My tips for musicians traveling for work

My tips for musicians traveling for work

Hey guys!

Traveling for concerts? As a musician that has traveled around the globe in over thirty different cities worldwide, I am very familiar with the thrills of international travel and performance, but also the trials you can go through, and I want to share some of my tips that have helped me have more of the thrills and less of the trials!

Different cities/countries, different vibes:

First of all, firstly, whether it’s another city in your home country or a totally different country and culture altogether, I really noticed that people reacted differently to my show in every city, and I don’t mean just different crowds. For example, some audiences felt comfortable jumping on stage with me and were very loud and appreciative! Some audiences had certain protocols imposed on them and were only allowed to clap. The attitudes in different countries will vary, so check it out in advance! Here’s a great article on different customs which shares a few different guides you could get to find out more about your particular destination(s) – https://www.tripsavvy.com/culture-customs-guides-for-foreign-countries-33904

Be prepared for different challenges with sound check:

Look into any special voltage adapters or power outlet adapters that your gear might need
If you’re flying, it might be cheaper to have some of your items provided when you get there- pack only the essentials! Remember it’s not just the flight, it’s getting around once you arrive as well.

Sleep in different time zones:

At first, I found this difficult. I would often fly into a city in a different time zone the day of a show, so I really had to make sure that I had either rested up in advance, or that I could rest on arrival. If my flight takes place during the night time hours of my arrival destination I will try to sleep, and on arrival, my doctor told me to get as much sun as possible! Sunlight apparently helps your body re-calibrate and realize it’s daytime and help your body clock adjust. Also, I take something like Valerian or Melatonin when it is the night time to tell my body it’s time to rest. Some exercise in the sunlight helps even more!

Different personalities and working with others

When traveling with other musicians – remember you’re a team. So try to be flexible and when things don’t go to plan try to have patience and don’t get upset. Sometimes it’s inevitable that not everything will go to plan. Be open to whatever might happen, and stick together! Remember that people get irritable when they are tired or stressed so try to have compassion for those around you!

Don’t leave things behind!

Write a pack list- not just for when you’re getting ready to leave, but when you’re packing up in each hotel room that you stay in! I used to leave things behind all the time, but taking the time to check your list and make sure you repacked it all, is a great way to keep track of items you may have forgotten, under a bed, or in a cupboard. I once left a gown in a hotel room wardrobe! So easy to do when you’re going from city to city!

Take care of yourself!

Keep in mind that you’re there to do a job, it’s not a holiday. You need to make sure that you take care of yourself and remember to pack whatever vitamins and other items you use at home, and make sure that you take the time to take care of yourself while travelling. There’s nothing worse than getting sick halfway through a bunch of dates. Speaking of health, get travel insurance! No one ever thinks anything will happen while traveling, no one believes they’ll get sick, injured, or robbed, but it does happen. Better to be prepared!

A different language?

I like to try to say a few phrases to my audience in their own language. Even if it’s just “Hi, my name is….. and I’m going to play (insert song or piece) for you” or “hey good evening!” Or whatever it is you would usually say. “Please” and “thank you” can go a long way as well.

Plan Your stage outfits in advance

Figure out what you’re going to wear at each concert in advance. There might not always be time to go shopping when you get there. Also, making sure that your clothes don’t need a lot of attention (don’t pack silk! It always crushes easily) can save you time, effort and money.

Pack clothing for days off!

If you’re going to have some days off, make sure you bring things appropriate for the location you will be, like a swimsuit or hiking clothes or whatever it is that you might want to do on that day off. Nothing more annoying that having a day off at a beautiful beach location and having to spend some of it off getting items you need…

Stay well on your flight

I always take probiotics before, during and after a flight. It’s so easy to catch something through the circulated air conditioning! Also, drink a lot (of water not alcohol) and wear compression tights. Compression tights can leave you feeling more rested. I’ve been doing it since my 20s… think about it. Nurses and people in professions where they stand a lot wear them all the time. Flights cause even more stress to your circulation, so why not- take care of yourself! You don’t have to be old to wear them! Here’s a great article on why it helps: https://www.travelchannel.com/roam-blog/news-deals/why-you-should-wear-compression-socks-when-you-fly

 

Taking your instrument on board

If you’re a singer, don’t worry about this one! If not… read on: Check the Baggage Policies of Your Airline and find out their attitude towards instruments so you know what’s up before you get to the airport. If you have more than one airline on the travel route, check them all. Even if they’re connecting flights sometimes they can cause some grief and ask you to check your instrument half way even if the first airline has agreed. Here’s a cool site that shows you airlines’ policies on instruments- https://www.fim-musicians.org/airlines-list

 

Some more tips:
  • Too many details to remember?  Put Your Room Number & Hotel Address in Your Phone
  • Don’t use free public wifi, especially if you’re doing online banking or anything else you would hope is secure! Because, simply, it’s NOT secure.
  •  Let your Bank and Credit Card Company know of Your Travel Plans- it helps make sure your cards are always available to you while travelling and saves some headaches.
  •  First aid- I always take tylenol, benedryl, lozenges, anti nausea and medication for stomach upsets especially if I’m travelling like India or anywhere you shouldn’t drink the water… and I also always take bandages/bandaids and antiseptic cream with me.
  • Make sure your passport and license are current! Sometimes passports expire before we realize, so look into it before you leave, or even better, make sure you renew yours well before it expires so you’re always ready for travel.
  • Take photocopies of all your important documents so you have the details if the originals get lost, and always share these with someone else, even if you’re travelling with a large group. I always send my itinerary and important document copies to family before I leave so they know where I’ll be.

OK guys so I hope this helps! If I had know this when I started traveling for concerts it totally would have helped me out!

Have any questions? Feel free to email me!

Sophie

xox

NEW! Sheet Music Available

NEW! Sheet Music Available

Hey guys,

So you know I have never given away sheet music of my music or any of the covers I’ve performed on occasion. I changed my mind, since many of my students want to play my music and I have often ended up writing it by hand for them, depending on their level (music tech isn’t my forte lol!) and because of the number of requests online. So I have decided that I will start making it available for you all on my site. The first one, the title track for the album The Journey is available now! Check it out- Click here. If you guys need different levels, or have any feedback, let me know! Piano & Violin or Piano & Guitar available now. Hugs to you all!

Sophie

xox

 

For my beginner students & anyone starting out on violin

For my beginner students & anyone starting out on violin

Hey guys!

This post is for any new student of mine, and for anyone else looking to start studying the violin. Firstly, congrats on choosing an AMAZING instrument! Learning to play the violin is a long rewarding journey, and mine, has been full of joy, creativity, tears, hard work, and the thrill of performing on stage. Everyone’s journey is different, and I wish you luck on yours!

To be clear, I don’t teach beginners online, I believe that many beginners require lessons face to face for physical adjustments as they start violin lessons. I do offer lessons online, but that is usually for more advanced students. I’m happy to help out and give advice where I can, but if you’re just starting out, you need to find a good teacher that can see you in person. I get asked all the time about violin lessons and what is needed when starting out. So for my beginner students that are studying with me and for anyone else interested in violin that wants to get an idea of that might entail, I hope this post helps! So, let’s started with what you need to get started:

1. Equipment:

Violin- you don’t need something super expensive to start with. Start by checking out a local music store with a good reputation. You should be able to buy or possibly rent a reasonable violin you can start out with. Don’t buy a super cheap violin online, it could end up costing you more and making your experience less positive than you would hope. Here’s a great blog about issues with buying super cheap violins- click here. It covers a lot of what I would tell you.
If you’re based in Calgary Alberta and are going to take lessons with me, chances are, I’ve recommended you to check out VA Hill Violins. I like VA Hill because I know they take the time to properly size you up, and choose a good chin rest, and they do it well.
Bow- when you’re a beginner, chances are that your violin came with a bow whether rented or bought. Make sure if you buy one that the hair isn’t yellow and that there aren’t already hairs missing.
Rosin- you need a good rosin preferably in a hard little case. I find students easily drop and shatter their rosin. There are great rosins that come in hard cases, I like these: D’Addario Kaplan Premium Rosin with Case. If you take good care of your rosin you’ll have it for a long time. Shoulder rest- this needs to be a personal choice and fit. I believe it’s important to play with a shoulder rest, unless you’re a professional baroque player. For those with anything other than a short neck, you will have better control over a modern violin when you use a shoulder rest. Get fitted by a professional who can show you all the options and discuss it with your teacher.
Case- make sure it’s substantial enough to protect your violin and has enough space for all your gear. You can find cases that have pouches for your music too. That’s a personal choice.

2. Extra items:

Mute/practice mute- a mute will change the tone and volume of your instrument, often use in orchestral playing to achieve a certain quality of sound. A practice mute will allow you to play quietly so that you can practice at night when others are sleeping or so that you don’t bother the neighbours! They’re not super expensive at all.
Metronome- this is a great tool for practice. Not for constant use as you need to be able to learn to have your own rhythm, but it does help you to learn how to play in time with a beat which will help when you begin playing with other instruments, and it does help you realize whether you’re playing in time or now.
Electric Violin- You want to learn electric violin right off the bat? I get it! Who wouldn’t want to play amplified with some amazing music you’ve been inspired by. That’s great! It’s going to be a bit of work before you get there- you can get there! However, to start with, In my opinion, you will be a better player, whether electric or acoustic, if you start on. Acoustic violin so you can learn full control over your tone quality and all the subtleties of sound you can create with an acoustic. Electric violin really smooths over a lot of that and is a different technique. You will do it so much better with a full range technique. Talk to your teacher about when you can start incorporating electric violin into your practice.

Care of your violin: discuss this with your luthier and teacher! If you have questions about this and are my student, click here to message me.

3. Books and music

There are a lot of great beginner books out there! I would highly recommend these three, and if you’re my student, I will definitely be recommending two of these three:

Wohlfahrt Easiest Elementary Method for Beginners Opus 38
The ABCs of Violin for the Absolute Beginner
A Tune A Day for Violin

Also, you need a notebook with lined pages and page with staff. From there we can move onto other books and repertoire depending on your learning style and preferences. These ones listed above are a great start. Your teacher will have their own preferences, so make sure you ask them!

4. Setting goals

What made you choose violin? Dreaming of gracing concert stages around the globe? Playing with a metal band? Playing with a DJ? Whatever your goals are, make sure you chat with your teacher about how you’re going to get there, and how much practice and work is required. Don’t forget your goals, as when you’re practicing daily and you meet some struggles, you can forget. So keep your eye on why you started in the first place! Don’t expect to sound amazing at first! The violin takes longer to sound great than some instruments as we don’t have frets and our tone takes skill with a bow to achieve.

One other thing- talk to others also learning the violin! Try joining a violin community! It’s really helpful to chat with other students and violinists, to find inspirational and educational videos about learning violin, and great performances you can watch, and ideas in general, and share your experiences.
I hope this helps! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me and ask!

Sophie

xx

How to believe in yourself and gain more confidence on stage

How to believe in yourself and gain more confidence on stage

Hey everyone! So I have been thinking about writing this blog post for a while, since it’s something I get asked all the time! People often tell me how confident I look on stage. They ask me how I remain so calm before a show, and why I never look nervous. I usually reply that I’m only nervous if I don’t know what I’m doing (a new piece or uncomfortable situation on stage). I think for everyone, when you do something for the first time, it’s always a little nerve wracking. Or maybe you’re the kind of person that just jumps right in. I’m a honestly the type to be prepared, but either way I’m usually pretty confident.

When I was younger though, I used to hate performing. When I got up at competitions and exams, I used to get very very nervous, especially when there was someone with a pen and paper ready to write down notes about what I was playing. It just seemed so technical. And while feedback is important, I’ve always performed better when I know that people are open to my story, and not just judging what I’m going to do.

At the end of the day though, professional performers need to put all those thoughts aside and deliver every time without fail. So how did I get over those times when my hands would get a little sweaty? Here are five tips, that I hope will help you to put away your fears:

1. Put away self doubt! find things to refocus on when you get there. When we are children we are so confident, so loving, so excitable. As we get older we learn to quash those traits we started out with, for various reasons. We were laughed at when we were very expressive, and felt humiliated so we learnt, just like a toddler touching a hot oven, not to touch it again- we learn not to show those feelings. Or we make a mistake and because of how it was handled by us and those around us, we learnt not to do something unless we could get it right- and that fear of making a mistake prevents us from trying, or it paralyses us on stage. I have so much fear from studying and playing the violin in my childhood that sometimes, (and I know some of you wouldn’t believe this when you see me confident on stage!) I feel like I can’t play. So what I do, is one of two things: A)I focus on the audience and what I’m there to communicate. B) I think of the emotion or story that inspired me to create what I’m playing.
These are habits that you can train yourself to do quickly, if you ever start going to that place where doubt creeps in. Try it!

2. Don’t confuse your feelings with facts. Don’t work yourself up with negative thoughts. Sit down and write out that negative feeling and then write the facts next to it. For example, here’s what a student of mine used to say a lot before performing: “I’m the worst violinist in the world”. That was her feeling in the moment. Fact: she was a fantastic grade 8 student! And for sure not the worst violinist in the world. When we are stressed, or anxious we come up with all kinds of thoughts and feelings around something that’s challenging to us. Make sure you don’t start embedding some of these into your mind as facts, remind yourself that they’re not, and write out some positive feelings in place of the negative ones.

3. Face your fears: go on stage more often! As often as you can! Even if it’s for family and friends, or one friend, or in front of the mirror. Record yourself playing! It’s a great way to see where you’re at as well – treat it like a performance, and listen back, focusing on improvements. Just do it until it becomes natural! Once, in Europe, I was asked to start my show on a trapeze. I thought it was a joke! I was a violinist and I had never been on a trapeze! I climbed up to see what it felt like, and my boss told the guys who helped me up there, to leave me there for a while! I was so angry I wanted to get down, but after a while, I started to feel comfortable up there. And by the time they came to get me down, I didn’t mind it at all. So if it’s performing in front of an audience, being on stage scares you then get on that stage! Not just when you need to perform- ask if you can go on stage before the show, a few days before even. Get used to the space, imagine what it will feel like, and master emotional control of that situation.

4. Have a support team: Find people that are positive, uplift you and are supportive of your goals. Those closest to you should be supportive and not create additional challenges. If you have someone around you that actually increases your stage nerves by the things they do and say, then take some space away from them, especially around a performance.

5. Remember why you wanted to perform on stage in the first place! You have a story to tell? You dream of being a performer? Unless you’re doing it because Mom and Dad said you have to…. Then during your performance, focus on why you started on the road to becoming a musician in the first place. I just focus on that inspiration and the story plays out in my mind and I forget all the rest of the things that pop into my mind. Or if I like the audience, I focus on them, and start to interact and then it becomes about communicating. We all have something special to offer. If you go on stage comparing yourself to those better than you, and thinking you’re not good enough, that is how you will play. Remember what drove you to pick up your instrument in the first place, be YOU and block the rest out. You CAN train yourself to do this.

If you want to read more about this topic, one amazing book that really helped me in my pursuit of stage command was The Inner Game of Music, by Barry Green check it out, it might be helpful to you too:

 

 

The most important thing is that you believe in yourself, even if at first you have to fake it until you make it. You know how sometimes when you smile when you’re not feeling the best, and if you wear that smile for a while, it sort of filters through the rest of you? Well, at least that’s me. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and put that confidence on, and let it filter through the rest of you! Perform like you know you can.

XO
Sophie

 

 

Why I perform at special events

Why I perform at special events

Hey guys! I get asked a lot why, as a violinist, do I perform at events, and I thought I would answer this question…. Some musicians don’t do it, but I love it. I’ve performed around the globe and seen parts of the world I probably wouldn’t have seen at this stage in my life if I hadn’t taken those opportunities. I’ve performed for thousands, and for intimate audiences as well. That might be enough for some people to jump at the idea of performing for special events, and corporate events… but here are the biggest reasons that I choose to perform at special events and corporate events around the globe:

Firstly, I like being surprised. Being an international musician and performing in a different city for every show is amazing! New customs to learn, new audience responses I need to be ready to deal with. I actually found that performing in a new situation every night, really helped me hone my stage craft: the way I move, the way I communicate with the audience, and my level of comfort on stage. Even though every situation is different and sometimes unpredictable, I find this really exciting, and it’s been a huge part of who I have become, and am still becoming, as a performer.

Secondly, I love intimate audiences and the chance to meet new people and new fans. Even if I’m performing for thousands, I always meet new people and learn so much, and it has taught me, and given me the chance, to create my show in a unique space or situation to fit the circumstances I’m presented with and create a truly phenomenal outcome- always possible with the right team supporting you.

This is my current events show-reel which has some highlights from performances around the globe, and a variety of situations from an intimate wedding for a friend to performing for thousands in the Middle East. I think it reflects how much fun it can really be! I love discovering other styles of music and cultures.

I have been asked so many questions, there isn’t always time to answer everyone, but now that I’m 8 months pregnant, I have loads of time to write some answers! I truly I love teaching, coaching and helping other musicians whenever I can. I’ve been asked so many questions, there are too many to fit into one blog! So I hope to answer all your questions one by one, on this site or via videos on my YouTube Channel. I can’t always write back on Facebook or Instagram, so I’ll be directing you guys here.

Fellow musicians have asked me so many questions about performing in the corporate entertainment market for example, what about sound? What if that is unpredictable, and how do I deal with it? Also, if it’s just me on stage, how can I engage the audience from start to finish? For many musicians who are used to having the entire focus on the music alone, these show situations are more than simply standing there and playing the music when you’re not in a concert situation, although, I love it when I get to do that to. Once I explain how I deal with any challenges that might arise, the next most common questions are, how do I get into this other side of the industry and start performing at events, and how do I build an entertainment career doing this? Can I still be me? Or do I have to mold my show to something that’s more mainstream to engage an audience that isn’t familiar with my music? I could write an entire book on this… anyway, for now, I will be releasing some videos on these topics on my YouTube channel addressing some of these very soon.

If you’re interested in getting more information, click here to send me a note! I’m very happy to have those conversations with serious musicians. Whatever path you choose, make sure you are doing it because you LOVE doing it! Love what you live & live what you love. It really is possible.

Sophie xo