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Tips for calming down a stressed, creative brain and still getting everything done

Savvy Musician Academy, the online musician, Leah mchenry, facebook for musicians, music career marketing, building a fanbase

I would describe this past week as “scattered” (Post-It Notes are a girl’s best friend)


#MakingTheAlbum Week 4

<<< Click here to watch #MakingTheAlbum Week 3      Click here to watch #MakingTheAlbum Week 5 >>>


I’m still in the middle of song-writing, and I will be for a while. This album is a labour of love, so I’m taking my time to craft meaningful, enduring songs. The problem is, my producer and I have been collaborating on several songs at the same time, and each song is at a different stage. That happens when the ideas start to flow and you want to get them down before you lose them. Also, because he lives in Germany, he works on one or two while I work on another couple. We communicate well, mostly over Skype, but, creatively, switching from song to song makes me feel so scatterbrained. I prefer to work on one song, get it done, and move on to the next.


Last week, I talked about my experience of learning how to program drums, so that I can more easily show my producer the feel I’m going for with each song. Once I’d learned the basics, I was like one of my children when they get a new toy: “Whoo! The novelty!”


After I finally sent my first effort to him, though, he said to me, “You know, I think your drummer sounds a little hysterical, and no drummer could ever play that.”


I laughed and said, “OK, just bear with me. I’m going to tame this. My drummer is going to take a chill pill.”


Honestly, though, I think my drummer was echoing the rhythm of my brain. I know at times I definitely feel hysterical, and I need to tame my thoughts and take a chill pill. There are so many details and steps that I have to remember, and things that I have to tackle to achieve my goals, that my brain works overtime.


Learn More…


So this week’s video is all about a tool I’ve found that is a miracle for getting organized, calming down a stressed, creative brain, and clearing the way for ideas to flow.


There are all sorts of apps and planners and things you can use to get organized and make sure you don’t forget to do things, but sometimes the simplest ways are best, and this tool is as simple as it gets: it’s Post-it notes. With lists. In bright colours. Stuck up on my computer screen, where they’re in my face.


When you write things down, you free up some mental bandwidth for creativity. You no longer need that little juggler who sits up there in your brain, trying to keep too many balls in the air.



Use Post-it notes to remember things,
and free up some mental bandwidth for creativity.


Essentially, I have three Post-Its, with different a type of list on each one.


The first Post-It list is my TO DO list – all the physical tasks I need to get done that day, in order of priority from top to bottom. So it might be “finish backing vocals on track two,” “create Facebook post,” and “give drummer chill pill.” I even write a reminder to color every day. (If you’re confused by that, go back and take a look at my previous videos!) If you write your TO DO list as you’re finishing up each day, when you come down to work the following morning, there’s no pressure to remember everything. As soon as you sit down at your computer, you can see it all there in front of you, and you just do what it says.


As musicians, we need to get to a skill level
where playing or singing is such second-
nature that our muscle-memory kicks in
and we don’t have to think any more.
Then we’re engaged in the moment.



On the second Post-It Note is a list of things I need to remember both while I’m “in training” and when I’m performing.


I want to have a certain level of vocal precision and technique before I go into the studio. Being a musician is like being an athlete. You don’t start training a week before the Olympics; you train for months – years – beforehand. When you first start out, your muscles get shaky because they’re not strong enough, and you need to strengthen them by practicing. As musicians, we need to get to a skill level where playing or singing is such second-nature that we can smile, let our muscle-memory kick in, and not have to think about technique any more. Then we’re engaged in the moment, and we can enjoy it.


So I write out tips for myself, to help with my training. The first tip is to smile before I sing. Smiling relaxes the body, which makes for a better vocal tone.



Our bodies associate smiling with relaxation.
My tone will be better when I smile before I sing.



The second tip is “visualize the notes I want to hit with ease.” Some people are skeptical about visualization. They think it’s mystical, or a little fishy. But a lot of my stumbling blocks come from my beliefs and the mental limitations I put on myself. I believe that God created our minds to be extremely powerful, and that it’s actually a really helpful mental technique to visualize the notes that I want to hit as though they’re easy.



A lot of my stumbling blocks come from my beliefs
and the mental limitations I put on myself.
God created our minds to be extremely powerful,
so I visualize myself hitting the notes with ease.



The final tip is for when I’m performing. My vocal teacher pointed out to me this week that I’ve been so focused on technique, technique, technique, that I’m neglecting to engage my emotions and just perform. So that’s what I’ve been working on this week – forgetting technique and feeling the song.



There’s a time and a season for technique.
There’s a season for preparation – for working out.
Then there’s a time to forget about all that, trust
in your hard work, and engage your emotions.



The final Post-It Note is a reminder of the things I’m doing to address my challenges. My greatest challenge at the moment is sleeping.


If you’re not sleeping, you’re not good for anything. I’ve had a good hard look at why I’m not sleeping well, and I believe that my cortisol level is actually the problem. I’m such an ambitious person that, even when my body isn’t active, my brain is thinking, creating, problem-solving . . . all of which raises cortisol levels. My internal drummer needs to take a chill pill. Even though I find what I do fun, my body perceives it as stress – something that uses up the mental bandwidth. I can’t be at peak performance-level unless I address this, so I’ve started taking some adaptogen herbs that balance hormones and help to manage stress, I make sure I do some belly dancing every day (I’ve been belly dancing for years!), I go to bed by a certain time, making sure I read beforehand, which I love to do, I try to stick to a low-carb diet, and I’m using essential oils.


So those are my Post-it note lists. How can I possibly remember all the little things on them at any given time? I can’t. But the Post-its ensure that I never forget, and that takes the pressure off.


A lot has happened this week. I’m tackling a lot. I’m addressing physical, mental and emotional issues. All of those things will affect creativity, and ultimately how our projects turn out, so remember to take care of yourself – your body, your mind and your emotions.


In the comments below, give me your own tips for calming an overactive or hysterical brain, or your creative uses for Post-it notes!


With love,



P.S. Click here if you’d like me to notify you via email when my weekly updates are released.

What should musicians do about file sharing?

What should musicians do about file sharing

I don’t know about you, but when I first launched my music into the interwebs, I wasn’t sure if I was doing myself a disservice or not.


I was sorta freaked out that people would steal my music.


I know for a fact there are programs for downloading videos and songs right off of YouTube.


What the heck. What do you do about that?


It’s a really sticky and sort of complicated debate. But here is how I look at it:



First off, I absolutely believe in private property.


If I create a product I own the rights to that product.


But with music it’s a bit weird….. because……. did I really invent those chords??


Do I own that chord progression and time signature?


Did I invent that exact string of words in that exact consecutive order???


I think not.


If we really think about it, nothing is new under the sun at all.


You do own the physical CD and the t-shirts, however.


If you disagree with me, that’s totally fine. But the reality is that you and I BOTH must face this situation, so let’s just think about this for a minute……….


So, on one hand, the music is a recycled version of someone else’s stuff… It’s just a fact… We all do it.


We’re all influenced by the music we grew up with and listened to. We put our own spin on it, yes. But it’s undeniable.


On the other hand, we created something. It’s our art. We put time and money and effort into something, and it feels like people just want to take it for free and not pay us for it.


WELL, let me just calm your nerves a bit. I have learned there is a difference between PIRACY and FILE SHARING.


They are not the same.


PIRACY is indeed stealing. It would be like taking my CD, making copies of it for the purpose of selling them for money. That’s piracy.


FILE SHARING is literally like going to your friend’s house to watch season 6 of LOST on Blu-ray.


Did you pay for that?




Did you enjoy your friend’s copy of that show?


Well, yeah.


Would that be considered “stealing” since you now have enjoyed that show without paying for it?


Um… I guess not?


Are you more likely to buy your buddy that DVD for Christmas, because you experienced the bonus features yourself?


YEAH, definitely.


The bottom line is the stats show file sharing increases the likelihood of the consumer purchasing a product.


That would be your music.


The internet is not going away. We can’t change what people do. So I say… *so long as it’s not unethical or immoral*… if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!


I’ve actually posted my music on file sharing sites before as a way to get more exposure and publicity.


It’s true!! File sharing is actually FREE ADVERTISING.


I say go with it. It just means we have to be creative and SMART when it comes to HOW we will make money as an independent artist online.

How to activate your creative brain and start writing your album

Savvy Musician Academy, the online musician, Leah mchenry, facebook for musicians, music career marketing, music industry education

I’m taking you behind the scenes for an A-Z look at the creation of my new album!


#MakingTheAlbum – Week 1

Watch #MakingTheAlbum Week 2 >>>


The other week I was wondering how I could turn things up a bit and deliver NEXT LEVEL value to the Savvy Musician Academy family for 2017… One big idea was the clear winner.


I’ve began writing my next album that will release in 2017, so I thought, why not create a behind-the-scenes look at the complete process of creating and launching an album?!


I’m so pumped to be able share this with you!


You’re going to see how I use a very specific process to write, record, master, and launch this album!  I’m even going to show you how I build my fanbase (pretty much passively) while I’m creating the album! (Hint: I’m also going to use crowdfunding to build a buzz for the release!)


The good, the bad, and the ugly will be posted on this blog, Facebook, and Instagram every week. I won’t always be wearing makeup. I won’t always have good things to say as I struggle with all the things us musicians face. Things are about to get REAL.


Click Here To Learn More…


This week is the first entry in this series that I’m calling, #MakingTheAlbum. In this video, I talk about my struggles with getting the creative juices flowing and how to overcome writer’s block.


I definitely recommend you watch the video, but here are some quick tips that I’m doing in this writing phase:


  1. Make room for creativity. None of us can do it all, when you add something (music, writing) to your plate, make sure to take something else off.
  2. Create a routine that works for you. Starting your day off right will give you the best chance at success throughout the day. Plan your day to take care of responsibilities while reserving time for your music (avoid interruptions).
  3. Find inspiration. I choose to read non-fiction books and play video games to find inspiration for my specific niche: Celtic Metal. Think of different media that will inspire you to create your kind of music.
  4. Say no to writer’s block. A friend recommended a great book to overcome creative blocks – it’s called The MacGuyver Secret. Basically, it helps to get your inner subconscious working on those ideas even when you’re not thinking about it.
  5. Pick low hanging fruit first. I initially picked songs that I had already written before and I knew I wanted to go on the next album. I didn’t have to totally start from scratch and come up with something brilliant. It took the pressure off.


I look forward to you joining me on this incredible journey as we learn and experiment together! It’s going to be amazing.


Much love!



P.S. Make sure to click here for weekly “Making The Album” updates! I’ll send them straight to your inbox. 🙂

The #1 Thing Most Musicians Resist That Will Keep Them POOR

Savvy Musician Academy, the online musician, Leah mchenry, facebook for musicians, music career marketing, music industry education

I see this constantly on Facebook and social media platforms.


Musicians, singers, songwriters, or band members see some article, or tips somewhere about the music business and they have this knee-jerk response.


It’s the same one over and over.


It’s an incredibly prevalent belief, and it’s the ONE mental shift that virtually all musicians need to make if they truly want success.


It’s the belief that there’s something wrong with musicians who want success.


Here’s a few comments I’ve seen recently:


“A true artist only plays because they love it, not for money”


“You shouldn’t be concerned about making money, you should only be concerned with playing music.”


Or there’s this one:


“Money should never be the motivating factor for a musician”


I’m just going to say it now.




Since when has it been wrong or bad for a hard-working, full-time musician to pay their bills and eat? Apparently, it’s not art unless they are starving artists. Then it’s real.


Second, in NO OTHER INDUSTRY do people say that kind of crap about a vocation.


One could argue that a baker is also an artist, and HOW DARE THEY charge for that 3-story wedding cake?


After all, they should just do it because they love it, right? How could they possibly think of CHARGING for that…. even though people would like to consume it?


Even though all those ingredients cost them money? Even though they show up to work at 5 am, spent years in training and apprenticeship, and have perfected their craft? NO!


They ought to be POOR and do something else for a living, and give their divine ART away for free.






Now that we’ve got that ludicrous belief out of the way, let’s dive into the biggest thing artists overlook that will keep them poor.



It’s the BUSINESS side of music.



Why do they do this?


Probably because they’ve been surrounded for years by ignoramus commentary such as the one above.


They know learning the music business means WORK.


And they don’t want to work. They want to play.


Therefore, they will stay POOR.


They are afraid of failure.


They have zero self-confidence.


Musicians often have low self-confidence because they derive all their musical value and worth from YouTube comments rather than an inner satisfaction from the product they’ve created, and the work itself.


They believe money is evil.


By the way, it’s not money that’s evil, it’s the love/worship of it.


They feel some kind of guilt about asking people to pay them for their music, or for promoting their music.



More reasons musicians stay POOR:


They do not like the thought of having to use their left brain.


They feel weird about promoting themselves.


Plus, business, numbers, analytics, and advertising don’t sound very sexy.


It means you have to have your act together.


Learning the business side of music means a steep learning curve and learning curves are often painful.


The POOR musician avoids pain at all costs.


The SUCCESSFUL musician does whatever it takes, IN SPITE of the pain.



The following is what separates the amateur from the professional.
Much of it has to do with their level of personal growth and CHARACTER.



The amateur musician:

  • Only wants to use the right side of his brain
  • Only practices and plays music when he feels like it
  • Has no schedule and no self-discipline
  • Gauges her musical worth/value through fan reactions and social media comments
  • Has a big ego and is always looking to boost it artificially
  • Is very flaky and consistently shows up late or is a no-show
  • Is lazy and believes someone will magically discover them
  • Doesn’t understand how to leverage his time, money, or talent
  • Believes all you need is good music and success should magically happen



The professional musician:

  • Engages both the right and left side of the brain
  • Practices and plays consistently, or schedules it into a season of life (they are deliberate)
  • Practices self-discipline in OTHER areas of life
  • They are punctual and value other people’s time
  • Derives his satisfaction and musical value through the finished product itself,
  • NOT from social media reactions
  • Understands that music is a vocation and a calling, not just a hobby
  • Embraces the fact that music is “work” and the product of good work is fruit of your labor (i.e. monetary compensation)
  • Understands that it is a good thing to be paid for your worth and is not intimidated by learning the business side
  • Realizes that if they want to increase their income, they need to increase their skills and value to the marketplace
  • Understands how to leverage her time, her money, and her talent
  • Knows that in order to be successful, you must solve someone’s problem.
  • Good music solves someone’s problem.



I could go on.


But the main idea here is that the amateur musician can’t be bothered by the business side.


They don’t care about numbers and believe the silly notion that a true artist shouldn’t be concerned with money.


The professional musician knows that good music solves someone’s problem, and they know how to properly leverage their talent through learning some basic marketing skills.