Category Archives: Personal Improvement

Full Voice Podcast

I was delighted to be a guest on Nikki Loney’s amazing Full Voice Podcast.  Nikki is a fellow Canadian and is a wonderful singer and voice teacher.  She also owns the totally AMAZING company The Full Voice, which is an amazing series of workbooks, songs an resources for voice teachers who work with children.  I am such a fan of here, so I was extra excited when she asked me to be on her very popular podcast!

We talked about my online courses, especially Piano Skills for Singers and the brand-new Crash Course in Solfege Courses!

LISTEN HERE!

 

 

Pandemic Practice: 3 Tips to Inspire You

 

  1.  Treat daily music practice as self-care:  With all the stress and uncertainty of pandemic life, we all need to be practicing more self care.  Yes, this includes drinking enough water and getting enough sleep, but why not treat your daily practice as a form of self care too?  Spending time every day singing, playing piano and just making music is a great way to invite structure and creativity into you day and will help to feed your mind, body and soul.

Good lighting is EVERYTHING.

Make sure your practice space is cozy and inviting.  Nice lighting adds a comfortable feel (get a decent lamp with a soft white lightbulb!), get a good quality chair or stool and fill your space with candles and inspirational quotes.  While you’re at it, make sure you give yourself some private and distraction free time.  Log out of your social media accounts, turn off your phone and hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door.  (Time to let your kids have some screen time!). This is YOUR TIME to center yourself into creativity, even if it’s only for a short time.

 3.  Get organized:  How many of us have desks and studios that are in rough shape?  Messes, piles of paper and a lack of proper materials will derail your practicing.  Take an hour or two and get your space in shape!  Put all of your music in a folder or binder, putting the most recent material up front.  Make sure you have your recording device, speakers, metronome, notebook and several pencils and pens handy so that when you sit down to work, you have everything you need.

Everything I need to be productive.

  • Put all of your music in a folder or binder so it’s all in one place when you need it.
  • Make sure you have your recording device, speakers/headphones, metronome, notebook and pencils handy so that when you sit down you’re ready to go!
  • Declutter anything from your practice space that you don’t need – household items like bills and paperwork and anything else that will distract you from practicing (Whose socks are these???)
  • Get rid of anything that is visually busy or otherwise distracting to your creative flow.  If there are small repairs that you need to make, or loose ends that need to be tied, take a couple of hours and just DO IT (We both know that your metronome has needed batteries for a while, so…)

3.  Create projects and goals to work toward.  It can be really hard to practice efficiently when we no longer have rehearsals, auditions and performances to be working towards.  Now is a great time to find creative solutions to those external goals.  Create new goals to help you stay on track and get motivated.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Do a deep dive of the work of a favorite singer or composer.  This is a great time to choose repertoire that differs from your usual work or “type”
  • Film yourself practicing once a week on social media to let your friends and fans know what you’re up to
  • Host a Zoom concert for your family or friends
  • Get together (over Zoom) with fellow musicians to share your work and do a feedback circle
  • Take an online course to help you build new skills
  • Create playlists of your “desert island” songs and learn them one by one (This is what I’m doing as part of my #RandomSongsILike project!)

 

 

Resparking the Creative in 2021: An Invitation


Happy New Year!  As we tiptoe into this new year, I wanted to take a moment to reach out and share what’s on my mind.

Honesty time:  2020 did not allow me much time or space to make much music.  I started out all guns blazing in January with the debut of a new song cycle called The Motherhood Project and then POOF – it was gone.

To be honest, my creative life has not been very consistent since my son was born 8 and a half years ago.  I have kept my musical life kicking in fits and starts – doing shows, touring, releasing a couple of albums, etc, but it just hasn’t been a regular process.  Most of my time has been focused on mothering, running my private teaching studio and in the last couple of years, I have added an online course business – Piano and Voice with Brenda – to the mix.  While it has all been exciting and creative, I still miss the focus I once had for actual music making.

In November of 2019, I did an 8-day residency at the Banff Centre for Fine Arts, which is located in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Banff, Alberta, Canada.  My creativity and inspiration were ignited once again, as I spent 10-12 hours a day in my own private studio practicing, writing songs and being engrossed in intensive music making again.  I wrote 10 songs over that short period of time for a song cycle called The Motherhood Project, which documented my journey as a mother in the 21st Century.  The project had its debut performance in January 2020 and my plan was to record and tour that project.  I could feel that my musical life was returning to me once more….

Of course, we all know what happened next.  Like pretty much everyone else on earth, I found myself in a tailspin that derailed every plan I had made.  Suddenly my son was home 24/7, and I was scrambling to teach my private students, run my online course business and keep my son occupied all at once.

Since then, I have been focusing on homeschooling my son and providing a loving and engaging home life for him.  I have also devoted a lot of my energy to making online lessons work so that my students can continue to grow and learn over Zoom (It ain’t easy!). Plus, the demand for online education has dramatically increased and I have worked hard to release three new courses through my Teachable platform.

As rewarding as all of this has been, I realize that there is a level of frustration rising in my soul.  Something is clearly missing.  So, as I’m often saying to my students, “sometimes you have to dig deep to be an artist.”

So, for 2021, I am going to get back to what made me a musician in the first place.  I want to get back to the root of what I love and honestly, I just want to have more fun making music.  Since there won’t be many (or any) in person gigs this year, I have decided that I’m going to do the best that I can under the circumstances.  To keep myself accountable, my plan is to record one song a week for the duration of the year.  Nothing is going to be terribly produced or elaborate – just something simple from my home studio.  I have no idea what I’m going to record.  I’m going to keep it loose and work on material that feels fun and engaging for me.

I’ll be posting it on my YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram account every week.  I still have no idea how this project is going to shake out, but damn it – I’m gonna do it!

If you have been thinking about doing something for yourself this year, I’d like to invite you to join me.  I know we’re all bogged down like mad and the last thing any of us has the energy for is ANOTHER PROJECT, but I do believe that a creative undertaking is usually something that brings more energy into your life.  Like you, I am stretched pretty darn thin, but I feel like I need to do this to get back to myself again.

So, who’s with me?!?  What creative project are you going to tackle this year?

Getting Started: How to use the Teachable Platform

Welcome to the courses!  Here is a quick-and-dirty tutorial on how to utilize the Teachable Platform.  Teachable is such a user-friendly and intuitive platform, which is why I chose it as the home of my entire suite on online courses!  Check out this short tutorial to get oriented!

Want to check out the courses? 

CLICK THIS LINK to see the entire suite of online courses and get started learning piano TODAY!

Which Piano and Voice with Brenda online course is right for me?

Now that there are FOUR courses live at Piano And Voice With Brenda, I have been getting a lot of questions about which course to choose.  This quick little list should help you get started choosing the perfect course to help you get secure at the keyboard.  If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at brenda(at) pianoandvoicewithbrenda (dot) com. I’m here to help!

Piano Skills for Singers Level 1 is for you if:

  • You have never played piano before
  • You haven’t taken piano lessons in a long time
  • You want a simple starting point
  • You want to get back into a practice routine and regain some technical fluidity

Piano Skills for Level 2 is for you if:

  • You have completed Level 1
  • You have piano experience, but there are a lot of gaps in your ability
  • You need to learn how to play chords
  • You need to learn how to create your own accompaniments
  • You need to learn how to play voice exercises in 12 keys easily

Do you have to be a singer to take Piano Skills for Singers?

Absolutely not!  Although these courses are geared towards singers, anyone would benefit from these well organized and easy-to-use courses.

Jazz Piano Accompaniment is for you if:

  • You have taken Level 2
  • You are a classically trained pianist and want to learn jazz
  • You want to learn how to play from a fake book
  • You can play chords and you want to play authentic jazz accompaniment

*If you can’t play chords fluidly, you can purchase the “Learn to Play Chords Symbols” course at a deep discount.

Piano Improvisation for Everyone! is for you if:

  • You are a classically trained pianist who wants to learn how to improvise
  • You are looking for a fresh new way to explore your creativity at the keyboard
  • You are a piano teacher looking for a new bag of tricks to share with your students
  • You want to develop your technical fluidity on the piano in a more creative way
  • You are a jazz player who wants to develop a deeper connection to improvisation
  • You are a circle singer or vocal improviser who is looking for a deeper toolkit
  • You are a songwriter or a composer looking for more inspiration

Private lessons are best for you if:

  • You are having technical difficulties, like tension, discomfort when you are playing, etc.
  • You have a specific set of concerns that are not covered by the courses
  • You prefer one-on-one instruction
  • You want to kick start your online course experience
  • You want to work on your singing (I teach that too!)
  • You have completed one or more of the courses and are keen to find the next step
  • You want to take occasional or regular lessons via Skype, FaceTime or Zoom

If you need help deciding which Piano Skills for Singers Course is right for you, please email me at brenda@pianoandvoicewithbrenda.com and I’ll help you!

Introducing…Piano Improvisation for Everyone!

Drumroll please….I am excited to announce the launch of my brand new online course called Piano Improvisation for Everyone!

Piano Improvisation for Everyone! is a course designed to get you improvising satisfying music at the piano. In this unique curriculum, you will learn a variety of techniques to get started improvising exciting music at the keyboard. Learn how to explore different harmonic material, melodic ideas, accompaniment techniques and started points for creating improvisation compositions. In addition, we cover how to improvise pop piano solos and jam on the blues!

This course is perfect from pianists of any level, from experienced beginner too advanced. Piano teachers will also get some great ideas and exercises to work on with their students. Discover the enjoyment of developing your technique, harmony and rhythm in a creative environment. Experiment with new sounds and ideas to apply to your songwriting or composing. The exercises are structured, but open ended enough that you could take the work in whatever direction you want to go.

Check out the course HERE!

Video: What is your why? Strategies for Success

It is easy to get bogged down with lists of things you have to do, but before that you need to identify your “why”. Why do you want to learn piano? Leave your comments below…

Want to know more about my work?  Check out my suite of unique online  piano courses  –     Piano and Voice With Brenda. Find out why hundreds of people worldwide are raving about this work!

On Getting S**t Done: Advice from the Trenches

            I have had several friends and colleagues tell me that they are amazed by my ability to juggle so many different balls at the same time.  I take is as a huge compliment and also am quick to point out that for the past several years I have been doing a lot of personal work trying to get myself to be able to function this way.  Thanks to the myriad of changes during the Covid-19 Pandemic, I find myself juggling even more balls than ever before.  (I’m guessing you are having the same experience?!?!). This blog post is written to show you exactly what I did to make my life more productive.

I am naturally a messy and disorganized person (just ask my Dad or my college roommates).  My disorganization has often been a source of frustration and has held me back in a lot of aspects in my life.  Now that I’m a mom, I basically had no choice but to get my bananas together so I could actually get something done in my life.

HOW DID I DO THIS?!?!?!

  1. Everybody contributes.  I’m lucky to have a great partner in my husband who is willing and able to do whatever needs to be done.  It took us time to figure out a balance that works, especially because he has a crazy job, but we did and it means that I’m not stuck in overwhelm getting everything done.   Our 7 year old also has a role to play in upkeep.  We have taught him to tidy his room, tidy    up after himself, he sets and clears the table and loads the dishwasher, in addition to putting his own laundry away.  It took a lot of work to teach him how to do it, but his help means I’m not doing every damn thing.
  2.  Simplifying and Minimizing.  Over the past several years, I have made it my mission to simplify every aspect of my life.  I have consumed a great many books, podcasts and blogs about minimalism, which have completely changed my life.  We have gotten rid of so much stuff, from clothes to toys and books.  I even did a huge overhaul of my studio space, getting rid of mountains of sheet music, paper and over 200 music books. (Check out my blog post on The Paperless Studio for more insight on how I did that!). I have simplified meals by choosing more straight forward dinners, which also simplifies our grocery shopping.  Our schedules are more simple too, as we are careful not to say yes to everything.  We do miss birthday parties and even the odd school or (gasp!) family event, but we do it so that we can enjoy our lives and focus on the things we really want to accomplish.
  3. Deciding what I want to do and only doing that.  My time is so limited and it has taken me until now to realize that I can’t possibly do everything I want to do.  This means that I prioritize my time to save my sanity.   A few times a year I make a master list of everything I want to accomplish, which are broken into categories like performance, teaching, online course and family.  On this list I brainstorm and dream.   Every month or two I take a look at this list and decide how much I can tackle.  If I have a lot of performances or a recording session, I prioritize practicing.  If I have a lot of open time, I may take one a larger project like creating additional material for my online course Piano Skills for Singers.
  4. Batching work.  I try to organize tasks that that I do a bunch of the same things at the same time.  If I’m going to edit and post performance videos, it makes way more sense for me to do a bunch of them at one time.  By the time I’ve remembered how to use the editing softward and have gotten the branding right, I may as well tackle 10 of them.  This also works great if I’m entering songs into Finale, sending emails to promotors for gigs or even writing blog posts. I try to choose a block of time when no one’s around (sometimes at 5am!!) and bang a bunch of similar tasks out in one sitting.
  5. Throw money at the problem.  When things get particularly busy or I’m in the middle of a lot of work, I sometimes just throw some money at the problem.  No time to do laundry?  I can send out a huge bag of it for $30.  No time to cook?  Time to pick up a rotisserie chicken or a damn pizza.  House is a mess?  Time to call a cleaning service.  My family isn’t super spendy, so if we do this now and then it’s not going to destroy us financially.
  6. Avoid procrastination.  Motherhood has taught me that I no longer have the luxury of procrastination.  My kid is in school from 8:40 until 3pm and if I don’t get done what I need to do then, it’s NEVER going to happen.  I have managed to (mostly) overcome time sucks like social media use and rampant email checking, mostly by going cold turkey.  Procrastinating is no longer a luxury I can afford, and somehow everything seems to get done.
  7. Letting it go.  Sometimes you have to make like Elsa and “Let it Go.”  (Cue eye rolling from my kid).  Some days all Hell breaks loose and getting things done just isn’t in the cards.  Take a break, say some bad words and move on.  Tomorrow is another day.

Hopefully this list helps you.  I work at all of this on a daily basis, trying to balance and juggle my family life while also trying to stay productive in my work life.

What do YOU do to get s#%t done??

Which Piano Skills for Singers course is right for me?

Now that there are FOUR courses live at Piano Skills for Singers, I have been getting a lot of questions about which course to choose.  This quick little list should help you get started choosing the perfect course to help you get secure at the keyboard.  If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at brenda(at) pianoandvoicewithbrenda (dot) com. I’m here to help!

Level 1 is for you if:

  • You have never played piano before
  • You haven’t taken piano lessons in a long time
  • You want a simple starting point
  • You want to get back into a practice routine and regain some technical fluidity

Level 2 is for you if:

  • You have completed Level 1
  • You have piano experience, but there are a lot of gaps in your ability
  • You need to learn how to play chords
  • You need to learn how to create your own accompaniments
  • You need to learn how to play voice exercises in 12 keys easily

Jazz Piano Accompaniment is for you if:

  • You have taken Level 2
  • You are a classically trained pianist and want to learn jazz
  • You want to learn how to play from a fake book
  • You can play chords and you want to play authentic jazz accompaniment

*If you can’t play chords fluidly, you can purchase the “Learn to Play Chords Symbols” course at a deep discount.

Piano Improvisation for Everyone! is for you if:

  • You are a classically trained pianist who wants to learn how to improvise
  • You are looking for a fresh new way to explore your creativity at the keyboard
  • You are a piano teacher looking for a new bag of tricks to share with your students
  • You want to develop your technical fluidity on the piano in a more creative way
  • You are a jazz player who wants to develop a deeper connection to improvisation
  • You are a circle singer or vocal improviser who is looking for a deeper toolkit
  • You are a songwriter or a composer looking for more inspiration

Do you have to be a singer to take Piano Skills for Singers?

Absolutely not!  Although these courses are geared towards singers, anyone would benefit from these well organized and easy-to-use courses.

If you need help deciding which Piano Skills for Singers Course is right for you, please email me at brenda@pianoandvoicewithbrenda.com and I’ll help you!

My Teaching Philosophy and wish for you.

This video is pulled directly from my online course Jazz Piano Accompaniment, which was released in December 2019.  This is the final video, where I wrap up what we learned and also shared some insight about my teaching philosophy and motivation behind creating these courses.

Want to learn more about my amazing suite of online courses?  Check out THIS LINK!