A short post about my Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign

I’ve decided to plunge into the new world of crowd-funding.

If you’re not familiar with crowd-funding, it’s sort of like pre-ordering an album…but with various ‘perks’ available to those who contribute to the crowd-funding campaign.

Why am I doing this?

Being a truly independent musician has always made it financially challenging for me to both release music and get myself out on tour to play live for you all.

With crowd-funding, fans themselves have taken the place of the old music business model of big corporate record labels.

Fans are now directly supporting the artists they care about.

The crowd-funding platform makes it possible for me to reach out directly to my fans and friends everywhere in the world to build support around a particular project – in this case, my new album and a global tour to bring the music to you live.

This is where you come in.

My Indiegogo campaign has just gone live!

I need you to support the campaign either by contributing for a perk or by contributing any amount using the big pink “contribute” button…and by sharing the campaign through your social networks: Facebook, G+, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other network you are on, and through email to friends.

As a survivor of the ‘old’ music business, I took a long hard look at the idea of doing this before finally deciding to go for it.

All of my research has shown crowd-funding to be both a rewarding experience for fans and a fantastic source of support for independent artists like me.

I hope you’ll have a look at my campaign, check out the perks, and give it your support:

igg.me/at/prestonreed

Thanks so much, and see you out there :^)

Your faithful guitar player.

Preston

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

When I record, I am old school

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When I recorded my first solo acoustic guitar album in 1979, I had no choice but to work with an engineer in a professional recording studio, paying an hourly rate for studio time as well as tape (yes, reel-to-reel audiotape) costs.

These days, with the availability of great-sounding, affordable home recording equipment, computer software and digital audio interfaces, it is very possible to assemble a makeshift studio in your living room, learn how to use the gear yourself, record yourself, and produce a great-sounding album for a fraction of the cost of a studio project.

I have watched with amazement the advance of recording and sound technology over the past 35 years and the mind-blowing capability it has given virtually anyone who wants to record themselves at home…but when it comes to recording, I have always been old school. My recording method has stayed the same for 35 years and 18 albums: working with an engineer in a recording studio.

Why?

There are three reasons:

1. I want the front end of my sound (the pre-digital audio signal that starts with my guitar, continues through microphones and then through the pre-amps in a mixing console) to stay as “analog” as possible for as long as possible before being digitised onto a hard drive, so I like to record with the same classic, warm-sounding analog gear I have always used and am used to hearing, notably vintage Neumann microphones and, whenever possible, Neve mixing consoles.

(There are now devices, computer interfaces and sound cards that “model” the sound of classic analog gear, but I choose to use the real stuff.)

The studio I am currently using, Ca Va Sound in Glasgow, has that gear.

2. I want to record in an environment other than my home, for the combination of freedom and challenge an unfamiliar environment can offer.

What do I mean?

Recording in an unfamiliar environment can initially feel uncomfortable, but it actually removes the familiar distractions of home you didn’t realise were there and can really help you focus on your music.

If you are out of your comfort zone, in an environment you don’t know, it tends to help you reach further into what you do know…your music.

Another point to make is that studio time, even in the digital age of hard drives where there are no longer tape costs, is still expensive.

There is something at stake when you arrive at the studio for a session.

Knowing the clock will be ticking once you arrive motivates you to prepare diligently before a session to maximise your efficiency while in the studio.

It can also help produce that adrenaline-filled “moment of truth” when you begin tracking that can bring out your best playing.

(I played that? Whoa!)

3. I want the advantages of working with an experienced engineer, especially one who has musical ears.

I cannot emphasise enough the benefits of working with an engineer who knows you, your music, and what you are trying to achieve.

Not only will the engineer be running the gear (a total necessity for tech and gadget-challenged people like me) so you can focus on getting the best performances out of yourself, but a good engineer’s insights, advice, observations and encouragement can actually help you make a better record.

The engineer I work with at Ca Va is Geoff Allan (pictured above). I think he’s great.

Even though I am a solo acoustic guitarist who could be recording in a home studio, recording in a real studio with a real engineer is something the digital age has not changed for me.

It’s not for everyone. But it’s the way I love to work…and I believe it shows up in the way my records sound.

How do you like to record?

What is your opinion about using outside studios versus using a home studio?

Posted in Music, Recording and producing, Sound, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

What I gain from touring

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The tour is over.

Fifty-one dates/ two-and-a-half months…just like that.

I can’t believe there’s no airport to get to, van to climb in, hotel to check into, venue to set up in, sound check to do, show to play, fans to greet, gear to break down afterwards, van to climb back in back to the hotel to drop off my guitars, or city to explore where I can find a drink, talk to locals and smoke a cigar at the end of the night.

Glasgow. Edinburgh. Birmingham. Cardiff. London. Paris. Lyon. Dijon. Marseille. Rotterdam. Haarlem. Eindhoven. Leipzig. Cologne. Hamburg. Berlin. Munich. Vienna. Dubai. And many other places.

It was all awesome.

You always hear about how tough the road is for musicians and bands.

The grind and tedium of schlepping from one gig to the next night after night, packing and unpacking endlessly in one hotel after another, one city after another, missing family and friends back home, always dealing with strangers and — if you are touring in foreign countries — language and cultural challenges.

My perspective is different.

I love touring.

In fact, I thrive on it.

Yes, the experience of touring can be all of the above, but I find that meeting the challenges posed by touring as well as exploiting the opportunities it offers actually makes me stronger, builds self-confidence, improves my skills, expands my awareness and causes me to evolve spiritually.

I find the entire experience of touring to be energising and exciting.

How do I manage to always gain from it?

Because I love to learn, I love adventure and new experience, and I love to be challenged.

Touring always delivers in these areas.

Look at it this way.

When you travel you are continually confronted by new situations and the need to adapt to them.

Touring forces you to use skills you already have and develop new ones.

You must manage and master your time, your energy and your attitude.

You must strike a rhythm with everything you have to do every day and night, and maintain that rhythm consistently.

There is never enough free time, so you learn to make the most of limited windows of time.

As a result, you get more out of the time you spend.

Yes, stress, fatigue, exhaustion, loneliness, missing friends and family and the comforts of home all go along with touring, but those challenges pale in the light of the benefits I receive from it.

I guess I just see touring and travelling as overwhelmingly worth doing in the short time I am here on Earth.

In 2000 I wrote, in the booklet accompanying my cd Handwritten Notes, that the most valuable thing I had gained from the touring I had done up to that point was the realisation that we — people — are all the same, no matter what our race, colour, religion, politics, language, nationality or level of wealth.

Thirteen years later I continue to be struck by that truth every time I travel in other countries around the globe.

A few of the benefits I have received on my fifty-date tour across the U.K. and Europe with Andy McKee as well as on my visit to Dubai for a performance for my corporate sponsor GAC include:

•increasing my knowledge and skills in the area of amplified sound.

•developing skills as a sideman and soloist on other peoples’ music.

•increasing my vocabulary and speaking skills in French and German.

•visiting art and history museums.

•taking many photographs and improving my photography skills.

•dining at restaurants offering regional and local food and wine.

•spending time in bars frequented by locals and getting to know them when possible.

•exploring (and photographing) the old sections of cities.

•sharing my photos and experiences on social networks.

•making new friends and fans.

A tour could be experienced as a music-related work activity (which it certainly is)…or it can be used as an opportunity for travel, adventure, learning, creativity, self-discovery, personal growth and making friends.

The latter is the way I choose see it. I cannot think of anything more valuable.

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Me, Shirish Gorasia (of Google Switzerland), Antoine Dufour and Andy McKee outside “Der Van” in Zurich last month.

Posted in Guitar, Learning, Music, Performing, Touring, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts on openness

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I gave a talk at TEDGlobal 2012 in Edinburgh recently, alongside a young guitarist from Pakistan named Usman Riaz. It was an instrumental guitar performance, but still a TEDTalk with a great (and true) story behind it.

The video of our performance has already had over 380,000 views at the TED website and is showing no signs of slowing down.

But being at TEDGlobal 2012 was a much bigger experience for me than giving that performance.

It was an amazing week of listening to brilliant, creative, innovating, question-posing, paradigm-changing people from every imaginable field share their stories, ideas, discoveries, creativity, goals, values and predictions.

The theme of this particular conference was “Radical Openness”.

I have something to say about that.

I have always believed in the open exchange of ideas.

The discoveries, insights and new thinking that result from free creative dialogue between differing points of view (including moral, political, national, cultural, technological, ecological and religious) often end up benefitting everyone in the world.

But how did I fit into the theme of radical openness at TED?

In order to do something new, you must first be open.

You must be willing to challenge your own assumptions. You must be willing to ignore how something is currently defined, perceived and valued. You must be willing to take the risk of being misunderstood. And you must believe in yourself and what you are doing.

In order to invent a new approach to guitar playing in the late 1980’s, I had to ask a new question (how can I incorporate an integrated drum groove into a solo guitar composition?) and be open to a new answer (forget it’s a guitar and begin instead with a drum groove, and then somehow negotiate guitar playing into that groove).

I had to be able to accept how different this new approach looked, as well as how strange it felt to do at first.

But once I opened up to this new idea, I began to create a new kind of guitar music.

Where did I think this was going to go?

Who did I think it was going to reach?

What did I think I was going to get out of it?

I didn’t know. What I did know was that composing and playing it made me happy and nourished my body and soul, and audiences seemed to enjoy it as much as I did.

In 1993, after six years of performing and recording in my new guitar style and teaching it to guitar students in both private lessons and at workshops, I reached a level where I wanted to share my insights and discoveries with a wider audience of guitarists.

I made a video called The Guitar of Preston Reed: Expanding the Realm of Acoustic Playing.

The video shows me performing several of my tunes and teaching the basic concepts and techniques of my style.

At the end of the video I invite guitarists to incorporate my techniques and concepts into their playing for the purpose of creating and evolving their own music.

Over the next eighteen years, new generations of guitarists around the globe have adopted the approach I taught in that video and made it their own.

With how uniquely recogniseable my playing style is, I have been asked many times why I never took steps early on to protect it as an “invention”.

I have always answered that 1) I didn’t have the resources or expertise to patent a guitar approach (let alone police the violators), and 2) that I believed that, in the end, openly sharing my knowledge, creativity and ideas would come back to me in a good way.

It has.

I believe we all have something to offer each other, and that we all become more when we do.

I also believe that sharing knowledge, creativity and ideas is not just a good and nice thing to do, but that it is essential to our survival as a species.

Now like never before, the whole world needs to become open to this thinking.

Yes, openness can be dangerous.

It can invite theft. Mischief. Exploitation.

It can be used for purposes other than those for which it was intended.

It can lead to unexpected consequences.

But more importantly, openness makes possible communication, idea-sharing, cooperation, creative collaboration, positive evolution, the revelation that we are all the same…and ultimately, a better world,

How do you feel about openness?

Do you see it as a danger?

Or as an opportunity?

I think it’s worth the risk.

Posted in Creativity, Culture, Guitar, Learning, Music, Teaching, Technology, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The anxiety of opportunity

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This is an unusually big month.

In addition to going into the studio several times to continue recording my next album and heading over to Ireland to play at a festival, I will be playing my first-ever hosted, internet live-on-air concert.

I will also be performing at an international convention of leaders and influencers in the fields of technology, entertainment and design.

I am really excited by the opportunities these events present for me to promote my music, make new friends, fans and contacts, and learn.

But I also feel a sense of anxiety about them.

For some reason, despite the positive nature of opportunity, it carries with it an emotional agenda that can cause stress and anxiety.

It might have something to do with having to confront my own wishes, expectations, insecurities and limitations all at the same time.

What if these events fail to deliver what I expected?

What if I miss out on something important during these events because I was not prepared?

What if I just don’t know enough to make proper use of opportunities I may encounter?

I think anxiety (and worry) have a lot to do with under-developed thinking about existing and/or upcoming issues, making things feel unstable and up-in-the-air.

A grounding process is needed.

These days when I feel that unpleasant, anxious feeling, I know there’s actually something positive behind it: an opportunity is at hand, and the anxiety is telling me to get in touch with the opportunity by preparing for it in more detail.

The whiteboard is my go-to.

By the time I finish looking at an upcoming opportunity from every angle using the whiteboard, writing down ideas, developing insights, asking questions, visualising likely scenarios, identifying the resources I will need to call upon, and making decisions about how best to exploit possibities that may emerge, I have both a clearer picture of what’s going on and an operating strategy for moving forward within it.

Solving problems with the whiteboard involves both creativity and logic. Reason works hand in hand with imagination. It uses both brain hemispheres equally.

Whiteboarding is as low-tech as you can get (with the exception of the iphone photo I take of it afterwards), but it works brilliantly.

It focuses your attention and resources on what you can control, and causes that anxious feeling to be replaced by a feeling of confidence, clarity and empowerment.

Not to mention that at the end of a whiteboard session I have a “map” to refer to, add to and refine as new ideas come along.

Have you discovered the magic of the whiteboard?

What do you use it for?

What makes you turn to it?

Posted in Business, Creativity, Learning, Psychology, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

More of a good thing

In an earlier post in this blog (“What it means to be sponsored”) I spoke about how a global shipping company called GAC (Gulf Agency Company) had stepped in to support my career in a crucial way: by paying a large chunk of the expenses of my September/October 2011 U.S. tour.

I am delighted to announce that GAC’s sponsorship of my music career will be continuing.

In my September post introducing GAC as a sponsor, I said that it was highly unusual for a company of the size (10,000 employes worldwide) and global presence of GAC to help an independent artist like me.

It all started with an employee of theirs and his vision of where GAC should be going with their sponsorships.

He had seen me play in Glasgow years ago and been a fan ever since.

As an employee he knew about GAC’s sponsorship of golf events, car racing teams, yacht racing teams and football teams — in other words, the typical kinds of high-profile sponsorships large corporations tend to get involved with.

He wanted to see GAC bring its sponsorship into a new arena: the arts.

His brought his idea to the company’s upper management, who received it positively.

They especially liked that each of us was known (in very different spheres) for innovation and new thinking: I with my compositional guitar approach, and GAC with their individually-tailored, solution-oriented customer approach.

The result has been not only a happy and grateful musician, but a company that is showing their employees, their customers and the world that they care about the arts.

For some interesting further reading, check out this article on GAC’s humanitarian team which was put together to coordinate and deliver aid to troubled global regions.

This is a company that can, and does.

I am now an official brand ambassador for GAC, and proud to be on board.

Posted in Logistics, Music, Sponsorship, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

What I learn when I teach

I taught a workshop yesterday for a theatre full of music students at a college outside of London.

The workshop consisted of me performing tunes, explaining my musical approach, illustrating it with representative examples on the guitar, and fielding questions from both the students and faculty members.

I know that many of them enjoyed my presentation, appreciated it and perhaps gained from it.

But I may have gained more than they did, because as always happens when I teach what I do, I learned.

I walked away knowing more about what I do, why I do it, and how I do it than when I went in.

I walked away feeling grateful for the privilege of imparting my knowledge and experience to young aspiring musicians.

They asked questions about how I write tunes, where I look for inspiration, how I deal with writer’s block, how I make use of music theory in my composing, how much I practice, as well as questions about my experience in the music business.

Answering their questions afforded me the opportunity to step back and look at my whole career, both the artistic part and the practical, business part.

It prompted new insights and understanding.

It made me feel proud of what I have achieved and who I have become both as an artist and as a person.

Perhaps if I taught all the time there would not be the same heady feeling of satisfaction and gratitude, but as a professional touring performer, I don’t get the chance to teach that often.

When I do, it always feels like a gift.

Posted in Music, Music business, Teaching, Thoughts | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

A memorable gig

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At the end of November 2011, I played a concert in a synagogue in Wrocław, Poland, as part of the Wrocław Guitar Festival.

What made this gig stand out was a convergence of things I love: travel, international culture, language, food, drink and nightlife, not to mention a professionally-orchestrated introduction to a new audience in a great European country.

I did four interviews in a row the afternoon of the show, for two internet blogs, a radio station and a newspaper, as well as a television interview in the evening before going on.

I was impressed by the research and thoughtfulness that went into the interview questions, clearly designed to elicit interesting answers and insights into what I do, how I do it and why I do it.

The venue for the show was a beautiful, historic 19th Century synagogue with an oval-shaped ceiling and galleries that had been recently restored after decades of neglect.

The sound was magnificent.

I used no reverb for the show.
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The experience of playing for my first Polish audience at the sold-out show was astounding.

They were an exceptionally appreciative, enthusiastic all-ages audience who seemed to take everything in and thoroughly enjoy themselves.

I signed cds and tickets for the entire thirty-minute break, and more after the show.
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At the end of the show I was presented on stage with a rose.

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The audience asked for an encore, which I gave them. Then they gave me a standing ovation.

Not sure if it was because it was the last show of a great year of shows, or because it was my first show in a new country, or because of how awesomely warm and wonderful they were, but the audience’s response filled me with emotion and it was difficult to hold back tears.

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After the show I was taken to dinner in a restaurant across a beautiful medieval courtyard from the synagogue, where I was treated to mushroom soup, stewed rabbit, wine, and vodka flavored with special grass from an area of Poland inhabited by wild buffalo.

Later, I wandered the cobbled streets and alleys of the old section of Wrocław, visiting atmospheric bars, taking snapshots of street scenes, buildings and cafés, and sampling more Polish food.

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I was greeted several times in my wanderings by people who had been at the concert. They expressed enthusiasm and gratitude for what they had experienced.

I thanked them back.

On the way back to the hotel (at 3am) two women — one Polish and the other from France — stepped out of a bar and invited me in.

They had been to the concert and bought my cd “Ladies Night”.

I spent the next three hours there, drinking. conversing, laughing and relaxing.

Beata, the Polish woman, got the deejay in the bar to play her copy of “Ladies Night” over the house system.

People already on the dance floor danced to it, not noticing it was a solo acoustic guitar record.

It was a Bohemian experience befitting the locale of Wrocław, a region of Europe once known as Bohemia.

When I headed back to the hotel at 6am the bar was in full swing.

“When does this place close?” I asked the bartender.

He answered, “It doesn’t.”

I arrived back at the hotel feeling a combination of tired, energized and happy.

I fell asleep smiling. Ah. What a day. What a night.

Zzz.

The phone rang abruptly at 10am.

I was needed downstairs for a television interview.

I negotiated 45-minutes to shower, dress and wake up, then went downstairs where the interview was filmed in the hotel bar.

The interviewer (for the local news channel) asked me how I liked the audience at my show (loved them), and what I thought of Poland (loved it).

I think I appeared to be happy.

I was.

I spent the afternoon exploring the huge Christmas market that took up much of the pedestrianized center of the old section of Wrocław. It was a lovely sunny day, unseasonably warm for Poland in November.

That evening I attended the main event of the festival, the legendary Paco de Lucia and his band performing for six thousand people at the Halle Stulecia, an amazing early 20th Century edifice made entirely of poured concrete.

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After the concert, I had dinner with them along with the hard-working festival personnel and invited guests. At the conclusion of the meal a flamenco guitar was put in my hands by one of the band members and I was asked to play something.

I played “Ladies Night” and “Shinkansen”.

They liked it :^)

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Thanks to Aleksandra Furtak for photos 2-5 and 8. http://www.pracowniafotografii.athanor.pl/.

Posted in Culture, Food and Wine, Music, Performing, Photography, Touring, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

The first year with my new guitar

The first year with my Bailey baritone guitar was a great one.

Custom built in autumn 2010 by Scottish-based luthier Mark Bailey to my design and specifications, it is the flagship prototype for the Bailey Guitars Preston Reed Signature Series, which includes a normal scale-length version.

The custom cedar-and-mahogany acoustic cutaway has been my primary instrument at every show since its debut a liitle over a year ago in Irvine (Scotland).

Over the past year I have performed with it in the U.K., Ireland, the U.S., Croatia and Poland.

I can honestly report that on every level it has surpassed my expectations.

I am delighted not only with its sound, feel, playability and tone onstage, in radio station control rooms, in hotel rooms, at home and everywhere else, but with its rugged, road-and-airline-tested reliability.

It seems to get richer, deeper and more powerful-sounding every time I pick it up.

The English cedar top continues to darken and get more beautiful.

I will be recording my next album with it in January.

Basically, the guitar just seems too good to be true.

I still cannot quite believe that my dream instrument was nothing more than an idea in my head a year and a half ago (see earlier post in this blog: “My New Guitar”)

But Mark Bailey made it happen.

I look forward to working with him on more exciting projects in the future.

Thanks Mark!

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Posted in Guitar, Luthiers, Music, Touring | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

The value of identifying your values

I was asked a few months ago by Pat Strother of Strother Communications to name my three core values as an artist, musician and composer.

He was looking for a three-word distillation of the guiding principles that motivate me to get up in the morning and move forward every day.

When I received this question (via e-mail) I was on a tour of Ireland.

I sat down with my iphone on a sofa in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at in Cork, thinking I would be there for some time.

But it took less than a minute.

I suddenly realized, no one had ever asked me.

My three core values are (and have always been) originality, universality and timelessness.

What do these terms mean to me?

Originality means something came from a creator and is uniquely theirs, containing and communicating their unique personal stamp, character, design, expression or brand.

It means something was not borrowed, derived, adapted or tweaked from someone else’s work or someone else’s idea. It is original. One of a kind.

Original does not mean without influences. Everything has influences and everything had a starting point.

It means without precedent.

Something that is original has transcended its influences to convey something truly new.

Listen to John Coltrane’s music.

You can hear many influences in it: blues, bebop jazz, the popular music of the time, perhaps some techniques or phrasing identifiably borrowed from some of his musical heroes.

Yet his sound is original. Many (if not all) jazz saxophone players have tried to play like Coltrane, yet no one has ever succeeded in sounding like him.

Universality means that what someone has created posesses a universal character and appeal. It has the quality of being understandable, relevant and involving to all people, of all ages, from all cultures. It transcends cultural and geographical boundaries.

Music as an art form always has the potential to be universal because it reaches a different area of the psyche from other forms of expression.

Music can help us all experience our human connection to each other (instrumental music possibly more so because there are no lyrics needing translation).

Timelessness means that a creation doesn’t date, but rather remains meaningful, applicable and valuable through time and across generations.

These are the qualities I have always admired, embraced and striven to embody in my creative work.

I found this exercise to be of great value in identifying the reasons and motivations for what I do, i.e. to look at what has always been operating behind the scenes.

It has made it possible to move forward creatively with even greater confidence.

Thanks for asking, Pat.

By the way, what are your three core values?

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Posted in Composing, Creativity, Performing, Thoughts | Tagged , , | 10 Comments