Spilling the Milk

Have you ever been on stage and made a mistake? The answer is probably yes, because everyone makes mistakes. It what makes us human. What sets us apart from other groups is how we recover. During my last performance “Some Nights” by FUN, I was giving out the starting note which is a ‘G,’ wait no, it’s ‘D.’ Oops. My group just hummed it and then looked at me all with confused looks when I started counting them off, then right before the cue, I stopped and gave the correct pitch. We all laughed along with the audience and my face turned red. But we recovered and stayed poised and it was fine.

The important thing is it’s not about the mistakes you make but about the greatness that you do achieve.

My group was part of this showcase last year which was just a bunch of groups in northern Colorado putting on a concert to show off all the different voices we have out here. My favorite part about the whole thing was that no one was perfect or flawless, but they also all had strengths that other groups didn’t have. Some were incredibly entertaining with their choreography and energy, but their harmonies weren’t perfectly lined up. One group had a really cool arrangement of a Gorillaz song, but their balance was kind of off. And one group had their soloist reading the lyrics on their phone the whole time. But regardless of any little mistakes or weaknesses, every single group had a wonderful performance and it was a wonderful showcase of talent.

And just to prove that everyone makes mistakes and isn’t perfect check out this video below of my favorite group making some mistakes.

So comment below hilarious mistakes you might have made or seen, See you next week!

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The Finished Product: How to Record Your Music

I have been working on getting my music recorded and this is my first result. It is simple and anyone can get something like this together successfully and it will be the first step in gaining a foothold in musical communities. Below I will discuss the recording process.

How necessary is it to record your music? Will it help you reach your goals as a musician?

I have so many goals as a singer. To teach, to perform on stage, and to record. All of these things are something you are going to do at some point in your musical journey but the hardest and most expensive part is going to be trying to get a recording. It is not as hard as you might think.

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The first thing you need is a recording studio computer program. Audacity is a free recording program that is perfect for the starting musician. It is easy to use and a great resource for anyone getting started. There are a few important effects and tricks you’ll need to learn. Outside of the basics, you’ll want to learn a few key effects like equalization, normalization, and noise reduction. These will make your music sound very professional even with a not so great microphone. A few other programs to check out if you want to spend the money on them are ReaperProTools, Cubase, and Logic (Mac Only). Each has their own different cost and learning curve with Protools and Logic being the highest and Reaper being the lowest. They all usually have student discounts as well so if you are in school make sure you get that because it will save you a lot!

Now that we have covered the stuff that can be free, let’s talk about Equipment!

You will want a decent microphone. The built in laptop microphone is okay to start out, but definitely not what you want. I personally own a Blue Yeti microphone and it is pretty great. It picks up everything with beautiful clarity. The best way to pick out a microphone though is to go to your local music store. Try and find one that isn’t a chain but is locally owned. They tend to be run by real musicians that have used the product and have real experience with different things.The most important thing is definitely do not spend less than $100 on a microphone. Trust me, it will be worth saving up for. You’ll also want a decent pop filter for your microphone. It is the foamy/cloth thing that goes in front of the mic to avoid picking up too much of your breath when you use plosive consonants like Ps or Ts. They aren’t very expensive and you don’t need to send a lot on it, just make sure that it will attach to your mic easily. You also might want an adjustable stand to make it more convenient to record instruments or if other people are also going to be recording. But that isn’t as necessary. Lastly you’ll want a decent set of noise cancelling headphones. You’ll want to hear your playback on something that can pick up every little detail so that you can make sure you eliminate any small mistakes.sheetsnthings123

Now that you know what software and equipment you’ll need, you will want to set up your recording space. What you will want is a quiet room that is as sound proof as possible. Windows, wood floors, and other hard surfaces reflect noise creating extra sound that your microphone will pick up. To limit those noises you’ll want a carpeted room and what I did for my recording was hung up thick sheets along the walls. If you don’t mind spending money though, you can always buy the kind of sound-proofing foam that professionals use but I would only do that in a room that isn’t very easy to get quiet.

So that is everything you need to do it yourself, though that isn’t your only option if you want to record. Finding a studio that will help you record your music can be a really wonderful experience. It can be pretty expensive though. It can be a few hundred up to a thousand dollars per track. If you’re in school though you might be able to find some budding audio engineers that want to practice. Then you can both get some great experience recording. Or you can also see if there is anyone who would let you do a track for free just to see if you want to record with them. If you have a new band sometimes studios will run special promotions to get more people to come use them. So make as many connections as you can with other musicians to try and find those deals!

The main thing to know before going to a studio recording is have your music learned 100%. This might seem somewhat obvious but you, and anyone recording with you, need to be able to play your part independently and flawlessly. You can’t do any practice or last minute changes that you haven’t rehearsed on a studio engineers time. They often get booked solid and any time you spend figuring out your harmony or instrumental part is huge waste of their time and your time. You will also want to be as professional as you can when dealing with them. No cussing, no attitude, and be super respectful. The connections you make with your local studios can be incredibly helpful to your music career. They can help you get gigs and recording with other groups. They can help you meet producers that could be interested in your content. Working well with an audio engineer will have an amazing effect on your music. They are musicians too so it is somewhat of a collaboration when recording with one of them. They can also give you tips for working with a microphone that will be super helpful if you decided to switch to doing it yourself.

So get started on recording! And if you like my song go ahead and give it a like on SoundCloud, I would certainly appreciate it. If you have your own music I would love to see some links in the comments to your own work. If I like it then I’ll give you that helpful thumbs up, and offer constructive critiques to help you out!

 

 

The Best Ways to Market Your Music

Working in the field of music can be really difficult, you have to become your own independent business. One of the hardest things about running your own business like this, is finding work and getting offers to do work. The nice thing about it though is once you start getting a few gigs your business will start to snowball and you will receive more and more work. But if you really want to be a successful musical entrepreneur then you need to get online and get your art shared with as many people as you can.

Facebook: This may seem obvious to some people but Facebook is my favorite resource for myself as an artist. I use it right now for my A Capella band Mainstreet. We use it when we want to audition new members, to market big performances, and to keep everyone in the loop on what we are doing. Every year we send out invitations to all of our friends to build up followers and in about two years we managed to get 1700 likes so far. Now that doesn’t sound like as much as famous bands get but if you think about the community you are in that is a lot. We get a few invitations through Facebook for paid gigs every year! So push you group with your friends, push your social media at your performances, go to open mic nights and pass out cards with your info on it. It is that easy!

Soundcloud: This is a great place to post your music, and also find other artists you like. It’s easy and fun to look around. Something you will want to do with this to build followers is find people you want to follow that fit your genre. The more things you follow the easier it is for others to find you. It also makes it easy for you to post your music on other media outlets.

WordPress: Start a blog! You can do one like mine, or post updates or journal entries on what is going on in your life. It is really important to have a website to be able to direct people to if they want more information. It can also be a great place to sell your music as well. Mainstreet has a website as well and we have videos of some of our performances, updates on our current members, and there is a spot where people can request us for gigs there as well. WordPress is great because it’s free and easy to use. There are other blog/website websites though, so find the one that works best for you.

Youtube: This is a great place to post content for people to watch you sing. It’s always more fun to see the artist that is performing than just hear them like on Soundcloud. It is also a great way to share any news about yourself, upcoming gigs and to collaborate. It is good to work with other artists, especially ones who also have Youtube channels so that you can pool your viewers and get more and more popular. If you do manage to get popular you can even make money directly from Youtube, though I wouldn’t put all my eggs in that basket.

Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter: These three all have their own great functions and it is helpful for any artist to have as many social media accounts as you can. The more platforms you post on the easier it is for people to find you. The more views, retweets, comments, and likes you get the more visible you are to the world. The more visibility you have, the more gigs, and opportunities will present themselves. And your posts can be repeated between each social media. Any of your Facebook posts can be tweeted. Do a short video for Instagram and also do the same one for Snapchat. That way you don’t get too overwhelmed by all of the things you have to post.

It is important to note that exposing yourself on the internet means that occasionally you will get some haters. Just ignore them or take them as constructive criticism if it is possible. But there are plenty of options to get yourself out there and market yourself as an artist so that you too can be a successful musician.

 

Power Performing

One of the hardest thing with music is actually performing. Getting on stage and remembering all of the techniques you’ve practiced. I feel like whenever I perform I lost about 30% of things that I practiced. There are several things that you can do to combat this though.

First! Practice so much that it becomes habit. Remember though, perfect practice is the only way to have a perfect performance. Pay attention to everything you do and make sure you don’t let anything weird things creep in like strange hand gestures, weird tenseness in your face, or closing your eyes too much. And practice in front of a mirror, that way you can see if anything looks extra strange.

Second, all of your expression should come from your face. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use your body as well, but any gestures you make should be deliberate, clear, and big. If you don’t think a line deserves a big physical gesture than it doesn’t need any physical gesture. Your arms should just hang loose by your sides if you’re not using them. One warm-up exercise you can use to get use to this is sing on an “ah” up a fifth and then descend back down. While doing this lift your arm up and gesture out and then as you descend just let it fall naturally. You may feel tension and feel it want to descend slowly, but don’t let it! Just let it fall limp. Try this with other gestures like putting your hand over your heart, or on your neck, or wringing your hands together, but each time allow your arm to just drop naturally afterwards.

Third, practice your technique through your character. If you’re having trouble take big breaths then take a breath like your character might. Are you surprised? excited? sad? bored? It is always important to make sure you still maintain your posture though so don’t let your expression enter your body too much.

Fourth, your natural slate. Look at yourself in the mirror and completely relax your face into the most normal you can get it. This is your slate. This is the natural pallette you were given to express with. Maybe you have more of a frown in your face, this means you have to try harder to look happy, but less to look sad. Experiment with this and see what works best for you.

Now the most important, when you are outside of the practice room and on stage. When you are on stage and all your nerves are coursing through you, there honestly not a lot you can do to overcome that. You are going to feel nervous, and that’s okay. All you need to do is look down for a second, get in character, take a few deep breaths, I like to think of one or two important techniques that I need to sing well, then look up, and perform. It is that simple. It could feel like forever, but your audience wants the best you they can get, so give it to them!

An amazing book that covers some of these topics, and much more is Power Performance for Singers. Check it out and I’m sure you will learn a lot!

Compose your own Music!

One of the greatest things about singing is it is so easy to get started writing vocal music. Literally anyone can compose an interesting and new piece. Most people have a range between 3 and 4 octaves which is 36-48 distinct notes available on your instrument. The number of variations using 48 notes is well over several billion, which means that anyone can create a unique song by just humming for a little bit.

You can go about making music any number of ways. Some people will take a melody they like and add words. Others will take words and put it to music. I personally like to just get a chord progression going on my guitar and then just start singing and then recording whatever comes out. You would be surprised how easy it is so long as you just let yourself loose. Don’t get too in your head about it, just let it flow out of you and express your feelings. It can be incredibly therapeutic.

There are many things that can help you start writing. It is very, very, helpful to know how to play guitar, piano, ukulele, or any other good accompaniment instrument you can think of. If you don’t know how to play anything yet today is always a good day to learn something new. But if you want to start writing right away and hear it with someone, find a friend who can play. So many people out there know how and many of them will also be happy to show you how it’s done. People love performing. Not only that but writing music in a group can be so nice too. You can throw ideas back and forth until you come out with something you both love.

One of the most important things I’ll suggest to the budding writer is basic music theory lessons. It is so helpful to understand why chords sound the way they do and what chords tend toward others, knowing what kind of intervals sound good to the ear and which ones don’t, and know what rules are okay to break and being able to be experimental to see what you like. Musictheory.net is a great place to get some music theory lessons so you can start being able to read music and also notate it as well. It is really hard for me when I want to work with another artist and they don’t understand what notes are what. Sure you don’t want to get too bogged down rules, and terms, but it is so much easier to communicate what you want with basic music theory.

Speaking of music theory, one of the things you’ll want to understand is the four-chord song. All you need to know to make a good song is four chords. The technical order for it is I-VI-IV-V, or any variation of that order. If you already know how to play guitar then you know a majority of songs are just G, Em, C, D. Mess around with these chords and you can make any song you want and it’ll sound pretty decent. That being said learning to break these rules will certainly help you be extra unique, but it is a starting point! If you are still struggling with the idea of the four chord song, check out the video below by axis of awesome and you’ll understand what I mean.

So get out there and start writing. Put some lyrics on paper and figure what you want each note to do. Record and never ever delete it so that you can come back to old ideas. Don’t worry about how bad you think it is just express yourself and enjoy the process. Anything new can be frustrating but it is so rewarding once you get good at it!

Feeling the Rhythm

Many people new to music feel like they simply have no rhythm. In fact rhythm is one of the things that discourage people from starting on their musical journey, because they want to sing or play a song but it just sounds wrong and they can’t seem to get it right. But just like how very few people are clinically tone deaf, very few people actually have no rhythm.

Our bodies experience rhythms in everything we do. Brushing your teeth, taking a walk, texting on our phones, or just breathing in and out. All of these have their own rhythms that they follow. More importantly though, we all have a natural tendency to tap our feet or even dance when music starts. Sure some of us can’t dance as well as others, I know personally, my hips lie all the time. But we all are compelled to move regardless of ability.

Just like learning any art you must practice to get good at it. One of the best ways is to learn how to read music. A great explanation on that was done by Musicnotes. They explain how rhythms are divided into different kinds of beats.

If you already have that basic understanding though you my still struggle with actually singing in time. Most singers struggle with rhythm more than anything. We just focus on getting the notes first and the rhythms second and that is the WORST way to learn a new piece of music. If you sing the rhythm correct but the notes wrong then at least you are half right. If you sing the notes right but the rhythm wrong then you are 100% wrong. Your singing won’t align with the chords that accompany you and everyone will feel and hear how bad it is. If you are a little sharp or flat but completely rhythmic then people will at least feel the groove you are trying to portray. No one will want to work with you too if you can’t manage a consistent rhythm because it will just be uncomfortable and annoying to work with you.

The good news is there some exercises you can do to get better and eventually become one of the greatest rhythmists of our time. Here is a great exercise you can work on that will help you out!

Get a metronome or download a metronome app. Now set it to 60 beats per minute and count to 4 a long with it. 1, 2, 3, 4. It will feel really slow and it will be more challenging than you expect. Feel the time in between each beat until you have it down. Practice this daily if you can.

The most important thing to do is practice practice practice. Use the metronome for other stuff too. Mess around. Come up with your own ways to use it. Also try using it along with your music practice. Eventually you’ll be able to do any piece in time and everyone will love working with you for it!

 

Exercise Those Pipes

Get that voice swoll

If you want to be one of the great singers then it is essential that you exercise your voice daily. If you take any days off then your voice will take an immediate turn towards bad habits.

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Man exercises his pipes while exercising.

It is vital to your singing career that you find a way to sing every day. The easiest way is to learn guitar and accompany yourself. You can also look up karaoke versions of all of your favorite songs on YouTube. The best way to make sure you’re keeping up with good technique is to join a choir either through school, church, or community-run choir. There are many ways to find local choirs in your area you can try using Meetup, or check in local community boards like at your local library or other places like that. You can also hire a voice coach if you have the money for it. The price can range anywhere from $40 on up to $150, and even higher potentially, for a half hour lesson. Schools are a great place to look because graduate and undergraduate students will be the cheapest and still have a lot to offer. There are also some studios that have multiple students which has the added benefit of occasionally running recitals so you can perform in front of others. Regardless of how you choose to sing make sure it happens every day.

Getting sick is one of the few exceptions because sometimes you physically can’t. You still can sing, but it is possible to damage your voice under those circumstances so be careful. If it hurts don’t do it! You will more than likely need sometime to recover back to your full voice afterwards. A lot of technique can go away when you are on vocal rest and it is different for everyone which areas are affected. It is up to you to figure that out. For me I lose my breath control first, so I usually do a lot of breathing exercises to get my lungs back up to full capacity. One of the things that affects most people is called vocal fry which is a creaking sound you can make by closing of the back of your throat and phonating. It is common in most people especially in the morning but it is even more common when you get sick. So do everything you can to talk in a higher voice after getting sick and most importantly if it hurts or wears you out then stop doing it.

Make sure you practice every day and you can become one of the great singers. I have a friend who could possibly be the next Justin Timberlake or Sam Smith because he has a serious passion for singing, and more importantly he practices every single day. So make it happen and reach your g