Balancing music and work: 6 ‘Note’worthy tips to become musically productive

Are you a working professional, also trying to learn, produce, play, perform, or compose music? If you are, you must be trying to squeeze time from your hectic schedule for music. First off, congratulations on your spirit – you may or may not know it but keeping alive your passion for music will ensure your life is exciting, colourful, and harmonious.

Benefits of music

You are in august company! There are many people trying to balance a bill-paying job with their musical aspirations. (Psst: Look out for the list of eminent singers and musicians who had regular jobs while they were building their musical careers.) After all, music has many benefits – it makes you more productive and creative, as well as helps destress you. You can also use music to keep yourself focussed. This creative pursuit will make you better at your day job as well, so keep at it!

Challenges involved in balancing work & music

All the same, let’s not downplay the challenges involved in trying to maintain two demanding commitments. Juggling any pursuit along with a work schedule can be daunting. Like any other profession or skill, music requires efficient time management, commitment, dedication, and discipline. And most of all, a direction and plan so you do not work hard endlessly with little or nothing to show for it. Also, your job might have nothing to do with music so staying focussed on your musical dreams might be that much more of an effort.

Now that we have listed the possible downsides, let’s find out how we can effectively counter it. It is important to remember that while music is an art, the way to maintain and nurture it requires a scientific and targeted approach. So, it will help to have your week planned out well in advance. But first, you must be clear about what your ultimate aim is, where music is concerned.

What are your goals & priorities – music-wise?

Is music a hobby that you want to be good at? Or is it something you want to pursue professionally? Once you are clear about this, you will be able to decide the level of commitment required and the course of direction your musical aspirations should take. If it is a fun pastime that doubles as a de-stresser, then it should be okay to miss the odd session or two. However, to keep your interest alive, make sure that you keep learning and growing with small goals.

For instance, if you are a songwriter, aim to write at least two verses before the end of the week, if you are a singer or musician, learn a song this week & perform it in front of your social circles by the end of the month. If you are a music producer, mix a song and test it with your colleagues at work, and so on. Just to keep yourself motivated. Growth ensures you continue your passion.

On the other hand, if you want to pursue it professionally, be prepared to have your nose to the grindstone so to speak. You will have a busy life, there’s no mincing words. The trick is to enjoy it – and practise with dedication and passion with a goal in mind. Even a full time professional has to make time for practice in their hectic life of gigs and rehearsals. So, it is important to know how to balance your life to ensure you have time and energy for music.

In light of this, see if these tips for balancing music and a busy life can help you live the fuller and productive life you envisioned for yourself:

music promotion tips
music promotion tips

1. Schedule some dedicated time for music every day

Work life comes with many more responsibilities than school and college life – familial commitments, financial obligations, added work priorities, travel plans, and so on. So, it is essential that you chalk out some special time for music to focus on your art. Time management is of the essence for working professionals.

Regular practice makes a world of difference in music. It could be a couple of hours every day to begin with. You could stretch this on holidays or days when your work pressure is low. Or practise an hour every morning and every evening if nothing else works. Long hours of focussed time might be better than staggered hours especially if you are in the mood with a good momentum going. Whatever your target is, make sure that it is achievable and realistic. It should neither be too easy nor too hard. Read some expert tips for aspiring musicians.

Sometimes, you might feel like you need more than 24 hours in the day to schedule such time for music. But, there may be many small windows in your day that you might not have considered – like the commute time to work, or the time saved from the commute if you are still working from home. You could also consider sacrificing some sleep time and use the early morning hours to work on your music.

How many hours do professionals practise?
Violinist Ambi Subramaniam says, “Before the pandemic, I used to play nine to ten hours every day. I used to play the piano also for some months.” Singer, songwriter, and Dean of SaPa, Bindu Subramaniam, says “It depends on what works for you. Hariharan (singer) used to sing eight hours a day for years together. That wouldn’t work for me. Find out what works for you and stick to it. It’s more important to be consistent, regular, focussed, and mindful.

2. Maximise the weekend time

If your weekday schedule does not give you a breather, you could include music sessions during the weekend. Take a music class, book tickets to a concert (some are opening up now so take care and venture out), or you could get together with your buddies and play! This will make you feel in tune with the music world which, for many people, might vary considerably from their daily job.

Make Saturdays Karaoke night. This is also a good time to invite friends, family, and colleagues to a musical get-together and display your skills. You will get valuable feedback and exposure for your music. 

Singers and musicians who had regular jobs
1. Sanjay Subrahmanyan (Carnatic vocalist) – worked as a Chartered Accountant for years before he became a full time Carnatic singer.
2. Art Garfunkel (singer of Simon & Garfunkel fame) was a Math teacher with degrees from Columbia University!
3. H K Venkatram (Carnatic violinist) is a Senior Director at Intel.
4. P Unnikrishnan (playback singer & Carnatic vocalist) was a corporate executive before he became a full time singer.
5. Sheryl Crow (singer) was a teacher at an elementary school – yes, you guessed right – a music teacher!

Bindu Subramaniam, who also records songs, while being the Dean of SaPa, among her many roles, sums it up well, “You should always be challenging yourself and upskilling and learning. There’s always something to learn. The game is constantly changing and you have to keep sharpening your mind and your skill sets. You’re never done.” So, whether you are a full time professional musician, singer, or producer or a part-time one, remember to constantly practise, striving for excellence.

What else can you do to ensure you have time for music amidst your busy schedule? Read on.

3. Get rid of time-wasters

If you look closely at your day, you will find that there are many breaks in the day that you could use more effectively. Some people may even testify to that time adding up to at least an hour – even during work. It would be good to get rid of these time-wasters – whether it is answering random WhatsApp messages, surfing about the latest deals on Amazon, or taking an extended tea break. Be disciplined about your schedule when you are at work so you can increase your efficiency outside of it as well. 

Remember that you are a person with a mission, and your passion for music will necessitate that you give up all things that are unproductive but consume a chunk of your time. This could include partying with your friends, going on vacations, texting, surfing – basically, all social commitments will take a backseat. Make your peace with that. Remember it will be worth it when you achieve your musical goals.

4. Build your musical community 

Surround yourself with music aficionados that you can rub ideas and opinions off of. Being part of different musical groups can give you a fresh take on your music and give wings to your imagination as creativity needs a lot of air to survive – the more diverse it is, the more learning there is and the richer your music will be from it. Make use of social media and the internet. If you have the time, you can even try a temporary part-time job in a music store or try accompanying a DJ during events – to get a feel of the contemporary music scene.

5. Include your family in your music

Family life balance is not something you want to compromise on at any time. So, how can you work during the day, practise music, and spend time with your family? Simple! Take your family along with you on your musical journey – Karaoke together, play while they sing, sing well-known nursery rhymes in your latest tune, mix songs together, use them as sound boards for your musical ideas, or write songs together. When they participate in your pursuit, you’ll be checking 2 boxes with one tick – the quality family time and your passion!

6. Give yourself some downtime

Balancing work as well as music can make your life challenging and exciting at the same time. You might feel overwhelmed at times. That’s natural. It’s okay to take some short breaks when you need to so you don’t get bogged down. Also, you don’t have to completely give up socialising with your near and dear ones. If it refreshes and energises you, it’s worth it. So, cut back when you need to so your passion doesn’t feel like a compulsion. Most of all, enjoy every step of your musical journey!

You could also boost your musical skill sets and take classes with SaPa’s self-paced courses, taught by music legends from the industry. These are courses you always wanted to learn but never had the time to sign up for – 15 different disciplines – singing, playing, music production, songwriting in different musical genres. Explore now and become a master in no time! 

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