There are no geniuses in the world, only people who have worked harder than you.
This last week was an exciting one for composers and musicians in Portland, OR. Family Guy composer Ron Jones made a special appearance for our local Ravel Study Group, a group of composers and musicians started by Ron in LA, and talked about his experiences in the industry and what the future holds for him. Ron touched on some very important and inspiring aspects of being a successful musician and I wanted to share just a few.
The resources are out there. Learn what you need to know to be successful, learn what the greats before you had to know, and find out how you can learn these skills yourself. If you want to be a great composer, study orchestration, learn multiple instruments, develop your ear. If you want to be an assistant to a composer, these days you need to know how to run a studio, how to edit audio, how to sequence, how to organize data and many more skills. I posted a list of colleges that offer film scoring specific studies, you can read about it here.
Get Rid of Distractions
Ron mentioned that he hasn't had a computer in years. He decided that it was distracting him and taking time away that he could be using to write. Not everyone has the will power to toss their computer these days, but the message here is to find what is keeping you from doing what you want to be doing, and get rid of it. If you're checking your phone too much when you would like to be writing or studying, put it in a different room during that time. If emails take up too much of your day, read them later in the day. Keep the TV far away from your work area!
Find a Daily Routine
Ron told us a funny story about how John Williams eats the same breakfast everyday, goes to the same place for lunch, goes on the same walk, and has a choice of 3 different meals for dinner. Now, some of this might be a little exaggerated, but maybe not! A lot of creative minds have a strict routine that they do every single day. It's whatever is most efficient for you. Personally, I'm up around 7:30am, I'll eat breakfast and read some industry news, exercise, get ready for the day, then get into the studio and start writing by 9:30 or 10:00am. I break for lunch, take care of emails, maybe do some yoga, then it's back to the studio. My evenings are a little looser, but I'm usually reading, studying a score or planning for the next day. On the right here is an infographic of routines from sort of history's most famous creatives. Since it needs to be pretty big to actually read, you can download the full size .png file here.
Genius is an Illusion
Probably one of the most important things Ron talked about was the amount of hard work and diligence that goes into being a great composer - or being great at anything for that matter. Ron is an incredibly hard working man with over 40,000 works composed (yes, that comma is correct), and mentioned that in his early years at college, a professor said nobody could beat Johann Sebastian Bach's record. "I beat him by a wide amount, and I'm not done at all", he mentions in an interview with the Clackamas Community College newspaper The Clackamas Print. Ron also mentioned the book "Outliers" by Malcom Gladwell, and talked about the concept of 10,000 hours to mastery. It really is a great book - I'd recommend it to anyone, musician or not. He also explained how there are no geniuses in the world, only people who have worked harder than you.
Be a Good Person
This seems silly to some people, but many people in any industry will tell you that a good attitude and being easy to work with does wonders for your career. You could be the best at what you do, but if you let your ego/temper/bad judgement or whatever get in the way, nobody is going to want to work with you. The truth is the music industry can be a very difficult place to work - physically, mentally and emotionally - but if you can do your job with a smile on your face and say "you need 'blank' by 'blank 0-clock'? No problem!" you will have a much better chance at succeeding.
As I'm writing this, one composer comes to mind specifically - Joey Newman (The Middle, Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge, Little People Big World). Joey is a young member of the now quite famous Newman family of composers that includes Lionel Newman, Alfred Newman, David Newman, Randy Newman, Tom Newman and a list of other incredibly talented musicians. Now, are there family friends that are successful or even famous people in the music and film industry? Probably, but that's not why Joey is a successful composer. Joey achieved the success he has today because 1) He educated himself (Berklee - represent), 2) He worked very hard to hone his skills and become a well rounded musician, and 3) Joey's a super nice guy.
I want to thank Ron Jones for passing on his wisdom this last week and supporting his chapters of the Ravel Study Group!
Film | Music
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