Category Archives: Career

Using Amazon Echo as a musician or music teacher

There’s been a lot of noise around Amazon’s latest tech product, the $179 Echo. Most of the excitement is focused on how it can improve the user’s home life by performing voice-activated functions.  But there are a handful of ways the Echo can boost productivity for musicians.

Here’s a list of all the ways the device can help with your music career.

 

Amazon-Echo

**You can get a great deal on an Echo here.**

Listening

 

This one may sound obvious, but the benefit of having voice-controlled stop and start functions when listening back is revolutionary for musicians.

Musicians don’t just listen to music for enjoyment. They sometimes need to study music to get ready for a gig or analyze something for a student. Think about it, one of the hardest things about learning a tune is having to constantly put down the instrument or interrupt your work flow to set the tune up and run it again.

The Echo completely streamlines this clunky process. Simply instruct Alexa, the AI assistant which performs all of the Echo functions, to stop and start when yore ready or you want to move on to another tune. The Echo even has a search function, so you can even search through YouTube for tunes you need work on without getting up from your instrument.

 

Recording

 

If you are a performing or composing musician, you understand the importance of documenting ideas and using them later. Amazon Echo has the ability to record your voice, or whatever instrument you may be playing, so you can save it for later when you are ready to develop the idea further. Both the microphone and the speakers on this device are surprisingly effective considering the size of the device.

 

Tuning

 

One of the most impressive features of the Echo is its implementation of Alexa Skills. Alexa, the robot which carries out all the functions and takes her queues from the voice-over, has a range of built-in functions which lie in a drop down menu on the Alexa app.

Among the skills is a guitar tuner. From the other side of the room, the musician can demand to hear a perfect A from the speaker, just as they would from a guitarist in a band. It’ll be right every time too.

Here it is being used by someone for the first time. After instructing Alexa to enable the tuner, the user can be heard demanding what note he wants to hear. The Echo returns it four times.

 

My Metronome

 

My Metronome is another built-in Alexa skill. It keeps the tempo for musicians, holding from 10 to 300 beats a minute. To activate it, just tell her what you need by shouting: ‘Alexa, start My Metronome and 80 beats per minute,’ for example.

Of course, if you’d rather use your own, there are some great options here and here.

 

Lessons

 

One of the coolest things about Alexa is her ability to teach you how to play an instrument. There is even a built in app designed to help you learn how to play the piano. It is very simple, making it a great device for those who are beginners to playing music and children who have very little experience learning an instrument. It starts you off by teaching you simple notes and showing you where they are. Eventually, you will work your way to being able to play a duet with Alexa! The songs are pretty simple and mostly consist of nursery rhymes, but they can be a great primer for a student who is interested in taking piano lessons who’s parents are not sure if they are really going to be into it.

 

 

The Echo also has a built in function that will play back any note that you ask and can even play a series of notes, providing students with a reference point for a pitch when they are practicing. This means you can test out ideas ahead of time or even use the device as a means to improve your ear training by trying to sing the pitch before the Echo plays it. There is even a quiz on the Echo that you can use to work on your ear. It will play a note and you will try to guess what it is. This may seem like a skill you are either born with or not but the ear is something you can develop over time and, with enough work, you can almost give yourself perfect pitch.

Play-a-longs

 

If you are an improvising musician, you know one of the best ways to practice is to simply improvise. Of course, you can’t always call your friends to have them come over and play some tunes with you, so you need a solution. One way you can use the Amazon Echo to practice is to utilize play a longs. A play along is a recording of music that has your part taken out, so you can play as if you are playing with a band in a live situation. One popular version of these for jazz musicians is the Jamey Aebersold series. He has recorded thousands of tunes that students can practice over ranging from jazz to funk and RnB classics. Download them to your Echo and get started today.

Here’s an idea of the sound quality you can expect

 

Amazon Dot: A cheaper version of the Echo

 

The Echo sits a stop a cylinder speaker which is powerful enough to be used alone. But if $179 is too steep a price tag, the Dot is a great alternative. At $49, it’s considerably less expensive and performs pretty much all of the same functions as the larger Echo.

The only major difference is the lack of speaker. So if you have your own already, the dot may be the way to go.

Amazon-Dot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon Echo Show: The Echo with a touchscreen

A huge hook of the Echo is its voice-controlled function. In commercials it plays out very smoothly and it appeals to a lazier, Siri-obsessed generation. But some people would still like to have the option to control the device by hand.

 

Amazon-Echo-show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To accommodate them, Amazon recently released the Echo Show which combines the Echo with a touch screen for easy use. It’s the most expensive device in the range at $229. In essence, it looks like an iPad with a speaker attached at the bottom.

It can however be a great tool for musicians who are trying to learn lyrics. The Echo Show will display the words on screen. It’s also a great way to pull up sheet music to play along to with a tune running in the background for support

Interview with an artist: Brandon Mills

Brandon Mills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not all musicians forge their careers out of unbridled ambition. For some, the road to a full-time job in the industry happens by accident, chance or fate.

New York-based folk pop artist Brandon Mills didn’t always have his sights set on it. For him, it took tours of Afghanistan and Iraq in one of the deadliest divisions of the Marine Corps to discover his calling.

Today he lives with two roommates in a four-bedroom apartment in Harlem and is about to launch his third album, the first he has ever shared with anyone. It is the product of a bluegrass-infused upbringing in Kentucky, solemn solitude with his guitar in the chaplain of army base camps and a reluctant, years-long struggle with PTSD.

‘I’ve found a lot of healing and empowerment through music,’ Brandon tells Music Education Madness.

After a brief childhood fling with the saxophone, the now 32-year-old had a casual relationship with the guitar until 2004, when he was deployed to Afghanistan with an infantry unit. Three years later, he was in Iraq with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, a revered Special Forces unit. It was there, between his field missions, that Brandon would sneak into the chapel to play a lonely guitar that had been left out after prayer services.

‘It was a distraction and it was equally an important to use as a tool to process what was going on. Things that I couldn’t say to anybody, things that I couldn’t even express vocally, I could put in songs. It was the war, loss, life and all the challenges of war that are hard to talk about.’

He played and wrote alone, occasionally watching the permanent administrative staff on the ground pick up the prized guitar for a light-hearted jam session.

‘The military looks at any vulnerability as weakness and there’s a functionality to that, so I get it. [But] it meant I didn’t share my feelings or talk about much of anything. The guys that were on base all the time, they were just practising and having a good time [when they played]. I didn’t know them very well but it seemed like a different thing.’

In 2008, Brandon left the Marines and was suddenly aimless. He traveled the world with charities in an attempt to occupy himself, all-the-while trying frantically to keep the creeping clutches of post traumatic stress disorder at bay.

‘I was in complete denial that I had PTSD. I was stubborn and hard-headed, hard-hearted and hyper vigilant once I got out. It was a part of my brain that I couldn’t turn off. It’s a hard thing – we have a mission and we’re good, gifted at it and then we get out and there’s no more mission and we’re at a loss.’

He settled in Hawaii in 2010, taking a well-paying job as a private contractor. It was this, with its six-figure salary and easy-lifestyle, which finally laid bare his crisis.

‘I had a lot of money but not a lot to do. I thought it was everything I’d ever want but I wasn’t happy, so I prayed. I had to experience that financial security to realise how empty it was, for me,’ he says. emphatically.

A year later, he ditched it to move to Harlem and start courses in audio engineering, music production and sound design at the City College of New York – ‘an amazing program’.

Now, Brandon plays small gigs at independent venues across the city and subsidises his life by with bar-tending  and catering (‘I actually love it. I love serving people’.) Last year, he opened for Jason Derulo at Times Square. When he can afford to pay them, he likes having support on stage in the form of other musicians. Otherwise, it’s just him, his Martin D- 28  and a harmonica which he uses nostalgically to inject the soul of that Kentucky childhood into performances.

As he prepares for the launch of his third album, he is grateful for his winding path to full-time music.

‘The freedom I have is remarkable. To do what I love and get paid for it…’ he tails off.

In addition to shopping around for a label, Brandon hopes to kick-start a music program to support other vets through PTSD.

For more about Brandon’s music, visit his website here

 

Related: BEING BLUE PART 1 – A STORY ABOUT GROWING UP TO DRUM FOR THE BLUE MAN GROUP

Learn more about a career in Music Therapy Here

Advice for new music school graduates: First steps in launching your career

Congratulations, you’re a graduate. After competing with thousands of others to land a spot at your chosen school, you’ve finally obtained that coveted degree that will help launch your career. But after all the glitter from commencement parties and graduation gifts settle, many music education grads find themselves at a loss over how to start the next phase. It’s a common feeling that overwhelms beginners in pretty much every industry so don’t panic, you’re not alone. Here’s a simple list of helpful tips and advice for new music school graduates to help guide you through the often daunting career search.

Know (roughly) what you want 

The trick to kick-starting your career is honing in on what exactly where you think you may want to begin. After four years in a specialized school, chances are you have a pretty good idea what makes you tick by now. Focus on your skills but don’t ignore the things you dislike – it’s better to identify any potential problems in a career path before venturing down the wrong one.

Don’t know what you want? Don’t panic! 

There’s a lot to be said for trial and error. You may have started school with the intention of launching your own band or act and left sold on the notion of teaching. The great news about studying anything to do with music is that it’s mostly all connected and skills can be easily transferred. Be brave enough to explore an option that may never have crossed your mind before. It may end up becoming the thing you love  most and could lead to a long and successful career.

Seek advice

Talking to as many people as possible can be one of the most valuable ways to form a decision, so don’t be shy to ask for advice from anyone you feel could be qualified to give it. Don’t limit this to just the music industry, but seek expertise from anyone you think might be able to shed light on your search. The more you listen the more you learn about a variety of careers. Don’t be frightened if one person doesn’t give you the answer you were hoping for – not everyone’s experience is the same.

Pick a place 

Picking a city, state, country or even continent is a great place to start. Maybe you can’t find your dream job  straight away but honing in on one spot could help you lay the groundwork for the beginning of your career. If you narrow your search to a place where there is a good enough range of opportunities, you may find yourself having more success. Be sure to do your research and don’t look for possibilities where they don’t exist.

Plan ahead 

The trick to landing a job to move on to straight after graduation depends on how prepared you are. The most organized students will start looking for opportunities a year before commencement. This can feel like a daunting task when coupled with the mountainous workload expected of you in your final year, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do both at once. After all, one job done well is better than two that are barely finished.

Internships and apprenticeships are often a great way to line up real opportunities for after graduation. If you’ve had a good experience somewhere on a more casual basis, ask if there are any role vacancies or spots to fill around the time you’re due to leave. Often these more casual roles turn into a permanent position if it’s a good fit.

Be honest 

If you land yourself a job interview or audition (yay!), don’t be tempted to bluff your way through it. Sure, there are moments when a little optimistic up-selling is needed, but it’s important to know the difference between having confidence in your ability to adapt to a role and having genuine concerns that its requirements may be beyond you. If something feels like it’s beyond your reach, think about the skills you may need to handle it and if your experience matches up. If not, is there a way you can get yourself there? If all else fails, honesty is always the best policy.

Have a little faith 

You’ve come this far, what else can you achieve now? It’s daunting to leave a world of funded programs with dedicated tutors and constant support. Believe in your talents, whatever they are, and try to embrace the new normal. Being able to transform your passion and talent into a career is something many people only ever dream of. Be grateful to have found what it is that you love and persevere in the knowledge that you’ll soon figure out where you need to be and how to get there.

As Stephen Henderson, the 2017 Juilliard commencement speaker told his wide-eyed audience this year: ‘The ecstatic exhilaration shared with everyone who believes in you back then is back again.’

Music teacher salaries: How much do they make?

No matter if you want to become a music educator or you are just interested to see what music teacher salaries are like, you are in the right place. In this article, we are going to learn about how much the music educators can make per month. This way you can get a good insight into what the industry offers and if you are indeed ok with the paycheck that you can get here.

So, how much can a music educator make? There are lots of factors that you need to keep in mind here. Not only are there multiple regions with different paychecks, but each instructor also has his experience in this field. Some people are earning more than others, mostly due to their experience in the industry. With that in mind, it’s important to note that the median salary for a middle school music teacher is around $45000. The salary tends to start at $33000, and it can go up to $70000 or more based on region and experience.

It’s a very good salary, to be honest, and things only tend to get better as you move on to some other sectors. It’s an exciting opportunity and one that does tend to bring in front some amazing results for people that want to pursue this type of career.

When it comes to the high school music educators, you will note that the paycheck tends to be just slightly better. The average salary is around $48000, but at the same time, you will note that the starting point is at $34000 this time around. The highest salaries can easily go over $73000 for high school music educators, keeping in mind the factors we mentioned above.

College music teachers tend to have a very similar paycheck too. Of course, we still have to keep in mind that there are lots of colleges, some of them are focused solely on music and art, others are generalized. The ones with a focus on arts can pay a bit better. That being said, the starting point for a paycheck here is around $29000. The median paycheck is close to $49000, and you can get up to $78000 or sometimes a bit more as a music educator for college. It’s a good paycheck that can rival many other demanding jobs.

As you can see, the salaries of music educators in the US do tend to vary, but they are pretty good. If you want to pursue this type of career, then you will be quite impressed with the unique set of benefits that can be provided here. Not only can you get a competitive paycheck, but at the same time, you can help the musical talents of tomorrow. That can be an exciting venture and one that will obviously bring in front its set of rewards. You should check it out, that will impress you quite a bit, so just give it a try and you will be impressed with the benefits offered by this career!