The Worst Music Advice I Ever Received

Advice-225x225When it comes to advice, the music industry is fraught with misinformed, bad and just plain wrong advice. Just being a musician, suddenly everyone is an expert on what you should do. The one thing for certain is that all advice isn’t good advice. And just because someone says something doesn’t mean it is true. Or true for YOU.

Guest Post by Cari Cole on CariCole.com

Always have to consider the source. For the most part people tell you what they think is best, but some people either don’t know what’s best (usually the case) or some of ‘em have it out for ya because of their own failed dreams! Either way, it’s always best to filter advice through your “gut” sense or spend some time doing that extra research on Google. Get more feedback, but from those that are further than you (and are successful).

Here’s some of the worst advice I’ve ever gotten and why I didn’t follow it!

1.  Don’t Train Your Voice

When I was 18 going on 19 I joined a rock band. It was the first time in my life I had trouble with my voice. Singing over the drums and amped up volume was shredding my vocal cords. A producer I was working with suggested I work with a well known vocal coach to remedy the problem. The guitarist in my band (then my boyfriend too – oy), was vehemently against it. He told me not to train, that all I needed to do was to sing (his approach). Thank God I didn’t listen, can you imagine what a different track my life would have taken? Plus, vocal training was single handedly the best thing I ever did for my voice.

2.  You Don’t Need to Learn How to Read Music

Now this one will ruffle some feathers. Look, if you don’t read music and you’re happy, then just skip over this one. I didn’t have much choice. My Mom taught me to read music when I was 6. She was a classical musician. But sightsinging was a whole ‘nother kind of reading. That I studied in music school. That was hard. Am I glad I did? You bet. It has helped me have an extreme advantage in my work as a coach, as a songwriter and vocal arranger. I can’t imagine being a musician without it. Even if you haven’t read before, you can start anytime. It’s a language, learn it. You’ll have so much more fun!

3.  Don’t Study Songwriting, You Might Lose Your Edge

Comment-bubbles-on-blackboardThis is a common one. But over the years I have come to believe that it’s to one’s advantage to learn the rules in order to break them. To me the point of learning a craft, be it voice, reading music or studying songwriting, has allowed me to master it. Just keep it in the backdrop for reference and then go create!

4.    Teachers Are Failures

Ouch. Well, it might have been true if I didn’t pursue my music with a gusto, but I did. I toured, got signed and did an album that rippled out in the world to the tune of 40,000 so far (and it keeps selling). I sang to packed houses, got standing ovations from strangers (and Whitney Houston’s mom) at Town Hall and debuted my record at Carnegie Hall, performed at a handpicked songwriter’s night at the Bluebird, etc… It’s just that over the years and especially as I got older, I ended up loving the behind the scenes so much more than the front lines. My role as one of the world’s top vocal coaches, a published songwriter, artist developer and music mentor allows me to work on multiple projects and get my music and influence out there in a bigger way. But not for one second do I think I can’t do it, I have done it – all. Don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t teach and do, but don’t hold back on your own talent! You’ve got to go get that brass ring to be complete!

5.    You’re Too Old

Oh boy. If you’re over 26 in the music business you’ve heard this one. Just the other day, one of my artists heard this right out of the mouth of a well known President of a Major Label. Yep, labels have always had an age limit (it’s about how much money they can’t make.) But, today, that doesn’t hold much weight. Artists have the whole world at their fingertips. And if you really love the craft, it’s about doing what you love and finding your tribe. I did my first record at 40 (quite successfully I might add). Screw them. Bam.

6.    You’ll Never Make It

Yeah, everyone who’s anyone has heard that. Consider it a notch on your belt. That’s just stupid advice. No one knows for sure, they just think they’re betting against the odds. Those are usually words that come from either a concerned family member, or a person who once pursued something they loved and gave up. Lucinda Williams was 48 when Car Wheels on a Gravel Road hit. It’s never too late to do what you love if you know how to be creative within your industry.

What’s the worst advice you were ever given? Share in the comments below!


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  1. When I was in college I was a lousy lead guitar player. Chris, a good guitarist, told me to stick to playing rhythm guitar since I would never be good at playing leads. I didn’t listen to him since it was my passion to improve my guitar playing. It took me years to develop my style, I hadn’t had a guitar teacher. There is still room for improvement, but I can play lead guitar well. Chris was just a downer.

  2. I think I’ve heard all of these statements too at some point in time but can relate most to the concept of not training your voice. Especially as a rapper, everybody thinks there’s no need to do it. The way I see it, it’s always worth learning something and deciding for yourself if it’s useful. Vocal training has helped me a lot with cadence and breath control. It hasn’t all been useful to be fair, but I would encourage all vocalists to get some training at some point.

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