Today’s Musicians have to be Computer Nerds

I don’t consider myself to be computer illiterate; also I don’t consider myself to be a computer nerd. Recently I brought myself a new laptop. I installed Office, Sibelius, ITunes and all the other software I need with no help. I regularly create CD’s for my bands and students to use to learn from, so I am familiar with burning programmes. So why the hell can’t I get my own sample tracks to work?

I saved them to a multi-use CD off the old dinosaur laptop, thinking I could then simply add them to the new pc. Nope. They have converted to Audio CD Files and nothing wants to admit they exist or play them.  When I go on the net to convert them the downloadable converters don’t want to know as it’s a multi-use cd and the online converters all insist they don’t support that type of file.

This leaves me stuck.

It also got me thinking. Since when did I have to understand formatting in order to pick up a gig? I can’t imagine Mozart (or more likely one of his scribes) saying: “oh hang on a moment; this is written on the wrong type of paper, therefore I can’t go any further.” But, because my file is in the wrong format that is exactly what has happened to me.

Hopefully someone will read this post, think I’m a computer moron, and provide an answer. If you’re out there, please do that. If it reduces me to the rank of computer idiot, that’s fine. Usually I don’t need a pc in order to blow down a saxophone.

My Keilwerth Needs A Name

Why is it that giving your instrument a name is seen as blisteringly un-cool? I’ve seen people shy away from me when I call me sax by its name, like they think they might catch un-cool vibes just by being near me. But I really don’t understand why.

A professional musician builds up a relationship with their instrument. You spend hours alone with it, the pads wear according to how you play and you even hundreds of pounds modifying it to your specifications. You worry about it if it gets to hot or too cold and most of us wouldn’t contemplate leaving it in the car. Some pets don’t get treated this well (poor things.)

I’m quite happy to tell people that my tenor is called Sam, my back-up is called Dean, my bari’s name is monster and my flute is called Castiel. (I know there is a theme here but it actually wasn’t intentional until Castiel came along.) The only instrument with a name that hasn’t stuck is my clarinet and that’s probably because I haven’t spent enough time with it.

Now I have a problem because I traded my lovely Selmer alto ‘Tatty’ for a Keilwerth alto and I can’t find it a fitting name. It’s actually a bizarre reason to practice more because only by getting to know the sax better will I find it the perfect name. Bet you haven’t tried that one on your students have you?

“That’s right kids; if you do a lot of practice you’ll be able to give your sax a really good name.”

(And I wonder why people think I’m strange.)

What to do with my Baritone Sax? – Part Three

Who thinks this is a good idea?

I need to bring a music stand with me and I have one of those collapsable flimsy things.  I was thinking that if I wrap it in bubble wrap, and maybe a towel, and put it in the bell of the bari it could travel that way.  It can count as part of the weight limit for the sax rather than my suitcase.

On the other hand I might be risking killing the sax altogether, what with its pathetic case.

What to do with my Baritone Sax – Part 2

The saga of the baritone sax gets worse.  Yesterday was my last day teaching Michael and I can honestly say that there are very few kids who are as much fun to teach as this boy.  So, naturally, I wanted to do something special for his last lesson.

I decided to bring my soprano, alto, tenor and bari to his lesson so he could have a go on each of them and generally have fun.  Unfortunately, when I opened the bari sax case the bloody zip broke in my hand! So now it has a broken handle and won’t close at all.  At least the wheels still work.

So what now? It still has to fly to England in that useless thing.  I don’t have time, or funds to get it repaired or to buy it a new one.  And lets face it I’m in South Africa, the music shops here don’t tend to stock baritone saxophone flight cases anyway. (If they did there would probably be a 100% mark up on it like there are on the high end alto saxes in some places.)

All I can think now is to bind the thing with luggage straps, take out all the extras (mouthpiece etc) put it in boxes and put in as much packing as possible. Then pray.

What to do with my Baritone Sax?

I’m taking the advice of a friend and have decided to put this blog to good use by chronicling my exploits as I move my entire life – and musical career – back to England.  However, I will still be writing about anything interesting that musicians need to know about.

 

As we stand at the moment there is a week to go.  I have packed about 90% of my things and now I’m trying to work out the best way of getting my baritone sax to survive the 11 hour flight.  The problem is that it’s case is shoddy.  It couldn’t even survive a week in Graham’s Town without the one of the zips breaking and a handle falling off. Unfortunately I haven’t a hope of buying it a flight case in the nest few years never mind before I go.

 

On my last trip back to England I wrapped my tenor sax case in foam and found that to work very well.  Of course that was a Hiscox case, which is something my Bari doesn’t have.  I was thinking of creating a box for the case out of sturdy cardboard and filling that with packing material.  Perhaps that, along with the word FRAGILE in BIG letters might be enough to keep it safe.  On the other hand is it really worth the risk?

The Job Race for Musicians

There is nothing worse than moving moving to somewhere completely new.  I’ve done a lot of moving in my time and the worst part is always beginning the network game from scratch.  You have to get luck and meet the right people at the right time with the right skills.  It’s very difficult.

When I moved out to Cape Town I found the game to be more of a challenge than normal.  They don’t really believe in the internet over there and there are no County Services or other overall governing music bodies.  So moving to England should be a snap.

I’m not long into the race but I thought I’d share some of the sites I’ve found so far that have opportunities for Musicians in England.

http://uk.music-jobs.com/

Is an obvious place to start.  You can sign up for free and create a basic musicians profile.  You then have the option of upgrading your membership to their premium package.  It gives you a great idea of what is out there but you have to upgrade to the premium packages (£10 a month) to be able to apply for anything.

Its a similar story with sites like www.starnow.co.uk and http://www.creativejobscentral.co.uk. The difference between the two is that Creative Jobs Central wont even let you look round the website if you haven’t paid their fee.

www.musicalchairs.info has a fantastic range of job categorised by instrument and its completely free to use.  The only problem is that I have yet to find a posting in the UK.

One brilliant website is www.cv-library.co.uk. Its completely free to use and the range of musician job they have is brilliant. There is also the bonus of creating a profile and perhaps getting head-hunted for the job you desire.

The other websites are the ones that take time to go through.  There are the sites like gumtree, guardian-jobs, job-rapido, fish4jobs, the list goes on an on.  If you are a music teacher these sites are brilliant, if not then try websites such as www.sax.co.uk and look at the notice boards.

If I’ve missed anything that needs a mention do leave me a comment and let me know.

 

The Better Practice Routine?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the practice thing. Everyone seems to have an opinion on just how to go about it. Do you do 10mins of scales then 10mins of sight reading then 15mins per piece? Or do you take the time you have and then divide it into equal parts?

The more I’ve been thinking about it the more I have to ask, does it really matter? Do you have to do scales every single day in order to progress ‘on track?’ It definitely helps but what if you get into such a mind numbingly dull routine that by the sixth day you want to give up all together?

And what if you need to practice Sight Reading? The dreaded part of an examination. Hated by all except for those who can do it easily. What then?

Personally I warm up with a group of scales (majors, minors, melodics etc) then move onto a piece that I like and can do. Why? Because if you don’t want to play then what on earth are you practicing for? Then onto sight reading and finally onto the tricky passages in whatever piece I am working on. It takes from 45mins to an hour if I don’t have a show coming up.

But is it enough? I’d love to hear from you. Which camp are you in? Do you prefer and rely on a regimented practice routine or do you prefer something more flexible such as my style? Have you tried one and found it doesn’t work?

What do you think?