Blog written by Joanie Crombie
Photo of WCS Member David Luning
About House Concerts….
I happen to live in the best neighborhood on the planet. No kidding, it’s uncanny. We celebrate together, keep each other sane, go insane together, you name it, we’ve been through it…together. Some of the most fun times we have is when we get together to host House Concerts.
Thinking back on it, House Concerts were an important first step in creating our neighborhood community-affectionately referred to as The WayWard Ones since we live on a “Way” as opposed to a Street or Avenue. House Concerts were one of the first times we all stepped into each other’s homes and hung out and got to know each other.
We all take turns to hold them in our living rooms or yards, depending on the season. We all invite our off the “Way” friends for great camaraderie. Everyone brings something savory or sweet to share with the crowd and perhaps a bottle or so of their favorite libation. Nothing I like better than getting together with friends, old and new, and sharing an evening of music and merriment AND turning them on to songwriters and musicians they’ve never heard of and might never have seen.
We all feel so lucky get to share the magic of the talented musicians that come to us, to our little street. Most of us would never had gotten to hear them and become friends and fans. And, sharing special, intimate evenings like these creates a great foundation for friendships; we have shared stories and tall tales…
Speaking of tall tales from house concerts….I’ve got a few…I’ll save those for next time, too….
PS It’s really easy to host a house concert on YOUR street….more about that to come….
What do Producers Do?
Written by: Cliff Goldmacher (www.EducatedSongwriter.com)
Working as a producer for the last ten years, I’ve recorded with all kinds of artists from “fresh off the boat” newbies to artists whose experience in the world of music doubles or even triples my own. In every case, my role as a producer stays essentially the same. It’s that role that I’m going to describe in this article.
What Is A Producer?
The best way I know to describe what a producer does comes in the form of this analogy: A producer is to a recording as a director is to a film. When it comes to making a film, the buck essentially stops with the director. It’s the director who steers the ship working with everyone from the technical editors to the actors in order to achieve his or her overall vision of the movie. It is exactly that way with a producer when it comes to making a recording. Not only must the producer have the experience to work with the studio engineer (often possessing the technical expertise to engineer the project themselves) but the musical understanding to help the artist with everything from song choice, structure and arrangement to the all-important vocal performances that are vital in giving a recording its personality. In short, aproducer provides the experience and necessary perspective to guide a recording from start to finish.
Producers can come from a variety of backgrounds. I’m listing the four most common and what each brings to the process, but, typically, producers have experience in more than one of these areas.
1) The Songwriter – Since at it’s essence, a recording is dependent on the quality of the song, the songwriter/producer is heavily involved in the song selection process. Not only does this type of producer have experience in knowing what does and doesn’t work when it comes to pre-existing songs, but often this producer will co-write songs with the artist for a given project.
2) The Musician – Here, it’s often an instrumental and music theory background that gives this type of producer their experience. They have first hand knowledge when it comes to working with musicians and knowing what instrumental approach will work best in a given situation.
3) The Engineer – In this case, the producer’s primary experience comes from actual recording (i.e., placing microphones on drum kits, recording vocals and mixing albums). By becoming an expert in the nuts and bolts of the recording process, an engineer/producer can make the recording process a smooth one for the artist.
4) The Music Fan – This is someone who lives and breathes music and has the instincts to guide artists and session musicians through the recording process without necessarily having had the “hands on” experience of being a songwriter, musician or engineer themselves. They often bring great perspective to a situation where being too close to any one part of the process might compromise the overall recording.
What Do Producers Do?
As I’ve mentioned, producers can be involved in many different aspects of a recording. Some producersare very “hands off” acting mostly as the voice of experience and perspective for artists who already havea fairly clear idea of who they are and where they’re headed. On the other end of the spectrum are theproducers who are involved in every element of the recording from co-writing the songs, to engineeringto playing one or even all of the instruments. In some, but certainly not all of these cases, the resultingrecordings have such a distinctive sound that the producer becomes as associated with the recordingas the artist themselves. For the record, no one way takes precedence over any other for producinga recording. The only measure of a producer that matters is whether or not the resulting recordingis satisfying to everyone involved. As most producers operate somewhere in between minimal andcomplete involvement, here are the main areas where most producers do their work.
1) Pre-production – This includes working with the artist to decide if the songs are as good as theycan be and, ultimately, which songs would work best as a group for an album release. It alsoincludes deciding on the overall sound of a recording which involves deciding which sessionmusicians/instruments would be best suited to achieve the sound and feel of a particular song.
2) Instrumental Recording/Arrangement – At this point, the producer works with the assembledmusicians and helps direct their performances in the studio in order to achieve a cohesive soundfor the recording.
3) Vocals - Finally, because the typical music listener responds first to the voice of the singer, one ofthe most important roles of the producer is working with the vocalist to help them give their best,most sincere performance of their material. It is extremely difficult for even the most experiencedvocalists to have any perspective on their performance while it’s happening. For this reason, aproducer is the voice of reason and experience who knows how to encourage a vocalist to do onemore vocal pass or helps them realize that it would be better to take a break and come back tofight another day.
How Do I Find A Producer?
For those who are new to the process of recording, whether it’s an album project or even a song demo, itis unclear where to look to find a producer for your project. Generally speaking, word of mouth in yourmusic community serves as the best, most organic way to find a producer right for your project. Anothereffective way to find a producer, particularly if you’re interested in doing a whole recording project,would be to look at the liner notes on some of your favorite independent CD projects made in the citywhere you plan to record. Often, those producers are available for hire and it’s just a matter of gettingtheir contact information which the artists themselves usually have. Finally, there’s no rule that says youcan’t contact a well-known/successful producer whose work you admire. Maybe they will be too busy ortoo expensive to work with, but you never know and if you’re respectful in your request there’s no reasonnot to try.
At the end of the day, it’s a good working relationship and the trust between artist and producer thatmakes for the best results. So, be sure that you not only like a producer’s work but feel comfortableworking with them as well. You’ll be spending a lot of time with this person and trusting them with yourart, so make sure that you feel like the producer you choose is willing to give you and your music theattention necessary to get a great recording.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including a brand new HD video series available at the link below.
Cliff’s company, http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.
You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going tohttp://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook.
Obsessed with Music
I think my obsession with music really started when I was about 9 or 10 and would sneak into my Aunt’s posh room to pick at my cousin’s plastic Elvis guitar. I had been involved in entertainment before. When I was about three my aunt would arrange me into the corner of her living room and have me sing “Que Sera Sera” for the relatives that happened to be visiting. It was a much better experience than when the relatives would come round when my aunt would have me take a bath in the tin tub in the middle of the living room. The tub filled with hot water from the kettle would chill pretty quickly, and I wasn’t going anywhere with those relatives in the room. So, singing was a treat compared to that.
My aunt lived with her husband and my grandparents. My other aunt lived three doors away. She had a piano that I would spend a lot of time getting the feel of the keys….but that plastic Elvis was still the draw.
When I was eleven, I was visiting a friend of mine for the day and a neighbor of his mentioned that he was selling his acoustic guitar. He took me to see it and it was love at first sight. I rushed home forgetting that my dad was away on a management course for Dunlops and I had to wait for a week to find out if there was any chance of getting the money for it. I seem to remember it being eleven English pounds to buy. My parents really didn’t have much money, so when I think back, it must have been a stretch for them to buy it for me.
Over the next few months I must have driven them mad with the badly fingered chords I was trying to play. I didn’t use the Bert Weedon “Play In A Day” method, I just focused on chords.
I was waiting tables at night while I was in high school, and one of the other waiters had an electric guitar he wanted to swap for an acoustic. I had salivated over electric guitars for a while, tried to win one at the fairground throwing darts or hoops over bottles to no avail, so wiping the drool, I went ahead and swapped guitars…and there it was, the passport to my future in the music business….except business was the furthest thing from my mind….in fact I had no idea it was a business. I just wanted to play.
When I was 14 a few friends were looking to form a band. “You play don’t you” was the pointed question that would lead to my first real band. We had a singer with longer hair than was normal at that time, a drummer who didn’t have drums (but the singer did), a bass player that was really a guitar player, another guitarist who hadn’t played much…but who cared. We locked ourselves in the singer’s bedroom and played our hearts out. The neighbors didn’t care. We were all living on a council estate where everyone dreams of escaping and most rarely do.
Music is Free. Now what?
Blog compliments of Tami Mulcahy
Music is free. So now what?
Music is free. This should come as no surprise to anyone. Recently I lamented the direction music is heading when someone made no bones in pointing out it’s not headed in that direction. Music is free…now!
Death to the CD, the record, the album or any other name by which you would listen beginning to end to a collection of work by an artist. I wonder why the Grammy’s still have an Album of the Year.
During four song writing sessions of about 90 high school students each, I asked how many had bought a CD in any recent time. About 2-5 hands went up. It’s a single song, digital download world. But it also a world of piracy and subscription services.
If Music is free, why bother with a physical CD. I find it ironic that for an artist to even get their songs on the listening cue for consideration on Pandora, that you have to have a physical CD to sell on Amazon. And CDBaby tells you to get Amazon Advantage (about $50) so Pandora can recognize the tracks listings.
It takes a huge amount of time to Photoshop your mug shot, yes, so we can all exude the right amount of “cool”. Then there is the layout, jacket art, credits, the CD art. All that is done while we tune up mixes and master the CD so there is some uniformity. Oh, that’s right, you already mastered the song individually but you have to do it again to bring continuity to the project. Then you go to press for at least 1000 CD’s cause that is a respectable price break. At the end you are another couple thousand dollars in the hole.
So here are my reasons why! A physical CD gives you cred when you tell people I am a performing artist. I have one, two, three CD’s. And then they say “wow”. The physical CD is so you look respectable when you meet industry people and give it away for free. Yes it hurts. The physical CD is so a house concert host knows you aren’t a 4 song talent and the rest is ???? The physical CD is so fans can take home a piece of memorabilia after a wonderful performance.
So music is free. The important thing is to get out and share it. Keep active in your artistic community for support. Share with each other. Mentor each other. Perform with each other. Perform each other’s songs. Keep perfecting your craft in pursuit of your own personal growth and excellence. Music may be free but you can still enrich the world with yours.
Music revenues increase for first time since Napster's rise 02/26/2013 08:23:55 AM PST
Session Musicians for your Demo
Written by: Cliff Goldmacher
Why do professional recordings sound, well…professional? There are a number of reasons including high quality microphones, pre-amps, an experienced engineer and a well-designed studio space. But one of the single most important elements in a great-sounding, professional recording is the performance of the session musicians. There is a reason that the job of the session musician exists. It’s these musicians whose talent and studio experience contribute in a major way to the polished sound of a recording. Because there are different rules that apply when you’re recording an artist demo, I'm going to limit the scope of this article to songwriting demos specifically.
Shouldn’t I Be Able To Do This Myself?
While I am a big proponent of wearing as many hats as you can in your musical career, there are certain areas where it makes much better sense to rely on experts. First of all, it’s extremely important that you take ego out of the equation. There is no shame in having someone else play on your demo. Remember hat a songwriting demo is supposed to put your song in the best possible light in order to “sell” it to prospective artists or place it in films and TV shows. It is not supposed to be proof of your studio musicianship. Recording your instrument in the studio requires an entirely different skill set than playing live. For lack of a better description, studio recording is more like music surgery than a musical performance. While you might be comfortable playing guitar in your living room or even on a stage in front of hundreds of people, it’s an entirely different ballgame to sit in a four by six-foot booth wearing headphones and listening to a clicking sound. Giving a note-perfect, dynamic and in-time performance in this kind of unnatural setting requires a special set of skills.
Isn’t It Cheaper if I Do It Myself?
Given that we all have to keep an eye on the bottom line when it comes to our recording budget, there is the temptation to save money by playing on the demo yourself. The problem with this method is that often it will take an inexperienced musician twice as long to get a viable take as it would a pro. One of the many advantages of using session musicians is that they are not only good at what they do but fast. In other words, the price you pay to hire a session musician translates into savings on studio time compared to playing the part yourself. Being fast in the studio is useful for another reason as well. When a session bogs down with take after take, it starts to feel a lot more like work. When things go quickly and smoothly, they stay musical and fun. Don’t discount the need for a session to stay enjoyable. My experience has been that everyone does his or her best work when the atmosphere in the studio is light
When it comes to recording a demo, it’s essential that you keep your listening audience in mind at all times. In the music industry, there is a certain level of “polish” that record labels, publishers, managers and producers have come to expect from the demos they listen to. By bringing in the same musicians that play on hundreds of songwriting demos and major label record projects, you’ll be giving these industry types what they’re used to hearing. We’ve all heard from time to time industry professionals say that they can “hear through” your rough recordings. My recommendation is NOT to take that chance. You’ve only got one opportunity to make a first impression and you should give yourself every advantage. Also, even if there is one industry professional willing and able to hear through a rough recording, you’ll hopefully be pitching this song to a number of industry people many of whom will be expecting a professional sounding demo.
The Care and Feeding of Session Musicians
When it comes to working with session musicians, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, if you’re not comfortable writing out a chord chart, professional session musicians are perfectly capable of listening to your rough recording and writing out their own charts. For them, charting is quick process that should take no longer than 10-15 minutes at the most. Then, when it comes time for the musicians to play, always suggest that they try it their way first. There are two reasons for this. First of all, you’ve hired them to make your demo sound great so you should give them a chance to go with their instincts before you offer any direction. Secondly, by letting them do what you’ve brought them in to do with a minimum of interference, you’ll create goodwill that will go a long way towards the overall vibe in the studio. In almost every case, what the session musicians come up with will be better than you ever expected. HOWEVER, if you’re still not getting what you want after they’ve tried it their way, you’re 100% entitled to politely ask them to try it the way you were hearing it. The ONLY appropriate response from a session musician to your request is “absolutely.”
It can be intimidating to work with such talented musicians, but remember, they’re working for you! One of my favorite expressions is “the best ones have nothing to prove.” In other words, when you hire pros not only will they be great at what they do but they should be a pleasure to work with as well. There is no reason to hire even the best session musician if they have a bad attitude. This is extremely rare but if it happens, I’d recommend never using that musician again. There are way too many wonderful, friendly and talented session musicians out there to ever settle for one with a chip on their shoulder.
Finally, if you’ve never used a professional musician on your songwriting demo, do yourself a favor and try it out. You’re in for a treat and you’ll end up with a great demo.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including monthly online webinars. Go to http://www.educatedsongwriter.com/webinar/ for the latest schedule.
Cliff’s company, http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.
You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook.