Advice for an aspiring musician

Hi, I’m 15 and for the past year I’ve been recording and writing songs on GarageBand (yeah I know). I found it was a nice to be able to grab my phone when I was bored and write something that I wanted to hear.

I decided to make a SoundCloud to keep all my tracks in one place. My dad got my brother and I a ableton live mixing board. And I think ableton gives you even more freedom.

I’ve made the decision that this is something I really want to pursue. I was wondering what advice seasoned musicians could advise me to do. Do I get a degree in uni? What software do I use? I play drums and sax, what are some other instruments I should look in to learning?

Thanks in advance to answerers


The Piano. For learning anything musical and/or advise contact Rick Beato (videos available on YouTube).

Piano and guitar for sure. University is nice to have for a back-up if you don't get a big break....most don't, regardless of talent.  You can teach even if performing doesn't pay the mortgage.

If you begin to feel like you are getting into a rut, don't give up. Making music takes time and effort, but it will always reward you. 

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Ableton Live is good to start. Once you feel like you have a hang of it, head to Pro Tools or FL Studio or Audacity.

Be comfortable playing with older musicians and take their advice, especially the ones who are patient with you. Realize there’re going to be a few narcissistic idiots out there who won’t take you seriously.

And yes, keys and at least rudimentary guitar. Those make you comfortable with music composition.

Keep writing and composing. Remember Stephen King's advice about writing: 95% of what you write will be crap. It's the 5% that's decent that's worth working on and developing. 

If this is your passion you are blessed to have one.

Stay with it and ignore those carrying the sharp pins.

Take care of your hearing. Buy a good pair of earplugs

and keep them with you. 

I’m not sure how relevant some of this is today, but here goes: one of my close friends worked out a deal with the high school we attended to do work study in Nashville. He got to be the low man on the totem pole working with some of the top players back in the day.

He did go to Carnegie-Mellon for music for a couple semesters but found it more theoretical than practical. Eventually, he worked his way into the LA studio scene and got gigs. It took years but he managed to work with some top talent and got credit.

This was in an era when there weren’t "schools" to train engineers. People learned on the job and got their knowledge from people with more experience. They might start out low- working for almost nothing but eventually, if they were committed, they got opportunities.

Today, it is a whole different thing. I’m in Austin, tons of musicians who are not making much money; lots of studios. The community college, which is very good, has training in studio tech and recording technique. I’m not suggesting that’s an answer but there are resources. The trick to me is to create a network. I talk to guys at Berklee, UCLA and other schools- most of them are generous and glad to help. The days of the big expensive, well-outfitted studio are pretty much gone- though there are a few.

You have to be willing to talk to people, to reach out, to travel and to apprentice, for lack of a better word. We tend to lump all of this into "engineering" but there are different facets: the recordist, who sets up mics and knows how to set up the room and musicians to capture the sound, the mixers, who know how to take the tracks and make them sound best, the mastering engineers who know how to take a mixed down master and turn it into something that resembles the master.

Only a few studios work with tape these days.

Several questions- where are you located and what resources are available to you? Chances are a working commercial studio is going to have better equipment than you can afford. Nothing wrong with learning on your own, but there is something to be said for the more traditional apprenticeship and seeing how the greats put together a record. Sadly, some of them are now gone. But there are new producers, mixers and engineers. One of the guys I know -- the son of a friend-- owns a venue here in Austin but is spending most of his time mixing commercially successful records Success builds on itself and the knowledge you accumulate is invaluable.

How you pay the rent and make a living while you are learning the art isn’t easy.

But there are opportunities if you seek them out. Austin has very little music business "infrastructure" compared to Nashville. You may not like the music they are cranking out there these days, but they are pretty busy. Engineers can get work when players are scraping by.

Hooking up with notable people who can act as mentors is my best suggestion.

PS: composition is entirely different from engineering. The money in the business is publishing. Songwriting is key. If you can write good songs, you can get them produced. What you give up in the process is the stuff the lawyers deal with, so sooner or later, you'll have to deal with that, but if you aim is songwriting, I'd concentrate on that. Sure, you can use a home studio to compose. But don't confuse what you are engineering with the compositional efforts. Two entirely different things. There is no "magic bullet" to "breaking through" but I'd value a good songwriter over most any other aspect of the art. I say this, having worked as counsel to a lot of major players over the decades and seeing how they fared as time wore on. 

Whart has some good valued things said...

Reality...are you gifted...i mean a sell able musician.Kid i know is crazy great player at 14-16/schooled...great drummer too.Told him be able to get a great singing voice.Not so easy.Whart said great song writer...something different?

Whart said "hooking up with notable people"...thats cool.Was there...people that have your best interest yeah.15 yrs old.Funny a song by cat stevens comes to mind.Father and son.You want it...many people do.Glw it.

@digsmithd said: "Reality...are you gifted...i mean a sell able musician.Kid i know is crazy great player at 14-16/schooled...great drummer too.Told him be able to get a great singing voice.Not so easy.Whart said great song writer...something different?"

The difference is that the gifted performer is just that- a voice or an instrument on a recording who may see some money if the recording sells but little else. Given the proliferation of streaming over physical media, I'd say "good luck" to seeing much money as a performer, not matter how gifted"

There are exceptions of course--songwriting is different because you get paid if the song gets covered. If used in a TV show or movie, you make money. Holding those rights as the author is important. 

I have friends that appeared on very famous records as performers who earn almost nothing. There are also people that wrote a few big songs who simply clip coupons. 

The OP is young and has time to develop. Getting to be an in demand performer is probably even harder- stage presence, almost like actor/model/etc. The Internet has diluted this to a level of banality. Think of how few "big acts" there are today- not legacy stuff that is out there to earn a little more in their dotage. (And yeah, that's the other thing with being a performer- you have to keep working). 

And see as much live music as you can. Watching musicians perform live often reveals to you their "secrets". ;-)

whart...points taken.Have rubbed elbows with some great people/musicians and miss the fun of creating...most of the time.

Another suggestion to op is gear page might be more pointed to other's that are in the business of recording and tuber's...?

Yet another example of folks being sucked into a conversation by a bot 🤖 which ends up generating an interesting discussion.  Just be sure not to click on the link, which is almost certainly nasty malware!

How can you tell it’s a bot?  Simple,

My dad got my brother and I a ableton live mixing board.

obviously it’s “My dad got my brother and ME”

(Just kidding—but it really is a bot!)


I’m an engineer not a musician but my advice is always to follow your passion because passion fuels success.