Now here’s a howdy-doo ~ our class discussion took a 180 degree turn and instead of a discourse surrounding music itself, we came around to the Music Business and how to be successful as a musician.
This is a very sensitive topic for many musicians, I’m sure! You see, that’s because music is STILL not a profession that is taken seriously by many, many people. You’ve seen the memes, you know what I’m talking about. “Will you play/sing for my Wedding? I’ll let you stay for the dinner”, or “Come do a gig at our Craft Show, it will be great exposure”. We don’t ask Doctors and Lawyers for their time for free, or to get exposure, do we? My favourite is when I begin telling people what I do, and they say “Oh, do you know so-and-so?” I’ve yet to figure out a rebuttal to that. :)
Many musicians have likely chosen the profession without a lot of support from their parents, because the parents don’t see it as a viable career. Now, it could be that those parents don’t know what the work of a musician involves, and think that it is an easy (read lazy), attainable, and light thing to do. Or, it could be that those parents have seen what the struggling artist must endure for the love of their art, and they don’t want to see their child suffer. Both ideas are misguided, however, the second one has a little more merit, in that it can be exceedingly difficult to make a decent living as a musician, unless you hit the big time. I am lucky to have a supportive mother...but she was not so lucky with her parents! Nevertheless, she made a wonderful career out of her music.
What can we do then, to be exciting, hirable musicians when we graduate? (And I’m speaking more for the 20 somethings in the group, although I have the same aspirations). I believe that the more self sufficient we are, the better, but also, that there must be a safety net involved.
A safety net for a musician is necessary because while there are many opportunities to perform, there are equally as many different levels at which to perform, and to be compensated for such. Some emerging artists enter competitions and are extremely successful, others may enter and even win, but still there’s no guarantee of superstardom after that. It’s no secret that even at the top of one’s Operatic game, for instance, that the Opera Houses cannot always pay a full salary, so there are often wealthy individual benefactors who step in as a Patron of the Arts. That is the height of heights and still it is a very risky, subjective area to be in, concerning pay. Seek out what’s going on in the ‘scene’ at the level in which you’re comfortable being out there, and join in! We all have to start somewhere.
There are any number of other (non-musical) things you can do to supplement your musician life/income. Many choose to find something that is related to the field, for instance, I know a few ushers at the COC who are beautiful singers themselves. They are already inside the organization! Some build websites for Artists because they have that skill set. Some offer help with Income Tax because they’ve found out all of the tax write-offs that are allowable for a working Singer to claim, for instance. You want them helping you! Some hold down bank jobs during the day, or drive a bus, or do modeling. Another has developed a soul and body-renewing Yoga program for singers! Dig down and figure out what your other ‘major’ could be, hmmm?
We need to NETWORK. Networking is vital to moving forward and to finding new connections or building stronger existing ones. Not everyone will help you as I’ve learned over the years. In a 30 year career I have built an incredible network of colleagues and friends, some have helped and some have not. In Real Estate for instance, they say that for every 100 phone calls that are made, the odds of a ‘sale’ are 100:1. Imagine how it must feel, contacting 100 people and then selling 1 home, or widget. We are better off building a network of colleagues and slowly becoming known within each circle of our ability, as we grow. We will become braver as things move forward!
We must be entrepreneurial...we cannot sit around and wait for things to happen, or to be invited to perform. No ~ we must make our own opportunities. Is there a work you want to do in Recital? If you have a few friends who are collaborative musicians, that’s a fine place to start! Ask them if they’ll be part of it, and you are now THE IMPRESARIO, creating something and getting it moving. Do you know someone who owns a business? Perhaps they’ll sponsor you for a mention in your program. If you don’t ask, you will never know...so we must ASK! If you can build a budget, then you know how much money you’ll need to raise, to rent a venue, get insurance, and pay your musicians properly. The Arts are a very worthy thing to sponsor.
A typical Budget for a Church-based Recital
might look like this, for example:
Church Rental 300.00 - 500.00
Insurance - different requirements by Diocese but the Premiums are low to get even up to $1m in coverage, maybe 50.00
Programs & Posters - Can be made on your own (although they’re a pain in the @**) and Printing is not too expensive
Musicians - if you hire your friends and split the door after expenses are covered, then they’re paid and so are you.
Advertising doesn’t need to cost anything - Snapd is free, EventBrite is fairly cheap to sell tickets through... LinkedIn, Twitter, and FB are all useful. But emailing people directly (not spamming all your friends at once) always seems to be the best way.
Put yourself out there! I feel that too many are afraid to put examples of their work out on Social Media. There IS a fine line to this, in that what you share needs to reflect your best foot forward. If you’re not sure, ask a trusted peer or teacher/professor/coach whether your material is “Facebook Worthy”. Chances are that you’ll have something that is excellent and can easily be posted. The fine line though, is to be careful that you do get the feedback and that you trust it. When I first started posting things online, I had one colleague say that she felt a few spots were under pitch, so I took her advice and did not post that song from a Recital. In another instance, a trusted friend felt that my French diction was not correct enough...down it came. These days, it does not cost any money at all to make a decent video and to upload it to YouTube and distribute it. I’m not saying that everything you post needs to be perfect, because that is just not possible ~ but your very best effort and one that shows the preparation and potential that you have, now that is exciting. Video is the most telling...there is little we can do to edit or enhance a video, or even a home recording for that matter, so that is why many requests for submissions call for a Video. If you can believe it, an hour of Studio time to lay down and refine/master 1 or 2 tracks can have wonderful results...you don’t have to make a CD and publish it...but you can walk out of there with a darn good mp3 version of your work, for a couple hundred bucks.
Look for commonalities to introduce yourself with, to strangers. Want to engage a Music Director? Read THEIR bio online, to see if there’s anything that you could mention that will start a conversation, or pique their interest in you. Maybe that Conductor is from your hometown, maybe they once played trombone too. Are you singing Russian rep? Strike up a conversation at the local Russian deli...it could connect you with their Church group, with the Russian Community, with their local newspaper... BOOM! I once had a gentleman show up at my door trying to sell me windows...turned out he was Russian and the next thing I knew, he was an attendee at my Recital! Do you have a comic gift? Incorporate that into something you’re doing. Perhaps you could combine an art show with your performance, using pieces that reflect the nature of what you’re singing about. Perhaps a dancer who would love to be involved could also add an element of interest. Each person you involve, has their own network of people that they could call upon to support the efforts of the group. The trick is to find the people who are as committed as you are, to get bums in seats. <3 Many performers who are established don’t even need to try to get an audience...but those who are hungry, like you, know the value of networking and selling themselves. YES!! Sell yourself, always...but find that balance between too much ego and too much shyness. Your real enthusiasm will always shine through. None of these ideas are ‘new’ but you get the drift!
I am one of those people that says YES to everything and sometimes that is exactly the right approach, but once in a while, it is not the right thing to say. Oh gosh, we worry, that if we say NO, will they ever ask us again? I believe the answer is yes, they will, if they were truly interested in you to start with. Your health and your ability to learn the material and give your all to whatever you’re working on is still the most important thing in the world.
I am also one of those people who is innately disappointed when I don’t receive a response to an email. There have been many, many instances where I do receive a response, but even more where there is none. This is something we must get used to and somehow not take personally. I suppose it may be true, that those ‘in charge’ cannot possibly respond to every artist that sends their bio and headshot along with a sample of their work. I believe persistency is the key here. (Still, I’m befuddled with why they cannot respond...I’ll equate it to me running a Facility with 1200 heads in it, or managing a $10 million dollar project...and having a response commitment of no less than 24 hours...and no unread emails in my inbox, to the tune of receiving between 30,000 to 50,000 emails a year. NO UNREAD emails, and everyone requiring a response got one.) Alas, it’s the nature of showbiz...we must submit to it.
Never give up, that is my motto. And if you try, then you have at least tried, instead of doing nothing at all. A great Opera Chorus Director once said to me “Always Try”. I have taken it to heart.
We all need inspiration, and we are lucky that there is so much of it available!
I would like to turn you on to a few cool things:
Schmopera - Subscribe to read the tips and tricks of the trade mostly for singers, but some stuff for collaborative pianists. They also often feature emerging artists. If you have a story, submit it to them! (See what I did there? ;) )
Susan Eichhorn Young’s Blog - she speaks often of The Authentic Voice...finding the beauty and worthiness within your own self is so important.
Cindy Sadler’s Blog - The Business Of Singing is a fantastic resource! I hired Cindy to help me build a proper resume.
Want to hone your skills and get real feedback from a working professional? Reach out to
The Audition Clinic and book a session with Renee and Allyson when they’re next in town.
Want to perform in your favourite Opera? Gather your friends and fill all the roles...and pitch it to Opera by Request....
Better yet, start your OWN THING!
MUCH LOVE AND HAPPY ENTREPRENEURIALMUSICKING.
JOURNAL ENTRY NOV 9, 2017
After exploring much to do with vibrations and how they are related to the birth of the world, then delving into theories about chaos and order, fractals and Fibonacci spirals, studying various world rhythms, and finally looking at the many forms that music can take, we are now stepping into the realm of acoustics and timbre.
Acoustics is the science of sound, a branch of Physics and Engineering melded together, and timbre is the quality of that sound. Timbre is included within the smaller spectrums of form, meter and scale and is equally as important. For a singer, timbre is everything.
In 1863, a physician and physicist who had already made significant contributions to the scientific community, published his views ‘On the Sensations of Tone’, which became the foundational work on acoustics and sound perception. Hermann Von Helmholtz turned the world on its ear by opening up discussion on how we perceive different sounds, with his paper and also with his invention of a resonator machine that would help to unravel the structure of sound waves and how they travel in various frequencies or pitches.
Helmholtz’s theories and Resonator machine were the herald of modern day acoustics.
Acoustics, derived from the Greek word ἀκουστικός, (akoustikos) is a multi-faceted science that covers the study of all sound waves found within gases, liquids and solids, and includes vibrations, sounds, ultrasounds (high frequency sounds), and infrasonics (low frequency sounds). In my past career, acoustics was often touched on from the perspective of dampening sound, or adding white noise in order to make a workplace more private. We studied the NRC ratings or Noise Reduction Coefficient properties of materials such as ceiling tiles, drywall, carpet, and panel fabrics. I’m excited now to be learning about the use of acoustical properties of spaces, as they relate to music. Since my work had involved adding fabric or absorptive materials in order to dampen sound, I never really understood the application of using these same strategies in a concert hall, mostly likely because my preferred space to perform in would be a very live one, such as a church. However, in modern days, we now must also consider other types of music and sounds, such as amplified sound; for instance, a stone church or space filled solely with hard surfaces wouldn’t be conducive to having a rock band perform in it. It is because of this that some modern concert halls are said to be acoustically superior from others for classical artists, but the opinion depends on the type of music or sounds being played and heard, and on the ears which are hearing it.
The different types of acoustic study range from those mentioned above (Ultrasonic and Infrasonic) and others:
Types of Acoustic Study & Definitions
Ultrasonic - Fast moving or high frequency sounds; most commonly known for advances in medicine which allow the capture of diagnostic images.
Infrasonic - Slow moving vibrations that the human ear cannot detect. Infrasonics are used for weather detection or to study blast waves.
Structural Vibration - This is the study of how vibrations can affect structures such as buildings and bridges. We know that hurricane force winds can cause bridges to undulate, and that earth tremors can cause buildings to sway. Now we can study the tolerances that are needed to be built in, to ensure structural integrity.
Physiological Acoustics This can be divided into three segments:
Physiological being the processing of a sound wave as it reaches our ears
Psychoacoustics: how a human interprets the sounds, such as where it is coming from, or the loudness or softness of a sound, and, part of the “Three P’s of Acoustics:
Perception, which is how we perceive a sound, as in whether it sounds bright or dark, strong or weak, etc.
Speech and Hearing - The study of sounds for human communication, used mostly in a therapeutic way to assist with deafness, stuttering and aphasia, which is the impairment of language caused by a brain injury.
Noise Measurement & Control - Studies in this area pertain to the measurement of noise in daily life and its impact on humans. Great effort is being made to understand how noises can affect us, whether they are too
loud (industrial) or an underlying hum. Consider the controversy regarding wind turbines and the complaints that the noise they generate could drive one into madness.
Architectural Acoustics This involves the use of materials and structural design to either enhance sound or remove it, for spaces we live and work in, and for concert halls.
Musical Acoustics - The study of the way in which sound is produced by musical instruments, or relayed by a voice; and the study of the human
perception of sound as music.
More on these definitions can be found here:
I am most fascinated by the way our human ears are built and how a sound is processed within this tiny, delicate system! It is not a simple, individual process, but rather, a string of minute processes passing through several steps and chambers or parts, and ultimately connecting with the brain.
A sound wave reaches our outer ear and is collected or absorbed into the ear canal, causing the ear drum (or tympanic membrane) to vibrate. It next travels to the middle ear, where it encounters 3 bones or ossicles, named the hammer (malleus), anvil (incus), and stirrup (stapes), which interact with each other as a lever system. It then is sent into the inner ear, where tiny fibres and an amount of fluid in the Cochlea also must be involved, to finally transmit the sound via the auditory nerve, to the brain. This passage from Scientific American describes the entire process much better than I can!
“When the eardrum vibrates as sound hits its surface, it sets the ossicles into motion. The ossicles are arranged in a special order to perform their job. Directly behind and connected to the eardrum—which is essentially, a large collector of sound—is the hammer. The hammer is arranged so that one end is attached to the eardrum, while the other end forms a lever-like hinge with the anvil. The opposite end of the anvil is fused with the stirrup (so anvil and stirrup act as one bone). The stirrup then connects with a special opening in the cochlea called the "oval window." The footplate of the stirrup—the oval, flat part of the bone that resembles the part where one would rest ones foot in an actual stirrup—is loosely attached to the oval window of the cochlea, allowing it to move in and out like a piston. The piston-like action generates vibrations in the fluid-filled inner ear that are used to signal the brain of a sound event. Without the middle ear ossicles, only about 0.1 percent of sound energy would make it into the inner ear.”
The structure of the ear is fascinating to explore, and the parts are extremely delicate. What I noticed first in the diagrams was the similarity of the Cochlea to a Fibonacci spiral, so I went looking to see if it was indeed a perfect Golden Ratio. It turns out that it is close, but not perfect, but it was interesting to read about it. http://hearinghealthmatters.org/hearinginternational/2015/structure-of-the-ear-and-the-leaning-tower-of-pisa/
Let’s take a look at sound waves and try to understand their structure. If we picture a tightened string, when it flexes and is bent or curved upwards, this is called displacement, and the height it reaches is the amplitude. At its median, this is called equilibrium. When it moves below the median, and then back to the centre, this is called the restore point. The amplitude is the maximum displacement from equilibrium.
The above illustration depicts a Transverse Wave, and there are other types of waves, discernible by the direction in which the wave is traveling. Transverse waves look very similar to Sine (Sinusoidal) Waves, but a Sine wave is completely linear. Here is the best description that I could find, that compares the two. Ultimately, it is mathematics that defines their properties.
“A Sinusoidal wave is a wave that can be described by a single sine or cosine function.
A Transverse wave is a wave where the displacement
of an element is perpendicular to the direction of travel. If you get your hands on a slinky, a transverse wave goes up and down or side to side, and it kind of looks like how a snake might move.
A longitudinal wave goes backwards and forwards along the direction of travel; there is a stretching and squeezing in the slinky that travels along it, looking more like an earthworm.
You can also get circular or elliptical waves, which spiral around the direction of travel; I was amazed when I first discovered this while playing around with a garden hose.
A transverse wave is usually sinusoidal, but it could be any shape it damn well pleases; this is achieved by adding a lot of sinusoidal waves on top of each other in what's called a Fourier* series. You can make straight lines that slope up and down, you can make sawtooth waves, you can even make exact square waves.”
This is Joe Gedge’s response to the question, on Quora.com
*So how does all of this relate to music and pitch? Well, Mr. Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier (1768-1830) and his work with Spectrum helps us with this. Fourier’s analysis tore apart the Sine Wave and thus identified the various frequencies. His work investigated the spectrum of pitches and found the harmonic content therein, or the ‘fingerprint’ of pitch.
Tying in with this fingerprint, we can then correlate pitches to a series governed by ratio. The Harmonic Series ratio is 1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6.
We know that our tuning note of “A” is considered to be A440 pitch, which means that the sound is vibrating at 440 cycles per second or 440 Herz.
If we therefore start at the lowest A, which would be A110, we then multiply it by 2 we arrive at A220, a 2:1 ratio; and we are given the Octave.
When we start with A110 and multiply by 3, we are given E330, or 3:2 and this is the Perfect 5th.
A multiple of 4 gets us to A440 and now we have Perfect 4ths with a 4:3 ratio, and so on.
Here’s what the ratio looks like, relative to Sine Waves and actual Notes on a C-based progression, on the staff. It works starting on any note.
This is known as the Chord of Nature – each note that we add is an ‘overtone’ and these overtones can be found in natural sounds in these exact same intervalic or harmonic relationships. How cool is that?! Never before has there been more meaning to the phrase “It’s all relative”.
Cooler still is to look at it through the lens of a Fibonacci spiral and associate to colours!
Now, relating to those colours and even more interesting is that each musical instrument has its own set of harmonics, which brings us to TIMBRE, an important part of the Perception of music.
Timbre is the quality of sound, and what makes A440 sound different on a flute than it does on a violin. For this we should be very thankful indeed! We are given the painter’s palate of music, mixing primary tonal material.
Once again I’m brought around to the voice, and how each voice is its owner’s unique vocal fingerprint. No two voices are the same. We can use our voices to paint in different colours and therefore we use many descriptive words to help a singer find these sounds, or feelings of sounds. Some descriptors would be rich versus thin, or bright versus dark, warm or cold, and in particular ‘round’ is a very good descriptor. In making our sound round, we can then add varying degrees of colour or cover or darkness or brightness. I believe that round is the ‘key’…., but that achieving a nice, round sound is very challenging.
Noise is all a part of this too. For many musicians, ‘noise’ can be intolerable, since it consists of clusters of frequencies without Whole Integer Relations. There are different kinds of noise, based on filters, but all noise together is chaos, when all pitches are produced at once. The Acoustics industry has done work filtering frequencies for instance, to create ‘white noise’, which is a blend of sound that is piped into the workplace to create an overarching hum, the purpose of which is to bring a little more acoustical privacy to conversations that are happening in the environment. Some believe that this is not necessary, because the building systems themselves, the equipment in our offices, and the chatter of voices already provides a white noise. I have found myself breathing an audible sigh of relief when the ‘sound masking’ is turned off at the end of the day!
Interference is considered to be part of Noise. An example given in class was the interference of a very close tone next to another, and how the two sounds together can seem to generate a beat or a shimmer, a ‘chorus effect’. It is essentially a micro-dissonance.
Resonance is a transfer of vibrational energy ~ it is a sympathetic vibration or coupling of a sound. A good example of this would how when a drum is sounded, the wave travels across the room and reaches a bell, which chimes on its sympathetic tone.
Resonance and vibration are what give sound its life and colour. The description of noise uses the words Envelope, Onset, Body, and Decay. Each tone is a life unto itself; a Birth, a Lifetime, and a Decay or death. Every part of our brain is in use when we listen to or perform music. It’s no wonder that music can bring so much life to us.
A palindrome is a bit of a puzzle. In word play, it is when the letters of a word are reversed completely, and will spell the word the same way. A few examples are the word radar, kayak, or racecar.
A musical palindrome is just that ~ a mirror image of a musical passage, which when played backwards brings you to the same theme. We will get back to palindromes after I tell you a little bit about Bach.
Johann Sebastian Bach is considered to this day to be the Father of Music. Born in 1685, he was raised to become very religious, but was also a family man who raised 20 children; 7 from his first wife and 13 from his second wife. He held numerous positions as a Cantor, an Organist and a Director of Music, both in Churches and at Court, and was of course, a prolific composer, bringing mastery and enlightenment to the sound of Baroque music.
Bach was one of the first to believe that harmony could be derived ‘in the mind’ or be improvised, and was known as a master keyboardist who could improvise and easily experiment with new sounds or harmonies, and ideas. Bach notated much of his music with a ‘figured bass’ notation, giving a guideline of which chords to augment the bass line with. He wrote:
“Figured bass is a most perfect foundation for music. It can be played on the keyboard in such a way that the left hand plays the written notes, while the right hand strikes consonant and dissonant chords resulting in full-sounding harmony to the Glory of God and the delight of the soul. The ultimate goal of all music should be nothing but the Honour of God and the renewal of the soul. When this is not taken into consideration there is no true music.”
In studying the various Forms that music can take, we have learned that compositions can take the form of Contrast or Binary, Return or Ternary, Continuous Return or Rondo, and Variation. Within these forms, there are Subcategories, such as Ostinato, Through-Composed, or Permutative.
We already recognize different forms when they come in Cycles, ranging from a song that’s 4 minutes long, to a Cantata that is 20 minutes long, to a Symphony that’s 45 minutes long, or an Opera that’s 5 hours long.
Bach’s abundant writings, numbering to 1128, have been given a Catalogue numbering system, the BWV which stands for Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis. This makes the pieces easier to find and to identify. Let’s go back to the Cantatas…. Did you know that Bach wrote one for every Sunday of the Church Calendar? He even continued past the end of the calendar and continued anew! When put together, this remains one of the longest cycles ever written. In addition to Church Cantatas, he also wrote one about Coffee! [I had fun a couple of years ago producing a presentation of the Coffee Cantata with the Elixir Baroque Ensemble and a couple of great friends.]
Bach’s children were also very musical, and also held positions in Churches and at Court. His one son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, held a position within the Courts of King Frederick II of Prussia. This King, who called himself ‘Frederick the Great’, summoned the truly great Bach to his Courts and challenged him to write a 3 part Canon, based on one of the King’s own compositions. Since the King considered himself to be brilliant, and he also believed that Bach’s polyphonic music was not as appealing as his own more simple melodies, he likely felt very smug asking Bach to improvise on his work. Bach’s response was to humbly sit at the piano and instantly improvise a 3 part Canon based on the King’s theme. A Canon is essentially a Round ~ we know a most common Round to be Row, Row, Row Your Boat ~ so now you get the idea of what Bach had to come up with, given an initial melody to work with.
Not to be outdone, the King then challenged Bach to write a 6 part Canon based on this same theme. Bach accepted, but asked for a few days’ grace, and left the Courts. One can imagine him bumping home in his stagecoach writing furiously in order to meet a deadline. However, some weeks later, Bach sent a score to the King which is largely regarded as a thumbing of the nose gesture. He had indeed composed a 6 part Canon based on the King’s theme, and he called it The Musical Offering, or in German, “Das Musikalische Opfer”, or BWV 1079.
Bach’s brilliant response was not only a 6 part Canon, but it was a complicated pattern using mirror images of the theme, repeatedly, which is now known as a Crab Canon and is most certainly a Palindrome. I can envision the modest, God-fearing family man that Bach was, presenting the King with his work ~ a King who found delight in humiliating others. How satisfying it must have been for Bach to quietly and triumphantly smile, his composition lasting an hour and posing a puzzle that likely took the King some time to solve. Perhaps he never did.
Here is a YouTube video of a group playing The Musical Offering. https://youtu.be/egxcMlHXY4I