SELF-DISCOVERY

As I was practicing and working on my vocals last night, I came to the conclusion that I was a lazy singer.  I’ve grown quite a bit simply by recording a ton of hours in the studio.  It has been great to see the progress, but I have not reached my full potential.

 

I came to this realization last night while I was taking a new approach to how I train my voice.  You begin to notice your flaws when you spend a lot of time recording.  I’ve found that my pitch falls off at the end of my vibrato, my timing is shaky on certain songs, and my pitch overall suffers at times, because I’m not using good enough mechanics. 

 

I decided to take a different approach to the next song I record.  I began to break down the melody and focus solely on how I sing a phrase, my pitch, timing, and how my vibrato lays in the timing.   I spent about 45 minutes just on the first part of the first verse.   I didn’t move on until I could consistently sing the phrases on pitch with good timing & feeling.   It began to be all about the quality of the practice session and not about how much I could get through.  If I don’t correct these issues with good practice habits, then I can record until I’m blue in the face and it will still end in frustration.

 

Now, my whole point is that I realized that I was lazy by putting in the time working on my craft.   I realized what I WASN’T doing and needed to change.  I would not have come across that self-discovery if I wasn’t in the trenches really working on my craft.   

 

I encourage you to spend time in whatever you’re passionate about.  I make it a point to do something musical every single day; even if it’s only for fifteen minutes.   Put in the time and you will begin to discover new things about yourself.  

 

Sometimes it takes a little FAITH

I’ve had this certain question running through my mind over the past couple of months that has not left me......

 

What do you do when everything you have done has not been enough?  

 

Now, if you haven’t given it everything and by everything I mean strength, focus, pure determination, blood, sweat, and tears, then maybe this question doesn’t apply.  If you have, then I believe at some point in your life this question has come up.

 

Now, for the past 5 months I have been away from my family providing while we make the transition to move up to another state.   Being away from my family has not been easy, but it has been necessary.   I’ve had multiple interviews, screenings, projects and presentations and so far I’ve come up short. 

 

I truly believe with all of my heart, that situations like mine are where your faith is tried and tested.   Sometimes God just has different plans for you.   Sometimes he’s teaching you and helping you to grow.  Sometimes it’s all about timing, and if you wait a little bit longer things will begin to fall into place.   We have to come to a place where we trust.  It doesn’t mean we stop preparing, praying, or looking for opportunities.  It does mean that we have to settle it in our hearts that we have to be okay with uncertainty.   God sometimes has to take back the reigns, because we are trying to do everything in our own strength.   If there is anything I’ve learned in my adult life, it’s that nothing remains the same.  Life is constantly changing and sometimes we can only prepare so much. 

 

I encourage you today to have faith, and trust that there is a reason and purpose for everything.

 

Commitment

Commitment is an extremely important topic to me.   I say that, because I struggled with commitment for a long time.   A while back I realized that my lack of growth and progress had everything to do with my lack of commitment.  In order to grow, you need to be pushed and put in situations that make you uncomfortable.   When you are put under pressure, it forces you to get focused, work through pain points, follow through, and work through your weaknesses.   I could go on and on, but you definitely get the idea. 

 

I remember the day where I understood my lack of commitment like it was yesterday.   I remember getting so frustrated, because I found myself at the same exact spot over and over and I didn’t know how to change it.  I finally realized that every time I felt inadequate in my abilities, pressure to perform, and insecure, I would back down.   Eventually the opportunity that was given to me went away, and I was back at the same exact spot.  That moment of clarity changed me forever.   From that day forward, I told myself that no matter what happens I will stay committed.  If I feel pressure in any given situation, I will embrace it.   If I have weaknesses that are causing me to feel insecure and out of sorts, I will improve on those.   I won’t shy away from the thing that makes me feel insecure.  I will run towards it head on and overcome!

 

When you always have a Plan B as an exit strategy, it’s easy to run the other way.   However, if you are committed, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

 

“Learn to commit, and you will see a whole new world of opportunity out there for you to grab onto.”

Maturity and Perspective

As I was talking with my wife on some of her troubles at work, it really got me to thinking about the topic of taking a step outside of yourself to determine what’s really going on and what are the next steps to change your situation.

 

Have you ever been in a situation where you began to look at everything that was wrong with your job and how you began to resent it?  You get around coworkers who are your friends and you begin to complain about every little thing.  From situations, to work load, to miscommunication, to the people, and you just are tired of it all.  You begin to talk yourself into not wanting to be there anymore and you are over it.  

 

I think everyone of us have been there.   The problem is that we fail to realize while we are in the storm, that not one particular company or situation will be perfect.  You think it will be different if you move on, but ultimately you will be faced with similar situations again and again.   I think the problem is that we get caught up in our emotions.  We can’t think logically about the situation, because we are in the middle of it.   We have to come to a place where we understand that there will always be things about the job, personalities of different people, etc that will be tough.   The beauty of it is that we become multi-faceted at handling different situations and people.  We actually reap the blessing of learning how to navigate through the difficulty.  It helps to grow our maturity levels. 

 

Now, I know that this isn’t totally the case for every situation and sometimes there are just toxic environments that you have to remove yourself from.   I’m speaking generally on the topic and if we take a step back to analyze the situation, we can make a better decision. 

 

Sometimes you have to ask yourself, am I really happy?  Is this something I really want to do?   Can I really invest my life in my current career?  Am I just complaining or is there a legitimate reason of why I’m feeling this way.   Sometimes you will find that your job isn’t really all that bad.  Sometimes you will find that you do enjoy a lot of aspects of your job.   Sometimes you just might need a break and turn your focus on how far you’ve come, and where you are headed.

 

I hope this encourages someone if they are at that place in their job or career.

Digging into the Details

In music whether it’s live or recorded, performance is everything.  If you don’t connect to the song or capture the essence of it, it all goes flat.   It’s the difference between good and great.  I focus on this concept quite a bit, because I’m always studying and trying to figure out what makes something great.   I mean, we all started from the same place, and yet certain people break away from the pack. 

 

I’ve come to realize that it truly is about digging into the details.   I was recording a song and it’s just a piano solo type song, and it has a Neo Soul/Jazz/funky type of vibe to it.   I really began to listen to how I was playing it.   My first takes just didn’t capture what the song was.  I had to add that edge in my playing.   Just playing technically or having good chops isn’t enough.    I wasn’t playing it with that swing and that funk so I kept playing it over and over until I started capturing it.   At the same time, I was really paying attention to my timing.   Now when you are playing to a metronome or just practicing that is one thing, but when you are recording, you really hear all of your mistakes and where your shortcomings are.   This type of attention to detail is what separates the good from the great.   If you hear someone like a Cory Henry or Chic Corea, their ability is sensational and no doubt they have a God given ability.   However, I’m sure they spent hours and hours fine tuning the intricacies of their playing.   They didn’t just practice songs; they paid attention to every little detail. 

 

When you can begin to transition your thought process to understanding that it’s the quality of your practice or effort in anything that you can do, you can really begin to grow.  You can begin to separate yourself from the rest of the pack and take ordinary to extraordinary. 

 

 

Balance and Preparation

Life is about balance and moderation.   When you swing the pendulum too far one way or the other, you are setting yourself to fail.  In a world where consistency is a key factor, you have to be able to find a balance to maintain and sustain consistency. 

 

Let’s take dieting.  I know from personal experience.   About 4 years ago, I decided to see how far I could go to get shredded and look phenomenal for a photo shoot.   For a few months, I was on a super low carb diet, working with a trainer, and I got there.   I’ve never had that low of a body fat percentage.  After that, I knew what the keys were to getting to a low fat body percentage, but over the next couple of years I struggled to maintain.  My weight went up and down and pretty soon I found myself at the heaviest weight I’ve ever been.   Today, I follow a plan that allows me to eat the things I love, but in moderation, and I’m more happy than I’ve ever been and I’ve been able to lose weight consistently without being super extreme.  My point is balance.   Restricting yourself so much leads to lack of progress, and ultimately a lack of consistency for a longer period of time.  You will reach burn out.

 

This also applies musically.   Practicing your craft whether it’s your voice or instrument can be an overwhelming task.  You are balancing schedules, responsibilities, and life.  Most people don’t have the luxury of practicing 8 hours a day.   I’ve found that progress lies not only in the quality of practice, but chipping away at it day to day.  So if it’s 5 minutes a day or 30 minutes a day, it’s way better than skipping and then cramming a bunch of hours in.   The key is to find a way to be consistent.  I live by the term, “if you stay ready you never have to get ready.”  If I don’t practice and then all of the sudden I get an opportunity and then I try to cram in a bunch of practice, that isn’t going to help me.  You have to exercise that muscle on a consistent basis so that when it’s time, it will work for you.  You are already doing it.  It’s a natural extension of who you are. 

 

Remember that consistency is going to yield much better results and your ability to find balance is going to allow you to be consistent over a long period of time.  

 

 

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

I used to hear the term “perfect practice makes perfect” all of the time from the coach when I played high school basketball.  I knew what he meant, but just the other night it really resonated with me in such a profound way.   I was practicing on the piano and I was trying to perfect my song before I tried to record it.   There are always certain areas of the song that I mess up on.  I have to go back, take those parts, slow it way down, and practice it over and over until I can perform it without messing up at the tempo of the song.  

 

If I don’t slow it way down, and practice it over and over and continue to mess up, then pretty soon I’m just practicing my mess ups.  All of the so called “quality” practice time is only creating bad habits.  

 

It is important to dig into the details of anything that you are doing so that you can pinpoint the weaknesses and work on those.   However, it’s not enough to just work on them.   This is what separates the good from the great.   You have to be willing to take the time and develop the right habits.   Focus on every intricacy in the beginning so that it becomes instinctive.

 

“Strive for greatness in all that you do.  Don’t get in your own way of your fullest potential.”

Being Thankful

Sometimes being thankful doesn’t really come that natural.  You could be stuck in a rut, and the world feels like it’s going to fall right on top of you.   You are in this box that you just can’t get out, and you feel like you are doing everything you can to get out.  Maybe you have even been dealt a few bad situations that have happened consecutively. 

 

Regardless of where you are, sometimes you just need to take a step back and look at how far you’ve come, what you have overcome, and just how many good things are happening in your life. 

 

A dynamic shift happens when you focus on the things you are thankful for.   Your perspective on everything begins to change.   All of the sudden, there is a hope that fills your spirit.  There are so many things to live for.  You become motivated to protect and nurture the things you are thankful for.   You begin to see opportunities that weren’t there before.  You really begin to see that life has so much to offer.  

 

So, why not begin everyday focusing on what you are thankful for and ending every night the same way.  You will see how much your life, attitude, perspective and motivation changes and grows!

 

“Change your perspective, and you change your life!”

Is the grass really greener on the other side?

I love this topic, because I think everyone is searching for “HAPPINESS.”   The problem is that what makes me happy may be different from the next person.   

 

Now, as people are trying to figure out “what makes them happy,” there are usually some questions that follow or scenarios that play out…..

 

“If I had a better paying job, I could pay my bills, take vacations, be less stressed.”

 

“If I lived in ___city, I would have more opportunity.”

 

“If I had a record deal, I would have the necessary backing for my career to jump off.”

 

These are just a few random examples to create a clear picture.  

 

There is this continuous notion that the grass is greener on the other side.   There is one thing that all of these statements have in common, and it’s a single minded perspective. 

Unfortunately, life doesn’t just hand us over every great opportunity out there.   There has to be a perspective change.   

 

What if we took those scenarios, and flipped it around to focus on the aspects that we can control.  Let’s take the first example.

 

“If I had a better paying job, I could pay my bills, take vacations, be less stressed.”

 

Better paying job

-       Do you know exactly what you want to do for your career?

-       Are you getting the education you need?

-       Are you finding resources or people in that field that can mentor you?

 

Bills and less stress

-       Are you living below your means?

-       Are you planning for emergencies?  You know your car will eventually need some work.  Are you planning for that?

-       Are you saving at all?  Even if it’s $20 a paycheck?

-       Do you know exactly where your money is going from your paycheck?

 

These are all questions that focus on the aspects that you can control.   It speaks to creating the happiness that you desire for your life.   No one is going to give you anything.   Life is not going to hand you the perfect scenario. 

 

Let’s tackle music next…….

Obviously this one hits home for me since I’m a passionate musician.    I remember the very moment when I knew I wasn’t making progress that I had to do something different.   I began to invest in myself.   I created a small music budget and worked toward getting my own gear, learning the equipment, and finding great resources that could make my music come to life.   I bought a vocal booth, mic, computer, software, and went to work.   I grew vocally, musically, and I didn’t have to spend a bunch of money in a studio when I knew I needed to work on my craft.   It was a win-win situation for me.   If I would’ve waited on “the opportunity” to come, I would’ve never grown.  I focused on the things that I could control.  

 

You don’t have to go to the other side to see if the grass is greener.   You can affect change right where you are and be fulfilled and happy.   

 

 

“Create the life you want to live.”

 

 

Mental Toughness

Mental toughness……

This is a term you usually hear in sports.   Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Serena Williams all share this characteristic.  It gives them an edge, sets them apart, and allows them to perform at an extremely high level under high pressure.

 

I actually started to think about how this applies to not just the great athletes of our time, but also the everyday/average person.  We may not be in the spotlight, but as we grow into our careers, there are demands that are placed on us.   There are personal goals that we set that require us to operate at a higher level. 

 

Rewind to the end of last year.  I was burnt out from my job, I was stressed, and it really made me assess what I want to do for the next 10 years.  In my line of work, we have key meetings that sometimes go smoothly, and at other times extremely rough.   There are hard conversations, and big businesses at stake.   Fast forward to these past few weeks, and I’m a little more refreshed.   Our mind and emotions cause us to make smart and dumb decisions, and I like to think on things for a while to ensure I make the best decision for myself.   I ended up focusing on two words MENTAL TOUGHNESS.   It doesn’t matter what line of work you are in, what life you choose to lead.   If you want to reach higher levels, than you have to be okay with the stress that comes with it.  You have to manage it, and understand there is a mental toughness you have to build.  No one ever built anything great without opposition. 

 

It also applies to music.  As an artist, there are also a lot of pressures.   Pressures to make the label money, build a career, deliver great performances, and manage the day to day grind.  This requires a mental toughness. 

 

This begs the question, how do you build your mental toughness?

 

1)    Commitment to one’s self.  

 

Regardless of how hard things may get, you have to stay committed to seeing it through.   If you are being asked or forced to step up, figure out how to do that.   Put in the extra time, study, or find a mentor.  Don’t back down!

 

2)    Expect opposition

 

It’s going to get tough at times, but figure out how to learn from those tough situations.  Learn how to be better prepared.   Play out the situations in your mind to find the weak areas.

 

3)    High Risk = High Reward

 

May sound cliché, but if you want that promotion or pay raise, then you will have to learn how to handle the pressure.   They don’t pay McDonald’s employees 40 bucks an hour for a reason.

 

4)    Find ways to decompress

 

Give yourself a break.   You may fail, and have to get back up.   You may need to walk away and let the day or week pass.  Figure out how to slow your mind down a bit and forget about those tough moments.

 

5)    Never stop learning and growing

 

Maturity comes in many different forms and we have to continue to monitor where we are at, how we respond to situations, and what can we learn from it.

 

I leave you with this word of encouragement…..

 

Continue to strive to reach your greatest potential.   Learn how to have more self-awareness so that you can pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses and work on them.   Focus on continuous improvement and the rewards of that will fall at your footsteps. 

Finding Your Voice as an Artist

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can definitely give an overview of my experience on this subject matter.

 

I actually think this is a tough subject, because there isn’t an exact path to finding your own voice or style.   Growing up I’ve always thought that emulating your favorite artist was the best way to grow as a singer/piano player/song writer.  I do believe it has some validity, because it gives you a place to build your vocabulary.   At the same time, it can also hinder you.  If all you ever do is practice trying to sound like them, you lose out on yourself.    How one artist sings a vowel or puts an inflexion on a phrase might not exactly be good for your voice.  

 

I think the first steps are to really spend time with yourself and learning your voice.   The last few years, I’ve spent countless hours recording.   I’ve learned so much about what is good for me and what isn’t.   I think it allowed me to get real with myself.   All of the things I “thought” sounded good, in fact, sounded horrible.   I started paying attention to the little details.   All the way down to the way I sang an “Oh” sound, or how I transitioned into my head voice.   Learning my voice helped me understand what sounded good on a recording.    In return, I feel like I produce more of a pure sound that is true to my own personal voice.   I definitely won’t proclaim to be the best singer, but I’m much more aware of the sound I produce. 

 

I think the next step is to really understand what moves you and fuse that into the material you are playing or singing.   The artists before us were able to develop their own style that we as fans fell in love with.  When you can begin to take what you’ve learned and developed and then relay that on a song or record, you begin to see more of your DNA or identity in the song.  I’ve always felt like if I didn’t play a song exactly the way I heard it on a record, then I wasn’t playing it right.   Ultimately if I sound like someone else, the feedback will be, “we don’t need another Usher, Justin Timberlake, Aaron Lindsey, etc.”  You can fill in the blank with any artist.

I think the next level only comes from spending time developing you.   Guess what, it may take a few years.    As musicians, we want to be great overnight and it just doesn’t work that way.   You can’t get impatient with the process.  

 

The third step is putting it out there for the world to hear.   You get a sense of what people respond to.   This should guide some of your decision making on what you should focus on.  My whole world growing up was R&B, but I’ve received a better response with some of my Pop/Rock songs than R&B.    Doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing or singing R&B, but I’m starting to understand what my lane should be.   I think your number one goal should always be quality.  With social media and technology becoming more accessible, it’s easier to put material out.   You should always remember that you are trying to portray yourself in a professional light.   You have to separate yourselves from the amateurs.  Otherwise people won’t respect it. 

 

 

Balancing Life and Practice Time

Balancing Life and Practice Time

I find that the older I get, the harder it is to really set aside quality time for practice.

I have a 3 year old, a wife, career in marketing, and my passion in music is as equally important as taking care of my family.  Honing my craft is a top priority for me.  

 

Through my experience on how to balance everything, I’ve found that it’s important to stick with learning concepts.   For instance, learning a chord progression in all 12 keys is more productive than trying to memorize 500 songs.   I struggle to retain music.  One might argue that I haven’t practiced the song enough so that it becomes a part of me.  I then run into the problem of having enough time to get a bunch of songs in my system so that I don’t even think about them.   If I learn concepts, I can apply those things to any song and it makes my ability to pick up songs a lot quicker and easier.   I’m really starting to understand that being an expert at a couple of things is much better than being mediocre at a bunch of things.   Safe to say, I still have a long way to go. 

 

With all of my years of playing though, I recommend that you just practice in chunks.  Take one concept, and play it until it’s instinctive.  Stop trying to go over a bunch of things that you won’t retain.  You will end up feeling overwhelmed and stuck.  If it takes you 6 months to perfect 1 concept, then that is the time it takes.  You will actually be able to see yourself grow.   I’ve grown more in 1 year than in 5 with this new method.  

 

Most nights I get 30 to 45 minutes to play and I try to make it as productive as possible.   Focusing on 1 thing at a time has been so much better and I don’t feel the pressure to go over a bunch of material.   If I’m learning a progression in a new key, I stick with that one key for the whole 45 minutes.   I then can focus on a new key the next day, but I stay focused on 1 concept. 

 

I hope this helps someone out there struggling to grow or who is feeling overwhelmed on what to practice. 

Rich and Poor

The Differences between The Rich and The Poor!! Very Interesting! How is your THINKING??

Rich people believe: “I create my life.” Poor people believe: “Life happens to me.”

Rich people play the money game to win. Poor people play the money game to not lose.

Rich people are committed to being rich. Poor people want to be rich.

Rich people think big. Poor people think small.

Rich people focus on opportunities. Poor people focus on obstacles.

Rich people admire other rich and successful people. Poor people resent rich and successful people.

Rich people associate with positive, successful people. Poor people associate with negative or unsuccessful people.

Rich people are willing to promote themselves and their value. Poor people think negatively about selling and promotion.

Rich people are bigger than their problems. Poor people are smaller than their problems.

Rich people are excellent receivers. Poor people are poor receivers.

Rich people choose to get paid based on results. Poor people choose to get paid based on time.

Rich people think “both”. Poor people think “either/or”.

Rich people focus on their net worth. Poor people focus on their working income.

Rich people manage their money well. Poor people mismanage their money well.

Rich people have their money work hard for them. Poor people work hard for their money.

Rich people act in spite of fear. Poor people let fear stop them.

Rich people constantly learn and grow. Poor people think they already know.