The Best Advice: Create Your Own Sound
Chasing big gigs and high-profile projects has its appeal, but developing an individual style is the real key to creative musical success.
Every musician must answer one question, which may very well define the course of their career and life. Where do your chief motivations for creating music lie? This question does not concern whether one will endeavor to make money from music, but it asks what one’s intentions are. For those who focus on money, music simply becomes a means to an end, like a used car to a used car salesperson. But for those motivated by music, creativity is paramount. Regardless of which way one decides, all careers must and will be some combination of these two extremes. This is certainly true of mine.
I’ve been playing so long that I can’t remember life before. I became a musician because I loved music. I’ve also always had an interest in production. My first recordings began at 7 via a guitar and dubbing cassette deck, which allowed me to build songs one overdub at a time. Three years later, I added a bass, keyboard, drum machine, and 4-track recorder. Within 10 years, I’d accumulated my own 24-track studio, which lived in my bedroom. With each new addition came lessons and learning curves. The various skills I’d acquired along the way meant that, in addition to being a bassist, I could also work as a producer and recording engineer, which was how I made a living early on.
Years later, my career as a somewhat successful music producer came to an abrupt halt. The cause? A sudden global economic downturn, brought on by greedy unscrupulous robber-baron types who had traded astounding numbers of questionable “financial instruments” that nobody understood. The domino effect? The Great Recession, which erased billions in wealth, seemingly overnight.
“Which aspects of your music or artistry are unique?”
Everything from retirement funds to the music industry was deeply affected. Label presidents, A&R staff, marketing and accounts departments, artists, recording studios, and, in many cases, the labels themselves took a big hit. One day, I was a producer with inside connections to a handful of powerful record executives. The next, I was in my kitchen staring at six major-label contracts no longer worth the paper they were printed on.
Sure, the financial shock was severe, but, in retrospect, I realized that I’d been journeying down the wrong path, questioning my place in this industry, for quite a while. My focus had shifted from trying to be musically creative to trying to provide the client with whatever they believed was a hit. If you ever want an artist to become distracted, give them lots of money quickly. I was perhaps at my most distracted ever, but the recession gave me a chance to step back, focus, and recall the choice I’d made as a teen.
I got back to practicing for the first time in a very long time, realizing that I rather enjoyed it. I remembered that I could make a pretty decent living by just playing bass. The various gigs I played during this period, while the economy was in free fall, literally saved my bacon. But most of all I realized that, though I could do a lot of things well enough to make a decent living, I needed to focus on doing my best work—those things that only I could do in my own unique way. This is something that could be applied to any discipline, but nowhere is it truer than music.
Which aspects of your music or artistry are unique? What can you do to make what you create a true expression of you? For me, the real change was to focus on composing more, producing more projects that drew upon the more unique aspects of my skill set, playing more gigs which did the same, teaching this, and even creating a music program that was based on my own concept and curriculum.
Focusing on money alone will often lead one to seek out the shortest path to making lots of it quickly. Just as in other industries, in the music business this leads to everybody trying to do the same thing. Nobody wants to see Bono be Sting, or Justin Timberlake be James Brown. One can never out-Coltrane Coltrane, or even out-Wooten Victor Wooten. Doing what has already been made popular may seem like the quickest route to success, but this is an illusion.
By focusing on what we have to offer over what everybody else is already doing, we create more unique content, our own intellectual property, and a more identifiable sound within a vast ocean where most are trying to write the same hit song over and over. In the end, a more individual and creative approach could make what we do more valuable, and our careers more secure … until the next inevitable speed bump arises.
Did you ever wonder how the most epic guitar solos of our time were crafted? Let Chris Shiflett of the Foo Fighters be your tour guide and listen in as he breaks down legendary guitar solos with the artists themselves.
“I love guitar playing, and in particular, I love lead guitar playing (not to mention all things related to lead guitar playing: amps, pedals, stories about recording, and of course, guitars). My new show, SHRED WITH SHIFTY, was born out of the fact that I spend an awful lot of time watching people on the internet explain guitar parts almost right, so I thought, what if I could just go to the source and find out what my favorite players actually did on the solos I love? I’m about halfway through doing the interviews for this first season and the lineup is insane plus I’ve already got a big new bag of hot licks to learn. Working on launching this show has been a good reminder of why I picked up a guitar in the first place - because it’s really, really fun.” - Chris Shiflett
Each and every episode gets inside what it was like in the recording studio where some of the most iconic guitar solos were created and highlights aspects of each solo that only the artist knows. Alex Lifeson talks about how the “Limelight” solo was pieced together in the studio, while Rivers Cuomo discusses why his go-to “guitar store” lick is a classic from super shredder Yngwie Malmsteen. Wonder how Richie Sambora put together the “Wanted Dead or Alive” solo? We have you covered. Need a breakdown of the chords to Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out?” No one knows the nuances better than Nile Rodgers himself.
Shred With Shifty Guests Include:
- Nile Rodgers
- Brad Paisley
- Alex Lifeson (Rush)
- Mike McCready (Pearl Jam)
- Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi)
- Rivers Cuomo (Weezer)
- Charlie Starr (Blackberry Smoke)
- Lindsay Ell
- Blake Schwarzenbach, (Jawbreaker)
- John Osborne (Brothers Osborne)
- Brent Mason (Session Legend)
SHRED WITH SHIFTY is produced by Jason Shadrick, Chris Shiflett, leading music podcast company Double Elvis, and Volume.com along with Premier Guitar. Full video episodes will be available exclusively on Volume.com. Audio versions of every episode will be available on all major podcast platforms. Go to Volume.com/shifty and follow to get alerts as new video episodes are released.
Fans can smash play on Shiflett’s latest singles "Black Top White Lines" (written with alt-country heroes Jaren Johnston and John Osborne) and"Dead And Gone" right now, and stay tuned for a forthcoming full-length album announcement later this summer. Want to know what’s in Shiflett’s personal guitar vault? Check out his Rig Rundown via Premier Guitar.
"Double Elvis thrives on the power of music and storytelling. With 'SHRED WITH SHIFTY,' we're embodying these values by diving into the world of guitar legends, the solos that define them, and the untold stories behind those iconic moments. Chris Shiflett's passion for the craft, his curiosity, and his unique ability to connect with other musicians makes him the perfect person to lead this exploration. We couldn't be more excited to partner with him, and with Volume.com to bring this truly unique and entertaining new show to life.”
-Brady Sadler, Executive Producer & Co-Founder of Double Elvis
We are beyond thrilled to bring SHRED WITH SHIFTY to life with video on Volume.com. What we love about having this podcast on Volume is the visual nature of the content. The incredible material that Chris covers with these Legends is more compelling with the additional video component. We believe fans and guitarists being able to see the frets and fingerings up close and personal creates an enhanced viewer experience.
-Greg Nacron, COO, Volume.com
Updated USA NS basses combine the most popular elements of Spector’s Brooklyn, Kramer, and modern Woodstock eras while expanding the line with new, player-focused options.
Spector announces the release of its updated USA NS series of basses crafted in the new Spector USA Custom Shop facility outside of Woodstock, New York. These iconic basses remain faithful to the intent of the original instruments while combining the most popular design elements of their nearly 50-year history, an expanding menu of player-focused options, and the increased consistency of modern manufacturing techniques.
These basses boast classic, player-favorite options, such as body contours, our proprietary bridge, and the custom appointments like matching headstocks, all drawn from Spector’s famed Brooklyn, Kramer, and modern Woodstock eras. They are also available with newer options or upgrades, including modern or vintage pickup spacing, improved fingerboard tapers, standard and thin neck profiles, and premium electronics and preamps.
In addition to the new basses, Spector has made significant investments in the brand's future with their new USA Custom Shop near Woodstock, New York. While maintaining tried and true hand-building methods, the facility harnesses modern manufacturing technology, such as 3D modeling, and overhauled CNC programming to foster growth and create more consistent and accurate versions of its flagship instruments.
Spector USA NS-2 Bass Guitar - Hyper Violet Matte, Sweetwater ExclusiveSWX USA NS-2, Hyper Vlt Mtt
Spector Marketing Manager Jeff Shreiner explains, “This new NS Revision project aims to incorporate the “best of” Spector’s storied history, all while remaining true to Ned Steinberger and Stuart Spector’s original 1977 design. It represents the first major project implemented by the new team at Spector and sets forth a standard for the future of the NS design.”
For more information, please visit spectorbass.com.