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Help! I’m Losing My Voice!

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Help! I’m Losing My Voice!

by Roger Burnley

Help! I’m Losing My Voice!

  Help! I’m Losing My Voice…

Respected vocal coach Roger Burnley has plenty of first-hand experience with voice maladies and he’s got essential advice for you on how to meet these challenges.

How can I save my voice?…

Many years ago, that was a question I had, because I suffered with severe vocal problems. When this was occurring, it was when I was only doing a few sets per month of about 45 minutes in length. I didn’t think that was very much time, so I should not have been losing my voice, getting hoarse, or having pain in my throat after a show. I knew in my heart that if this continued, I could never expect to tour or even do more than one show in a week! You see, after each show I would not even be able to speak the next day, let alone sing.

I was so frustrated that I began looking for help in any place I could. I went to many different vocal coaches, but none seemed able to even identify the problems I was experiencing. They couldn’t give me anything to correct it. As fate would have it, I happened to stumble upon a seminar on vocal health that was offered by an ear, nose and throat doctor in Beverly Hills, CA. It was a free seminar, and since I was desperate, I thought it might be a good idea to attend. The expert was Dr. David Alessi. He told us that he was doing this because he had worked with so many stars in music, acting and public speaking and saw first-hand the devastation that poor vocal habits could inflict on the voice––and these can end careers if they are not corrected.

At this point, I had begun to discover many things about the physiology of the voice, or how the voice is supposed to work. I struck up a conversation with Dr. Alessi, who was impressed enough with my knowledge to offer to take me even further. He began to refer some of his patients to me who had experienced vocal damage and were in need of rehabilitation. Most times, the vocal problems could be corrected with surgery or drugs, but those solutions might only be temporary if the patient does not change the vocal habits that caused the problem in the first place.

When a new client came from Dr. Alessi, they would come with a letter that described their condition. The letters were written in medical terminology, which I did not understand at all. Now this was well before the resources we have now on the Internet, so I had to go to the library to research these terms so that I could understand them and come up with an individual plan for each client.

One day, I received a client from the doctor who had been diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia. I had someone in front of me who had completely lost their voice and could not speak. Now the real work began. I wanted to know how to rejuvenate the voice and keep it healthy.

I learned some critical things. There are muscles that cause the vocal cords to open and close for singing or speaking, and if they are not operating correctly, it can lead to major vocal problems. The great news is these habits can also be changed.

The above diagram gives you a visual idea of the workings of the voice. It not necessary to understand all of this, but it is helpful to see where the vocal cords are located. Imagine, beneath them, the muscles that cause the cords to open and close. It is possible for those muscles to lose their memory or simply forget how they are supposed to operate. This was the cause of the spasmodic dysphonia mentioned earlier.

These are extreme cases, but it is the same cause of other vocal problems I have seen, including fatigue after singing, loss of vocal range, hoarseness and sore throats. I have also seen that many allergies, as well as acid reflux conditions, can be related to poor vocal technique.

An important thing to consider is that every voice is different and unique, so any adjustments needed to maintain a healthy voice must take into consideration the specific techniques and vocal production of the individual. Some people have thinner vocal cords. Some people have thicker vocal cords, which will cause their voices to be lower in pitch but can also present other problems because. There is always a solution.

In the diagram above, you can see that the sizes, shapes, thickness or thinness of any of these structures are all individual and therefore must be adjusted to the individual’s body for proper vocal production and maintenance.

One of the biggest obstacles to maintaining vocal health is the use of the swallowing muscles while singing or speaking. Most people who are having vocal difficulties will discover that they are engaging these muscles.

To see if you are doing this, first locate your swallowing muscles by putting your thumb under your jaw and swallow. Now try to speak or sing with your thumb in place and notice if they are coming down or engaging. If they are, you might have just located a major problem for you.

I have found that over the years, retraining the voice with exercises to eliminate the use of those muscles has resulted in my clients no longer getting hoarse or needing to cancel shows. They also have less frequent colds, and in many cases their instances of acid reflux decrease. Additionally, they regain much of the range they thought had been lost. The biggest thing is they begin to feel much more confident in their performances, and know they will be able to sing for the rest of their lives.

 

[Permission reprint by Music Connection]

ROGER BURNLEY is a vocal, performance and life coach. He believes that everyone has talent and ability needing to be discovered and developed. He guides his clients to gain vocal control, freedom, and confidence. Many of Burnley’s clients have gone on to achieve major success in the entertainment industry. Visit his website at http://rogerburnley.com/

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

 

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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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Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone to Achieve Success

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Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone to Achieve Success

by Wallace Collins

Wallace Collins

Wallace Collins, Entertainment Lawyer.

Wallace Collins has experienced the music industry in many forms, breaking in as a music artist himself, and now represents numerous music artists as well as visual artists, designers, and media properties as an entertainment lawyer and intellectual property attorney.

 

In the most high profile court case Wallace was involved with, his client received the largest monetary judgment ever awarded for the use of a single “sample” in the rap song “Whoomp! There It Is”. He has written numerous articles for legal and trade publications, Billboard magazine, Entertainment Law and Finance and The New York Law Journal, and has appeared on many national television and radio broadcasts including Court TV and Hard Copy.

While it seems like Wallace had an easy road,  as the cliché goes, “looks can be deceiving”.  What first seemed like a monumental failure turned into a greater passion for life and ultimately, greater success.

Here’s Michael Nova’s inspiring interview with Wallace Collins…

 

Wallace, before becoming an entertainment lawyer, you were an artist yourself. Can you please share with us how you got your start and how you were able to get discovered by your first record label, Epic Records?

As a young teenager I was an avid songwriter inspired by The Beatles like so many others at the time. I formed bands to be able to perform my songs for an audience and to be able to record my songs.

It was a different era then where you recorded on a small cassette player at home then rehearsed in order to book time and record in a formal recording studio. We would save up what we could for months to afford to book a studio session and make the best demos we could.

For years we would send around our demos to record companies only to be rejected – until one day that changed. Long story short, one time we moved from a 4-track studio where we had started some basic tracks to an 8-track studio. There it turned out that our reel-to-reel master tape now had a lot more tracks, so we filled them up with overdubbed vocals.

We shopped that demo around and got interest from CAM, Jimmy Ienner’s production company that had worked with the Raspberries and he was impressed with what we had done vocally (even though we barely even understood what we were doing). That production company financed us making real masters in a real studio with a real producer, and when I was just 18, I was signed to a record deal with Epic Records.

 

And what happened after you were signed? This led to a second record deal with EMI?

Without getting into the nitty gritty of the record label shenanigans that went on in that world, our Epic single “Rock & Roll President” was not properly set-up and promoted so was not a hit.

Although it was released by Epic on the same days as Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” and Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music White Boy” – so we were in good company – when our single failed to get the traction that those other artists got, we were dropped.

We were heartbroken, but CAM believed in us as a band, and me as a songwriter, and so they financed some more recordings. They pitched us to United Artists records and we were signed again.

We were in the studio working on our album when we got the word that EMI had bought out United Artists. We soon realized that this was not good news since EMI stripped most of the artists off the UA roster, including us. So again we were without a record deal (in an era when you had to have one to be viable as an artist).

 

That’s unfortunate, but it seems like many bands were caught in similar situations around that time. Can you talk about dealing with the adversity you faced as a recording artist that led you in another direction?

After the Epic deal and the EMI/UA deal I was still just 20 years old, so I kept on working at my craft: writing songs, recording, and performing live at every club and venue we could play. The band line-up would evolve with other players over the years always in an effort to make it better and better.

We played New York clubs during the week and pretended to be a cover band on the weekends to make a go of it. In the early 80s we were playing double bills with The Smithereens at The Bitter End and Kenny’s Castaways in New York city – but when they got signed and we did not, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It seemed we were relegated to playing smoky clubs until the wee hours for meager pay as a cover band, and I grew to resent it. I had hit a sort of glass ceiling that allowed me to play music, but not the way that I wanted to.

As I explained to a friend by analogy, I wanted to be a painter, but instead of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel like Leonardo I was relegated to painting houses – not the level of painter sufficient to satisfy my ambitions at the time.

I did a lot of soul searching while I continued to play music in the club scene.  I was not sure what to do at the time, but I knew I needed to change course. Gradually, I gravitated toward the idea of law school, something that would take me completely out of the scene I was in and let me reinvent myself and then come back to the music business reincarnated.

 

So is it fair to say that you would never have found your passion in life as an entertainment lawyer if you had never experienced the disappointment you felt as a music artist? In other words did the setback in your journey eventually lead you paradoxically in the right direction?

Absolutely, although I felt that I had failed at my life’s goal of being a successful songwriter and recording artist, and I was devastated at the time, having the courage and fortitude to make the extreme change necessary to change course at the time proved to be a lifesaver.

I was stuck on a path that was not leading me where I had wanted to go, and there were certain enjoyable elements of the musician’s lifestyle that acted as a powerful inertia for me.  However, as hard as it was to leave the laid back life of a musician living day to day, and engage in the rigors of law school, the change functioned like a rocket launch in moving me to another path in life.

Had I not been brave enough to push myself to make the radical life change, (although there was still a bit of a rocky road ahead), I would never have found the passion I now enjoy as an entertainment lawyer.

 

So then your journey took you back to law school, but upon graduation, you couldn’t find work in the entertainment industry, so you had to take work in corporate law while looking for the right opportunity to get back into the entertainment industry. Was that a difficult process for you and how did you overcome that challenge?

Although many of my fellow students did not enjoy the rigors of law school, for me it was invigorating. It was hard work, but I was motivated and I enjoyed the challenges.

After graduating there were hefty student loans to pay off and no options for me to get a job with a record company or entertainment law firm since they all wanted lawyers with experience.

I had no choice but to take jobs with corporate firms to get that experience (and pay off some of those hefty student loans). For a few years the big paychecks at the corporate law firms were somewhat satisfying (and practical), but after a while the work seemed soul-killing for me.

I had no passion for the daily work. I was heading in the right direction toward my goal, but I realized that I still was not there yet. However, since some of my old musician friends and others I had known in the record business knew I was now a lawyer, they contacted me, and I started doing some work for them on their contracts on weekends. I found my moonlighting legal work and the music business contracts (and interacting with the music people) was more satisfying than what I faced at my day job at the corporate law firm.

 

And how did you eventually work your way into the entertainment industry again?

It took some time, but the music business work I did weekends and evenings eventually led to more and more.  Friends told friends, and eventually I was getting more and more inquiries – even though I still had my big law firm “day job.”

I kept hustling as best I could to make more and more contacts in the music business, both through musicians and through other people I met that worked at record companies. I attended music business conferences and started writing articles for Billboard and other trade papers.

Eventually, I was invited to speak at some conferences.  I came to realize that if I was willing to take another risk, leave the comfort of the big law firm life and strike out on my own, the risk might bring a reward – and it did!

 

So how were you able to build up your reputation in the entertainment industry to where you were able to reach a level where you felt you were achieving the kind of success that you dreamed of?

Lucky for me, when I struck out on my own as an entertainment lawyer it was the early 1990’s – still a boom time for the record industry. CDs caused many people to re-purchase the same music they already owned on vinyl or cassette along with new music, so money was rolling into the record business.

Rap music was burgeoning, and since some of the bigger entertainment law firms were overloaded with their rock star music clients (and did not necessarily see the future of urban music), solo practitioners like me could pick up business.

Again, luck and timing played a part once I moved myself into the right place. One day an unknown artist called me for a consultation, and we ended up doing a deal with Puff Daddy’s BadBoy Records (and then more and more artists that were going to get signed to BadBoy came to me).  A year or so later the same thing happened with Jay Z’s Roc-a-Fella Records: one artist came to me to do his deal, and once I did that deal, the word spread, and then many more artists and producers working with that label came to me.

To be honest, it just kind of kept going and growing like that, and I built it up one brick at a time, until I had built up an entertainment law practice of my own. All the time I kept writing articles and speaking at conferences to it all worked to reinforce what I was doing day to day.

 

So now as you look back on your journey, what have you learned about overcoming adversity in life, as in our phrase, “fall down seven times, rise up eight”?

The secret to success has certainly been “fall down seven times, rise up eight” for me. There are moments in life where you can stay on the path you are on, even if you are not satisfied with your life just because it feels comfortable and is easier than pushing yourself to make a change.

You need to trust your instincts, and use your mind to overcome the resistance around you. Pushing against the inertia of habit and lifestyle was not easy, but the reward has been great for me: from bedroom songwriter to Epic recording artist, from singer in smoky clubs to Fordham law school, from stuffy corporate law firm to entrepreneurial entertainment lawyer in control of my own destiny.

Each move required me to push myself out of my comfort zone to reach further for something more – but each time the new life turned out to be much more satisfying.  I believe that loving what you do and doing what you love for a living is worth a million dollars (no matter how much or how little you actually make doing it). The secret to having a good life is to be happy doing what you do.

 

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

 

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How to Choose the Right Songs for Auditions, Showcases and Live Performances

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How to Choose the Right Songs for Auditions, Showcases and Live Performances

by Coreen Sheehan

How to choose songs to perform for live performancesEvery performance has the potential to impact your career, so it is important to choose the right songs to perform for auditions, showcases and live performances. The comments made by judges, A&R reps and audiences can either help or hurt your prospects for success at your audition, showcase or bookings. Preparing to nail any one of these performances takes a lot of thought before you even begin rehearsing. In the following article, professional singer and instructor Coreen Sheehan offers insights that every performing artist should take to heart.

1. It Must Be PERFECT
Always perform songs that you have honed to perfection. Do not choose songs that you can’t perform flawlessly. If you can play or sing the song at 98 percent, that’s still not good enough! Find a way to correct that two percent or choose something you can perform perfectly. For example, if that two percent is a higher note that is difficult to sing, then sing a lower alternate note that you can deliver perfectly.

However, if there’s another problem you can’t fix in time for the performance, choose a different song. Think about a time when you went to a show and the artist performed great up to a point, but then suddenly played or sang some bad notes. What did you remember about that show? The bad notes are more than likely what you remembered. Most people won’t say, “Well, let’s ignore all the flaws in that performance and only think about the good parts.” In the real world, it doesn’t work out that way. Obviously mistakes can happen during a live show, but if there’s a problem that you know about in advance, avoid showcasing until you’ve solved it by working out the issue(s).

2. Choose the Right Songs for the Audition
If you are instructed to perform only a single song, choose one that is up-tempo. If you are instructed to choose two songs, choose an up-tempo song and a moderate to slower tempo song. Perform the up-tempo song first, followed by the slower song. Often judges will have you perform the first verse and chorus of the song and make their decision based upon just that. Vocalists often think that singing a ballad is the best move. But they may not realize that the judges have been auditioning vocalists all day, or for days! And guess what the judges have been listening to all day long? Ballads. If you sing an up-tempo song, and you sound awesome, you will energize the atmosphere. Grabbing the judges’ attention immediately will help your performance stand out from the rest.

3. Choose the Right Songs for the Showcase
Normally a three song setlist is performed for a showcase event. Showcasing your songs with versatility is best. Your performance should include an up-tempo, slower-tempo and moderate-tempo song selection. Each song should represent your music genre. Sometimes bands/solo artists will play an original song that sounds like it belongs to another genre category. To a professional that will suggest the artists haven’t found their sound yet. It is best to prepare three of your best songs that represent your style and genre. You should also rehearse with segues from one song into another without interruption so that there is a smooth transition from song to song and that all songs are not in the same key. Without a segue, the dead space between each song can seem a bit awkward, especially since you’re only performing three songs. Prepare properly and rock your showcase with segues so you will appear to be a professional.

4. Choose the Right Songs for the Live Performance
Arrange your setlist so it has a dynamic musical flow. When selecting the order of the setlist, make sure that each song’s tempo/BPM (beats per minute) as well as the key signature vary from song to song. The first song and last song of the setlist should be an up-tempo song. It is also important that the first song is one that you can play and sing perfectly without exceptional monitors. Why? Usually during the first song of the set, the M.E. (monitor engineer) and the F.O.H. (front of house) are usually tweaking sound levels, so keep this in mind when selecting your first song. In between the first and last songs, choose those that have different tempos from one another. For example, add a few segues between songs and also allow space between songs for the lead vocalist to speak and interact with the audience. Arranging the song setlist in this order will ensure that your live performance has a dynamic flow.

5. You Must Put in the Time
It is imperative to maintain a regimented rehearsal schedule regardless of upcoming performances. Otherwise, cramming rehearsals will inevitably result in fatigue, which will create further problems. Record audio/ video during your rehearsals and then review and critique yourself. You will positively learn what you need to practice and perfect before your upcoming audition, showcase or live performance.

6. Deliver Pure Emotion
This is what performing is all about! To emote fully in performance, you must allow yourself to let go. “Letting go” means not worrying or doubting yourself. Focusing on what might go wrong prior to performing will vibe-slay the performance. If you fill your head with doubt and worry before getting on stage, the odds will be against you delivering a flawless performance. Instead, think of how much work you’ve put into preparing your songs and what inspired you to perform them. The objective here is to tap that original emotion, that place where you were when you were first inspired to play and sing. If you can tap that emotion, that special energy, you will feel confident and, as a result, stack the odds in favor of you delivering a spectacular performance!

(Reprint permission by Music Connection)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

COREEN SHEEHAN is a co-author of the new book Five Star Music Makeover published by Hal Leonard Inc. She has toured with major artists (Foo Fighters) worldwide, coached vocalists for a VH1 show who were singing with Rod Stewart and instructs and guest lectures at Musicians Institute, M.I. Japan, the Grammy Museum, UCLA Extension and more. See coreensheehan.net.

For more information on the IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), 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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