Mark Hopkins is a Student Advisor at Berkleemusic.com. He finished his studies at Berklee College of Music, as a Guitarist/Songwriting Major, in 2009. Mark is a regular gigging musician who has toured extensively and released 6 albums in the past 10 years. You can hear some of Mark’s music at www.markhopkinsmusic.com.


Student Advisor Mark HopkinsHowdy Folks!

So, in my last Blog I talked about how you get started when playing slide in open E tuning; now we’re going to get on the path to feeling more comfortable playing finger-style while in that tuning. This Blog will include Major/Minor/Dominant 7 Chords as well as a short description of harnessing your basic box Pentatonic scale. I am trying to get to the point where I can play a whole night on my Open E guitar and still feel as comfortable as I am in standard tuning. This is going to be a long road for me, but here are some tools and tricks I have found on the path thus far.

Here’s a Video of my band (Mark Hopkins & the Hotel) jamming Cissy Strut while in open E:

So, be fearless – tune that thing to Open E and explore. I am no where near where I want to be, as far as skill is concerned, but taking risks and falling on my face is all part of the process. Every show I get more comfortable in that tuning and I am sure you will too!

Funk Nugget:

Best of Luck String Slingers!

-Mark

www.markhopkinsmusic.com


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Berkleemusic’s next term begins on January 14th, 2013

Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:

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Michael Moyes is Director of Admissions at Berklee Online. He finished his studies at Baylor University, where he studied Piano Performance and Business. Michael has performed Piano as a soloist, in combos, and accompanied by full Orchestra. He holds Master Certificate in Arranging and Orchestration from Berklee Online. He also teaches bluegrass banjo in the Boston area. You can hear some of Michael’s music on the Berklee Music Network and on Soundcloud.


Does anyone else listen to WNYC’s radio lab? I thought so. How about when you are on the subway, exercising, cooking dinner, picking your kid up at daycare, or at any other socially acceptable moment? Great!! Looks like I’m in good company.

Recently I heard an archived podcast called “Music Language” and it completely blew my mind. Everyone should listen to it after reading the rest of this blog.

To get things started, here is my definition of perfect pitch…

Perfect Pitch – The ability one has to identify the pitch of a frequency without having the aid of a musical instrument or a reference tone. If I play you a middle C and then follow-up by playing a sequence of notes that you correctly identify, that doesn’t prove you have perfect pitch!!! Even musician and educator worth a damn understands that perfect pitch can NOT be learned.

Well, after listening to “Musical Language” I am not so sure anymore. Cognitive Psychologist and possessor of perfect pitch, Diana Deutsch is very interested in tone languages such as Mandarin Chinese. Languages like Mandarin rely very heavily on tones since the pitch frequency and fluctuation of a word is intimately connected with the meaning.  One popular set of words to showcase this is (Mâ, Mā, Mà, and Ma) which can mean mother, hemp, horse, or a reproach depending on the inflection and pitch. This relationship with tone is so hardwired in native speakers that their day to day pitch consistency is identical. Professor Deutsch made audio recordings of people speaking a few chosen words on multiple days and the pitch was indistinguishable one day to the next. See what I mean? Totally mind blowing stuff! It’s like me saying “good morning” everyday but having the frequency sound identical (regardless of whether I am sad, happy, tired, or hungry) every single day. What does this have to do with perfect pitch? In the US and other Western nations only about 1 out of 10,000 people have perfect pitch. People who were raised speaking and listening to a tone language have been shown to be 9 TIMES more likely to have perfect pitch.

My initial reaction: My 8 month old son will only be listening to Mandarin Chinese from here on out.

Let’s alter my original definition …

Perfect Pitch – The ability one has to identify the pitch of a frequency without having the aid of a musical instrument or a reference tone. If I play you a middle C and then follow-up by playing a sequence of notes that you correctly identify, that doesn’t prove you have perfect pitch!!! Even musician and educator worth a damn understands that perfect pitch can NOT be learned (unless you are between 6 and 12 months old and are regularly exposed to a tone language).

So if replicating these notes doesn’t confirm that you have perfect pitch, what is happening? It means you have relative pitch, which can indeed be learned through ear training. If you have a reference note (like the middle C from the definition), hearing the intervals between that note and the others can help you tease out the correct pitches. How does this work?

Let’s use a childhood classic to get a few pitches in our head. The root note is C. When we get to the note D “your”, you should note that the difference between the notes (the interval) is a major 2nd (get that in your ear!).

 

Now listen to the beginning of “Silent Night”. Same deal, major 2nd.

 

You can find hundreds of examples of all intervals (ascending, descending, augmented 4ths, Major 7ths, etc.) to exercise your brain and develop relative pitch. For an ascending tritone, think of Bernstein’s “Maria” from West Side Story. A descending perfect 5th? The Flintstones theme! There are also ear training courses like Basic Ear Training 1 and Harmonic Ear Training that will help you develop an incredibly intimate relationship with sound and harmony.

Let me ask you this musicians: Why do you want perfect pitch so badly? What are you missing out on? The folks I know who have perfect pitch tell me that they always hear car horns honking F# or elevators dinging with Db’s. As awesome (and maddening) as that sounds, I will stick with what I can control and develop my ear through ear training. I’ll leave the Mandarin to my son.

-Michael


Berklee Online’s next term begins on January 14th, 2013.

Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:

1-866-BERKLEE (USA) | +1 617 747 2146 (Intl) | advisors@berkleemusic.com

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Michael Moyes is Director of Admissions at Berklee Online. He finished his studies at Baylor University, where he studied Piano Performance and Business. Michael has performed Piano as a soloist, in combos, and accompanied by full Orchestra. He holds Master Certificate in Arranging and Orchestration from Berklee Online. He also teaches bluegrass banjo in the Boston area. You can hear some of Michael’s music on the Berklee Music Network and on Soundcloud.


Weird question, right? I only ask because I was recently in Helsinki, Finland meeting with other Music educators from around the world and well, this discussion kept popping up. Many of us were talking about how to prepare students who want to make their entire income strictly from Music. Chair of Professional Music Kenn Brass recently told me that only 7% of US residents make all of their dough from musical ventures. Berklee grads do a bit better than average but still come in at around 30%. 100% of your income means enough to cover, rent, food, transportation, your vintage vinyl collection, and if you have anything left over, new gear! Bill and Theo Huxtable illustrate this more elegantly than I can…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rh74tNeaZg

Are you going to make enough for ALL THAT by playing in a wedding band, having a youtube clip go viral, performing on live TV, and then touring the world???

Karmin

Errr, I guess it’s possible, but not very likely. Musicians (including Karmin) have to gig and gig and gig and be open minded for opportunities that may be outside their wheelhouse. I used to play a lot of wedding ceremonies; easy street for a classical pianist: Pachelbel’s Canon, Trumpet Voluntary, a couple Chopin Preludes, etc. What happens if a jazzy cocktail hour gig comes up? A high school Broadway production? A Nickleback fan club sing-along? Should I adapt to different styles I may not like to make a living OR should I say “I am a wedding pianist, that is what I do and I should be paid handsomely for dedicating my life to the continuation of this valuable art”.

I had never thought about playing gigs as ‘selling out’ but that may be because I am a product of my capitalistic society. People I met from Norway, Russia, and other countries felt very differently about the music profession. If Robert Schumann spent his 31 short years playing chamber music would we know his name today? Would music composition or performance have advanced as it has if Chopin didn’t dedicate all of his time and energy to composing painstakingly complex Etudes, Preludes, and Ballades? I don’t know. Should a government support its talented musicians financially so that they can put all of their passion and effort into creating incredible music? Perhaps they will create the next Beethoven or Beatles or Adele and bring pride to their country. There could be thousands of musicians who have what it takes to change the world so why are they using their energy to paint houses so they can pay their rent? These discussions and questions always funneled into differences between capitalism and socialism.

I guess I see their point and I think they see mine as well. I think the next Mozart or Rolling Stones or Justin Bieber will surface regardless of whether they are paid through government commissions or by rising to the top while gigging and making ends meet. We all have to live within the scope of our own realities. That being said, if some powerful government entity is reading this and wants to pay me a salary to dedicate my life to creating music, please post in the comments section and we will hash out the details.

-Michael


Berklee Online’s next term begins on January 14th, 2013.

Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:

1-866-BERKLEE (USA) | +1 617 747 2146 (Intl) | advisors@berkleemusic.com

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Michael Moyes is Director of Admissions at Berklee Online. He finished his studies at Baylor University, where he studied Piano Performance and Business. Michael has performed Piano as a soloist, in combos, and accompanied by full Orchestra. He holds Master Certificate in Arranging and Orchestration from Berklee Online. He also teaches bluegrass banjo in the Boston area. You can hear some of Michael’s music on the Berklee Music Network and on Soundcloud.


For the purposes of this blog, lets imagine that I am taking the role of the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin and you are my ambitious patient, Bob Wiley.


If you don’t know these characters, do yourself a favor by finding a VCR (the preferred way to watch a classic of this magnitude) and pop in “What About Bob?”.  Now Bob Wiley has just about every possible phobia known to man. Despite Bob’s difficulties, he makes an astounding transformation from a man who fears anything and everything to a capable, and valued member of society.

It is surprisingly common for students to call me and tell me they are going to quit their jobs, study Music Business full time and then become an A&R, a highly competitive job that requires extensive experience in the music industry. In short, quitting your job for a risk this big is not a good idea. I am in no way saying that people with such lofty goals are in the same category as Bob Wiley, but I often find myself giving advice that I learned from his psychiatrist, the great Dr. Leo Marvin. Baby Steps….

Student: “I have 3 kids and a mortgage and I work in the legal field. I don’t like my job so I am going to quit and start a record label.”

Michael: Baby Steps…

 

Student: “I write songs using a computer program. I am thinking about dropping out of college to move to LA and give Film Scoring a shot”

Michael: Baby Steps…

 

The “Baby Steps” idea definitely comes into play when you are interested in getting into the music industry (in any capacity). The talents who are discovered performing on YouTube and rocket straight to the Ellen Show are few and far between. It is ok to take your time and develop a foundation that you can build your future career on.

Step one: Come up with Measurable and Attainable Goals

It is fine to have a stretch goal like “I want to make music my primary means of survival”. The chances of this becoming a reality increases greatly if you have the foresight to break it down and get specific. For example, in 2011 I was studying Orchestration and I gave myself the goal of writing 10 new songs in one calendar year. The purpose was twofold: Get familiar with the regular writing demands required to do this professionally and to further develop my craft and portfolio. The exercise was challenging and contributed greatly to my goal AND I didn’t have to bet the farm to meet it.

Another exercise works for performers and teachers. Set a goal like the following “I want to make $500 this year from gigging/teaching banjo lessons/doing studio work/anything else related to music.” This will teach you how to manage your opportunities and how to follow-up! If you have convinced someone to study music with you and they have taken $100 worth of lessons and suddenly dropped off of the face of the earth, you need to make sure you nurture the relationship so that they come back and of course, tell their friends. Baby Steps…

Step two: Be Persistent

So, you have been baby stepping along and things are going great! Lets say you have a ton of music produced and you want to get some of that sweet, sweet royalty money. You have heard that Music Libraries and Sound Catalogs are a good way to get your foot in the door so you send some demos out and wait…and wait…and continue to wait.

You will keep on waiting unless you are persistent and leave no stone unturned. Call, email, and even show up at every music library you can find and be prepared to tell them why they should listen to your tracks. Have everything labeled and neatly organized to make it as easy as possible for them to hear your work. Just because you get one person to listen to your stuff does not give you an excuse to stop calling more libraries.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrZYQJ53ObI&t=5m56s

Step three: Never leave an opportunity on the table

I have tried my hand at transforming nonsensical synth midi recordings into orchestral scores so that an ambitious hobbyist could hear his creations performed by a studio orchestra. One time I had a gig transcribing extremely complicated Liberace piano solo’s from old video clips for a client who was dead set on reviving the old tunes. I even had the opportunity to score music for a group involved in supervised (yet illegal) intravenous drug use (that was a wild one). Sure, I made money in some of these cases. Others were utter financial failures. What gained in every instance was experience, and just as importantly, a reputation. Now if a transcription/film scoring/weird orchestration gig comes up I have demo’s to show them AND I have references. Be creative and realize that getting out of your comfort zone can lead to a breakthrough!

Working with music is extremely rewarding. Even if it takes you longer than you want to reach your financial goals, enjoy the ride. We are performers, producers, orchestrators, songwriters, artist managers, and more. It is amazing that people are willing to pay us to do something so fun! Take baby steps and you can make a transformation…just like Bob.

-Michael


Berklee Online’s next term begins on September 24th, 2012.

Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:

1-866-BERKLEE (USA) | +1 617 747 2146 (Intl) | advisors@berkleemusic.com

 

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Annie Sklar is a Student Advisor at Berkleemusic.com. She finished her studies at Berklee College of Music, where she studied Jazz Composition and Tenor Saxophone. Annie has worked and played with jazz greats such as Maria Schneider, Rufus Reid, and Herb Pomeroy. You can hear some of her music on the Berklee Music Network.


Dance is a four-letter word in jazz. The days of swing being the go-to dance floor soundtrack have long since past, and the jazz community gazes back on that era with the fondness for the quaint and the outdated usually reserved for doddering elders. Jazz has evolved into one of the highest forms of art music that humans can conjure up. At some point, the jazz listener evolved into a creature made entirely of ears, and maybe a tapping toe. There is a definite tendency in jazz to eschew music that does not live up to high intellectual standards (if you say that isn’t true, then you might be an offender), and an even greater impulse to dismiss entirely anything that features a pulsing groove specifically for the purposes of dancing. But wait! Are we jazzers missing out on a basic human experience – dancing?

There’s a lot of bad dance music out there. The explosion of technology available to “producers” (however Mom’s basement bound they may be) has made the creation of electronic music very easy. And good lord do hacks and jokers take advantage of that. Even well produced top 40 pop music is generally so musically egregious that stumbling upon it on the radio triggers my “ekldik!” reflex (ah Yiddish, the language of lovers- words that sound exactly like what they mean). But there is dance music out there that is creative, unexpected, and fun. A good DJ playing great, well-produced tracks can provide a mind-body-spirit lift of the highest order. Who cares if the track stays on the I chord the whole time? Appreciate the forward motion of the beat and the non-complexity of the harmony. As a jazz writer, I get my fill of reharmonization and multi-tonic systems. I often find myself appreciating dance styles for their lack of chords, traded instead for atmospheric harmonic structures. As long as the groove is hot and the DJ doesn’t try to mix in a track that’s a half step off-that makes me want to throw theory books towards the booth.

No, I’m not saying (and never would) that dance music could ever hope to even approach jazz, or classical, or any other art music in creativity, emotion, or intellectual pursuit. But I would argue that it doesn’t have to. And to shake a proverbial finger at those who might dismiss it for being aesthetically shallow, when was the last time YOU danced in public? Because that is the basic function of dance genres – party music! Music that exudes such energy that anyone within earshot can’t help but move. And nothing gets a crowd moving like a moving crowd.

And now to jump into a topic that I admittedly know next to nothing about- evolutionary biology! Why do we have such a primal urge to shake it when we hear an awesome drumbeat or bass line? Why did our propensity for what we call music evolve in the first place? And did dance come first, or the music that we dance to? Completely un-scientific Googling indicates that no one has any definite answers. There has been some research (you’re not really expecting me to footnote, right? You don’t want to read ‘em and I’m definitely too lazy to write ‘em. No need to get heavy. Let’s move on) that indicates that musical productivity mirrors reproductive activity in the life cycles of humans. Darwin believed that musical ability (like singing) might be a “sexually selected” (woo woo!) trait to aid in courtship, like a peacock’s tail. So maybe that’s part of it. But there’s another hypothesis out there, proposing that music evolved as a way to bind social groups together. I can dig that, can’t you? The original purpose of dancing could be related to reproduction; showing off for the opposite sex through movement is a technique that is employed throughout the animal kingdom-check out THESE FLY MOVES. But consider also the early human tribe preparing for battle with their rivals from the other side of the watering hole. I see fire and drums and music making and dancing and general revelry. This type of behavior is hypothesized to be able to bring the group to an altered, trance-like state of mind. Individuals would be more in line with the cause, even to the extent that pain and fear would take a back seat. A good old-fashioned team building exercise! We can still experience a little piece of this most primal exercise when we dance in a crowd. You get caught up, get a little wild, and have a great time. Dancing makes your body feel good and connects you emotionally with those around you. After a particularly epic build in a track, the adrenaline rush when it drops flows through the whole crowd at the same time. Not too often do we get that kind of shared elemental human experience in a positive context (such moments are generally reserved for moments of terror, like rapidly descending airplanes). We should enjoy it before we evolve it away!

We should all get to experience the benefits of music absorbed through primal functions like dancing. Art music is wonderful and perhaps the finest form of human creative expression. Everyone should at least try to listen and understand the exceptional and uniquely human ability to manipulate pitch, tone, and rhythm to create a thing that exists only for itself. That may be the zenith of human evolution-art for the sake of art. But it is valuable to sometimes experience music at a more primitive level. And dance music is perfect for that! You don’t have to think, you don’t have to analyze-you just get to enjoy it for what it is; a vehicle for movement. You don’t necessarily have to rave out with neon and glow sticks to get it. Enjoy the basic properties of the music: the drums, bass, builds and drops, and appreciate the simple modality. And be careful who you lay your jazz snobbery on, because you never know if that chick grooving out next to you has a degree in Jazz Composition. And if she does, she may just be able to justify why dance music deserves our love, too.

-Annie


Berkleemusic’s next term begins on September 24th, 2012.

Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:

1-866-BERKLEE (USA) | +1 617 747 2146 (Intl) | advisors@berkleemusic.com


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Doug Orey is a Student Advisor at Berkleemusic.com. He graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 2009 where he earned a degree in Music Business and Management. He is currently an avid gigging musician heavily involved in the Boston rock scene. He is the lead singer/rhythm guitarist and main songwriter for The Field Effect (www.thefieldeffectmusic.com/). He enjoys pizza and also has a beard.


So you have the line-up. You have the name. You have the songs. You’ve practiced until your fingers hurt and your lungs are empty. You’ve even picked those killer new shoes. You’re ready to take the stage and unleash your sonic awesomeness live upon the masses. So how do you get that first show?

When you have a brand new band booking those first few shows can be the hardest part. No one has heard of you so why should they book you at their venue? Johnny Slick says you can play his bar on Wednesday night at 6pm if you pay him $100 and guarantee you can bring at least 20 people willing to pay a $15 cover! As enticing as this deal sounds…don’t take it. I’ve heard a few different folks say you should expect to pay venue managers or promoters to play early on in your young band’s career. I’m here to tell you that you should NEVER pay to play. So here are a few tips, from my own experience, to help you nail down that first show.

Go to other shows. There is no doubt in my mind that there are other bands where you are. Get out there and go meet them. Become friends with them, especially bands that play music similar to your band. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about your project and what you’re hoping to do. Build up a solid rapport with the other bands on the scene and express your interest in opening one of their shows. We’re all in this together and every band remembers what it was like to book their first show.

Open mics are your friend. While not my favorite thing in the world, I acknowledge they can be a lot of fun. One thing about open mics that tends to be true nearly everywhere you go is they are run by fellow musicians from the local music scene. I just mentioned going to shows and meeting other bands…this gives folks from those bands an opportunity to hear some of your songs. If they like what they hear, you just upped your chances of landing an opening slot. Not to mention you might be able to earn a few fans!

Start small, be realistic and be honest. Everyone wants to play on a Friday or Saturday night to a packed house. The chances of this happening your first time out are going to be slim to none. If you’re e-mailing venues in town looking to book a show, start small. They are bound to ask what you think your draw is. If you think you can only get 10 friends out to the gig…tell them 10. Clubs talk to each other. If you tell one club that you can bring 100 people out and only 13 people show up they aren’t going to be happy. Start small, build your fan base and keep your reputation high.

If you want to be part of your local scene it’s important to immerse yourself in it. Be social and be sure to show your support for the other bands. We’re all in this together and want to help each other out the best we can.

Doug

www.thefieldeffectmusic.com
@thefieldeffect

Check out our Online Music Marketing course if you are interested in leveraging all of your digital marketing efforts.


Berkleemusic’s next term begins on September 24th, 2012.

Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:

1-866-BERKLEE (USA) | +1 617 747 2146 (Intl) | advisors@berkleemusic.com


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Leigh McLaren is a Senior Student Advisor at Berkleemusic.com. She has a bachelors in Music Business, and Masters in Higher Education. Leigh is a vocalist, who has concentrated primarily in Jazz and Musical Theater.


Berkleemusic Advisor Leigh McLarenMusic education is one of the most important forms of education. Which, I suppose, is obvious coming from me because I work at Berklee. However, it is not just me who stresses the importance of educating through music. Music has been known to help heal brain injuries with Therapeutic Music Interventions. Music has given troubled kids an outlet for their boredom, frustration, or even depression in school. It has also even proven to help students do better on their math tests. There are articles upon articles, and tons of research that state how music education is so important, and yet music educators often end up pushed against the wall trying to defend their programs so they do not get cut. People often fail to realize the significance of education through music, and how it can really make an impact.

Eight years ago, I had the opportunity to teach at a music camp in Newton, Massachusetts for 2 months, and that was one of the most amazing summers that I have ever had. Each week there would be a new set of kids who would spend the week learning different aspects of music; theory, history, performance, songwriting, etc. During that week the kids would break into bands, and write a complete song to perform for their parents on Friday. As you can imagine, some songs were better than others, but I have never seen kids ages 9-12 so focused on anything, as they would be when they were working on their song, or with their bands. You would see kids settle disagreements, teach each other different aspects of theory, and collaborate in a way that amazed me. I remember watching some of the performances at the end of the week, and being astounded at the discipline that students showed in a week.

That summer really showed me how important it is that kids, and adults have a musical outlet. To some people it’s playing in a band, to others it’s composing, and to few it’s studying, analyzing and breaking down the works of anyone from Beethoven, to John Cage.

So, as you, a “wanna be” music educator, struggle through that Music Theory 301 course, or that Harmony 2 course, just remember how important that it is to have that education, and be able to pass it along to the generation coming up behind you- or even next to you. Music has the ability to grow, challenge, and even repair the brain like nothing else does, so keep pushing through those courses, and pushing against those who doubt the value of music education.

-Leigh

“In every successful business…there is one budget line that never gets cut. It’s called ‘Product Development’ – and it’s the key to any company’s future growth. Music education is critical to the product development of this nation’s most important resource – our children.”
- John Sykes — President, VH1


Berkleemusic’s next term begins on September 24th, 2012.

Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:

1-866-BERKLEE (USA) | +1 617 747 2146 (Intl) | advisors@berkleemusic.com


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Mark Hopkins is a Student Advisor at Berkleemusic.com. He finished his studies at Berklee College of Music, as a Guitarist/Songwriting Major, in 2009. Mark is a regular gigging musician who has toured extensively and released 6 albums in the past 10 years. You can hear some of Mark’s music at www.markhopkinsmusic.com.


Student Advisor Mark HopkinsHowdy Folks!

As a regular gigging musician I often get flooded with questions from other guitarists about what amps, effects and guitars I use. As an advisor I get into a lot of the same conversations on the phone with other guitarist (mostly about what guitars I recommend they buy) whether they be seasoned professionals, amateurs or hobbyists. My goal in this blog is to inform you of my 22 year guitar hunt, which I hope will help you find your next perfect instrument.

As a kid you don’t know anything about guitars, pickups, amps, effects etc… So you deal with the hand you are dealt – not to mention you have no income as a 7th grader so you don’t get the right to be picky. I had no intentions to learn the guitar and then on my 10th birthday my parents presented me with a red Yamaha electric. It sat in my room for a year staring me down every day saying “learn me you fool” – so finally, a year later, I started private guitar lessons…. I am so glad I did because it has turned into a life long passion. I digress. That guitar had a cool configuration: 2 single coils (1 in the neck the other in the middle position) and a humbucker in the bridge. I liked that guitar because it gave me the best of both worlds (strat/les paul) although I did not know it at the time. I still have it – yet it has not seen any stage time in decades.

Soon after starting lessons I discovered Jimmy Page and was in awe of his sheer rock mystique. I was totally hypnotized by his old flame top Les Paul’s! I intensely lusted after a Les Paul, so I saved up some money from odd jobs and birthdays and bought a Black Les Paul Studio with chrome hardware in 1993! I loved that guitar; it was pure rock n’ roll and I recorded two albums with it. At that point in my career (if you could even call it that cuz I was still in high school) I didn’t appreciate that guitar enough or understand it’s legacy and tonal capabilities, which leads me to events that would follow. While recording the 2nd record I used one of the studio’s Fender Stratocasters on a tune that I thought needed more spank and twang and I fell in love! Up until that point I had never played a Strat and it was like the instrument was made for my hands. Sadly I sold the Les Paul – but gained an American Standard Strat , which has been with me since my early college years.

After the Strat everything snowballed! My obsession with guitars, amps and tone has only become more potent with my maturing career and currently I have guitars for any occasion: 2 Fender Strats, 1 King Bee Telecaster (they rule, it’s my current #1 www.kingbeeguitars.com, 1 Ibanez Hollowbody for the Jazz stuff, 1 Epiphone SG tuned to open E for slide guitar and a Taylor 714 CE for the acoustic gigs. Here’s some pics of my current six strings:

Strat 1
Tele 1

Strat 2
Tele 2

King Bee
King Bee

Ibanez
Ibanez

Epiphone
Epiphone

Taylor
Taylor

You might be asking – where is this blog going? Well, I agree with you, but I guess that’s the point. It’s a constant evolution of preferences. Here are a few things I think might prove helpful for those of you on the guitar prowl considering my experience:

1. My first suggestion to any player is this; play 100 guitars before you make a decision. With every guitar I bought, I played countless before I settled on one. As cheesy as it sounds, the guitar will choose you. They are all different so try not to choose one just because you like the color. You will know when the “one” shreds into your life. Make sure the neck feels comfortable and that your arms/wrists don’t feel fatigued or in pain after clanging away for a bit.

2. Don’t feel intimidated when you walk into a guitar shop. Some salesman can be lame and snobby so no matter what guitar you can afford just tell them you will find them if you need help. Take your time and don’t feel rushed – this is an investment and you need to make the decision that is right for you. Oh and it’s okay to leave the shop empty handed.

3. Think about what music you listen to and what type of music you want to play. That will help you choose the right kind of pick up configuration. I am primarily a single coil type dude, but love having a couple other guitars with humbuckers when I need that tone. Keep in mind if you love the feel of a guitar but aren’t blown away by the pickups that you can always swap pickups – that can make all the difference in the world!

4. There are many schools of thought when it comes to finger boards ie Maple vs. Rosewood. Some say Maple is brighter and Rosewood has a warmer/darker sound – honestly I think it just comes down to what feels better to you. There is no reason to get caught up in that debate when purchasing an instrument. I have always preferred rosewood boards to maple because of the way they play, not for how they sound (which is not even that much different if at all). It’s in your hands folks so that’s the best judge as you move from guitar to guitar.

5. Play the guitar through an amp that you think you might be purchasing or already have. That will give you a good indication of how your amp and hands react with the new guitar; which in turn will help make your decision that much easier. If the shop does not carry your particular amplifier – bring yours! It’s your investment, you should be happy with the decision.

I really hope that helps you guys find the axe you’re looking for! As guitarists, we’ll always be buying and selling our instruments.- it’s the nature of the poor musician. I like all of the guitar flavors and hope to explore every option before I leave this earth…it’s just plain fun!

Happy hunting and I hope you find the guitar that melts your face.

Stay Classy Berkleemusic,

Mark

www.markhopkinsmusic.com


Want to take your guitar chops to the next level? Check out our guitar courses and certificates.

Berkleemusic’s next term begins on September 24th, 2012.

Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:

1-866-BERKLEE (USA) | +1 617 747 2146 (Intl) | advisors@berkleemusic.com


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Annie Sklar is a Student Advisor at Berkleemusic.com. She finished her studies at Berklee College of Music, where she studied Jazz Composition and Tenor Saxophone. Annie has worked and played with jazz greats such as Maria Schneider, Rufus Reid, and Herb Pomeroy. You can hear some of her music on the Berklee Music Network.


Last week, we covered prepping for an interview. You should have all your ducks in a row, now its time to make it count!

THE BIG DAY

What should I wear? Tricky. I like to look at the organization’s website for telling pictures, but that’s not fool-proof. Much depends on your field-if you’re looking to work in high finance, you’ll likely want to wear a suit. But creative fields, colleges, small businesses-it’s hard to know what their office culture is like. As a girl, a simple, solid color, tailored dress with minimal jewelry works for me. That’s pretty fail safe. For the guys, in most cases you don’t have to wear a suit, but you may want to bring a sport coat just in case. You can always feel out the scene once you get to the interview, and if everyone else is dressed up, toss it on. A nice shirt (iron it, please, and no pit stains) with a reasonable tie, nice pants and decent shoes will generally work. The key is to look neat, clean, and pulled together. This extends to hair, nails, and any bags or cases you might have with you. This should be common sense, but avoid logos, statement jewelry, cleavage, short skirts, and all variety of rips and tears, even if they came built into the garment.

Get your materials organized ahead of time. You should bring a resume for each person who will be talking with you (if you’re not sure how many people there will be, bring some extras-I usually bring six). You may want to include your card, and possibly letters of reference. If there are multiple pages, collate them so that you hand each interview participant a packet without first rifling through a million sheets of paper. If you’re interviewing for a position that requires a portfolio, make sure it’s clean, complete, and relevant to the position you’re applying for.

Be nice to people. Receptionists are often the most connected people in any office. Don’t get off on the wrong foot by being rude (even if you’re just nervous). I once worked at the front desk of a busy office, and was regularly astounded by how obnoxious some people were to me. You better believe I’m going to say something if you were condescending or rude (or firing profanities at me. True story!). I don’t want someone like that working in my office. If you are neck in neck with another candidate, the decision could come down to who appears more desirable to work with. If you’re nice and polite, you’re on the right track. Also, if you’re funny, don’t be afraid to use it to your advantage! The interview is not the time to try out your new stand up routine, but a little appropriate humor never hurts.

Take a deep breath, and show them your stuff. This interview is a performance and a sale, all in one. You are the product, and you are selling yourself. Be confident, be professional, SMILE. Make eye contact, and maintain it as much as you can without being creepy. Don’t repeat yourself too much. Reiterating your strengths is great, but if you start to say the same things verbatim (which can happen easily if you’re nervous), people will notice, and their impression could be that you are limited or one-dimensional. Try to avoid “ummm” and “uhhhh” as much as possible. It’s ok to pause for a moment to think, or even buy yourself some time with a little intelligent filler (“Hmm. That’s a great question! Let me think about that for a moment.”). And lastly, don’t ramble on. If you’ve said what you need to say, stop talking. Just close your mouth and smile. Ever heard what Miles Davis said to Coltrane when he didn’t know how to end his solos? “Take the horn out of your mouth.”

If they want to talk, let ‘em talk. Listen, and don’t interrupt. A talkative interviewer can be a great advantage, as they’ll gives you lots of ammunition for asking pointed, intelligent questions. However, a real talker can pose some challenges. Timing could get dicey, as many interviews are broken into several meetings with different individuals or teams. You could also feel like you didn’t get the chance to fully present yourself, and you may end up interrupting them to get your two cents in. If you find yourself interviewed by a turbo talker, keep your answers clear and concise, and don’t stop talking until you’ve said all you need to say. Keep any questions brief and relevant.

THE AFTERMATH

Write a thank-you email. Keep it short, keep it simple. Thank them for their time, and let them know you’re looking forward to hearing from them. DO NOT include the twenty-five things that you forgot to mention and remembered on the train home (and you will have those moments, at least the first few times you interview). Make sure your note is sincere and well-written; no abbreviations (OMG, thx so much 4 everything!), and for the love of god, no emoticons.

Get ready for more. No matter what the outcome, it’s important to remember that there is no magic bullet. The job market is competitive, and any job worth having is going to generate a lot of interest. Most people don’t get the job, even when you nail the interview. The disappointment can get pretty real, especially when you’re fresh out of college and your student loan grace period is barreling to a close. But interviewing is great experience, and the more you do it, the better at it you’ll get. So go forth, apply, and interview!

-Annie


Berkleemusic’s next term begins on September 24th, 2012.

Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:

1-866-BERKLEE (USA) | +1 617 747 2146 (Intl) | advisors@berkleemusic.com


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Annie Sklar is a Student Advisor at Berkleemusic.com. She finished her studies at Berklee College of Music, where she studied Jazz Composition and Tenor Saxophone. Annie has worked and played with jazz greats such as Maria Schneider, Rufus Reid, and Herb Pomeroy. You can hear some of her music on the Berklee Music Network.


Job interviews are fun! OK, they’re not fun. They’re stressful, competitive, and even a little scary if you haven’t done many before. But there are things you can do to make the interview process easier and put yourself in the best position to nail it. There may always be other candidates out there with equivalent, or stronger, experience than you have, but hey, you got the interview. They want to meet you because they liked your resume and your cover letter, and they think you’re a qualified candidate for the job. Now you need to convince them that they were right (which should be easy-everyone likes to be right). You have to figure out how to present yourself as the inevitable choice. Here are some tips that, if wielded effectively, can make you seem like THE candidate.

GETTING READY

Before you get there, you need to prepare. Don’t try to wing it. Seriously. The magic of the internet makes research easy, so do your homework. Find out everything you can about the company or organization. Know a general history, core values or mission, current initiatives, and plans for the future (a new location, a fundraising campaign, etc.). Even if you don’t end up referencing much of it, having an arsenal of information will give you confidence and stimulate intelligent conversation that goes beyond stock interview questions. Avoid trivia (“I saw on your website that your last fundraising campaign raised 59.6 million dollars over less than 48 months, and that construction is underway on your new 63-story office tower with gourmet food court and fitness center. That must be very exciting for you!”), but you can definitely use general information to your advantage (“I was impressed by the success of your last fundraising campaign. Do you have any similar initiatives planned for the future?”).

Study the job description. I’m going on the basic assumption that you know what you’re applying for. Don’t be that person who blindly submits job apps because it’s all online and it’s really easy and you can do it while you update your facebook status. Let’s not go there. Read the job description carefully and look for keywords that you can reference when describing your work experience. You’re applying for an administrative assistant position, and one of the items on the listing is “Coordinate monthly meetings for office staff.” At your last job, you’ve been answering the phones and booking birthday parties for 50 squealing six year olds at your local bowling alley (been there, done THAT). When you describe what you’ve been doing, talk about how you “coordinated large group reservations.” Even though you’ve never scheduled office meetings, you’ve connected your experience to the position at hand by using a key word (“coordinate”). You’ve coordinated before. See how that goes? The trick is to work these words into natural conversation-if each sentence out of your mouth contains the word “coordinate,” that’s going to sound canned. A good trick is to make a list of your experience that is relevant to the position. Go through the list and see if you can find a keyword in the job description to with each item of experience. Reference these words in the interview! You’ll sound professional, educated and intelligent.

Rehearse. You know what they’re going to ask. Prep your answers, it’s ok! I have found it helpful to write out responses to the questions I KNOW they’re going to ask me (“Tell me about yourself” “Why are you looking for a job” “Why do you think you would be a good fit for this position” and “Why should we hire you”). Do this as far in advance as possible, so you have a chance to revisit them several times and edit. I wouldn’t recommend bringing that document to the interview, just try to internalize the content so that you can speak naturally and not sound like you’ve memorized lines. Being well prepared for these types of questions will prevent moments that might invite rambling jabber (more on that later), and will also help you out if your interviewer is a dud (it happens). I’ve been in interviews where the person I was speaking with asked ONLY prescribed questions (right off the page, I could see), then went on to the next question without any follow up. If that happens, it’s up to you to make sure that all of your pertinent information is getting across. If your interviewer isn’t helping you out, you’ll have to help yourself by expanding on your own answers. Another possible scenario is that the interviewer is under-prepared or inexperienced, which can also be very challenging. The better prepared you are, the more you will be able to steer and stimulate the conversation.

Plan your questions. As you’re moving through the interview, you will definitely want to ask any RELEVANT questions that arise for you. You’ll feel like you’re having a real conversation, which makes things easier, and you’ll also demonstrate interest, critical thinking, and give the interviewer a chance to talk (everybody likes to talk). However, you will also want to prepare some questions for the moment when you will inevitably be asked “So, do you have any questions for me?” The answer is yes, if you want the job. You should come up with as many questions as you can, with the expectation that some will be answered during the course of the conversation. You can ask basic questions about the job, like “How soon would I be able to start?” or “How long is the training period for this position?” You can ask about compensation/benefits, but tread lightly. You don’t want to sound as though you’re only in it for the cash and the perks. “Does the company offer any tuition assistance for professional development?” is a great question, as it shows that you would be interested in pursuing some education to make you better at your job.

Know whom you will be meeting with. You may not know ahead of time exactly who will be in the interview, but you should know who to ask for when you arrive, and what their title is. Knowing whether you are meeting with an HR officer or the direct supervisor for your position may even effect how you tailor your answers. An HR person may not work in the office you are applying to, and may not have in-depth knowledge of the position beyond the description they’ve been provided with. This situation is a perfect time to use those keywords that we talked about before!

Know where you’re going. And what time you need to be there. And please show up on time. About ten minutes early is perfect-too early, and you may be inconveniencing the people who have scheduled your interview into their presumably busy day. Make sure to bring the appropriate contact information so that you can call if you are running late for some reason. Should that happen, don’t dwell on it too much. Apologize briefly (but sincerely) and move on.

Next week, we get to talk about the big day and how to make it count!!!

-Annie


Berkleemusic’s next term begins on September 24th, 2012.

Find out more at berkleemusic.com or contact a Student Advisor:

1-866-BERKLEE (USA) | +1 617 747 2146 (Intl) | advisors@berkleemusic.com


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