I've worked 1500 part time, odd jobs in my quest toward becoming an EntreMusician - from Dishwasher to Household Mover to Fast Food Fry Guy to Carpet Cleaner! Due to My Personality and Just Beyond Slight Obsessive Compulsive Behavior (I don't deem it a disorder), I put my all into each position and tried to learn all I could about the concepts of the WHY behind the functions of the actual job. Although in the case of dishwashing, I got so sick of seeing dishes, I ate on paper & plastic ware at home for six months!
Nevertheless, learning the WHYs helped me as a Musician, Performer & Producer. The one occupation that intrigued me most was when I was a student custodian at the community tech school, prepping the building for fall semester during my summer break. We would strip and wax all of the floors meticulously. I will never forget how careful our supervisor Al Gilchrist was in attending to the corners.
He'd take the stripper pad and remove the middle (akin to a donut hole), apply lots of solution and use his foot to wear away the wax in each corner, as the huge machine could not do an adequate job of reaching into those regions. Once the floor was properly stripped, he'd begin again, spreading the wax, with a separate mop, first into the corners, along the edges and finally buffing the floor into a mirror like shine.
I can remember walking into other buildings, like hospitals or banks and unconsciously looking toward the corners of the floor. it didn't matter how the rest of the floor sparkled and gleamed, if the corners were dirty and caked with dried debris, it threw the whole thing off! There is no comparison to entering a building or arriving on a floor where the entire sheen glimmered from corner to corner!
This leads me to address advantageous tweaks all EntreMusicians should continue to enhance. There have been many books written on improving your skills beyond your talent, but none better, in my opinion, than John Maxwell's "Talent is Never Enough" which can be purchased for less than five bucks.
However, for our purposes, I want to suggest four areas to immediately sharpen which will continue to advance your career, year after year. Be as intentional in grinding these elements as you are your voice and/or instrument(s) and you'll automatically ameliorate your artistry.
1) Your Look
Whatever look you've chosen to employ, it must remain consistent and flawless. Before your audience hears you, they will most likely see you. If they should hear you first and upon first sight you appear visually odd, you will need to maintain said look, augmenting but never destroying your brand. If your look is sloppy, celebrate it (remember certain P-Funk members performed in their underwear and Frank Sinatra wore an immaculate tux!) So Do You, But Do The Best You You Can Do!
2) Your Sound
In Your Recordings and On Your Stage, Your Sound Is Just As Much Your Identity as is Your Look. I'm Not ONLY Talking About the Clarity of Your Mix, But Your Unique, Distinct and Original Sound which No One Else Can Make. Spit Shine It. Sharpen It. Heck, Trademark It! Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Ahmad Jamal and Keith Jarrett are all accomplished stalwart pianists, but if each sat down on the Same Piano, one right after the other, you'd be able to notice subtle differences that instantly set them apart. Find Your Sound and Magnify It.
3) Your Attitude
Your Attitude; How You Treat People, Speak to or About Others and Honor or Dishonor Them will project louder than your music will. This will be the one component that will eventually drive people far away even if you're the best guitarist on the planet. Your Own Team may settle for your antics for a bit, especially if they are being paid well, but you'd best believe they are looking for greener pastures. A warm, friendly, engaging attitude will consistently increase your opportunities, no matter the level of talent you begin with. While You MUST faithfully increase your musical skills, it's best to remember that your gift may get you the gig, but your attitude will determine how long you sustain it and how far you advance.
4) Your Communication Skills
Perhaps this "corner" should be at the top of the list, as it is foundational to crafting a prosperous life. Excellent Communication is so beneficial to your career, you should consider hiring a spokesperson to speak for you while rehearsing your abilities if you notice flaws in your proficiency. People unknowingly judge you by your choice and pronunciation of words. As you climb the ladder of your career, among the myriad of people you'll do business with will be the unscrupulous, waiting to take unfair advantage of opportunities. As they listen, they will immediately know your level of intelligence and respond accordingly.
You will need to know what to say and what not to say. You will need to understand what your posture, facial expressions and body language is communicating even when you are not speaking. You should practice enunciation and read aloud and often, so you are able to correct any errors you hear.
You should NEVER use expletives in a business meeting, even if you employ the language in your artistry.
You should Listen First and Listen the Most, only responding when absolutely necessary, adding an extended silence before your reply. It's a good idea to take a remedial English course and learn another language. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Effective communication, a robust attitude, an authentic sound and an exclusive aesthetic in addition to a dedicated 'shed' life are four corners which must be kept squeaky clean.
EntreMusicians Pay Attention to them and prosper.
I was listening to Azymuth's "Spectrum" on vinyl while composing this blog.