1. Stop wasting time when you could be practising
Let’s be honest now, playing GTA for 8 straight hours may be one of life’s peculiar joys, but it’s not going to score you that spot on a movie soundtrack or build your fanbase. No need to go cold turkey, everyone needs a break… but set yourself some sensible limits and dedicate more time to your music. Just 7 hours of computer games a day from now on, okay? Deal.
2. Stop thinking you’re not good enough
Robert Plant can’t stand “Stairway To Heaven”, Pete Townshend thinks “Pinball Wizard” is the worst thing he’s ever written, and Thom Yorke thought Radiohead’s “Creep” was… well… “crap”. When you’re overly familiar with a piece of music, you’re naturally going to be incredibly critical of it, and when you spend so much time rehearsing the same songs it’s easy to lose that magical spark of enjoyment they once gave you. Go easy on yourself; that little ditty you absolutely hate might turn into your retirement fund.
3. Stop being unoriginal
At the moment, it seems genuinely difficult to find a musician who’s finding success by doing something interesting and original and not just standing on the shoulders of giants. Just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t make it right. Ultimately, it’s harder to be noticed if you’re lost in a sea of sound-a-likes.
4. Stop trying too hard to be original
Almost everybody has ripped off something at some point. Remember when we said that Thom Yorke hated “Creep”? Maybe that’s due to the fact he totally stole the verses from the Hollies “The Air That I Breathe”. George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” is an almost carbon copy of “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons, yet he’s lauded as a creative genius. If in doubt, remember what Oscar Wilde said… “Talent borrows, genius steals!”
5. Stop buying more gear
It’s an easy trap to fall in to: you want to sound better, more unique and more interesting, but you don’t have time. You want a quick fix. That new effects pedal is the answer, right? Well maybe not. Can you imagine how much your playing would improve if for every pound or dollar you spent on new equipment, you spent 2 on lessons? It might sound weird coming from an instrument store, but sometimes new equipment isn’t what you need.
6. Stop putting up with shoddy equipment
Having said all that, don’t waste your precious time eking out the last, painful moments of usefulness from gear that’s past its best. You’d be amazed at the deals you can find on local buy & sell groups on Facebook, not to mention in-store promotions at your favourite music store.
7. Stop trying to become rich and famous
The internet is rammed full of quotes from rich and famous people about how riches and fame aren’t all that, and you should just enjoy your life and get on with it. But… they WOULD say that, wouldn’t they? They don’t want to share that delicious fame pie. They want every last, sumptuous morsel all to themselves. In all seriousness, fame and fortune in the music industry seem to go hand-in-hand with lawsuits, alcohol abuse, addiction, depression and suicide for a shockingly large number.
8. Stop leaving your drink next to expensive equipment
A mixing desk is no place to leave a latte. Beer does not belong on a guitar amp. A pint of water shouldn’t be tucked next to a stage monitor. Accidents happen, and not only do you run the risk of trashing your equipment, you might also electrocute yourself or somebody else.
9. Stop worrying about your ego
The music business is one of the only industries in the world where being an egotistical, self-important exhibitionist is a good thing. It’s a world of show-offs, performers, braggers and promoters. If you haven’t got an ego, you might be in the wrong place.
10. Stop judging other people’s style
Mahatma Gandhi – revolutionary leader, influential speaker, industrial hardcore saxophonist – once said “live and let live”. Nothing could better describe the rich, colourful tapestry of genres, styles and subcultures that make up the music industry as a whole. Don’t get hung up on what people look like, what the tabloids say about them or what their fans wear. Let their music do the talking.
11. Stop turning your volume up
First off, you’ll go deaf pretty damn fast if you stand next to wailing PA speakers and guitar amps for hours every week. Secondly, it ruins the balance of the music. Volume isn’t a competition, it’s a tool. Finding the right balance between your volume and the volume of your bandmates is key to defining your sound. Thirdly, quieter gigs sound better. Science fact. Unless you personally enjoy the sound of your cochlea shrivelling, obviously. Turns out your mum wasn’t telling you to turn it down for no good reason after all.
12. Stop worrying about formats
Speaking of science facts, blind-testing has proved time and time again that in regular listening environments, super-high-definition audio sounds absolutely no different to a normal CD. Vinyl is coveted like some kind of forgotten treasure these days, with hipsters fawning over junk-store “collections” like labour scabs panning for gold; but it has a lower relative dynamic range and poorer high frequency response compared to a regular, boring old CD or a well-coded MP3. Stop worrying about the format you’re releasing on or listening to, and start caring about the music instead.
13. Stop getting drunk before gigs
A wee dram to calm the nerves is one thing, but getting so wrecked you can’t remember how to fret a ‘D’ chord is another. Unless your name starts with “S” and ends with “hane MacGowan”, do your music a favour and stick to a vaguely sensible limit.
14. Stop forgetting to bring everything you need to a gig
In the heat of the moment it’s all too easy to forget those vital bits and pieces that guarantee your performance goes smoothly. Not sure of what to bring? Check out our handy guide: “11 gig essentials you always forget”
15. Stop worrying about making mistakes
Did you know that Shirley Bassey hit not one, but TWO totally wrong notes in the studio recording of “Goldfinger”? Do you care? NOPE. Sometimes mistakes are what gives music its character. What would the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” be without Michael Jackson’s bone-gratingly flat “ooh ooh baby”?
16. Stop playing gigs for free
Sure, there’s an argument to be made about the value of free promotion, but if you’re being booked by promoters and venues to play on a regular basis, you’re obviously good enough to warrant a slot. The venue will be making money from your fans, the promoter will be making money from your fans, why aren’t you? Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself!
17. Stop turning down gigs
While performing isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, it’s pretty ‘up there’. There’s absolutely nothing as effective at creating new fans and engaging with your existing ones as playing live; giving it your all and showing everyone what you’ve got. If you’ve never gigged before, don’t let nerves get the better of you. Go to a few gigs, watch some shows on YouTube, get some ideas, and get out there!
18. Stop playing solos
Kashmir, Under The Bridge, Everlong, My Dingaling… All incredible songs. No solos. If it works in the song and adds something exciting, by all means play one… just don’t fall into the trap of shoe-horning a solo into every single song you play.
19. Stop filling every silence
Some of the best musicians of all time are just as well known for what they don’t play as for what they play. Breaks, rests, silences, and gaps aren’t your enemy; think of them as a tool for adding emphasis to what you’re playing. That amazing little hook will sound so much better when it isn’t bookended by go-nowhere noodles.
20. Stop worrying about your lyrics
Here’s some lyrics from incredibly popular songs, pay careful attention to how bad they are:
Black Eyed Peas – “I Gotta Feeling”: “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Saturday to Sunday”
Jason Derulo – “Wiggle”: “Your booty like two planets, go ‘head and go ham sandwich”
Sam Smith – “Money On My Mind”: “When I go home I tend to close the door”
Eminem – “Love The Way You Lie”: “Now you get to watch her leave out the window, guess that’s why they call it window pane.”
Inspired? We thought so. Everything you’ve ever written since you were about 6 years old is better than that garbage. Go for it!
21. Stop smoking
This should be pretty self-explanatory, but you really, really, really should stop smoking. Forget all the obvious stuff like lung disease, non-smokers thinking you stink, decrease in sexual vigour… If you’re a singer, you’re systematically destroying your instrument; like a drummer sticking a pin through their snare skin twenty times a day. “Whatever, I’m young, I don’t have to worry about it until I’m older…” WRONG. Fancy another science fact? Of all people who have heart attacks before the age of 40, 95% of them are smokers. You’re only in competition with yourself, throw the pack away and get on with your happier, healthier life.
22. Stop turning up late
This is a pretty big one, but I’m not going to linger on it too much. We already covered it in our “17 annoying things you do that make your bandmates secretly hate you” article. TL/DR: You’re not a child. You want the work? Get up, get dressed, and get there on time!
23. Stop writing biographies
I know you think that 2 page bio was pretty good and full of witty quips, and I don’t want to say that “no one cares”, but… no one cares. Avoid writing your own band’s bio like the plague. If you absolutely, positively need one, then get someone else to write it for you. Just like all those awesomely talented, under-rated musicians out there, there are just as many – if not more – absolutely amazingly creative writers doing great things for little or no money. Make contacts, get talking, spread the love.
24. Stop “talking shop” with absolutely everyone you meet
Remember when your momma told you that not everyone really wants to hear about that time your dog had worms? And especially not at the dinner table? Well, same goes for music-talk. There’s a time and a place for it, and the tonal difference between Fender pickup options is probably the last thing your significant other wants to hear after telling you how their day was. A time and a place, folks. Time and place.
25. Stop listening to advice from blog posts that are really just trying to sell you stuff
Red Dog Music is the UK’s friendliest musical instrument and pro-audio dealer. Between our 5000 square foot Edinburgh shop filled with an incredible range of products, and our London showroom in Clapham specialising in high-end instruments, dj and pro-audio, Red Dog Music has you covered from north to south and from performance to playback.
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