Forging one’s unique musical path isn’t a cakewalk. This month we asked an artist with an unmistakable voice—Melissa Etheridge—to join us in giving pointers about finding and staying true to your own vision.

Melissa EtheridgeGuest Picker
What advice would you give to young players trying to find their voice?
Make sure you’re doing what you love. If you’re just doing what you think others are gonna like, it’ll get old fast. So play what you love, and then be open. Listen to other music and to what people tell you: Look at them and see the reaction. Are they enjoying what you’re playing? It’s a group effort, this music is to be shared. If you can combine the love and someone else feeling that, that’s where you start to have success.

My current obsession is: I started playing 12-string when I was 14 because this kid at church camp had one and it just sounded so beautiful. I was so happy with it and I still am.


Andy EllisSenior Editor
What advice would you give to young players trying to find their voice?
Forget about being a guitarist. Become a musical explorer, travel far and wide in search of sounds and styles. You'll encounter rhythms, techniques, and timbres that will amaze and delight you. Using your guitar as a “sonic camera,” document and study these discoveries, and then share them. It’s a personal odyssey, so your audio travelogue will be unique.

My current obsession is: Palm levers on a lap-steel guitar. There’s a Duesenberg Multibender or Bigsby Palm Pedal system in my future, I can feel it.


Joe GoreSenior Editor
What advice would you give to young players trying to find their voice?

1. Make a list of five guitar skills you’re really good at. Don’t be modest.
2. Rank the skills according to how common they are. (1 = unique, 5 = everyone does it.)
3. Consider how your playing would sound if you did #1 and #2 twice as often and #4 and #5 half as often.

My current obsession is: The epic early Ellington on this season’s Boardwalk Empire. If there were any justice, the face of America’s greatest composer would grace the dollar bill.


Tessa JeffersManaging Editor
What advice would you give to young players trying to find their voice?

Don’t overthink it. If whatever you’re doing in music is from the heart, it’ll happen naturally so keep doing what you’re drawn to because that’s the reason for the season. People respond to authenticity.

 

My current obsession is: Alt-J’s This Is All Yours. I’m in love with what they do: A majestic rock band that sounds like chillaxed Chemical Brothers compositions performed by Beaker the Muppet.


Jason ShadrickAssociate Editor
What advice would you give to young players trying to find their voice?
It’s not about the gear. Forget about what the latest gizmo or gadget is and focus on connecting with the instrument. Once you get that going the gear becomes secondary—as it should be.

My current obsession is:
Bruce Hornsby’s band circa 2000. His live album, Here Comes The Noise Makers, is absolute proof that a piano can rawk.