To me, one of the greatest things about playing guitar (or any instrument) is that you're never done. There's always another song to learn, another way to finger a chord or scale, another arrangement to write, or another lick to learn. There's also the challenge of gradually being able to play faster, and there are so many different ways to play the guitar that it's a rare player who can master all the techniques.
I've met many small goals to get this far. Here are my goals for 2010.
- Write 10 songs. I'm not a prolific songwriter, but I've been happy with what I've written so far. Song writing is a new skill I'm developing. I'm not comfortable with it yet, but I feel I have a lot of good songs in me waiting to come out. Most of my songs start as instrumentals. With Allen, Vinton, and Godfrey, I have a special incentive to write music. We perform all originals, and our rehearsals are nurturing and encouraging. Many of our songs are group efforts. In our latest song, "Let Go and Fly," I came up with the music for the chorus and influenced the overall feel of the song. I suggested the lyric "Let Go and Fly," which inspired Thomas Vinton to come up with the rest. Thomas also came up with two really cool musical hooks that helped glue the song together. Patricia Allen put Thomas' lyrics to music over our chords, and Yahya Rahman offered general suggestions and laid down a killer drum beat. Between group writing and solo efforts, I've written three songs this year, and I've got a really good melody for the next one.
- Earn $1,000 in one month from gigs by October. Obviously this is a professional goal and not a musical one. Up until recently, I've been playing mostly low- or non-paid gigs simply for the experience of getting out in public and learning to deal with my stage fright. I'll continue to play some of these non-paid gigs because I like the people involved, but I'm focused on finding better paying jobs. With On the Cool Side, I'm working hard to find jobs at weddings, dinner parties, cocktail hours, receptions, and so forth. Allen, Vinton, and Godfrey will be having a meeting soon to discuss ways to create our own gigs and promote our original music. Eventually I'd like to be able to make enough money from gigs to pay rent and bills.
- Find an agent. Again, this is a professional goal. I'm nearly finished putting together the materials I'll need to find an agent. The package will include a demo CD, photos, a fact sheet, bio, gig sheet (of recent and upcoming gigs), etc. An agent gets a percentage of your gig money, but your chance of landing good jobs increases…if you have the right agent. This is an area where I'll have to proceed with caution, and I'll be soliciting the advice of friends who have been on the Atlanta music scene for a while.
- Plan an album for On the Cool Side. I'd like to record a CD with On the Cool Side in early 2011, which means that I'll have to lay the groundwork in 2010. I don't have a concept for the album yet. All I know is that I'd like to have two parts original music and one part jazz standards.
- Copyright my songs. Soon I'll be copyrighting my music, along with Allen, Vinton, and Godfrey's songs. This is a very important step to take. Once our music is copyrighted, we'll be able to pursue potential avenues of income. For example, we could sell a song or instrumental for placement in a TV show or movie. Our songs need to be copyrighted in order to sell our own album. We could hit the jackpot and sell a song or two to a major star. There are many possibilities, but first we need to get those songs copyrighted. If we don't copyright them, there is the possibility that an unethical person could write them down and take the credit for them (along with potential income).
Most of the goals I outlined are professional goals, but I have plenty of musical goals, too. I try to learn a new song every week. I enjoy Gypsy Jazz, but I'm not well versed in it, so I'm working through a Gypsy Jazz guitar book. I'm constantly learning and memorizing licks. I'm gradually improving my speed and accuracy. I'm improving my singing.
The professional goals mean nothing without the musical skills. The musical skills are a lot of fun to work on. Some days can be frustrating, especially when you're not progressing as quickly as you'd like, but overall, the musical endeavor is satisfying. One really cool thing about the guitar is that it's a never ending puzzle. Once you crack a code, you discover that there are deeper mysteries to explore. Eventually, the professional side of things may level off, but there will always be something new to learn on the guitar. As long as I keep looking for ways to improve my playing, I'll never be bored.