Advice for young musicians

While in the process of editing and revising my WordPress site, I’ve one across a few older articles which might be of interest to some readers. In particular, those of us who are practising or recording more at home during the COVID19 lockdown [still in place this month] might find something they can take away from this blog, first published in 2015.

New articles and a few more reblogs coming in the next week or so. Until then, stay safe – Tim

We all know how it is. You want to prove yourself and show the world (and your peers) that you ‘have what it takes’ to work in music; Self assured and not in need of any advice of pointers from anyone else. How would they know your ‘story’ anyway? How could someone advise you when your style, your sound, your ‘voice’, is unique to you.

True, confidence can be a great asset to our chosen profession. Even in an industry where we work together because it’s the fundamental nature of how music operates, it can get lonely out there sometimes. But a false confidence, or bluff, will leave you alienated and likely to make the same sorts of mistakes thousands of musicians have made before you.

So swallow your pride, take a seat, and listen to a few words of wisdom from those who have made music work – and pay – for themselves.

Keybaord player and composer Ben Folds wrote some advice a few years ago on his Facebook page. Boiled down to the essentials, I found three things especially true:

Work on finding your own voice

However much you try, you will always be you. Stop trying to be anyone else and accept this fact. Once you have come to terms with this, work on being the best ‘you’ that you can be.

Learn your technique, then forget it

Learn as much as you can, as widely as you can. Read about it & practise it. Then follow the advice of the previous point and learn to present these techniques in your own, unique way.

Before you can express yourself in words, you first have to learn the language; it’s vocabulary & grammar. But think of how many books & poems were all the more interesting for their yearning up of the rules? The same applies to music first. However, to reach this point, you need to know which rules you are breaking…

Don’t try to force people into liking you or your music

There will always be people out there who find what you do interesting, provided you are doing it well, and playing from the heart. don’t bend over backwards trying to commercialise your sound, compromising your music in the process. The audience will come to you, so just persist at it.

This is even more true in our digital age – search for good advice on putting you material online. You should never have to pay to do this, due to the high number of platforms out there. It might be slow at first, but you will eventually reap the fruits of your hard work.

NobleViola.com also features a really interesting article entitled 10 things I wish I knew when I was a young musician which, while echoing the sentiments of Folds, adds the following gems:

Practicing isn’t a matter of how many hours you put in, but how many good hours you put in. It’s quality, not quantity.

Your body is also your instrument – learn how it works and take care of it.
Being professional is a 24 hour job.
Keep busy, and do a variety of things. Diversify as much as you can.
Love what you do – and remember to nurture that love.

As Pat Metheny says on his website, “for me, after everything, the only thing that finally remains really true is the feeling that at the end of the day, I know that I played really good, or I didn’t; or that I made some progress and understand something that I didn’t understand at the beginning of the day; or I didn’t. This, to me, is the real currency of what it is to have a life as a musician”.

Well said, Pat.

As always, comments and responses are more than welcome. Feel free to check out my previous articles too! Enjoy the rest of your week & happy playing!

Published by timguitar

Guitarist, composer, music therapist and avid bibliophile. Providing an insight into my life as a professional musician, lessons learned as an allied health practitioner, as well as various musings on the world of music in general. Expect plenty of articles about music & wellbeing, classical guitar, jazz, world/roots genres, and all sorts of guitar-related chat.

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