Ask anyone within any branch of the Music industry and they will not hesitate to tell you how hard things can be, how harsh some critics are and how challenging it can be to keep on going despite countless rejections from countless people. The difficulty level is amplified ten fold when you are a young musician!
I’m only 17 years old and I have been performing and playing the Piano from a very young age, I started lessons from the age of 4 and was in my first band from the age of 9. For the majority of my career, I have been lucky enough to be guided and given amazing opportunities which has allowed me to gain a certain level of experience that some musicians my age lack, though this is no fault of their own.
However, there is no denying that I still face many challenges as a young musician which has caused me to learn many harsh but valuable lessons.
Not everyone will take you seriously
I’ve had this issue more times than I care to admit. You will always get the sorts of venues, mangers, producers etc, that will see your age as a reason to not really listen to what you have to say. This can be very demoralising, it actually used to affect me quite a lot when older people in the industry would talk down to me or flat out not listen because I wasn’t an “adult”. This being said, your age does NOT define your musical ability or level of professionalism and the way I see it is, the people that see your age as permission to be patronising and get on their high horse, simply are not worth your time, so just shake it off and move on.
You have to grow up VERY quickly
The Music industry along with the acting industry is probably one of if not the harshest industry to be a part of. I promise you now, critics and fellow musicians will show you some tough love every now and then. You will hear the occasional “You’re not good enough” and “give up”. I cannot stress this enough, it is imperative that you grow up fast and develop thick skin, especially if you want to get noticed by big industry professionals. They will not hold back, if they think that you’re rubbish or that you don’t sound as good as you should be sounding, they will be flat out honest about it and you’ll be expected to be able to deal with that in a professional manner, take the criticism on board and not cry about it.
Equally, you need to find a way to be able to dish this out too when the time comes. This won’t happen and you certainly won’t be experienced enough until you’ve been performing for quite some time. I know a lot of people that are too scared to be totally honest with their fellow musicians when giving out feedback, this isn’t necessarily an awful thing, but having the guts to be harsh does earn you a lot of respect. Many of my musical friends, especially vocalists and pianists, will come up to me and say “Gary, can you listen to this and be totally honest about it please?” and I will be TOTALLY honest.
Here’s an example: a singer I know posted a cover of Beyonce’s “Listen”, now this girl is insanely talented! BUT on this particular occasion when asking me to critique the cover, she was unwell and therefore not at the top of her game. Because of this, I said “It’s either too high for your voice or you’re not well enough to sing that song at the moment, take it down”. She did find this quite degrading at the time which wasn’t my intention, but later on down the line, she thanked me for my honesty, saying it made her a better and tougher artist. To this day, she comes to me for critique on her performances, thankfully, I’ve never had to be negative ever again as they have all been flawless.
Being able to deal with taking and giving brute honesty has developed me and matured me beyond my years as a musician, this has allowed me to become respected among my older and more experienced peers as someone of high standard.
You do improve with age!
I can confirm that the rumours about puberty and improvement are in fact true! Don’t get your hopes up, it’s your musical ability I’m referring to, not your looks, sorry kiddo!
Anyway! I started singing when I was around 11-12 years old, this was the pre-pubescent Gary and believe me, it wasn’t pretty (still isn’t on some fronts but can’t have it all eh? ) I had one of the whiniest, most irritating singing voices on the planet and it would actually annoy ME as well as everybody else! Thankfully, once I’d hit puberty my vocals improved drastically. I found it easier to sing, my voice was smoother, it had a much nicer tone to it and it also allowed me to find the musical style that my voice was suited to! To my happiness, and to some others’ surprise, my voice suited songs in the Jazz and Blues genre, this is the style I tend to gravitate towards today, although through practise, I’ve been able to develop my voice for different styles.
If you’re one of those vocalists that are struggling and feel that you’re voice just isn’t “working”, my advice to you is to be patient, once you hit puberty and grow up, things will begin to change and more doors will open for your voice.
Make sure to act your age when you can!
I’ll put money on the fact that you’ve been told to “act your age” many a time by your parents when you’re behaving like a child, right? well guess what? you need to act your age in Music too! This is just as important as “growing up”.
What I mean by this is, have fun! Go out with your friends and do the sorts of things that people your age would do! It’s great and very beneficial to switch off every once in a while, because us young musicians have to act like an adult when we are gigging, touring, rehearsing and doing what all the grown ups do, we sometimes neglect our inner child/teenager. This can be very bad for your health, it’s actually very draining on the brain to constantly allow yourself to act seriously all the time! Not to mention that your friends will miss you when you’re out there gigging on the weekends whilst they’re still in bed at mid-day! Take some time to go and hang out and catch up with your friends, you’ll be able to relax that way and have a laugh with the people closest to you, you’ll also have more fun and memorable experiences to write about for your music too!
That’s all for this post folks, I know it’s rather long winded but I hope you’ve enjoyed it regardless! Until next time, happy gigging!