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Singers Who Actually Get Paid

There are many options between “Rock Star” and “Teacher” –says Mister Tim

There is a great, dusty volume in a great, dusty library entitled “Rare Species of the World,” and the rarest of all rare species listed there is “Musician Who Does Only One Thing.”

Working musicians do many things, and the wisest of working musicians are constantly adding to their skill sets and skill lists so they are prepared for new projects and adventures that come to them.

The Versatile Musician

I met a trombonist over the weekend that makes his living doing music. He tours with bands and does studio work when not on the road.

He plays jazz, funk, latin, and classical. He’s been on hundreds of movie and television sound tracks. He teaches lessons.

And he runs his own business printing music and preparing arrangements for other bands and recording projects.

It is possible that he could make his living doing just one of these things, but his ability to do many things has made it easier for him to make a living.

Go Gangbusters

As a musician should be ceaselessly absorbing ideas from the world around you and adding to your kit of skills and knowledge.

If you dream of a career in music you must get serious about learning as much as you can.

The more you can do, the more styles you are fluent in, the more likely you’ll be able to make money in the music business.

Leonard Bernstein’s daughter told a story about listening to The Beatles in the car with her dad.

He was aware of the modern music around him, and enjoyed it, even though that music was not in his direct line of work at the time.

But that should not be surprising for a man who not only conducted Beethoven but also composed West Side Story.

A Sample of Paid Work

In the last month my paid work has included: caroling, performing in a comedy duo for a corporate holiday show, several solo live-looping concerts, arranging music for a college vocal ensemble, singing with a Celtic band, singing with an a cappella quartet for wedding events, running sound for several groups, recording rehearsal tracks, and singing in church.

Not to mention rehearsals for all of the above, auditioning for projects, working on my solo material, and taking time out to eat a few dozen candy-canes.

Most working musicians I know do many things.

If you can do one thing well you have a good chance of working, but if you do several things well you have a better chance of working regularly.

Not to mention that working on other projects will continually enrich your own creativity.

When I first had a dream of working in music I thought my options were a) rock star or b) music teacher.

Most of the things I do now for my job are things I did not even know were possibilities when I first starting working in music.

By taking advantage of opportunities that came along, and constantly learning and adding skills, I now have many options to keep me actively working.

How do you learn all these things?

You don’t. No one does ALL of them.

What you do is learn everything you can. Learn something new every day. Open yourself to ideas and feedback. Learn from others.

Put yourself out there. Listen to everything.

Take every opportunity. Go to workshops and conference. Take lessons.

Figure out what interests you and focus on those things.

-Mister Tim

My Reactions To This Week’s Peer Review Vids:

Linda Vang – Only Hope cover

Wow! Wonderful clear voice. Nice control and nice expression. At the extreme high and low of your range there is a breathy/airy sound. You might be doing this to imitate an artist, you might be doing this to compensate for your voice not being as strong up there or down there. Not to say it’s a bad thing, but be sure you’re doing it on purpose. Your high notes at the end definitely need some attention: work in warm-ups and practice sessions to strengthen that part of your voice!

Justen Hunter – Yo (Excuse Me Miss) cover

Justen, you’ve got some great tools your working with. Good foundation to your voice, and your effortless slide into falsetto is sweeeeeeeeet. Don’t confuse the butter for the bread. You have a lot of pop growl/whine/wheeze going on. Be sure that the notes underneath are there (pitch is a little weird on some notes) and then add the ornamentation on top. Try singing the song without any of the extra sounds, just solid notes. Try singing with out words, just on ooh or lahs or dahs. Get the bread (the notes), then add the butter (the stylistic things, the “flava”) on top.

Nathália Terziani – Nobody’s Perfect cover

I like your strong voice. You very capably tackled a challenging song. You have a distinctive voice with a fast vibrato that can be used to your advantage if you keep it in control. Pitch is mostly there, and the sound is vibrant and energetic. I’m hearing the musical line get interrupted by many of your hard consonants, and there is a loss of energy, spin, and pitch at the ends of some of the lines. Try singing the song with no words, just a long neutral vowel, and make sure the musical line can stand on it’s own. Then try singing the song with just the vowels of the words, connected so it’s a beautiful legato melody, with no consonants breaking it. When that sounds great, then add the consonants back in, and make sure the flow of the music is still there. Good luck!

-Mister Tim

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Mister Tim is a published composer, award-winning recording artist,and in-demand performer, teacher & performance coach. In addition to an active performing and touring schedule with his his solo vocal live-looping/beatbox shows, Mister Tim sings with Boulder, CO-based Celtic Rock band Delilah’s Revenge and 2012 BOSS Loop Station World Championship finalist Vox Machina, manages the… READ MORE

  • Tom

    Don’t forget that in addition to learning how to do all those sides of making income from music, you have to promote each and every one of them so people know who to call! As musicians we’re usually better at woodshedding than networking so this is almost the hardest part.