Making a living and guitar...

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Incestuous_Monk
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Making a living and guitar...

#1 Post by Incestuous_Monk » Sat Jan 19, 2008 5:47 pm

Hmmm....

I don't know whether any of you feel the same - but for the past couple of years since finishing my music degree my head has been all over the place with what to do with my life.

I adore the guitar and when I'm not playing it I'm imagining playing it! But here's the thing: I don't feel I have a voice on the instrument. I can duplicate people well and I did consider going into business doing tuition DVD's and specialising in the Vai's, Malmsteen's, Satch's etc. But ultimately I would feel like I was wasting my life. I want to be a trend-setter not a monger but I don't have a trend to set. I feel I'm a fairly good mix of my heroes but I can still hear them in my playing and I don't want to. When Hendrix plays the guitar you know it's Hendrix, it's the same with Vai and others. I don't have that.

That is why I have decided I don't want to play guitar for a living. You could argue that because I love the guitar, even playing other peoples stuff should be enough for me - but that doesn't and wouldn't satisfy me. I'll keep playing the guitar, but stick to playing in a covers band and/or doing the odd jam night!

Anyway, the point of this post is I now know where my life is going to head - it only took two years!! Normally I make a decision pretty quickly, but this has been horrible. I've been swinging between guitar and science the whole time. At times, when I felt I'd made the decision, doubts came back and it was back to the indecision again. Science it is!!

I currently work as a computer programmer, which is something I like a lot but not what I'm doing right now (I write drivers for engineering hardware - it's as boring as hell!). I intend to remain a computer programmer but work in the medical field. Unfortunately, it means I have a few more years of study, but ultimately it will mean I can have a life that is challenging and fulfilling and not one that is disappointing and unrewarding. I go to University in September to study bio-chemistry.

Have any of you had similar life experiences and chosen the music route or another path? I'd be fascinated to know. I can't be the only one - or can I...(?!)

I wish you all a belated Happy New Year. May all your dreams come true - (except BBB's with the blow-up doll... just kidding Anil!).

Steve :)

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#2 Post by Azrael » Sat Jan 19, 2008 7:13 pm

Welcome to the modern world. Music is a very hard living for actual musicians. Much of the famous "musicians" use their guitars as almost nothing but gigantic necklaces. Imagine how tough it is to be a classical musician trying to find work. :|

I agree with you, but wish musicians were the ones running the business. Go find something you can earn a stable living with. Music can always be a hobby. :)

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#3 Post by llamahead » Sat Jan 19, 2008 9:34 pm

if i were in that position i'd keep trying while doing the boring job (since you won't be getting tired) and when your "voice" does come out. . . . then you try to go pro :wink:

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#4 Post by rub_800 » Sat Jan 19, 2008 11:40 pm

its funny, I have a Computer Systems Engineer Degree (I don't know if I wrote it rigth hehe) but now I'm studing music because it appealls me more than waste all day programing... I hope for make a living playing guitar.. but sometimes I ask mysfel if will be making the same questions like you In a couple of years..

I could only tell you that if you really like to play guitar, then keep doing it, give it a shot, maybe you will find your path in a couple of years.. :)

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Re: Making a living and guitar...

#5 Post by Big Bad Bill » Sun Jan 20, 2008 7:28 am

Incestuous_Monk wrote:I adore the guitar and when I'm not playing it I'm imagining playing it! But here's the thing: I don't feel I have a voice on the instrument. I can duplicate people well and I did consider going into business doing tuition DVD's and specialising in the Vai's, Malmsteen's, Satch's etc. But ultimately I would feel like I was wasting my life. I want to be a trend-setter not a monger but I don't have a trend to set. I feel I'm a fairly good mix of my heroes but I can still hear them in my playing and I don't want to. When Hendrix plays the guitar you know it's Hendrix, it's the same with Vai and others. I don't have that.
I really applaud you, Steve, because at least you've realised this at a really early stage in your life and you've made a reasoned judgement as a result. I have to say you are not alone being in this position-just look on YouTube and you'll see millions of people who sound like other famous guitarists but think they're unique. I'd walk ten miles, in bare feet over broken glass just to throw stones at the poop of my guitar heroes never mind actually play like them, so I envy you and you should be proud of your achievements-they are not trivial.
Incestuous_Monk wrote:Anyway, the point of this post is I now know where my life is going to head - it only took two years!! Normally I make a decision pretty quickly, but this has been horrible. I've been swinging between guitar and science the whole time. At times, when I felt I'd made the decision, doubts came back and it was back to the indecision again.
Steve, most people never make this decision or others make it for them, two years is pretty good going.
Incestuous_Monk wrote:Science it is!!
Hoorah-another walks toward the light! :wink:
Incestuous_Monk wrote:I currently work as a computer programmer, which is something I like a lot but not what I'm doing right now (I write drivers for engineering hardware - it's as boring as hell!). I intend to remain a computer programmer but work in the medical field. Unfortunately, it means I have a few more years of study, but ultimately it will mean I can have a life that is challenging and fulfilling and not one that is disappointing and unrewarding. I go to University in September to study bio-chemistry.
Hang on, hang on! Do you already have a degree in Comp Sci or something? If so you could very easily do a Masters or PhD in Computational Neuroscience may of whom later work in medical science and I have friends who would have such places for someone like you. You'd learn all you need whilst doing the higher degree (including head and neck anatomy from me!). Let me know if you're interested and I can phone you and give you more details.
Incestuous_Monk wrote:(except BBB's with the blow-up doll... just kidding Anil!).
Anyone got a puncture repair kit?

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Re: Making a living and guitar...

#6 Post by budt » Sun Jan 20, 2008 10:08 am

Incestuous_Monk wrote:Have any of you had similar life experiences and chosen the music route or another path? I'd be fascinated to know. I can't be the only one - or can I...(?!)
You only hear about the successful ones! Tom Scholz did just that, and hit the jackpot with Boston. If you read about his life though, it was still a tough road to walk down, even moreso when the money came rolling in.

The ones you don't hear about, usually re-join the "work force" within a few years, starting all over again at the bottom rung of the ladder. But they survive it and have a lot of adventures to remember from walking off the beaten path.

Very few hang in there, and live the life of the "starving artist". I can tell you all about it - probably more than anyone on this msg board wants to know!

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#7 Post by notavirtuoso » Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:16 am

Isn't it great that there are all of these wonderful suggestions after you've made your decision? :wink: :lol:

Well, here's another one. I think if I were in your shoes, which I'm not, I might try to combine to two strengths. Possibly work on software for guitar nuts like ourselves, or digital effects, something of that nature. Or, you could do what you really want to do and just keep them separate as you have intended. That way you might form a band of weekend warriors comprised of other people in your field and play for the fun of it. Which is really the best way to play if you ask me. Either way, congrats on finding direction. Some people spend their entire lives stumbling around, lost.

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#8 Post by Incestuous_Monk » Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:18 am

I could put up with being a struggling musician if I felt I had something new to offer - but I don't. When I say I want to be a trend-setter, I in no way mean I want to be famous - I mean I want to have a unique voice on the guitar which would be something I alone could be proud of.

Steve Vai says in interviews he was compelled to play the guitar AND compose - he had no choice. I am only compelled to play the guitar - I just don't think that is enough.

Here is a fascinating article that describes it better than I can. It's by John McGlasson from www.guitarjamdaily.com :

I find myself asking that question a lot lately. It's partially because I haven't heard anything really "new" for a long time. I get a lot of cds in the mail from great guitarists from around the world, and while I get a lot of listening enjoyment from some of them, the truth is, they almost all fall into one of these categories of influence;

Vai
Malmsteen
Holdsworth
Eric Johnson
Morse
Beck
Petrucci
SRV
Hedges

In that order.

I don't think there's much question that Vai is the most imitated among the super-technicians in the Global Guitar World, and that may just be my perception, because in my opinion, Vai is so technically perfect and his style so identifiable that even the slightest bend, slide, or other Vai trademark shines through immediately in another's playing.

If you picked one of these things up early in your learning process, it may be a regular part of your style and you may not even know it, but when I pop in someone's cd and I hear that classic Vai backwards slide ahead of the note, or a flurry of finger-tapping with that heavily-processed Vai-esque tone, or that vibrato, or Steve's brand of perfect, trademark, rubbery whammy bar usage, it really causes me to dismiss the rest of what I'm hearing, because it doesn't seem like the artist has taken the time to look at his or her own style honestly, step back from it, and purge it of all easily recognizable influence. It's a tough thing to do, but every legendary guitarist had to do it at some point. A quick flurry of Malmsteen notes can make me cringe if they're not from Malmsteen. (Who's pretty much a Uli-Jon Roth hack, but that's another article...email Mike Varney about that please, not me!)

I have a rule that I break sometimes because I get friendly with these players and a "thanks anyway" isn't enough...I don't critique the cds or the players' styles. But sometimes after talking to them for awhile about the industry and such, they want to know why I'm not as excited about their album as they are, and they pin me down to get an honest review. Some of the players who are most guilty of what I described above get the most hurt when I can easily identify almost every aspect of their playing as a bundle of cliches derived from their heroes, and gently give my opinion that while they may be incredible, entertaining guitarists, they really don't have a style of their own. There's nothing "new" there for me to try to deliver to the guitarists of the world.

And while there are many who take what I say either with a grain of salt, or take it to heart, but they take it politely, the response from the artist is often the same series of events, and can be either courteous, combative, or both...

1) Explain how we're all influenced by our heroes so to try to be original is a waste of time

2) Look at the other artists on my label, and pick them apart, and second-guess me for signing them

3) Pick apart my playing, note-for-note, and question whether I should be on my own label.

And if you look at the artists on my label, they all may not exactly fit the criteria I'm trying to fill for the future. I founded the label out of frustration that all these great guitarists I was finding here in Illinois were being ignored by labels and the press mostly because of pure geography, so I consolidated them, made albums, put them out, and we were global within 18 months, something we never expected. If you listen to the first album I produced and released, Isaiah Sharkey's "Skyliner", you'll hear nothing but great jazz technique, a couple Wes covers, and some very obvious influences. But Isaiah had just turned 14 when we made that album. You would've heard of Isaiah Sharkey someday whether I mentioned him or not, there's no stopping him. He's not on our label anymore, but we launched the career of a true guitar prodigy who's now an incredible performer, singer, and an ungodly, genre-defying player by anyone's standards, and without ego, but who had no idea how to get himself heard. So of course what this 14 year old genius lacked in originality at the time doesn't cloud the fact that he deserves to be heard. There are exceptions to the Originality Rule, and if I find another Isaiah, I'll do it again.

Of course, the Big Question for me, and I suspect every label owner who's also an artist on his own label (other than Steve Vai I'm sure...) is...would I sign myself? It can't be answered, other than to say that I started my own label partly so I could put out my own stuff, so it ends there. Don't want to deal with labels? Start your own.

I'm going through the after-effects of scrapping my own album a year ago that was 70% complete, with a really good drummer and bassist, good material, but it was all over the place, with songs that were just displays of various styles that said "look at me, I can play rock, swing, jazz, country...", it wasn't an album by a great band, it was me being backed up by a drummer and bassist, playing what I told them to play, with a producer doing what I told him to do. And while I think I've done a good job of removing most of the cliches from my style(s), the kind of album I was making made me guilty of what I was trying to change. So I scrapped it, focused on a single style that makes me happy for this album, assembled a great band and got a great producer that'll be in charge of what goes on in the studio completely, taking that out of my hands. It's a band effort, with all new material, and it'll be a good album.

But in the words of the great Jimmy Page, to paraphrase a bit of advice I sometimes wish I'd heard a lot sooner..."Never, ever start your own record label."

John McGlasson is a life-long guitarist, producer, and founder of o.i.e. Records, Ltd., a musician-oriented independent record label based in central Illinois.


Steve :)

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#9 Post by Incestuous_Monk » Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:29 am

notavirtuoso wrote:Isn't it great that there are all of these wonderful suggestions after you've made your decision? :wink: :lol:

Well, here's another one. I think if I were in your shoes, which I'm not, I might try to combine to two strengths. Possibly work on software for guitar nuts like ourselves, or digital effects, something of that nature. Or, you could do what you really want to do and just keep them separate as you have intended. That way you might form a band of weekend warriors comprised of other people in your field and play for the fun of it. Which is really the best way to play if you ask me. Either way, congrats on finding direction. Some people spend their entire lives stumbling around, lost.
I know! It was something I thought of combining but even though I love both areas, combining them doesn't really interest me. The only way I can describe it is: its like I love both lasagne and chocolate - but combining the two?? It actually could be quite nice thinking about it...

Thanks for your kind words - I appreciate it. I guess writing this post was part of my own 'psychological treatment' if that makes sense. Normally I wouldn't write a post this personal but - hey ho. I'm just curious to see if other people are going through similar things.

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Re: Making a living and guitar...

#10 Post by boswell » Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:33 am

Incestuous_Monk wrote: I don't feel I have a voice on the instrument. I can duplicate people well and I did consider going into business doing tuition DVD's and specialising in the Vai's, Malmsteen's, Satch's etc. But ultimately I would feel like I was wasting my life. I want to be a trend-setter not a monger but I don't have a trend to set. I feel I'm a fairly good mix of my heroes but I can still hear them in my playing and I don't want to. When Hendrix plays the guitar you know it's Hendrix, it's the same with Vai and others. I don't have that.
So who says you don't have a voice? You?
Surely it's for us your potential audience to make that decision? 8)
I think many guitarists feel the same way as you and often they are the ones which do sound different.
As Bill said above there are millions who believe they are unique but in reality they are just clones of their heroes.
Maybe the band enviroments you have been in just have a covers band mentality? The people who genuinely are original sounding have normally shunned playing other peoples material and stuck to finding their own way.
Seems a pity to get to such a stage and throw it away.

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Re: Making a living and guitar...

#11 Post by Incestuous_Monk » Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:47 am

Incestuous_Monk wrote:I currently work as a computer programmer, which is something I like a lot but not what I'm doing right now (I write drivers for engineering hardware - it's as boring as hell!). I intend to remain a computer programmer but work in the medical field. Unfortunately, it means I have a few more years of study, but ultimately it will mean I can have a life that is challenging and fulfilling and not one that is disappointing and unrewarding. I go to University in September to study bio-chemistry.
The Big Bad One wrote:Hang on, hang on! Do you already have a degree in Comp Sci or something? If so you could very easily do a Masters or PhD in Computational Neuroscience may of whom later work in medical science and I have friends who would have such places for someone like you. You'd learn all you need whilst doing the higher degree (including head and neck anatomy from me!). Let me know if you're interested and I can phone you and give you more details.
Thanks Anil - thats a really kind offer. Unfortunately my computing education only got as far as A-level - same with Biology and Chemistry. I'm an 80's/90's kid (I'm 26) so I kind of grew up computer programming If I ever needed software to do something I would write it. Its a shame kids don't have to do that any more! It was only through a friend that I managed to get this programming job, because otherwise they would have completely overlooked me, not having a computer science degree and all. They pay me a hell of a lot less though :( Lol! It's all good experience though.

The Masters and PhD in Computational Neuroscience sound very intriguing. When I have finished my degree it is definitely something I will look into.

Thanks again Anil - you're a nice guy.

Steve :)

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#12 Post by Incestuous_Monk » Sun Jan 20, 2008 12:19 pm

rub_800 wrote:its funny, I have a Computer Systems Engineer Degree (I don't know if I wrote it rigth hehe) but now I'm studing music because it appealls me more than waste all day programing... I hope for make a living playing guitar.. but sometimes I ask mysfel if will be making the same questions like you In a couple of years..

I could only tell you that if you really like to play guitar, then keep doing it, give it a shot, maybe you will find your path in a couple of years.. :)
It's funny two of my best friends are computer programmers and both of them would love to be able to play the guitar. They are both addicted to Guitar Hero too!

Good luck with your music study and I hope it works out for you. Like you say - time will tell. I don't intend to give up the guitar - I've spent way too long playing it, to just give up. It will remain a hobby though - and one day I may find I'm making a living from guitar after all! Who knows?!

Steve :)

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Re: Making a living and guitar...

#13 Post by Big Bad Bill » Mon Jan 21, 2008 3:57 am

boswell wrote:So who says you don't have a voice? You?
Surely it's for us your potential audience to make that decision? 8)
That's a very good point. Has anyone who's opinion you trust, heard your playing and commented upon it?

I have to say that although you've made a decision about your career path, I believe you will be inexorably drawn to your 'true calling'-especially since you seem to be in touch with yourself (no, not in that way!). I think its a great idea to do a degree (Biochem though? :wink:) because at the very least, it will introduce you to a very different environment, different people, you'll have a laugh too and perhaps more importantly, make you take a different perspective on life. I also think that the hard work of studying and the suffering and discipline involved will be a great character building exercise from which you'll emerge a better person. You may well, look back on it and say, well that was a pleasant waste of time, I'm going to be a recording guitarist now, or you'll say, I'm going to be a scientist, but it will be a valuable experience for you.

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Re: Making a living and guitar...

#14 Post by boswell » Mon Jan 21, 2008 8:45 am

Big Bad Bill wrote:
boswell wrote:So who says you don't have a voice? You?
Surely it's for us your potential audience to make that decision? 8)
That's a very good point. Has anyone who's opinion you trust, heard your playing and commented upon it?
Have you any "original" sound clips or videos we can listen to, me and BBB will be brutally honest about them.
Seriously if your decision not to pursue a professional guitar career is based on your opinion of your own playing I think you should reconsider. Many of the more humble Rock Stars don't rate their own playing, yet we the fans of their music worship them like gods.

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Re: Making a living and guitar...

#15 Post by Big Bad Bill » Mon Jan 21, 2008 9:12 am

boswell wrote:Have you any "original" sound clips or videos we can listen to, me and BBB will be brutally honest about them.
I'm afraid I can't do 'brutally honest'. Its my British upbringing. boswell on the other hand is a Yorkshireman and it comes easier to him!

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