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"amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (here)

Postby bloke » Mon Nov 12, 2018 12:50 pm

These words ("amateur" and "professional") are - most often, to my ears and vocabulary - used incorrectly. They only (via my understanding of definitions) refer to whether someone does someone "for the love of it" or "for remuneration" (money).

Luckily (though I would be forced to live quite modestly were I to be forced to live off this income), I play enough for money ("professionally") to be fulfilled musically. Further (again: luckily), I am afforded a wide variety of musical experiences. Were this not the case, I definitely ~would~ find places to play music with no compensation offered.

Amateur does NOT mean "less of a musician", and professional does NOT mean "more of a musician". When some people might be heard saying, "I just don't know how professionals do that", they are probably wondering about the wrong things, and are - in a way - disqualifying themselves from a possibility of significant improvement.

Professionals (more often that one might imagine) can easily be adequate/mediocre musicians (such as myself), and amateurs (more often than one might imagine...but we've all encountered these as well) can easily be astonishingly accomplished musicians.

===============================================================

Mostly, we tend to discuss equipment here, but occasionally "playing skills" are discussed. When playing skills are discussed, I notice a great emphasis on "tone production", "warm-ups", "technique", "flexibility" (i.e. personal musical skills).

Some not-the-most-accomplished "professionals" (regarding the "personal" musical skills) get by in professional engagements via some other (group-related) skills, which other musicians (I would estimate) find more valuable in their colleagues than any of the personal skills - mentioned just above...

...and I realize that I'm only talking to a few, but one of those few includes MYSELF, as ~I~ tend to forget many/most of these things fairly regularly :| , and must constantly remind myself and re-embrace these things...

time: One of the most disconcerting things - in small or large groups (as our instruments are rarely solo instruments, and are - nearly always - ensemble instruments) is inaccurate time. It's far more disconcerting than are bad pitch (tuning) or faulty resonance (i.e. "bad tone"). This includes both the accuracy of big pulses and the accurate division of pulses. Again, ~I~ am guilty of poor time, and am quite flawed. Unfortunately, the only way to maintain/improve is to work on this constantly and to pay attention to it constantly. I'm listing no methods...We all know the methods of maintenance and improvement.

reading: Reading (at sight) seems to be emphasized less and less. As an example, so much of school music is now rote-taught (marching shows / choral music) and very little is (simply) read once or twice and put away. Likely, this is due to the increased demands on music teachers to put out a performance product, rather than to educate ~and~ put out a performance product. Reading music at sight is no different from reading words/text at sight and speaking aloud. Either is done best when the skill to read ~ahead~ (and to say/play what has already been seen) is developed. Those who are "pretty good" at this can say the correct words out loud with minimum stammering, or play the notes out loud with minimum errors. Those better at this, though (through practice) can also add natural speech inflections or musical phrasing to reading and speaking or playing at sight.

tuning: There are (more, but) two primary tuning systems used in western music: equal temperament and mathematical temperament. We all know what equal temperament is: the primary pitches offered to us by our electronic tuners. Mathematical tuning, though, involves removing the harmonic interference from intervals by getting the multiplication/division of vibrations per seconds congruent with other pitches being played. This involves value judgments (to whom to tune...?? when to do it...??) etc. and constant listening. Ironically, if we strive to do this via some draconian list of do's and don't's, we often end up overdoing and sounding much worse. We've all heard endless thousands of hours of western music, and (I believe) relying on our ears is a much better system than any formulaic system...but (again) - as does time - tuning (unfortunately) requires our constant attention.

listening: Listening is done on several levels, and the higher the level, the more is heard. The lowest level of listening is listening to ourselves (which we - at least me - are all guilty of not [even] doing, from time-to-time). The next next level is listening to those around us (typically: our "section"...either "tubas", "low brass", or "brass" - for blend/balance/intonation. A higher level of listening is listening to the entire ensemble - as a whole and as a group of individuals. "Is my thing - here - jiving with that second violins thing - over there?"...etc.

following: Everyone complains about conductors/music directors, from time-to-time. That having been said, we don't really ~need~ them that much, and it is ultimately our ~own~ responsibility (individually/collectively) to play as an ensemble and to make music. This is not meant to be judgmental, but I often hear some people complain about lack of direction, whereas others never seem to present this complaint. Often, those who present this complaint are some of the same who will demonstrate difficulty playing with an ensemble. A "music director" ~selects~ the music to be played, and ~interprets~ the ways in which it is to be played. When a music director (once all of the former has been accomplished prior-to and during the first "reading" rehearsal) eventually functions as the "conductor", they begin/end events, remind of phrasing/dynamics, demonstrate time, and encourage entrances. That having been said, an ensemble (regardless of size) should be able to perform without a person on a podium. Finally, people on podiums make about the same number of errors as do the musicians in their ensembles, and it's up to the musicians (who are actually responsible for producing all of the sounds) to know when mistakes are made on podiums, and to ignore and/or work past them.

courage: It requires a bit of courage to play very well, as one must also give oneself "permission" to do so. "I didn't practice this enough, so I'm going to screw it up" is obviously a self-fulfilling prophecy. "I completely know how this is supposed to sound, I'm a pretty good player, and all I have to do is to pay attention and to fit this passage in with the other sounds around me" is yet another self-fulfilling prophecy. Further, courage can have an effect on time. It requires courage to enter on the "front" rather than in "the middle" of the very beginning of a musical event. Entering on "the front" is dynamic (not "loudness/dynamics", but "dynamic/energetic"). Having events occur at their properly-assigned milliseconds (rather than an instant later - due to lack of confidence) reduces energy, reduces clarity, and reduces listener enjoyment. Listeners may not be able to put their fingers on what is "there" or what is "missing", but listeners (patrons/attendees) can easily hear the difference. Summarizing, to enter ~without~ the need to ~first~ hear others enter a millisecond earlier (again) requires courage/trust/confidence, and contributes tremendous amounts of energy to musical products.

' just a few bloke ramblings... Mostly, I believe I'm giving ~myself~ a public pep talk here, to encourage me to be a better servant towards others involved in the ensembles with which I work.
Last edited by bloke on Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby windshieldbug » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:32 pm

8)
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby MaryAnn » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:53 pm

My very short description of amateur vs professional is that the amateur's focus is on what he is doing, while the professional's focus is on what is going on around him. The rest is skills.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby Patrase » Mon Nov 12, 2018 3:04 pm

As an amateur I have had the good fortune to play with a very good (top 3 in the country) brass band. As someone with a full time non musical job and a family time to practice, warm up, do studies etc (like what bloke said is discussed here often) is not something I have. What I have learnt is how to play in an ensemble, to readjust my mindset to listen constantly to the first play and imitate their style and intonation and have the courage to play even if they (rarely) make a mistake or are absent.
I have also learnt to not follow the conductor as much and listen to others for for changes in tempo and start of phrases etc.

So thanks bloke it is a great post as I feel it articulates what I have learnt over the last few years.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby Worth » Mon Nov 12, 2018 3:35 pm

Thanks for a great post with lots to absorb. As an amateur, courage (or confidence) has always been a pet peeve of mine, or rather the lack thereof on the part of some amateur players who otherwise would have the skills to make a difference, if only they weren't waiting for someone else to come in first. Makes you want to pull your hair out. Quite frustrating in the non-audition community band setting, an ever-present lag (loss of energy) which holds the ensemble back. Of course, there are always those with quite enough courage to add that final stinger when one is NOT called for (and then think it's funny). I always felt that amateurs do it for fun and professionals do it for money and, hopefully, it stays as fun as possible.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby roughrider » Mon Nov 12, 2018 5:19 pm

Thank you for a terrific post. I will use it when working with my beginning students tomorrow! :tuba:
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby Doc » Mon Nov 12, 2018 6:32 pm

8) 8) 8)
All that, plus $8.00, will get you a venti at Starbucks.
Or in my case, a large can of Folgers.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby Lars Trawen » Mon Nov 12, 2018 7:09 pm

Bloke wrote
tuning: There are (more, but) two primary tuning systems used in western music: equal temperament and mathematical temperament.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
I've always wondered which of the both tuning system tuba players refer to when they talk about tubas playing in perfect tune.
I've asked many people without getting a clear answer.
Since it's very seldom with instruments like piano and organ playing with bands it's more naturally to play the natural tuning.
In my ears it tunes better. I also believe that we in bands automatically play so whithout thinking of it.
I'm interested to hear your thoughts about it, thanks.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby timothy42b » Mon Nov 12, 2018 10:12 pm

Well said. Bravo.

A pet peeve of mine: musicians, sometimes highly skilled, with no situational awareness, who show up in a group that is respectful of each other during warmup, and proceed to blast away ignoring everybody else. Sometimes young, not always though. If you're not paying attention, how are you going to listen, blend, match articulation, support the lead instead of overpowering it, etc>
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby GC » Mon Nov 12, 2018 11:22 pm

Do you consider semiprofessional to be an actual thing?
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby jperry1466 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:20 am

Excellent points, bloke, and timothy42b as well. As one who has been fortunate to play both professionally (not a lot) and now in my dotage, amateurly (that's both a state of being and a descriptor), those points hit home to my job as a teacher. It is my job to drum (pardon the pun) those things into my students' heads, but it is their job to implement those habits into their own playing. Problem is, musicians are often so ego-driven, that ego often gets in the way of their/our ears and sense. Thanks for a great, well thought out post.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby bloke » Tue Nov 13, 2018 9:02 am

GC wrote:Do you consider semiprofessional to be an actual thing?


I dunno (?? if you're asking me, as I began the thread).
As previously stated, I only view the term "professional" as referring to "being paid".
I'm a "professional" horn-repairs-guy; I repair peoples' musical instruments in exchange for money.
I'm also a "professional" horn-blowing guy; I blow into musical instruments in exchange for money.
The fact that - occasionally - I might repair or blow-into some instruments without charging doesn't destroy my "professional" status.

I personally avoid the noun, "professionalism", because it blurs/confuses the primary definitions of "profession" and "professional".
Moreover, the definition of the term "reliability" is the crystal-clear definition that (in my view) people often seek when using the term, "professionalism".

a grating pet peeve: a musician addressing an audience, and using the phrase, "we professionals"
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby GC » Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:08 pm

I was asking you. Sorry, I should have been clear.

I was thinking the whole paid enough to make a living/paid fairly regularly but can't make a living from it/rarely if ever paid progression of professional/semipro/amateur. But folks at all points in the spectrum can be professional and behavior and demeanor. Lack of professionalism will seriously shorten one's professional and semipro status, though. REAL professionals are the shining example.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby Donn » Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:38 pm

GC wrote:REAL professionals are the shining example.


Professional encompasses any way to make money at it, so there are many different kinds of examples. Some may be more shining than others. Semiprofessional means you don't have to make as much money.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby bloke » Tue Nov 13, 2018 5:22 pm

I'm not sure that "the receipt of enough income from delivering a specific group of services to cover one's annual expenses" is a necessary factor for someone to be "professional" or to be "a professional".

I completely concede that "semiprofessional" has become a word, and that dictionaries define it as "receiving payment for an activity but not relying entirely on it for a living", but I just find it confusing and unnecessary...and I honestly don't believe that my own life situation (i.e. "semiprofessional") is why I'm not particularly fond of the term.

example: I know someone (an actual person: his name is Reese Fort) who is a superb electrician, a superb (truly gifted...I won't go into details) operator of various types of earth-moving/grading equipment, a superb saw-miller, and a superb several-other-things as well. To label him "semiprofessional", though, in those diverse pursuits (it just seems to me) hints towards an improper connotation (whether intended, unintended, understood, or misunderstood...as words not only have matter-of-fact meanings, but also carry the additional baggage of connotation) of "semi-proficiency".

Moreover, it's a word that I never find myself using to describe others.
Again, I prefer words such as "reliable", "competent", etc.
When presented with "semi-reliability" or "semi-competency", my personal tendency is to continue to shop.

In the same way, I tend to reject terms that point towards herding and group-ranking, such as "apprentice", "journeyman", and "master", as I either trust a particular individual's reliability and competence or I don't. Likely, my personal socio-political views (individual-oriented) - along with my never having sought a "full-time" job working for someone else - contribute to this p.o.v. Ironically, a (not only hierarchy-oriented, but corporate...and not only corporate, but government...and not only government, but military...and not only military, but a quite high-up officer - a) general, in fact, said some words that I heard at a meeting one time that really helped me define my own way of looking at such things:

An Army General, about a particular individual, wrote:*What does he contribute?

* :shock: WOW.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby k001k47 » Tue Nov 13, 2018 5:57 pm

GC wrote:I was asking you. Sorry, I should have been clear.

I was thinking the whole paid enough to make a living/paid fairly regularly but can't make a living from it/rarely if ever paid progression of professional/semipro/amateur. But folks at all points in the spectrum can be professional and behavior and demeanor. Lack of professionalism will seriously shorten one's professional and semipro status, though. REAL professionals are the shining example.


Some professionals professional more professionally than other professionals
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby bloke » Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:03 pm

k001k47 wrote:
GC wrote:I was asking you. Sorry, I should have been clear.

I was thinking the whole paid enough to make a living/paid fairly regularly but can't make a living from it/rarely if ever paid progression of professional/semipro/amateur. But folks at all points in the spectrum can be professional and behavior and demeanor. Lack of professionalism will seriously shorten one's professional and semipro status, though. REAL professionals are the shining example.


Some professionals professional more professionally than other professionals


...such as hemidemisemiprofessionals ?

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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby Doc » Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:25 pm

We wore out this topic years ago when discussing who would be allowed to have the “Professional” moniker here on Tubenet.

:roll: :roll: :roll:
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Or in my case, a large can of Folgers.
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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby bloke » Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:27 pm

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Re: "amateur"/"professional" - skills not often discussed (h

Postby lost » Tue Nov 13, 2018 7:22 pm

I think of a professional as someone who has an advanced degree and/or a full time job associated with an area of expertise. Note "expert" in expertise.
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