July 24th, 2009
I love recording. I record several EPs, a few brainstorming sessions, and about two LPs a year. I once owned an expensive analog (cassette) four track but sold it. A few weeks ago, just as I was about to burn my first LP in over a year to disc, the logic board on my iMac got fried, trapping my hard work on the hard disk until I can fix it. This isnt such a bad thing as it helped me discover the lost art of four-tracking.
So now Im recording a new EP entitled My Two Shadows. It is being recorded on a 4 track I bought for only $50. I love the warm sound that one gets from a four track. My usual process involves using a computer to add loops, strange sounds, electronic drums etc. This time around everything sounds just as it does live. I use the natural tone of my amp instead of plugging my guitar into my computer and using artificial sounding effects. Dont get ne wrong, I love computer recording but this experience is something every musician should have. Its a beautiful thing to have to rely on your own talents and the limitations of your equipment to create a sound that is uniquely your own.
I wouldnt say im against computer recording. In fact, I plan to keep recording as I did before on my iMac. For now though I plan on enjoying every second of recording on the four track.
April 4th, 2009
There are several experiences that all songwriters face. Every songwriter has had writer’s block at some point. You either become bored, frustrated, or just plain blocked. Writer’s block is a terrible experience but have you ever hit “that wall”. I know that the wall is considered synonymous with writer’s block most of the time but my definition deviates. Writer’s block is a temporary condition in which you can’t seem to write a song - music and lyrics just don’t flow. It sucks, its painful, its a lot like constipation but it is a cakewalk compared to the wall.
When you hit the wall you feel as if you will never be able to write a song again. Nothing you’ve ever written is good when you hit the wall and you can never come up with anything better or more original than what you’ve already written. You think about it obsessively, you go out and do all the things you would do to halt writer’s block but it won’t work. I recently worked through a year long block where I wrote absolutely nothing and thought my days of songwriting were over. The feeling of hitting the wall is much like a deep depression. I can’t tell you what will work for you but I can give you some ideas as to how to overcome your blockage.
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March 11th, 2009
I write my own songs. I love my songs. But my songs are nothing without lyrics. The music is beautiful but the words set to that music make it truly beautiful. Singing goes along with songwriting but what if you don’t have a beautiful voice?
I definitely don’t have a beautiful voice. My voice is ugly - or so I think. You don’t need a great voice to be a good performer. I always think to myself that because my voice is awful people won’t like my songs. The opposite is true. People really do like my songs. I once had a guy yell out “Hey man, you’re really good! Keep going!” just as I was about to end a set. This happened during a performance I didn’t think was very good at all. Everyone hates their voice when they hear it played back to them. But your voice may not be as bad as you may think.
The important thing about singing is to stay on key and to hit the right notes. This isn’t as hard as its made out to be. It just takes practice. You didn’t become a great guitar or piano player over night did you? Same goes for your voice. People have this idea that you are either born with a good voice or not. This simply isn’t the case. I think this false belief comes from the fact that as humans we use our voices all day long.
The first thing you need to do is find your range. The easiest way to do this is to find a piano or keyboard of some kind and goes through all the keys starting with the lowest. Match your voice to each note in every key. You may not be able to hit the low notes or the high notes. You may fall somewhere in the middle. Once you’d identified your range you need to practice singing in each key. Go through your Do Re Mi’s until you can go through every note in every key of your range without using the keyboard to match your pitch.
Once you can Do Re Mi your way through your range without the help of a keyboard to match pitch you’re ready to move on to keys outside of your range. If you can’t sing in more higher keys than lower keys I’d advise you to practice the high notes you can’t grasp and vice versa. Go through the same process for all the keys out of your range and you should start to become a much better singer in no time. You may not be able to extend your range much from your initial starting point and thats fine. The fact that you’ve practiced and can now hold any note in your range without using a pitch matching tool like the keyboard is reason enough to celebrate.
You may still not like your voice though. This is something that will never change unfortunately. But mastering your range will give you the confidence to sing in front of anyone anyway. A few tips though:
- At first write songs that stay within your range. When you move on to the higher or lower keys out of your range you should definitely write songs in them as part of your practice
- Once you know what your range is and you know what keys you will never be able to sing (knowing this takes a long time) then you know what keys you can write your songs in
You no longer have to feel embarrassed to perform your songs anymore. You won’t have to hire a singer either. Everyone has a range and as long you practice singing in that range you will never sound bad. Take Billy Corgan for instance. He has a voice only a mother could love but his songs don’t sound bad because of it. He hits the notes he needs to hit and his songs are now hits (I know, I know, it was lame of me to use ‘hit’ so many times like that). The Smashing Pumpkins are my favorite band and I sometimes joke that my voice is ugly because Billy Corgan taught me to sing.
Projection is a big part of making this work but this post isn’t about the details of singing because although I took voice lessons for two semesters at Columbia I’m no expert when it comes to singing. What I do know is that following these basic guidelines will vastly improve your skill and confidence. Happy performing.
March 3rd, 2009
As songwriters we are obsessed with inspiration. We ask for it every time we sit down with out instrument of choice. In my case I sit down my guitar or keyboard and hope for the best. But sometimes you draw a blank and when that happens you feel like your life is over. The feel of being void of ideas is probably one of the worst feelings a songwriter can experience. I know that when I get this way not only do I feel bad as a songwriter but as a person too. I feel as if there must be something missing in my life and thats why I’m out of ideas. Even if you don’t get that way we can all relate to writer’s block.
We often go on searches for inspiration and come back empty handed. If this is happening to you then you must not be doing it right. Inspiration has a dirty little secret that it doesn’t want you to know. Inspiration is not necessary and in fact can even be destructive to the songwriting process.
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February 25th, 2009
When I bought my fist guitar back in 2000 I chose it because my favorite color is green. It was an ugly Washburn with dual humbuckers and a rosewood neck. It sounded terrible. Not because it was a bad guitar but because I’m not a fan of humbuckers on a solid body. But that was the guitar I did most of my learning on. The foundation of my current skill set was forged by playing Smashing Pumpkins songs over and over on that ugly dissonant sounding guitar.
When I became a decent musician and knew just a tad more about guitars I went out and bought a Squier Stratocaster. This was a downgrade from my Washburn but it had two single coil pickups and came pretty close that trebbly Fender sound I loved. Eventually I became knowledgeable enough to know exactly what sound I wanted my guitar to make and I upgraded to another green guitar - a Fender Standard Strat with a maple neck.
Had I not known how to play guitar in the first place not one of those guitars would ever have sounded good. There were many times when I swore that if I had a better guitar I would be a better player. I had this crazy idea that as soon as I got that Fender I would be on stage playing for adoring crowds. But that never happened because its all about skill.
I’ve been playing guitar for almost a decade now and I finally see this issue clearly. Great songs aren’t hashed out on brand name expensive guitars, they’re created in your heart first. You can hand me a cheap beat up guitar and I’ll write a beautiful song people love on it while someone who needs their Fender 1950’s Buddy Holly Reissue to write a song will churn out crap. Read the rest of this entry »
February 23rd, 2009
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February 17th, 2009
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