Seven Tips For Aspiring Musicians
Seven Tips For Aspiring Musicians
7 TIPS FOR ASPIRING, YOUNG MUSICIANS By Maestro Eddie C. McCloud
1. Learn your craft. This entails learning your instrument from a to z. We live in an amazing age where you can pull up lessons on almost any instrument through sites like YouTube and by simply googling. When I was coming up, such options were not available. Luckily I had a good ear and had older musicians that were willing to pass on knowledge to me. Technical proficiency should be the aim, but remember to have fun also. I wanted to be the greatest guitarist in the world when I was an adolescent, but in about my mid-twenties it hit me that it’s a pretty big world. Initially this was disappointing, but then I had to remember why I started playing music in the first place; to be cool and have fun, mostly the latter.
2. Stay away from alcohol and drugs. This is not practical as it pertains to alcohol, but at least try to keep it under control. As for drugs, I can cite numerous musicians who met an untimely death connected to drug abuse. There are some who will tell you that drugs enhance creativity, but the truth is people like Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix and others accomplished what they did in spite of drugs, not because of them. I would advise young musicians to stay away from these substances altogether if possible.
3. Never be afraid of sounding like your influences. This even includes the songwriting process. When I was a songwriter starting out, I wrote songs that were almost note for note copies of popular songs on the radio subconsciously (and sometimes even consciously). I think all of our first efforts at songwriting are going to sound pretty much like someone else until we find our own voice. This is all part of the learning process and should not discourage you, but propel you to new levels of excellence as you grow in all areas of musicianship.
4. Do open mic events as much as possible. Many venues host open mic nights where anyone can get up in front of a crowd and play. This is a good testing ground on several levels. You can see how the crowd reacts to your playing and also how they will react to your original material should you choose to include some in your set. Most events of this sort are usually limited to three or four songs. Do those three or four songs in the most simplified manner you can and get the heck off the stage. Forget about doing that seven minute guitar solo you’ve been practicing. Open mic is not the place for such showboating.
5. Network with other musicians. This one is kind of difficult because many musicians are very self-absorbed. Even today some thirty plus years later, I find that other musicians often are not receptive to what I am doing. When you encounter this, shake the dust off of you and go on to the next one. Eventually someone will be willing to exchange ideas with you.
6. Collaborate when possible. The old adage says “two heads are better than one.” This is a tried and true philosophy. Some of the greatest songwriters in the world can come up with melodies, but struggle to come up with lyrics to go along with those melodies and vice versa. When I think of great songwriting teams, Elton John and Bernie Taupin come to mind. Without Taupin’s lyrics, Elton John’s melodies would indeed not have had the enduring quality which has endeared them to us all these decades. Collaboration though, often requires the setting aside of egos to work together for the greater good. This goes back to what I was saying about many musicians being self-absorbed.
7. Set ego aside and be humble. Always remember that we are only the vessel through which God has allowed creativity to flow. If you are blessed with the gift-and it is indeed a gift-to be able to create music, be thankful and remain humble. Never take this gift for granted.