Fresh starts – May Blog 2016.
I’m still processing the fact that Prince has passed away. I had never met him (but did cross paths with the members of 3rd Eye Girl once), and understand that writing a blog about a musician that I never personally knew might seems strange, but I have spent so many hours listening to his music and researching/reading about him over the years that in some kind of strange way, (as silly as it sounds) I feel as though I’ve lost a friend.
A few years ago I set out to try collect as much Prince music as I possibly could and even started sourcing material he released as Jamie Starr, Camille or Joey CoCo just so that I could try and hear as much of what he was capable of musically as possible. (I still need to try get my hands on loads of “unofficial NPG releases” and have never been able to find an original GuitarWorld release of ‘The Undertaker’, but I’ll get there eventually).
As with most musicians, Prince (and his music) wasn’t always every one’s cup of tea. Many people felt he was at his best as a funk artist, while a few people out there feel that he contributed just as much to hip hop as a genre as many of it’s top stars. Again, there are those that feel he didn’t quite ‘get’ hip hop and should’ve remained a more mainstream pop/rock artist as per his ‘Purple Rain’ era. The bottom line however, is that Prince was an outstanding musical talent that inspired countless of people throughout the world over the last 3 decades, so whether you’re a fan of his music or not, you cannot deny how proficient he was on the numerous instruments he had the ability to play.
As a musician, Prince helped me understand that as great as it is being a multi instrumentalist and be able to play pretty much everything on ones own recordings, that allowing other musicians into your creative world can take your musical ideas to new heights, add new concepts and ideas and be a lot more fun.
I also think it was great that even after he took over the pop world like he did in the early/mid 1980’s, that he constantly pushed his own boundaries, both personally and musicality. Again a lot of material he released wasn’t always accepted as mainstream pop but he kept writing/creating even long after he financially needed too. There are countless other artists that have simply disappeared after they’ve made their millions and given how he could have comfortable lived off off the money he made as early as the mid 1980’s if he had wanted to, he could’ve done the same. Instead, he kept producing, helped establish other artists (Vanity 6, Sheila E, Judith Hill).
Plus, he could hold his own musically with anyone – he truly was one of a kind.
Add to the above the outstanding amount of charity work he did (which no one ever really talks about) and how he stood up for musicians rights in regards to how streaming and distribution of music has changed how musicians earn a living and it’s easy to see why we’ll never have another icon quite like him ever again.
So yes, I realize that this is usually a drum related blog but I would like to say thank you for the music Prince, you were a true inspiration, (I would’ve loved to have had the opportunity to have jammed with you). For the drummers out there who have never taken the time to research what Prince contributed to the drumming world I strongly suggest you do, he always brought some of the drummers we now love and admire to mainstream attention. Did I mention that he was even on the cover of Modern Drummer once (Jan 2005 issue). Amazing.
Some Random Thoughts – March Blog 2016.
I thought I’d get a bit more personal with this months blog by sharing a few things that I’ve learned in my life/career so far. These are the gems that I feel apply to being a musician particularly well. So I hope that they are of some use to you all. Here goes…
1. Unfortunately, you really can’t (and won’t) please everyone, and trying to do so usually backfires.
2. If people can’t accept you for who you are, or don’t wanna be friends with you after you’ve made an effort to try to be, then you’re probably better off without them in your life.
3. Life can get pretty crazy sometimes, so if possible try to take a little time to do the things that make you happy – even if it’s just for a few minutes each day.
4. When in doubt, just go with it. Don’t try change situations that you have absolutely no control over (so unless you’re hurting yourself, or others in the process), just enjoy the moment. They’re not going to last forever.
5. Develop a hard skin. Successful people want to stay on top forever and might not always give you the turn that you might feel you deserve. Likewise, often people on their own way up might feel threatened or self entitled to something that you’re also after and hurtful things can be said or done that might discourage you along your journey, (who knows you might even be the one to say or do them). Regardless having a hard skin can help you shake the negativity off – especially within the entertainment industry.
6. Trust your gut !!! Pretty self explanatory really, but your instincts are usually correct.
7. Be nice to others, even if you think they’re unkind or inconsiderate towards you. You never know who’s help you might need one day, or who might need help from you.
8. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and help build you up. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve by doing this, even if it means that you might have to hear the ‘cold’ occasional truth about yourself every once in a while.
9. Stop complaining all the time. Unfortunately, this is much harder than I’d like to admit, but negativity breeds negativity (you would’ve heard me say that on the UK Drummer Podcast a few times).
10. Don’t fake it – just make it… You don’t have to be a fake individual to survive in this world. As mentioned earlier, you’re probably make a couple frenemies along the way but being true to yourself is worth its weight in gold so don’t let anyone take that away from you.
Until next time, practise hard, work hard and I’ll see you around.
Practise Schedules – February Blog 2016.
I realise that practise is a topic that I write about a lot in my blogs and I don’t in anyway mean to come across like a broken record by constantly repeating myself on the subject, but the bottom line is this: If you want to be great, you have to practise!
Unfortunately there is no quick way to suddenly become an amazing musician (or amazing anything for that matter). It takes years of hard work, time, and of course, good quality practise. The great news however, is that ‘genius like status’ can be achieved. It just takes the right mixture of determination, self-discipline and motivation.
With each year that passes (and as I get older and take on more responsibilities), the more apparent it becomes that I no longer have the luxury or messing about on my instrument for hours on end while my parents take care of all the household and bill duties. (Ah, those were the days, ha ha).
Having a well worked out practise schedule still allows me to get a sufficient amount of time to practise and learn new ideas on my instrument and I firmly believe that putting together a schedule (as disciplined as it may sound) will really help you on your journey to becoming the best musician you can be.
So with that in mind, here’s my recommendation on how you can alter your daily lifestyle to include your ‘creative needs’ and become a better musician at a realistic pace, whether it’s daily/weekly/monthly or yearly, and whether you’re a part or full time musician.
Rather than sharing my personal schedule with you, I’ve worked these out based on stereotypical assumptions, and highlighted potential practise times in red. They can of course be applied however you like in order to suit your own personal needs.
Let’s start with the part time musician. Your day might look something like this:
6am – Potential practise for an hour
7am – Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast etc.
8am – Leave for work
9am – 5pm – Work
5pm – Leave Work
6pm – Eat dinner, relax with family etc.
10pm – Potential practise for an hour
11pm – Sleep
Now for the full time musician. Your day (provided you’re not touring heavily) might look something like this
9am – Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast etc.
10am – 2pm – Potential practise for 4 hours
3pm – Eat lunch and load gear for tonight’s gig.
4pm – Potential rest/nap (if required), otherwise plan gig logistics (set lists, merch etc).
5pm – Leave for gig
6pm – Sound-check. Socialise, eat dinner, warm ups
9pm -12am – Actual performance
12am – Load gear and leave gig
1am – Sleep
In each scenario there are good times for potential practise sessions and it varies for everyone. Some people might find practising for 1 hour is too little, whilst others might feel that 4 hours is too much (especially given that the average human can only process new information for short periods of 45minutes at a time before the brain needs a break). Needless to say, the above examples are simply a guideline in case you don’t know where to start.
One of my guitar teachers (a wonderful man named Luke Van Der Merwe), helped me work out my first ever practise schedule and it completely changed how I approached my time at my instrument. So, while I wish I could take credit for the above way of thinking, I have to mention him. If you ever get the chance to watch him play, you totally should.
Anyway, until next time, work hard, play hard and practise – diligently.
P.S – Don’t forget to follow my personal account on Twitter – @TravisMarc
Sometimes opportunity doesn’t knock on the door – January Blog 2016.
Ah life… It’s a funny thing. Most people are either content with where they are, or trying to break down barriers in order to get to where they eventually hope to be.
It’s with this in mind that I wanted to write this months blog, as it’s important to remember that while attempting to claw one’s way to the top and open as many doors as we can along the way, that it’s very easy to miss some of the windows of opportunity that might come to us, purely due to the fact that we’re too focused on our end goal (whatever that may be).
Recently, I was in the studio with a great band., who were recording their debut album.
I was hired to record a few guitar parts on the record and was itching to have a go on the drumkit that had been hired for the drummer on the session. As I wasn’t that close with the band, I decided to act professionally and simply just track my guitar parts.
During the recording process, a few comments were made that made me think that the band weren’t completely happy with their drummer or his parts, but again by trying to remain as professional as possible, I held back my comments that I might be able to do what they wanted ‘drum part wise’ in a better way (no one wants to be ‘that guy’, especially when it’s not even your own band).
While on quick a break from the actual recording process one day, I thought I’d have a quick play on the drums before we hit record again, but not knowing me, the drum tech that had been hired for the day didn’t think it was a good idea and so for a third time during the session I again decided to remain professional and convinced myself that I didn’t need to play the drums and went back to my guitar.
Anyway, fast forward two or three months and as suspected the band seem to have released their drummer and hired a new guy to fill his position. They also have some amazing dates booked in on their new tour, with support slots of some absolutely massive bands…
Now, while I’m super happy for them (they were terrific guys) I can’t help but think that perhaps had I made sure that they had the chance to see what kind of drummer I am and what I could do on the drums within their genre, that when the decision came to replace the above mentioned drummer that just maybe I might have been considered as a potential replacement. Not to say I would’ve, but I might have been. The worst part is, that I’ll never ever know and I have no one to blame but myself.
So, while I do believe that upholding professional standards should always be one’s priority, I think that maybe we should also trust our instincts and take advantage of the moments we’re in as we might miss opportunities that are right in front of us. After all, sometimes opportunity doesn’t knock on the door, it lightly taps on a window.
Until next time, keep on practising, take those opportunities, and remember the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.