||Can We Talk
By Mike Roberts
© 2004-2005, Mike Roberts. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.
BREAKDOWN." Yes, that's the title of a Led Zeppelin song, but it's
also the headline on the February 11, 2004 Chicago Sun-Times. Miscues,
misunderstood commands, undelivered emergency messages and an overall
"breakdown of communications" among firefighters is said to have
led to the six deaths and four near-deaths in the Cook County Administration
Building in October 17, 2003. It was a frantic scene where confusion
escalated during the 90-minutes it took for emergency workers to
actually discover the six casualties. In the end, a "failure to
communicate" (I'm quoting Cool Hand Luke) was to blame.
only thing more fascinating about clear communication and it's value
to our lives is the common oversight on our part to fully appreciate
that value. Songwriters live and die by their communication skills.
Communicating ideas to a collaborator, grooves to a drummer, pockets
to a bassist, feels to a guitarist, or meaning to a potential investor
or label are critical to our survival. In fact, songwriting in and
of itself is simply communication with a soundtrack. Yet
the skill of communication (particularly communicating ideas to
other musicians) is not inherent to every songwriter. Sometimes
this may stem from a lack of knowledge about the other person's
instrument; we don't "get it" so it's hard to give the right cues.
Other times it may stem from personal differences or lack of technical
knowledge. Whatever the cause, strained communication makes for
a tumultuous artistic environment.
communication fails, the results can be unfortunate at best:
the band fights, feelings are hurt, self-esteem takes a beating,
delays set in. At worse, things die: the band, the project, the
song, the motivation to pursue a dream. If you're like a lot of
songwriters that know too well the pressure of communication, then
my column may provide some relief. I will talk about effective ways
to communicate your ideas, needs, wants and passions to others-musicians,
collaborators, other band members, even your audience. My idea came
from my work with several bands over the years for which I acted
as leader. The fact that I play all the instruments made it a lot
easier for me get what I was after and keep everyone feeling good.
I hope you find some ideas and suggestions that help you, because
how well we communicate determines whether we live or die as artists.
Let's live-let's communicate!
A short bio
When Confrontation Arises -
Good communication isn't about the absence of confrontation, but the healthy resolution thereof. Usually it's a matter of finding and cutting through to the main point as quickly as possible and then casting the most honest and sincere light you can find onto the situation.
Don't Be Pushy: Artistic Assertiveness -
As songwriters and artists, we can find ourselves working with a plethora of personalities and character-types. Not always will we get along. But how do we go about addressing concerns, disagreements or differences of artistic opinion without burning the bridges that may be useful to us in the future?
Laying the Groundwork -
Sharpening our communication skills with musicians, collaborators and others involved with or being entertained by our art begins with a few basic principles. Here are four ideas that can improve our interactions with others in general.
A multi-instrumentalist for 20+ years, Mike Roberts has lead
several bands, taught music, collaborated on songwriting/recording
projects, and was a Texas regional finalist in Guitar Center's 2002
annual guitar competition. He supplies a diverse set of instrumental
and stylistic talents, and excels in communicating across the lines
of instrumental knowledge and personal backgrounds. Career work
includes ten successful years in full-time pastoral ministry, and
the last two as a loan officer for a leading mortgage lender. Clear
communication and effective people skills are his pillars. He currently
lives with his family in Rockford, IL where he is collaborating
with other songwriters and musicians in his digital DIY studio and
is working on his first indie CD.