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.


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.


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.

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.


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
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.
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.

Speak Studios: An Interview with Vince and Daniel Cimo

Written by: Lauren Vukicevich

Vince and Daniel Cimo are not only talented musicians, but are also incredible people. Their passion for music, combined with their openness, makes them a pleasure to both work and play with. Check out what they have to say about their local recording studio!

Design by Katrin Dohse.

What is Speak Studios? How does it work?

Speak studios is a recording studio co-op located in San Luis Obispo where members pay a monthly fee for access to professional recording equipment and a treated studio space.  It is a collaborative community where musicians can work together and create. Members meet every two weeks to discuss musical projects and book sessions.

What was the inspiration behind Speak?

Our inspiration stemmed from a dissatisfaction with the traditional recording studio, which is often expensive and impersonal. The average artist does not have the production budget for the amount of experimentation needed to craft a unique sounding recording, and customers of the traditional studio often leave sounding generic. On the flip side, we have all of that equipment that really does make a difference. Speak offers an alternative, where artists can affordably craft their sonic masterpieces while learning how to engineer in a professional studio.

Daniel recording vocals at Speak.

What are each of your musical/production backgrounds?

Daniel: I began studying piano when I was a young child.  When I was 10 years old I began playing the violin.  In high school I played in symphony and taught myself how to play the guitar.  I went on to study music at Augustana College, focusing on violin until I moved to SLO to help Vince build Speak and learn recording engineering.

Vince: I also studied piano as a child, and eventually began playing guitar and drums, among other various instruments. When I was 17, I had an opportunity to convert a state storage facility into a low-budget studio. I’ve been hooked on sonics ever since. After working in various studios, I came up with the concept for Speak and really think it has the potential to change the way musicians approach recording.

What has been the most rewarding part of having a recording studio?

Hands down, the most rewarding part is the community. Since our inception, we have been host to all sorts of artists, who have all begun to collaborate and become friends. San Luis Obispo has an amazing amount of musical talent, but lacks a centralized location where musicians can create without fear of noise ordinances. I firmly believe that in our short time open, we have strengthened and connected the SLO musical community, which feels amazing.

What vision do you have for the future of Speak?

There is a certain energy that we have cultivated at Speak that feels like it has the potential to go big places. We’ve only been open about 3 months, and already have 7 full length albums nearly completed. People are creating, people are learning and it’s just getting better and better. We anticipate reaching capacity within the next 6 months and hope to expand to another location, where we can be even more public facing. In the short term, we are also going to be getting involved with local radio and venue’s to bring the music to the people.

Check out their facebook here.

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.


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. 🙂


Receiving “Outstanding Adult Student” award. April 2015


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!


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

Stage Fright, Part 2: Tips

Written by: Lou Mars
Last week’s blog (read here) covered stage fright and my own personal experience with it. Here are some tips I have learned over time to aid a musician with stage fright –
1) Mind over matter: Program and convince your mind to realize that stage fright is not fear, but actually excitement to do what you do best in front of others! You are not scared, you’re highly anticipating your performance. Yes, you are excited! You are lucky to be where you are. Enjoy it.
2) Speed: Use caution to not jump out too fast on the opening song due to nerves. Sit back on the beat for the first three songs until you get your bearings locked in and are a bit more calmed down. Otherwise you can rush the set. Most musicians can calm down by the second or third song. It is especially important for a drummer to hold the beat as fellow musicians in your band may also be struggling by rushing the tempo.
3) Nervous Symptom Antidotes:
[Drummers] – If you suffer sweaty palms, use drum sticks that are “not” lacquered and instead have a dryer unfinished surface. Gloves will also do the trick, but cut off the fingertips to cool your fingers. If you toss or snap sticks, make sure to keep one handy and close by in an easy access holder for a quick grab. A drop is never as long as you think it is. Take your time, grab the stick and get back to the beat. It’s not how you miss, it’s how well you recover!
[Vocalist] – Water is key. Nerves will cause a dry mouth and make it difficult to speak. Keep your mouth and lips moist with water placed nearby for an easy quick grab. You can actually purchase cup holders for microphone stands that will provide this service. Breathing is also key to calm your diaphragm. Breath deep and exhale slowly.
[Strings] – Ensure the neck of your instrument is well oiled and clean. This will keep sweaty hands from leaving a residue on the strings and slowing your finger work. For guitarist, a pick holder installed onto the microphone stand to replace drop picks is key.
4) Paralyzation: Sometimes when playing in front of very large crowds I could feel myself tensing up to the point where my arms felt like they were not going to move. This type of paralyzation (deer in headlight) reaction is also common. If this occurs, clear your mind of thinking of the number of people watching you. Don’t look into the crowd at this point and instead take a deep breath, exhale slowly. Repeat. Think to yourself that it is no different then rehearsing at home. Once relaxed again, make sure to re-establish eye contact with the audience, smile and put on the performance you were meant to deliver. Once you get started this feeling will usually fade within 1 to three songs. Therefore, don’t stop. You are just minutes away from a great performance!
5) Anticipation: many of my fellow musicians (including myself) are more nervous “before” getting on stage, than actually during the performance itself. If this is the case, find a backroom to get yourself calm. Do not use alcohol or drugs to relax your body, as your adrenaline level will entice you to consume more quantity without a positive desired effect; such as actually calming your nerves. But such substance abuse will in fact affect your performance in a negative manner instead.
**Remember, you’re on stage because you worked hard and you deserve to be. The people watching are there because they want to enjoy your performance. Don’t forget to enjoy the experience as well, and as a result your positive energy on stage will be contagious not only to your fellow band members, but also to the audience.
Keep the music alive!

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!

Essentials For a Home Recording Studio

Written by: Darren Johnson 

It has never been easier to create quality music; the modern musician has access to equipment that certainly would have generated jealousy and awe from artists of the past. With the advanced technology that’s available today, anybody with a passion for music can start building their own studio at home.


Something to keep in mind when starting a studio is that the scope of this topic is quite large. In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed, it’s best to begin with just the basics. Here, I’ve included five essential pieces of equipment for building your studio.

  1. Computer

Whether you go with PC or Mac depends on personal preference and which DAW you choose. However, considering how intensive the mixing process can get on your CPU, it would be a good idea to get some extra RAM.

  1. DAW

A look inside of ProTools

DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation. This software will be where all of your audio and MIDI messages are sent and edited. The industry standard is Avid’s Pro Tools, while some other powerful options are Apple’s Logic and Ableton Live. Looking for something on the cheaper side? Garageband and Audacity are both great!

  1. Audio Interface

An Audio Interface, put simply, is where your audio signal is sent before going in or out of your computer. The interface you choose will make a big difference in audio quality, but it is important to also choose one that matches the needs of your gear. Want to play acoustic guitar and lay down some vocal tracks? Something small would probably be best. Want to record some big band jazz songs? You’ll want something with a multitude of XLR microphone inputs.

  1. Studio Monitors

These speakers are what you will be listening to and mixing your songs with. Ideally, you want monitors with a flat frequency response so that your mixes sit evenly within the sound spectrum.

  1. Microphones

Blog2Ah, good ol’ microphones, every audiophiles favorite subject! The two most common types of microphones are Dynamic and Condenser. Although condenser microphones have a better frequency and transient response, and are ideal for recording, they are also more expensive and require an interface that can run 48v phantom power. For dynamic mics, a popular choice for recording vocals is the Shure SM58. It’ll be best to do some research in order to see which microphones are best for the needs of your recordings.