Touring season has ended for this year, and I’ve been spending recent days in my pajamas at my cozy Nashville home, sipping Dunkin’ Donuts Mocha Mint coffee. It’s a seasonal blend, and I’m feeling quite festive. In the past few weeks, I’ve spent my off time doing career counseling for some very talented career-seeking musicians from all over the country. We discuss anything from smarter networking, to social media management, to improving guitar technique and music theory. What we cover in our sessions depends specifically on each student’s goals. I then contrast that goal against their strengths and weaknesses.
It turns out that everyone’s goal is mainly identical: To become a professional in the music industry. And the ubiquitous question is ‘how do I become a professional guitarist, producer, singer, bassist, etc.?’ The answer is different for everyone. But in general, the solution is to work on each person’s weakness, whatever may be keeping them from the dream gig they seek. For example, if I have a pupil that’s a great player, is a great hang, but is out of shape, and is maybe not so handsome, we work on that person’s “look”. Or if I am working with a pupil that is the total package, but isn’t plugged-in, we’ll work on web presence and social media management. Lately though, I’ve pondered this question in less traditional terms: Is there a more esoteric measure that makes someone a highly desired career musician? Is there something that’s not tangible or measurable, somewhat like the concept in music that we call “groove”? There are measurable elements of music that distinguish it from noise:
Pitch – register (high or low).
Rhythm – the time element of music.
Melody – or musical line, is a combination of pitch and rhythm.
Timbre – sound quality or tone color.
Dynamics – loud or soft.
Texture – a measure of the interaction between several notes in combination (i.e. are the notes played simultaneously as one unit, or contrapuntally?)
Groove, however, is a concept of how the elements interact together within a performance. It’s the human quality to music: The way the music breathes. And it’s not easily definable. It’s an esoteric measure. You can tell when it’s there, and you can tell when it’s not. It’s what separates a Justin Bieber track from a Justin Timberlake track. But, as most of us would agree, more than groove distinguishes Biebs from JT, there’s one other key element, the element which I believe separates a basement jammer like Michael Angelo Batio from arena-shredding Slash: The element of “cool”. Although I’m not the master of cool, and I’m risking sounding like a complete douche nozzle, I’m going to share my views on how you can become cooler than you are now, and as a result, an incredibly popular and in-demand musician who gets more work than he knows what to do with. Let’s get straight to it, what makes someone cool? Is it their clothes? Their hair? Their car? What they do for a living? Remember the days of high school, when cool was so easily defined/easily faked? If your experience was like mine, the more affluent kids were “cooler”. If you had a put-together hairstyle, designer clothes, and a sleek ride, you fit into the cool category without a doubt, and as a result were successful. So, let’s explore that formula and examine how to appear cool:
How to appear cool:
• Find a hairstyle that suits your face shape. Know your hair product. Styling powder and pomade are in. Gel is out.
• Buy clothes and have them altered to fit you perfectly.
• Wear meaningless accessories unashamedly.
• Own several shoes that could pair perfectly with various outfits.
• Sunglasses, sunglasses, sunglasses.
• Don’t buy a logo shirt. Just don’t do it. You know you’ll run into someone else with the exact same shirt, and you will look approximately half as cool as before.
• Grow a beard (ala Duck Dynasty).
• Wear military inspired clothing. If it was cool enough for the Beatles, it’s cool enough for you (Sgt. Pepper).
• Wear basic tees, but basics with a unique quality, such as an interesting collar, an interesting fabric, etc.
• “Relic” your guitars, hats, jeans, shoes, boots, etc.
• Drive a cool car, or park around the block so people can’t see you getting out of your mini van.
• Have the newest of the newest technology, and downplay how great it is (“It’s okay, I mean I’m still looking forward to the next one coming out…I think it’ll be a lot better…”).
• Buy your friends things. Pay for drinks. Throw parties. People will love you…while you still have money, at least.
• Don’t be fat. I know this is offensive to some people, but I’m an honest person. If that offends you, I meant to say, “Get in shape.”
• In fact, get some vanity muscles (biceps, calf muscles, triceps, that V shaped ab muscle).
• Get tattoos.
• Don’t forget LuluLemon. And Adidas is cooler than Nike. Korn and RunDMC said so.
• Know a handful of jokes. Be sure to have a showstopper ready. This is the joke that you tell to end the back and forth, right before you buy your buddies another round.
• Get a boat. Invite hot chicks on it. Bring beer.
• Do you like grilling? You do now. Become a grill master.
• Know the names of at least 3 cocktails. One that you like (preferably a whiskey drink), one that she likes (probably a vodka drink), and something beachy, because cool people spend time near water with pretty girls.
If you follow this list, you will overwhelm onlookers with “cool”. You may as well just ride up in a dog sled, nibblin’ on some Klondike bars. I actually know a guy that IS the list above, but is a total doucher of a human. I know a different guy that also IS the list above, but is a fantastic person. You see, this is how you can appear cool, but cool is really something on the outside and the inside. I have friends that are overweight, and don’t have great fashion, but are the life of the party. So what is it that makes someone cool on the inside?
How to be cool on the inside:
• Be humble, humble, and humble
• Consider others before yourself
• Be a generous person, but be responsible
• Give more compliments than you receive
• Remember people’s names
• Introduce yourself and your friends properly
• You don’t have to go first
• Take responsibility for yourself: your mess, your mistakes, etc.
• Say thank you, ALL THE TIME
• Be ‘the glass is half full’ guy or gal
• Don’t wait for someone else to take care of it
• Be a selfless servant
• Smile and say hello to people
• Ask people personal questions, don’t just talk about yourself