Interview with Guitarist, Writer & Blogger Craig Smith

1) Please give us a little background on what started your passion for music and teaching?

I’ve always loved Music for as long as I can remember. Listening to my parents Elvis and Led Zeppelin records was a great part of my childhood.

After I first heard Van Halen when I was about 12, I really got the bug for wanting to actually play the Guitar. Eddie Van Halen’s Guitar playing was so revolutionary and fresh in its time. I’d love to say I was something special, but Eddie inspired an entire generation of kids to pick up a Guitar in the 1980’s. I still get goosebumps when I hear some of his earlier solos!

My parents, however, were not as supportive. I was good at sports and Art.. and that’s exactly where they tried to push me. I dated a girl when I was 16 who’s Mother played a little. She let me borrow a 3/4 size acoustic, and I just loved it from day 1.

It wasn’t until I got my first job in high-school that I was able to save up enough money to put a down payment on an Electric Guitar and Amp. My parents eventually came around and helped me pay it off after they saw how much I loved it.

Guitarist Eddie Van Halen

Edward Van Halen c. 1984

2) How many hours a week do you spend playing gigs, teaching, and writing?

I never thought that at 47 I’d be playing more than ever, but I really am! I played 6 gigs last week and have 5 this week. I average over 200 gigs per year. With a schedule this crazy and changing from week to week, it’s hard for me to stay on a regular Guitar Teaching schedule. I do maintain a small group of Adult students who are somewhat flexible and try to get them in whenever I can make the time.

I tend to work on my Writing and Blog stuff in the mornings or very late at night. I try to write at least an hour every day. If it’s a day off, it may be 3-5 hours depending on the topic. I can knock out a 2000+ word blog post with graphics and everything in about 3 hours… but if it’s something for my books and music it could be much longer.

3) Can you explain how much money you make from music, (Writing?) and teaching?

Salaries for primarily live musicians (like me) can vary wildly throughout the year. I typically gross around $1200 per week. This can be less in January (Slow here for musicians in Florida) and double that from October through December.

I make $50/Hour teaching private, 1-hour lessons. How many students I have varies depending on my gig schedule.

I’m fairly new to blogging and writing. My blogging income break-down which includes affiliate links and book sales:

September: $60.95
October: $317.43
November: Projected at around $800

4) How much can you expect to make starting out as a musician?

Don’t expect to make much! I was lucky that I started teaching at 19. My parents couldn’t afford College and scholarships were non-existent for me. I was able to teach a full schedule until joining my first professional band at age 21. I really didn’t have a lot of choices. It was either get out and do it or find another job. I never looked back and stuck with it.

Craig Performing Live Age 20

Craig Performing Live Age 20

5) What would be your advice to newbies just starting out?

Learn as much as you can both in terms of Music theory and Technique regardless of what instrument you play. When you’re young, you’ll have more opportunities in the industry based on superficial things like your looks, image etc… but it doesn’t always last. (For proof of this, check out my hairline now!)

Music trends come and go. Once you get a little older, all that’s left is your talent and ability to work in a variety of musical situations. Whether it be teaching or performing, being well-rounded is very important if you want to make a lifelong career in music.

Guitar 7 Day Practice Routine

6) What would you tell a newbie to focus on for their music career/business?

Be a Rockstar.

I always tell people when they’re young, let’s say between 15 & 25, to focus on writing and producing their own music. Be a Rock Star!… or at least give it a try. The Music industry is like anything else.. there are the top .001% who make it “BIG” and then there are the rest who have a fulfilling, normal, middle-class income & career like anyone else.

Stick With it.

The closest I ever came to major success was in a Heavy Metal band I was in at 20 years old. Although we came close to getting that big record deal, it just didn’t work out. I stuck with it afterword and have had a wonderful career as a normal guy who just happens to play guitar for a living.

Relocate!

I’m originally from Canton, OH… not exactly a hotbed for music career activity. Moving to Central Florida has allowed me to take a wide variety of gigs ranging from theme parks and vacation resorts to large conventions and corporate events.

Unless you’re already in a thriving music town like L.A., Orlando, New York, Las Vegas, Nashville, Austin etc, don’t be afraid to go somewhere that has a built-in community for the musician work you’re looking for.

Craig @ Gaylord Palms 2013

Craig Live: Gaylord Palms 2013

7) What do you love most about your music business?

Every good thing I’ve ever had in my life I owe to music and the guitar. Everything. I met my wife Celeste (Married 21 years) and most of my best friends through music.

I will say though, while I genuinely love music, I never cared for the music business.

8) What are some challenges you face as a guitarist?

Keeping my chops up! It’s a big reason why I wrote my book The 7 Day Practice Routine for Guitarists. Maintaining a regular technical routine is always a challenge, both in terms of time restrictions and physicality.

You know how people say “It’s just like riding a bike, you never forget”? There’s some science behind that.

Large motor-skill movements are much easier to retain and maintain throughout your life.. like riding a bike or Skateboarding. Small motor-skill movements like playing a musical instrument, require constant maintenance and daily work.

Unfortunately, all Musicians face this challenge. Imagine each one of your 4 fingers doing 1000+ different purposeful movements per minute. Crazy right?

I originally wrote the outline for my book as a daily routine for myself. Something I could do in the afternoon before a gig to maintain my physical ability on the guitar. Over some time and tweaking, it evolved gradually into a 90-page book!

Craig Live at House of Blues, Orlando

Craig Live at House of Blues, Orlando

9) Is there anything you would have done differently when you first started out?

College for sure. While I am an avid reader and have learned mostly on my own over the years, I would have liked to have had the ‘College Experience’. It wasn’t until years later that I studied Classical Guitar at Stetson University in Deland, FL that I got a sort of glimpse of what that could have been like.

I completed Stetson’s 2-year Classical Guitar Performance curriculum in just under 6 months as a 35-year-old… certainly something I would have rather done at 18!

10) Tell us more about your book.

Well, I really started writing it for myself at first. I wanted an organized practice routine that I could do throughout the week between my busy gigging, teaching and writing schedule.

I’ve curated material from teaching Guitar lessons over the years and written some really effective music pieces to facilitate getting your hands (and brain) in shape in as little time possible.

The 7 Day Practice Routine For Guitarists

After the routine was finished I filled the book out with all of the Music theory required to get the most out of each day’s lesson. It was originally clocking in at over 150 pages… probably too much for a music book. After some editing, I was able to get it down to a much more digestible 90 pages.

Do you have any final thoughts, words of wisdom, or suggestions for someone wanting to get started in music and owning a business they love?

Hey let’s face it… there’s just nothing better than being your OWN boss, right? Whether you’re a musician, writer or blogger you can have that complete freedom to call your own shots.

My best advice is to stay focused and disciplined in everything you do. While being your own boss is the best, you can also easily fall into a routine where you’re not keeping up with your work and slacking off a bit. Stay focused and you’ll stay working regardless of your chosen career path.

Guitar 7 Day Practice Routine

 

 

Craig Smith Guitarist and Writer

Craig Smith is a Professional Guitarist, Writer and Blogger in Sanford, Florida. After teaching and performing for over 25 years he started www.Lifein12Keys.com as an online outlet for his writing passion.

An Educator at heart, Craig loves to teach people how to play Guitar and Blog.

When he’s not playing Guitar, Skateboarding or arguing with you about why Vinyl Records sound better than CDs, you may find him by the pool with his wife Celeste, 4 Chihuahuas and a drink.