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!

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.

 

Starting Your Own Music Group

It isn’t easy starting out brand new. There are many things to keep in mind when you are trying to create a band, a choir, a musical, or any other collaborative musical idea you might have. It may seem intimidating at first but just do one thing at a time and it’ll be easy!

First decide on how committed you want to be to this project, and how much time you want to commit. Think about who else you might want to get involved in it as well. Starting something with people you are already friends with is great but sometimes tapping the talent in your community by holding public auditions can also be great. Also think about how leadership will work. Will you be making all the decisions? Will it be a group effort? Someone usually needs to lead the rehearsal so that there is a clear agenda and everyone is forced to work instead of just hang out and chat which will happen frequently.

You’ll also want to start think about necessary equipment that you’ll need. Most groups get what they need over time. You more than likely can’t afford hundreds of dollars of high quality sound equipment, nor should you spend that much before working with your group for a little while. But an amplifier and a set of microphones and a sound board will only run maybe $300-400. This shouldn’t be super difficult to get over the period of a year or so possibly earlier. A lot of venues will already have at least some simple equipment so that you can go mostly acoustic for a while and earn some money for the group.

That brings me to my next question. What kind of venues do you want to perform at? Bars and coffee shops? concert halls? on the street corner? All of these are great venues and, outside of the concert hall, are pretty cheap to rent out. Some will pay you to perform, Some will need you to rent the space. Some will require you to give them some of the earnings from tickets. Just talk to the manager at various restaurants, bars, and coffee shops and see what you can find out, they’re usually enthusiastic about it if they have the space. Those are the best places when starting out. Concert halls are great as well but they can cost anywhere from $300-1500 depending on the size and popularity, but they’ll also almost always have sound equipment you can use and a live sound engineer for mixing and such.

One of the other biggest things you’ll want to plan on is music. You will want to have a few pieces already thought up before getting into it. I think it is probably best to plan out at least 30 minutes worth of a show before starting the group. That way you’ll know exactly what genre you are doing and be able to explain that to the other members that you invite to join you. If you aren’t super sure on what you want or what you want it sound like then at least have an idea of what you want help putting together so you can all create it yourself.

I highly encourage creating your own group so that you can share your creativity with others. You’ll find yourself learning so much and growing so much as a person when you work on music with others. Definitely try as many different musical things as you can to see what you like the best. Try being in choir, a musical, a band, get some guitars and jam with some friends and you’ll be surprised the ideas and creations that you will make.

 

Discovering Your Voice

Think of a song that you like and hum a few bars of it. Try to feel the sensations in your cheeks and nose and any other sensations in your face or throat. Keep your teeth apart while you hum. You should try to feel like you are yawning inside your mouth. Put a hand on  your Adam’s/Eve’s apple and try to feel that it is relaxed and low. No tension allowed there! Put more breath through your hum keeping all of these things in mind. You may start to feel extra vibrations called a vibrato. This is a natural sensation that means that you have completely relaxed your voice and are singing in the most healthy way for it. This is one of my favorite ways to warm-up and really explore the way my voice fits inside my instrument’s natural space.

The great thing about singing is it facilitates a level of body awareness that is otherwise hard to understand. After you start singing for a while you start to detect any discomfort in your face or throat and with the proper exercises you can start to alleviate that discomfort. Here are some stretches you can try out before singing or even just at the start of your day.

  1. Reach your hands up as high as you can you should feel it in your shoulders and upper back.
  2. Reach up as if your holding a large beach ball and bend at the sides and feel the stretch in your sides and rib-cage.
  3. Put your hand onto the side of your neck just above your clavicle and turn your head to the side feeling the stretch from the base of your cheek all the way down to the top of your shoulder.
  4. Breathe in as if you are sucking quickly through a straw then breathe out as if you are yawning, this will stretch and relax your larynx
  5. Breathe in on a nice yawn and then breathe out sticking your tongue out all the way, this will also relax your larynx and stretch the soft palette and tongue.

These will help you stay vocally healthy, relax your neck, larynx, and resonant space. These will help more than just singing as well! Talking is one of the hardest things on your voice, much more than singing in fact. If you ever have a big presentation, or a long day of customer service work, or anything where you need to speak a lot these will be a great help in decreasing fatigue.

Now hear are some good warm-up exercises that can help you explore your instrument and begin getting your voice placement in a healthy and comfortable place.

  1. Hum up a perfect fifth, which is the same interval as the first two notes in twinkle twinkle little star, slide up through the notes and back down. Don’t go too fast or too slow on this one. Let yourself feel buzzing in your nose and cheek bones.
  2. Now blow a raspberry on the same interval. Up and down smoothly. This can be hard for some people so if you need, you can put your fingers on the corners of your mouth to keep the muscles tightened. Make sure you are putting a lot of breath through this one. You’ll feel a lot of tingling in your nose and cheek bones after this.
  3. Using a comfortable vowel such as ee (usually ladies prefer this one) or ah (usually men prefer this one), sing a major triad, otherwise known as a major chord, a musical example would be the chorus in “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” by the Beatles. On the triad hold that top note and then go up another step and then back down the triad. This will help stretch your range a bit so those high notes can start getting easier.
  4. Sing down a major scale and then up the scale to the fifth on an ooh. If this helps you would be singing Do Ti La So Fa Mi Re Do Re Mi Fa So Fa Mi Re Do. This one should be started somewhat high in your range. This will help smooth out the different parts of your voice. For males falsetto and for girls your high voice, or head voice, should start to kind of blend into your lower voice. Your voice will probably crack on this one but that is okay. Let it happen and work to mitigate that until it is mostly gone. This will help ease all sorts of tension and it’s my personal favorite warm-up.

You should have a good place to start for improvement now! Something else to start understanding about your voice is that you aren’t going to be amazing immediately. This is a never ending journey. You won’t sound like Justin Timberlake or Adele overnight. It is totally okay to try and sound like them if that’s what you want, but just remember that your voice is always going to be unique and that is okay.

Learning anything new can be frustrating at times, but if you take it in stride, day by day, you can allow yourself to improve and really start enjoying the instrument that your were given!