How To

Get Advice – Finding the Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock

3.4.2013

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Every man is an island. Allegedly.

Well maybe, but to make a rather obvious analogy, we’re all still connected under the sea. Perhaps what makes each of us different is how far we are away from other islands and how deep the sea is in between. Making music however, isn’t an lone pursuit for most of us. I honestly don’t think I’d still be doing what I do if it wasn’t for the support of friends and family, musicians and non alike. Art is rarely isolated, and like everything else is heavily influenced by your experiences and inspirations. I personally wouldn’t go as far as Einstein who said that “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”, but I do believe that all of us need some external input into our creative lives.

As much as we may be happy to accept our influences, there’s a terrifying truth that musicians usually learn at some point; your music will suffer if you keep it too close. And by this I don’t mean just the final product and letting people hear it, there’s thought processes, inspirations, technique and many other parts of making music that is helped by sharing and discussing, even if its just speaking it out loud. One of the big reasons that people give away loops, samples, hints & tips, software and any other bits away is because it helps create a community of support, and allows them feedback on what they do. These communities can be helpful, insightful and hugely inspirational.

A large part of my work is helping people with their creative flow and making the best music that they can. I love helping people and truly believe that everyone is individual, however, problems almost always fall into one of three categories. Not knowing what to do, not knowing how to do it, and worrying whether what they’ve done is right. The second comes with the easiest remedy, explaining and demonstrating how to accomplish a task such as how use a synthesiser to make a certain sound. The other two however are a bit trickier, and involve taking a closer look at what a person wants (or helping them work that bit out!), and finding a path to get there.

So how do you find the solution if you feel stuck or unable to accomplish what you want musically? Sharing what you have and how you do it is the first critical step. Find good feedback and you’re half way to improving. So who do we go to? Your contestants are…

Friends and family: These are the most immediate option, and they will often be the most happy to help. However, this easy solution comes at a cost; those close to you are the most likely to skirt around negative feedback because they don’t want to upset you, and unless they’re musical folk, the feedback will likely be subjective, not objective. Being subjective is ok as long as the person giving the advice understands the type of music you make and the sound you’re going for, otherwise, sadly, advice can do more harm than good.

The Public: These are the ones that you may feel are the most important to impress for obvious reasons, but sadly getting constructive feedback from them is very difficult as the vast majority are consumers, rather than testers. If they like your record they may buy it, or at least listen more than once. Ask them and they will often say if they like it, but may be extremely vague as to exactly why.

Other musicians: With the rise of internet forums, this is the most available, knowledgable source of critique and feedback. However, they can be the trickiest bunch to glean a path from, usually due to conflicting advice. Another caveat is that you never know if the commenter has a hidden agenda. What can make this even harder is getting feedback online from forums where you don’t know the person commenting, and if they have expertise apart from their opinion. Most dangerous of all are people who have particular tastes which they can back up with very convincing arguments, even when it’s rhetoric.

Professional services: There are a variety of services for helping you with music, from song critique to mentorship to tutoring. Whatever the angle, getting a good professional on board can be worth their weight in gold, the main danger being cowboys trying to make a quick buck before disappearing. This ideal solution of course comes with a price tag.

So, a number of options, each with their pros and cons, but how does this relate to Music Gateway? Happily, Music Gateway allows for a new niche in being able to access people who can help with music. This niche is defined as a network of professionals who are all in the world of music, but in all different areas of the industry. Forums are usually focused on a specific topic such as a genre, a music production program, or an institution. Social networking sites are usually a very mixed bag, and even LinkedIn, whilst used by professionals, isn’t focused on music. Music Gateway will be the only online site solely populated by professional, or professionally minded musicians and industry workers. That means that there will be access to a knowledgeable, concentrated community, and the availability of people who know their stuff in one place will be high. Does this mean you’ll have a one stop shop for all the advice you’ll ever need? No, you should always cast your net far and wide. But it will give you another excellent source to draw upon.

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