather in the United States. Go Nipomo!

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So there you have it, all of the key information needed to know which studio caters to your specific where-a-bouts. Feel free to sign up for lessons at any location on our website, call us at 805-543-0377, or drop by our San Luis Obispo studio to register, pick up a set of strings, or play with our puppy!

 

 

The Creative Process and Songwriting

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

Photo taken of my songwriting notebook in a recording session.

Photo taken of my songwriting notebook in a recording session.

There are several factors involved in the songwriting process, including the development of melodic themes, rhythmic patterns, instrumentation, and (sometimes) lyrics. When choosing an instrument, musicians tend to go for one that reflects their identity and personality. An instrument can make a huge difference in the way someone is able to express their creativity, and it also influences the style of a song.

Expertise and musicianship allows for creativity because the playing becomes automatic, and the attention is free to explore other areas of the mind. The more fundamental skills that a musician has, the more possibilities they have to draw from. Songwriters may choose to collaborate at any of the stages, which allows for a combination of ideas and increases the possibilities for any song.

One theme that seems to be important in the creative process is intention. The biggest difference between improvisation and songwriting is whether or not the musician intends to remember and repeat the song. Improvisation has a unique quality of being unattached to the music, which can often lead to a beautiful flow. If the goal is to keep a song, the flow may be interrupted by having to write things down or go back to a section to change something. Improvisation and songwriting are both incredible experiences, and there are qualities from each which can be utilized with the other.

Finding inspiration on a public piano in British Columbia.

Finding inspiration on a public piano in British Columbia.

I recently finished writing and recording an album Pathways for my senior project at Cal Poly, which was part of my research on the Psychology of Creativity and Musical Composition. During this process, many of these themes were apparent in each stage. There seemed to be two kinds of songwriting for me – one in which I felt completely free and able to improvise, and one in which I had a logical desire to write. The resulting songs in these two categories sound distinct, and my connection to each is vastly different.

I also noticed that my experience with music allowed for creative freedom and flexibility. For example, I originally wrote one of the songs on guitar, but decided in a recording session that it felt more like a piano song. Having the skills to play both instruments allowed me to quickly adapt the song to piano, which dramatically changed the overall tone, including the collaborative instrumentation. I left the recording studio feeling confident in my strengths, as well as understanding the areas in which I wanted to improve. This project was an incredible experience which gave me a new perspective on the creative process and the psychology behind songwriting.

These songs can be heard at: Laurenvukicevich.bandcamp.com.

The album cover for my project.

The album cover for my project.

Kevin Danny Carr – College Graduate

Written by guest blogger, Music Motive Director, Steve Hilstein

Writer’s Notes: Please indulge me. I normally don’t consider myself a writer, and this blog doesn’t really fit our regular criteria. But, since I’m the director of Music Motive, I suppose I can do what ever I want. So, there! It may be obvious by now, but I’m writing this without an editor or proof reader. YIKES!

This blog is about Kevin Carr. He worked at Music Motive as an intern for about a year and actually started this blog for us a couple years ago.. As well as being a writer, he’s also a musician/teacher (guitar/drums), listens to the radio a lot, and is a uniquely gifted writer. He’s also my nephew, but trust me, that’s not why I hired him.

Kevin Grad 2015As you can see, he is graduating this week with two degrees from the University of Rochester in New York. What makes him extraordinary, is how he persevered to make it happen.

Although Kevin may not fully realize it, his childhood was challenging. When he was very young, his family fell apart due to many struggles that he and his older brother and sister had no control of. He was ultimately raised by his loving Grandparents, Jerry & Connie, and supported by other family members. Kevin had every reason (or excuse) to fail in life, but it is his character and wit that has allowed him to succeed.

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Kevin “Macho Man” Carr – 4 years old

Born and raised near Pismo Beach, California, his education process, included a diploma from Arroyo Grande High School. He also achieved a community college degree in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and has received numerous honors, achievement awards, and hard earned scholarships. All the while, he was a full time manager of a gas station, has worked in coffee shops, at grocery stores, as a music teacher, entrepreneurial assistant, inner city youth counselor, freelance writer, and one of his most challenging jobs, working for me as an intern at Music Motive. 🙂

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Receiving “Outstanding Adult Student” award. April 2015

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Just a bit chilly on February 15, 2015. High 1, Low -4

 

He may not have been able to achieve all of this without his faith in God, and the support he has received from his loving wife, Megan, who put her own career on hold to be at his side while living in an unfamiliar city for two years during the coldest winters on record in Rochester. Megan ROCKS!

The moral of this blog, is this: Whether you are a musician who is trying to achieve excellence, a student wanting to make it through school, or longing to have an exciting career to fulfill your passion and purpose (and EVERYBODY has a purpose), you CAN do it! How? Three ways. Never give up, never give up… NEVER GIVE UP!

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Kevin and Megan celebrating success!

 

Kevin, “congratulations” really isn’t enough. You are brilliant, inspiring to me, and we are proud of you beyond words.

Now, SOAR!
Love, Uncle Steve

10 Great TED Talks on Music

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

TEDTED talks have been a growing phenomenon in popular culture over the past few years. These talks are perfect for people who want to learn random information from the comfort of their own couch…instead of cleaning/working/practicing/doing anything they should be doing. At least it’s productive procrastination, right?

While TED was actually intended to represent “technology, entertainment, and design,” there are now talks about almost every topic. Started in 1984 as an annual conference in Monterey, CA, they are currently being held by people all over the world. Of these various topics, there are several on the subject of music. Here are a few TED talks on music that we thought you might enjoy!

Music as a Language: This talk is worth the 20 minutes, as bassist Victor Wooten discusses how to keep freedom in the music learning process. He also encourages musicians to learn from the music – especially how to “change your octave,” meaning how to change your perspective. Watch here.

How to Truly Listen: Evelyn Glennie is a percussionist from Scotland, and she is also deaf. She demonstrates how she learned to feel the vibrations of the music and really connect with the sound. She is an inspirational woman and is incredibly talented. Watch here.

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Evelyn Glennie playing the marimba

To Hear This Music, You Have To Be There, Literally: Ryan Holladay gives an awesome talk about music that he composed for a landscape, which he then recorded onto an app. As a listener moves around, the music unfolds in certain ways depending on where they are. The existing music is written for places on the East coast, but they are currently working on music to accompany Highway 1! Watch here.

Building the Musical Muscle: Doctor and surgeon Charles Limb discusses how deaf cochlear implant users hear music. While the new implants are adaptive for basic function, they have a long way to go before they can accurately transmit the beauty of music. Watch here.

Trusting the Ensemble: Trust is an important part of any relationship, and musical relationships are no exception. Conductor Charles Hazlewood gives his perspective on the necessity of trust and respect in ensembles, especially between the leader and the rest of the group. Watch here.

Charles Hazlewood conducting

Charles Hazlewood conducting

Hidden Music Rituals Around the World: Vincent Moon tells of his journeys around the world, filming simple, real music videos for people he meets. He aims to capture the traditions in order to share diversity and history with future generations. He claims, “The way we show the world is gonna change the way we see this world.” The talk ends with an incredible performance by Nana Vasconcelos. Watch here.

Music is Medicine, Music is Sanity: Robert Gupta tells his story of meeting Nathaniel Ayers, a man who played upright bass at Juilliard until he developed schizophrenia and became homeless. Ayers was portrayed in the book and film, The Soloist, but Gupta gives a different perspective on their time spent playing together. He demonstrates the power of music to alleviate symptoms and transform through connection. Watch here.

The Polyphonic Me: Beardyman talks about all the different possibilities for the human voice and performs different techniques on a machine. He gives a performance on a machine that he built himself, which can loop, distort, and assign his voice to keyboards. Watch here.

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A One Man Orchestra of the Imagination: Andrew Bird uses looping to truly be a one man band, demonstrating his instrumental and vocal talents. The flow of his insight and creativity is evidenced in his music, and it is a blessing to hear. Watch here.

The Beat of My Own Bucket Drum: Jared Crawford gives a drum performance on his two buckets, which may look familiar to those of you who are familiar with Music Motive. The real question is…was he ever a Bucket Buster? Watch here.

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Jared Crawford, AKA “Choclattjared”

Happy procrastinating! To find out more about TED, check out their webpage.

Synesthesia and the Musical Experience

Written by: Darren Johnson

What does the number seven smell like? Can you taste purple? Despite what you might think, I’m not talking about the result of some out of class *cough* “research” that you may have done in college; I’m referring to a phenomenon known as synesthesia. This is a rare neurological condition in which a person experiences a cross-wiring of two or more senses during their daily lives. For example, the most common form is people associating numbers and months with colors. Is the number five red to you? Is August green? If so, you may experience synesthesia.

Image1Some defining characteristics of this condition are that your crossings are consistent, and they can’t be turned off. If you see August as green, it’s always green and trying to imagine it as yellow feels terribly wrong. Unlike people without synesthesia who may be able to imagine August as green, people with this condition automatically see August as green; to them the two are intrinsically linked. People with synesthesia (called synesthetes) might have different experiences among one another. A synesthete who sees a green August could get in a heated debate with somebody who sees a yellow one. The people reported to have synesthesia are few (around 1 in 10,000) and if you have one form of it, you’re likely to have others as well.

I first learned about synesthesia around a month ago, when I was talking to a friend of mine about how a 6/8 time signature has a different “shape” than a 4/4 time signature. His response was along the lines of: “Dude, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” After a while of asking questions and tapping out beats on a table (boom boom tap, ba doom ba doom tap… “You don’t see that?”) I realized that I was identifying with sounds differently. I did a quick Google search of “Sounds have shapes,” and boom… the vast and interesting topic of synesthesia came to my attention. After 21 years of being alive, I discovered that it’s not ordinary to see shapes when you hear music.

Pharrell is musician with color-sound synesthesia.

Pharrell is musician with color-sound synesthesia.

How does this connect to musicians? Well, synesthetes are known to make metaphorical connections to abstractions, the basis for creativity. In fact, synesthesia is expected to be eight times more common in the artist population. An example of a musician who had synesthesia is Jimi Hendrix, who related harmonies and melodies to colors. He would refer to his classic E7#9 chord as “the purple chord.” Another is Pharrell Williams, who sees music as a moving set of various colors. He describes his hit song “Happy” as “Yellow, red, a little pink, a little rainbowy…”

Something I’ve learned from this topic is that we all have very different perceptions of reality. A song that I love may be a song that you hate and vice versa, and that’s because two people can experience the same piece of art in completely different ways. What’s wonderful about this is that it shows us how every artist has a big contribution to make. No matter what you create, there is somebody out there who will love it and feel that it relates to them in a strong way. So have fun, keep creating and playing!

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If you think you may be a synesthete, you can do an initial test at this site: http://www.synesthete.org.

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