This video needs little explanation.
If you've got a reading list - add this book to it. If you don't - create one and add this book to it. This doesn't only apply to people in the arts, it applies to everyone. An incredibly important message, video and book that could potentially change your life.
(usually) Leaving your comfort zone means change. The two are most definitely linked. You can not leave your comfort zone without changing anything. I have found change to have a strange stigma surrounding it, to the extent that people think you are either good at it or bad at it, the latter being mainly down to lack of trying it. Changing or choosing things like; new and different career paths, jobs, houses, universities and many more are not difficult. The practicality and physicality of change is very easy, but getting your head around it is the hard part.
Change is quite easily monitored ,however, by taking simple steps and challenging them one by one. I have found that by setting targets of what I would like to accomplish within a certain timeframe, whilst committing it to paper, or speaking it out loud makes it that bit easier to achieve.
Although keep in mind that leaving your comfort zone doesn't have to mean an expensive trip around the world, or leaving your job to go and work with orphans. It most certainly can be something inexpensive and smaller things in life that push you that little bit further. This could mean taking up a new class, going out, joining a gym, learning an instrument, meeting people or making daily choices different to your usual routine that challenge you.
Remember that the wonderful thing about change is that if you don't like the situation you have got yourself in, it can be changed again and again, it will just take some courage and resilience not to settle for anything less than your worth and vision.
No one is going to do it for you. You can be extremely sure of that.
If you leave your comfort zone you will;
- Meet new people
- See new things
- Learn new skills
- Achieve new heights
- Gain confidence
- Fear less
- Worry less
... to name but a few
The one thing you won't do is regret it. Every experience is a learning experience.
Thank you for reading.
Read my related blogs on Setting Goals and Motivation here.
Song of the Week
In late march I saw an advertisement from a UCAS email calling for musicians around the UK to audition for Youth Music Theatre for their summer programs. After responding to the email I received an audition date and by early april I auditioned in Kings Cross, London. Famous for their alumni including Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran, I thought it would be a good opportunity and experience to audition in front of a professional panel. I also did it because the skills required to play in theatre were far from what I have been used to in my playing career and would mean learning new things and would also grant me the opportunity to play and learn with other musicians and Musical Directors. The requirements for the audition were to take a prepared piece and have technical ability over and above grade 8. I arrived with my most recent prepared piece entitled 'Queenz' by Anika Nilles and found time to get a practice session in a studio near Waterloo the day before. I played it through then was asked to improvise and then was questioned on various aspects of my playing and reading.
After getting accepted on to the program a week later I received an information pack on where I would be playing and other dates and times. I was playing in a production called 'The Dirty Stop Outs', a production based on real life experiences of our grandparents era in their younger adolescent years. The production was based in West Yorkshire and the shows were based in Halifax. As I was planning on travelling right up until the production I did not have much time to look over anything apart from the location and dates.
I arrived 6 weeks later in Halifax train station after a 12 hour flight and 5 hour train and took a taxi to Fulneck School in Pudsey. After a brief introduction to some members of staff I met the Assistant Musical Director (AMD) Naomi, bass guitarist Tom and guitarist Wiza to enter rehearsals for the rest of the evening. As this play was being made at the time of the production a lot of the songs were still being written. The first thing we learned was the introduction song of the musical 'Dirty Stop Outs' a crossover between theatre and rock genres. As the band was only there for one week before the shows the rehearsals lasted around 9 and a half hours a day. In rehearsals we would usually be given 3 songs a day to learn, rehearse and then play through for the cast in the evenings. It was a cast of 32 actors and actresses aged 15-21.
Mid week we rehearsed nightly with the cast and ran through all the numbers, then towards the end of the week we ran through two tech rehearsals in Fulneck School and sorted out any faults as we went through. On the thursday night we transported all of our equipment over to The Square Chapel in Halifax where we were to play 3 shows that weekend. We set up on the stage and ran through a few more technical rehearsals whilst the lights and stage manager sorted out the arrangements for lighting and other parts of the show.
On the friday we ran through the full show whilst the lighting was being arranged and sorted out dynamics for the band. As the production was 'in the round' meaning the audience surrounded the cast it meant that the projection of the actor/actress could not always be heard which proved difficult for us as we had to lower our volumens substantially in order to keep with the cast. The songs ranged from latin to soul to shuffle and swing, and that was one song in particular with all 4 genres in one. The others did not prove that difficult but it was a very new experience taking instruction from a conductor who also played with the band meaning we constantly had to be aware of tempo and dynamic changes. This proved an extremely valuable experience however.
The shows went (mostly) without a hitch and the ensemble and cast actually scored 98% on the Guildhall Trinity Grade 8 Theatre and Performance exam and we also covered by the BBC. The changes in songs took some getting used to as we had to use a script to follow and indicate when we were next playing, or where the next underscores were coming in. Learning under our professional Musical Director Alex, it allowed me to progress and develop as a musician in a few ways. It firstly gave me the valuable lesson of complete openness to immediate change in tempo, bar structure, dynamics and phrasing. A lot of the time we would be changing bars just before the next tech rehearsal or show so you would really have to pay attention to counting bars. It also gave me the experience to follow cues and to work closely with a conductor meaning I had to know the music well enough to not look at it for more than four bars a time. Lastly it improved my dynamic playing hugely. Having to play songs which went immediately from very loud 60's rock to very quiet cross stick required a lot of control which I found developing over the time spent working with Alex.
I found the cast of 32 extremely talented, very promising and really good fun to work with. They were also very welcoming to the new band as we arrived a week later then they did. After three excellent shows on the saturday and sunday I left Halifax with a very heavy heart and great new experiences. I would like to thank everyone involved for such an amazing experience and opportunity.
I would hugely recommend any musician to apply and audition for Youth Music Theatre. Here is some advice on enhancing your time there and preps for the audition.
Reading was a huge part of learning new material at YMT. If you are a confident, or not so confident reader in your instrument I would strongly advise brushing up or learning how to, especially on counting bars. It makes learning new material and following scores so much easier and would most likely enhance your chances of getting through the audition. Whilst there your reading will improve tenfold automatically, as you have to follow most songs bar by bar in order to keep track of where you are so you don't miss cues or anything else.
Upon arrival I realised that the equipment provided for the band was not the best I was hoping for. A battered old CB kit with old heads on it. I did the best I could with the tunings but opted to go back to Newcastle where all my kit was to bring some of my breakables down including my drum stool, kick pedal, cymbals and cymbal washers and clamps. This could have been avoided if I turned up with my own equipment in the first place. The advice then is to take everything you think you might need as you will most likely use it at some point. I also find playing on your own equipment, even if it is just a stool, kick pedal and cymbals enhances your confidence and comfortability.
I realised quite early on that things like arrangements, bar structures, chords, beats, cues, scripts and pretty much everything else gets changed around a lot and very regularly, especially with a project that was being written at the time. This meant that being stubborn or unwilling to change would not have worked at all. Learn the songs given thoroughly but with 100% adaptability to change.
Music in Shows
During the shows the changes between songs would sometimes be seconds, meaning you would have to be extremely quick with getting your sheet music out ready for the next song. I organised every song into a different polly pocket in a ring binder folder which meant it was easily accessible on stage at any time and was all kept in the same place. I left the folder on a chair beside my floor tom and after every song ended I immediately put the next sheets out. This seems obvious but it can be easily overlooked. I then would place the song just performed on the floor in a pile next to my hi hats and took the time after the show to put them back into order in the folder ready for the next show.
I would also advise spending some time looking over the script with your musical director, or sit in on rehearsals and write in any cues for your songs or underscores the page before they happen to give you a pre warning, then highlight the places and pages you are playing in a bright highlighter. This was simply because it was easy to know what was coming up as and when it did, especially with the non transcripted cues and underscores which linked directly to the dialogue.
Thank you for reading! Check out my other blogs here.
Also visit my Gallery for more pictures of my time at YMT.
I hope all of this helps! And good luck for the auditioners, you won't regret it!
Song of the Week
This is a list of the five things that have made my university experience easier. I thought I would share them on here to hopefully benefit those about to leave for uni or those already attending. Click on all the pictures to view the items on their websites, all of the pictures are of the products I purchased.
Getting a diary was one of the first things I did when coming to Newcastle. It may seem obvious but I know a lot of people who go without one and never remember or know their hand in/coursework/social dates. It has been one of the most helpful products to make my life easier here. Obviously a diary is for keeping dates in and when it comes to writing all your social, coursework and exam dates in it becomes somewhat invaluable to you if you use it properly. Some things I would suggest:
I have found that having a printer has been hugely helpful too. When it comes to printing work or readings or even travel documents a printer makes things effortless, especially for last minute work printing (Which happens a lot) I wanted a printer that is incredibly simple to use with no bluetooth or anything, just a wire to my laptop to print easily, and this one does a good job. So many university printers are hard to use and are usually very busy. They also only give you a certain limited amount of credits to print with, and are funny about photocopying books. So this makes the following a lot easier to do on your own printer:
A Mattress Topper
Although this type of product can be seen as luxury and people feel they have no need for it, sleep is extremely important, sleeping comfortably is hugely beneficial. This something I also bought before my first day in halls. There are many things mattress toppers are good for and you can find good mattress toppers at the moment ranging from £20 - £70. Mine is made of memory foam which I would strongly advise, but both memory foam and quilted mattress toppers would be also serve the same purpose.
This is something I have only just got myself. The typical student is seen as never having money. This I feel would be a lot less true if students had a constant monitor of their finances. I have certainly stopped spending a lot more than I would have if I had to go to an ATM every time I wanted my balance. Before I would adopt the mentality that if I can't see it then I can spend whatever now and worry later, which is why cards can be very dangerous. In a society where mostly everything is online and paid for by card being able to closely track your finances is hugely beneficial, especially as a student.
Emails directly to your phone
This is also something a lot of students don't do, which also couldn't be easier or more helpful. There are many plus sides to having your emails go directly to your phone. Universities will normally always contact you through email for a multitude of different things. You will get allocated an email at the start of your university course and this is what they will use to keep constant contact. Having university emails go straight to your phone will mean you can read and reply much quicker than checking when you get home or in uni, keeping up to the minute on latest information from the university. This will definitely come in handy, as things like last minute lecture changes, important notices, updates and meeting times are a regular occurrence. All my emails go to my phone allowing me to respond to anything immediately.
Hope all of this helps !
'Song of the week'
During the easter break from university I purchased my first (used) electronic drum kit. Having two drum kits can be extremely hard on your pocket, and is undoubtedly a luxury, but for those of us that live in a home where the noise of an acoustic drum kit is a major issue an electric kit can be hugely beneficial to practice and teach. In this post I will give my 5 tips to buying an electric kit, getting the best deal and knowing what to look for.
As my Gretsch Brooklyn acoustic kit was in university I felt it was time to purchase a kit I could practice on at home, so I searched for a few weeks wanting to find a reliable and good kit that was in my price range of £400. I decided I wanted all mesh heads as the feel is very similar to that of an acoustic. I also decided to go with Roland's V-Drum series due to their reputation and quality, which leads me on to the first tip.
1. Go with a well known reliable brand
There are many good reasons for going with a well known brand which is applicable to buying anything in truth. I would say the three major electronic drum brands to go with are Roland, Yamaha or Alesis. The first reason for going with brand is, in the case of fault, part missing or something is broken on your kit a major corporation will have entire departments dedicated to your issues and will get it sorted a lot quicker. Also this links in with the second point of online communities with dedicated help pages, youtube demonstrations and other useful help pages if you have queries on the kit, setting up or how to use anything. When it comes to the time of resale people will also then be looking for reliable well known brands, making it easier to sell along the line.
2. Spend sufficient time looking for it
Don't panic buy. Spend time looking for a kit at a good price, and don't settle for something you feel so/so about. Write down exactly what you want and then make a point of finding it. There is always leeway on pricing when buying used items so offer the lowest you think reasonable and work from there. You will always be guaranteed a good price this way.
3. Visit and pick up in person (if possible). Know what you're looking for upon arrival
Pictures can be deceiving. Check the kit in full before agreeing to buy. You can always change your mind once you have seen the kit. Maybe a little obvious but when you're there in person you might be a little eager and overlook any faults you find when you get home. So be thorough in checking and take every manual, box and guide the seller has that came with the kit. Also you have every right to email and ask the seller for more pictures and more in depth shots of the kit if you are buying abroad or even if you are visiting.
Making sure you have enough space wherever you are setting your kit up may seem obvious, but the last thing you need is to underestimate the space needed, come home, and find you can't set it up properly. Although naturally an electric kit won't take as much 'floor space' with cymbal, snare and tom stands, it can be wide. I underestimated the width of the kit and when I picked it up I was surprised at the width, as its a mini rack pretty much. So if needs be ask the seller how wide and tall it is to work out the floor space needed before hand.
5. Setting up
One thing I have seen a lot of is electric kits set up poorly. This will not only lead to potential damage to the kit, but it may be detrimental to your playing style and may make it harder for you to re-adjust when you cross back and forth to an acoustic kit. Set the kit up exactly as you would if you were doing so with your acoustic. keep the toms, cymbals and snare in the same position as your acoustic. This has been really helpful for me. Obviously in most cases the electric pads will be smaller but position wise this will help when returning to the acoustic.
Here is a list of sites I recommend using.
Facebook Drummers Buy/Sell UK Page
Ebay (make sure the seller is 100% reliable)
'Song of the week'