I’m still stunned by the loss of my friend and musical collaborator Prince this past April. His creativity and musicianship were truly unparalleled. Coproducing, arranging, and playing on many of his songs in the 1990’s was a thrill. Collectively, we had so many great ideas that we couldn’t imagine they would actually all fit into a single song. But somehow it always worked! Here are five things I learned during our time making music together.
1.Pay Attention to All the Details
I loved Prince’s attention to detail. He was a theatrical magician, paying attention to things many people might ignore. He loved sound effects and inserting segues between songs. I actually made the “tears of joy” sound with my mouth on the hit song “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.” The smallest details can often make the biggest difference.
2. One Is the Funkiest Number
Just like his musical forebears James Brown and Sly Stone, Prince usually placed his musical emphasis on one, the funkiest beat of all. When you’re grooving with a rhythm section, remember that the funk doesn’t always have to come from syncopated rhythms. Prince and I always believed that “one” was the funkiest beat to blast off on. And I still do to this day.
3. Inspiration Is Everywhere
Prince did so many things well that I was constantly amazed and inspired by different aspects of his musicianship. For example, his rhythm guitar chops were among the best and funkiest I had ever heard. It made me want to learn how to manipulate my hands into playing the guitar! He reinforced for me the idea of looking outside your own musical wheelhouse for new ideas.
4. Get Great Sounds
Prince was a sonic detective, always searching for ways to re-create sounds he had heard on records. We often spent time talking about how to get the greatest acoustic and electronic sounds onto tape. Because of his success, we were fortunate enough to use the best equipment around. But even if we hadn’t had access to great gear, we were always in search of sounds that would inspire.
5. You Can Do It All
Prince taught me that you can do more than just one thing well. His groove, musicianship, production, songwriting, and image will always be etched in my mind. His excellence in so many areas pushed me to try my hat at other endeavors as well. Remember, there’s more to you than you think there is!
“Prince was one of the most innovative artists ever to make music, and one of our era’s finest shining stars,” says keyboardist, producer, and composer Ricky Peterson. Known for his work with artists such as David Sanborn, Bonnie Raitt, and John Mayer, Peterson appears on numerous Prince recordings and holds the distinct honor of being the only co-producer that Prince ever used. Peterson is currently finishing the upcoming release by the Peterson Brothers, due out in 2016. Find out more at rickyp.com.