Dave Grohl needs no introduction. Even if you know him, you really should watch Sound City, a great documentary about a legendary music studio. In the doc you’ll see a bit of Grohl, but lots and lots of other superb musicians, too. Video below the tips.
What I love about this list is how anti-establishment it is. You won’t learn much of this in a music school, or woodshedding, or learning how to play etudes. But Grohl’s tips are useful for any musician of any kind. Here they are (thanks to Jay Green, GuitarWorld, and Evan Carmichael):
1. You Have to Be Great (1:10)
“If you’re good at what you do, people will recognize that. I really believe it.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re at the shithole down the street or you’re on the side stage at Bonnaroo or you’re headlining Lollapalooza.
“If you’re a great band with great songs, people will notice it. That’s it. That’s all it is. It’s that simple.”
2. Figure It Out (4:32)
“If you’re focused and passionate and driven, you can achieve anything you want in life. I honestly believe that. Because you’ll fuckin’ figure it out. I never took lessons to play drums. I just figured it out. And I never took lessons to play guitar—maybe a few—but I just listened to Beatles records.”
3. Chase Your Dreams (5:30)
“When I was about 11 years old—I was in, I think seventh grade—I went to this new school, and there was this girl named Sandy. She was fuckin’ beautiful— big blue eyes and heart-shaped face, I was instantly in love with this chick. So the first day I asked her like, ‘Wanna get steady with me?’ She was like, ‘Okay.’
“And then after 7 days she said, ‘You know, I’’m new here and I just don’t wanna get, like, tied down.’ We were 11 years old! It absolutely broke my heart. I was heartbroken.
“And that night, I had a dream that I was in an arena full of people, and I was playing guitar. It’s like this packed arena, and they’re all going ‘Yeahhhh.’ And I look down and she’s staring at me, crying.
“My rock and roll revenge!”
4. Don’t Lose Your Personality (7:16)
“If you’re a drummer and you speed up or slow down a little bit, you throw it into a computer and it makes you sound perfect. And you lose all the personality and character.
“Computers—they’re great for some things. But when it comes to making a raw rock and roll record, you just gotta go with tape.”
5. Experiment (8:14)
“I stopped listening to music after Kurt [Cobain] died because it was so emotional, just hearing it. I didn’t want to hear it on the radio, I didn’t want to play it, I didn’t want to join another band. And then after a while I realized it was the one thing that was going to help me through everything.
“So I started writing songs and I recorded this demo tape. A record company called and said, ‘Hey, we wanna release your record.’ I said, ‘But that’s a demo, that’s not a band! That’s something I did by myself in five days!’
“So then I started to think, ‘Well, maybe I will try this. I’ve never been a singer of a band.’”
6. Do Your Own Thing (9:08)
“The most important thing is that whatever you’re doing, it’s a representation of your voice. Whatever it is, the most important thing is that it’s your voice, that it’s coming from you.”
7. Find Balance (12:03)
“I’ve always loved being the drummer. I don’t necessarily need to be the dude out in the front. I never imagined myself as a frontman. At the same time, I don’t mind bringing the party to 85,000 people at the lip of the stage, being the frontman of the band. It’s nice to have both. There’s that balance between the two.
“If you ever start feeling like, ‘Nobody’s paying attention to me,’ then you go and be the singer of the Foo Fighters for a while. And when you’re like, ‘Goddamn, I’m sick of all this bullshit,’ go back to being a drummer in the Vultures or whatever.”
8. Just Do It (12:58)
“There should be no right or wrong. You should be cool with what you do and how you sound.
“I have a problem with a lot of those song contest shows on TV. Like, if my kid walked up onstage and sang her heart out as best as she could, and fucking Jennifer Lopez said ‘No, sorry, that’s not good enough,’ I’d be so fuckin’ pissed! ’Cause that’s not how it works.”
9. Cherish Your Voice (16:02)
“Guilt. Guilt is cancer. It will confine you and torture you, destroy you as a musician. It’s a wall, it’s a black hole, it’s a thief. It will keep you from you.
“Remember learning your first song or riff, or writing your first lyric? There was no guilt then. Remember when there was no right or wrong? Remember that simple reward of just playing music?
“You are still, and will always be that person at your core: the musician. And the musician comes first.”
“It’s your voice. Cherish it. Respect it. Nurture it. Challenge it. Stretch it and scream until it’s fucking gone. Because everyone is blessed with at least that, and who knows how long it will last.”
10. Love What You Do (18:40)
“People can talk about the good ol’ days. Well, fuck that, man. This is fuckin’ great! I don’t know how to do anything else. This is it.”