Head of Education for DIME ONLINE, Atar Shafighian, took some time out to answer a few questions about his experiences in the music industry.
• Who were some of your influences as you progressed as a musician?
I have had lots of influences, but the big phases of my musical development were (in order) Bach, Rachmaninoff, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Sting, Grace Jones, Jamiroquai, Earth Wind and Fire, Herbie Hancock, Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, The Brecker Bros. I then developed a love of Bossa Nova and MPB starting with Jobim, Milton Nascimento, Joyce and Ivan Lins.
• How did you establish yourself as a teacher?
I started by teaching 1:1 piano whilst I was studying Music at university. I loved it and later started lecturing larger groups. I soon developed a real passion for lecturing and teaching in the areas of Harmony / Theory / Composition and Business. I have taught at a variety of levels and always enjoy the challenge!
• What was the first record you ever bought?
‘Stars’ by Simply Red. I bought it in Our Price in Banbury, North Oxfordshire. It’s a truly great 90s Pop record; fantastic writing, playing and production in my opinion.
• Best experience in music – (recording or live etc?)
I led a project to bring Snarky Puppy to the UK for the first time and promoted their first UK show at Cargo in Shoreditch. The venue was rammed and the gig was electric! That was the beginning of great things for the band in the UK and it was a lot of fun to be involved with.
• What gear and equipment are you using (or any studio tips or favourite gear)?
I use my studio mainly for pre-production, writing, composing and arranging. I run a quad-core Mac Pro with Logic X, Sibelius 7 and some Genelec 8030A monitors. As a keys player, I have a few different toys: For general mid work I use my Kurzweil SP4-7. They have great piano patches and good feel for inputting drums etc. However, for weighted piano performances, I move to one of my graded hammer action fully-weighted Yamaha stage pianos. For fun, I have a little Korg R3 (it has a vocoder!). I also pack a mean pearl white Roland AX7 Keytar and a Roland Juno Di (good for synth lead work).
• What’s your top tip for being a professional musician in the modern age?
The general thinking is that one needs to focus on being good at everything in order to be a ‘modern’ musician; business, technology, marketing etc. I agree to some extent, but I also think that now, more than ever, there is a strong argument for practicing and become brilliant at your ART. Not ‘good enough’, but brilliant. Excellence will always prevail…that has never changed.
• Any last words?
Consider what role you want Music to play in your life and work hard to make that happen for you, on your terms. Consider the meaning of words such as ‘hobby’, ‘amateur’, ‘professional’ and ‘portfolio-career’ then reflect upon these in your own context.