As a songwriter entrepreneur who homeschooled twins in the woods outside Nashville, Tennessee for 7 years, I have picked up a few tips for keeping busy, entertained and productive during times of isolation.
Sharing 10 ways to beat the Quarantine Blues here:
1. Start playing an instrument -
Here are a few simple music fundamentals I've picked up from teachers over the years from Duke University to Berklee College of Music to Broadway and Music Row coaches:
Even if you don't have an instrument you can still do these first ones:
2. Rhythm - Learn to play the paradiddle. All you need is your two hands or two feet. Tap right-left-right-right-left-right-left-left. That's it. If you do it a few times, you'll quickly see why drummers call it a paradiddle. Do it slow and steady at first, and then increase your speed. In music school, they call the paradiddle a drum rudiment. Try it.
3. Beats - Learn to play a basic rock beat. Grab a couple pencils and sit in an upright chair at the table. Count out loud: "1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and..." while tapping your right hand beat.
This would be the hi hat cymbal on a drum kit. Next add the bass drum. Stomp your foot every time you say "1" or "3." Good.
Now keep that going until you're steady. Now add the snare. Tap your left hand every time you say "2" or "4". You got it! Now you can practice playing a basic rock beat on the drums even if you don't have drums.
In music school, this is part of what everyone learns in Arranging 101 class. Give it a go! The more you practice, the easier it gets.
4. Singing - Here's a basic warm up exercise called a Vaccai that singers use to loosen up their voices before practice and performance. You can sing along even if you don't know Italian by singing "e" "ah" instead of the words. If you can't listen to the guide track, just sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or the Alphabet Song. It's not nursery school only stuff. Did you know that the melody for Twinkle, Twinkle and the Alphabet Song is credited to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's composing? Today we mostly call composing songwriting. (see #7 & #8)
5. Guitar - If you have a guitar laying around, you can practice this finger strengthening exercise. Start with your first fret, the biggest string.
With your fretting hang, press down with your pointer finger (1st finger) on the first fret, lowest string using a down stroke on your pick with your strumming hand. Good. Now use the middle finger (2nd) on the fretting hand to play the second fret, same string with an up stroke on the pick.
Now do the ring finger (3rd) on the third fret, same string, down stroke on pick. Next use the pinky (4th finger) on the fourth fret, same string, up stroke with pick. Now move your fretting hand to the string below and start again with your first finger on the first fret, alternating up and down stroke with your pick up to the fourth finger, fourth fret, and moving down to the next string below.
Do this until you get to the highest, smallest string on your guitar, and when you get to the pinky finger on the fourth fret, slide your fretting hand up to where your first finger starts with the second fret, and your pinky finishes up on the fifth fret (where the second dot is on the guitar neck).
This time when you reach the pinky, move your fretting hand back up to the string above and work your way back to the biggest string at the top. Do this up and down, sliding up one fret until your pointer (1st) finger reaches the fifth fret (the second dot) and your pinky is on the 8th fret, and then slide backwards with your 1st finger to the fourth fret and work back to the first fret again.
Once you get the hang of it, use a metronome to make sure you're playing steadily, and increase speed with your skill. Don't try to do this all in one day, or your forearms and fingers will hurt. Practice a little every day and you'll strengthen safely and sustainably. In guitar, he or she with the strongest pinky has a decided advantage over other guitar players. This is your ticket to pinky strong city. Thank you to Catherine Capozzi for teaching this to me. Practice makes perfect!
6. Piano - If you are fortunate enough to have a piano, here's a simple formula to learn any major or minor scale. A basic scale is eight notes, the first and last note are the same, except they are one octave apart.
Starting at middle C (the white note to the left of the two black ones), play a five finger position. With the right hand, put your thumb (1st finger in piano speak) on the C, and then one finger on each white key above. Your pinky is your 5th finger in piano-ese, and it will be on the G note, that's the white note in between the first two black notes of the three black note clusters.
Play a five finger scale by playing each finger one at a time, thumb - 2 - 3 -4 - 5, 5 - 4 -3 - 2 - thumb. On the left hand, put your pinky (5th) on the C note and work up to the thumb and back down. Great!
That five finger scale will also work if you put your starting finger on the G note and play only the white keys. Now you can play two major five finger scales on piano, in the keys of C and G.
If you want to play the black notes, and I know you do, you can watch this video posted on our Songpreneurs website showing you the formula for how to play any basic major or minor scale even if you don't know key signatures. In music this is called ionian and aeolian mode scales. Fancy.
7. Write - Of course a songwriter is going to suggest that you write. Writing is incredibly important as a healthy form of self-expression, and helps you to heal from mental, emotional and even physical trauma.
Give it a try with these simple exercises:
8. Songwriting - Write a song or a lyric. You don't have to be a professional, or a genius to write songs. You just need a strong desire to say something, and a few minutes of time - say
twenty minutes to two hours tops. At Songpreneurs we have a proprietary method of teaching songwriting called the Write Brain Song Crafting Method™ that helps people write a song in two hours or less using the strengths of your write brain™.
But you can practice at home anytime. Just take out a piece of paper and a pen, and think about walking up to that person who hurt your feelings the other day. What would be the first thing out of your mouth? Write it down! That's the first line of your song's lyric. Now what does that feel like?
See if you can make the sound of how that feeling feels in your guts, in your throat, in your heart. Good! That's your tune. Put it together, and you have a song. Before you try to email it to me, just remember you probably need to write 1000 more of them before they're commercially viable, but that doesn't mean you're not writing important songs.
Keep writing them, and you'll see. Don't put too much pressure on your writing to be commercial at first, but just get the songs out of your head and heart. If you really want to share, post them on a SoundCloud channel or make a video to share with friends. Then get ready for your journey to begin.
Warning - songwriting is highly addictive, and leads to making wacky friends you'd never meet any other way. Also, it's a good idea to know a little bit about music publishing if you're really going to share your songs, because that's what music publishing is. If you want to take an 8 week class on it with my Songpreneurs group, you can sign up here until we're full. Everyone else can get our workbook, or just put your songs in the shoebox under the bed for now until you're ready.
In music terminology, this is called woodshedding. Do it to it.
9. One Page Daily Writing - Songwriting is a special kind of joy, but it's not for everybody. Maybe you're into writing, but not into the tune or rhyming part. That's fine. There's other kinds of writing for you. Set a timer for two minutes, and do a mind map brainstorm about the things that are most important to you in your life right now and for the next 20 years.
When the two minutes is up, you'll have a list of things that are important. Take those things and narrow them down to the 7 most important things, and assign each thing to a day of the week that most suits you.
Now challenge yourself to write at least one page per day, alternating through your 7 most important things for three months. You'll miss a few days here and there, naturally, but give it a try. The coolest thing about writing is that it pulls out of you things you know, but don't realize that you know.
Nothing else does this, except maybe talking to a trusted friend or advisor. Doing this writing exercise will make you your own advisor, and will help you tremendously with your emotional and mental health during crises times. Therapists call this expressive writing, teachers call it creative writing, and artists call it sanity. Give it a try, and let me know how it goes for you.
10. Draw a picture, color or do a craft - Being creative is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you use it. If you're not into writing, or your hand gets tired easily because you're out of practice, you can vary it up by doing some drawing, painting, collage gluing, or cross stitching (one of my favorites.) Using your hands to build dexterity also helps in other areas of your life, and gives you a sense of accomplishment and pleasure when you're done.
Other activities that you might enjoy are:
quilting - using worn out clothes or fabric scraps
taking in some sunshine or sitting in full spectrum light to boost your energy
exercising - at least 20 or 30 min of cardio boosts those feel good hormones
cooking - being creative with the ingredients you have on hand
Do you have other tips for how to beat the quarantine blues? I'd love to hear from you.
Leave a comment below.
Give a listen to my new single "I Am Saved" here >>