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Making and Taking Opportunity

Updated: 2 days ago

I remember a very long time ago when I was teenager – I’m going to sound really boring, but – there was real excitement as “Total Guitar” magazine and “Sound On Sound” came out each month. These were magazines focused on the industry that I loved, music. In those days, it was my only constant source of information. 

The publications contained articles from professionals, equipment reviews, advice and tutorials. I am sure this excitement was felt by everyone for the subject they held a passion for.  Whereas today we are bombarded with information. While, in some ways this is great, it can become somewhat disorientating and short lasting. We have thousands of genres of music at our fingertips and artists can come and go quite quickly. But on the upside, songs that have been dormant for years can suddenly become popular again. 

I would spend hours in my room connecting tape recorders or trying to work out why my old hand-me-down two track reel-to-reel tape couldn't record 4 tracks, or what effects sounded like when you can only use one at a time. Today a phone can record 100s of tracks with effects. I even remember, by trial and error, how an old set of headphones could be used as a microphone when plugged into a mixer. Again, today a standard phone has a great built-in mic.

With no idea at the beginning, I slowly developed my skills and, to be honest, this never stops if you want to take your opportunities. This is why I still love so many aspects of music – there is always something new to learn and there are so many ways to do something, what you choose is rarely wrong or right. It’s a continual process of thinking through ideas, trying things and making decisions. Remember, what doesn’t work out is equally important to what works, if you learn from it.

I feel that when learning new skills and developing it is fantastic to have good tutors and mentors, as well as other artists you are influenced by. However, learning and developing your own voice will be enhanced when these things are backed up by self-learning and experimentation. This can sometimes feel like a backward step, but in the longer term it will aid you in so many respects, and not just for music, but other activities that interest you now and in the future.

I'm sure even the most seasoned professional at the pinnacle of their craft will have countless stories of learning, breakthroughs, setbacks, achievements, and their own methods for doing things. This is what makes us different. YouTube for me has been the most fantastic learning resource, but while we learn I think it’s important we don't always copy but experiment – try and make things your own. Equally it’s important we don’t get discouraged by watching someone who is demonstrating 1000’s of hours work developing their craft. Try to do what feels right, perhaps without overthinking every element while you learn.

Countless times I've read that the best ideas were formed by trial and error. for example, gated reverb, which gave us the iconic 80's drum sound. With "Phil Collins, playing drums in the studio with the talkback mic on, Hugh Padgham heard the ambience of the drum room through the speakers, compressed and gated. And Gated Reverb was born.

Without mistakes we wouldn't have penicillin and a whole plethora of medical breakthroughs, even the Slinky supposedly was designed for stabilisation, and it wasn't until it was knocked off a shelf and it made its walk to the ground that its other use got noticed.

So many songs especially before digital recording had mistakes in them. They occurred where the musician was inconsistent when playing, timing or in the recording process. It's these little things that make the songs human and, dare I say, more endearing. With AI taking more of a foothold in all industry I feel our human inconsistency is something that will help artists stay relevant for longer.  

I need to ask Tim if his love for modular synthesis comes from its uniqueness and the performance never being exactly the same twice? By using their experiences, personality, uniqueness and new perspective artists are able to capture an audience. This can take time. 

However, we shouldn’t always judge success on popularity. I feel it is much more important to create something you enjoy, are happy with and learnt from. Who knows who may see it or hear it, and where your art will go next. Even the smallest audience for your work is an achievement you should embrace.  (Matt)

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1 Comment

2 days ago

I really like your outlook on the whole process of creating music as it applies to all types of artists whatever their medium.

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