I want to first start out by saying this column, as well as some other articles and lessons I have been working on, has been too long in the making. I'm so pleased to see the continued great response to the first installment of this column (Bit's of Wisdom for all Guitarists, wrote in April 2004) and I believe it's time to finally add a sequel to it. I also want to mention how amazed I am and continue to be with the growth and development of UG. From the forums, to the new features, or to the plethora of new users on this site, I've said it before in my last column, and I will say it again, I truly and whole-heartedly believe that Ultimate-Guitar.com is the premier guitar-based website on the internet. I've been a member of this site for some almost 6 years now, and even though I don't post as much as I used to, I'm still on this site daily, reading articles, looking at the forum topics that interest me, or just having fun on the new media and profile features. Kudos to the staff here at UG, and kudos to you, the user for being a part in this phenomenon that is UG.
I am going to start this article by revisiting my first articles introduction. My love of music has been ever growing. In the years that have passed since my last article I have had some local and regional success in band, had my music up for sale worldwide via a digital record label, and have got to travel around a bit regionally, and also have been able to make a name for myself in my local music scene. In this article I would like to share with you some of those experiences, both good and bad, and let you know a little bit about what I've learned along my "journey" as a musician.
You, And Your Guitar. You As A Guitarist
"Your guitar is an extension of you." This is a statement I have found to be very true in my career. As a musician, you will see guitar players that will absolutely amaze you for some reason or another. Thus, I believe it is important as a guitarist, to get out of the house, and go see live music as much as you can. Whether it's a national act or a local bar (cover) band, go see live music on a regular basis. Go to have fun, and also go to observe and learn. Take some mental notes on where the guitar players, and also the band as a whole, thrive and also struggle. This is a great way to examine your own playing, as well as learn some new licks, techniques, ect. Also, for those of you who are performing musicians (which I assume the majority of you are, or at least aspire to be) this is a great way to make connections within the music business. I will talk about this more later, but keep it in mind that this is another reason you need to go out and observe and meet other musicians.
Getting back to my initial statement of "Your guitar is an extension of you", remember that no matter how inspired by a fellow guitarist you are, you are your own unique guitarist, and should be developing your own individual style. All of us have certain guitarists we idolize and study (and for some people worship! ), however it is unhealthy to ones career to be caught up in mimicking a certain guitarist, or a few guitarists, style. The guitar, and music in general, is part technique of course, but also an emotional and personal instrument. I'm not going to dive into the "Speed vs. Emotion" bullshit, because it's essentially just an opinion, and like assholes, we all have them. You could give a backing track to 5 different guitarists and ask them to solo over it, and you would come back with 5 different solos. Even though Slash may be your favorite guitar player, you should be able to come up with your own style of playing, and not get stuck in mimicking someones style.
In my opinion, the ultimate compliment to a guitarist is not "The fastest", "the most technical", or anything of the such. I believe the ultimate compliment to a guitarist is when you hear a song you've never heard before, and you know who it is, just by hearing the guitar. In summary, be yourself. Take notice of others, be inspired by others, but develop your own style as a guitarist.
As I talked about in the previous topic, get out of the house, watch some live music, and make connections. If it weren't for making connections over the years with fellow musicians, I would be nowhere. I would have never started a band, never played half the shows I have played, nor traveled, nor made any of the money I have made in my musical career.
American Son Down was my band's name. If it had not been for the connections I had made from when I was younger, the band would have never happened. I assembled a band from 5 guys who barely knew each other, let alone had played together. Through a number of connections, we played around the region, all over locally, gained a small fan base, and enlisted our first "real" booking agent (who at some length was at fault for our disbanding). However, though my connections, I was able to start a new project with one of the best singers in the region.
When it comes to being in a band, or starting one, connections are essential. From booking gigs, to finding musicians, traveling, opening slots for bigger bands, ect., contacts with other musicians are a must. Of course, be wary that there are some people out there who will try to screw you over and use you. You will be able to differentiate between good, legit contacts you have made, and ones that aren't so hot. Musicians need to support other musicians, especially on the local level, and this is one great way to gauge a connection. If you see members of other bands coming to your shows, supporting you, and you in turn supporting their band, then you can almost bet on that being a good contact for you.
Get out there, meet fellow musicians, and start networking yourself. This is key to your career and longevity as a musician.
Know Your Gear
Nothing annoys me more than going out to a show and seeing poor equipment selections from a band. As a guitarist, just like any other trade or hobby, it is important that you know and understand about the gear and technology of the trade. Poor selections of equipment can be detrimental to your playing, and your band.
Do Your Homework. Research different guitars, amps, and other equipment. The forums here at UG do a great job of critiquing gear and also giving opinions on what gear to try out in specific cases. Granted, there will be some bias from time to time, and also some unqualified people giving answers at times, but for the most part, there are people here who know their stuff. Proper gear choices are a must. Know differences between amps, and purchase gear that will correlate with the music you will be playing.
Don't buy based on brand name alone. For God's sake, do not go out and buy a Marshall MG half stack because it has Marshall on the front of it. If you try the amp, compare it to others, and like it, that's your own opinion, however, do not buy anything just because of the name. Also, don't buy based on gimmicks. Bells and whistles can be fun, but, if you don't use them, then they are just more of a hassle than an convenience.
Also, it is great to have some sort of working relationship with the store you buy from. Personally, out of the music stores in my area, I will only deal with dealer. I have bought from him for years now. He has treated me well, and I have brought more business to his store. He helps me, and I help him. Any setups I need on a guitar are done right, any problems with anything I've bought there are fixed. I have bought some things from the internet before, with no problems I might add, but if you have local music stores in your area, I suggest having a working relationship with one of them. It's good to have someone you can count on to have your back when something breaks down and puts you in a pinch.
Booze, Sex, Drugs, And Other Forms Of Debauchery
*I'm not going to advocate any use of drugs or alcohol, however, I'm also going to be honest.*Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. That that's the old saying. To some extent, it's true. A majority of music is played in bars and other alcohol serving venues. That's just the way it is. I've been drunk more times that I could possibly ever hope to remember. I used to do a few pills and smoke my fair share of weed, and also laid eyes on some women who look very nice with their clothes off. I could make an ongoing article about the madness and fun times American Son Down had.
This being said. The party only goes on so long. Maturity and responsibility for your actions and to also watch over others is also needed. Thankfully, I've never had to deal with anyone overdosing or anything like that, but I have had to take care of some people vomiting all over the place. Also there are other things to be accounted for. One of the things that led to the ASD breakup was the fact our singer got his girlfriend pregnant. Granted, he did the right thing by saying he felt like he didn't have the time to put into the band, and left on good terms, it was just a crippling blow that we never quite recovered from. This sounds cliche, but if you're serious about your band, be serious about your life. Use caution and protection when in these situations. Certain things need to be taken with moderation, and caution.
Also, don't get so sloppy drunk that you can't play. Know your limits. Sure, I do buy into that fact that a few drinks can loosen you up and give you a little more confidence, however, there's a point where a few drinks becomes a few too many, and that's when problems arise.
Don't Get Caught Up In Fads
I can not stress this enough. Make music that you believe in, not just music that you think will gain you attention. You'll enjoy it more, get more out of it emotionally, and you won't get burnt out on it. In my area it seems that most of the younger bands all buy into one fad and go with it until it kills itself. There's no parody in the scene, and it dies every couple of years because of this, with most of the bands in the "popular" genre dying out. My area has witnessed this happen to the Emo/Pop Punk fad, and is going through it right now with a death/metalcore fad. Now, I do like metal and heavy music, but I play what I feel, and strive to create good music that I feel confident with, not just something that falls into one certain category. I feel that this is why ASD had some success on the level that it did because the music was different from what was happening around here. We were different when Emo was around, and when the influx of Death and Metalcore came, we were still different, even though we did help bring heavy rock/metal and guitar playing back to this area.
Did we intentionally try to be different? No. We had no care on what other bands were doing or what the fad may have been. We made music that we were satisfied with. We knew who our fans would be, and we didn't feel like we needed to please a certain group of people. I guess that's how I look at music. Though the fads come and go, real music with passion and it's own identity keeps going. I'm not trying to deter you from starting any sort of Emo or Metalcore band, in fact, I do like some metalcore, however, I do suggest you be original with you music, and let it have it's own personal identity, which is what I suggest for any band, whether it's jazz to death metal.
I hope you enjoy this article as much as many of you enjoyed the first one, and I hope you can take something from it, and apply it to your playing and career. I'm no industry pro, and I'll be the first to admit that, however, I am very pleased to have had what success I have had, and learned what I have learned along the way. I hope you can take something from this article, and I hope that this sheds some light on topics for the younger guys who are just starting their musical careers.
Also, as I stated over 4 years ago in conclusion: Keep visiting UG. It's been very informative and helpful to me over the years, and I know it has to many of you. It will only continue to grow and continue helping countless others.
Good Luck, Don't Give up, and Keep rockin'