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:

I was wondering if you have ever heard any of Steve Hackett's work? I read an interview with him where he spoke about his love of Bach and Segovia so their influences seem all encompassing. - from Pete

Answer:

I have heard Steve's solo albums and they are really good.

Question:

In your session work (most notably with Sting), I appreciate that fact that the your guitar parts always seem to compliment the lyric or verse. Although sometimes quite subtle, the method in which your voicings weave in and out of the songs remind me quite a lot of Lindsey Buckingham. Does your feel that your classical reference point has contributed to your ability to express or restrain your session guitar work (as you always seem to 'play for the song')? - from Chad

Answer:

Thanks for this. Lindsay Buckingham is one of the most creative song accompanists on guitar. His parts always sound perfect to me. I am flattered you should put me in the same paragraph as him. Yes I do in some way model my approach on his, but there are also many others. Classical playing has been of some help, mainly with technique which I sometimes use on electric and visa versa. But my main instrument is musicianship. I like to be true to the song and complement it as much as it deserves, if not more. Having some classical background and listening to people like Lindsay Buckingham helps make this possible.

Question:

What did you think of everything that was happening to you at the time you first played with Sting and how did it change you? - from Kevin

Answer:

Playing with Sting on on my first arena tour is something I shall never forget. It felt like I had won the lottery. But this feeling has never gone away and I still get as excited now as I did then.

Question:

You're good friends with Pino Palladino... just wondering what you think of his latest project playing with the John Mayer Trio. - from Kevin

Answer:

Pino is a fantastic musician. John Mayer is an awesome guitarist and I think Pino, Steve Jordan and John make the perfect trio.

Question:

I am 19 year old guitarist just beginning to get into session work and I was wondering how you negotiate pay with producers/artists etc. Do you charge by hour? Also if this isn't a too much of a personal question how do you work out your wages with sting? i.e. does he pay you per tour, gig, hour in studio, royalties etc. Hopefully you will reply to this. - from Steve

Answer:

The best way to deal with session rates is to start off by charging the union rate. Usually, depending on which country you live in, sessions are in three hour blocks. As you get more experienced then you can charge whatever you think you are worth which is what I have been doing since I felt I could warrant charging what I believe is right. This is how I have dealt with artists for many years now including Sting. Word of advice: Don't charge more than you think you can deliver. There is nothing worse than asking for a lot and then not delivering. The producer won't ask you back. Just go easy at first.

Question:

I was wondering if you had any special ways of dealing with the long rehearsal or studio (or live) sessions. I often find myself being worn out after a while, especially in a noisy environment. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this. - from Halli

Answer:

Good question. I do get worn out in rehearsals, particularly if we are wearing headphones (sometimes we do this when we are all in the same room to block out the volume of the drums). My ears get very tired and it can be frustrating. But the best way to rehearse is to know when it's time for a break. Every two hours we take a short break and we break for lunch and dinner. It is also important to under-play when we are rehearsing and just play really simply. This gives the other musicians an indication of where you are coming from. They don't need to be impressed. They need support and so do I.

Question:

What is the secret to make it as a successful guitarist, apart from obviously knowing how to play, which I personally think I do! - from Will

Answer:

Being a session touring guitarist is a tricky one. Firstly, before you can call yourself the above you must have some grasp on most styles of playing even if you are not particularly inspired by them. For instance, I am known to not be into country music but I do have an understanding of its nature and can 'fake' it in a studio scenario because I have been asked to on a few occasions. Secondly, your main clients are producers, not necessarily artists. A producer will call a guitarist who he are she feels can do the job best. If you are not on that producers phone book as the number on player he will go to the next one. If you are the next one, and he asks you to play some Bossa Nova guitar over a Ska backing with a Japanese artist singing who thinks he's Elton John and you say 'I don't know what you mean' or 'No, I can't', then the producer will never ask you back. If you say 'Sure thing, I know what to do' and do it successfully you will be number one on his/her list. The truth is you have to be very flexible. If a producer rings up and asks you to play on the new Girls Aloud single and you say 'No, I don't do that kind of thing' you will never hear from him again. Being a session guitarist is a bit like being a mercenary. If you do the session successfully, that producer might invite you to play on his next 'serious' project. If you do that project successfully, and everybody hears your riff on the radio and likes it you will be known as 'the man' and every producer will want you. Thirdly, if you are new and want to get recognised, TAKE EVERYTHING THAT COMES YOUR WAY. You are not in a position to choose. Sometimes it means doing things for free. You never know who you might meet there. Finally, if a producer has invited you to a project, you don't need to show off or try and prove yourself because you're already there. Guitarists are notorious for this. I was like that until I learnt to KEEP IT SIMPLE. Try and play parts that compliment the song and that anyone could play. You have the last laugh because you played it and other guitarists will be wondering why it wasn't them. Oh, and be nice!

Question:

I was just looking over my 'Phil Collins...Hits' CD and realized you played on 'Something Happened On The Way to Heaven'!! My Dad and I went to see Phil here in Buffalo on his 'First Farewell Tour' on Sept. 12. My dad took me to the show for my 28th Birthday. My questions are : What is it like working with Phil? Does he improvise in the studio sometimes? I emailed Phil's long time engineer Nick Davis and asked him if he thought Phil would actually stop touring. He said yes, I'm sad but realize Phil's had a great thirty-plus year career. I was thrilled to be at his last gig in Buffalo. - From Steve

Answer:

It was a great experience for me working with Phil Collins. When I arrived at the studio the songs were in bare form, i.e. just drum machine, basic keyboards and vocal ideas. This meant I had the freedom to express myself with nothing much else. I believe he is an improviser in the studio but he also has a very clear vision as to how he wants a song to end up. I have found that most of the artists I have worked with who are successful work in this way. Being in a studio is a very creative environment if you allow it to be. He does and I am sure will continue doing. I can't imagine Phil not touring again. If I were a gambler I would say he'll be back. Many musicians and artists have retired only to come back again. I don't think artists should announce their retirement from touring because it's kind of like telling the world you've quit smoking only to start again. The best way I think is to just do it.

Question:

I'm no musician, but am curious to know how one would actually employ you as a session guitarist. Do you still do session work? When do you get the time? - from Elina

Answer:

Of course I still enjoy doing it. When I get off tour I usually have three problems. First, that people still think I am away, second that people think I might be too big headed to consider their project and third that it might be too expensive. Only one of them is true (lol). Sometimes I do sessions while on tour and people can always find me through my accountant. She is the contact.

Question:

As you are so busy and in demand as a musician, who do people go to when they can't get hold of you to record with them? Who do you see as your main competitor? - From Elina

Answer:

Michael Landau, Gus Isidore, Robbie McIntoch. There are many who I admire. Actually we all know each other and there is mutual respect all round.

Question:

You join Kaori Muraji on four of the tracks on her latest album. Were you actually there with her, or was it the kind of Pavarotti thing, where parts are added later with studio technology? - from Colin

Answer:

Kaori and I recorded these tracks 100% live. No overdubs or drop-ins. Some minor editing but it's REAL.

Question:

I was just looking over my 'Phil Collins...Hits' CD and realized you played on 'Something Happened On The Way to Heaven'!! My Dad and I went to see Phil here in Buffalo on his 'First Farewell Tour' on Sept. 12. My dad took me to the show for my 28th Birthday. My questions are : What is it like working with Phil? Does he improvise in the studio sometimes? I emailed Phil's long time engineer Nick Davis and asked him if he thought Phil would actually stop touring. He said yes, I'm sad but realize Phil's had a great thirty-plus year career. I was thrilled to be at his last gig in Buffalo. - From Steve

Answer:

It was a great experience for me working with Phil Collins. When I arrived at the studio the songs were in bare form, i.e. just drum machine, basic keyboards and vocal ideas. This meant I had the freedom to express myself with nothing much else. I believe he is an improviser in the studio but he also has a very clear vision as to how he wants a song to end up. I have found that most of the artists I have worked with who are successful work in this way. Being in a studio is a very creative environment if you allow it to be. He does and I am sure will continue doing. I can't imagine Phil not touring again. If I were a gambler I would say he'll be back. Many musicians and artists have retired only to come back again. I don't think artists should announce their retirement from touring because it's kind of like telling the world you've quit smoking only to start again. The best way I think is to just do it.

Question:

Just wondering what amps you used on the Mark Hollis solo album? - from Danny

Answer:

No amps, just acoustic guitar.

Question:

When you set down to new music in the studios, what various forms of music do you encounter (i.e. tab, chord/number charts, sheet music) and what are you most comfortable with? Is there an agency through which your sessions are set up and how many studio dates do you actually play through the year? - from Joel

Answer:

When people hire me in the studio they usually leave me to my own devices, i.e. no tabs or charts; just the way I want to interpret it. There are plenty great guitarists who could take the other work which involves reading and more direction. However I am honed in these skills, perhaps not fluently but good enough. I had to start somewhere. When I am off the road a suppose I do about four or five sessions a month.

Question:

Do you have a system for remembering all your guitar 'parts' for each song you play/have played whether it's your solo work or Sting's songs? Is it just memory, feel, a certain lyric that triggers something? Do you document/score any of your guitar parts? - from David

Answer:

It's a strange thing memory. I mostly have a kind of photographic memory with music. Once I have played it once it is a matter of recalling the piece or idea and then just going for it. I have an in balance with memory i.e.: I can remember music but often forget day to day things that most people find elementary.

Question:

When you record tracks for artists do you get a preliminary mix of the songs to take home after you are done working, or do you have to wait for the finished product? - from Michael

Answer:

Once I am done recording for an artist I just leave the studio and let them handle the mix or my place in it. I don't need to hear it. It's funny because sometimes the next time I hear it is on the radio and I might have forgotten all about the session and the song. I listen and think 'that guy is copying my style!' only to discover that it was indeed me. The bad side to that is that sometimes I think the guitar part could be better only to discover it was me.

Question:

I am a master's student in guitar studying both classical and jazz. I admire the fact that you play all styles. I pride myself in that as well. My question is I would love to do what you do: perform as a solo act, perform as a guitarist , and write as well. How does one go about that process of doing what you do in the Biz. I guess what I am saying is how do you break into the biz? - from Jaime

Answer:

The best way to break into the 'biz' is to make yourself available in just about every capacity imaginable. From teaching, to gigging, to going to courses (great for meeting people) to sessioning for friends, artists, bands or artists that need a favour (one can learn a lot in these situations) to just asking advice (like you are) or even asking for gigs or sessions which can take a lot of nerve. The question is, can you back it up with your playing. If a producer asks you to play country licks over a funk beat can you do it. If he asks you to play in a bossa nova style over pop can you do that etc etc. I hope this is of some help.

Question:

I've been trying to break my way into the world of becoming a session/tour musician. I was just wondering how you made your way up the ladder to work with the likes of Sting and other amazing artists. Any advice? - from Sarah

Answer:

What worked for me was to be as adept as possible in as many styles as I could think of. Producers want you to be able to do it all. That's when I started working more and more and the word got around that I was the guy who could play any style. Not necessarily really well, but well enough to support a song. Also, it is important to keep it simple. What makes a song work is usually very simple. Just by being there at a session you have already proved yourself as a player so there is no need to show off.

Question:

Can you tell me what it's like to work with Julia Fordham? I love her music and she's such a lovely person. And tell me about Aadesh? I heard yourself, Hugh Padgham and Julia Fordham have collaborated in some way with this project? - from Darren

Answer:

Julia was a joy to work with. She has a haunting voice that lends itself well to my style of playing. I love accompanying her. I don't know when the Aadesh thing will come out but I will be sure to let the website know when it does.

Question:

I have a short question for you: I just bought Craig David's CD Slicker Then Your Average and heard the song Rise and Fall with Sting. I was wondering did you play guitar live on Rise or did Craig use a sample of Sting's song? If you did play live, how was Craig to work with? - from Steve

Answer:

That is indeed taken from 'Shape of my Heart'. Frazer (Craig's guitarist) re-performed the part, and very well I might add. I did work with Craig for a live version of that song and he is a true gentleman.

Question:

I know you played a lot on Phil Collins' ...But Seriously album, as did his regular guitarist, Daryl Steurmer. On the tracks which feature both of you, were you in the studio at the same time? Did you get to play together? How much leeway did they give you in terms of the guitar parts? Did you ever get a chance to jam together? - from Kirk

Answer:

I also like Darryl's playing. Unfortunately we weren't in the studio at the same time. I had total control over my parts as Phil was checking me out to see if I would be the right guy for the job. What you hear is that process. It was a career changing session for me because it gave me self belief.

Question:

How did you get the gig playing with Phil Collins? Daryl Stuermer being his main guitarist for years I had not noticed that there was a different player on the album. - From Pat

Answer:

I got the Phil Collins gig through Hugh Padgham having done a session with him. I asked for the gig and he told Phil who gave me a chance. It worked well. I like Darryl.

Question:

You have played with some of my biggest influences in the drumming world. How and what are the differences you see between Vinnie and Manu in style, feel and approach to Sting's music? I think they're both great players, however I do hear the difference at time. I would like your opinion as a musician who has played with them. I as a drummer strive to be versatile. - From Pat

Answer:

Vinnie is the drummer's drummer with his incredible technique. Manu is an artist on the drums and never plays any two bars the same way. They are both at the top of their game. Now we have Keith Carlock who is another amazing talent.

Question:

I noticed that someone called Dominic Miller played on the DC Talk album Supernatural and I wondered if it was you, and if so, which tracks you played on, if you can remember. There’s a nylon part on My Friend (So Long) that sounded like it could have been you, but I might be wrong… - From Paul

Answer:

I actually co-wrote the song and did all the parts.

Question:

I've found that over time, I've been listening to a lot of groups who have had you playing with them. In particular, there's a song called Man by Level 42. I have a burned copy, so I'm guessing, but I believe it's you on guitar? - From Jason

Answer:

I did indeed play on that track by Level 42. I never went on tour with them though.