Lists & How To

5 Ways To Stay Motivated Musically

Happy Monday! We're about a month into the new school year, the season is changing, and we're finding rhythm in our day to day routine---now's the perfect time to talk about motivation.

We asked our fellow musicians (you) to help us compile a list of ways to stay motivated musically. And so, without further ado, here are our top five ways to stay passionate about playing your instrument:


Attend Live Performances

Seeing performances and concerts as a musician is not only an enjoyable experience, it's inspiring too! Becoming engaged in the musical community fosters passion and creativity. If you appreciate seeing and hearing musicians doing what they love, you're sure to pick up some motivation.

Josh, from Lamphere HS, finds motivation from seeing Drum Corp International performances---we agree 100%. Those shows are AMAZING.


Create A Practice Space

It's important to feel comfortable where you're practicing. Take a step further from mere comfort and create a space where you can practice that gives you positive vibes. Whether it's the corner of your bedroom, or in your basement, or living room, find a space that you can decorate a little (or, a lot :D). Print out some inspiring photos or quotes, and purchase a music stand (we kind of find it's like going to the gym---it's much easier to be motivated when you're there. The same goes for instrument practice---if you're instrument is out, it calls to you).

Furthermore, create a habit. It's true inspiration won't always find you, but it's more likely to when you give it the opportunity.


Set Goals

Create long and short term goals for yourself. What do you want to improve on in the next six months? What do you want to accomplish in tomorrow's practice? Write these goals down. Pin the long term goals next to the inspirational photos and quotes you hung up, and write down each practice session's goal ahead of time.

Record and track your progress. You'll be amazed at how far you come. Seeing and hearing how you've developed will provide great motivation.

And don't forget---reward yourself!



Play for you friends and family, sign up for Solo & Ensemble, perform at local open mics. Scheduling performances will hold you accountable to practice---if you want to play well. And the feeling following a performance, well, that's pretty spectacular.


Have Fun

No practice method is set in stone. Experiment and find what works best for you---what gives you your desired result? Do that. Play with other musicians, play music you enjoy. Cultivate your love and curiosity for music and motivation will be there.

Happy International Women's Day!


Let's be real---women rock. Today is International Women's Day, and we're excited to highlight and share just a few (there are so many) of our favorite musical females.

Yoonshin Song


Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19

Yoonshin Song currently holds the first violin and Concertmaster position with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She was born in South Korea and began studying music at the age of five---piano and violin. She made her performance debut at the age of 11 with the Seoul Philharmonic. As Concertmaster, it's her responsibility to connect the orchestra to the conductor, after whom, she is the most important leader in the ensemble.

Marin Aslop


Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

Marin Aslop is an American Conductor and violinist. Currently, she conducts the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Marin is the first woman to hold the position of music director with a major American orchestra. With both of her parents being professional musicians, and her mentor being Leonard Bernstein, it's no wonder Marin is destined for musical acclaim. 

Ella Fitzgerald


Flying Away

Ella Fitzgerald was an American jazz singer---her voice was her instrument. She's often called Queen of Jazz. Ella experienced music in church, and through listening to jazz records. Her childhood wasn't easy, and singing became the way she supported herself during her late teens when she didn't have a home. Ella won a couple of singing contests and sang her way onto the stage with Chick Webb, drummer and bandleader. Ella's career soared. She won 13 grammy's, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and more.

Amy Beach


Gaelic Symphony (Composed at age 29)

Amy Beach was another child prodigy. She started composing music at the age of 4---without a piano---she composed music in her mind. Agents sought after Amy at the age of six to preform concert tours, which her parents turned down. She trained with local Boston music teachers, and she taught herself theory, composition, and orchestration. Amy wrote "Gaelic Symphony," the first symphony composed and published by an American woman, at the age of 29. The piece premiered in October of 1896, and was performed by the Boston Symphony. Amy is one of the most distinguished and respected pianists and American composers of her time.

Clara Schumann


Piano Concerto Op. 7 in A minor (Composed at age 16)

Clara Schumann began her mark on the world as early as 9, she was known as a child prodigy. She studied piano, violin, voice, theory, and composition. She toured Europe as a pianist beginning at the age of 11. Clara composed over 60 works. She is considered one of the most acclaimed composers and pianists of the Romantic Era.

Who are some of your favorite female musicians? Drop us a line!

5 Ways to Rock Your Preparation for Solo and Ensemble

District XVI Middle School Solo and Ensemble is only 5 days away! Consider these 5 tips for preparation this week.

1. Practice Performance

Practicing your piece goes without saying, but practicing performance is an entirely different animal. Once you've nailed the music and rhythm in each measure and you're playing the piece through, it's time to practice the performance. Play through the piece in its entirety and if you mess up, don't stop--practice the recovery. Practice the piece as you will play it at solo and ensemble--if that means standing, then stand. Gather your family or some friends together and perform the piece for them. The more comfortable you are with performance the easier it will be to play your piece as you play it alone in your practice space.

2. Video Yourself

Videoing yourself accomplishes two preparation exercises. First, videoing yourself can create a rise of nerves within you much like the nerves you have when performing for a group of people. Learning to push through those nerves will help you immensely. Second, after having captured your performance visually and audibly you can study it and see where you've made mistakes or can make improvements.

3. Know the Song

Listen to the piece you'll be preforming. Listen to multiple musicians playing it, watch them on YouTube. Listen to the piece so much you begin to anticipate certain passages and phrases. Know the song inside and out.

4. Be Prepared

Have your music ready the night before, if you need music for your piano accompanist be sure that's in your folder as well along with any copies the judges may need. If it's your first year at Solo and Ensemble look up directions with your parents ahead time. Check your reeds, and your greases or oils.

5. Arrive Early

There's numerous benefits to arriving early at S&E aside from finding a parking space. You'll want time to find the room where you'll be performing, and then you'll want time in the practice room to warm up and prepare. Give yourself time to settle in and time for anything that may come up before you play.

Our New Year Challenges!

Are you looking for a challenge in the new year? I mean, a real challenge to your musical skills, not just a resolution? Great! Here are a few things we here at A&G think might help you along in your musical career.

Learn Your Scales
Learn the pure form of all the minor scales. If that's too much, then first do all the flat minor keys, and then once you conquer them, try all the sharp minor keys. If you are really motivated, try learning the harmonic, and or melodic forms as well!

Learn The 26 Rudiments
If you're a percussionist, make a plan to learn all 26 rudiments for snare drum--- perhaps one rudiment every two weeks. If you have not tried to master melodic percussion, then give that a go. Start by learning your major scales.

Copy Music By Hand
Try your hand a being a copyist. What's a copyist? A music copyist's job is to create neat copies of a composer's music/arrangements. There's no a huge call for it, but writing music by hand can help you learn to read music better. Making sure you get the correct number of beats per measure and the right key signatures can solidify your existing music skills.

Record Yourself
If you have never tried to record yourself while practicing, this needs to be added to the to-do list. There a lot of things you can do with just a cell phone digital recorder. Record one part of a duet, and play the second part with yourself. There are apps that allow you to create multiple parts of compositions. This is a great challenge!

Improve different aspects of your playing by listening to what's coming out of your horn. Find out common mistakes you're making over and over. Get comfortable with a recording device and listen for imperfections to work on.

Commit To Cleanliness
Something else, which will not necessarily tax your musical skills, is to make a commitment to cleanliness. Keeping your instrument clean, especially if it is a wind instrument, will pay dividends in a number of ways. Your instrument will function a lot better, and if it is functioning better, it will ultimately sound better. You will also help maintain your personal health. 

Give Back
For long time players, if you are winding up your musical career, or have instruments or music you are no longer using, consider donating it. Choose a younger musician to be the recipient. I recently handed off a stack of my old music to a young college student studying horn. Recycle it, don't just throw it away. There's a player who'd love to receive your collection!

The Central Music Team hopes you have a prosperous, musical New Year! Now go challenge yourself!

6 Steps To Creating Your Practice Routine!


6 Steps to Creating Your Practice Routine!

The semester has come to an end, and for many this means taking a break from anything related to school. But, for us musicians, this means more time to practice! Band students know Solo and Ensemble is just around the corner, and of course, we want to take advantage of the extra time we'll have! For beginning musicians, and for musicians who have not done so yet, it's time to create your practice routine.

To improve, we must put in the time, and having regular practice builds discipline. During practice, if we have a routine, we're able to maximize the time we have. Whether your practice sessions are 20 minutes, or an hour, with a routine, you'll feel accomplished.

1. Be Realistic
Be realistic about how much time you can practice a day. We want to set ourselves up for success! Students in school are busy, but lets hope to get AT LEAST 15 minutes in a day, and maybe we take one day off.

2. Find Your Space
Find a practice space with limited distractions, and where you feel comfortable spending time.

3. Warm Up

The first 1/4 to 1/3 of your practice should be a warm up. Scales and rudiments are great warm ups. Warms ups should be something you've already learned, and exercise technicalities. You can tailor your warm ups to your main focus.

4. Main Focus
Now that you're warmed up, it's time to practice what you're working on learning and improving. Your main focus can be a particular piece your learning for a performance, or a piece that practices your weaknesses. If you struggle playing 16th notes, make your main focus a piece with lots of 16th note rhythms. Slow it down, get it right. Maybe your main focus is the piece you'll be playing for Solo and Ensemble.

Whatever you choose to work on, take a break after 20 minutes (if you have longer practice sessions) and come back to it in 5 or 10. Your brain needs time to process and retain new information.

5. Dessert

After practicing our warm ups and our main focus, we're ready for a little dessert. Use the last quarter of your practice for playing music you absolutely love. Pick up some fun music books, Disney play-alongs, or your favorite music score, whatever your fancy is! It's important to end every practice smiling!

6. Log Your Practice
Keep a notebook to log your practice. Prepare your practice BEFORE you practice. Too many times I've sat down to practice, and then I can't think of what to work on! I play this or that, and it turns out I never really practice at all! Have a plan before you sit down, this makes it easy to stay on task. 

Use the notebook to jot down what you'll practice next session, and then take notes to help formulate what'll you'll need to hone in on for future practices.

Video or record you sessions, listening and even watching our practices can point out the areas we need to improve on, whether it be dynamics, or posture.


REMEMBER, practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Playing music teaches us a lot, one characteristic being patience. Slowly increase your tempo as you're able to play with dynamics and without mistakes. Use your tuner, and use your metronome.

Below are two examples of a 30 minute practice routine.

5 Minute Warm Up, 15 Minute Main Focus, 10 Minute Dessert

5 Minute Warm Up, 15 Minute Main Focus, 10 Minute Dessert

10 Minute Warm Up, 15 Minute Main Focus, 5 Minute Dessert

10 Minute Warm Up, 15 Minute Main Focus, 5 Minute Dessert