Monthly Archives: July 2016

What Is Form

When I was a teenager watching the West Indies play test cricket against Australia, I would hear my dad say over and over that such and such was ‘in form’ or that another batsman was ‘out of form’.

I always wondered what he meant. What caused a batsman to be in form? What is form?

For that matter, what causes any sportsperson to be in form or out of form for that matter? Is it talent? (although that is a subjective question), is it training? Is it a particular time of year or season? Is it luck? Is it how much the person is enjoying the game? Is it their practice routine? Is it just being in the right place at the right time and then presto, everything starts to click?

And can we take this to the realm of music where we can say sometimes, when a musician is sounding a bit sloppy, that they are ‘out of form’? When a band doesn’t sound tight, can we say they are out of form?

Perhaps.

Having watched my beloved Barca crumble in the space of two weeks (April 2nd till April 17th) for the 2016/2017 season where they’ve gone from being the only team to possibly repeat winning the Treble in back to back years to being ousted from the quarterfinals of the Champions League and now they’re tied at the top of the table in La Liga where up until two weeks ago they had a nine-point lead. How did this catastrophe happen?

For want of a better word – form. Barca’s star forwards – Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have played more minutes collectively than any other group of forwards (in other teams of course) so far for this season. They seem physically fit, but they are mentally burnt out. e.g. Neymar hasn’t scored or had an assist since February.

They maybe fit or claiming to be, but the end result paints a different picture. Last year this time they were unstoppable, now, they’ve lost the last 4 out of 5 games (their worst record since 2003). There are holes in their defence, the midfield is wobbly and their star forwards aren’t producing goals.

Could it be that the entire team is out of form? And before this they were on an unbeaten streak of 39 games! A world record. So what happened? How can you go from being in form to being out of form so quickly?

It’s such a subtle thing, but I believe form has everything to do with practice, preparation, rest and rotation.

How do you prepare for a game? A show? – do you leave it all to chance, or do you rehearse everything? How much time do you practice? Do you practice the same thing over and over till it’s perfected? After it is perfected do you revise it? Do you seek to improve on it? How do you split up your practice time? Do you practice how to recover when a slip up occurs? Do you work on the weakest links? Do you have a backup plan?

Do you rest enough or do you keep going? Do you rotate your players? (In the case of music, do you change your set-list, do you practice songs at different tempos to see what can be done differently).

When this season started, a few sports writers said ‘rust’ could set-in. Not in the bones of players but in the style of play. Rust has set-in, and now the harsh reality is going back to the drawing board.
How do we create and re-create form? How do we keep things fresh that mental fatigue does not set-in, that we always feel alert?

It might have something to do with analyzing our practice methods and see what is affective. It might have something to do with critiquing what is working and what isn’t and getting rid of what’s not.

I think form can definitely be improved with an effective plan of proper mindful practice, preparation (for the best and worse case scenarios), a well thought out roster of rest periods and last, a rotation plan (focusing on different aspects of the game OR song on different days, e.g. Today focus on lyrics, tomorrow rhythm, the next day, timing, the day after that bass, and so on).

If all these four legs of the ‘table’ (practice, preparation, rest, rotation) can be made to work in harmony, then form would be a matter of discipline and work, rather than a game of luck.

Point to note: Those musicians who improvise know what they’re doing, because they practiced ‘it’ enough such that their improvisations sound like second nature.

Preparing For A Cruise Ship Musician Job

Looking at a career as a musician

In this article we will look at working on a cruise ship and the type of preparation needed to land the job.

Please note, if you don’t like or can’t play some jazz don’t apply.

OK, now you’ve been playing in bands for a number of years and you might have graduated with a degree from one of the excellent music academies around the various countries. You have decided that you want to have a career as a professional musician, so what is your next step.

Well, one of the options you might consider is a musician on a cruise ship. Large cruise ship companies operate all year long and are always very popular with tourists and travelers. There is still something enchanting about sailing across the ocean to stop in exotic ports, explore ancient cities and soak up the atmosphere of busy seaside restaurants. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?I I am sure you want to sign up right now and set sail.

Well, before you do there are a few things you might want to know.

First, there is a lot of competition out there, cruise lines hold auditions on Skype, so they can recruit from a global talent pool. Speaking English might give you a slight edge but it’s the music that counts in the end.

Second, there are two types of musicians required, the orchestra musician is the main work horse, his role is to play as part of the main show and also accompany guest musicians or singers that might be brought in for special events. They can also be entertaining guests during daytime sessions as part of a smaller unit or more traditional four price band.

The other act is the solo musician which will certainly entail being able to sing and play your instrument.

Third, contracts can be for a limited period especially if you are new to the job, your first contract might only be for 3 – 4 months. The typical contract is for 6 months. So remember you are not set for life once you pass the audition.

Finally, you will have to pass a medical, as well as being a musician you will be expected to be part of the crew so you must be in good physical health. So ease up on the pizza and drinking yourself under the table every night.

Before you worry about any of the above check out if you suffer from seasickness!

OK, you have your sea legs now let’s find a job. Well, that part is fairly easy, just Google music jobs on a cruise ship and you will find plenty. Some companies like Carnival cruise line advertise directly, others use talent agencies. Application is straight forward, if you are applying as a solo act you will be asked to supply a recorded video of you performing, if you are applying for orchestra it’s not as important but it’s always a good idea to have something recorded that demonstrates what you can do. Remember, this is a cruise ship so no point recording your best Yngwie Malmsteen licks. Try some smooth jazz or top 40 hits with a blues feel to it.

Now, this is the point where the two jobs differ. As a solo artist you will need to have a large repertoire of music to perform across a substantial number of genres. You need to be able to cover 50’s music right through to current top 40 hits. Because you will be probably entertaining a group of passengers for 5 – 10 days you will need to have at least 80 – 90 songs ready to perform.

For the orchestra player you have a different challenge, your sight reading must be proficient enough to read a chart quickly and also be able to improvise smoothly and with confidence.

I would recommend learning as many jazz standards as possible and study your chord changes and inversion. A guest singer at the last minute might decide to add a song to his/her set and you have to be capable of playing it.

It does take time to get prepared but it is worth the hard work.

If you are invited for an audition the company will set up a time and date. They will contact you normally 10 – 15 minutes before your audition to give you your song charts allowing you the same amount of time to review as you would have on a ship.

Once they call you back then it’s down to you.

If you are successful, then the company will make all the arrangements including medical and contracts and flights to get you aboard ship.

If you would like to see a sample of an audition sheet, send me an email and I will send you a copy of my original sheet.

Just another point to note, if you are employed through an agent then commission will be deducted from your salary. The good side of working for an agent is that once you are on their books, they will probably keep you in work for as long as you want to work on the ships.

I hope this helps anyone looking for a career on the cruise ships.

Your Parties Must Have Entertainment

Many corporate companies have felt the benefit of an improved economy over the last couple of years and a recent survey has shown they are ready to break the purse strings and organise a Christmas party or corporate event for their hardworking employees.

In 2015, out of 100 companies surveyed over 89% declared they would be holding some form of party for their employees, that’s an increase from 82% in 2012 and 68% in 2011. A big rise in business, especially for companies who specialise in event and party planning. The same companies who suffered when companies tightened their belts in the recession.

Over 60% of corporate companies will rely on outside help in organizing their party. Event planners, caterers and local hotels are all high on the list as companies businesses will turn too for assistance and guidance.

There are so many options available for parties, which is made even harder when companies are trying to cater for all of their staff. Every year the same murmurs and complaints will do their rounds in each department. Some employees complain about the food choice, the venue or the entertainment that has been chosen.

Many companies like to play it safe and organise the same venue year after year, it takes the worry of choosing somewhere that is not great value for money or that will present terrible food or entertainment. The party is then ruined for everyone.

The most popular form of entertainment at corporate events is actually a disco. The disco is usually part of a package if you choose to attend a party organised by a hotel. Hotels will offer the entire package, from food, drink and entertainment. They also offer extras like crackers, hats and even mince pies and coffee. Many corporate companies choose a hotel as everything is taken care of and there is minimal input required from them.

For larger companies with a larger budget the most recent fashion has been to organise their own venue, caterers and entertainment. This gives them more chance to personalise their party; from the food to the style and location of the venue.

Surprisingly the disco is no longer top choice for entertainment at a corporate event or party. The biggest growth in entertainment has been bands or a professional singer. Companies have found bands can offer a better experience for their staff, they can choose the style of band they want, including the look and type of music.

When it comes to a professional singer, they also offer companies the chance to have a more personal entertainment experience. A professional singer will be able to tailor their songs and style to that of the companies. The most common style being a singer who can offer entertainment as well as generic music for when they are in between sets.

Most will offer packages to suit their clients; from a set including songs they have chosen or a set containing songs the company have selected. The entertainment will feel unique and personal for the person organising the event.

A professional singer is usually booked for weddings, closely followed by parties. They will be expected to sing the first dance song for the couple as well as providing interim music when guests are eating and listening to speeches.

Many will offer flexible packages to suit all types of budgets and personal requests. If you are a company looking for a unique and bespoke entertainment option for your party, choosing a band or professional singer could be a great and affordable option.