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Archive for February, 2007

The Lone Vocalist

     (part 1 of 2)  

          You see them every season on American Idol, www.AmericanIdol.com ,  singers – thousands of them – all vying for the same coveted spot on Simon Cowell’s record label.  Sure, some of them are kooks, just there for the press and the fifteen seconds of fame.  But you’ve got to admit that some of them are really, really good.     

        But wait – what if out of 50,000 auditions, 30,000 are really, really good?  I’ll tell you what happens:  29,999 of those really, really good singers are sent packing, back to their day jobs and their non-celebrity lifestyles.  How unfair!  The dejected hordes of talented people should be recognized as well, right?  It can’t really be all or nothing, can it ?

       Well, if you recall, it’s not always the official Idol winner who’s remembered as the real champion.  Take Chris Daughtry, Katharine McPhee, Jennifer Hudson, or Clay Aiken, for example.  These successful musicians were not picked as idol winners, but they got enough exposure from the show to be signed with other recording companies.  So it can’t be that bad.  Some would even consider it better to be signed with an outside company because of the stringent rules imposed upon the winner of American Idol.   

     If you recall, it’s not always the official Idol winner who’s remembered as the real champion.  Take Chris Daughtry, Katharine McPhee, Jennifer Hudson, or Clay Aiken, for example.  These successful musicians were not picked as idol winners, but they got enough exposure from the show to be signed with other recording companies.  So it can’t be that bad.  Some would even consider it better to be signed with an outside company because of the stringent rules imposed upon the winner of American Idol

        What’s the only thing the winners and the runners-up have in common?  So far, they’ve all stayed with solo gigs.  No one has joined a band – they’ve all remained “Kelly Clarkson” or “Carrie Underwood” or “Daughtry.”  Of course, they’ve got back-up, road, and studio musicians, but they’re inconsequential in the scheme of things.  No one goes to a show to see Kelly Clarkson’s band.  They go because it’s Kelly Clarkson.  She is the show, and there happens to be a band with her.

       What’s the only thing the winners and the runners-up have in common?  So far, they’ve all stayed with solo gigs.  No one has joined a band – they’ve all remained “Kelly Clarkson” or “Carrie Underwood” or “Daughtry.”  Of course, they’ve got back-up, road, and studio musicians, but they’re inconsequential in the scheme of things.  No one goes to a show to see Kelly Clarkson’s band.  They go because it’s Kelly Clarkson.  She is the show, and there happens to be a band with her.          

        So what does that mean for you as a singer?  Well, it means that you can stop chewing your fingernails off when you consistently fail to find a band that you can “fit in” with.  Some singers are meant to be in bands.   But some are just better off as lone entities.  And, of course, there’s always room for musicians to be added on, but it isn’t necessary in a black-or-white kind of way.  

       Chris Daughtry, for example, is a great performer all by himself.  He can play the guitar quite well, and he’s clearly got a phenomenal voice to boot.  He doesn’t need a band behind him.  Does he make brilliant music with back-up musicians?  Of course !  But could he also put on a spectacular one-man show?  You bet. Singers don’t always realize that they have this kind of flexibility.

            But what if you don’t play an instrument?  What if, instead of being a Chris Daughtry, you’re more like a Carrie Underwood?  Well, you’re going to need some musicians, of course, but they don’t have to be your “band,” per say.  There are plenty of places to find gigs where you can sing in front of a house band, and still be in charge of your own show. But what if you don’t play an instrument? 

      The point is that there are tons and tons of fabulous singers out there.  Not all of them can be American Idols, but that, in a way, is the beauty of it.  In a world of such diverse musical possibilities, you don’t have to be an Idol to be considered a successful musician.  Success is different to everyone, and, therefore, the method with which you accomplish that success can be different for everyone.      

     The point is that there are tons and tons of fabulous singers out there.  Not all of them can be American Idols, but that, in a way, is the beauty of it.  In a world of such diverse musical possibilities, you don’t have to be an Idol to be considered a successful musician.  Success is different to everyone, and, therefore, the method with which you accomplish that success can be different for everyone.  Consider this if you’re struggling with your own vocal options.  You needn’t succumb to the idea that you have to join a band, nor do you have to remain a solo artist if you’d rather have that unity and consistency with your music and the musicians who accompany you.  You’re living in a time, now, when things are practically at your fingertips, especially in the music world.  Take advantage of it, and be your own artist. 

Kara Nielsen, Editor www.BandSpace.fm    (2/23/07)  

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Let’s Talk Production

                                               (part 1 of 2) 

         Alright, so you’re doing pretty well as an amateur musician.  You’ve written some songs that people other than just your mom enjoy listening to, you’ve got some talented people who’ve agreed to play with you, and you’re ready to record.  It’s time the world heard what you’re made of!  But what the heck comes next?     Well, you’re going to have to be ready to shell out some cash, because before you can make money, you have to spend it.  Recording can be bank-breaking if you go into it blindly.  You must do some research.  If you know anyone who has recorded, ask him/her about his/her experience.  Who did he/she use?  How long did it take?  Was it an efficient use of time?  Was he/she satisfied with the process and the result?  If you’re lucky, you can hook yourself up with a fairly low-scale, but professional, recording studio at about $100 an hour.  I repeat:  If you’re lucky.

     Let’s say you do find a credible establishment that will only be said $100 per hour.  So now you know: you’ve got to have your ducks in a row before you enter that room, because every minute you spend with the audio technician is costing you about $1.67.  This guy is making roughly fourteen times what the current minimum wage is off of you.  AKA:  you don’t want to be screwing around.  To get the most for your money, you need to schedule your recording time after you’ve had enough rehearsals with these people to be completely confident when you step into that room.  Too many overzealous musicians schedule their recording time preemptively and then have to try to cram in rehearsals around their musicians’ hectic schedules.  This kind of stress can be quite hazardous to your musical health.

     RED FLAG.  You need to realize that, generally, the time you take to set up instruments, microphones, EQ levels, etc. is time you will be billed for.  Make sure that you clarify this before you go in, because if you’ve scheduled a 4-hour session, there is a good chance that the first two billed hours will be spent hooking everything up, playing with microphones, and toying with different effects.  But don’t be fooled – this isn’t something you want to skimp on, either.  It’s just kind of a fact you’ll have to face.  To make your music sound its best, you’re going to have to put in the time and money to play with the options.  There’s a lot you can do to make your tracks sound great, and there are a lot of exceptional recording programs available, especially Pro Tools software.  This program is hands-down the best on the current market, so if you’ve got high aspirations, it is something you’ll want to make sure your guy is using.  Of course, not everyone needs to use Pro Tools, but it is the most efficient program with the most options, and it will give you a very professional result.

     One thing you must keep in mind is that your recording will not be flawless.  Even the most well rehearsed musicians need to take time to listen to what they’ve just recorded and be obnoxiously picky about what they hear.  The audio technician will have suggestions for you, as well, that you may have never even thought of.  He or she will be coming from a completely unbiased place, unlike you, and that will significantly influence his or her recommendations.

      So, with this information, I’d suggest that you begin your research.  Ask around.  Your friends will obviously give you the most reliable information.  Next, I’d recommend checking online music forums.  People can be brutally honest here, and you can get some very candid reviews.  After that, you can start thinking about how much you’re willing to spend.  And then?  The usual.  Practice, practice, practice.

Kara Nielsen, Editor www.BandSpace.Fm   (2/23/07)   

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      I began last time to talk about websites for musicians who are putting themselves out there.  I became, through my research, particularly interested in a site called www.Bandmix.com.  To really delve into this intriguing web community (and to be able to better explain it to you all), I’ve set up a profile for myself.  I just posted a simple bio with my name, instruments of choice, and genres of choice. 

     The result?  The website has been very good to me and increasingly fruitful as I take more and more advantage of what it has to offer.  The aforementioned media options are really making it easy to see what other people’s music is like, and for them to see what mine is like.  I’m trying to be very low-key about it, just to see what the minimum is I can actually do and still benefit from the site (you know, the lazy man’s ideals).  Within a week of joining, and even before posting any pictures, video, or audio, I have already received offers from bands that are looking for my instrumentation.  And with the fun search tools they offer, you can look for people right in your own zip code.  It really is exhilarating.  And the more information about your music that goes on your site, the more viewers you get, and the more opportunities for you to find the right band.Depending on your musical background, you may be wary of singing up for a site that seems so amateur. 

     But honestly, you get back what you put into it.  If you make a completely serious profile that states that you’re looking for serious musicians, they will find you.  Don’t let all the fun media options fool you.  This web community is extremely diverse.  If you specify on your page that you are interested only in highly committed and college-educated individuals who are looking to devote their whole lives to serious music, you’re not going to be hassled by beginners who just want to bang on drums for a few minutes a week.  If nothing else, just use the site as a back-up.  Continue your search for the perfect musical duo or trio or whatever-o in the same way you have been, but also spend the half hour it takes to set up a really clean, efficient, and direct page about you, your music, and the music you want to be making.  You’ll be surprised at the amount of quality feedback you get within a short time.    You can post the gigs you’re already playing on a personal calendar, and then just leave it.

       Check it once a week and just it to build you a good-sized fan-base.  Take it from a person who did the bare minimum with the site and still received a very tempting offer in a matter of days.  It’s worth the thirty minutes.Kara Nielsen, Editor www.BandSpace.Fm (2/16/07)   

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Get Back to Class

     If you’re interested in music performance, but you’ve gotten a little rusty, you can rectify that for a very reasonable price.  The same applies to those of you who are looking to pick up a brand new instrument but don’t want to commit too much time or money to the pursuit of mastering it.  How? you may ask.  Well, it’s as simple as visiting a community college in your area.  For me, that would be Manchester Community College www.Mcc.Commnet.Edu , in Conn . 

     If you’ve never been there, you’d be shocked at its attractive, professional campus.  Some people think of “community colleges” as dilapidated ruins of once-glorified classroom buildings.  But MCC is a remarkably classy place, and it has an immense amount to offer, with a lovely light price tag.  (I know musicians, especially, hate to pay more than they have to).  And no, you don’t have to be working toward a degree to utilize this.  This Spring semester, for example, MCC is offering several non-credit classes, many of them in music – perfect for anyone brushing dust off an old instrument or looking to learn a new one.    

    For $75, you can conquer that lust for your old bluegrass days by taking “Continuing the Five-String Banjo” on 6 consecutive Saturdays from 10am to noon.  Not interested in the same old instrument?  For $65 and 5 consecutive Saturdays, you can take “Introduction to the Mandolin” and discover what it’s like to immerse yourself in an instrument rich in history and exotic in sound.  Not interested in any instrument at all?  Rather write songs and learn about how to become a mogul?  They have something for you at MCC too.  For $40 and 2 Tuesdays, you can enroll in “Songwriting and the Music Business” and kick-start your career.   

     These are just a few great examples.  This semester they are also offering “Beginning Guitar,” “Improve Your Guitar Skills with Fingerstyle,” “Vocal Instruction,” and “Playing the Ukulele.”  This isn’t meant to be an endorsement solely of MCC – it’s just a small CT school in my backyard, and a prime example of the superb things you can find in your own area.  There are so many colleges and universities offering similar courses for similar prices.  Credible educators at credible institutions are always better than those hokey seminars you find yourself considering after 3am infomercials.  

     And not only do community colleges offer these types of courses, but also many major universities.  Western CT State University, for instance, is a school with a great reputation for its outstanding music program.  They consistently offer enriching classes for low prices and at times convenient for even the most hectic schedule.  Enrolling in a refresher course or two is a great way to enhance your resume and suit you up for your budding career.

Kara Nielsen, Editor  www.BandSpace.Fm    (2/16/07)  

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So now the world knows who you are. But do you know what the world can do for you? It’s time to find out who else is looking out there, and what else the web has to offer. Whether you’re an amateur with no real experience but a hunger for music, a fresh graduate with a degree in music and no clue what to do next, or a veteran of the music industry who just needs a boost when it comes to cyber land, these sites offer exactly the types of search-oriented applications that a blossoming musician needs. And they’re so up-to-date that you may want to check all three every time you log on to your computer.

If you begin at www.backpage.com, you can look at, and also write, free classified ads to help you gather people for you band. Simply select the metro area that is closest to you, or that you would like to frequent with regards to shows. Then select the “Musician” option, and scroll to your heart’s content. If you don’t have time for a leisurely scroll, you can enter your specific search criterion in the search box at the top and be brought directly to the information you want. Need a harmonica player? You don’t have to go down the whole list. Just type it into the box, press Enter, and if they’ve got one, you’ll know within seconds. Keep this site on your favorites list, because it’s something that is updated every day and could be the key to you finding the perfect band mates. If you’re a solo artist, this page can still be useful. Not only is it good for people-finding, but you can also search for instruments and equipment. Need a new horn? Maybe a better PA system, or just a cooler mic? In the search engine, there are options for the retrieval of these and more. You can even search for lessons! If you need it, chances are someone’s probably got it.

Once you’ve checked out all the available people and equipment, go ahead and visit http://us.music-jobs.com  , where you can scroll through lists of available professional positions. If you see one you’re interested in, all you have to do is click on the link and enter the required information to contact the company. Post a resume, register your band (all for free, as usual), or just click on the “Jobs Board” tab at the top of the page to surf through all the available jobs. But be ready to work that scroller-finger, because they’ve got a very long list, and it’s always growing.

Once you’ve seen what they have to offer there, conclude your daily web journey by stopping by at  www.CtMusicScene.com . Click the “Enter Site” button in the middle of the page, and go on in! Here, you can check out hot new local music while taking advantage of the indulgent side-bar, with options such as “Gig Lister,” where you can post your gigs, “Recording Studios,” where you can choose from an extensive list of available CT studios, “Jobline,” which is another easy-to-use classified page, and even things such as “Booking Agents” and “CD Replication.” The overabundance of useful and fun options on this site is enough to make any musician giddy.

Finding work is never easy, especially for a musician. You need someone to show you the ropes, and that’s what we aim to do. There’s so much out there for you to utilize if you’ve got the drive and the ambition. Are you serious about a career in music? With these exciting options available to you at the click of a mouse, you can afford to be.

Kara Nielsen, Editor, www.BandSpace.Fm (2/9/07)

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