The Rise of Home Recording

I, for one, have never been a supporter of musicians doing everything themselves. Recording, mixing and mastering ought to be done by a professional producer, as individuals like me are much more versed in the nuances that come with it. You don’t see me telling a plumber how to install complicated water heaters, I stay in my lane and leave that to the likes of Tanklesscenter.

But, seeing as we’re all on lockdown due to the coronavirus, the trend of home recording will surely only rise. Creativity has no brakes. I won’t get into a technical rant this time around, but rather present you with what’s at stake and what we stand to lose.

First, let’s get down to the basics, lest I sound elitist. Musicians are able to record music in the comfort of their homes due to the now very advanced DAWs, or digital audio workstations, that are much more accessible than recording equipment in the 70s or 80s. These workstations can encompass a variety of devices, but are based on a regular computer and audio editing software, such as Cubase.

With such software accessible to everyone, should you have a decent enough computer, the line between professional music producers and musicians is as blurred as ever. I completely understand the audacity of a performing musician who has written their own music to decide and mix it – I mean look at what Billie Eilish and her brother did. I can’t argue with success. But, more often than not, artists end up shooting themselves in the knee by undertaking a task they’re not fit for. The sole loss here is the lesser quality of the final product because of arrogance; due respect to musicians who understand the complexity of the art of production and study it accordingly.

You could argue that the whole issue here is the haughtiness of the artist, and you would be right. I can’t go after kids that decide to try their hand at producing music by digital means, even though they’ll never end up experiencing the whole adventure of going to the studio for weeks on end. The atmosphere therein has a great deal to do with how some of the most legendary musicians of the 20th century made the music we still listen to nowadays. Your bedroom will never give you the same effect in sound as a professional studio, but I’ll stop myself there since I promised not to get too technical, if you don’t get it by now, I don’t think you ever will.

The Difficult Ones

The world of music production is dynamic and exciting. You can discover new artists in the most unlikely places. Thus, I visit all the small and large clubs on the scene. I can help make a band famous if they have the innate talent. I know how to bring out the best in musicians. Once signed on with me, I give them every possible service. When they come to my studio to rehearse or record, they expect first class attention. Of course, primarily I attend to their “sound” and give them ideas for improving it naturally and electronically. There are many ways to go. The ingenuity behind a hit is vast. In future blogs, I will tell you about it. Today, I have an amusing story to tell.

A female trio came in to rehearse. It was the first time they had come to my place. They settled in and started to primp to get ready. I asked what does it matter how you look. Only the sound engineer is here. The women got irritated. One of the ladies explained that she played the fiddle better when she had makeup on. I guess every artist has his or her quirks. Some are weirder than others. Okay, I get it. She disappeared into the bathroom at one point to put on false eyelashes. Do you have extension glue on hand? she asked. She seemed to be getting temperamental. What was she going to do if I didn’t have it? Walk out? I have a lot of things on hand from snacks to beverages to articles of clothing and various and sundry beauty products. Yes indeed. I have lipsticks in the most popular colors, foundation in a range of shades, brushes and combs, hair spray, and wait for it… eyelash extension glue. I had to look it up to work out what it was, and that’s when I found this web site

This “difficult” lady got her request. Usually, I get a lot of gripes from new musicians about how I want to change their sound and their mode of dress. Sometimes a photographer comes in to document a recording session. The photo can be used on Facebook, Instagram, or an album cover. People like to complain and throw in their own two cents. Not this women. She was delighted that I was prepared for everything. It was a difficult situation that was easily solved. When she emerged from the bathroom, tube of glue in hand, she looked good actually. Now it was time to test her mettle and see how the music sounded. Did false eyelashes make a difference?

The answer is yes. The trio was terrific that day and I credit their good moods. At the end of the session after photos were taken, they thanked me profusely. We booked another date for a second recording of a new song they were writing. I was happy that they wanted me to produce it given the good results we had that day. When they left I said goodbye, and stopped for a moment to ask for the eyelash extension glue back.

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Great Music Producer?

Great Music Producer

So you want to become a music producer?  Are you sure about that?  Being a music producer takes great time and talent and the payoff, well it generally doesn’t come by way of glory.

A music producer is akin to being a ghost writer.  You see your hard work put into print but there is no recognition.  Perhaps it is best described as being the manager of a pro sports team.  Usually when you are recognized is when your team has lost too many games and you are canned.  A music producer is just not famed near as often as he or she should be in my estimation.

But if that is all irrelevant to you, then maybe you have what it takes.  Are you a god when it comes to mastering sound?  Can you mix, remix, reverb and provide the techniques it calls for to take a piece of music from good to great?

And management.  Do you excel in management?  Can you make people want to follow your lead?  You have to take into consideration the types of people that often come with musical talents.  Most are contrary individuals.  Some are stubborn and strong-willed, unyielding especially when it comes to suggestions on how to better or alter their music.  Some are lazy too.  They are good at what they do but that is where it ends.  They are not motivated to practice or to do much else besides play.  Not all musicians are difficult to work with but the large majority are not like blobs of clay that you can mold how you please and are usually quite the contrary.

You must also possess a charismatic air about you.  You will be promoting an individual or a group.  You will be their advertiser and will be up against countless others who are doing the same.  There must be something special about the way you communicate to others and about how they see you.  The most successful producers are those who have a way with others.

If you feel you’ve got what it takes, then you will be happy to know that being a music producers is much easier than it ever was before.  Now, you have simpler options such as producing online instead of at the studio.  You can follow a program on the computer instead of having to have a degree in college.  It can be done for much less of a financial investment that it used to cost also.

To get started, it’s good to familiarize yourself with music of all types and instruments of all arrays too.  Whether you play music or are just interested in producing the talents of others, you will need to have a feel for it and as much knowledge about music as you can get.

You will need to learn as much technical knowledge as you can too.  Although the computer age has greatly simplified the process, the more you know, the greater you will be.  You can take courses online or even at a college location if you are so inclined.

Get your studio prepared and set up.  You may opt for a home studio or a true studio in a separate location.  There are advantages to both.  Build up your equipment as you can afford to and grab whatever software you can as well.

Now it’s time to start recording.  A wide variety of recordings will become your best friend.  You will learn more if you branch out into different types of genre and you can always specialize in one that best suits your fancy but it is good experience to have a myriad of types under your belt.

When you have a collection of produced pieces, you will no doubt want to start your own website.  This allows others to see and hear your work.  It is, in short, networking.  Don’t skimp when it comes to your site.  You want it to be very appealing and to sound excellent too so if that means hiring services to be done correctly, do it.  You won’t regret it.

Being a music producer is not an easy job but it is much easier now than it ever has been in the past.  If you feel you have the gift of making music sound great, the gift of gab and the gift of managing and promoting people, then give it a try.  Who knows, you may just be the next great music producer of all times.  You will never know until you try.

The Greatest Recording Studio of All Times: Where Legends are Born

Location, location, location!  There are some recording studios that are as legendary as the bands that graced them.  They have become icons that house the romance we have had with the bands and the music that they helped birth.  I am always curious as to what really went on behind the scenes in the famous recording studios.  Aren’t you?

Abbey Road Studios is notorious for being the official location where the Beatles recorded their masterpieces. If walls had ears.  Located in London, England, Abbey Road Studio walls no doubt hold some secrets all their own as to what it was really like when the Beatles came together over the years to produce their songs.  Pink Floyd, The Hollies and Badfinger recorded at the Abbey too so just imagine…

As far as Country Music goes, Sun Studios is to producing as the Grand Ole Opry is to performing.  Sun Studios is in Memphis, Tennessee and was the recording location for Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, BB King, Jerry Lee Lewis and countless others.  It is said that Rock and Roll was born there and I am inclined to believe that it possibly was.  It is also worth noting that it is also said that the Rock that was birthed there was done so out of a string of errors and because of the lack of rules which lead to unleashed music that we came to know as Rock and Roll.

Chess Studios in Chicago’s has quite the Rock reputation as well.  I can’t put my head around what it would be like to be there as the Rolling Stones recorded their hit albums.  They even sang about the studio in “2120 South Michigan Avenue”.  Back in the days of such works, it is a well-known fact that the Stones were quite wild, strung out on drugs and intent on doing their own thing, I just wonder what craziness went on inside that building.  The Stones weren’t the only ones to make the studio famous.  Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, the Who, the Beach Boys, Etta James, Chuck Berry were there in the days of old too.

You can’t mention recording studios and leave out Sunset Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California.   That would simply be wrong.  Fleetwood Mac, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John, Prince, the Dixie Chicks, Celine Dion and U2 have all spent time there recording their music.

I have had the chance to visit some of these studios and for me, it was like when I visited the Holy Land in Israel.  There was just something that I couldn’t put my finger on that made it a sacred event.  It was a spiritual experience that I dare not try to describe.

No, it’s not the location that makes the music great but rather the music that makes the location great.   Or…is it?  There has to be something magical within these studios that these great artists glean from, something that has been there before them and will remain long after they leave.

Great Music Producers Make the Dream a Reality

George Martin

A music producer, or manager, is one who often goes unnoticed unless they don’t produce in which case; they are no longer the producer.  It’s much like the manager or owner of a professional football team or basketball team.  If the team doesn’t win, the manager is in hot water.

George Martin was perhaps the most well-known producer.  He was deemed the “fifth Beatle” due to his work with them.  He not only basically discovered their talent, he helped empower them to success.

There have been many music producers that have plunged their team to victory.  Take Phil Spector.  The American producer was ultimately responsible for many great hits and albums for the Beatles both during their time as a band and as individual performers afterwards.  He worked with The Righteous Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, Cher and many, many others.  He was one of the great precursors for music producers to come but his career was cut short due to a lengthy prison sentence he is currently serving.

Another popular music producer, Dr. Dre, was on Death Row, Death Row Records that is.  Dr. Dre is a modern day producer responsible for helping such rappers as Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Ice Cube get to the head of their game.  He originally produced for Death Row Records but has since left the company and has moved on.  He has won a total of six Grammies and was also awarded Producer of the Year so he has seen more glory than most producers see if a lifetime.

Did you know that Jimmy Page was a producer and an excellent one at that?  He is mostly popular for his talented guitar playing in the group Led Zeppelin but he was a very renowned music producer of the 1970’s as well.  He excelled in the field of sound and had a unique interpretation of it which has made his music and the music he has produced the one of a kind masterpieces that they are.

Prince is yet another record producer that has made a name for himself not only through his own musical abilities but through his production of them too.  And not only has he produced his own, he has worked for such stars as Stevie Nicks, Madonna and Chaka Khan.  His one of a kind style helped revolutionize traditional rock into the heavily synthesized musical sounds that moved the music world to a new generation of sound.

We can’t forget Rick Rubin when mentioning great record producers who have made a difference in the culture of music.  He is widely responsible for hip-hop and rap becoming what it is today.  Def Jam and Jay-Z are a few of his products.

There are many great singers, awesome bands and talented musicians but it takes a music producer of great magnitude to channel the greatness.  A music producer must not only possess excellent skills in music mixing, recording, recruiting and so on, he must be a leader and a promoter.  A music producer has to take a dream and make it a reality and that is exactly what the great ones have done.  And sometimes one is excellent enough to leave a footprint in the sand and his life in the shadowsis made visible.

Wind Beneath Their Wing: The Role of a Record Producer

wind beneath

Record producers are underappreciated in my estimation.  There’s just not a lot of glory being in the wings.  Being a producer requires as much or more hard work and dedication as the band members put in, but there are no fan clubs, no audience dancing before you and no lighters lit begging for your encore.

The life of a record producer is spent in the shadows.  It’s like being the woman behind the man.  It’s like the soccer player who gives the assist that ultimately wins the game.  Being a producer requires being a team player with little or no recognition.  But that is what I find so appealing about them.

Can you name five record producers?  Most people can’t even name one, much less five.  Can you name five bands?  Of course you can.

Who was the Beatles’ producer?  George Martin was the one behind the band who originally discovered and unleashed the talented group although initially, he was not greatly impressed by them.  He did see potential and liked them as people so he gave them a go.  While Martin did receive more credit than most producers, he still remained in the background, never to be the household name that the Beatles became.

Record producers wear many hats.  There are many jobs that go along with being a producer.  A producer is the visionary, so to speak, of the end result.  He is the one who makes it happen from point A to point Z.  He is responsible for putting together the talent, promoting the talent and delivering it as well.  He is a master of recording, mixing, reverbing and bringing the sound to perfection.  He motivates the musician or musicians and helps them to attain and keep their exalted position. Some producers are even musicians themselves and some musicians produce their own labels.  Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys not only was in the band, he was the co-founder of the group and a famous producer as well.

Some producers excel in one or more areas and are not as strong in other areas.  They may be really strong in the field of public relations but depend upon help when it comes to the actual production of the music in the sound area.  Or, they may be excellent in the technical areas but not so much in the social setting.  Some are like Midas, everything they touch turns to gold.   As long as they have their bases covered, the area of expertise is not an issue, as long as they have one and can ultimately make their product (the musician or group of musicians) shine, that is the only thing that really matters.

A record producer can be compared to the coach of a pro sports team.  Lots of work and little to no glory.  They recruit, enhance performance, promote the team and ultimately are in charge of making sure the game is won.  A record producer is the master behind the masterpiece and the method to the madness.  To sum up the individual job details of a record producer is difficult but it is easy to sum up his ultimate responsibility…he must make greatness happen, period…the end.


We get our inspiration in various ways and it doesn’t matter. The point is to have ideas spring forth at any time. I have even been to known to get up in the middle of the night to jot them down. I have been inspired by walks on the beach as much as by a cityscape. I am most affected by music, and a live concert works like magic.

Oddly enough, when I am working out in the gym, thoughts arise of a productive nature. If I am listening to music on an iPod, the ideas flow. It is the perfect combination that I call “gymspiration.” I can be sweating like a hog, but am in an ethereal mental zone that is as pristine as it is dry. If I am on the treadmill, it is easy to tune out of the real world. That becomes harder if you are counting reps or listening to the coaching of your trainer. So I would recommend doing something pretty routine about which you don’t have to think. If you are straining with sit ups and pushups, it might be less fruitful for you than a stair stepper or swinging along to the beat on a good elliptical machine. But believe me, ideas can come at any time, even with strenuous exercise.

Of course, like most people, I work out for fitness. I am talking here about a side benefit that seems to bless me. Not everyone tells me their inspiration stories that come from lifting weights. I am sure, however, that I am not unique and I expect this to continue to happen as in the past. I relish my gym sessions in principle, but when they bring me a bonus, I am more than pleased.

I don’t do anything fancy that other people haven’t tried. The usual stuff like balancing with the big inflated ball, doing crunches and curls, performing lunches and squats. It is all basic for body building and muscle tone. Some time in the weight room is a plus. The equipment nowadays is amazing. They just keep getting better. There isn’t a body part that you can’t focus on with a machine. Okay, there isn’t one for the mind, but it gets attention by default.

What ideas do I get? In the world of music, it can have to do with the artists and their output, it can do with the production process, and it can have to do with marketing. There are many facets to the business and you often think about them randomly in no particular order. Later, you sit down, concentrate, and develop plans. I don’t write the music but I use it to add to the store and wealth of offerings out there that please and inspire other people. It is a competitive but lucrative world, not just in terms of revenue, but in terms of personal satisfaction and a feeling of achievement. It is a world that keeps moving forward all the time, making it multi-dimensional and exciting.

So back to the gym for inspiration.

Ideas in the Shower

I hear that very busy people don’t have time for a nice, long, and very hot shower. That’s too bad. They are missing something more than pleasant and more than purely functional. It is a useful, practical way to spend time as you can multitask while you are at it. How you ask? Think of the flourishing flow of ideas you get while under the warm flowing spray. There is indeed a parallel to be made. The only thing is that you better have a large-capacity hot water heating to keep it going.

You don’t just get in and expect ideas to come to you in a flash, like snapping your fingers and a thought emerges. That would be most fortunate, wouldn’t it? Rather, it takes time for them to generate. At least that is the case for me. Hence the need for an extended stay under the steaming, almost searing, liquid. Sometimes I use free association to stimulate a new train of thought. Being in the music business, a tune or some familiar lyrics will do the trick. It could be an image of an artist or a particular performance. Some kind of subconscious connection is made for me when I do this as a source of stimulation. The brain cells start to perk up and percolate. The process has begun.

I imagine that most people need to be creative at some point in their routine lives, on a regular basis. It is especially true of working people who are required to innovate and renovate old established hierarchies of thought. Without new ideas, things just get stale and worn out. The status quo can mean dullness and dreariness. Think of TV ads only after two or three viewings. So new ideas reign everywhere, you just need to know how to access them.

A hot shower is not as invigorating as a cold one you may be thinking, but you certainly can’t reside in the stall very long that way. Brr. The heat relaxes the muscles and thus the mind, allowing it to get into ideation mode. Maybe this happens to you when you are jogging or on the treadmill at the gym. It could happen while watching TV or a movie. Anything can jar the cerebrum into thinking and creating at will. For me, I will stick with the hot shower every time.

To facilitate the process, I did check the old water heater in the basement, and while it seems to be cooperating, a new tankless water heater may be appearing in its place the near future. I certainly wouldn’t want the hot water to poop out on me while I am midstream in deep creative thought.

Ok, I will need to spend a bit, and it has been a long while since I even thought about a new heating system, and I think this is going to be a budget buster this year. People spend money on travel, hobbies, pastimes, sports, and the like. Why not on a hot shower!

Inspiration on Water

Who doesn’t get inspired by water? Composers surely do (Handal anyone?) and artists of great fame like Turner and Monet: both the macrocosm and the microcosm are depicted so to speak. Sports fans love to engage in water recreation of all types from boating, fishing, and diving to wakeboarding and water skiing. Sailing is a true art and apparently a real calling for aficionados. While most of us enjoy the sea on a part-time basis and there are some Salty Dog’s who get to live and work out there all day, there are also those fortunate enough who can live on a mega yacht and roam the ports of the world. They can have their music piped into every luxurious room.

This sounds like the good life to me, while most people are content with week-end and vacation fare. Let’s say I could have my greatest wish fulfilled for one night. Would I chose such a vessel? Yes… I can see it. A vast boat of monumental dimensions is sitting in the marina, manned by a trained crew including a professional gourmet chef. The provisions are being loaded box by box. Fresh fruits and vegetables, rare cuts of meat, expensive liqueurs are expertly stowed on board. English bone china will be unpacked within minutes to accompany the fine French crystal.

A music producer worthy of the name would have an attendant to load the tunes and adjust the volume on the top grade surround sound system for the pleasure of the passengers—and there would be a few for entertainment and companionship. A real bonus would be to have a celeb entertainer in tow for live requests….ah, but that is another wish. Meanwhile, Barney’s of New York has just sent a rack of boat clothing in just my size. I think they had a Hugh Hefner velvet coat in there by mistake. In any case, everything I could want is safely in my private cabin.

I could sit on deck and enjoy the water forever, or watch others at play. A glass of champagne is the perfect way to set out to sea. I am christening myself for the journey. We lay anchor for a while a bit later so my friends can swim and tan themselves. There will be water sports for everyone. It is a beautiful idyllic day. The bluest sky is populated with wispy clouds that have not a hint of impending rain. The sun is intense and warms my spirit without burning my sensitive skin. A young lady of ample proportions is ready with cream if I ask. I await the lunch meal with gusto and take a short nap.

The dream could disappear upon my waking, but let’s not ruin the story. I dine within a few feet of the water and watch dolphin folic right before me. I want to remain there forever, quiet and composed. But the yacht beckons with its many gratifications and I get ready to swim. We play cards and there is dancing on deck as the sun drains from the sky. Romance is in bloom for a few couples. Heaven is in store for me.

Background Noise: The Bane of Music Production

I am in the music business so I know that soundproofed studios must be used for recording sessions for good reason. Background noise is the bane of production. You can filter it out later, but why not prevent it at the start. I have been to the best state-of-the-art facilities, and I have heard the results from home efforts (when I get demos). There is a huge difference. You wouldn’t expect it to be otherwise. It costs enormous sums to install a quality studio for professional use. There are engineers trained in just such an enterprise. For top artists, nothing but the best will do.

Meanwhile, I once got a tape from a young male artist. I get lots of them all the time, but I rather liked his sound. It was new, raw, and appealing. Something stood out in his voice that kept me listening. However, oddly enough, I heard some kind of whirring noise in the background each and every time. I checked my equipment and it was clearly not responsible. No malfunction there. It was embedded in the tape. This doesn’t usually happen. Those sending in their samples are careful to give me the best of what they can produce.

I tried to ignore the strange, almost eerie sound. I supposed that it came from some primitive recording device; but now it was a mystery I wanted to solve. I asked my sound engineer and he surprised me with an answer, “it’s a ceiling fan or loud air conditioning unit—one or the other, I’m sure.” Ha! That rang true. The poor kid had forgotten to turn one or the other off. It didn’t matter as this was an introductory tape, but it amused me and reminded me how naïve some young artists are when starting out. I guess he knew he would get the royal treatment if I signed him to a label.

I called the young man. Normally, I invite the prospective individual to come to my office. I give a tour, explain the ins and outs of representation, the royalty structure, etc. However, I wanted to see his abode myself. Upon entering a small apartment in the suburbs, I encountered the mystery ceiling fan and a window AC unit. He had both! The ceiling fan was some huge modern thing, something like the ones shown at They were both on full blast and the noise was worse than in the demo.

“Turn those darn things off,” I said before even greeting the kid. “I can’t hear myself think.”

“Oh, sure,” he replied as he hurried to execute the task. “I’m so sorry.”

“Didn’t you know that they were in your recording?” I queried.

“God, no,” he stammered and tensed.

“But I liked it anyway,” I added and he started to relax.

The rest of the interview went well—noise aborted. We hit it off and I listened to some live renditions of his own compositions. It was a fruitful experience for both, and I scheduled a second appointment for the following week. As you can imagine, he was thrilled.

There is some kind of lesson here for the inexperienced. Go ahead and make your tapes, but please, turn off the extra sound!

Producing is not a Recipe

You hear people talk about a “recipe for success.” Motivators, in particular, are guilty parties. They are always touting how easy it is to arrive at one’s goals. Take a cup of ambition, add it to a ½ cup of talent and a ¼ cup of will, grab a hand mixer or other handy kitchen appliance, and there you have it! Instant results. No need for an oven to let things bake a bit. In my business, producing music is an art, not a recipe. There ‘aint no online kitchen appliance reviews that are going to help you. However, I suppose you could loosely use the concept to come up with a formula just for starters. There is business savvy combined with opportunity and timing. You add people skills, the ability to discern talent, and voila! You may make it in the industry. I wish it were that easy for those aspiring to climb to the top.

But there is so much more. This is not a profession to take lightly and no, not everyone can do it just because they desire it. My own recipe has varied over the years. Adaptability and fortitude have to be big components. But every entrepreneur has his or her secret ingredient. Music is an evolving industry that has drastically changed in the way people listen to it on digital devices and the way they download it. There are different markets for kids, teens, young adults, and oldsters. There are so many genres that it is impossible to count them on two hands. There are cross-over surprises all the time.

Sometimes you get lucky and enter the industry as an intern of sorts and work your way up. Other times you are born into it, marry into it, or buy into it. Yes, the business depends on investors, the money people, to keep it going while it is fueled by those with the right ear and the ability to spot winners. Good artists are out there waiting to be discovered, but many do not have the stamina and will power to make the grade. You have to have it, too, as you wait to find out. Money and reputation are on the line, and both are important.

Building a successful music business has its great rewards. It is an exciting realm of constant innovation. New blood pushes out the old, even though some of the seniors survive (the world is full of aging rockers). It is all about the here and now. What spoke to people decades ago has become retro or nostalgia. Tapping into your time is an art and you may lead the way as you build your own road.

Music is universal and I am thrilled to be a part of it. It never stops surprising you as to what the public likes, accepts, craves, and adores. The same with movies. Hits can be sleepers and blockbusters can fail. Only producers with some foresight (and no one has a crystal ball), their fingers on the pulse of pop culture, and sheer genius can win in this very competitive arena.

Great Fiery Songs

Fire is one the natural elements along with earth, air, and water. Though we crave to control it and box it up in stoves and fireplaces (like the ones reviewed at, fire is naturally wild. No doubt this is why there are so many songs about it. It’s a great topic for music with all its metaphorical references about love and romance, not to mention nostalgic memories of times past (“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”). Ditties like “Great Ball of Fire” evoke the old days of rock and the hot emotions it produced.

I personally like “Light My Fire” by Jose Feliciano. Nothing better about the sensual subject than that. Okay, the Doors also did a good job with less vocal intensity on their debut album. The word “fire” is hard to sing and rhyme. There is “pyre” and “dire.” Not great topics. If you delve deep, however, you will find gems like Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” the Cult’s “Fire Woman,” and Nilsson’s “Jump into the Fire.” Some might remember Bob Seger’s “The Fire Down Below” or the Rolling Stones “Play with Fire.”

Need I say more? This turns out to be a common topic! A classic has to be Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” while “Fire and Rain” by James Tailor is a sentimental favorite. These two are real standouts. They make you want to get in front of the fireplace and bask in the warmth and brilliance of the flames evoked by the lyrics. Fire can denote many things other than its literal presence. James Tailor was describing his experience in a mental institution after battling depression and the suicide of a friend. You feel it in your gut. “I’m on fire” has a different twist as Springsteen embraces mental consumption. Abstract or not, this element can express an array of sentiments from hope to devastation.

A songwriter would do well to sit in front of a fireplace now and then for inspiration. We don’t often see, touch, and feel it to any extent. Perhaps an allusive flame from a match or a gas stove at best. Some people have it down there internally and can draw it out at will. Fire will fuel creativity, ambition, and success. It will also destroy when at its extreme.

With all this baggage behind it, fire is a staple of music with references galore. Think about its connotations:

  • Raw energy
  • Strength
  • Burning love
  • Destruction
  • Evil
  • Power of the sun
  • Brilliance

Think about phrases like “a moth drawn to a flame” or “if you play with fire, you get burned.” Incendiary themes are evocative, mystical, thrilling, and terrifying. There is often a double-edged sword involving mental and physical repercussions. I was trying to set down some ideas for a song to go along with this blog using phrases like “hold your feet to the fire,” “fire in your belly,” or “fight fire with fire.” Those like “keep the home fires burning,” “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” and “set the world on fire” are well-known clichés. The trick is to use them in novel ways or invent some new ones. I leave it to you to find out how. If music history is any indication, you may come up with a new hit.

Being a Professional Musician: What Does It Take?

What exactly defines being a professional musician?  That is a topic of debate in the music world.  I am inclined to say that it entails making your living by way of playing music.  While there are those who work a different type job by day and play gigs at night, I would call those individuals part-time musicians because they work it as a part-time job.  If one makes most or all through playing, I would say they are a professional musician.

But, the subject is controversial for sure.  Just because one does play music or sing, even on a full-time basis, does not make him or her good at it.  The same is true for a writer or an artist.  They may just be an opportunist who has lucked into a position by chance.  I suppose that falls into the category of quality.  But, on the same note, if one is able to make a living from what they are doing musically, most likely he or she is good or at least good enough.

How do you become a professional musician?  Lots of hard work, lots of luck and lots of talent.  Aside from that, your chances of earning your living in the field for an extended period of time are slim to none.  Although the life of a musician is known for being one that is outside the box, believe it or not, there are steps to follow in order to achieve the status just like there are for any other profession.

First off, you must be able to perform.  You will need to be not only good at what you do, you will need to be great at what you do.  Practice, listen to others, practice and…practice.  Ask those you look up to for advice on how you can improve and put their suggestions into action.  Never think you can’t improve.  A professional musician improves constantly.

Set your goals in place.  Define the steps it will take to achieve those goals.  If you are just starting out, one of your first goals should be to take lessons or to avidly teach yourself.  List your goals and what it will take to reach them.

Along with physical goals such as finding a group to jam with or the likes, set mental goals as well.  Far too many musicians find themselves led astray by emotional issues such as drug abuse or depression.  You need to be a strong person not only to attain your goals but to live with the results of being a professional musician.  Not all experience fame and fortune but it is very possible that you will if you are good enough so if you do, you must set in place a plan of action to be able to handle that.

Feed the fire that burns within.  You will need to do your homework on a daily basis.  Everything you are must revolve around your goal at hand.  You must be willing to do anything in order to achieve your dreams.  Sometimes that will require stretching yourself.  Maybe you are shy.  Maybe you don’t want to relocate.  Perhaps you don’t like the business aspect of music such as contracts and such.  Obviously, you will need to bend in those areas and accept the things you must do in order to make a profession in music happen.  Once you have given everything you’ve got, physically, mentally and emotionally, you stand a chance.  Music is a profession reserved for those who not only dream the dream but for those who actually make it happen!