We all see new technologies being introduced every day. Some are embraced. Some are discarded. But, there’s no doubt that musicians lives are being affected by these technologies.
I’m not talking about the reputed demise of the music industry, sagging sales of recorded music, and plunging revenues for record companies. The truth is that only a tiny sliver of musicians were ever part of those revenues anyway.
I’m talking about the vast majority of musicians – the 99%, if you will – who play for fun or for some part-time income. The funny thing is, this even describes most full-time professional musicians. Most of them make only part of their living from performing and recording. They teach and do other activities to keep their music careers going.
For this 99% technology is definitely making life easier. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a music professional, here are three ways you can use technology to make your life better right now:
Access Gig Materials Electronically
Need to learn a song you’ve never heard before? Go to YouTube, Rhapsody, or any one of hundreds of other websites to listen to multiple versions of the song. Doesn’t matter if it’s rock, jazz, or classical. There’s a recording somewhere.
Want to leave your sheet music at home? More and more musicians are loading their sheet music onto their tablet computers. I’m seeing more and more iPads at performances, and this trend will only rise over time. It’s a lot easier carrying one iPad than three binders or fake books worth of charts to a performance. I was at a club listening to a jazz group recently. The room was full of swing dancers, and one of the dancers requested a song. The band knew the song, but the singer didn’t know the lyrics. On stage, in front of the audience, he pulled up the lyrics on his iPad and sang the song. Crisis averted.
Learn Faster than Any Previous Generation in Human History
The number of learning technologies available to musicians today is staggering. I mentioned YouTube above, and there are probably more instructional videos uploaded to that site daily than you would have time to watch in the next decade. Some of these videos are clearly terrible, and some even have incorrect or incomplete information. However, there are thousands of terrific videos of thoughtful musicians who will show you how to play whatever you need to learn.
Accompaniment software and musician apps give you tremendous opportunities to learn and assess your progress. Smart Music, Band in a Box, and many other applications are just waiting for you to make them part of your daily practice routine. You can slow down accompaniment tracks, change keys, and see which notes you missed – all from the comfort of your own home.
And, you can record yourself playing and listen back to how you sound with handheld digital recorders or smartphones. Plus, there are so many software tools available for recording and editing (such as ProTools, GarageBand, and Audacity) that you can always know exactly how you sound. One hundred years ago, no musicians had this capability. You can do this daily. Take advantage of it.
Communicate to the Entire World
Online forums allow you to get feedback and advice from your peers. Skype lets you take a lesson from a master teacher anywhere on earth. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and your very own blog (like this one!) give you the means to communicate anything about your music to musicians and potential audience members instantly.
Find musicians to play with, update the world on your musical progress, invite people to your next performance, promote your recordings. Think about this: I was hired for my first professional gig in 1980 and taught my first lesson in 1985. What did musicians at that time have to go through to communicate to a worldwide audience? You can reach the entire world before your morning cup of coffee is done brewing.
Whether it’s electronic music materials, state-of-the-art learning systems, or advanced communications, it’s time for all musicians to embrace technologies and change their lives for the better.