Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Transitioning From Covers To Original Music

Band
There are a lot of great bands out there that play cover songs and want to break into doing their own material, but find it difficult to do. I just saw a band like that recently, which prompted me to repost the following from a couple of years ago.

"I’d venture to say that almost all bands start by playing cover songs. After all, what better way to get your chops together than by emulating something already tried and true - i.e. a hit song.

The problem comes when a band or artist begins to gain some popularity as a result of playing cover songs, yet has aspirations of one day playing their own music. Unless you’re extremely clever right out of the box, chances are that your self-composed material doesn’t get the crowds going the way the cover material does. This means that as soon as you begin to play one of your own, that hot enthusiastic crowd suddenly goes ice cold, making you feel like your song just isn't cutting it.

Before you begin to think that way, remember that it’s not your fault that your material doesn’t get the same kind of response. A hit record has usually been finely crafted by a slew of experts, and it’s been burned into your audience’s consciousness over a long period of time. How can you compete with that? Chances are that through no fault of your own,  you weren’t able to put nearly that same kind of time or effort into your material, and of course, it's all new to your audience.

So how do you make the transition from cover artist to playing your own material? Try these four steps.

1. Take what you think is your best song and work it up show-wise so it’s the best song in your set. This means that you concentrate on the dynamics of the song, the lighting, and the movement of the players on stage. Don't know what I mean? Watch a concert by your favorite band or artist. At some point during the set (or several times even) the show will peak thanks to something that goes beyond just standing there and singing and playing. That's what you want to do. I realize that it isn’t as easy as it sounds, but this is a step you’ve got to take.

2. Connect that song to one of the hot cover songs that you do that's similar in theme and/or tempo, then play them together in a medley.  Keep working on it until your song get's the same response as the cover because it probably won't happen the first night that you play it. Don't get discouraged, these things take time to perfect for every artist or band, even the hit makers.

3. After you’ve gotten your audience used to one of your songs, use the same technique to put a second, then a third song into your show. It's a gradual process, so just be sure that both your songs and the show around them are as well-crafted as you can get them. It's quality you're going for, not quantity.

4. Finally, since you have to still play cover songs for the time being, don’t play them exactly like the record. Don’t be afraid to give them your sound. Remember that you're audience is digging more on the familiarity of the song rather than how close to the record your performance is.

Remember that the above steps won’t work if you can’t write a song to save your life, your arranging ability is hopeless, or you don’t put the requisite work into the show. But if you do, this can be a way that you can gradually transition out of being just a “cover band.”

By the way, at all costs, don’t call your songs “originals.” This one word signals amateur and labels the song as inferior in the audience’s mind. Instead, use “my (or our) music” or “my (or our) songs,” or better yet, don’t even identify it. If it’s any good, people will find out soon enough who wrote it."

If you want more band tips, check out How To Make Your Band Sound Great, or read a few excerpts at bobbyowsinski.com.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Visualize Your Mix

Neve console in Village Studio A image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
The Neve console in Village Studio A

Most mixers can hear some version of the final product in their heads before they get too far into the mix because they’ve already heard rough mixes of the song many times during production. Even if an engineer is brought in just for the mix, he'll listen to all the elements several times in order to get a picture of what the final product will be like before he really gets down to mixing. 

Until you have a certain amount of experience, you need a few questions to help mold your vision of the mix beforehand. Here's an excerpt from The Mixing Engineer's Handbook that shows that the way to do that is to go back to the six mix elements (balance, panorama, frequency, dimension, dynamics and interest) and ask yourself:
  • How do I imagine the final balance?
  • How do I imagine the instruments EQ?
  • How do I imagine the panning?
  • How do I imagine the compression?
  • How do I imagine the ambience in the track?
  • What do I hear as the most interesting element in the track?
Even if you can answer these questions, you may still not have a full picture of your final mix, but you’ll have at least a general idea of where you're going, which is the first step to a great mix.
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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Car Stereo Than Senses Your Mood

The car stereo as we know it is about to change in a big way. It's been predicted that by 2015 some vehicles won't be equipped with a radio, pulling programming directly from the cloud (check out this article about Harmon's Aha Radio). A little more of what to expect was recently demonstrated by Gracenote at Music Hack Day in San Francisco, as they showed off a technology that could sense your mood and program your music to it.

Gracenote hacked into the vehicle performance data of a Ford Focus (a pretty advanced vehicle it turns out, which I had the pleasure to rent on a recent trip), then fed the outcome or their processing into the car's infotainment system. What you'd get is a different set of songs when you were going over 50 miles per hour from when you had the windshield wipers on, for instance. Once it learns your tastes, it connects the triggers of the vehicle's performance directly to them, so you get your own custom programming built for your driving.

Here's a video that shows the hack in action. Keep in mind that this is still pretty primitive, but it gives you a bit of an idea of what we may be in for in the future.



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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Passport For Your Instrument

US Passport image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
I've posted here a few times in the past about Gibson's problems with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (see The Gibson Tonewood Debacle, The Feds Threaten Gibson, and Gibson Gives In Or Does It?) where the factory had been raided thanks to an outdated provision of a law regarding the import of wood from endangered trees. The repercussions of the raid set off a panic in the touring community, where the possibility of an instrument being confiscated by Customs officials because the wood of a vintage instrument didn't have the proper permits made musicians everywhere want to leave their instruments at home locked up in a vault.

Now it looks like some relief is on the way, although with an unusual twist.

At the recent global biodiversity conference in Bangkok, Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe suggested a somewhat inelegant, but workable solution that could help traveling musicians who live in fear of losing their instruments to a over-vigilant official.

The idea is that your instruments would be issued a "passport" that would be good for 3 years and be honored throughout the world.

There are no details about the complexity of obtaining the passport and what would be covered, but the proposal is only one of 70 at the conference that will be voted upon in the next 2 weeks.

There hasn't been any word on the competing proposals, but whatever one is chosen, it's a lot better than what we have to deal with currently, where uncertainty prevails. In the meantime, all we have is a take on the NRA slogan - "I'll give you my instrument when you pry it from my cold dead hands!"

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Music Gear Monday: Focusrite iTrack Solo

As I reported to you in my recent NAMM update, one of the things that surprised me this year was how little was introduced for the iPad. Maybe it was that we all expected last year's trend to iOS to pick up steam, but it never did as predicted.

That being said, the iPad wasn't forgotten by everyone. In fact, Focusrite came out with a series of iOS interfaces that now make recording on the iPad very convenient. One of those is the iTrack Solo, which is brilliant in that it contains everything you need to turn the iPad into a real recording device.

The iTrack Solo has two inputs, one mic input and one instrument, as well as a monitor control and headphone output and zero-latency recording ability. It even comes with the proper interface cable, which always seems to be an add-on accessory with these types of devices.

Check out the movie below, which provides an overview of the device during the tracking of a song, and the iTrack Solo page on Focusrite's site.



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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

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