Ask Dominic

This is where you have the chance to ask Dominic a question. Please contact Dominic under contact@dominicmiller.com. Please understand that Dominic has a busy schedule and although he would love to answer all of your questions, he can only manage a few per month.

Question:

Although I am not a professional musician, playing instrumental guitar has been my hobby for the past 10 years. At this point I have decided to change my career and become a musician or at least do something close to music (like production). I am 32 right now. How realistic would it be applying for Berklee and changing career at this age? - from Gregory

Answer:

This depends entirely on your level of commitment. If I were you I would ask yourself these two questions before you decide to go ahead. 1) Are you prepared to go on a one way journey and not know where you are going? 2) Are you willing to accept you will never get there? If you can answer these questions with a yes then I think it's worth it. Otherwise, don't lose the day job.

Question:

I was wondering what type of jobs you may have held before becoming a professional musician...did you ever work in any other fields? - from Angela

Answer:

At thirteen I was working on a ferry in Surrey, England opening the locks and selling postcards to the pensioners. I loved that job. At sixteen I worked in a paint factory in Argentina which was very hard work but fun. At nineteen I worked as a chauffer for the Argentine consulate in London. Trouble is I didn't know my way around London. Nor did they. I would later turn up to my restaurant gigs at night wearing my suit. This is the last normal job I had.

Question:

I consider myself a 'pro-to-be'. Even with 4 CDs with my band, being 'well-known', having had deals with Sony and BMG, etc... In such a small country, the reality is the economy doesn't allow one calling yourself a 'pro' because it's hard to get the bills paid with just music. What would you advice is more important: work to get a label or distribution, or work to get a manager or agent? I know you've worked with both Indie and Major, I'm not even considering a major, but if you have any advice or comments as to managers/labels in this case of instrumental music, really thanks. I'm considering relocating to some part of Europe (perhaps Barcelona, Paris, or so) in September for a few months. I will be playing as support for a singer and will try and get new things done. This will most likely open some doors. Would you advise to go and 'study' somewhere? Or more of doing street stuff.. going out and meeting people and musicians and managers? - from Federico

Answer:

I can understand your frustration. I never like to advise anyone to go away from their home to find success because it doesn't really work like that. However, I do know many Americans who have moved to LA or NY to further their careers and it has worked for them simply because there is more action in bigger cities. I also know English people who have moved to London. I would never advise you to leave such a beautiful country as yours but if you are serious about moving forward I don't see many options. I don't know how old you are but I think the best way for you to get out there might be to go to music college in USA or England. In USA I would say Berklee College of Music would be perfect for you in many ways. In UK I would say either Leeds College of Music or Guildhall College of Music. Going to study might also help the immigration problem. Being in College will give you a chance not only to develop your skills further but to make many contacts with people who are after the same goals. I am still working with musicians I met when I was in college.

Question:

I guess this isn't so much a musical question as it is a musical business question. I just read in 'Billboard' magazine that The Pretenders are going to release a boxed CD set in March that will include, among many other things, the track Hold a Candle to This. The announcement describes this as 'an alternate version' so I'm uncertain as to whether you played on this particular version or not. Assuming for the moment that it is indeed one of your tracks with them, my question is, do you receive any royalties/compensation for this? I don't mean for this to be a personal question regarding your finances. I'm just curious as to how these arrangements work in general. Do you only receive payments when you co-authored a song (ala Shape of My Heart)? or are recordings of performances included as well. I suspect that many budding musicians trying to get a professional gig, in this era of file sharing and illegal downloads, might be interested in your take on this topic. - from Stephen

Answer:

As a session player you are not entitled to any royalties. Royalties are for the artist. Publishing is for the writer/composers. As instrumentalists we make huge contributions to songs and sometimes come up with a 'hook' that can really make a song. But this is what we do and what we are paid for. The songs are written and the artist has the contract. All we do is make the song and the artists shine. However, there is now an agency that picks up fees for us depending on how much air play is involved. So if it's a hit we get paid more. This is called PPL in UK. There are similar agencies around the world that do the same. This has only been going a few years.

Question:

How long does it usually take between finishing a new album and the time it hits the store shelves? - from Angela

Answer:

This is entirely dependent on what kind of deal the record is under. It's all down to the distributors. But the label hires the distributors. The label needs to have a good idea of where to distribute which can be tricky sometimes. It's a question of knowing or having a feel of where your market may be. It's pointless just stacking a bunch of albums on a shelf if the people who go there are unlikely to be interested. In my case, and with this album I imagine my label will be somewhat selective. But the real answer to your question is that the stores are now online. Record stores will be obsolete in a few years. If I were a pop act I would be worried. But I am not. I just make music I like and don't have high expectations for myself or any label. Just one sale would make me happy. Some acts are disappointed if they only sell a million.

Question:

I was wondering when you play bass do you usually play with effects or do you play straight from the amp. - from Carlo

Answer:

I don't play bass really. If I do I just go into the desk. Mostly I play keyboard bass as on all the Fourth Wall demos so far.

Question:

Do you ever feel that the world is your home? What I mean by that is, since you travel on tour so often and seem to be away from home so much and visit so many cities and countries that you have been to so many times before, I was wondering if all of these places seem like a second, third, fourth, etc. home to you? I'm sure you have your favourite cities and favourite hangout places in each place, so I can't help but think that you 'live' in each of these places temporarily. So, out of curiosity, do you feel this way? Do you miss home? Family? and the domestic relations of being stationary? - from Dave

Answer:

This is a really good question. Sometimes I feel more like a stranger when I am at home (if I have been away a lot). The thing about travelling is one gets used to the way a hotel works. One gets used to communicating with strangers on a daily basis. One gets used to speaking different languages even if it's just simple phrases. One gets used to countries' respective customs. One gets used to finding ones' was around. Eventually this becomes the norm so I would have to say, because I am travel so much, being away is being at home. Sad but true. There are no cities in particular.

Question:

I'm from Uruguay, have you ever been in my country? - from Martin

Answer:

I have been to Uruguay a few times. As a kid I used to go to Punte del Este and sometimes we went to La Coronilla. Fantastic beaches and really cool people. I went there with Sting in 1990. I was born in Argentina so I understand the culture there better than most people in UK and US.

Question:

Have you learned any lessons or philosophical insights from playing chess? Has playing chess had any impact on your music? - from Amy

Answer:

I must admit I am a chess addict. I play every day. I think there are many similarities with chess and music. The main one being the use of structure. How one arrives at a certain point requires some skill, creativity, theory, guts and above all instinct. But the one fundamental difference is that one form is constructive and the other destructive. What I mean is the goal as a musician is to create something beautiful. The goal in chess is to create something beautiful and then to destroy it (your opponent) with some venom. Scary stuff

Question:

I've read a number of articles recently focusing on hearing in today's day and age, and with devices such as iPods and other music players many people are at risk for hearing loss. While this may not be a huge source of concern for most people, how do you deal with it as a musician? Your career depends on your hearing almost as much as your skill with the guitar. Do you wear any sort of protection during the extended periods of time on tour with Sting? - from Gordan

Answer:

This is a good point although it doesn't apply to me because I am not fussy (touch wood) about my hearing. I accept the fact that some of my high end has gone, courtesy of Vinne Colaiuta and Manu Katche's cymbals being only feet away for years. Perhaps I should start considering taking steps to avoid injury. Thanks for bringing this up.

Question:

What motivates you now as an accomplished, successful musician? - from Donal

Answer:

What motivates me is the quest for learning as much as I can which never ends. Learning a new Bach piece, discovering a new album, coming up with new ideas are some of the things that motivate me.

Question:

How does copyright work with classical pieces composed way back, that you (or anyone else for that matter) arrange, and release commercially? - from Garry

Answer:

The rule with publishing is that they are public domain if the composer has been dead for 75 years or more unless the families own the composers' estate (like with Eric Satie). The way it is worded (and is) on an album is to credit oneself as 'arranger' which is usually split with the producer, artist and string arranger.

Question:

Can you recommend some specific Bach pieces that your really enjoy. I have been listening to Yo Yo Ma & Janos Starker solo cello. Additionally Emerson String Quartet, Bach: The Art of Fugue. I enjoy both very much can you please recommend other pieces that you enjoy. - from John

Answer:

Try the Cello Suites. They are more playable than some of his other works.

Question:

I know that you practice yoga and ashtanga specifically. I would like to know if you do the primary series or your own routine? Are there any videos you like? I have tried Bryan Kest's videos and really like him. David Swenson is also another teacher I really like. - from Erik

Answer:

I do the first series which is more than enough! My teacher is Danny Paradise who I see every few months. He corrects me every time and shows me a newer, better way of doing it.

Question:

I was wondering, when your not playing your guitar how do you store your guitars. - from Carlo

Answer:

I have a lock up near where I live where I store my guitars and amps. I keep some of the choice ones at home. There are many under beds and if you open a cupboard in my house you might find one.

Question:

You always seem so in tune with where you are in your life and in touch with your thoughts. I'm curious if you ever struggle with keeping your mind on the present and if so, do you have any advice for keeping oneself 'in the moment' and enjoying the now? - from Amy

Answer:

My only advice would be to not think about yesterday and tomorrow if you want to enjoy today. Not very profound, but it works for me.

Question:

Do we have a chance of hearing you sing on some of your future solo albums? - from Arthur

Answer:

Although I do enjoy singing sometimes I wouldn't want to draw attention to it and away from my main asset which is my guitar playing. I fear my weaknesses would be exposed as opposed to my strengths. So in short, no.

Question:

Can you drive a car and what type(s) of cars do you prefer? - from Yuliya

Answer:

I drive a Peugeot 206. I have never been into fancy cars but I do love driving.

Question:

My question is what do think is the most important piece of equipment for sound the quality of the guitar or the amp? - from Vivien

Answer:

The most important pieces of equipment are your hands and then the guitar.

Question:

I was wondering if that was a Harley Davidson sticker you have on the back of your guitar? If it is do you ride? What kind? - from Erik

Answer:

I love Harleys but don't own one. If I did it would be the V-Rod. Beautiful machine!

Question:

I read your statement 'You can only make progress by making yourself vulnerable.' I'm a writer, and I'm about to face the enormous task of finding journals, magazines, publishing houses, etc. who will publish my work. I'm terrified. I'm afraid of failing. I'm even afraid of succeeding, if that makes any sense. So when I read your statement from the interview, it got me wondering. Are you ever afraid of failing (or succeeding)? If so, how do you move beyond that fear to a place where you are comfortable with being vulnerable? - from Amy

Answer:

I feel that if you are creative you have to be prepared to fail (sometimes in public which is not for the fainthearted). This is what I meant by making yourself vulnerable. BUT with good practice. technique, knowledge and just good old chops, the fun starts there. This is when you make the blemishes work for you and you can make them beautiful. It's like when Jazz players make a mistake and then repeat it and eventually take it somewhere they haven't been before.

Question:

Just wondering, have you ever been a music teacher? You seem to have the patience for it and an ability to connect with people. - from Kara

Answer:

I used to teach at public schools to classes of between 10 and 15 kids playing guitar. Had a lot of fun with that. I have taught guitar in a prison. My favourite categories for teaching are beginners and accomplished players. Everything in between is less interesting or less satisfying. I would like to know more about music therapy as I believe all kinds of people could benefit from it (myself included). The sound of a drum, the echo of a clap the sound of water the creation of sound etc...

Question:

When I met you last year in Hamburg you had a yellow bracelet. Where is it from and what is the meaning of it? - from Margitta

Answer:

The yellow bracelet is about Lance Armstong's charity for cancer research. He is the six time winner of the tour de France. Greatest cyclist of all time. I am sure you have seen people wearing them.

Question:

I noticed a small figurine on top of a speaker (or some other piece of equipment) behind you during your Madison Square Garden show. What was that and what is the significance? - From Cristina

Answer:

That was a JS Bach figurine on my amplifier. I am glad you noticed it. I put him there to watch me so I play better.

Question:

If you could be photographed with 2 people who have inspired you the most in your music career, who would they be - and where would you like the photograph to take place? - From Arpeggio

Answer:

Bach and Jimi Hendrix, in the park.

Question:

I was just curious if you can fall asleep soon after finishing a concert. Is there always an after-party? - from Dee

Answer:

I go to sleep after a concert because I am organically tired due to getting up at around 6.30 or 7am. I sleep like a baby.

Question:

I have seen you, Sting and the band on 'David Letterman' and 'Saturday Night Live' and just wondered what it was like doing those shows. I also wondered if you ever worked with or what you thought of Bryan Adams and Eminem. - From Mary

Answer:

Doing TV shows is quite boring because there is a lot of hanging around and waiting. Then you have to find three minutes of inspiration. But it's ok because we are experienced at it. I like Bryan Adams and have worked with him. He is a gentleman and very funny. I think Eminem is great too. Very clever.

Question:

If you couldn't be a musician, what do you think you would have done? - From Erin

Answer:

If I weren't a musician I would like to be a school teacher. I think it's the best profession.

Question:

Where do you think you would be career wise if Sting hadn't offered you the job as guitarist on 'The Soul Cages' album? What was 'plan B'? - From Elina

Answer:

Plan B was a job I had with The Pretenders. I had a lot of sleepless nights making the choice but now see it was a good one.

Question:

Did you ever play in any cover bands? Were you familiar with The Police's material when you met Sting? - from Michael

Answer:

Of course I played in cover bands. I probably will again too! I wasn't particularly familiar with most of Sting or the Police's music when I met him. I am now.

Question:

I think I read somewhere that you once attended Berklee in Boston. Is that true? Did you enjoy the experience? - from Michael

Answer:

Yes, I did attend Berklee and it was a life changing experience. It was there that I knew I would be a musician forever.

Question:

What are your plans for the future? Are you looking to continue writing your own material, classical etc... or do you have another vision or direction you'd like to venture into? - from Seika

Answer:

I try not to think about the future and concentrate on what is happening now. I am on tour with Sting and I am promoting 'Shapes' and 'Third World'. My only wish is to be able to continue working at this level which I means wanting to do more of the same.

Question:

I've gotten the impression that Rufus wants to be a professional guitarist in your footsteps. Has he ever performed professionally in a band or as a set musician? Does he favour pop, classical, jazz or some other style? - from Brian

Answer:

Yes, he is indeed into it. He wants to be a musician and has already been in a couple of bands and done small solo club and pub dates. He writes amazing songs in the vain of Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake. He has the ingredients to go far. It's up to him.

Question:

I had a number of acquaintances at the show, all of us are musicians of one stripe or another, and the one thing that we all found so moving was your performance of the Star-Spangled Banner. It was so unexpected, and you played it so beautifully. At a time when a lot of us in America aren't terribly proud of our country's behaviour out in the world, it was a nice reminder that we can be proud of other things, and that we can be a welcoming and joyful place for people visiting from all corners of the globe. What was your inspiration for choosing to the play the anthem? - from Karen

Answer:

There are a few reasons for doing the anthem. First, I think America is a great country regardless of what its profile may or may not be in the world. I love this country and all I want to do is allow Americans the opportunity to do the same because real Americans are good people. Second, because my idol Jimi Hendrix did a rendition during the Vietnam conflict so I feel it's my duty to do an arrangement that I can say is truly mine. And lastly, because I love doing the unexpected.

Question:

I'm a guitar player, I play much also in studios and now I have already more than half of year problems with both hands. They're very weak, I can't play good, fingers on left hand are totally horrible, I can't move good with, and also I feel the pain. Doctors they don't know how to fix it. Please do you have an experience with it and could you give me advice, PLEASE? - from Peter

Answer:

This sounds very frustrating. I don't know the solution to this problem but what I do know is that doing yoga or any exercise that takes a lot of energy helps with the blood flow. The more blood that can get to an injury the quicker it might heal.

Question:

Very interesting to read about your typical day - but there is one thing that sounds confusing: you write you usually leave in the afternoon for the next city/venue - and then you say you also fly to the next city after the concert again. Does that mean you stay in a city that is NOT the city of the next venue in between concerts? - from Kristina

Answer:

Sorry about the confusion. I see what you mean. What is happening now is that we are commuting from NY. ie, staying in NY for all the East Coast shows. It means we get to stay in the same hotel for a couple of weeks. We do the same for the Mid West (Chicago) and West Coast (LA) shows. But I am sure you get the drift.

Question:

How do you keep it together mentally, not knowing from one show to another whether it will be cancelled? How do you keep your creative juices flowing and your mindset healthy? - from Cindy

Answer:

To keep it together we maintain a positive attitude and of course try and stay healthy and fit. Being in good condition helps us in these trying times.

Question:

How do you spend your 'days off' while being on tour? Do you still go sightseeing or shopping in cities you have visited many times before? - from Stephan

Answer:

On days off I like to read and practice. Sometimes I will go to a good museum if it will interest me.

Question:

How do you guys manage to keep a healthy personal relationship with your families while on the road, (specially on looong tours)? Ain't that a serious handicap for any musician in your particular position? - from Julio

Answer:

It is difficult being away from our families on tour. But sometimes they come and visit us. We do have breaks but not that many. We all stay very healthy which is important.

Question:

I read somewhere that you practice yoga. Is that true? Also do you meditate; and if you do can you explain your meditative practice and how it affects your music and life. - from John

Answer:

I have been practicing yoga since 1991. It does me the world of good. Through yoga I sometimes manage to meditate. Meditation is something I would like to get more into.

Question:

With the release of Third World and Shapes (internationally) and the Sacred Love tour do you feel that too much stuff is happening in a relatively short time window or do you thrive on the general buzz? - From Garry

Answer:

On 'Third World' I used the P-Project nylon and the Guild nylon and steel. I guess I am a workaholic. I love playing and recording music. The reason I did so much in the last couple of years is because I knew and know that I won't be doing it for a while because of touring.

Question:

I noticed that you were born in Buenos Aires and then moved to Racine - this caught my attention since my parents are from BA and I was born & raised around Chicago. So I have to ask - how is it that you were born in Argentina, then lived in Wisconsin, but by all appearances are British? - From Irene

Answer:

I was born in Argentina because my father, who is American) moved there when he was very young. The company he worked for in Argentina, was Johnson Wax, based in Racine. He was then moved to Racine to work. In 1978 I moved to UK to study music. My parents moved there after me in 1979. I am British because my mother is Irish. But I also have an Argentine passport.

Question:

I noticed that you were born in Buenos Aires and then moved to Racine - this caught my attention since my parents are from BA and I was born & raised around Chicago. So I have to ask - how is it that you were born in Argentina, then lived in Wisconsin, but by all appearances are British? - From Irene

Answer:

I was born in Argentina because my father, who is American) moved there when he was very young. The company he worked for in Argentina, was Johnson Wax, based in Racine. He was then moved to Racine to work. In 1978 I moved to UK to study music. My parents moved there after me in 1979. I am British because my mother is Irish. But I also have an Argentine passport.

Question:

I know that you are probably focusing on marketing your Shapes CD at the moment, but an idea popped into my head for a potential 'next album' that I was so excited about and felt compelled to share with you. I think the tremendously popular Vivaldi’s Four Seasons might be worth your consideration. Yes, it has already been transcribed for a kazillion instruments and reinterpreted a thousand times over, but no one has, to my knowledge, generated a successful jazz/pop/rock interpretation for guitar. - from Marjorie

Answer:

Actually I had already thought about Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' which I agree is a great idea. When I do these things I always like to listen to the strictest versions (ie purely classical) so that I can make up my mind how to interpret them without being influenced by someone else's instrumentation. This is what I do with Bach. Listen to Stern playing it on solo violin which gives me a lot of ideas and inspiration. I like 'Four Seasons' as a title. Perhaps the track running order could be 'Room Service', 'Five Star', 'Do Not Disturb' etc! 'Fourth Dimension' has already cropped up, but I find it too obvious, great as it is. How about 'Forthcoming'?

Question:

I really enjoy reading about how much you enjoy your musical relationships, not just the music itself. From being taught to play by your older sister, to passing the talent and skills along to your children to appreciating the love and respect your idol Bach had for his children. My question is, do you still jam with your sister? And what kind of music does the rest of the family enjoy? - from Cindy

Answer:

Yes, I sometimes jam with my sister playing Brazilian songs. With my dad I play old blues. He sings a wicked Tango. My mother has a beautiful voice and likes singing Irish folk songs. We all enjoy playing and singing Argentine carols.

Question:

What is the state of the music business in regard to a singer/songwriter/guitarist that is similar to Sting or Peter Gabriel? Would a musician who came along with a style, both musically and vocally, similar to Sting get signed today? What is the state of pop music, in your eyes. I study it as closely as possible, but I wonder if you might have any insights for me. I know there are so many factors to getting into the business and doing what you love, including talent, appearance, originality...I don't try to be just like you or Sting, mind you. Just major influences because you meld my favourite music forms (pop, classical, and jazz) together so well. Also, would you recommend an independent label over a major? - from Blake

Answer:

I absolutely think there is space for singer/songwriter artists in today's industry. People like John Mayer and Norah Jones are flying the flag. The public will eventually tire of reality television (Pop Idol etc). If ever there was a time for young songwriters to get their act together it would be now because I predict a huge explosion in the genre similar to what we had in the early 70's. Major over indie label? The simplest way to answer that is that with a major you might have more exposure but less control and you are always droppable. With an indie you have total solidarity but without the might of expensive marketing. Its a tough call and I've done it both ways.

Question:

I'm looking forward to the release of your new album, Shapes here. What kind of relationship do you have with your current listeners, and what kind of audience are you hoping the release in the US will bring for you? - From Heidi

Answer:

I have no expectations with the US release of ‘Shapes’. It's intended for music lovers, that's all. I do hope you enjoy it.