Question: I desperately want to spend more time doing music (writing/practicing/gigging/touring) but there is simply NO time left in my life!
Answered by Mark Baxter, acclaimed vocal coach with Aerosmith, Journey, Goo Goo Dolls and many others
—from The Ultimate Guide to Singing: All aspects of a singer’s life are covered in this ultimate companion to your singing with Top Actions for Moving Ahead with Your Singing, Sound and Career. Contributed to by Over 100 professional contributors with 94 Grammys and Grammy nominations, 193 Books, 1,772 Albums and 280 million YouTube hits!
When people say this it’s not because they want to spend more time working on their craft, it’s because they think they should spend more time. The problem with this guilt trip is that there’s an expectation attached: things would be better if I only had more time. Instead of buying into this helpless mindset, make better use of the practice time you have by focusing on improving. I know that seems obvious but many musicians don’t know how to practice. An hour focused on an intended result is far better than several hours of mindless drills.
Next, learn the most powerful word for adding hours to your day — NO! “Sorry but I can’t work late,” “No thanks, you guys go to the movie without me,” “I can’t take the class this semester — it doesn’t leave me any practice time.” Setting boundaries for others is important but you also have to set them for yourself. Schedule your use of social media — four times a day to check and update everything is plenty. Television is another time-sucking monster. My rule is that I only watch it standing up. This drives my wife crazy but it keeps me from getting comfortable. If a show is interesting then my legs don’t mind.
What you don’t want to say no to is sleep. Focus is the first thing to suffer when torching the candle at both ends. Your voice is the second. Singers can’t dance around this issue. Sleep isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity. Where I used to try to steal some extra time was at work. I don’t know if I should be encouraging that, though, because I was fired from every job I ever had. I was either caught vocalizing, listening to a song I was writing, or napping.
A lot comes down to giving yourself permission to be musical. I was conflicted when my son was born over what it meant to be a father. I wondered if I should quit my band, curtail my music practicing, etc. But then I realized something: my son has a musician as a father. So, he grew up with amplifiers in the living room and guys sitting at the kitchen table working on set lists. His childhood was certainly different than the son of an insurance salesman, doctor or a lawyer — but the amount of love was exactly the same.
Mark Baxter has worked as a coach with Aerosmith, Journey, Goo Goo Dolls — and many others. He is the author of The Rock-n-Roll Singer’s Survival Manual, creator of The Singer’s Toolbox instructional DVD, Sing Like an Idol instructional CD. Mark operates vocal studios in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and online via Skype.