Embrace Who You Are and KNOW Your Value

It’s been a wild week here on the East Coast. Fortunately we were spared
the worst of Hurricane Sandy, but too many others were not so lucky. If you
were (or still are) affected by this unbelievable storm, please know that I am
thinking of you and hoping that you and your loved ones are safe.

It’s moments like these that remind me how incredibly lucky I am to get to
do what I do and love so much on a daily basis, how fortunate I am to know
so many amazing people and artists and that it truly is the people who
matter most. We work hard, we strive for success, but really, at the end of
the day, what matters most are the people.

Unfortunately, artists (people) and the art they create are often sorely
undervalued. But can any of us really imagine a world without art?
Without music? What kind of world would that be?

I want you to know that I value you! Embrace who you are as an artist
and on those days when you are feeling the nagging voice of uncertainty,
close your eyes and try to picture that world without art, without music,
and know that the value of what you are contributing is simply too huge
to be measured!

All my best,

Jennifer

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Nothing Is Written In Stone

My neighbor has a beautiful garden in her yard, in the center of which is a rock engraved with the words “Nothing is written in stone”.

Get it? A stone, with the words “nothing is written in stone” written on it (sigh – makes me laugh every time!)

The other day though, it got me to thinking….Have you ever hesitated in making a decision because you were afraid of making the wrong decision? Or hesitated in taking some action because you were afraid you might not do it “correctly” or well enough? As though somehow this decision or action would be written in stone, forever, no “take-backs”.  The truth is, life is full of “take-backs”. You try something, maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t well than you try something else. Mistakes are an inevitable part of growing, evolving. If you make a decision and it turns out to be flawed in some way, you learn from it and armed with new information and a new perspective, you make a better decision the next time around. Like good decisions, mistakes propel us forward, whereas indecision and inaction keep us right where we are.

So if there’s something you’ve been hesitant about, make the best decision you can right now and go for it!

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The Entrepreneurial Spirit

I was re-reading Richard Branson’s incredible book “Losing My Virginity” the other day. Talk about entrepreneurial spirit! That guy is really inspiring.

One story that I particularly love is the story of how he essentially began Virgin Airways. Apparently he and his future wife were in the Virgin Islands for a vacation. When they arrived at the airport at the end of their stay, they discovered their flight to Puerto Rico had been cancelled and an airport full of stranded passengers. I’m sure we can all imagine the scene….people frantically trying to arrange for alternate flights, angry to find there aren’t any available….trying to figure out how to get where they need to go or arrange for a hotel room…..

But that’s not what Mr. Branson did. Instead, he made a few calls, chartered a plane for $2,000 and then sold the seats for $39 each. The flight sold out and they all got to Puerto Rico.

That’s entrepreneurial spirit! Rather than looking at why something can’t work, or focusing on the problem, he found a solution. Granted it wasn’t a conventional solution and it required a bit of a risk on his part (what if nobody bought any tickets?), but it was still a solution! Sometimes the conventional solutions don’t work, sometimes it takes a risk (albeit a calculated risk) but there’s always a solution. We just have to tap into our own entrepreneurial spirit and create it!

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Overcome the Overwhelm

Any entrepreneur will tell you how easy it is to become overwhelmed. As “artist-preneurs” we’re particularly vulnerable to overwhelm. Not only are we developing our businesses, but the business is a hugely personal one. We naturally want to get it all done and of course get it all done right.  On the PR front alone there are so many things to focus on: Website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, e-mail mailing, blogs….not to mention press releases, radio campaigns, booking gigs…AHHHHHHHH.  Then when you consider the creative aspect to it all, the writing, the recording, the rehearsing, photo shoots, video shoots – it can all get pretty overwhelming.

I’m sure you can imagine the scenario (maybe you’ve experienced it first hand) – It goes a little like this:

  1. You make your daily To Do list
  2. You decide that today you’re going to get it ALL done!
  3. You look at the daily To Do list
  4. You go into the kitchen and make some coffee
  5. You look at the daily To Do list again
  6. You answer some e-mails
  7. You look at the daily To Do list again
  8. You scan Facebook, surf the web, etc.
  9. You look at the daily To Do list again
  10. Hey look at that, it’s lunchtime………

Are you laughing yet? I hope so :)

How many times I did this, then wondered how it was that at the end of the day I had actually gotten so little accomplished. It’s not like I was watching TV or something, I was busy, right?

I wanted to get it all done, but why didn’t I?  Overwhelm.

Looking at that list, with the intention of getting it all done is really overwhelming. Where should I start? But if I work on that I won’t get the other stuff done….okay, maybe I’ll try to get a little of everything done…but which parts? You see where this leads?

The truth is, if your To Do list looks anything like mine, you WON’T get it all done that day and if you try, you’ll only wind up getting dispersed and discouraged.

So here’s what I do now, and it WORKS!

  1. Keep a running list of all the things I want/need to get done or ideas I may have
  2. Keep it somewhere where I can see it – a large white board works well
  3. Everyday I make the decision to get ONE task accomplished. That’s it, just one.
  4. When I’ve finished it, I check it off (or wipe it off) and then choose another.
  5. When I think of new things I add them to the list. By writing things down, I know that I won’t forget them, however it doesn’t mean that I need to try to accomplish them right away.

The key here is to focus on ONE thing at a time, get it done and then move on. Chances are by working in this way you’ll find that by the end of the day you’ve actually accomplished many of the tasks on your list. Go figure!

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Running Your Own Race

Most of us are, to at least some degree, competitive by nature. Sometimes, this is a good thing. However, when it comes to your career – and your life – it can also get in the way. Especially if/when you start comparing your achievements to the achievements of others. Be honest here, how many times have you looked at someone who may be a few steps further along in his or her career and started comparing your success to theirs. Maybe they’ve recorded and sold a bunch of CDs, or are out there touring all the time, or simply have a great website, photos, etc. It’s really easy to start comparing where you are to where they are – like running a race. Here’s where the “I should have done this already” or “Why don’t I have that” or “They’ve done some much more than me”……starts to come in. These thoughts take focus and energy away from what you are doing.

The truth is, while we can learn a great deal from those who are further along, the only race we can ever run is our own. Know where you are now, where you want to be and start taking the steps to get there. If you don’t know what the steps are, then your first step is to ask. You may be surprised by how willing people are to help! :)

Jennifer

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Are You Investing in YOU?

In keeping with the hot summer weather, I have a hot investment tip for you….are you ready…wait for it….IT’S YOU!

I’m not an investment expert, but you don’t need to be an expert to know that the old “tried and true” investment models are pretty much out the window these days. The stock market is all over the place, everyone lost a bundle in their 401K accounts and real estate is proving not to be the safe investment it was once thought to be. There really don’t seem to be any truly secure ways to invest for your future these days, EXCEPT, yes, that’s right, YOU. You are, without question, the surest thing you have going.

But, are you investing in this sure thing? How much time or money did you spend last year on professional or personal development? Was there something you wanted to do (i.e. Take a class or workshop, work with a coach or mentor, go on a retreat, etc) but you told yourself you just didn’t have the time or the money? For a long time, I rolled along doing what I did, knowing what I knew and while it was okay, it was when I started REALLY investing in myself, that things took off for me. In the meantime, my IRA has tanked and the value of my house has gone down, BUT I’m not worried. Because I know that these are not my real investments. My REAL investment is me and I know without question that I will always be able to take care of myself. Now THAT’s something worth betting on!

Happy investing :)

Jennifer

 

Rock Out Without Ruining Your Voice!

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Have you ever had a voice teacher tell you that if you sing _______ (insert your favorite genre of popular music here. . . Rock, Blues, R&B, Gospel, etc) you’ll ruin your voice?  I’ve spoken to many singers who’ve had this experience and it’s distressing! The singer’s concern is completely justifiable. Let’s face it, you can’t very well earn a living as a singer if you can’t rely on your voice to perform consistently. It’s like the professional athlete who’s always on the injured list. It’s not too long before he’s a retired professional athlete.  Bottom line, it’s hard to feel free to rock-out, if you’re worried about blowing out your voice.

So is it true?  Are some styles of singing inherently damaging? If you want to preserve your vocal health do you need to give up singing these styles?

I’m happy to tell you that this does NOT have to be the case.

Certain styles of music use a vocal styling that some call “singing hard” or “belting”. Whatever you call it, the bottom line is that these styles of music call for vocals that are full, rich and natural sounding. While this style of singing may be more vigorous it CAN be done without hurting your voice.  It’s not the sounds you make it’s the WAY you make them. Let’s look at this in more detail.

1) Singing “hard” works your vocal muscles more vigorously. However, it’s not this vigorous workout that creates vocal fatigue and blowout, muscle tension and manipulation are the offenders. This muscle tension can occur in various parts of your body including your lips and face, tongue, jaw and abdomen, which then creates tension in your throat. After singing with this extra effort for a period of time, the tiny muscles that create your sound become exhausted and voila! vocal fatigue or vocal blow-out. If you knew how to let your voice work free of muscle tension and manipulation, you could sing the way you want (sound and style) without hurting your voice. Eliminating these types of muscle tension will help your voice work freely and will help you to sing for long periods without fatigue or hoarseness.

2) In addition to muscle tension and manipulation there is another major cause of vocal blowout – pushing out TOO MUCH air when singing. Making vocal sound requires breath. Some sounds require more or less breath than others, but whatever sounds you’re making, your vocal instrument requires a proper balance of air to work effectively and easily. This balance is dependent upon a well-regulated (controlled and varied) air stream. If a singer forces out too much air, his vocal instrument will be thrown out of balance and consequently, the muscles react by tensing. From there, manipulation tends to be used to create the sounds that would have been so much easier if the correct balance of air had been used.

3) Most singers I talk to understand the importance of warming up their voices before singing. However, what a lot of singers don’t know is the importance of cooling down the voice AFTER singing. It seems logical enough, but is often missed.

If you think of yourself as an athlete, it makes a lot of sense. After all, would a runner, immediately after running the marathon plop himself down on the couch? He may WANT to, but the runner knows that if he doesn’t cool down his body, by stretching, walking, etc, the muscles of his body will stiffen. The same holds true for the muscles that create your sound. A good vocal cool down gets the muscles that are used to create sound back to their normal resting state.

4) Lastly, some vocal styles simply require more vocal development than others. Strong, hard hitting sounds can be created easily when the muscles are well developed through proper vocal exercise. Would that same athlete attempt to run a marathon without training for it first?  A good athlete knows that he needs to exercise his body first and develop the muscles necessary. So in addition to all that I’ve mentioned above, know that correct vocal exercise is another very important step that you can take to enable yourself to sing the way you want without vocal fatigue and blowout.  For that reason, the number one, most important thing you can and should do to maintain vocal health, if you don’t already have one, is to find a vocal coach! And not just any vocal coach will do. You need to find a coach who understands the style(s) of music you sing and is able to coach you to sing these styles in a healthy manner, without compromising your personal style.

As always, please feel free to write your comments below.

For more information on my specialized vocal training program and music career coaching please call 617-536-4553 or write to me at jennifer@jennifertruesdale.com.

“Jennifer Truesdale was recommended to me as one of the best in New England. I believe she is the best…I was convinced that every time I saw her, this woman had some sort of magical fairy dust that she sprinkled on my vocal cords. My range has increased dramatically and I am able to hit notes that for the longest time I was only able to hear in my head. My pitch and consistency, as well as my vocal durability have never been better. – Megan Bayra, Singer-Songwriter


 

Singing Career Success Tips!

Like any business or career, building a career as a singer takes a vision, a lot of hard work and a strategic plan. Over the years I’ve worked with many, many singers starting out
on their careers. They often ask me what key things they should know. Here’s what I tell them and what I’ll now share with you:

1. There is no “one-size fits all” career model. The ways to make a living making music are as varied as the singers and musicians themselves. The key is finding what’s
right for you.

2. Have multiple income streams.

3. Always play with musicians who are better than you.

4. Keep learning! Take constructive criticism and use it to make yourself a better singer and musician.

5. Find a mentor or mentors someone who’s already doing what you want to be doing and ask lots of questions

6. Stretch yourself beyond—way beyond— your comfort zone. If you don’t know how to do something, figure it out, or find someone to help you figure it out.

7. The more musicians you know, the better.

8. Always be true to yourself, but be willing to explore new things

9. Don’t burn bridges. If you choose to leave a gig, do it professionally. Also, don’t post negative comments about other musicians or bandleaders on Facebook or Tweet about
them. Remember that there really is no such thing as a “private internet” and you don’t want these negative comments to come back to haunt you.

10.  If it’s not fun, don’t do it. This doesn’t mean it won’t be hard work, but if you’re going to work hard at something, shouldn’t it be fun?

11. The hardest part is between start and begin. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to get started. For me, the stumbling block was often this idea that I had to have it all figured out, had to know how everything was going to go, before I started. The truth is, all you really have to do is start. Yes, you want to have a plan and a solid idea of what you want to accomplish, but you don’t have to have every single step figured out. A lot of it you’ll figure out as you go. Also, if you try to have everything figured out before you start, you won’t leave yourself open to unexpected opportunities. There will be obstacles along the way, things you need to learn, mistakes you’ll make. But in the beginning, all you really need to do is start!

(excerpted from Get Paid To Sing: The Singer’s Guide to Making a Living Making Music by Jennifer Truesdale)

 What do you think? Care to Comment?

Are Your Ducks In A Row?

As you know, I’m a big fan of  “Dream it, Plan it, Do it”.  Success truly requires all three.  In my opinion, planning is a step that is often overlooked, which can lead to feeling disorganized, overworked, dispersed and potentially not getting any closer to your dreams. It is, however, possible to OVER-Plan. It’s a very easy trap to fall into, being very busy “getting your ducks in a row” creating plans, setting up this, setting up that, but not really DOING anything.  So while I’m a big fan of planning, I’m also a big, BIG fan of ‘tweaking as you go!”.   Example: want a CD to sell at your shows, but don’t have the money or time for a full on production? Record 4-5 high quality but simple acoustic versions of your songs and sell those CDs at your shows. Then use that money to record a full length/fully produced CD.  Same thing for websites. You don’t need an elaborate multi-paged site right away (if ever). Start with a simple one page site. You can always add to it or change it later on.

The point is, dreaming and planning are important, BUT there comes a point when it’s time to stop planning and time to start DOING. Ok, so maybe you’ll have a few rogue ducks, but you can always corral them later.

Brick walls

This weekend I started re-reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. I’ve read it several times before, but it is still a delight. If you’ve never read the book or watched the video, I highly recommend it.  (Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture)

Every page of the book is filled with absolute gems. One of my favorites has to do with brick walls – you know the seemingly impenetrable barriers that so often appear as we work to achieve our goals.  Here’s the quote:  “The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something”.  Wow, right!?!

As artists on our paths to success, we’re likely to encounter a lot of brick walls. For each, there’s a strategy. Some need to be charged at head on, others chipped away at bit by bit and others need to be skillfully scaled. Sometimes we need a boost from someone or something and often, probably more times than any of us would like us to admit, we need someone to throw us over.

What are your brick wall strategies?

Jennifer