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So You Want To Record An Acoustic Guitar?

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So You Want To Record An Acoustic Guitar?

By Paul J. Stamler

The basics of a successful acoustic recording, explained…

Recording Acoustic Guitar

Recording Acoustic Guitar

It’s actually simple, right? Just put the guitarist in a room with good acoustics, put a mic 8″–16″ over the fingerboard and aim it just above the 15th fret (see Figure 1), and you’re ready to roll. But, as usual, there are subtleties, and that’s why we’re gathered together today. Here’s a stream-of-consciousness look at recording this fundamental and wondrous, yet elusive, instrument.

 

Start with the instrument

The first step in recording a good acoustic guitar track is to make sure the guitar makes sounds that are worth recording. At the risk of repeating myself (I mentioned this in the last segment of my “First Steps” series in December 2016), you probably shouldn’t put on new strings at the start of the session; new strings hold their pitch well, yes, but on acoustic guitars they also ring and rattle like nobody’s business. If you change your strings 24–48 hours before you’re planning to record, they’ll have a chance to settle in and calm down.

 

You routinely use a humidifier in your case or inside the guitar, right? Unless you live in a climate with consistently high relative humidity (and never use an air conditioner or forced-air heating at home!), your guitar spends much of its time in a dry environment, and its tone suffers—the bass goes away, and the action gets troublesome. I routinely use a Dampit® humidifier, a piece of rubber tubing that contains a hunk of surgical sponge; you soak it for about 10 minutes, wring it out, and put it into the guitar’s soundhole. (Some people keep a slice of apple in their guitar case as a humidifier; it smells nice, but can attract ants.) If you’re not using a humidifier routinely, at least use one the night before you record; the tonal dividend can be remarkable.

I’m assuming your guitar is set up properly: no fret buzzes or rattles, comfortable action all over the neck, good intonation. If not, get thee to the town’s best guitar fixer and make it right.

 

Four categories

Now that the guitar sounds its best, what are you planning to record? There are four major categories into which an acoustic guitar recording may fall, and some of them need specialized recording techniques.

 

  1. Solo/twin guitar. Solo is self-explanatory, but the techniques used for recording guitar solos also apply when there are twin guitars interacting—the classic example being the longtime partnership between Doc and Merle Watson.
  2. Guitar accompanying a solo singer, such as a singer-

songwriter recording without a backup band. This may not work with the same setup as the solo/dual guitar recording if the musician sings and plays at the same time, since now leakage issues present themselves. If you play the guitar part first, then overdub the voice, obviously leakage isn’t an issue.

  1. Guitar as part of a small ensemble. This might be a bluegrass band, or an Irish ensemble, or a small rock combo, but the salient characteristic is that the guitar still counts as, and is still recorded as, a full-range instrument. (But for caveats, read on.)
  2. Guitar as an element in a dense mix. This is a whole ’nother ball game; when the guitar is part of a large ensemble (whether live or overdubbed), it’s usually not recorded/mixed full-range. Usually the ensemble includes a bass instrument that takes care of the nether frequencies, so the acoustic’s low end gets chopped off to some degree.

Obviously, there are intermediate or hybrid situations. One classic example is Elvis Presley’s famous Sun recording of “That’s All Right, Mama”, where the guitar is certainly accompanying a singer, but in the presence of a small group (electric guitar and bass fiddle). There, the engineer (Sam Phillips) rolled off the bottom of the guitar’s sound to avoid having the guitar’s lower frequencies overlap the bass.

 

Mics and guitars

Which mic you choose for the task depends to some extent on the scenario you’re working in, although not as much as one might think. Guitars have a lot of bottom (particularly larger guitars, like dreadnoughts), and directional mics—cardioid, hypercardioid and figure-8—have proximity effect. That acts like an EQ which boosts the bass when the mic is close to the sound source. Even for a solo guitar recording, you probably don’t want that; you want full-range sound, yes, but not a boombox.

That’s where the 15th-fret position I mentioned above comes in; on most guitars, in most situations, you don’t want to fall into the hole. Some people think that the soundhole is the place to put a mic because “it’s where the sound comes out.” But that isn’t really true; most of the sound from an acoustic guitar comes from the vibration of the top, with the strings themselves contributing a small amount (their main job is to set the top in motion).

 

The hollow body of the guitar forms a resonator, which boosts the bass frequencies to a lesser or greater degree, depending on the body size. The hole helps tune this resonator, and what comes out of it is not the wide range of the instrument’s sound, but a spectrum centered around the note to which the resonator is tuned. This one-note sound is sometimes called “jukebox bass”, and while the strong bass can help the instrument carry in a bluegrass jam session (that’s why the Martin D-18 has become the quintessential “bluegrasser’s guitar”), it can interact with the microphone’s proximity effect to produce the dreaded one-note boom. One solution, if leakage from other instruments or voice isn’t an issue, is to record the guitar using an omnidirectional mic, which has no proximity effect. Even so, keep the mic away from the hole.

 

So back to my question: which microphone to use on that 15th fret (which is away from the soundhole)? What you don’t want is a mic with a shrieking high end. I read a recent review describing a mic with a rising response through its range, culminating in a +12 dB peak in the treble. Yes, +12 dB; that’s not a mic you want recording an acoustic guitar, as it will sound thin and wiry, and exaggerate pick and fret noises like nobody’s business. Even in Scenario 4, the small-element-in-a-big-mix recording, a mic with such an exaggerated response won’t produce good results.

 

In class a few weeks ago we did a mic shootout between some mics renowned for their ability to record acoustic guitar. We were using a not-particularly-fancy plywood-topped guitar; when the student brought it out and started playing, we were all pleasantly surprised by its tonal excellence. Cheap guitars have gotten a lot better in the last 20 years!

 

We didn’t have a chance to make the shootout comprehensive or scientific; we only had the chance to try a few mics. The students’ favorites (and mine) were the ones I predicted: the AKG C451B small-diaphragm condenser, and the Microtech Gefell M930, which has a large diaphragm but a small body size. Interestingly enough, the published frequency response curves on these mics are surprisingly similar (Figs. 2 & 3—our thanks to AKG and Microtech Gefell for permission to reprint these).

 

Over the years, those mics have become favorites for recording acoustic guitar. Their prices aren’t comparable, though; the M930 goes for about $1200 new, whereas the C451B can be had for about $500 new. Of course, the M930 will do a lot of other things well, though, like drum overheads and vocals—it’s become my “money mic” for many reasons, not just its usefulness on acoustic guitar. (Interestingly, my limited experience when I was reviewing the Neumann TLM 102 suggests that it might share some of the M930’s strong points on guitar.)

 

If you prefer a flatter frequency response on acoustic guitar, two good alternatives are the Shure SM81 and the Oktava MK012. The Oktava has interchangeable capsules that include cardioid and hypercardioid pickup patterns… and therein lies a tale.

Way back in the Paleolithic Era I recorded a musician named Bob Abrams in a Scenario 2 setup—guitar and vocal. I had eight tracks available for the recording, and I decided to try a trick I’d read about: putting a large-diaphragm Neumann U 87 on the guitar, with a couple of small-diaphragm Neumann KM 84s flanking it. Everything sounded fine, right up until Bob launched into some blues shouting.

 

When it came time to mix these songs, I discovered that Bob’s voice had leaked into the U 87, and the leakage sounded terrible. He was seriously off-axis, and many large-diaphragm mics have squirrelly response off axis. (The M930 and TLM 102 don’t, but they hadn’t yet been introduced at the time.) The leakage into the small-diaphragm KM 84s, however, didn’t sound bad; their response off-axis is pretty uncolored.

KM 84s, however, have an odd interaction with large-bodied Martin guitars; they “woof out” at the bottom. I suspect that this is a combination of proximity effect and saturation of their minuscule output transformers; whatever the cause, it doesn’t go away with EQ. Fortunately it wasn’t too obtrusive on this session, but would have been nice to avoid altogether.

 

The nice thing about Oktava MK012 microphones, however, is that they’re transformerless, and they don’t woof out. For recording a Scenario 2 (guitar+voice) or Scenario 3 (small-group) combination, I might use an MK012 with its hypercardioid capsule; that allows a little bit of leakage from the voice, but less than the cardioid capsule, and the off-axis response is still nicely uncolored. The hypercardioid capsule has more proximity effect than the cardioid, but a 100 Hz rolloff will usually cure that.

If you’re looking for Oktava MK012s, by the way, you need to get them from the official distributor (oktava.com). I mention that because there was a rash of MK012s on the market about 10 years ago that had failed to meet specs, and they were followed by knockoffs that weren’t really Oktavas. Go to the official source and save yourself some heartache.

 

What about Scenario 4, the dense mix? I’d actually choose the same mic I’d use for the other setups, making sure not to use one that woofs out or screeches. A little gentle boost in mixdown around 10 kHz (no more than a couple of dB) plus a steep rolloff of the lows should make it fit in nicely.

 

Other voices

I’ve only mentioned a few mics above. What about some others?

In an article I wrote for Recording several years ago, I touted the Neumann KM 84 (hero of my session with Bob Abrams). Unfortunately, the KM 84 is long gone, and its successor (the KM 184) is a very different-sounding microphone; though I’ve liked the KM 184 on flutes and mandolins, I haven’t had much luck using it on acoustic guitars. The KM 84 occasionally shows up on Ebay, though, and deserves mention here. I’ve had excellent results using it on Taylor and Gibson acoustic guitars; it seems to get along less well with Martins and their imitators, as it tends to woof out on them.

What about the venerable Neumann U 87, which I also lauded in that long-ago article? When you’re recording solo or duo guitars, without a singer, it can do a splendid job on an acoustic guitar—the U 87 has an unusual liquid quality that imposes itself over the guitar’s tone. It’s a very 1970s sound. Unfortunately, the U 87 now sells for about $2400, not including shockmounts.

 

Somewhere along the road, I had the pleasure of reviewing the Sennheiser MKH40, a small-diaphragm condenser mic. My memory of using it on acoustic guitar is that it had a unique ability to draw the listener’s attention. When it was on a guitar (say, in a small ensemble) you had to listen; the instrument just wouldn’t stay in the background foliage. That might be what you’re looking for or it might not, but in the right context it can be an enormously attractive sound. The MKH40 costs about $1200, the same as the Gefell M930.

 

Hear me in stereo

One alternative available for recording acoustic guitar in Scenarios 1 and 2 (solo/duo guitars, with or without a singer) is to mic the guitar in stereo. One way to do this on a solo guitar is to point two mics at the instrument’s body—one on the usual 15th fret, the other down by the bridge—panning them hard-right and hard-left respectively. This can produce a “bigger-than-life” guitar sound that spans a listener’s speakers—sort of like a 10′ acoustic guitar body. I’ve done this a few times; Julie Henigan’s album American Stranger has several examples. On that recording, I think I was using Shure SM81s on the guitar. When vocals leak into these mics from the side, their response is basically flat with a rolled-off treble.

The hazard in recording guitar with two parallel mics is that most guitarists move around a little when they play. (Julie doesn’t, luckily for me.) This changes the relative distances of the two mics, and two things can happen: first, the image of the guitar can shift drastically in the speakers, sounding like the guitarist just jumped across the room.

The other problem that can develop from the guitarist’s motion is comb filtering. If he or she twists the guitar so that it’s closer to one microphone than the other, cancellations and reinforcements will happen in the high frequencies—a 1″ difference in guitar-to-mic distances will produce a cancellation at 6.8 kHz and a reinforcement at 13.6 kHz.

For recording an acoustic guitar in stereo, therefore, I prefer to use an XY arrangement, using two cardioid mics (usually small-diaphragm) nose-to-nose, with their capsules angled at 110° and stacked one above the other (see Figure 4), and the whole assembly sitting—where else/—above the 15th fret.

 

The sound clip that goes with this article (downloadable from https://is.gd/RECJuly2017AcGuitarExample), used by permission of the artist, Phil Cooper, is one of my favorite acoustic guitar recordings. Phil was playing a small-bodied Breedlove C2 guitar, and I put an XY pair of cardioid Oktava MK012s over the 15th fret, panning them hard left and hard right. I think I rolled the bass off at 100 Hz to compensate for proximity effect, but there was no other EQ or processing used.

Can you do this when someone is singing? Yes, if you’re careful. If Phil had been singing on this track, I might have used the hypercardioid capsules on the MK012s; XY works with hypercardioids if you change the angle to 90°. And here’s something that might only work with Phil Cooper’s voice: I used to record him with an XY pair of KM 84s or MK012s at neck level (his neck, not the guitar’s), and I could change the mix of guitar and vocal by adjusting the mics’ angle. I did need to use a pop filter when I did that, as most small diaphragm condenser mics are inordinately sensitive to p-pops. The guitar was off-axis, but on the KM 84s and MK012s I was using, it actually sounded good that way… so much so that I occasionally recorded Phil’s guitar with the mics in that position even when he wasn’t singing.

 

Beyond the mic

The quality of your mic preamp matters a lot on acoustic guitar recordings. If the preamp is thin-sounding, or one-dimensional (flattening everything out until it sounds like a cardboard cutout), or hard and shrill in the high frequencies (the telltale clue is exaggerated pick and fret noise), your recordings of acoustic guitar will suffer for it.

I can’t emphasize this too strongly; too many low-priced interfaces include cheap mic preamps that won’t do an acoustic guitar justice. If you have a separate mic preamp, and can patch it more directly into the A/D converter, your acoustic guitar recordings can gain a great deal of depth, three-dimensionality and realism. Some interfaces have insert jacks; they’re worth their weight in gold at times like this.

Other manufacturers are putting better preamps into their interfaces—see, for example, Paul Vnuk’s June 2017 review of the Antelope Goliath. That’s good news for everyone, but especially for guitar players. Even if the recording’s destiny is to have its bottom chopped off for incorporation into a complex mix, you can make a track that fits more effortlessly if the preamp is good.

What about pickups? They used to be anathema for serious recordists; magnetic pickups made your acoustic guitar sound like a pawnshop-special electric, while piezo pickups often had a characteristic timbre that received the moniker “squacky”—if you’ve ever watched “Austin City Limits” you’ve heard it.

 

Well, pickups got better, and more important, the preamps used with them got better. It turns out that pickups (all pickups, not just piezos) really prefer to operate into a really high impedance, like 10 MΩ or more… that’s 10 million ohms. Preamps with input impedances like that used to be rare birds, but now they’re more common, and the “instrument” inputs on some interfaces have sufficiently high impedances too.

The singer-songwriter and virtuoso guitarist Joel Mabus has, for his last several CDs, blended a track from his pickup (via a good preamp) with the microphones on his guitar. The result adds just a little edge to the sound, in an engaging way. Check out the guitar sounds on his latest, a gospel record called Different Hymnals, for some examples.

 

In closing

The acoustic guitar is its own universe; listen to a recording by John Renbourn, or John Fahey, or Joel Mabus, or Doc & Merle Watson—listen deeply, until you get lost in the sound. Acoustic guitars are like that; their sound is endlessly complex and fascinating.

A certain renowned guitar player once said in an interview that he thought the sound of an acoustic guitar had much more variety and depth than that of an electric guitar, and was just plain “more interesting.” This purist rock-hating retro-folkie was named Keith Richards. If Keith thinks the acoustic guitar has the most possibilities, who am I to argue?

In any case, I hope this article will help you to record the acoustic guitar more richly, capturing the interest that Keith (and all of us) love. Enjoy!

 

[Reprinted by permission by Recording Magazine]

 

Paul J. Stamler is an audio engineer, educator, musician, and collector of vintage and historical audio recordings, living and working in St. Louis.

For more information on the 14th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

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Advice to musicians who aren’t getting major league results

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Advice to musicians who aren’t getting major league results: Artist Development Workshop: Image Identity Materials (I2M) Formula

by Tom Stein

Cam Nacson, SongwriterFor the most part, in today’s competitive music business, the responsibility for Artist Development has changed hands. Independent labels and entrepreneurial music artists have inherited the responsibility of nurturing new talent by fine-tuning their artistic and business development, and slowly growing their careers over several album releases. Developing a music career for the long haul is all about controlling one’s own destiny.

As an artist development consultant, aspiring musicians and artists regularly approach me with the question: what are the next steps I should take to develop my career as a recording/performing musician? I’d like to offer a few friendly pointers with this post to answer this common question.

Not knowing where to start can certainly feel overwhelming, because there are indeed many stages to developing an artist career, and many areas that need to be addressed. Over time, I came to see a pattern of perceived helplessness. I would need a much larger space to address all the aspects of artist development, so for now I am going to focus on the creation of your image identity materials, which I call I2M (pronounce: “I squared M”).

Bring Order From The Chaos

As with any complex endeavor, one must organize the work into sections, and devise strategies for dealing sequentially with each area. It is wise to take the perspective of music as a business, as a way of understanding the patterns of success and adopting the techniques that will lead you in that direction. I always recommend that artists study successful business role models and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. Information and inspiration are your weapons.

Most musicians sense that marketing is a key to “breaking in to the business” but again, don’t know how to begin. You can learn much from how others successfully promote themselves. Considering marketing strategies from the very beginning of your artist business development is one way to bring order to what seems like a plethora of tasks. Focusing on marketing your music will help you to organize all the other aspects of artist development in alignment with your goals.

A Magic Formula

I like to build and test models for everything I do in my own career. A potential formula for this early stage of artist development would be expressed as:

I2M(B + R) = Ma

Or: (Image Identity Materials) times (Branding plus Resonance) equals Market access. I could express this in several other ways that are considerably more complex, taking into account the demographic of the target market, viral marketing techniques, and social media, etc. but this simple equation will serve our purposes for now. I like this kind of simple equation because it helps us to focus on what we can do right now, and why we need to do it. Let me explain each part of the equation.

What Is I2M?

I abbreviated Image Identity Materials this way to highlight that your image and identity are intertwined, and each supports the other in a synergistic way. Image identity materials include, but are not limited to:

  • Artist/band name
  • Professional video
  • Photos
  • Color schemes, artwork
  • Special fonts
  • Websites
  • Social media pages
  • Recordings
  • Artist Bio
  • Attire
  • Press Clippings
  • One Page”
  • Logo
  • Posters, flyers
  • Merchandise
  • Stage set design

Your visual materials are super important because people decide in a nanosecond whether they like you based on visual impact, whereas it takes a bit longer for them to process the music aurally. In the digital era, if you don’t have compelling visual images people won’t likely ever make the decision to click a link to listen to your music, or go see you live. Images are key in defining who you are (your identity) to a potential listener and fan, and they do it quickly.

Your image materials should immediately convey the alluring aspects of your identity, forcing people to listen to your music. Importantly, your I2M needs to make sense to the viewer and match up with your music in a clever way.

*(B + R)** is Branding and Resonance*
*Branding* used in this context refers to the execution of your image identity strategy. It can refer to the crafting of the messages, the professional quality of your materials, the memorability of your name, your logo, color scheme, fonts, plus any other unifying elements that create superior impact. Successful branding is certainly crucial to the success of any marketing campaign. There is an overlap between I2M and your branding execution.

*Resonance *I use to describe how well your materials are received by your target demographic. In social media marketing circles, resonance is a measure of how many people access and share curated content. When a YouTube video is released and quickly gets millions of views, this is because many people like it and want to share it. Highly resonant memes and videos are viewed and shared millions of times over a very short period. Most people are quite familiar with this phenomenon by now.

*Adding It All Up*
To summarize: when you add high potential *Resonance *and effective*Branding* together, and multiply it by your *Image Identity Materials*, (with a little luck) it should give you *Market Access. *This last term is obvious, and dependent on your actual goals. The instant accessibility of image identity materials via the increasingly interconnectedness of the web is a powerful tool for gaining traction as an artist. The next step is to devise a monetization strategy, but that topic will have to wait for another post.

*A Few Final Tips*
Now that you are organized in your thinking, make a plan around my formula. Look at it as a project, and apply tried and true project management techniques to getting things done (read up on project management techniques if you don’t understand them fully). That means making a list of milestones, and creating a timeline for completion for each milestone on the list. Figure out what you can get done on your own, and what you need help with. Write out a brief description of each milestone, and collect reference materials. If you need a budget, figure out how to get it, and conserve your resources where possible.

These are the things that most serious-minded artists do when starting out. Not every part of the process is equally fun; sometimes it feels like work, because it is. It’s important to seek out inspiration, and make sure to enjoy your time in the sun, when it comes as a result of your planning, hard work, and dedication.

I welcome your comments and ideas.

 
About Tom Stein:

Tom Stein is a visionary musical entrepreneur, music producer, artist development consultant, arranger, bandleader and performer on electric bass, voice and guitar. He is also a professional educator; he teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and is the founder of Music Connectivity, a cultural diplomacy firm. www.tomstein.com

For more information on the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), please go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

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Top Seven Rules For Getting Music Gigs

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Top Seven Rules For Getting Music Gigs

by Tessie Barnett & Jessica Brandon

Are you looking for Gigs? Here are a few helpful tips for the best practices in the gig business.

Lord & LadyMany artists and professionals have built a solid, organic following with their talent but struggle to get beyond a certain threshold. It’s a point at which some artists give up and others get big. It is possible to grow your business to the level of name and brand recognition. It just takes consistent movement, time, and exposure. By incorporating these tips into your own business, you can attract loyal clients and jump to the next level in your career.

 

  1. Be Passionate

When you’re performing or engaging with your fans, there needs to be energy—and lots of it. An audience can very clearly see when an artist has become stagnant or bored. Having experience in your field is a benefit for obvious reasons, but after the initial excitement of performing wears off, you should be aware of how that affects your output.

Try to push yourself at all times. What would be an unusual addition to the song you’ve gotten hundreds of requests for? What could you bring as a visually appealing element to your performance? How can you get closer to the audience? The performers who involve their fans make a lasting impact, and those fans are eager to tell others about it.

 

  1. Be Open

Too often, entertainers will pass up an opportunity to perform because it doesn’t pay well—or at all. Yes, it’s a controversial subject and this is your livelihood we’re talking about. But in order to increase your exposure and networking opportunities, it’s going to require a little give and take.

Charity and nonprofit functions are just a few events that will request donated performances. We’ve seen many artists advance their business by taking advantage of this outreach. The event organizers responsible for raising funds for a particular cause have to entice people to attend. What better way to do that than with live entertainment? With that in mind, they’ll promote your talent to the community as it benefits you both.

These charitable events are typically attended by community leaders, business owners and journalists, so the exposure and networking opportunities can be well worth a performance donation.

 

  1. Be Everywhere

Speaking of networking…

It’s imperative to take advantage of the outreach capabilities available through social media. These days, artists are able to connect with fans more than ever, so it’s become easier for them to expect this direct engagement. In order to gain traction in your industry and build a loyal following, you’ll want to make yourself accessible. Your social media platforms can be used to promote your talent, of course, but it has increasingly become a way for your followers to get to know the person behind the talent.

Networking is about creating ongoing relationships. As your business grows and your calendar starts to fill up quicker, you may find it difficult to maintain each of these relationships. Your network can evolve on its own simply by displaying client reviews on your website. A recent consumer review survey showed that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Request reviews from your client right after a show when your performance is still fresh on their mind. This is the optimal time for feedback. Fans are still pumped by your intense energy and often times want to give back any way they can.

Another benefit to the review process is that it requires the client to list details that, over time, could be forgotten. Because they took the time to reflect, your performance can be imprinted in their memory which will make them more likely to recommend you.

We’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date with any new trends or practices that can help you get more gigs. Until then, be passionate, be open, and be everywhere.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” -Steve Jobs

 

  1. Know Your Music Inside-Out.

There is a need to be not just “good enough”, but GREAT. Why settle for less? Whatever developing stage you are at, go beyond it, re-commit yourself to your instrument or voice. Take lessons, or better yet, sit yourself down and watch on YouTube or at your CD player and choose a favorite musicians record, and listen closely to what they are playing. then re-play it, and re-play it again. Challenge yourself to go beyond your limitations. Who knows, maybe you will fall into some new territory, wherein you will find yourself, your “sound”, and increase your chance to stand out from all the mediocrity that is your competition.

Believe it or not, record labels love to hear innovative, accessible new sounds. Actually in their heart of hearts, that is what they are really hoping to hear on every new demo, and from every new act they go see at a live venue. You see, in the business of music, when we hear something new, original, and accessible to people, we can then invest in you with more security, believing that if we put our “label brand” on you, with our talents of promotion and marketing coming to the front, then we “have something”, and your music becomes our music, and we work together to broaden you audience appeal.

 

  1. Make Set Lists

To some this is a regular, fundamental practice. To others, there isn’t much thought put into it, or they don’t make one at all.

There are several advantages to taking the time to write out a set list:

When each band member knows what song is next, the show will run much smoother.

You can properly time your set.

You’ll learn how to make the show flow and reduce or eliminate “dead-air.”

You’ll be able to go back over it and review what worked and what didn’t work.

There is a definite art to constructing a good set list – especially one that works well over and over again. When it’s done correctly, you’ll consider keys, tempos, genres, and especially – your audience, and put it in an order that makes sense.

The primary objective is to take people on a ride by dictating the mood in the room with the way you put your sets together. Creating and utilizing great segues and medleys is also a must to keep things moving and to keep the crowd engaged. With practice and tweaking, you can come up with brilliant set lists that make your band look like pros.

 

  1. Pick the Right Songs

This is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of your live show. There are many factors to consider including your genre, the ability of the musicians in the band, the venue, and the type of gigs you are playing.

 

The priority here, of course, is to make sure that the crowd is enjoying the show. If someone has walked into the room where you’re performing, they’ll be much more likely to stay if they like the songs you’re playing. You’ll never be able to please everyone, so you want to focus on what the majority of people want to hear. It’s important to always remember that you are not playing for you, but rather, you’re playing for the people that are listening to you.

  1. Know Your Audience

As previously mentioned, your show and song list should be catered to the people in attendance. If you have a regular following, you should have a good idea of the kind of music that they expect to hear you play. Just like a company that has a physical product that they are looking to sell, your band has to have an intimate understanding of what the people want.

One of the best ways to determine the preferences of the crowd is to simply talk to them individually. Ask them what they like and don’t like, why they like you, and how they think you could improve. Quite often, you won’t even have to ask, and people will just voluntarily offer up information. Your job in this case is to simply pay attention and take it all in. Then you can process what you have to work with and base your presentation on what will yield the best results for everyone involved.

 

GigSalad is the largest entertainment booking platform in the U.S. and Canada. This marketplace connects event hosts with entertainment. GigSalad can help you do what you love.  www.GigSalad.com

For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to:  http://www.inacoustic.com

 

 

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5 Simple Truths I Learned About Music Career Success

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5 Simple Truths I Learned About Music Career Success

by Kari Estrin             

 

Derik Nelson, singer-songwriter

Derik Nelson, singer-songwriter

There’s lots of advice on how to have a successful career in music, but in the end, knowing these five tips will give you a “leg up.”. Of course, each of us may define what success is differently – but however you define it, these tips will also help you chart a steadier course along the way.

 

1) BE AN AUTHENTIC ARTIST

One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to be individual, be true to what special talents you have, what you’re writing and your vocal style. Although some artists may imitate others, your best shot (unless you’re into tribute bands) is in developing your own unique sound.

 

2) CRAFT YOUR ART

Sometimes the best song you ever wrote happened in five minutes with no edits. That is a gift from the muse, but that’s not always the usual case. Don’t be afraid to edit your songs to make them even better, take voice lessons if you need to hit the notes the way you’d like, or beef up your instrumental work with lessons when you’re starting out. Do what it takes to refine your sound by editing, rewriting, resigning and of course, practice. Reach out for help and expertise – it’s all around you and some of it is free for the finding!

 

3) DEFINE YOUR IMAGE/BRANDING

You may have written songs that are jazz, blues, pop, singer/songwriter and country, but just because you have all that talent, know what are you trying to project to your audience? It’s great to be multi-talented and to occasionally throw something atypical into a set artfully, but with so many choices of talent, you need to have a sound and image that people will instantly recognize as yours. Otherwise, you’ll dilute your appeal and have a harder time standing out above the crowd.

 

4) DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE/WHO DOES YOUR MUSIC APPEAL TO?

Do you understand who comes to see you and if so, do you know can you reach them? Is Instagram or Twitter the social media your audience prefer – or are your fans mostly on Facebook? Knowing your audience, the medium that they will respond to in order to engage them to come to live shows, sell your music and reach them on an emotional level is important.

 

5) BE BOTH PROFESSIONAL AND SHARP IN YOUR BUSINESS:

Arrive at gigs on time and prepared; thank those who work with you or do your sound, serve the drinks or do your backstage catering and let them know you appreciate them. When you’re starting out and even after you “make” it, making those around you comfortable and valued goes a long way to your longevity in business. But learn your business as well – there are resources, including info on the ‘net to help you know the best way to negotiate a contract, how to deal with conflict, what are common music business practices, etc. There are plenty of people who might want to take advantage of you in the business, so if you know more about best how it works and are savvy, you’ll be more protected. Although many bands we may worship have/had a lot of that “bad boy” image – trashing hotel rooms, demanding those brown M & M’s,that’s generally not the smartest way to think you’ll advance yourself or survive in the business these days!

 

Kari Estrin

Kari Estrin

Kari’s wide expertise in the music industry spans four and a half decades. Starting in the early 70’s to her concert/festival production days in the 80’s in the Boston/Cambridge area (Harvard, The Berklee, Symphony Hall, Newport Folk, etc) Kari carved out her national reputation. She managed/booked/tour managed guitar legend Tony Rice in the early 80’s and world music act, The 3 Mustaphas 3, who reached No. 1 in Billboard Magazine, truly establishing Kari as a sought after professional. Her groundbreaking Career Assessment System predates “coaching” and has helped a wide variety of artists, from beginning to established, to take their careers to new heights and expanded levels as Kari pioneered working with the “whole” artist in her integrative and holistic approach. She is also is an acoustic music radio promoter and her artists have topped the Folk DJ charts for roughly 17 years. http://www.kariestrin.com

For more information on entering IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

 

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7 Ways to Improve Your Music Recordings

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7 Ways to Improve Your Music Recordings

by Jessica Brandon

Today, I’d like to give you 7 ways to help you meet your music recordings and help you grow yourself as a music artist.

  1. Get focused on your target goals
Recording Guitar

Recording Guitar

A lot of musicians/music artists waste a ton of money on demos/recordings because they haven’t spent enough time choosing the right sound for their music act. Get clear about who you yourself as a music artist/band and who your audience is. Once you do this, you’ll cut your waste to zero and start getting maximum results from all your music.

 

  1. Fine tune your Unique Sound.

If you are still comparing and competing with other music artists, then your Sound needs work. We get comment from music artists describing themselves “I sound just like Ani DiFranco, but better”, or “I sound like the band “Kings of Leon, but more acoustic sounding”. Create a sound that makes your music the clear and only choice for your audience.

 

  1. Co-write your songs with another Songwriter, or Producer.

When you have run of ideas, you may want to co-writer with another songwriter or producer who may bring other ideas to the table to help you with your next song.

 

  1. Get into a Professional Studio to Record, Arrange or Remix.

Are you tired of your homemade recordings, sound and need fresh ideas? You may need to look for a professional recording studio and seek a music producer (with whom the recordings that the bands you recorded you respect).

 

  1. Test, Test and Test.

If you have a regular gig at a club (or try out at an Open Mic event), you may try performing your song and see what kind of reaction from the audience you get. If it doesn’t work, you can always tweek the lyrics and chord progressions when you get home.

 

  1. Get better at Songwriting.

Competition for attention of you and your songs are at an all time high. Too many music acts are sloppy and don’t give enough care to creating good, relevant, compelling songs —consistently. Learn the fundamentals of crafting compelling songs and resist the temptation to just whip something up and get it out. Poor songwriting will alienate your audience—sometimes permanently. While a consistent compelling songs will get them wanting you more.

 

  1. Record Your Music/Song Ideas As You Go Along.

You might be surprised how many of your great music and song ideas have “gone missing”.  Record your ideas on your smart phone or voice recorder as you go through your day. Just a one line change, a lyric change, a chord change may dramatically improve your song and go from good to great!

 

Doing one of these things will improve your recordings. Doing all of them could make a tremendous impact. Pick one or two to start and once you’ve implemented them; move on to another one (or two) on the list.

 

To enter the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to:

http://www.inacoustic.com

 

 

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