Guitarist Skills Nowadays
An article by Bogdan Radovic
(Related forum thread here)
I have noticed that nowadays, a guitarist/musician needs a lot more skills than before in order to make it. Somehow, some of these skills which are not strictly guitar related have become "must have" and "standard" over time and with the technology advances. I'll try to go through some of them and add my impressions about them and why they are relevant to modern guitarists.
Home recording skills
OK, this one is probably the most "standard" one and we usually assume a guitarist has these skills, especially if he has been around for some times and is not a complete beginner. The truth is, not so many guitarists have this add-on skill as its assumed. Even if they have been playing for years. I have met so many of them. I must confess that it often surprised me, I somehow thought this one is always on the top of the add-on skills you must have in order to be successful in playing in bands, making music, sessions playing etc - being a musician. Essentially, home recording is not really a guitar related skill except that you'd be playing guitar in the process. Why do we need it?
Here are some benefits of guitarist knowing how to record music/guitar tracks at his home :
- Sharing ideas : it is so convenient to be able to lay down some tracks and share them with your band mates over internet when working on the new songs. It makes the process so much more efficient in comparison to going to the rehearsal just to find out if the part you came up with works well with the song. Also, you get so much more composing freedom, for example you can do layers and immediately hear how they sound together. This is something which is often hard to do on band rehearsals and you only get to hear/try it out when you get to the studio which can be expensive to have your experiments on the spot there.
- Collaboration possibilities : if you can record at home it means that you can take part in projects which are not strictly local, rather you can get involved with musicians from all over the world and make music together. This is very powerful. Such workflow using a traditional studio would probably be impossible as lots of changes/composing is involved in the process of musicians collaborating strictly online. This is a very exciting prospect one should not miss.
- Increasing recording experience : truth is that we all get nervous when recording. Some more than others of course but it is essentially a skill which is trained the same way you practice your alternate picking runs. With time and practice you do get better at it with manifests itself in being more comfortable when recording in the studio, being more creative on the spot and generally used to playing against a click track for example or other specific things you only get to experience when recording.
Video recording/editing skills
Youtube is no doubt a extremely powerful tool every musician has access to. The problem is - it is video based. You need a video in order to take part. In order to get it, not only you need to know how to shoot it, you also need to know how to edit it and get it uploaded online. It is really annoying in essence, after so much guitar practicing we need to essentially be computer wizards and practice video recording techniques as well? What is the alternative, get professionals to shoot it? It is always an option but it is not very efficient one because : not all professionals have necessary equipment or know how to shoot the guitar videos (they'd be extremely good at shooting weddings though for example ) ; sometimes you need to wait much more than you'd like, for example to schedule the shooting session, for materials to be edited and delivered etc etc. Of course, with the right professionals this job can be done really fast as well so probably the biggest downside is that there is less flexibility in this solution. If you hire a professional, you only get one chance to do it right and that is it. No changes afterwards, unless you are prepared to book multiple sessions for the same project.
This brings us back to the benefits of video recording/editing skills :
- You can expose yourself and your music via Youtube and other video services. Good video and audio will make you stand out of the crowd and if you are creative, unique and have that x-factor, you might just strike it big and get a popular video. Once it becomes popular, it is like playing hundreds of regular bar gigs where 100 people see you - but globally. Thinking more about it - it is so powerful isn't it?
- Collaboration projects : again, in order to collaborate with other musicians online in most cases you'll need to be able to provide a video. If you can do it, it means more opportunities for you (and fun! ).
- Band benefits : being able to shoot video will mean a lot to the band you are playing in. You could shoot promos, short interviews, shows, tour diary or any other videos. It can help the bend reach more people tremendously with those materials. After all, you need a lot of fresh "materials" to keep it interesting.
This one probably completes the circle of add-on skills you need to have in order to stand a chance of being noticed. If we are good in the promotion and marketing department, that can really change the level and help us reach more listeners and ultimately expose our music to more people. I once read about a young band which made a simple agreement : they will consider playing in a band like a job and they'll work X number of hours on it every day. They will have different assignments/tasks and they will try hard every day. For example, one member would work on social networks presence, other will contact offline media like radio/tv etc, the other one would book/promote local concerts etc you get the picture. When I read it I was like : but of course! That is a brilliant idea. How many young bands do such a thing? What is stopping them from doing it?
Here are some benefits of honing those skills :
- You are able to meet new people and expand your network - possibly the most valuable thing for the working musician btw.
- You can market your music and things you do more effectively, ultimately exposing your music as it deserves it.
- Be able to get and play more gigs. In the end, it is all about the gigs and you need to be able to play live as much as possible.
- Get experience (and exposure) from attending radio interviews and TV shows.
- Getting the feedback from the people who listen to your music. As you promote your music, you'll get all sorts of comments on your music which only means one thing : someone has been listening to it! Its so cool to get that feedback, even if it is negative I don't know about you, but my fear has always been that I'll make music which no one would hear in the end for this or that reason.
Now on the other hand, this is as much frightening prospect as it sounds exciting. IF you MUST have all those skills we talked about above, when do you get a chance to do actual music and practicing? I guess those who can do such multitasking have much better chances than others at "making it". I'd agree that the best approach is the one of the past where you get others to do all those distracting things and you focusing on the music, but those times are behind us now? Are they?