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Hi, Doctor Nick! - Balancing a Relationship with a Music Career and the Value of Music Theory

Everyone loves Nick Hook. Granted, it's just about impossible not to, as he's not only one of those impossibly positive dudes, but he's also a student of the world, a man who knows about music, production, gear, DJing, travel, romance, and living life. Thankfully, he's also willing to share this knowledge, which is why we have him answer questions from the XLR8R audience each and every Thursday morning. Those looking for a bit of Doctor Nick's special brand of wisdom should send questions to doctornick@xlr8r.com. He's here to help.

Yoooo. What's good y'all? I hope you did your taxes if you live in America.

I'm having an amazing week. I've been riding my bike around and I did a TV show with Prince Paul today. I also went to Guitar Center this morning and checked out this insane digital console Steven Slate made—the Raven. It's worth a look. Check this video. The future perhaps?

I'm about to go see TNGHT kill it. Can't wait.

Hope everyone is good. Send me questions. doctornick@xlr8r.com.

Hi Doctor Nick,
I started DJing about six months ago, and well, I've started to have more and more gigs, which is kinda great. But I'm having this problem with my boyfriend, who's not so happy about my musical career. I'm coming home at 3 a.m. three or four times a week and spending loads of time in the studio with other musicians. Can you advise me how to keep a relationship going and still build my career?
Anais

This one is simple. There's going to have to be some sort of compromise. I'm guilty of this with my ex-girlfriend. As much as she said it was okay for me to go out and do my thing and follow my heart, I ultimately did neglect her. It wasn't out of being a bad person or anything, but my career consumed my life. I really believed that I was supposed to be in the studio 24 hours a day and out every night. And I have to say, it's really important to do that—you HAVE to. It's just a fact that friendships evolve exponentially after the sun goes down. People will remember you for what you do in the day, but you become close and do real business at night.

Try and harness your time right. Can you stay off Facebook and Twitter while you're in the studio and focus on JUST making tunes? That way, when you get home, you can focus on your relationship. Can you take off one or two nights a week and kick it with your dude and give him your undivided attention?

He has to meet you in the middle too. If this is what you love, he shouldn't be unhappy. I do believe in riding waves and a music career does entail disappearing for months on end, working overnight, and hanging out with a lot of people. If he can't handle it, he can't handle it. After I lost my relationship, I could actually look back and realize how much time it actually takes for this stuff to work, but I've also since tried to make compromises. I've learned to work in the daytime and try and to treat it like a job. I'm working on a schedule, not making much music at home, and actually trying to become Nick the person. Most of the people in my neighborhood have no idea what I do or anything and it's awesome, because you can just be you. Then, when you go back to work the next day, it does feel amazing to get there and work hard. I don't think people that work at McDonald's get off work, go home, and think, "Hey, how can I sell more Big Macs?" They turn off and chill. Try it, it might work.

Remember to communicate—openly. The more you mask and the more walls you put up and the more you don't talk about it, the harder it is to really communicate about what's bothering you guys.

Good luck. I think relationships and stuff are really important.

Hi Doctor Nick,
I love reading the column. I make music, but I don't come from any type of musical background. I can kinda tell what sounds good and what doesn't, but nine times out of 10, my stuff comes from happy accidents. Would you recommend learning some music theory to further my skills as a producer? And if so, what method would you recommend? Like learning an instrument such as piano, or taking some kind of online course? I think it may be the answer to overcoming long periods of creative stagnancy and frustration.
Craig

Thanks man, I appreciate you reading.

I'm kinda in the same boat right now. In some scenarios, people think I can actually play, and in others, people laugh at me. I kinda love it like that, but I've realized that I want to step my playing up. I went to Craigslist and found this dude to help me. He came by and was pretty cool, so I'm doing my scales and stuff and slowly trying to get better. Maybe if you are good at Ableton or Logic or whatever, see if someone like that wants to trade an hour of their time for an hour of your time. I'm all about the barter system over here.

In a weird way, I think blending non-musical thinking with some sort of technique is the key. Club music doesn't need to be so musical, but from a songwriting standpoint, I think having musicality is very important. Sitting around a computer and drawing in notes and messing around is fun and all, but there is some real magic in creating on the fly with someone.

Also, just sit down and play to your favorite records. If you use Ableton, warp them and slow them down. I've spent months of my life just listening to P-Funk records and what not. You also start to absorb sonic techniques and songwriting. Slowly, you see how their synths made up some of the sounds, you can visualize the movements of the keys, and so on.

Another thing to think about and put some energy into is sampling. Look at dudes like Pete Rock, DJ Premier, or even Daft Punk and see what they did to samples. Beyond that, think about how you can incorporate it into what you do. It's not the most musical thing, but you can really get into new things by being creative with it.

A great thing to try is start with a sample, be inspired by it, play over it, filter it, and see if you can eventually take the whole thing out. Then it's actually your song.

Good luck man. Take your time. Experiment. See what makes you feel things. It'll come.

Worrdddd. Okay, I'm off for now. xo

Hi, Doctor Nick! appears every Thursday on XLR8R. Do you have a question for Doctor Nick? Please submit your inquires to doctornick@xlr8r.com. Nick Hook can help you.

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