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Why Live Performance is More Important than Recording - 26 Oct 2015


Organized music teaching has always stressed live performance, for beginners as well as all levels.  We showcase our achievement through concerts and recitals, not recordings.  The reasons for this extend beyond the added difficulty of recording: live performance of trained pieces more closely connect the pieces with our minds, and the “multi-track” nature of recording can hinder the musicality and spontaneity behind the piece itself.

This divide is a fairly recent phenomenon—in classical music and most early jazz and folk, live performance was the sole way to release your music out to a wider audience.  Recordings in the early days of wax cylinders and 78 rpm shellac records were more of a curiosity or luxury rather than the prime way of consuming music.  The introduction of multitrack recording and wider distribution of recordings was one of the biggest changes to modern music ever seen, and shifted the method of output for music.  While the focus was once a single great performance with reviewers present to attract future crowds, it had shifted to the creation of a great recorded piece (or song, or album) that would become a direct source of income.


While this did result in a rapid improvement of recording equipment, many criticized the lack of perceived “artistry” in multitrack recording—multiple takes, overdubbing, and advanced sound editing were now possible.  However, some artists discovered a new way to fuse the two worlds of performance and recording.  By using live shows as a time to experiment and sketch out new ideas, and the studio as a place to refine these ideas, they shifted the concept of a live show for many bands from showing the crowd your songs to showing the crowds the process behind what they hear on recordings at home. As such, the spontaneous, one-take nature of live performance and the experimentation it promotes among advanced performers will always trump practice of studio techniques with an audio engineer that can’t be replicated for a crowd.  The best art produced from recording studios has always been meditated on and rewritten outside of the recording room.  Don’t limit your best performances to tape, and always remember the value of a live performance.





The Art of Teaching - 2 May 2015


When it comes to popular music, it is especially hard to teach. Not because it is too complicated, but because it requires improvisation. And when it comes to improvisation, it is hard to break down what certain musicians know and play, be it a group of musicians or a single person across different genres, regions, languages or musical influences. All of these factors must be taken into consideration upon analyses, and that takes time and effort. How many times did you come across a person that tells you he „plays by ear“, only to find out that he actually plays by „how he feels it“? There is a big difference among those two, and while playing music by how you feel it is definitely important to composing and improvising in a way, in a wider context it indicates a casual approach to music of someone who doesn’t take it seriously.


There is nothing wrong with playing casually, playing music based on the way you feel it, but playing and teaching music are two completely separate activities. While some other people teach music casually, we take it seriously and we face these issues directly. It challenges us, but it yields comparatively better results. When it comes to teaching, we don’t play by how we feel music; we systematically analyse and teach you the secrets behind the great works, so you can use this knowledge to master playing music yourself. It took us over ten years of discussions and hard work with more than twenty musicians to establish and consolidate the unique methodology we use at Play By Ear. We listen to every possible music arrangement, analyse and define them mathematically to understand how things such as improvisation can be achieved progressively. That way we can provide the background and create a foundation for advanced techniques to teach you. At PBE Canada we all work as a team to deliver the same teaching method and ensure a quality standard in our school as a whole. We avoid a casual approach to teaching music, because we take teaching seriously.






Money in music - 22 Nov 2014



Every artist would love to just not worry about money and continue making his art, but something as living from art is a persisting problem distressing artists all over the world. Only a select few can enjoy the luxury of living purely from making music. But make no mistake; you can live off making music if you can find the right approach.


The internet has drastically changed the music industry and the way musicians make money. Since all the music we ever wanted to hear lies just a few clicks away, gone are the days of making money solely off selling records. Physical album sales have been tumbling and their price has lowered ever since the introduction of music streaming sites. A big amount of artists today have accepted this fact and release their music for free or extremely cheap with easy accessibility, making money only from live performances or by working music-related professions.


On the other hand, listeners are starting to understand the issues with free music and pirating. The wide variety of music people get makes them selective, but true to their favourite artists. Music fans want to support the people they think deserve it. Fans will often happily contribute with paying for their favourite music and websites like Kickstarter have seen many successful crowd-funded music releases. And the same goes for live shows, there is always an audience for anything. If you have something interesting to offer, people will follow. In the past, to make records you had to sign with a music label that would pay you and provide you with a studio, in which you could record your music. But with the ever-progressing technology, anyone can build a solid home studio to record and produce his own music. Today we live in an era that sees more independent and self-made releases than ever before, but it is a double-edged sword. With a label you had your money guaranteed and promotion taken care of, whereas with independent releases it’s on you. So where is the right balance? Musicians, just as everybody else, should be able to put out their work with fair compensation as to ensure living a modest life while being able to focus on their art. When they get paid too little, they often have to work another job, not being able to focus on their art entirely. For some, the wealth comes later with fame, but not everybody can be a pop star. After all, musician is a profession like any other.






Music therapy and improvisation? - 16 Oct 2014



Almost every single person can think back to a time when music created an environment, a feeling or a mood entirely different from the one they were experiencing before the music began. This music created a memory. One that can be accessed easily and remembered in such a vivid way that the person can taste, feel or smell the experiences from that moment as if they were happening now. That is the power of music, the essence of the musical experience, and the basis for music as therapy. Music Therapy is the use of music as a means to work on a variety of non-musical goals(by a credentialed therapist) and as the needs of the patients vary. It uses meaningful associations created by sound to aid in the therapeutic process. This may be through active music making or passive music listening and is determined by the needs of the client by the therapist. There is a difference between music that is therapeutic or soothing and music therapy  by a trained music therapist.


Music Therapy has documented roots that stretch as far back as the 18th century, though the idea is almost ancient. It’s practice as a profession began after WWII, when music was used as a tool for veterans suffering from a variety of medical needs, notably, post-traumatic stress disorder. A decade later, the National Association for Music Therapy was formed and a clinical approach to music as therapy began. Though there are many different approaches to the use of music as therapy, improvisation remains one of its core tenets. The idea that the music should suit its listener requires a fluidity and flexibility by the therapist that makes improvisation a necessity. The iso principle, in which the patients musical mood is matched, is the justification of improvisation in a music therapy experience. The Nordoff-Robbins approach to music therapy is the brain-child of Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins and is based around the idea of a creative, improvisational approach to music therapy. Genre, tempo, mood, even instrumentation is determined based on the needs of the client and is a manifestation of the humanistic approach to therapy in a musical setting.


Purely improvisational music therapy experiences are often based around the client either on a hand percussion instrument or singing while the therapist supports them on piano, guitar or autoharp.  Sessions like these are not planned but rely on the mood, energy and any vocalized needs of the client. They are client centered and develop from the relationship established between client and therapist. This sort of therapeutic intervention requires a strong musician as harmonic and melodic ideas change from moment to moment and a strong sense of rhythm and facility on the instrument is essential. A strong therapeutic approach is needed in order to fully support the needs of the client and create a safe space for expression and creativity. Music therapy should always be non-invasive and free of judgment. Improvisation in music therapy can occur within the confines of an already defined harmonic structure, like the blues. The client or therapist might provide the melodic ideas vocally or through the use of pitched percussion instruments like the marimba, glockenspiel or congas or non-pitched instruments such as egg shakers, maracas, and lollipop drums. Written music also has a place in improvisational music therapy experiences. It is a philosophy of the profession that the music used in therapy is client preferred. This might mean using religious music for a person with a strong tie to their religious faith. It might also mean using a favorite song to encourage spontaneous melodic and rhythmic ideas in a comfortable and familiar musical structure.


Music Therapy interventions with the senior population (where dementia is a common diagnosis) often focuses on the music that was popular during the clients teens (ages 16-24). This means that as our seniors age, the music used in senior centers and homes will slowly move away from Sinatra and towards The Beatles. Music Therapists will be playing covers of Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Michael Jackson and eventually Justin Beiber. Music therapy as a practice and professional is evolving as music, technology and the people who interact with both continue to evolve. Improvisation in music therapy seeks to meet the needs of the client in an ever evolving world.