Welcome to the second installment of our artist advice round-up, where we’ve pulled together tit-bits of wisdom collected from all the interviews we’ve published on the Musicpsych blog over the last five years (you can read part one here). If you want to know what these guys put their success down to, read on...
Kris Hünecke - Revolverheld
Do it because you love it. No casting show can replace the small club gigs in front of 2 people. You have to suck in the beginning. Everybody did. :-)
Alistair McNeill (Roisin Murphy)
Remember to focus on the subtleties, even if you think your audience won't notice the devil is in the details
Dave Kilminster (Roger Waters)
I was self taught and when I was starting out there weren't really any good transcriptions, books or magazine lessons. So, I had to sit with an old record player and just figure things out by ear on my own. This obviously took much longer, but it really helped to develop my ears. I'd originally picked up the guitar to play the music that was in my head, and this method of learning really helped reinforce the connection between my ears and the fretboard. I could work out most other songs instantly (sometimes without even using the guitar!) and also when improvising I could pretty much play any melodies that were floating around my brain.
Nowadays it's so easy to find lessons and transcriptions online for pretty much anything that you want to play. But unfortunately learning that way is akin to 'painting by numbers' whereby you're not actually listening to the notes so much as looking at your fingers and putting them on the right fret numbers. Not to mention the fact that most online transcriptions are pretty awful.
So my advice is to spend some time listening and trying to work things out on your own. Yes, it's difficult. Yes, it takes longer. But the more you do it the easier it gets. You'll start to 'hear' music in a different way, and the long term benefits to your playing and career are truly immeasurable.
Rudi Dobson (Engineer)
Don’t start off with ambitions like “I want to sound like…” and replicate them, instead find out who their influences were. Find the teacher of the teacher and start from there. In short, don’t try and sound like someone else, use their sound as part of your experience and develop your own sound. I’ve spent a lot of time working with keyboards and synths over the years and when it comes to sound design, make synths sound like something new rather than emulating something else. A synth is its own unique sound - it’s own character. Use this to create your own sound, don’t use presets!
Yiannis Papadopoulos (Scott Stapp - Creed)
My advice would be to listen to the music inside your head and learn how to express it through your instrument and your gear. Never stop working and don't be afraid to experiment! The only limitation is our imagination!
The advice I would have for other artists and musicians is find what you’re best at and push yourself to become better at it. Make yourself accessible to others online as that’s how many artists (including myself) were discovered. Finally listen to your gut when it comes to decisions. Whether it’s the right lyric for a song, choosing a new team member or starting a partnership. Just do what feels right
Tadhg Walsh-Peelo (Gabrielle Aplin)
My main advice would be to just keep working at it. You can't get anywhere in music without putting in the hours and I think every hour spent playing, listening and thinking about music will ultimately help you.
I also believe you should try to enjoy as much of it as you can. People who are playing/making music and enjoying it have 'made it' from my point of view.
Chris Cruickshank (The Wakes)
The main bit of advice l tell students is to open their ears & listen to as much music as they can! Jazz, rock, classical etc. . . draw influences from everyone & everywhere. This will broaden your musical horizons & make you a better player!
Tons of practice helps as well...
Tom Leach (Engineer)
You have to be prepared to work extremely hard, and for long periods, not necessarily reaping the rewards you'd expect all the time. Years of hard work and dedication are 99% of the time, the required attributes for everyone. Be prepared to work for free/help out at places to get yourself known. Opportunities always arise for those who are patient and put in the hours, and a lot of the time it can just be being in the right place at the right time.
There's not one specific route to becoming active in the industry, everyone has very different paths, and any opportunity can be a stepping stone to something better, so burning bridges or turning work down often isn't an option. Passion and commitment are really really important, as well as being personable, making sure people remember you.
It's a really tough industry to get in and stay active in, and I still have to battle every day for work and opportunities, keeping your “fingers in many pies” so to speak is a wise choice.