It’s the Coronavirus’s world and we’re just living in it.
The level of audacity that people in our field are showing to power on in a time when revenues have been squeezed dry is super inspiring. Things might look grim out there, but musicians are typically pretty adept at changing their mindset.
We need to look at this pandemic as a chance to take care of ourselves and our craft, to grow and to learn, to support one another, and to discover new and interesting ways to capitalize on technology to share our gifts with the world.
Let’s turn that frowny #stayhome into an optimistically charged #blessed. Here are some ways you can stay productive from home right now.
Learn a new instrument
First up on this list is to start learning a new instrument. You’ve always wanted to do this and never had the time; now’s the time.
There are so many great reasons to learn another instrument: it’ll build your résumé, it can help expand your harmonic knowledge, help you become a better arranger and performer, and it’s just plain fun. Set aside a few hours a day to work on your keyboarding skills, or develop your singing voice, or heck, take up the hammered dulcimer!
If you’re a vocalist and you don’t currently play any instruments, well grab that old guitar that’s lying around or borrow one from a friend and start strumming away! If it feels like too much, start by offering a skills exchange with a peer or colleague and teach one another over Skype or FaceTime in alternating weeks.
Learn another new musical skill
Even the most skilled musicians have at least one technique, one genre, or one piece that they’ve always wanted to conquer or improve upon. Maybe you’re a solid rock guitarist who wants to build your jazz chops, or a killer gospel pianist who wants to work on nailing Chopin.
Considering you’ve got nothing but time on your hands, now would be ideal. Go on YouTube, download an app, ask a friend. Set aside a few hours every other day to improvise or practice your sight reading, reharmonization, or writing notation.
Learn a non-musical skill
Music is a multifaceted business, with a ton of moving parts. It helps to understand how modern elements of the business, like royalties or sync licensing, work. “Speaking the language” can help you bridge gaps with other players in your field; agents, talent buyers, graphic designers, publicists, engineers, etc.
Not only that, learning a new, non-musical skill can help create other streams of income and knowledge-assets in your life. Classcentral.com is a website that offers free and low cost online college courses done at your own pace, with paid certificates, some even from Ivy League schools.
Our friends over at Soundfly have recently compiled a free “Guide to Learning Things Online” that can help anyone make the most of their isolated learning experience.
Make online content
Considering you have a captive audience or are looking to grow yours, releasing online content right now is a surefire way to engage with your fanbase, expand your following, and inspire others.
Some ideas for new home-based content might be:
- Q&A livestream or IGTV video
- Song breakdown
- Playalong video
- Cover video
- Livestream practice
- Home-studio tour
- Skype interview series with other artists from your living room
As an artist, your brain is the mystic portal from which your creativity flows. Feeding that brain is equally as important as working on your technique.
Take this time to read a book, musical or non-musical; anything to help beat the stress of this situation and get your mind centered on something productive. Recently I’ve enjoyed reading about Charlie Chaplin.
We’re all kidding around about forced Netflix and chill, but why not take this as a chance to catch up on popular shows or quality films?
Again, these things feed your creative brain. Good film and television is art too, and that can help inspire you as a writer, visually and emotionally as a creative and a performer.
There are also plenty of music docs on YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu, with a wealth of information just waiting to be digested by that noggin. Feed your head!
Keep your ears sharp
Don’t let your ears decay under quarantine. Use apps like Earpeggio and EarMaster to keep yourself sharp. Sing and identify intervals, work on sight singing, building scales, and harmonizing. There are tons of resources in app form, including many paid apps that are temporarily being offered free of charge.
Maintain your instruments
Guitar or bass in need of a setup? Do it now.
Maybe you have an instrument that needs some TLC. If you already know how to do it yourself, use this time to care for your arsenal; if you don’t, take this opportunity to learn how to intonate, solder, calibrate, and tune drum heads.
Write a song a day
They say 1 in 500 songs is a hit, unless you’re the Beatles, Sting, or the Biebs. By that logic, if you write a song a day, you could have at least one hit every year! Considering you’ve got plenty of time to sit and ponder right now, you should write now, instead.
Try a writing challenge with your friends. Send each other prompts and ideas, finish old songs and demos, create a Slack or Discord or Dropbox and upload your work each day, hold each other accountable to using the time to your advantage. Send comments and critique, get creative.
You can also use this time to compose music for your sync library, expand your portfolio, and tackle a side-project.
Imagine this! You have a mandatory vacation, provided you have the means to weather the workless storm. There’s no shame in taking this time to rest and recover, because with all the suspensions, cancellations, and uncertainty, you can bet your behind that things are going to hit hard and fast once life gets back to normal.
Being self-employed can be difficult and demanding. It’s hard not to feel like there is always something you could be doing to grow, earn more, or progress in your career. While this drive is admirable, it can lead to burnout and diminished returns. Taking a step back to assess, rest, and recharge can often be one of the most productive things you can do for yourself.
I hope these ideas help to inspire some positive growth and change in our field and the rest of the world. People are always going to need music in their lives, whether or not they have to visit a venue to find it; and I can’t wait to see the incredible ideas that incubate during this turbulent time.
Stay safe and stay healthy folks!
Dre DiMura is a professional guitarist, songwriter, and author. While his friends were studying for the SATs, Dre was already touring the world with Gloria Gaynor, Dee Snider & Palaye Royale. He's a musician and he's played one on TV too. You may see him at your local enormo-dome on tour with Diamante.
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