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5 Things I’ve Learned About Composing for Film and Television

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5 Things I’ve Learned About Composing for Film and Television

by Fred Kron

 

Fred KronAt the age of one, when most infants are pounding on the table, I was pounding out the notes to “Happy Birthday.” My childhood was spent studying Beethoven, Brahms, Madonna, and Hall & Oates, as well as the super catchy tunes of television composing legend Mike Post. Did I practice? Sure, sometimes. But did I play what I heard on the radio and television? All the time! From pop tunes to TV themes, movie scores and obscure jingles, I tried to soak it all in. My college years were spent at the University of Miami, studying and earning a degree in Jazz Piano Performance. But once I became aware of multitrack recording and sequencing, I was hooked. My official transition from performing into the world of composition came through a college friend who had just graduated and landed a job with Happy Madison, Adam Sandler’s production company. Without my knowledge, he had bothered someone there just long enough for them to ask me for a demo reel, which I thankfully had been working on. A job was offered to me by Adam Sandler to compose music for a batch of Internet short films, and so began my career as a film and television composer. Here are five things I’ve learned along the way.

 

  1. When in Doubt, Ask

Trying to read your clients’ minds and understand what they want from you for their project (musically, emotionally, and stylistically) can seem a bit challenging at first, but with experience and learning what questions to ask, you can greatly improve your chances for a successful collaboration. These questions can range anywhere from what sonic palette you might choose to whether the client is looking for a textural vs. melodic approach.

 

  1. Know Your Studio and Sounds

Everyone works a bit differently, but many composers spend more time than they’d ever care to admit working on templates (preloaded instrument tracks, mix routing, and EFX) so that sounds are dialed in, and always at their fingertips when composing. I have some templates, but I usually like to start with a blank page. I don’t see this as a disadvantage, as I’ve made it a point to become extremely familiar with my sound libraries and plug-ins, and often the extra 15 seconds it takes me to load a sound can be time spent thinking of what part I might lay down, or what I might order for lunch.

 

  1. Don’t Be Married to Anything

Sure, in your heart of hearts, you know that what you’ve submitted on your first pass is “pure gold,” but everyone has an opinion (and, unfortunately, they’re probably making more money than you are), so it’s a good idea to let them express theirs. I’m only half kidding. Making changes is part of the gig! Sometimes, requests for changes come in the form of statements like, “Yeah, definitely add a crescendo there, and make it really soft so we can barely hear it.” That’s one of my personal favorites. More often than not, collaborators give good notes that can really make the cue or piece better.

 

  1. Always Be Improving

Prior to my composing career, my background was mainly as a pianist and keyboardist. That part of my skill set has always been extremely advantageous to me, even if I’m landing a writing gig; instant demonstrations are always impressive and create great networking opportunities. It also helps me work faster and more efficiently. For example, if I’m working on an orchestral composition, the less time I spend performing the parts, the more time I can spend on tweaking controllers and geeky MIDI things for realism.

 

  1. Remember: Composing Is Collaborative

You are composing music to make the picture better, and that is the only acceptable outcome. The people hiring you all have unique personalities, varying degrees of musical knowledge (and vocabulary), and different approaches to their projects. Embrace these differences, as they are often what keeps each project unique and fresh.

 

[Permission Reprint by Keyboard Magazine]

Fred Kron is a Los Angeles-based keyboardist, composer, arranger, and orchestrator, who currently has music in more than 12,000 episodes of television. His current projects include original composing for Fox, touring with Colin Hay (Men at Work), and subbing on keyboards for ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!


For information for the 2016 IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), visit: 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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Musician Expert Advice: How Performance Calamities Can Help You Shine

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Musician Expert Advice: How Performance Calamities Can Help You Shine

by Teri Danz

How Performance Calamities Can Help A Musician Shine

How performance calamities can help a Musician shine

Every performer faces challenges, but it is how you deal with them that make the difference. From an audience perspective, performing can look easy when you’re skilled at it. What they don’t see is what every performer knows, and that is, it’s not. It takes practice, patience, training and experience to “look” like it is effortless (or for it to truly “be” effortless). Plus, a great performer develops a “can do” professional attitude to make the best of any situation and make it work in the moment.

Here are some tips that will help you make some sweet “lemonade” from any sour occurrence during a performance.

  1. Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. Many performers and bands have a difficult

time (and consequently a bad attitude) if the venue isn’t full, the sound isn’t great, etc. Your audience, no matter how big or small (even if it’s just the bar staff), wants to be engaged and like you. Pretend you’re in a huge arena (it’s good practice) and give them a reason to root for you.

  1. If you’re the front person/lead singer, you set the tone. The front person’s main job is to engage the audience (unless you’re Oasis’ Liam Gallagher—but that’s another story), communicate the song and command the stage. Of course, there are many more tasks (like sing well or dance!), but the band takes its cues from the lead singer in terms of energy and handling situations that arise. Hint: Don’t ever criticize or admonish your audience or audience members. This can go south quickly. It is better to ask someone ahead of time, like the club or a manager, to handle rude behavior or loud talking, etc.
  1. Be in the moment. Remember that music, in general, and singing, in particular, are “right now” propositions. Being present in the moment is key to making “lemonade” from challenging, difficult and embarrassing situations.
  1. Not perfect, but genuine and real. Audiences want to see you—not you as “perfect”—but you as an artist they can relate to. How you get to a moving performance is by letting go of having to be great and perfect. This means that your training, technique and experience holds you through it and allows you to take your performance to the highest level.
  1. Stay in the song. The song is your emotional context—especially for singers. If you are truly in the song, that is your focus. Interruptions, technical difficulties, band difficulties, audience activities (coming in—going out) handled well are a passing thing. Handled badly, it only makes things worse. You are there to give your best performance, and the key to that is in the song. It is in that context only that the artist truly shines.
  1. Transform the moment. I saw U2 perform at the Oakland Coliseum back during their Joshua Tree tour, and I was sitting way in the back. I remember something happened to The Edge’s guitar, but Bono and the band never stopped. In fact, Bono engaged the audience by asking them to sing with him. The entire place rang with their voices. So huge, in fact, it became an experience (not just a performance). By accepting what happened and responding by embracing the audience, Bono and the band created something magical. In that moment, I knew I wanted to do that—move people through music.
  1. Embrace the audience as your friend. Talk in-between songs and introduce yourself to them. Be open and share your experience. If a mishap occurs—you trip or knock something over on stage, your guitarist breaks a string, etc.—it’s okay to motion or talk to the audience, crack a joke and so on. The audience is not your enemy.
  1. Go with the flow. This means take the whole experience as it comes. Here’s an example. My band once played a club that was having major technical difficulties as we arrived. We, and all the other acts, were delayed, having to wait for them to get it working and hope that the audience would wait, too. When we finally started setting up, our bassist told me that he needed to leave due to another gig. Talk about a curve ball! Playing without a bass player is not what I had envisioned and had no clue how to handle. I could have fought with him, insisted he stay or refused to pay him—but I didn’t. I thought, “Okay, if that’s the way we need to perform, so be it; we’ll make it work!” I offered to pay him and let him go. Remarkably, he decided to stay, and the set went great. Lemonade!
  1. Be professional and respectful. A professional attitude can make the difference between a huge scene and a small adjustment.  It’s okay to stand your ground on some things, if it makes a difference in your performance, but make sure you are calm and professional.
  1. See performing as an adventure. Performing is a choice and a gift. It always changes. With challenges come big rewards, if you can meet them with an open attitude. For inspiration, think of Prince’s performance in the pouring rain at the Super Bowl. He defied the “lemons,” rose to the occasion, and gave the performance of his life!

[Permission Reprint by Music Connection magazine]

TERI DANZ, Ed.M., is “America’s Vocal Coach” and a club hit recording artist. She specializes in pop vocal technique, performance coaching and vocal producing; with a focus on vocal resonance and technique, range and presentation. Named one of the Top Vocal Coaches in Backstage magazine (6-25-15), Danz was also a Backstage 2014 Reader’s Choice Finalist. Her writings include the book, Vocal Essentials For The Pop Singer: Take Your Singing from Good to Great (Hal Leonard Inc.), and articles for Electronic Musician,Music Connection, EQ, Roland and Boss Users Group Magazines, Guitar Player and many more. Danz also publishes The Singer’s Newsletter (free to subscribers) with monthly tips and sponsors, Casio, Sennheiser and The Modern Vocalist World. An accom- plished singer/songwriter, her act has PRO Endorsements by Sennheiser and Graph Tech. See teridanz.com.

For more information on the 12th 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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