100 Hour challenge

It’s been a month since I last updated you on this. Well, well, well, haven’t I been good! Wherever there is a piano, I is. I am practicing jazz standards and improvising. I’ve been averaging 2 hours a day and it has positively impacted upon my gigging, I got loads of compliments at Friday’s penultimate tour date, I felt loads more confident. No idea I suggested was rejected in terms of improv, however I was told to turn myself down, lol! Having regular lessons, and my teacher said in just 2 lessons I had improved considerably, yay!

Say, I’d practiced 1 hour a day for the last 4 weeks that would take me up to 89 hours on this old challenge, I know I’ve done more, but let’s just say I’ve done that šŸ˜‰ We both know after 100 hours this aint gonna end, hooked.
I’m moving this week, so practice is on hold cos everything is being boxed up, but I’m keen to get back on the pedal!

Go me!

Week 6 & 7: 100 Hr Challenge


Day 1: Fail, still in Brumtee, spoke to mi ma about secretly moving my piano from the old house to the new (behind Pa’s back), we’ll see, he doesn’t really do Internet btw.
Day 2: Fail still in Brum, social media workshop, helping these cherubs become digital journalists.
Day 3: Fail, still in Brum exhausted, chilling with my baby
Day 4: Mediasnackers training/CPD, still in Brum
Day 5: Back in Londungeon, practice for an hour
Day 6: Practice for a couple of hours, start with some Bach, Debussy and then chords, training myself to play chords as quickly as possible
Day 7: Didn’t manage to fit any in. Booo! But I contacted a jazz pianist for lessons

Week 7:
Monday: Practiced for a few hours, still getting my head round playing chords automatically.
Tuesday: Chris D came round and we jammed around compositional ideas.
Wednesday: Had a lesson with my new teacher and learnt loads!!
Thursday: Been practicing, properly
Friday – Sunday: Doubt I’ll get a chance back in Brum.

Someone asked me what is the 100 Hour Challenge? I quote Rachel Carter:
ā€œPick something about which you are passionate, which you have a deep desire to learn or to achieve yourself. It can be related to work or totally personal. Ideally itā€™s something you will share with the wider world. Practice, read up on, share your knowledge on your chosen challenge for at least one hour a day, every day, for 100 days.ā€

This week will take me to the 49th hour.

100 Hour challenge: Second week

Day 9: Practiced for two hours, worked through 2-5-1s randomly. Tried to improvise over them, sounded pants!

Day 10: Went to Rachel’s after workshopping all day, got lost, took ages to get there so was tired and hungry, played through scales, and tried to improvise, felt a tad exposed and embarrassed playing knowing Ms. Carter was listening but got through it. Was rewarded with Rachel’s home grown cherries, yum!

Day 11: Nada, all day workshops, planning, emails, tired. Fail

Day 12: Nada. See above

Day 13: Fail. All day workshops.

Day 14: Fail. Read a bit about jazz theory but no playing.

I’m not worried, when I’m near a piano and not working, I’m practicing, as I’ve been working in Brum so much, there’ve been fewer chances to play.

100 Hour Challenge: Days 4 – 8


I spoke to my mum about my old piano (given to me at childhood); currently covered in cobwebs and black bags (don’t ask), but the easiest option was to use my fella’s MIDI controller attached to Garageband, couldn’t be bothered to pair up with Logic, wanted a less heavy DAW, a basic piano sound was desired.

Some of the notes didn’t work, but it still helped me to tinkle away. I feel loads more confident about modes, I over intellectualised something quite simple. I played through several modes in each key, mainly dorian and lydian, it helped a lot. Apparently every scale can be made into a series of chords.

Day 5: No practice, no excuse really, as the lovely Rachel said I could use her piano, but ran out of time to arrange this, however I spent some time learning about self-marketing. Ā Still a fail!

Day 6: Friday, all day workshops with a 6am start, had a little time to jam on the piano with Chris Bishop (see Paganel project), but failed again as I jumped on a train straight after to London. I saw the amazing blues, ngoni maestro Bassekou Kouyate perform at the Barbican, the music was amazing, crowd were dull – hardly any dancing! Booo! Bassekou’s improvising is amazing, his music show’s the origins of blues music and has an amazing stageĀ presence. His wife has a beautiful voice, such power and playfulness! Loved it.

Day 7: Spent 3 hours practicing which included a chat with composerĀ Sid Peacock about jazz theory. I went through progressions, realised I got some chords wrong, went through 2-5-1s again. I realised I had been confusing myself with trying to work out which scales to use, and relying too much on the key signatures. I’m getting better at spotting 2-5-1s in pieces, which means I know what initial scale to use, although there are plenty more to explore; baby steps.

Some great pointers from Sid were, practice with a metronome accenting beats 2 and 4, play 2-5-1s in a random order, get a teacher, check the improvisation primer and not get to bogged down with theory to start with, noodle. Thank you Sid!

Day 8: Using the advice from Sid, created 12 scraps of paper for each key, picked one randomly and practiced 2-5-1s.

Played through “Tune Up”, chords mainly and worked out how to play chords and melody. Tried to improvise, it sounded okay, but a bit dry. Need me some licks! Then played through some other pieces including yesterdays. All good, the louder I play the more confidence I get, but that’s the problem, I’m worried about disturbing my neighbours, so am quite timid. “Headphones”! I hear you exclaim, yes, I will use ’em next time. Wounded that I’ll be away from my keys for another week! I must get better at finding a piano in Brum!

New Horizons Opportunity

Thanks to Nicola Briggs at Sound it Out for forwarding an exciting opportunity for musicians!

New Horizons Birmingham – Professional Development Training.

It’s for musicians who:

* Have a high level of skills in at least one specialist area of music, which could be anything from sitar or rock guitar to voice or woodwind.
* Have the potential to inspire and motivate children and young people to make music.
* Already have some experience of running workshops or helping others make music.
* Want to develop the skills and knowledge needed to work more formally in the education sector, including working for Music Services
* Want to build skills in individual and small group teaching
* Sound It Out strives to promote equal opportunities and encourages applications from Black and Ethnic Minority musicians.

For more information:

email: enquiries@sounditout.co.uk

Tel: 0121 772 8655

The Beginning

This blog is going to be a documentation of my life as a community musician. Just to give you a background of my professional history;

I studied classical music to degree level and grew dissatisfied with the classical music industry- becoming increasingly intimidated by the snobbery and obsession with class; especially since I grew up on an ex council estate. I also then began to doubt myself as a musician; and had a hefty overdraft to pay back! Oh dear!!

After several crappy admin jobs that helped me become organised and good at multi-tasking, I passed a CELTA EFL course and ran away from the UK to live in my brand new home away from home; in Sendai and then to Tokyo thanks to the JET Programme for a total of 3 years. I had an amazing time, learned the language quite well although I am forgetting it all. šŸ™

Before leaving I did a music workshop at Symphony for C21Vox. I loved it and vowed to pursue Community Arts when returning to Blighty.

And so I did. It took 9 months of reverse culture shock and an email from a good chum of mine to get onto a wicked course run by the council called Flying Start: It aims to widen the diversity of artists working in participatory and community arts.

It equipped me with:

Hands on project and workshop delivery experience with major Birmingham arts organisations.

Accredited training in how to plan and deliver Arts workshops.

Business and freelance start-up information and advice.

Networking opportunities with other artists, key contacts within Arts organisations and potential employers.

I completed my placement with Sound Futures (the Birmingham Youth Music Action Zone). I gained enormous support, advice and professional skills from director Barry D’Souza and coordinator Jon Payne. Many thanks!

So now, the security blanket has been removed, I have quit my ESOL tutor job and have pledged to make a living solely from the Arts- gulp!

I now face the task of being a freelance community musician.

So far, not so bad. I have applied for and have a place on a course run by MusicLeader called the Music Igniter:
A groundbreaking new project, bringing together MusicLeader West Midlands and the region’s Creative Partnerships areas. Providing intensive training for 10 musicians and 10 teachers based on creating new music; includes a project fund to support activities in CP settings run by the trainees”.

This seems like an ideal step from Flying Start. I get to focus on my art skill and work alongside music teachers. I get to receive first hand input from music practitioners who have extensive experience of community music/music education.

I have been told that I have also successfully gained a position as an adult mentor for a government initiative called The Respect Programme which will get young people involved in making music and provide one-to-one mentoring sessions with peers, musicians and the music industry. The aim is to tackle anti-social behaviour, and to raise aspirations and respect within the community. I am well excited!!

That’s all for now I think.

Here are some Flying Start pics: