Band Advice

Mixing | Keyboards & Synthesizers

Mixing | Keyboards & Synthesizers

Keys and Synths are line level instruments that typically come directly into your console without amps being mic'd up. Let's discuss a little bit about running DI lines into your preamps or interfaces. 

Recording vocals right the first time

Vocals are the most important part of a recording. Over the years, I've heard some bad recordings that are wildly popular. It boils down to the vocals. If the lyrics and the emotion is just right, than the song will be a success. Now you should spend some time working on the music. I'm not saying that all you have to do is produce vocals, but do give the vocals the most attention. 

Start by recording a very rough scratch track and than take a few moments to listen to the context of the vocals with the music. Does the feel of the track have the flare that you're seeking? Do the vocals sound like they carry the listener through the song?  In some cases, it may be good to re-write some of the lyrics to convey more emotion or to mold into the music a bit more. This is a golden opportunity to figure out how the delay and reverb will be used to treat the vocals. Sometimes, the style of delay may lead you to a different style of singing or even slimming down some of the lyrics. 

Now of course this technique is dependent upon the context of the song, yet I've used this approach on many tracks with great success. Next post I'll discuss more about mic placement and tracking scenarios. 

5 Steps to Getting Your Music Licensed | Step 5

Now that you've done a load of leg work to get your music out in the public and build a strong web presence, you need to focus on your fans. Gathering fans is like a wildfire, it can spread quickly or burn out in the blink of an eye. You need to keep your fans engaged in what you're doing as a band. This requires some attention to your social media content and the pace at which you release music and music videos.

Be sure to announce when you are going to release music and videos. Just as you would promote a show, you need to promote your music releases. Record Labels and licensing firms like to see that you are supplementing your hard work with an effort to reach out to the public and let them know about what you've been doing. Get in the habit of taking photos at band rehearsal and at recording studios. Post them on your social media and keep your fans engaged in every step of the process that you're taking to compose and create music. When you have a consistent following, it will grow and spread like a wildfire throughout social media. If there is a buzz about your band, then people will hear about you and at least get some exposure to you and your music. If you think your music is just that good and people will find you anyway, you're in for a rude awakening.

5 Steps to Getting Your Music Licensed | Step 4

Now that you have created a web presence, you need to get into the public eye. Promoting your website and your music starts with good press. Find someone who will write a professional press release for you and your music. The press release should exemplify the unique qualities of your band and music. Focus should be on the sound and style of the music to draw in readers. To draw attention to the music, draw ties to influences and similar artists. Just keep it short. About 300 words is all the attention a reader will give a press release, so get to the point.

Be smart about it and provide contact info and links back to your website. Possibly set up a show that the press release directs readers to attend. Break into the music scene with some gusto. Maybe throw a house party and play in your backyard or garage. Get a keg and invite folks over. People may not be familiar with your music, so it's a good idea to turn the event into a party.

5 Steps to Getting Your Music Licensed | Step 3

 The New Position | Hard Rock

The New Position | Hard Rock

You should have a good song and a well produced recording of the music at this point. Now we need to wrap it up and present it to the world. This is where your creative ideas can come to life. Get a few good photographs of yourself that exemplify the attitude and image that you want to associate with your music. This is really half of the success of your music and career in the music industry. You need to be able to captivate the listener and get them to feel the emotion that is embedded in the music. Record labels and movie producers will take you seriously if you appear to believe in your own music, so you need to create an image that they can market with the music.

You don't have to go way over the top like Lady Gaga or Marilyn Manson, but it is very obvious that they succeeded in the music industry because their music was good and they had an image that captivated people's attention. I don't think either of them would have been such a success story if they took photos in jeans and t-shirt hanging out in their backyard. Now you don't have to get crazy with the editing in Photoshop, but I'd suggest that you hire a professional photographer and get some shots that have good lighting and are framed with an interesting background. Black and white photos are always classy and have a sense of professionalism to them. That's why so many band photos are black and white that accompany a press kit.

Once you have a few good photos, you need to get some sort of web presence. You can get a free band account on many different websites. I'd highly recommend one that offers licensing opportunities. There are a bunch to choose from, but I'd suggest starting with sonicbids.com or musicclout.com. Both of these sites allow you to upload music and create an artist profile. If you have about $10 to spare per month, I'd highly recommend you build your own website and have control over the design and look of your online presence. You can easily build your own custom site with squarespace.com or wix.com for about $10/mo. Check out some of the websites built by our studio clients: The New Position & Justin Fawsitt. Both of these sites were constructed by the musicians and only took a few moments to setup and live on the web.

This is a step that you cannot afford to overlook. You need to believe in your music and developing your image will be the foundation for the career you are going to build. Just as you got feedback from your friends and family for your music, you should also get feedback on your image. If you want to accelerate your career, hire a producer that has experience in developing musicians in the public eye.

5 Steps to Getting Your Music Licensed | Step 2

Now that you have chosen the best song to market, you need to prepare it for presentation. This next step is definitely the most important, it's time to record your music. The "sound" of your music will be the foundation of your marketing campaign. So this is where you need to slow down and evaluate the best option for moving forward. You need to invest and believe in your music, so you need a quality recording with a producer that shares your vision. Cutting corners on recording your music will hinder the success of your efforts and only wind up costing you more money in the long run.

The main focus is to get a high quality recording to exemplify the ingenuity of your musical abilities. To achieve this, you need to make sure that you're recording is done right the first time. Saving a few bucks on a unprofessional recording will only add to the cost that you'll wind up investing when you go to a professional studio and get a higher quality recording. If you want to be the best at what you do, then you need to work with professionals who can give you top quality production. Project / budget studios are great for demos and hashing out ideas, but when it comes to making the final recording, you need to invest in quality. You will only get one chance to make an impression, so there is no time to waste on mediocre sound.

When you spend all your time trying to get licensed, the music has to be spectacular. If the recording is sub-par, it will reflect poorly on the content of your music. A good engineer / producer will have the skills and knowledge to ensure your music pops! Choose a studio with a proven track record and an engineer that has serious interest in your music. A good engineer will encourage you and support you along the way. Getting guidance from someone who has experience in the industry is a wise choice. This will help you avoid common pit-falls an maximize the efficiency of your production time.

Stay tuned for step 3. We'll cover the advantages of preparation and time management.

5 steps to getting your music licensed | Step 1

You want the world to hear your music. Thus, you need to get it licensed in a movie or TV show that reaches a large audience. This is the best way to get recognition and propel your music career into a full-time job with a stable income. Over the next five days I'm going to give you some insight into how you can go about getting your music licensed.

Step one: picking the right song to market to record labels and producers. It's good to have an arsenal of songs to choose from, but you need to focus on pushing one song. How do you choose the right song to market? Easy, ask your friends, family, and fans which song is their favorite. This simple poll will give you all the insight you need to make the choice. You can post a survey through email or your website and use the data to narrow down your most popular song.

It's crucial to let your fans make the choice because this is a sample pool of the potential listers that will hear your music. This is something that a marketing rep looks for when choosing music to license. Music in a movie or a TV show can be pivotal in the success of the production and popularity in the public eye. If the music is popular on its own, then it already has established success. This is a big deal to producers.

Once you have made the choice, it is important to make sure the song is ready for submitting to licensing opportunities. We'll cover this in the next posting. Please leave any questions or comments below.

How to book the right venue

Playing concerts is what we all love to do. Playing to empty rooms is never fun. Here are a few tips on how to get more people at your shows.

First, do a little bit of research on the venue that you want to play. Does the venue have a history of hosting musicians or music similar to the music you play? It is a good idea to go and see a show at any venue that you're considering before you book your own show at that venue. If you have a chance to talk to one of the bandmembers it's playing at the show, ask them questions like how easy it was to book the show and how much fun they had performing there. Gather as much information as you can about the venue before you even start to talk to the booking agent for the venue. Once you have a good idea of whether or not you want to book the show at a certain venue, that is when you contact the booking agent. You want to speak with them confidently about performing at their venue. Book a show far enough in advance so that you have time to do adequate advertising. You want people to come to your show so you need to give them time to plan on being at the show for the date that you are about to book. Most folks have plans for about 2 to 3 weeks in advance on weekends, which is probably the best night for you to try to book a show.

Next comes the hard part. You need to find a way to get people interested and aware that you were playing a show. Don't rely on the venue to do all the promotion for your show. You need to get out there and do some good old legwork and word-of-mouth promotion for your show. Get some posters made and find good places to put them up so they will be visible and draw people in to putting your show on their calendar. Just a little bit of good advertising and promotion will bring probably 10 to 15 folks to your show.if you get more that's awesome. However playing a show for a few people or a lot of people shouldn't matter or affect your performance. Even if one person comes to your show, put on the best show of your career.

The Art of Mixing

I've recently had a few clients come record at the studio with no experience on how to approach mixing. Taking the time to record good tracks is extremely important, but mixing those tracks is also vital to the sound. Mixing is an art form that can take years to develop for an audio engineer. As a musician, you should respect the experience and creativity that your engineer puts into mixing your music. When you find an engineer that likes to think outside of the box, consider your music blessed that it will not have a canned sound and will benefit from the artistic vision of a passionate mind.

Taking the proper amount of time to mix is subjective based on the outcome the artist has in mind and would strive to achieve. A 10 minute mix can yield good results and a 10 hour mix can be remarkable. The time it takes to mix can depend on so many different factors and becomes virtually impossible to determine. Try to take momentary pauses in the mixing process to step back and analyze the current state of the mix. These moments of review give you bearing on where the mix is going and how far it still needs to go. The finish line is vague and it may not be apparent when crossed if you don't take a moment to pause and reflect.

Music is so unique and recording situations change constantly. There is no way to determine how long it will take to mix a song before it is completely recorded. The mics and gear used in recording fluctuate on various levels from session to session. The number of tracks to mix may vary based on what the producer has in mind for the final mix. Recreating the same mix from session to session is possible, but very rarely duplicated. It's the subtle changes that make each mix unique. The initial approach toward the mix is the foundation as to what direction the music will go.

Where do you start? Do you start with the drums and percussion? Do you start with the vocals and build the music around them? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions. The art is the creativity that you bring to the mixing desk. You can do the same approach every time and always get different results. The plugins and out board gear may change from mix to mix or you may use a template. There is no guarantee that the sound you have in mind at the start of mixing will be the sound at the end of mixing. This is a good thing because you will craft a different sound from song to song. If every recording had the same mix, the music of the world would not be as interesting as it is today.

Dedicating a fixed amount of time to a project has some detriment to the project. A mix is finished when it sounds finished. It could happen in 10 minutes or 10 days, but you have to let your ears be the judge of when a mix is complete. An unfinished mix will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Budget for enough time to finish a mix and then be pleasantly surprised when the work gets done early. Expecting quick results almost always leads to disappointment.

Allow the mix to be artful and you will be rewarded with satisfaction. The final mix is your legacy, so don't limit your mark on musical history with an unfinished mix. Legendary recordings were all mixed with passion and time. When you craft the mix just right, it will be played over and over until the end of time.

Choosing the right audio engineer

Not all audio engineers are the same. Some specialize in a particular field of audio production. Others focus their skills on a certain genre of music. Choosing the right engineer is a very important part of your album. The right engineer will produce your music and essentially become a member of the band. Without the right engineer, your recordings will fall on deaf ears.

How do you choose the right engineer?
Start by talking to a few different engineers. You can tell a whole lot about a person just by having a simple conversation. Talk about your music and the vision you have for the finished recordings. Talk about things that interest you and find out if you share any common interests. You don't have to be good friends with the engineer, but you should at least get along. You will be spending many hours in the studio with the engineer and you need to make sure that you will be productive. So before you spend hours on end with an engineer working on your music, make sure you can see eye to eye on the vision of the project.

A good way to gauge an engineer's potential is to listen to some of their past recordings and projects. Any professional engineer will have a few examples of their work out on the internet. If you like what you hear, then you will be happy with what the engineer can do for your music. The engineer doesn't necessarily need to be an expert in the genre of music you prefer. Some of the best albums have come from an engineer that specializes in a completely different genre of music. Sometimes a fresh set of ears on the project is the key to success.

Getting the most out of your studio session

Many bands come to Shine On with no prior studio experience, so here are a few tips for using studio time efficiently.

First and most importantly, be prepared to spend time working on recording & mixing. Spending all your time on recording will leave you with unfinished tracks. A good engineer will record decent raw tracks, but they will still need to be mixed. The amount of time it takes to mix a track can vary, but a good rule to follow is at least 1 hour of mixing for each recorded minute. So a 4 minute song can take 4 hours to mix. If you want to get technical about the mix, plan more time. Better to over-estimate than run out of time with half-mixed tracks.

Second, show up on time. Time is the primary factor for how your session moves along. Showing up late to a session is the same as giving away money. Don't expect an engineer to stay late cause you showed up late. It's called an appointment and that means everyone has agreed to meet at a specific time.

Third, make sure your gear is in good condition to record. Tune, replace strings, bring spare everything, and always plan for the worst-case scenario. It doesn't happen often, but I've had sessions where the tubes in the amp burn out. Think of everything because this rolls back to the time factor. Running to Guitar Center in the middle of your session is waste of time and money. Don't expect the studio to put your session on hold while you run errands.

If you plan ahead and prepare for your session, you'll walk away with great recordings that sound professional.

3 ways to avoid ending your music career

Getting excited about your music is a great feeling. Everyday I work with musicians that are motivated and driven to compose and create new music. I see first hand the creative process that goes into the labor intensive tasks of developing ideas into new songs. Many musicians start sending out info on social media while they are still amidst the recoding session in the studio. Some leak videos and audio recordings of the music before the recording session is complete. Though you may be excited and eager to share your excitement with the world, you have to stay focused and maintain a professional attitude. No one will take you seriously unless you have some element of intrigue.

When you prematurely release media and info your image and reputation becomes amateur. My years working with CMJ, Live 105, and Shine On Studio have given me ample opportunity to work with some of the most accomplished and successful musicians in the music industry. Let me share a few ways you can avoid ending your music career.

1. The element of intrigue
It is a good idea to engage your fans and followers on social media, but don't over-saturate your feed with mundane info. If you tell everyone everything you do, then there is no mystery about you. When this happens, people loose interest in what you're doing. Then when you finally have something special to share, it gets over-looked and has no impact on the world. Cut back on talking about yourself and sharing every moment of your life. If you must engage the social media, talk and comment about what other people are doing.

2. Rough drafts are not public
When you leave the studio with rough draft mixes, take them home and review them. That is the purpose of a rough draft! These mixes should not be posted on your website or social media. When you release unfinished work, your reputation and image are permanently scarred. Listeners don't care that you label the track "rough mix" or that you will be making changes to the mix later. They just absorb what they hear and immediately decide if they will follow or forget you...forever. You should always strive to put your best work forward and impress the world with your musical talent. First impressions are vital to success in the overcrowded modern music industry. Wait for the final mix to be finished and then release all of the tracks at one time for the best impression you can make on the music community.

3. Keep you personal & professional lives separate
As an entertainer, you must constantly entertain. Sharing your personal life with the public does not bode well for your professional career. The moment that the public does not view you as a unique individual in the entertainment industry is the moment when you lose all credibility. You must stay focused and keep all your public interactions on a high level of professionalism. Separate your social media and keep your personal life private for your friends and family. The public likes entertaining distractions, so be their entertainment with your music.

These few guidelines can lead to the foundation of a successful or unsuccessful music career. It takes a great deal of effort to maintain a professional music career. Think about what you do before you actually do it. Ask your friends and family for feedback before you present yourself to the world. Hire a producer that you respect or that has a good reputation. Hire a manager or a publicist to maintain your public image. These are things that professional musicians do and they are successful. You get out of it what you put into it, so be aware of what you're putting in.

Tips for performing live gigs

I've been out to see some local music this past month and wanted to make a few comments on stage presence and what to do when you're on stage. The first thing to remember is that you are the one on stage, so you provide the entertainment. All eyes in the room are on you, so be the artist and give the audience something to watch. The last show I went to see had two bands performing. The first band was impressive. The music had motion and a creative element that was engaging. The musicians were very emotional and it was obvious that they loved their music. The singer was dancing and really putting on a show. Bravo!

The second band started their set and all the musicians were standing still and starring down at their instruments. The singer started the set by saying, "This is a new song, so we may mess it up. Really hope you like it." These are horrible things to say when you're on stage in front of a crowd. It sounds like you don't rehearse and you're insecure about your own music. What do you care if anyone likes the music or not? Will you stop playing a song just because someone says they don't like the song? I certainly hope not. Everyone has a different taste in music, so some will like your tunes and some will not. That should have no relevance on how you compose and perform your music.

The attitude you have on stage transfers onto the crowd. If you're timid and nervous, the crowd will be shy about listening to you perform. When you show emotion and feel the music when you're on stage, it energizes the crowd and they open up to your music. Music is passionate by nature, so release the emotions that inspired you to compose the music and put on a good show for the audience. Please, rehearse your live performance! Don't just meet in your everyday clothes and robotically practice your songs, pretend you're on stage every now and then. Maybe set up a camera and video yourselves so you can see what you look like to the crowd. The stage performance is just as important as the music. Please, for the love of sanity, mute your amp while you tune your guitar. There is nothing that will kill a buzz faster than a lame guitarist plucking random strings to tune a guitar. You never hear a big time guitarist on stage tuning their guitar, so neither should you!

It's OK to talk to the crowd and get them amped up, but keep it short. Unless you're a natural stand up comedian, the longer you talk, the faster the crowd looses interest in your performance. Save the chit chat for after the show. If you need some guidance, just look up some videos on the web of your favorite bands performing live. Take notes on what they do well and how they keep the audience entertained and engaged in the performance. A good live show will propel your music career and news will spread of how impressive your live show can be. That's how you draw a crowd to your shows. Stop asking all your friends to come to each of your shows. You need to reach people you don't personally know.