How to Tank Your Instrumental Guitar Album in 10 Easy Steps

Typically, I would advise scrupulously following your muse and let the public be darned to all heck. It’s your album. Screw the haters!

That said, after more than 21 years of listening to bazillions of instrumental-guitar albums and making decisions as to whether to review a record and/or cover the artist, I have a small bit ‘o’ experience as to what seduces media peeps enough to champion you, and what can leave the press monumentally unmoved.

Yeah. I know. Critics suck. But sometimes those writers are simply music fans with an audience, and, as a result, they are your potential supporters in a way. So if you can astound that crew, you may just have something that will resonate with the public at large.

However, if you really want to forge your own singular path through the treacherous game of Whack-a-Mole that is the music business, then here are ten ways to discourage the media from lending a hand…

[1] Ignore the Sonic Spectrum

Clean, clear, and coherent mixes are for weanies like Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, or anything touched by mix-master Bob Clearmountain in the ’80s. Go for tons of clashing midrange frequencies, boomy and goopy low-end material, and positively hurtful highs. Devise textures so dense that your guitar parts are initially swallowed by the onslaught, and then mix up your solos so high that they seem to peer down upon the track from atop Mt. Everest. Challenge your listeners to adore you—that’s what real warriors do!

[2] Jettison All Pop Constructs

The Beatles. What a bunch of prats! Why would you want to be hemmed in by a Beatles-esque pop-music structure that leads your audience gracefully through the sections of your song. It’s so much more fun to confuse the hell out of anyone who stumbles across your music. Make them work to understand where your song is going, what it means, how it channels your emotions, and why you even recorded the galloping opus of perplexity in the first place.

[3] Play Faster Than Anyone Has Ever Played Before

You must own this. No one will respect you as a guitar player unless you can bewilder the living bejesus out of them by having your melodies zing by faster than light. And never let up. Ever. Keep the speed cascading around them until listeners’ brains melt and their limps collapse from exhaustion. When they come to their senses once again, they will know who rules the world of guitar—and it won’t be some slowpoke too lazy to ceaselessly practice and refine their speed, such as an Eric Clapton or a B.B. King or any of those clueless cats who futz around with melody and feeling.

[4] Have a Really Crappy Album Cover

Hey, it’s what’s IN the grooves, right? Why should anyone care that an artist was trying to be “ironic” by using a horribly unreadable typeface and a supremely unflattering photo of themselves on their album cover? That’s just authentic and real. Professional design and photography are for fakes. So what if that little square image of your album is the first thing people see whenever it is posted anywhere. Just wait until they download your tracks and hear your music—that’s all that matters.

[5] Don’t Save a Penny for Promotion

Be sure to spend every last dollar of your album budget on the recording. It shouldn’t cost anything more to actually get the word out about your music. Maybe save enough for a few stamps to send CDs out to a few people, or expend some personal time to dispatch a smattering of emails with a download link. Once someone hears your genius, all of the marketing and promotional costs will for sure be covered by a record label, a management company, an investor, or maybe all three.

[6] Rely Completely on Technology

Your album will be better than any of your competitors’ releases if the technology used to record it is far and away more powerful than theirs. It’s true! If you use the hot mic preamp of the moment, or the coolest digital-modeling device, or the most fabulous stompboxes—all the best gear, in other words—then people will flock to your music to hear all of that magnificent technology in action. Maybe you should even mention the tech tools you used in your liner notes and all marketing materials. After all, the application of way-cool tech is much more appealing to listeners than good songs and impassioned playing produced using less-than-stellar gear.

[7] Don’t Worry About the Song

We’ve implied this fact earlier, but now let’s be clear—instrumental guitar albums are all about technique and tone. Don’t worry about song concepts, arrangements, production ideas, or composition. Superfluous! All you need is the sound of your guitar nattering on forever to bring an audience to its knees.

[8] Be Lazy

Too many artists today are saying it’s not enough to simply write songs and keep your chops up. These losers claim that we must also be recording engineers, audio producers, press liaisons, marketing people, promotional strategists, tour managers, booking agents, roadies, gear techs, transportation experts, and so much more. Phooey! Just play. That stuff is for other people. Your album, public engagement, and tour planning will surely blast through all of the distortion out there and zero right in on success if you simply focus on being the artist—just like it was back in the ’60s and ’70s.

[9] Clone What’s Successful

There’s a reason why certain musicians are superstars, and we can’t have enough superstars. So the best thing you can do for your music career is to sound like someone who has already cracked the code and become famous. For example, choose your favorite guitar tone and mirror it as exactly as you can. Faithfully copy popular styles, production concepts, and elements of stuff you hear on YouTube, Pandora, or Sirius. Incorporate that rap breakdown!! Steal those grooves!! Media people want to hear more of what they already like. They aren’t looking for originality or uniqueness. So remember—Don’t be yourself. Be someone else.

[10] Listen to Your Ego

Ego and confidence drive greatness. Never let the needs of a song overrule your desire to totally blast all over something. If you have a cool trick that’s completely inappropriate musically, use it! Slam it down. If you adore the sound of your playing, mix those lines up at the expense of musical balance and vibe. Overrule all collaborators who disagree with your ideas, or who suggest parts that don’t explicitly spotlight your incredible talent. They’re just jealous of your awesomeness, after all, and people will want to hear whatever you decide to give them, because you are the artist.

Truth

Okay. Some of this stuff may appear slightly humorous or even dumb to you.

But believe this (please)…

I have evaluated scores of projects from Guitar Player readers looking for career boosts, professionals with major or minor label contracts, and all manner of creators seeking media attention WHO HAVE PRESENTED ONE OR MORE OF THESE PROJECT KILLERS on their albums.

And, yes, very few of the artists who succumbed to these foibles got album reviews or interview requests from me. Their journey at the magazines I edited ended up in my recycle bin. One-hundred-percent truth!

So I submit here that if you want to tank the album you’ve planned, already started recording, or even have ready for release, following a handful of the above “tips” will likely realize your dream of anonymity and neglect. Try it and see!

 

 

Author: Michael Molenda

Founder of Guardians of Guitar. Longest-serving Editor in Chief of GUITAR PLAYER (1997-2018). Long live Link Wray and Mick Ronson!


One thought on “How to Tank Your Instrumental Guitar Album in 10 Easy Steps

  1. As a listener (also a player), of instrumental music, the albums that I enjoy – that I keep going back to again and again to listen to – have vibe, feel, sense of melody and hook lines. “Speed licks”, while impressive and technical, can wear on the listener if overdone and are not properly placed supportive to the overall track. That said, dynamics, good taste, and not being overly perfect are what sell me. I’m among the group of older range of readers here. But consider strongly a goal for your art to be relevant for the ages: rather than limited to just a short season of time. Interestingly music that I passed over when young is endearing to me now. And some of that is not that difficult to play. The good stuff is like that.

    I really appreciate Michael Molina’s efforts to found this new site; and have much enjoyed his thought evoking blogs as Editor in Chief during his long tenure at Guitar Player Magazine. I’ll be visiting this site regularly.

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