Vlog #12 – HOW DO I TUNE MY GRAND PIANO?

My newest vlog is up on my YouTube Channel – on a subject that my followers requested again. Specifically, what goes into tuning a grand piano!  So last Friday my piano tuner, Daniel Skelley, just happened to be coming by to do a tuning and I filmed some of it for you guys. I hope you enjoy! My 2 year old also makes a cute appearance.

Please help me build my YouTube audience by liking this video and SUBSCRIBING to my channel.  Thank you! Right now I’m sitting at about 6200 subscribers. Once I get reach 10,000 it opens up a lot of opportunities, like access to the YouTube creators space in LA to film and much much more.  Thank you!

Vlog #11 – How Do I Compose For Film?

I recently asked my fans if they could help me out by suggesting some vlogging topics – as I’m trying to be better about vlogging more often and more consistently.  One of the topics that was brought up quite a lot was me sharing with you how I compose for film, and what my studio set- up.

My methods for composing for film and for my own music are quite different  – so talking about how I compose for myself is an entirely different vlog for another day. But I hope you enjoy this inside little glimpse on just a small part of the process I go through when composing for film. Enjoy!…

P.S. Are you subscribed to my Youtube channel yet?🙂

A Quick Q&A with Jennifer Thomas

Just a quick Q&A with some questions I have been asked before and/or recently.

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Tell us about your newest album:

WS - v3 Square“Winter Symphony” is my most recent album – it was released November 20th, 2015 – so just a few short months ago.  Typically with a new album, I’d be busy promoting it constantly after it’s release – but since this was a Christmas album I can’t really talk about it much until it gets nearer into the holidays again this year.

It’s a bit weird actually – to have worked so hard on a new album and then not get to talk or promote it except for the 6 weeks of Christmas music season between the U.S.’s Thanksgiving and New Years. It’s like you had a baby but can’t show anyone for a while.

At any rate though – it’s a wonderful album that I’m extremely proud of.  With every new project – I try to make it better than the last.  So a lot of hard work went into this album.🙂 It is my signature cinematic/symphonic piano music, this time featuring The Ensign Chorus (recorded at St. Edwards Cathedral at Bastyr University), with orchestra and soloists.

What’s your favorite work at this point in time?

B008KW9V1OsmallI’m very proud of my 3rd album “Illumination” still.  It was a 4 year labor of love. In particular from that album, I really love “Etude For the Dreamer” because it’s very fast and fun to play, but I also love “Eventide” which is slow and dream-like.  I often play Eventide at night after my children have gone to bed and I am just wanting to wind down at the piano.

What, or who, inspires you?  

I am inspired by success stories – whether it be empowered women, weightloss transformations, healing, or anything positive.  I always feel very motivated about life in general when I see people accomplishing big feats like that; it makes me feel like anything is possible if you try hard enough.

When it comes to music though – to be honest I’m very inspired by the music that I love the most.  When I listen to my favorite composers, it fills me with such drive and passion towards music and creativity that I just want to go to my piano and write new work.  I’m also very inspired by the beautiful outdoors, especially the ocean and the beach.  I’m sure you can hear that a lot in my work given certain song titles.

Which song do you wish you wrote?

hqdefaultThat’s easy.  “Time” by Hans Zimmer from the Inception movie score.  It’s perfect in every way – from the chord progressions, the way it starts softly but builds and builds until it reaches epic proportions.  Yes I wish I wrote it.  It’s genius. It is so simple, yet so larger-than-life at the same time.

How would you describe your sound in movie genre form?

Probably either Historic Drama or Epic, if that is even a film genre.  At least those are the images in my mind a lot when I write music.  Everything I write tends to build up to a big swell or epic emotional climax in the song – even on the ones where I try to tone it down a bit.  I can’t not have that in it.

f3f7cf5399f02e7808658a92b1732d9cExcuse me while I nerd out for a second, but it’s sort of like the movie “Sense and Sensibility” where a lot of it is really pretty, but there is that scene when you think it’s Willoughby carrying Marianne home through the rain, but then you realize it’s actually Colonel Brandon and he is this amazing hero figure now and you can’t help but swell with romantic notions and feelings and pride.  THAT swell of emotions you experience is how I think of music when I write.

How do you compose music?  Do you write it out, memorize, use software, or…?

I’m really old-school when it comes to composing. I hand-write everything out on composition paper. I have dozens of composition books that I leave laying around – some containing various albums all in one, others just random works.  I leave them near the piano with a pencil and a sharpener and I write in them when I feel inspired with something.  Or even just sketches of ideas.

This past year, my thing has been writing down any descriptive words that come to my mind when I start a new song. This helps me later as I figure out a title.

After a song is finished, I’ll record it and then eventually transcribe it into Finale for sheet music.  Oh, and one big reason I do it this way is because I’m really not great at memorizing new songs I write. I write them down so I won’t forget them, and then when it comes time to perform them publicly I usually have to re-learn and memorize at that point.  I also feel that I can write more technically challenging music with this method because it allows me to really dig into certain passages of the music and tweak things – which I can’t necessarily do live or on impromptu.

How do you find time to do music and be a mom?

12768307_10153603513813425_4509925277828146166_oThis is a great question – if you figure out the answer please let me know.🙂

I think the key is just trying to not do it ALL at once.  I can either be an awesome mom, or an amazing musician – but not typically simultaneously.  Fortunately I’m lucky to have a husband who is very supportive of my music career and he helps out a LOT.  If I am working on music projects, he is the one taking care of the children and doing the stay-at-home-Dad thing.  But like right now, he is busy working on our 2nd home remodeling, and so I’m currently doing the full-time mom thing while he works, and so composing new music is not really happening much right now.

10358991_10152206405203425_4520012190882494127_oI honestly don’t know how I could be doing what I do with my music if I didn’t have my husband.  There was a time, not too long ago, when he had a great position with Microsoft – but he was also hardly ever home. He would sometimes work 60 or 70 hours a week. I’d wake up at 3am to find him on his laptop stressing out over trying to finish a report that needed to be done by 7am that morning.  And if I had music to work on, I would either have to stay up through the night while everyone was sleeping, or hire babysitters (which got very expensive).

12928191_10153682559418425_1534486033198862920_nFortunately though, my music career has reached a point where it supports our family all on its own. It was a no-brainer that Will would quit his MS job and support me in my music.  The stress and lifestyle we had while he was working a corporate job was not something we enjoyed.  But now we get to be together all day everyday, and the boys get to actually have a Dad around while they are growing up instead of just 2 hours in the evenings every night (like previously).  We’re almost 2 years into this new lifestyle of making my music the “main gig” around here, and we love it.  But seriously, if Will wasn’t around, I definitely wouldn’t be being able to do the mom and musician thing as well as I do. I’m very grateful.

What’s next for you?
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I just finished a very very busy concert season and album release which all came to an abrupt stop January 1st (refer to question #1), and since then I have been laying low and playing the mom role at home while my husband finishes work on our other home soon to be put on the market.  Many have asked me if I’m booking concerts or what my next album is going to be  -but I really needed the break after I finished Winter Symphony – both physically and mentally.

But aside from currently being lazy (actually being a full time mom is anything BUT lazy), by the end of the year if things come together in time, I hope to make a couple more music videos for “Winter Symphony”, travel around for award shows (the nominations are coming in which is great), work on a couple of collaborations, as well as scoring a short film.

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But all of that is just sort of up-in-the-air in terms of when. When it happens it happens and I am putting no pressure on myself with deadlines this year. I’m also working on some health goals (finally losing my pregnancy weight as my “baby” just turned 2 years old, and this is the first time in 2 years I’ve had the time and motivation to dedicate to it), I  also need the downtime to grow and create new music, and part of that is experiencing “life” in between projects so I can be inspired with new material and ideas. I guess that is the advantage of being my own boss – I can continue on with music or just take a break for a while if I choose to.🙂 I’m grateful to have such loyal fans that keep assuring me that they will still be here when I DO put out the next big project. Until then…

Where can we keep up/follow you?

youtubeI tend to post pretty regularly on my Facebook Fan page, but if you want to see a more personal side to me you can follow me on Instagram (@jenniferthomas623).  It’s a mixture of my music stuff, my kids, outdoor adventures, travelling, and more. I’m also on Twitter but admittedly I’m horribly at it – if I remember to check it once a day that is on a good day.  My teenage fans tell me I need to do Snapchat but I’m not on there quite yet (nor have I figured it out). Oh! And of course Youtube! Please subscribe to me there – I post my music videos there, and also my vlogs.🙂

 

 

10 Things You Can Do To Be a Better Artist

Jennifer Thomas-581KAT 2As a composer/recording artist with four albums released and a growing music career, I am immersed daily in a global community of musicians that contains everything from amateurs to seasoned professionals.  I get to see a lot of really amazing stuff, some things that are maybe not-so amazing, and everything in between.

Before doing what I do now though, I performed in the world of Classical music (violin and piano) for about 20 years before discovering I wanted to have my own voice and compose my own music.  I’m now 10 years into my composing/recording career, and I only recently started finally feeling like I’m starting to get it – you know – this thing called the music business.

And while I know I’m definitely far from learning everything I still need to learn, I wanted to share with you what I HAVE learned thus far.

I’ve actually been wanting to write this blog post for quite some time – as I’ve jotted down thoughts in a journal regarding this subject. But here it is…

10 Things You Can Do To Be a Better Artist.


  1. Know that you will never be able to please 100% of the people, but you can be 100% true to yourself.

    Truth.  Even if you get those tens upon tens of thousands of Facebook or Instagram fans, or millions of YouTube views on our videos and you start to feel like you are hot stuff and the best at what you do – you still won’t please everyone.  Even if you write what you feel is possibly THE most beautiful song and produced to perfection, there may still be someone out there who will disagree and give you that aggravating thumbs down, or rude comment.

    I used to let this get under my skin when it would happen.  But you know what?  This is life.  Everyone has a choice of what type of food they love, what style of clothing they prefer, and what music they listen to.  They are going to love what they love. And YOU…you just need to have confidence in yourself and what you are putting out there and remain true to your own creative vision.

    I really like the saying “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.

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  2. Don’t put too much thought into “Likes” or “Dislikes” on social media.

    There was a time when I used to check my number of Facebook likes almost daily.  I would also pay attention if my number of Instagram followers went down after a particular post that I made.

    Oh man, I just lost some followers probably because I did a mommy post about my baby and they are only here to follow my music.

    I would say this to myself – because HELLO – I wanted to retain followers and goshdarnitt I wanted people to like me.  I became overly concerned about what I posted until one day I realized I shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they liked me.  What other people thought of me was none of my business.

    You can’t worry about what others think. You just have to be you.

    tfey

    Now I rarely have a clue how many followers I have. It’s exhausting try to care about it.

    First of all, do YOU unfollow people that are no longer relevant to your current interests?  Yes, of course you do.  And do you do it because you dislike the person or you think they suck?  No. I mean, not usually.  It’s personal, right?  It’s not really about them, but it’s more about whatever it is you are into right now and what you want to see in your social media feed.  So don’t take it personal when someone unfollows you.  It’s not about you.

    And as for Facebook?  Pshsh.  Don’t even get me started.  With how you have to pay to boost posts for your current fans to even see anything you post anyway, and how people can pay for fake likes and so forth…I don’t see the relevancy on number of likes anymore.

  3. Be a real human.

    I don’t have too much to say about this other than – don’t be someone who just pushes your music on people like a used car salesman.  Be a real human being with your fans.

    In all reality, people nowadays really just yearn to know about you and what you do outside of music, behind the scenes.  This doesn’t mean you have to disclose your inner soul, but just be real.  Don’t try to be perfect. Allow people to know that you are human, that you too wake up with messy hair, you have bad days, and you eat fast food.

    fake-is-the-latest-trend-be-different-be-real

    One of my fans once told me that the biggest reason she followed her favorite artists on social media was not to find out about the latest music news or listen to links to their music, but to find out what they were doing outside of music.  The whole reason she was their fan in the first place was because she already knew and loved their music. That was a given.  But she wanted to know them as a human being.

  4. Be humble.

    I always tell myself that if I ever get to a point where I think I’m pretty awesome and better than others, then I need to check myself.

    Don’t ever think you are better than someone, or that you have it all figured out. Even if you have won multiple awards or have X number of albums out, you still have things to learn.

    And be humble with your fans too, btw.

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  5. Make your own dreams come true. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.

    I feel like there are so many artists out there who are waiting for some big record executive to discover them, offer them the deal of a lifetime so that they can go on to make lots of money and be super famous.

    Look, it just doesn’t happen that way. And if it does happen, it is very VERY rare that, especially in 2016.  Do you want to know why?

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    First off – competition.  For every one of you, there are thousands more out there who are also trying to land a record contract or who are waiting for that bigtime producer to notice them.  So not only do you need to be talented, but you have to be EXTREMELY multi-talented, beautiful, young, and unique. And you need to have quality demos that basically sound like a finished product (which they will then take and completely change it to sound like something else).

    Second, the need for artists to have a record label in order to be successful is becoming more and more of a thing of the past.  It’s 2016!  Look at violinist Lindsey Stirling.

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    She is a successful self-made millionaire with record labels offering her contracts left and right, but she turns them all down. Why?  Because she has built such a huge system of fan support that they stand behind her and continue to help her have success – she doesn’t need a label.  And it goes without saying that with her huge success, aside from her talent and originality, one of the reasons labels want her so badly is because they see how successful she is and they want a part of that (with dollar signs in their eyes).  But I love how she continues to defy all odds and show the world that she is a force to be reckoned with.

    And P.S. with more and more artists becoming successful independents, the need for record labels continue to decline and many are not as financially affluent as they once were – thus making the number of new artists they sign fewer and fewer.

    3c97c4d14375cb22dedc9bf40cfd04a5
    I truly TRULY believe that you can do anything you put your mind to.  You have to think outside of the box sometimes, but it is entirely possible.  If you have a dream, YOU can make it happen. You just have to work hard.  And you need to ASK.

    Do you want to perform with an orchestra but you don’t know how?

    Ask.

    Do you want to record a music video but don’t have the money, do crowd funding?

    Ask.

    People want to see you succeed.

    fae50fdfcedc1bcc02c33f6fa65f8989
    My first album was produced on a really crappy keyboard with basic software. I did all my own artwork, promotion, and everything.  The only thing I hired out was 2 soloists, and my mixing/mastering engineer.

    My most recent album was recorded with a real orchestra, and a choir at one of the most prestigious recording cathedrals in the country and mixed and mastered with a Grammy award winning engineer, and my debut concert was at Benaroya Hall with full symphony and choir.  All because I ASKED.

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    And do you want to know what?

    That first album, despite it’s humble beginnings, is what got me onto Pandora, which then led thousands of listeners to discover me.  I now have  over 40 million unique listeners on Pandora (and it pays the mortgage.)

  6. Do invest in quality artwork and photos.

    You know how they say to never judge a book by it’s cover?

    Well that doesn’t apply to music albums.

    Your album cover will totally be judged as it is the first thing someone sees when they are introduced to your CD. And if you have really bad artwork or amateur looking photos, then they are going to assume that your music is really bad and amateur too.

    I’m super picky when it comes to this, and my biggest thing is fonts.  Even just the font you choose can make your cover look professional or amateur.

    Photography?  Hire someone.  It’s worth it, I promise.

    If you want people to take you seriously, you need to have some professional looking photos.  Put down the smart phone, and don’t try to manipulate that one photo that your friend took of you from 10 years ago to look like an album cover.

    (From my 3rd album – “Illumination”)

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    From my 4th album “Winter Symphony”

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    Make sure you have high-resolution photos.  Be sure the coloring is correct – you don’t want your face to be shadowed or colors to be weird (unless of course you are going for a shadowed face).  Also keep in mind that nowadays, most people will be viewing your album cover as a tiny thumbnail on iTunes or Amazon because most people buy digitally.  How does your album cover look as a 100×100 pixel picture?  Does it stand out?  Does it make sense?

    amazon hot new release Nov 20a

    And last of all, get opinions!  Ask people that you know and trust will give you their honest opinion. It’s better to have your cover reviewed by someone then to go to print and realize you ended up with this:

    ken_14
    Or this:

    876eab5f5baec8ec3852b25ed42a9bac
    This…

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    Haha…this…

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    or THIS.

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  7. Keep up the maintenance practicing.

    I am SO guilty of not doing this.  I am either in full blown performance practicing mode for concerts or not practicing at all.  And then opportunities will come to me while I’m on a “break” and will sometimes miss those opportunities because I’m not up to speed on my music.

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    I get it. Life is busy. I’m a mom of 3 little ones and so I don’t always practice every day. But DO do maintenance practicing, even just to keep your most popular songs in your fingers (or voice).

    practice

  8. Do make contracts and agreements with people you work with.

    I actually have really fond memories from my first album where I knew everyone that was helping me with it – we were friends – and most of them were just doing it for free to help out. I was so grateful and I loved the feeling of trust between everyone.  We did not do any agreements or anything, because honestly at the time it never even crossed my mind.

    But 10 years later, as my career has progressed, I’m learning how essential it is to have these agreements set in place before starting a project.

    I have had several experiences where I worked with people where we never made a formal agreement or a contract and then later on something came up where it seemed we weren’t clear on an issue, or another situation where perhaps one person didn’t feel that they were compensated enough.

    The people you work with want to be protected, but you also need to protect yourself. It goes both way and is mutually beneficial.

    images
    And read and consider everything before you sign an agreement too. I tend to be the type where I just want to trust everyone and I think “everything is going to be just fine!”.  Because ALL projects start out blissful. But I’ve done projects where I agreed to an amount, and then as it turned out it ended up taking 100 more hours to complete than I thought it would and I didn’t put anything into my contract about being compensated for extra hours or a bajillion extra editing sessions – so by the time I finished the project I felt like I actually went into debt for it instead of being paid – haha.

    And to be completely honest, I still reeeeeeally dread the “money conversation”. Part of me wishes that I could always just have that friendly nice working environment that I did like on my first album – where everything was bliss, no problems arose, and we were all friends. But even sometimes working with friends, misunderstandings happen and it can be so awkward. So having the “money conversation” needs to happen and so does a written agreement.  And trust me it’s so much better to have this all done upfront so you’re not left in the dark later on. I’m speaking from experience on this one – where I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve been the person that someone was upset at, and I’ve also been the person who felt like I worked way more than what I was being paid for.

  9. Don’t vent on social media.

    In case you haven’t learned already, being present on social media is a must on every artist’s to-do list.  The better you can become at it, the better you will be able to be present out there to people who love your music and will prospectively come to love your music.

    So DO be present on social media.

    But for heaven’s sake do NOT vent, publicly bash, gossip, or belittle someone on social media. There will probably be times when you get frustrated with a project, or maybe someone you are working with – but tweeting about it only makes you look like a jerk, and it will also ruin relationships. Keep your head and your cool, and be professional.70b37bc4765f5a39e931c6b6c569984e
    I know an artist who had a bad experience filming a music video and while that person stayed 100% classy, the person they worked with went onto twitter and posted a tweet that was extremely derogatory towards this artist.  I’m not sure if this person didn’t think that the tweets would be seen or what, but the artist cancelled the video and it was never finished and obviously those two will never work together again. Not to mention the person who put out the tweets got a bad rep as being volatile and rude, which probably ruined some possible prospective projects for them as well.

    Unless you plan to vent about something that could have a positive outcome – i.e. a cause you believe in, or something silly that will make people laugh but is of little consequence – just. don’t. type. it. Period.  Put the phone down and walk away from the computer and vent to your best friend in person instead.

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  10. Thank your fans.

    Please do remember to let your fans and the people closest to you that support you know how much you are grateful for them.  A little “Thank you” goes a long ways.  Without them, you would probably be performing to an empty room so make sure you let them know that you value them and their presence.26382753-Thank-You-Word-Cloud-in-vector-format-Stock-Vector

    And besides, people who support the arts are just basically some of the coolest people I know.😉

Being Happy for Your Friends’ Happiness

20150206_183709I just returned from Grammy weekend in Los Angeles!

Will (my husband), and I flew down with the purpose of supporting our dear friends, Ricky Kej, and Wouter Kellerman as they were nominated for a Grammy Award.

And guess what? THEY WON!

It was very exciting, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for them!  I have known Ricky for a couple of years, and Wouter for the past year.  Early last year, Ricky and his wife spent a few days in Seattle and I showed them around and we had so much fun.  And Wouter is so incredibly nice and has a 100 watt smile all of the time!  I can honestly say that these two gentlemen are a couple of the most genuine people I’ve met, and they do music for all the right reasons.

I am beyond happy for them!

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Aside from this amazing weekend, I wanted to talk about success and happiness.  It’s something that we all want.  We ALL desire happiness in various shapes or form.

But there is this thing, especially now days with social media, where if we see a friend have a little bit of success – whether they got a job raise, or lost 50 pounds, or sold a million copies of their new book – we sometimes feel bad about ourselves.

WHY?

This has been on my mind so much lately – so many instances recently where I’ve seen people hate on others for their good fortune.

I read this article last week that was featured on the Huffington Post entitled “When Her Good News Makes You Feel Bad“.

READ IT.

I think comparison and competition exist partly because we believe that there is a scarcity of good things in the universe. And that belief makes us kind of small and scared and unable to feel true joy for others or peace for ourselves.”
(Read more in the article).

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I will admit, that there have been times in my own music career, when I’ve seen other similar artists get millions of youtube views, or sell a lot more albums than me, or maybe they are just a heckuva lot more famous than myself…and there is a part of me that has momentarily felt bad for myself.

On the flipside, I have even had friends unfriend me before, or not talk to me – and at a later time I come to find out that it was because I was doing well in my music and they weren’t, or that my life was going so much better than their’s and they just couldn’t take seeing the positive status updates.  At one point, a friend sent me a personal message telling me that the reason she had backed away from our friendship was because I was always posting about things going well in my life, and it made her feel bad about her’s.

Everyone has their good days and their bad.  But we are all different, and we all certainly do not have the same talents.  While I might be good at music, I can tell you that I am not very good at crafty things.  But instead of dwelling on the fact that I will probably never sew my kids’ Halloween costumes or have a Pinterest home, I remind myself that I can appreciate others who are gifted at those things and concentrate on the things that I am good at.

And above all, HERE’S the thing, everyone:

When you finally understand that there is NOT some cosmic rule that the universe or God makes about how much good fortune there is to go around – and that just because someone else has something good happen to them does NOT mean there is now less of it available…you will find yourself in a place where you can truly and genuinely be happy.

You will be happy for yourself.

You will be happy for your friends (and I mean GENUINELY happy).

You will find hope for yourself.

And you will find a whole lot more love in your heart and see the world differently.

And if you see your friend talking about something wonderful that happened for them?  Be happy for them, and then you get out there and work hard for yourself too and just know that it IS possible for you as well.

– Jennifer

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