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7 Rules of Recording the Singing Guitarist

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7 Rules of Recording the Singing Guitarist

by Jessica Brandon

Recording the Singing Guitarist

Recording the Singing Guitarist

The challenge of recording a vocalist/guitarist singing guitarist is that you are, in effect, trying to capture two sources at the same time and in close quarters. The microphone choice and placement that gives you the perfect guitar sound might completely foul up the vocal sound, and vice versa.

Plus, you would think recording an acoustic guitar would be easy. And yet, 9 times out of 10 when I hear a mix from a home studio recording, the acoustic track sounds thin, harsh, muddy, and just downright disappointing. A bad acoustic guitar track can bring the quality of the entire mix down considerably.

 

Rule #1 – Acoustic and Any Noise to deal with

Are you’re dealing with a relatively quiet source, or do you have noise pollution from whirring air conditioning units, computer fans, central heating pipes, buzzing fluorescent tubes, traffic outside and so on? This can be murder, so be sure to vet both your recording setup and recording environment appropriately.

 

Rule #2 – Do Not Record With A DI

Direct boxes are often referred to as “DI” boxes. This stands for “Direct Injection” as their main purpose is to convert unbalanced and/or high impedance instrument signals into a format suitable for direct connection to a mixing console’s mic input – without the use of a microphone.

The rule is never record your acoustic guitar through the internal pickup into a DI. Why? This is because it sounds bad.  I have seen acoustic electric guitars being plugged into DIs on stage at church and other venues but in a recording situation, the recording turns out sounding horrible and unnatural. No one ever listens to an acoustic guitar with their head inside the sound hole. So why do we try to record that sound?

Instead people hear acoustics from outside the sound hole. We like to hear the strumming and the entire body and resonance of the guitar (more on that below).

So please – trust me on this. If you are currently recording your acoustics through the pickup and through a DI, stop today. Use a microphone instead. It will sound infinitely better.

 

Rule #3 – How to Mic the Vocals & Guitar

Try to use separate close mics for the vocals and the guitar, to achieve the most pleasing sound possible on both, and to gain, if possible, a useful degree of separation between the two, which will allow independent treatment at the mix: different reverbs, level rides, EQ and so on.

A friend of mine recorded his vocals on a Shure SM57 microphone with a vocal filter a separate Shure SM57 microphone on his acoustic steel string guitar. He liked the results of his recordings on his tight budget. To my ears, though, while the vocal sound from the SM7 is perfectly usable, it doesn’t come close to that of the Neumann, and personally I would choose the better vocal sound over increased isolation in this case. (If you want that level of isolation with the clarity of a condenser mic, you could try one of the modern stage condenser designs such as the Neumann KMS105, Sennheiser e965, AKG C5 or Shure Beta 87a.)

Another option is to treat voice and guitar as a single sound source (which, after all, is what any listeners in the room will hear) and use relatively distant mic techniques to capture it all in one go.

 

Rule #4 – Minimizing Vocal Spill

You will need to know how to capture a good guitar sound that is relatively free from vocal spill. The challenge in this situation is to capture a nice guitar sound while minimizing vocal spill onto the guitar mics. Without the added complication of vocals to think about, the most common point to focus on when close-miking a guitar is the area where the neck joins the body.

If that didn’t yield the required sound, or we wanted to add a second microphone for a stereo guitar recording, most of us would probably next shift our attention to the area around the bridge, perhaps just behind or below it.

 

Rule #5 – Miking The Voice

Choosing a microphone and mic position for the top half of your singing guitarist is, similarly, about balancing the twin priorities of achieving a good vocal sound and rejecting guitar spill. And, once again, ‘normal’ vocal miking techniques are often perfectly successful in this application, as long as you don’t go too far away. If you’re using a conventional large-diaphragm condenser microphone (such as Audio-Technica AT2035), and you place it as close to the mouth as you’re comfortable with — personally I’d want it at least four inches or so away — then as long as your singer has a reasonably strong voice and doesn’t move about too much, chances are you’ll get a healthy vocal level without too much guitar spill. I usually try to avoid pop shields, as I feel they color the sound, but if your microphone is right in front of the singer’s mouth, you will need something to reduce popping and protect the mic diaphragm from moisture.

 

Rule #6 – Mixing A Singing Guitarist

When you’re just recording solo guitar and vocals, the options available for fixing things at the mix are minimal. If you didn’t get it right at the recording stage, chances are it will never be absolutely right, although there are certainly rescue missions you can attempt. For example, if there are audible phase problems between the vocal and guitar mic, and you can visually identify vocal events within the guitar track, ‘slipping’ the vocal part by a few tens of samples for better alignment can sometimes help. If you use one of the techniques that aims for a high level of separation, you might also find that you can comp the odd dodgy vocal word or phrase in from a different take without it being too obvious.

In general, compressing either the vocal or guitar mics will tend to bring up the level of any spill contained therein, so don’t be too heavy-handed with the threshold control. As this sort of music can often be quite delicate in any case, I much prefer to keep compression to a minimum, and use automation to draw in level changes. Achieving the right balance between guitar and vocal can be surprisingly difficult, so don’t be afraid to make fairly radical moves on occasion. Also, don’t be too aggressive in muting the vocal mic where the singer isn’t singing, because if there is guitar spill on the vocal track, the guitar sound will suddenly change as soon as the vocal fader is raised.

One of the major advantages of gaining some separation between vocal and guitar mics is that you can use two different reverbs, or at least different amounts of reverb, on the two signals. My own preference for vocals is usually something plate-ish, with plenty of pre-delay, and perhaps a touch of slapback echo. On guitars, by contrast, a much more natural reverb is often the order of the day — perhaps something involving mainly early reflections, just to add a bit of life and zing to proceedings. Separation will, of course, also allow you to equalise the two signals independently if need be, although, again, you need to be aware that adding a large high-frequency boost to the vocals will make the guitar spill much more obvious. If you’re forced to use the output from a pickup as your main source of guitar sound, you might need to get much more radical with EQ or even multi-band compression; both piezo and magnetic pickups tend to put out too much mid-range, which will need to be reined in if you are to achieve a natural sound.

 

Rule #7 – Determine what is it you wish to accomplish

This is probably the most important rule is to ask yourself what exactly it is you really wish to accomplish, how you really want to sound like? Can you envision the sound of your vocals and guitar?

The seven rules above, however, are applicable EVERY time you sit down to record a singing guitarist and they will serve you well. Follow them and your recordings will improve. The rest is open to your tastes.

Do you agree or disagree with these 7 rules? If you could add a eighth rule what would it be?

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

 

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Expert Tips for Building a Home Recording Studio

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Expert Tips for Building a Home Recording Studio

Tips for Building a Home Recording Studio

Tips for Building a Home Recording Studio

It’s true that at some point every talented and aspiring musician hopes to advance to a level where there will need to be a professional touch added to your audio track. Becoming a sound engineer does not necessarily require a college degree! You can set up your own studio at home with some basic and affordable equipment.

As a newbie, there isn’t too much you need to start enjoying working from your own home recording studio.

 

 

The Room

An important thing of what you require is a room inside the house. This is the most important gadget you will need. Put in mind which room to use that will be inaccessible to noise and possibly sound-proofed. The ancillary noise from the laundry room, playing kids in the sitting room, the knock from the delivery man – all these are likely means that can distract you and spoil a smooth track.

Preparing the room then requires a measure of effort, before you think of bringing in other instruments and accessories like the headset, drums, speakers and microphones. Remember you will need a desk with a few seats, as music can be enjoyed as a collective process. You should also think about sound absorbing panels, furniture and some colorful lights to get the inspiration flowing.

 

The microphones

One or two microphones are all that you need to start with for now. As your studio continues to grow bigger, you can then increase your range. There are several different types of microphones, which depend on the instruments you have and what you want to record at home.

From the many options available, you can get low-end microphones as well as higher brands like AKG and Neumann, which have specialist microphones for each and every task. Other types of microphones that are suitable include Rode NT1A for recording vocals. For any high-frequency instrument like the cymbals and acoustic guitar, the AKG P170 in particular excels.

When investing in microphones, make sure you also stock up on its accessories such as microphone stands, pop shields and XLR cables. It always helps to have spares too.

 

Monitoring sound

Speakers and headphones come next. Good speakers produce perfect sound depending on how well they are sealed. Examples of such include the mixing studio standard Yamaha NS10 speakers that produce a realistic & true sound.  Though some engineers do suggest you go for more costly choices from JBL companies.

At this stage, it’s better to avoid high cost headphones and settle for ones like Sony MDR-XD200. A good headphone set should be large and comfortable and demonstrate a true flat sound so that you can work on your music as accurately as possible.

 

Separation

It’s also very important to bear in mind how you are placing your set up. For example, the guitar and the cymbal are operating in the same frequency; the cymbal crash will break-off the guitar solo.

Good engineering principles are therefore needed to ensure the sounds are separated and won’t spill into each other.

Working with your EQ settings will help aid the separation of your instrument’s frequency space in the mixing phase.

 

Music production software

Now let’s focus on what digital software we need to get started. Your main program of choice will be important in dictating how you work. These are called DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) and here, there are a few options.

The most popular are Pro Tools (made by AVID), Logic Pro (made by Apple), Ableton Live and Cubase (made by Steinberg). Of course there are options that are available for a range of prices such as; Reason (made by Propellerhead), Fruit Loops Studio and Reaper (made by Cockos).

Your plug in library should be thought of as your box of tricks and there are many expensive tricks out there from companies such as Waves, Soundtoys and Fabfilter. Luckily each DAW comes with its own basic box of free plug ins, which have been found to perform their respective mixing tasks to more than an adequate standard.

 

This blog article has been brought to you by Mixbutton

 

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

 

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Size does NOT matter: The REAL secret of great musicianship with Meghan Trainor

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by Kate Beaudoin & Jessica Brandon

Meghan Trainor, singer-songwriter

Meghan Trainor, singer-songwriter

How did Meghan Trainor do it? It’s been a year since pop singer Meghan Trainor hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts with, “All About That Bass.” Within the year of the video’s release, it racked up an impressive 1 Billion views on YouTube. Before long, the single hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for nine weeks (also hit #1 in 58 different countries) and helped Trainor’s debut album, Title, debut No.1 on the Billboard 200 charts. The media has written that Trainor came from nowhere, but did you know she was discovered in IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) in 2009 and won Best Female Artist with an acoustic song “Waterfalls”? And she became one of the most-talked-about artists of the year. And she did it all on the mantel of empowerment — at least, that’s what she’d have you believe.

 

“All About That Bass” was so successful in large part due to the idea that it was the new feminist anthem; after all, 2014 was the year of the booty and empowerment was in. But to those who read between the lines of Trainor’s clever marketing ploy, it’s clear as day that “All About That Bass” is as far from a feminist anthem as they come. Trainor’s problematic stance extends far beyond that single. By simultaneously claiming a feminist mantle and advocating an anti-feminist agenda, Trainor has become a threat to all the gains that pop music has made in feminism recently.

What the lyrics are really saying. The messages in Trainor’s songs are often ostensibly about encouraging healthy self-confidence. “I hope [‘All About That Bass’] helps girls love themselves more, because they’re adorable. Women too,” Trainor told Glamour. The issue, however, is that those supposedly empowering lyrics encourage impressionable girls to be happy with themselves only when men deem them acceptable. People criticized “All About That Bass” for its skinny-shaming, but even more concerning is that Trainor claims your worth comes from what men think of you.

“Boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” Trainor sings, explaining why it’s OK not to be a “skinny bitch.” It’s OK not to be a “skinny bitch,” but only because some boys prefer you that way.

The crown jewel of Trainor’s anti-feminism is easily “Dear Future Husband.” When the video for “Dear Future Husband” hit YouTube in March, many rightly claimed that her message was sexist. Trainor’s lyrics advocate outdated gender roles (“Cause if you’ll treat me right / I’ll be the perfect wife / Buying groceries”), seeking self-worth based on men’s opinions (“If you wanna get that special lovin’ / Tell me I’m beautiful each and every night”) and, of course, confirming the idea that all women are crazy, emotional creatures (“You gotta know how to treat me like a lady / Even when I’m acting crazy”). But those who defended Trainor claimed that it was just a song and shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

“I don’t believe I was [being sexist],” she told MTV. “I think I was just writing my song to my future husband out there, wherever he is. He’s chilling right now, taking a minute getting ready for me; it’s going to be great.”

He’s getting ready — doing crunches and 200 pound dead lifts so he’s ready to be strong enough to impress Trainor!

 

For more information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

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Top 7 Essentials For Setting Up a Home Recording Studio

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Top 7 Essentials For Setting Up a Home Recording Studio

by Jessica Brandon & Jake Weston

How to set up a Home Recording Studio on a budget

How to set up a Home Recording Studio on a budget

Are you a musician looking to record at home on a budget? You will need recording equipment. What type of music gear you will need to get started will vary based on the type of recording you plan to do from home. For example, if you only plan to record demos and rough tracks, you will need less equipment than if you were trying to record radio ready tracks. Another thought is how much you plan to record at one time, one or two tracks and adding vocals in layers requires less equipment than if you plan to do more than two tracks or recording a full band.

  1. Computer

The computer is the biggest expenditure by far and most important thing you will need. If you are a Mac user, and you are on a budget, go with a Mac Mini or Macbook Pro. If you are a PC user and you are on a budget, go with an HP computer.

  1. DAW/Audio Interface Combination

The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the software used to record, edit, and mix music on your computer. The Audio Interface is the hardware used to connect your computer with the rest of your music gear. Presonus Studio One is a entry-level budget recommended gear. Other budget conscious interface include: Avid Fast Track or Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (around $200).

Most computers nowadays come with some basic form of recording software, but that isn’t going to be quite enough for those wishing to make some money from recording. Rather than spending money on professional recording software many professionals use Audacity, which is available to download for free. Audacity has an amazing array of features and capabilities for the price, which, as I mentioned in case you missed it, is FREE. I would also suggest adding a program called Reaper for $60 (unless and until you start making 10-20 thousand clams a year using it. Then you are asked to spring for the commercial license for $220).

  1. Microphone (or microphones)
Lewitt Microphone

Lewitt Microphone

To start out – especially if you have a very small budget – I recommend the Shure SM57, which you may buy for just $99.00. I would recommend the Lewitt USB microphone if you have a higher budget. Again, if you’re planning to record a band, you’ll need more mics and a larger interface capable of recording several sources at once.

  1. Headphones

In the very beginning, all you really need is one. For beginners on a tight budget, there’s no safer bet than the AKG K240.

  1. Studio Monitors

For beginners on a tight budget, there’s no safer bet than the KRK Rokit 5 G3

If your mixing room is a bedroom, as it is for most home recordists, just know that what you hear is already mangled in several ways. You can improve that situation, if you have really good speakers, but it isn’t easy.

  1. XLR Cables

This is another thing you need for recording studio accessories – XLR Cable

One day, your studio will have a TONS of different cables…

But for now, you only need 3:

~1 long XLR cable for your mic, and…

~2 short ones for your monitors

  1. A Mic Stand

While many beginners assume that all mic stands are the same. The truth is that a solid mic stand is one of the most worthwhile investments a new home studio can make.

 

So, in order to outfit yourself with the basic home recording studio equipment, you’ll need the following:

~Computer

~Digital Work Station (DAW) Software/Audio Interface Combo

~Microphone

~Studio Monitors

~One Set of Headphones

~A Few Cables

~One Mic Stand

 

No matter what equipment you purchase the most important thing to remember is that knowledge of the key audio fundamentals is far more useful than expensive equipment. If you lack basic knowledge you will always end up with poor sounding audio, no matter how expensive the equipment is. Remember this mantra: knowledge trumps gear. There are many people making crappy recordings every day with really expensive gear. But if you have some basic knowledge, you can make great recordings with very modest equipment. Therefore, never let an employee talk you into the most expensive equipment in the store, in most cases the $50 USB microphone will provide you with the professional sounding results.

For more information on the 12th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

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IAMA Winner Debuts #1 on Billboard 200 Album Charts, Makes History

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Meghan Trainor Hits #1 on Billboard 200 Album Charts, unseating Taylor Swift off the Top Spot

Meghan Trainor Hits #1 on Billboard 200 Album Charts, unseating Taylor Swift off the Top Spot

Title’ nets biggest debut for a female pop act’s first full-length album in over five years.

 

IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) is proud to announce that Meghan Trainor debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with her first full-length album, Title. The set arrives with 238,000 equivalent units earned in the week ending Jan. 18, according to Nielsen Music. It was released Jan. 13 on Epic Records.

The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA).

 

“No words can describe how I feel. ‪We’re making history!” said an ecstatic Meghan Trainor as she posted on her facebook page.

Title’s chart-topping arrival comes after Trainor earlier led the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with her introductory hit, “All About That Bass.” The song spent 9 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2014. A variety of critics tipped “All About That Bass” as 2014’s “Official Song of the Summer”.

 

Title’s first-week units includes 195,000 in pure album sales, an impressive figure, considering January is traditionally a sleepy month for big new releases. The last album released in January to open with a larger sum was Justin Bieber’s Believe: Acoustic, which hit retail on Jan. 29, 2013, and opened with 211,000.

In addition, Title logs the biggest debut for a female pop artist’s first full-length album in over five years. The last to start larger was Susan Boyle, who sold 701,000 copies of I Dreamed a Dream in its first week (ending Nov. 29, 2009).

Trainor’s entrance is the largest opening for any solo artist’s first full-length set in more than three years, since Scotty McCreery’s Clear as Day arrived with 197,000 (in the week ending Oct. 9, 2011).

Both Boyle and McCreery had great TV exposure assisting their debuts, as they both competed on talent competition shows before their albums were released. Boyle rose to fame thanks to her star-making turn on Britain’s Got Talent, while McCreery won the 2011 season of Fox’s American Idol.

As for Trainor, while she wasn’t a reality-show competitor, she has had months of major exposure leading up to Title’s release. Her smash No. 1 single “All About That Bass” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 dated July 26, 2014.

Meghan Trainor’s Title is Epic Records’ first No. 1 album since the Sept. 25, 2010-dated chart, when Sara Bareilles’ Kaleidoscope Heart bowed atop the tally.

If Trainor is No. 1, that means Taylor Swift’s rule in the penthouse with 1989 is over — at least temporarily. 1989 slips 1-2 in its 12th week on the list, after hanging out at No. 1 for nine nonconsecutive weeks. It shifted 131,000 units for the week (down 15 percent).

Kidz Bop Kids warble their way to a No. 3 arrival on the Billboard 200 with Kidz Bop 27, moving 80,000 units. It’s the 20th top 10 album for the long-running series, which garnered its first top 10 effort nearly 10 years ago, when Kidz Bop 7 opened at No. 7 on the March 12, 2005-dated chart.

 

“What Meghan has achieved is such a far fetched dream that even superstars like Madonna would achieve that people find it incredibly hard to believe in an unknown debut artist. They asked: did that just happen? Can’t be right? IAMA doesn’t really produce superstars. But when they read the newspapers and checked the Billboard charts, they jaws drop and they were left flabbergasted. Even most music magazines refused to even admit it. It’s because Meghan started off as a young fresh unpolished indie artist and that grown to a worldwide phenom”, said Jessica Brandon, artist relations at IAMA. “I have worked in the music industry for 20 years and I have never seen this meteoric success before. Meghan has given so much inspiration to indie artists everywhere. She has achieved the absolute American Pop star dream; the number ones on the charts, platinum records, appearances on every TV show, songs on Top 40 radio all the time”.

 

AMAZING ACHIEVEMENT

As a debut artist with both single and album hitting #1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts and Billboard 200 Album charts, Meghan joins an elite group of artists to ever achieve this feat: Mariah Carey, Beyonce and Britney Spears. Not even The Beatles, Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson has even achieved this amazing feat.

 

HOW SHE WAS DISCOVERED

However, 5 years ago IAMA entrants laughed when Meghan Trainor won Best Female Artist at the 2010 IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), she broke the record and still holds the record of the youngest winner on the history of IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards). She did it at a young age of just 16 years old. Many entrants asked “Why is this 16 year old girl that sounds like Amy Winehouse, Adele and Duffy winning an award at IAMA and not me? She isn’t all that great, I think I’m better”.

 

But when she hit #1 on Billboard Hot 100 Charts, #1 on the Billboard 200 Album Charts (each time she did it be toppling Pop Star Taylor Swift) and 2 Grammy nominations (Record or the Year and Song of the Year), selling over 12 million copies worldwide, they were shocked and speechless. They continued to be shocked when they saw her performing on TV at the famous Macy’s Day Parade and New York’s Rockin’ Eve. She was also nominated for Best New Artist at the American Music Awards.

Meghan Trainor has been grown from a Teen Phenom to a Global Phenomenon. Imagine when her first single “All About That Bass” was released on June 30th, no one outside IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) even knew who she was. And yet, in less than 6 months, Meghan has conquered the entire world: not only #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts (#1 for 9 weeks), in UK and a total of 58 different countries, multi Platinum in USA alone (6X Platinum). It is the current longest-reigning number one on the Hot 100 by an Epic Records artist, surpassing the King of Pop, the legend Michael Jackson’s seven-week record with “Billie Jean” (1983) and “Black or White” (1991). It is also the second longest reigning number one by a debut artist (Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” is the longest-reigning number one by a debut artist). She is the youngest artist (at 20 years old at the time of her feat) with the longest reigning number one.

 

ONE HIT WONDER NO MORE & BEATLES FEAT

Yet critics dismiss her as a “one hit wonder” when she hit #1 with “All About That Bass”. That all changed when “Lips are Movin’” hit #4 on the Billboard Charts selling over 2 million copies in United States alone, going Double Platinum. And she continues her feat in December she made history as a debut artist when 2 of her songs are in the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 Charts at the same time “Lips Are Movin'” and “All About That Bass”. the last time a debut artist had two or more songs in the Top 5 at the same time on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts was the Beatles.

 

SECOND TIME UNSEATING TAYLOR SWIFT OFF THE TOP SPOT

“I told everyone when I send our press release hat Meghan is going to be huge and they refused to believe” said Jessica Brandon. ‘We believe in all our winners in IAMA. If Meghan Trainor, an unknown artist can topple a huge music star like Taylor Swift, no just once but twice, you can do it too”. Meghan Trainor kicked Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” off #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts in September 2014. She did it again this time this week on the Billboard 200 Charts by kicking Taylor Swift’s album “1989” of the #1 on the Billboard 200 Album charts.

Since 2004, IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards) promotes the art and excellence of acoustic music performance and artistry. Past winners include: Meghan Trainor, Charlie Dore (Billboard #1 Hit Artist), Kelley James, AJ Croce, Liz Longley, Maddy Rodriguez, etc. For more information on IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

 

 

 

 

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