Don’t make boring music!
There’s enough dull, average, run-of-the-mill stuff out there – let the stuff you write fall into the other categories…the ones like “exciting” and “outstanding” and “extraordinary!”.
Many of the other problems associated with being a musician (finding fans, getting exposure, promoting, marketing, branding, being able to afford breakfast etc) magically disappear if you make incredible, outstanding, unique, mind-blowing music.
Don’t do it how everyone else would!
Trust your own tastes, inspirations and ideas. Don’t worry about whether people will think it’s weird or “wrong” – follow your instincts and do what seems right to you. The more you stay in tune with what you feel is right, the more “you” your music will be…and that will me it’s less like my hypothetical “everybody else”
Don’t be dishonest!
If you try to write music in a style that you don’t like, just for the temptation of cash monies…think twice about it. It might work for a while but the situation is doomed to fail. You won’t be that interested in writing it – and that will come across in the music eventually. You also won’t devote yourself to it, which will affect how you present it, promote it, talk about it…everything. It will also be a waste of your abilities in the end. You’re a superhero – use your powers for good, or risk becoming Zod!
Don’t play it safe!
There’s loads of safe music. It doesn’t have anything too unexpected in it. It doesn’t have any surprises in it. There’s no risk in it. Does that sound like your idea of a good time?
Don’t put things out unfinished.
If it’s not ready to your satisfaction, it’s not for other people ears. Your music represents you, and I’m sure you don’t go out to dinner half-naked. Don’t send your music on a first date with it’s hair messed up and dirty clothes on. Scrub up, shave the hairy bits, spray on a nice smell and make a good first impression!
Don’t accept second best
You ever seen a performer on stage say something that implies they are not giving it 100%? It turns the audience against them in a second. I saw a guy (who’s quite famous) tell the crowd that he didn’t really want to play this venue but was forced to because of his contract. He got booed for the rest of the show. He didn’t want to perform for us, and we knew it. Don’t give an audience your second best effort, they will know.
You should never put yourself in the position of feeling like you have to say sorry to your fans.
Put right any flaws in your music before it’s let loose on the public…..unless (here’s my usual “exception that proves the rule” bit) the mistake adds something to the music. It might be a humorous outtake…or a mistake that improves a track…but if there’s a benefit for the listener then consider keeping it in. Otherwise…nuke the mistake! Nobody want to hear them!
Don’t Stop Believing
Not the crappy tv show! I mean don’t let your self esteem drop. Everyone has doubts and worries about what they are doing, especially after knock-backs. When it comes to the crunch, your uniqueness is assured, it’s just finding the most effective way of expressing it to others that is the problem. Never doubt that you can do it…if you fail, then learn and try again, better. Never give in and never give up.
Failing gives you vital lessons…the only true failure is not learning from mistakes.
David Learnt composition (harmony, counterpoint and orchestration) to degree level through studying Schoenbergs Fundamentals of Musical Composition, the classic text on twentieth century harmony by Vincent Persichetti, Henry Mancini’s Sounds and Scores, Rimsky-Korsakov’s excellent books on orchestration as well as studying any scores that intrigued me. He is a founder member of two bands, avant pop duo Cnut, and orchestral doombience outfit Regolith, and have performed across Europe with them.