Recording Tips & Terms

 


 

These 12 Recording Tip's
are practiced around the world and are known as the
" Studio Bible of Tips."

Recording Tips   *   Studio Terms   *   Vocal Tips   *  Building Hip Hop Beats

 
 
Making a Better Recording

  The more everyone understands what is expected in the studio, the better the recording will turn out. Be aware that some musicians get uptight before a session - it can be a very stressful time. Just remember to relax.
When we're on the other side of a glass wall, it can sometimes feel like we're sitting in judgment of your music - we aren't. The glass prevents control room sounds from leaking into the studio mikes.  If we hear a mistake, we'll let you know, but we aren't sitting there waiting for you to make mistakes. We're here to help you get great sound - not to judge your music or your playing.

Do you always use a click track when recording drums?
Depending on the genre of music, if you’re doing a live performance, or you’re recording the entire band or ensemble simultaneously, sometimes you can get away without a click – especially if you have a really solid drummer. But I would say 80% of the time in a studio recording – especially if we’re just cutting drums and bass – we’re playing to a click.

Even if you are doing a “live” studio recording, you’re still usually sending the click to the drummer. It’s just the way to go. I’ve had big-time studio drummers in, and almost all of them want a click. There are so many reasons to use one when recording a drum track. The most obvious is that your timing is exactly where it needs to be, there’s no shifting of the tempo.

But with DAWs, you’re not always using the complete performance of the drummer on the finished product. Sometimes you’re looping sections – you’re taking a really good section of the verse, and a really good section of the chorus, and you’re cutting and pasting and basically piecing the track together and making it stronger than it could ever be if the drummer were just playing it. Some guys are completely against doing that, and others are just like, “Yeah, man. That’s just how things are done.” You can’t really do that if you’re not using a click. It’s possible, but it won’t be easy.

Really? You’re taking the best parts of the drummer’s performance and re-using them throughout a song?
It’s so common today in home studios and pro studios, and it was happening back in the 90s when I was working in the bigger studios and we were making the drums tracks just slam. Making sure they were consistent throughout the song or finding great energy in the vamp and moving that to the first hook, things like that. Really producing the drum track.

When I first started and we were using 2? reels, it was all about getting the best take. There was no punching in, unless there was a moment of silence or a break. But it was pretty much up to the drummer to get this great take.

Personally, I consider myself a purist when it comes to recording. I still love the sound of analog and I still think there’s nothing better than using one great take. Nothing beats the real thing. However, there are many situations where cutting and pasting will yield a better finished product. It really depends on the player.

With DAWs being so prevalent, they’re the way most people record these days, and they’ve changed the way people record. And these techniques are not just for recording drums. With any instrument, you just need to get it right once and you can use it in the rest of the track. Back in the days of tape, we did this sometimes. I’d sample a guitar lick and move it around the track – or I was taking segments of the track and bussing it to a 2-track reel-to-reel deck, and then basically flying it in. So it’s been going on in production for eons, it’s just become very easy now.

And I guess it’s why a lot of recorded music today sounds a little less then human.
Yeah, I guess that’s true in some cases. Maybe more than some… It’s really pretty amazing what you can do now. You start getting into quantizing and beat detection, where the computer is basically analyzing the drum track and saying, “OK, I’ve got it.” It knows where the kick drum and snare drum are being hit, among other things. So then if you listen and say, “I wish this were a little faster,” you can pick it up a little without affecting the pitch. But let’s say you wanted it to swing a little harder, or you want the snare to be right on the 2 and 4. This stuff now takes minutes. You can serve up a part in five different ways and select the one that swings the most or the least, or whatever. It’s really that easy to do this stuff now.

From a musician’s standpoint, I bet this can be pretty upsetting. Like, “What are you doing? It’s taken me years to become this good a drummer and you’re not even keeping my track!”
Yes, that can happen. A lot of times, they may not even be totally aware it’s happening. It’s really the producer’s call. They’ll get back days later and hear the playback and be like, “Man, I was on!” But there are other applications. Often, you’re not working on an entire guitar part at once, maybe you’re hammering on a verse for a long time, trying to get it just right, and once you’ve got it once, you can be like, “Great I’ve got it, we’ve got the verse, let’s move on to the chorus.” That’s another thing you can’t do if you’re not working with a click.

Another thing that the DAWs allow you to do if you’re using a click is to adjust the tempo after you’ve recorded the drums. Let’s say you realize after the fact that you want to pull the tempo up – these days, you can record something at 110 bps and adjust the tempo to 116 bps and it will sound like it was recorded at 116! It doesn’t work in all scenarios, but I’ve done it on some stuff and it worked well.

I’ll admit, as a drummer, I was skeptical about using a click on my last recording. It took some rehearsing before the studio date before I was comfortable, and even really pleased about using the click.
I’ve had drummers throw the cans down on their set and leave the studio because they were so frustrated playing to a click. They just hadn’t had enough time to practice with it and get used to it, and then here you are in a studio environment using some foreign technique that you’ve never used – it can be incredibly frustrating.

But once you have the click thing down, you not only get used to it, you can push and pull a little bit and play around it. You can decide, “I need to play a little ahead of the click in this section, and I want to be just behind the click here…”

I found it interesting, after having rehearsed without the click for so long, to start using it and realizing just where and when I’d start to push the tempo forward or slow things down. So then afterward, I was much more aware if where those spots were and I think I was way better at holding the tempo steady even without the click.
If you start practicing early on as a drummer with a click, that’s the way to go. Then as you develop, you’ll likely have much more control over tempo and it’ll sound like you’re playing to click even when you aren’t. And you can still play with a ton of swing. It won’t be stiff, the tempo will just be steady.
 
 

Recording  Your Songs

Creativity isn’t always a group process. And democracy can sometimes kill the best ideas.

Picture this: a dark room dimly warmed by the glow of a computer monitor, four tired people huddled on a beer-stained leather couch, – the mixing engineer hits the playback button and pure sonic magic roars through the speakers…

UNTIL…

The bass player asks for more low-end definition. Which makes the drummer ask for a louder kick. Which makes the guitarist want to hear more high end. Which makes the vocals sound brittle. Which frustrates the mixing engineer who now needs to find a different reverb. Which kills the magic and everyone loses. Which destroys the house that Jack built.

How quickly it all spirals away!

In most cases, the process of mixing a song is NOT best-served by multiple perspectives, voices, and contributors. When you meet in the middle, you’re forcing the song into bland, compromised territory, when one person’s all-out sonic vision for the tune may bring it fully to life.

If your band doesn’t work in a situation where one person clearly calls all the shots, if your band really is a democratic outfit, then I suggest 2 possible solutions to a creative impasse:

1) Give up control- Enlist a producer or mixing engineer who you trust, someone you’ve hired because you’ve heard and loved their previous work. Let them steer the ship (as long as they’re not steering it towards an iceberg). Give them time to carve out the frequencies, get the effects and volumes set, then… listen with open ears and an open mind. If you have disagreements, hear them out as to why they made the decisions they did. Take a few days off to let egos cool and revisit the song at that point. Does it sound better after the break?

2) Give EVERYONE control, but not all at once- If you’re having mixing disagreements, allow each person who feels strongly about the direction of the mix to individually guide the process for that song. You may have 2 or 3 radically different approaches to choose from when it is done, but at least each member got to hold the reins through to the end. THEN get democratic: vote on the “best” version. (You probably want to let the producer and/or engineer have a vote too, to break any ties,… or just in case everyone votes for their own version).

________________________________________


Recording Tips

Tip# 1
  Rehearse only the songs that you'll be recording for at least 2 days before the session. For clean starts, use an 8 beat count off instead of a 4 beat count off, with the last two beats silent. (Example: 1 2 3 4, 1 2 - - )
Practice with a click track....Time and meter are most important.

Tip# 2
 Practice the songs straight  through, including intros, endings, and dynamics. Work out all your solos before you get to the studio.

Tip# 3
  If needed, put on new strings and drum heads at least 2 days before the session. Bring extra batteries, strings, and cables, just in case.

Tip# 4
  Get a good night's sleep and make sure everyone is in a good mood before the session. Don't party.

Tip# 5
  Start the songs cleanly and wait till the tape is rolling before turning up your volume (unless we've gated your instrument). Don't talk, play, or move for a count of eight after you finish a take. Wait for the last notes to die away completely. Use your volume knob to fade out at the end of a song.

Tip# 6
  Don't jam or play between takes or songs. Either tune up or sit quietly. Goofing off just wastes everybody's time.

Tip# 7
  You may have to change your normal amp settings to get a better sound on tape. Sometimes your stage settings don't work in the studio and we may have to experiment to get your sound back - even to the point of switching amps or going directly into the board, or through the SansAmp.

Tip# 8
  If you screw up, don't panic, but point it out. Most of the time, we can punch it in later. If one song isn't happening, forget that song and move on to another song, or we'll take a short break. Don't bother with "I'm sorry" or "I'll get it this time." You're just putting more pressure on yourself. Screw ups happen. Just relax and try it again. Recording is very stressful - don't make it any harder on yourself. If you feel yourself getting tense about a song, take a break. A break after every couple of songs can help a lot. Be open to suggestions and changes. "Screw ups" sometimes turn out great. Maybe you didn't hit the note you wanted, but the note you hit may be better.

Tip# 9
  After the final session, everybody usually wants a rough mix. Go ahead and enjoy it that night and the next day, then put it away. Get away from the music for a while, or you won't be able to hear clearly when you mix. Everybody should take a  day break (or longer) before the mix down session to rest their ears. Listen to groups you like, and try to get a feel for their sound and their mixes.

Tip# 10
  Before the mix down session, play the rough cassette or cd (with or without the band there) and make notes on every song. Is it similar in sound to groups you like? Try to pinpoint the differences. Need more bottom on the kick? Less reverb on the vocal? Vocals too loud or soft? More edge on the bass? Move the lead guitar more to the left or right? Before you start the mix down, we'll go over your notes and try to get the sound you want.

Tip# 11
  When you're mixing down, you want a finished product that's as good as any pre-recorded material. Listen to the whole song, not just your part.

  That's about it. Above all, have fun. Remember, your attitude will come across on the finished product.

Tip# 12
Leave your friends at home.  If you want to put on a show rent a hall.
Friends will interfere with your performance in the studio.
 

Quality Playback

What kind of quality can you expect for your money? Expect a finished DAT, cassette, or CD that's as good as any pre-recorded product and meets FM Broadcast standards. We use only high quality chrome, high bias cassettes. or CD-Rs that you can send to radio stations and sell in clubs. 
 
 

RECORDING TERMS

ANALOG-TO-DIGITAL (A/D) CONVERTER: A circuit that converts an analog audio signal into a stream of digital data (bit stream) 
 

CHORUS: The main portion of a song that is repeated several times throughout the song with the same lyrics 
 

COMPRESSION: The reduction in dynamic range or gain 
 

COMPRESSION RATIO (SLOPE): In a compressor, the ratio of the change in input level (in dB) to the change in output level (in dB). For example, a 2:1 ratio means that for every 2 dB change ininput level, the output level changes 1 dB 
 

COMPRESSOR: A signal processor that reduces dynamic range or gainby means of automatic volume control. An amplifier whose gain decreases as the input signal level increases above a preset point 
 

DE-ESSER: A signal processor that removes excessive sibilance ("s" and "sh" sounds) by compressing high frequencies around 5 to 10 kHz 
 

DI: Short for direct injection, recording with a direct box 
 

DIGITAL AUDIO WORKSTATION (DAW): A computer, sound card, and editing software that allows you to record, edit and mix audio programs entirely in digital form. Stand-alone DAWs include real mixer controls; computer DAWS have virtual controls on-screen 
 

DIGITAL-TO-ANALOG CONVERTER: A circuit that converts a digitalaudio signal into an analog audio signal 
 

DIRECT BOX: A device used for connecting an amplified instrument directly to a mixer mic input. The direct box converts a high-impedance unbalanced audio signal into a low-impedance balanced audio signal 
 

DIRECT INJECTION (DI): Recording with a direct box 
 

DISTORTION: An unwanted change in the audio waveform, causing a raspy or gritty sound quality. The appearance of frequencies in a device's output signal that were not in the input signal. Distortion is caused by recording at too high a level, improper mixer settings, components failing, or vacuum tubes distorting. (Distortion can be desirable--for an electric guitar, for example.) 
 

EQUALIZATION (EQ): The adjustment of frequency response to alter the tonal balance or to attenuate unwanted frequencies 
 

EQUALIZER: A circuit that alters the frequency spectrum of a signal passed through it 
 

EXPANDER: 1. A signal processor that increases the dynamic range of a signal passed through it. 2. An amplifer whose gain decreases as its input level decreases. When used as a noise gate, an expander reduces the gain of low-level signals to reduce noise between notes 
 

FILTER: A circuit that sharply attenuates frequencies above or below a certain frequency. Used to reduce noise and leakage above or below the frequency range of an instrument or voice 
 

FREQUENCY: The number of cycles per second of a sound wave or an audio signal, measured in hertz (Hz). A low frequency (for example, 100 Hz) has a low pitch; a high frequency (for example, 10,000 Hz) has a high pitch 
 

HIGH PASS FILTER: A filter that passes frequencies above a certain frequency and attenuates frequencies below that same frequency. 
A low-cut filter 
 

LOW PASS FILTER: A filter that passes frequencies below a certain frequency and attenuates frequencies above that same frequency. 
A high-cut filter 
 

LIMITER: A signal processor whose output is constant above a preset input level. A compressor with a compression ratio of 10:1or greater, with the threshold set just below the point of distortion of the following device. Used to prevent distortion of attack transients or peaks 
 

MONITOR: A loudspeaker in a control room 
 

MONO-COMPATIBLE: A characteristic of a stereo program, in which the program channels can be combined to a mono program without altering the frequency response or balance. A mono-compatible stereo program has the same frequency response in stereo or mono because there is no delay or phase shift between channels to 
cause phase interference 
 

NOISE GATE: A gate used to reduce or eliminate noise between notes 
 

NON-DESTRUCTIVE EDITING: In a digital audio workstation, editing done by changing pointers (location markers) to information on the hard disk. 
A non-destructive edit can be undone 
 

PARAMETRIC EQUALIZER: An equalizer with continuously variable parameters, such as frequency, bandwidth, and amount of boost or cut 
 

PLUG-IN: Software effects that you install in your computer. The plug-in software becomes part of another program you are using, 
such as a digital editing program 
 

POP FILTER: A screen placed on a microphone grille that attenuates or filters out pop disturbances before they strike the microphone diaphragm. 
Usually made of open-cell plastic foam or silk, a pop filter reduces pop and wind noise 
 

PREAMPLIFIER (PREAMP): In an audio system, the first stage of amplification that boosts a mic-level signal to line level. 
A preamp is a stand-alone device or a circuit in a mixer 
 

PREPRODUCTION: Planning in advance what you're going to do at a recording session, in terms of track assignments,
overdubbing, studio layout, and microphone selection 
 

PRODUCTION: The supervision of a recording session to create a satisfactory recording. This involves getting musicians together for the session, making musical suggestions to the musicians to enhance their performance, making suggestions to the engineer for sound balance and effects, and assisting with filling out any necessary paperwork (union, PRO, talent releases, assignments, copyright forms, etc.) 
 

RELEASE TIME: In a compressor, the time it takes for the gain to return to normal after the end of a loud passage 
 

SCRATCH VOCAL: A vocal performance that is done simultaneously with the rhythm instruments so that the musicians can keep their place in the song and get a feel for the song. Because it contains leakage, the scratch-vocal recording is usually erased. 
Then the singer overdubs the vocal part that is to be used in the final recording 
 

SHELVING EQUALIZER: An equalizer that applies a constant boost or cut above or below a certain frequency, so that the shape of the frequency response resembles a shelf 
 

SIBILANCE: In speech recording, excessive frequency components in the 5 to 10 kHz range, which are heard as an 
overemphasis of "s" and "sh" sounds 
 

SOUND CARD: A circuit card that plugs into a computer, and converts an audio signal into computer data for storage in memory or on hard disk. 
The sound card also converts computer data into an audio signal 
 

SOUND MODULE (SOUND GENERATOR): A synthesizer without a keyboard, containing several different timbres or voices. These sounds are triggered or played by MIDI signals from a sequencer program, or by a MIDI controller 
 

TAKE: A recorded performance of a song. Usually, several takes are done of the same song, and the best one--o
r the best parts of several--become the final product 
 

THRESHOLD: In a compressor or limiter, the input level above which compression or limiting takes place. In an expander, 
the input level below which expansion takes place
 
 

Vocal Tips A to Z

A = Airflow.  Never hold your breath while singing.  The airflow is what creates and carries your vocal tone, so keep it flowing.  Avoid Clavicular Breathing and Belly Breathing -- instead, learn the proper way to breathe for singing, called  diaphragmatic breathing. Fill the lower portion of your lungs as if you had an inner tube around your waist that you were evenly filling.

B = Breathing properly for singing requires the shoulders to remain down and relaxed, not rise with the breath intake.  A singer will gain power to their voice by strengthening the muscles in their ribcage and back. 

C = Communicate the music's message.   During performance it is very important to communicate the message of the song.   If you make a "mistake" don't point it out to your audience. It is most likely they did not even notice. 

D = Diaphragmatic Support.   Develop the strength and coordination of the diaphragm and become a pro at controlling the speed of the airflow released, the quantity of the airflow released and the consistency of the airflow released. 

E = Elasticity of the Vocal Folds. The vocal tone is created as airflow bursts through the cleft of the vocal cords causing them to vibrate/oscillate.  The vocal folds can lose elasticity due to misuse, lack of use and/or increase of age.  Be sure to train your voice with vocal exercises on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape. 
 

F = Free your natural voice.  Don't be a slave to any music style -- even your favorite one.  Learn to sing with your full and natural voice by developing your vocal strength and coordination.  Then add stylistic nuances to achieve any singing style you desire. 

G = Guessing Games.  Never guess the pitch you are about to sing.  Hear the note in your head before you open your mouth. 

H = High notes require consistent and steady airflow. Many students tend to hold their breath as they sing higher. Let the air flow. 
Try increasing your airflow and gauge your result. 

I = Increase your breathing capacity and control by doing breathing exercises every day.  Be sure to avoid patterned breathing. 
Singers must negotiate phrase lengths of all different sizes, so it is important to be versatile. 
 
 

J = Jumping Jacks.  If you are having trouble getting your body completely involved with singing, try doing some cardiovascular activities, like jumping jacks, for a few minutes before getting started again.  Sometimes your instrument simply needs an airflow wake-up call. 

K = Know your limits. Don't sing too high or too low.  Don't sing to the point of vocal fatigue.  Never strain or push your voice.  Doing so will not result in a higher or lower singing range, or a stronger voice, only a voice that has suffered undue stress. 

L = Low notes are often sung with too much airflow. Try decreasing your airflow to achieve a more natural, more relaxed tone. 

M = Mirror.  Training in front of a mirror can help a singer discover many things about their instrument, as well as confirm that other actions are being done correctly.  Be sure to rely on a mirror during vocal training, but be able to leave the mirror to face an audience. 

N = Never sing if it hurts to swallow. 
 

O = Open your mouth wider. Nine times out of ten this will help you achieve a stronger, more defined vocal tone. 

P = Prepare your instrument before singing.  Singers are very much like athletes.  Take care of your body/instrument by stretching out the vocal muscles and relieving the body of unnecessary tension before singing. 

Q = Quit smoking. Quit talking too loudly.  Quit talking too much. 

R = Raise the Soft Palate.  Creating a larger space inside your mouth by raising the soft palate, or fleshy part of the back of our throat, 
helps achieve a deeper more well rounded singing tone. 

S = Sing through the vocal breaks.  If you do not teach the muscles the necessary actions to sing through the trouble spots, success will never be achieved. 
Sing through it, sing through it again, and again.... 

T = Tone Placement.  Learning the facts about tone placement and resonance make a huge difference in the abilities of a singer.  In simple terms, a singer has numerous body cavities (nasal cavity, chest cavity, etc.) and amplifiers (bones, ligaments, etc.) that act as resonators.  Focusing the vocal tone through the proper resonating chamber with the proper support is important with regard to controlling and developing your personal sound. 

U = Unique Voice Under Construction.  Remember that your voice has its own unique fingerprint and is constantly changing with our actions, environment, health habits, etc.  With this in mind, listen to your own voice often and use vocal training tools to keep your voice on the right track. 

V = Vibrato. Vibrato is a natural or forced fluctuation of a singing tone.  Do not concentrate on learning how to sing with vibrato.  Instead, concentrate on the basic foundations of singing, breathing and support.  When the proper coordination is achieved, vibrato will occur naturally.

W = Water.  Water.  Water.  Drink room temperature water as often as you can to keep your voice organ hydrated.  If you only have cold or hot water available, swish it around in your mouth for a moment.  This action will keep your voice organ from being startled or stressed by different temperatures. 
 
 

Y = You Can Sing with Impact!  Exercise your voice daily with contemporary voice lesson products.  Don't Just Sing when You Can Sing with Impact! 
 

Z = Zzzzzzzz.  Be sure to get your rest.  If you are tired, your voice will show it.  A tired body/instrument will not allow you to produce your best possible sound.

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Singing tips: the jaw
 
 
 

05/11/2014
 

Among other parts of your body that are used when singing, the jaw is not the first one we usually think about. It's usually when not working properly that we become conscious of how important it is. Indeed, when stressed or under pressure, like before starting a karaoke or on stage for a concert, we can feel the resistance due to the tension in our muscles. As well as a tight throat, tight jaw becomes an obstacle for the diffusion of the sound.

A great attention to your jaw must be provided even before singing. Like a professional athlete, you'll need to warm up and stretch your jaw to get it flexible and get passed the tension. We're not saying you need to be a Jim Carrey, but simple exercises will be enough.

Exercise #1 : let-it-go

The easiest and most natural exercise is to let your jaw go. Open your mouth slowly (don't break anything) and keep your down jaw hanging towards your neck. Your sex-appeal will be reduced to 0 for a while and you will look silly but it will relax your muscles between your jaws. Put one finger on each junction between both jaws and try to feel the whole that just appeared. Keep your fingers on it for about 10 seconds.

Exercise #2 : massaging

Put your index and middle finger at the back of your cheeks, next to your ears. Open your mouth slowly until you feel a small bump in your jaw. Massage your jaw where your fingers are, not too hard though. You should soon feel an urge to yawn. Don't refrain it, yawning means your jaw needs to relax.

Exercise #3 : rest your neck

Put your hands back your head, on your neck, so that you support your head. Release the muscles of your head. Your hands only support your head now. Sing like this, you should feel your jaw relaxing and your singing gain confidence.

Exercise #4 : reading

Talk out loud words containing the long « o » ([o:]). For instance, « rose », « pose », « close », « vote ». You jaw will work in a position that will allow it to relax.

Practice those exercises just before singing, and you should quickly be able to tell the difference and improve your singing.
 
 
 

MORE FREE SINGING TIPS!

A-Z SINGING TIPS -2
 

A is for Attitude. How many singers does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the world has to revolve around them, ha ha. All kidding aside, being a vocalist is a very courageous and naked way of expressing yourself. If you aren’t open and unashamed, your audience will not be able to develop an empathetic rapport. 

B is for Breath Control. To skillfully control your breath while singing it is required that you relax most muscles, while strenuously exerting others. This is an exercise in coordination that requires concentration and practice – but like anything you’ve done a thousand times, it eventually 
becomes second nature.

C is for Criticism. Everyone always has something to say – especially if you ask them! Gravitate towards your fans, disregard those whom you believe may have motive to see you fail. Take to heart constructive criticism you can use to make yourself stronger, and accept the fact that you cannot please all the people all the time. 

D is for Dynamics. Using dynamics is the art of raising and lowering the volume of your voice to add texture and expression to the sound. This is also known as “color”. You will notice that in popular styles, the voice grows louder with higher notes, and softer with lower notes, with the exception of when falsetto is used.

E is for Emotion. If the emotional content of the song you’re singing is powerful enough to move you, then allow that emotion to affect the sound of your voice. If it’s not, then you must reach inside your heart and connect with a similar experience of your own. 
 

F is for Facial Muscles. For homework, observe your favorite singers in live action. Take note of how they drop their jaw for some sounds, and lift their cheeks up for others… The shape of your mouth will greatly affect the tone and volume of the sound you are creating. 

G is for Grace. When singing, the sound should flow with ease - do not force. Volume comes from the manner in which the sound resonates, and each note has its “happy place”. Even to sing with a raunchy sound is a manner of technique, not force. 

H is for Hoarseness. The vocal cords are very delicate, and improper use of them will cause bruising, and if repetitive, calluses. When damaged, the vocal cords loose their elasticity causing a reduced ability to produce clear tones, limitation of range, and a great deal of stress 
for the performing singer.

I is for Imagery. When you are describing through song an event, an emotion, an experience, your surroundings, specific people, etc… you must have a clear vision in your mind’s eye of the images you are describing. If you neglect to do this, the words will seem to have no meaning. 

J is for Jabberwocky. When you are composing lyrics, don’t forget that nonsensical words, sounds, and scat are legitimate prose. La la la, do do do, bottle op’ botten doh, bottle op bop ‘n bayden day dow dow… 

K is for Karaoke! Karaoke is a great stepping stone between practicing as a beginner, and auditioning for a real gig. You’re a star on stage with a professional P.A. system, and there is no pressure at all not to make mistakes! 

L is for Larynx. The vocal cords are not really cords at all - they’re more like flaps which stick out horizontally from the sides of your windpipe. The vocal folds vibrate in accordance to their length, mass and tension using “tensor muscles”. 
 

M is for Music. It is my opinion that a singer is only as good as the song that he/she is singing. You must choose your material wisely; you would be surprised at how it alters people’s perception of your voice. 

N is for Name. What’s in a name? Lots if you’re a singer! You know how there are just some names you remember easily, and some you don’t? Many musicians have “stage names”, also known as “pseudonyms” (“pen names” are for authors). You do not need to legally change your name; it is extremely common and accepted for musicians to have an a.k.a. if they so desire. 

O is for Observation. Decide which vocalists you most admire, and then observe their technique. Visually, you will see how they use their physicality, and how they present themselves on stage. Audibly, you will hear what perhaps they are doing differently, and how you can
improve your own technique. 

P is for Projection. Projection is the art of pushing the sound (via the air) up, and forward, and away from you. Singers, actors, and public speakers do it. “Reach for the back row”. Remember that even when your voice is going down in pitch and in volume, the projection always moves up and forward and away – because it is your directly related to your airflow. 

Q is for Quench. When I’m recognized in public as a vocal coach, a lot of people ask first: “What should I drink”? I tell them that if they’re singing properly, it doesn’t matter much what they drink. I prefer to avoid caffeine, because I don’t like the crash that follows the artificial stimulation. Avoid hard liquor, it burns going down and the fumes may irritate. Avoid dairy products, they may help generate phlegm. Other than that, just try to remain hydrated and fueled – I like to drink spring water and fruit juice. When consuming carbonated beverages, be sure that you can keep your burping under control! It can be embarrassing, especially during ballads. 

R is for Range. You are not born with your range, you can increase it. If you cannot touch your toes, try every day to touch your toes - and you will touch your toes. Your range can be stretched in the same manner (using proper technique!!!) and likewise, if you don’t use your full range regularly, it will shrink back.
 

S is for Style. Placement (bass & treble, etc…), singing raunchy or raspy (without going hoarse!), vibrato, and falsetto are all stylistic techniques that can be learned, developed and mastered. Why not be versatile as possible? 

T is for Talent. Talent? I believe that talent is an illusion that only people who’ve practiced a great deal will ever possess. I have students who practice regularly, and students who don’t – the difference is abundantly clear. Adhere to a structured practice regiment and you will be “talented” too! 

U is for Undaunted. People often take their singing ambitions very seriously, and then along comes some person of authority who says “It’s unrealistic to think you’ll ever be a professional” for whatever reason. Think for a moment and try to come up with the names of five superstars to whom this person would be likely to say the same thing! 

V is for Visualization. Many vocal coaches use visualization techniques for the placement and projection of the sound. For one example, if you imagine the sound appearing out of nowhere above and just in front of you, you can aim more accurately with your pitch (no fading, or “dipping” into the note) and from there, project it away from you (pushing with your diaphragm). Project in a outwardly round manner for a fuller sound. 

W is for Warm Up! I would not be caught dead singing without warming up first. You go to hit a note… and a different one comes out! Your delicate little vocal folds were not made to go from 0 to 60 in three seconds. You must stretch them to their full range gently and gradually. 

Y is for Yak and Yell. Once you have developed your skill with regard to using your voice without damaging it, use this technique in your daily life. If you speak a great deal, or need to project your voice in a noisy environment, or cheer at a concert, scream on a roller coaster, shout instructions at a sports event, argue with your family, etc… you must preserve your voice with skill - or it won’t be there when you need it to sing! 

Z is for Zeal. If you’re a performer, then you must be zealous in all your endeavors. From the preparatory and organizational phases, to the performance – your enthusiasm and ardor will be a key factor. If you’re tired and you need to sing 30 songs now, pretend you’re not tired! 
Good luck, and have fun!!! 
 

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MORE FREE SINGING TIPS!
 
 

A-Z Free Singing Tips 3
l

A. Air. Learn to control your airflow. Make sure you breathe from the diaphragm and not from the upper chest area (also known as Claviculur Breathing.). Try to imagine your lungs filling up from the bottom to the top……OK, who’s that student at the back standing on their head? 
That’s not what I meant!!! 
 

B. Breathe!!! If you don’t you may expire and that can be a little worrying for us coachesJ Build up breath control by doing breathing exercises such as; inhale for 4 beats, hold for 4 beats, exhale for 4 beats, then rest for 4 beats, Keep building this up until you can hold your breath for a count of 16 beats or more. Remember if you feel dizzy STOP!!!

C. Care! There’s nothing worse (ok, maybe route canal surgery is a little worse) than watching a singer perform a song that they just don’t care about. Sing songs that you love and that you care about and your audience will care about you. 

D. Diaphragm, diaphragm, diaphragm, diaphragm. (did I mention diaphragm?). To me the diaphragm is the most important muscle in singing. Find out where it is and how to control your airflow. In a very short space of time you can become a much better singer simply by 
learning to control your diaphragm. 
 

E. Enjoy. Singing is fun. It’s actually very hard to be depressed when you are singing and there is lots of evidence all over the internet to support this theory. Most people find their weekly singing class very therapeutic, so relax, let go of your inhibitions and ENJOY!! 

F. Freehold New Jersey is where I teach. You can contact me on 732 685 2069 if you are interested in voice lessons. F is also for fear. Don’t be afraid to try new things. As long as you are gentle with your self and listen to your body it’s very unlikely that you will do any serious damage whilst working with a professional coach.

G. Guide your voice to where you want it to go. Our bodies (very conveniently I think) are full of nooks and crannies where, with careful guidance we can change the sound, timbre and resonance of our voices. Find out where these places are and experiment placing the sounds in different areas of your head and chest. Try singing like Yogi Bear, (with an open throat) then try as if you are looking over the top of a pair of glasses. Notice any difference? …. actually where are my glasses? 

H. Learn to support your head, I don’t mean save all your money to put it through college, I mean learn the correct posture. Just as there are optimum body postures for singing there is also correct head posture. If you believe my fellow countryman Charles Darwin you’ll know that the human body was not designed to stand erect, something went wrong during our evolutionary development and we ended up upright. The neck muscles therefore get very tired if we don’t use correct posture. Head rolls and self massage are great. So no more monkey business!! 

I. Imagination is the singers greatest asset. Use it wisely. Eliminate all negative thoughts and think positive. If you imagine that you can do something then you almost certainly can. The opposite also applies. If you are having trouble with a song try imagining you are the singer who sings it. Unlike guitar players or other musicians (and yes, singers are musicians) we do not have fret boards, keys or buttons to press so we must develop our imagination to hit the right notes, in the right key, at the right time. 

J. Join a group or a band. There’s no point in spending your hard earned cash, on singing lessons if you are not going to disclose to the world just how great you are. Choral groups and choirs are also great places to meet kindred spirits and to have fun. 

K. Karaoke. I LURVE Karaoke. Once I’m up there you literally have to drag me off. Karaoke files make great backing tracks for you to practice with as well. A great site where you can download Karaoke files and the software to play them on is: http://www.vanbasco.com. 

L. Larynx. Learn to get control over your Larynx. When we sing we need to avoid lifting the Larynx. Find out where it is (ok, it’s behind your Adam’s Apple) .Very gently, hold your Adam’s Apple between your index finger and thumb. Sing a high note, then sing a low one. Notice what happens. When we sing high notes the natural thing to do is to raise the Larynx but by doing that the Larynx gets in the way of all that lovely air flow you’ve been working on. It sounds complicated but if you order, or download Singing Is Easy! Basic Foundation Series from http://singsmart.com/ you’ll find all you need to get this and other techniques under your control. 

M. Music theory. When I began in Musical Theater back in London, it was imperative for singers to be able to sight sing. Nowadays, even on the top West End shows, singers learning new material are given CD’s with the songs already recorded . I think this is a little sad as it’s killing a skill which is A) not that hard to learn and B) a definite advantage when learning new songs. You don’t have to be a Mozart so don’t be afraid to learn Music theory. It’s easier than you think. 

N. Nodules. These are nasty little suckers that grow on your vocal folds if you don’t learn how to use your voice organ properly. Dehydration, alcohol abuse, shouting, screaming, smoking ( especially if all of the above are done simultaneously) can ruin your folds and you end up with having to have them scraped. Many of the old school of “screaming” rock stars have had nodules removed. In my opinion once this happens the voice organ is never quite the same again. Better to avoid nodules in the first place by learning to sing correctly. 

O. Observe yourself in a mirror. We all pick up bad habits regarding our posture and stance. Watching ourselves perform gives us a much more objective view of anything we may be doing wrong. Go on, no one’s watching, knock your self out!!! 

P. Preparation is very important. Like an Athlete always make sure you are properly warmed up and prepared both mentally and physically before you begin any singing regime. If you were to run a hundred yards straight off the bat without warming up, you would probably pull a muscle. Same with singing. Gently, warm up your voice and think positive thoughts before you begin. 

Q. Quiet time. I always start my classes with quite, diaphragmatic breathing. Gently winding down from all the stresses of the day. Focus on getting your breath down from the chest and into the diaphragm area. If you have a puppy or a kitten watch how they breathe. Their tummies’ rise and fall gently, with no stress or pressure. Breath in for a count of 7 then out for 11, This fools the body into becoming very relaxed, very quickly. This is a great technique to try if you are waiting for an interview or an exam. Don’t do this when driving though as it can lower blood pressure and increase your vehicle insurance should you crash!! 
 

R. (actually, R &R) . Rest and recreation are great for the voice. Try to get a full 8 hours sleep every night and fill at least 20 minutes of your day with cardiovascular work outs. Even if it’s just climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Do something to get your heart pushing oxygen around your system. Always consult your doctor before you embark on any vigorous cardio regime. 

S. Soft Palate. This fleshy little feller needs to be raised when we sing and there’s an easy way to do it. Just imagine a little smile at the back of the inside of your throat and hey presto, your soft palate will rise. Have a yawn too. Get used to this yawny feeling as it’s something similar to what we want to happen when we raise the soft palate and sing with an open throat. When you yawn though, try not to drop of to sleep. Hello …. You still there…hello ..wake up!!! 

T. Avoid Tea, Coffee, Alcohol, Ice Cream Milk, Soda, Peanuts, and chips just before you sing. Theses liquids only help to dehydrate your voice and the peanuts and chips leave debris all over your vocal folds …Ewww! In reality you should avoid all of the above period and just drink lots of water (more on water later). However, us coaches understand that you’re not training to become Monks so we do allow a little indulgence from time to time. Remember though, all things in moderation. 

U. Understanding. If you don’t understand what your coach has told you or why you are doing a particular exercise please ask. We need feed back in order to provide you with a better service and sometimes we make mistakes. Last week I told a 6 foot four 185 lb MAN that he was a Soprano. Duh!! I didn’t even realize I’d made that mistake until he came back the next week and told me what I had said. So don’t be afraid to ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand. Still can’t believe I said that!!! 
 

V. Vibrato Still on the subject of Sopranos, in relation to vibrato, Tony Soprano would say “ forget about it”! Just let vibrato happen of it’s own accord. If it aint happening just yet then it will, believe me. It can’t not happen as your singing technique improves. 
Never try to force vibrato it will sound horrible. 

W. Water. Always drinks lots of room temperature water. Water is your body's principal chemical component, comprising, on average, 60 percent of your weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. The Institute of Medicine advises that men consume roughly 3.0 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day and women consume 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. Interesting huh!!! 

X. Xylophone players rarely make good singers. Ok, I made that up, but you try thinking of a singing tip that starts with X. 

Y. Your voice is your instrument. Look after it and it will look after you long into old age. Treat it with respect and you will reap rewards. 

Z. Z is for Zorro. Be the best you can and leave your mark on the world. 

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More A-Z SINGING TIPS 

A = Athlete-- Singers need to train their body like an athlete. Your body is your instrument. Put a priority on: 1) taking care of your body -- rest, food and warming up to sing, and 2) building and maintaining your instrument. 

B= Breathing-- Knowing how to breathe in singing is a basic technique. A diaphragmatic approach is important here. Use your back muscles for support. Fill up air into your rib cage and back but not into your throat. This creates a baseline support level called holding up. Then take smaller breaths for phrases as 
you need them.

C= Control -- control in singing is a combination of techniques. Breath control, resonance, pitch, placement, holding up and being able to ride the air are all elements of control. Like riding a bike, it's the balance of all of these things that contribute to effortless singing. 

D= Drop Your Jaw -- Relaxing and dropping the jaw in (pop) singing is the key to reaching notes effortlessly, making range transitions and supporting the ends of your range. 

E= Eat for Energy -- Proteins are essential for maintaining energy in singing. Singing takes energy. Many performers lose energy halfway through a set and then end up efforting, pushing and stressing their vocal cords. 
 

F= Fatigue -- Fight fatigue. As a singer, this is a huge enemy. Fatigue will sap you of technique and have you working against yourself. Many singers strain their vocal chords, push their range, get hoarse, and get a variety of other problems when they get tired. The antidote is rest and self-care. 

G=Get out there-- The best way to create your own style as a singer is to do it. If you're a beginner, work with nurturing people (and a coach). You can play coffeehouses, open mikes, sing with friends, but just get started. 

H= Hydration - Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water (no lemon). It takes energy and lubrication to sing. 

I= Initiate -- Look for opportunities to sing. They are out there. Be like a tiger, watch for opportunities and do the work to be able to take them. 

J= Jaw -- Relax your jaw. Called a Dumb Duh, it will feel unnatural to keep your jaw loose and dropped but it is the best way to get a smooth sound and not effort in singing. It also allows you to get exact placement of pitch and replicate it. 

K= Keep Your Eye on the Ball -- Don't get discouraged if your voice isn't where you'd like it to be. It takes time to develop your instrument. Singing is a complex performing art and everyone who's successful has done the work at some time or another. Keep going and you'll keep growing. 
 
 

L= Less is More -- Strive to do justice to the song and your interpretation of it. Just deliver the message. Vocal gymnastics is not a prerequisite for doing a great vocal performance.

M= Mouth sounds -- Using mouth sounds such as a creek or a cry, give your voice more resonance and presence. In your chest voice, knowing how to use mouth sounds properly is critical -- especially in getting to record quality. Many singers mistakenly put their sound in their nose. Practice putting the sound in your mouth by placing it all the way in your nose and then forcing the sound into your mouth. FEEL the difference. Your body can assist you with correct placement. 

N= Not Efforting -- This is a concept of using your body as an instrument. Not efforting involves holding up (standing straight, having a support of air in your body), doing a proper placement of pitches, dropping your jaw, riding the air up and over, and relaxing into the groove. 

O=Open Stance -- An open stance to the audience is: holding up, standing straight, shoulders down, head and jaw relaxed, head straight forward, eyes open -- focused on a point, arms relaxed and wide. Watch Bono, Jagger, Aretha to get the idea. 

P- Placement -- Knowing (not guessing) where pitches are placed is critical to being in control as a singer. You can actually have your body help you in remembering where pitches are placed. If you are on stage and can't hear/have no monitors etc..., knowing placement will allow you to stay on pitch no matter what happens around you. 
 

Q= Quit Pushing -- Feeling powerful in singing and being powerful in singing are two entirely different things. While efforting -- pushing chest, singing louder to hit pitches, creating and pushing sound from the throat -- may feel powerful, it actually sounds worse. It's easy to go off pitch, sound strident (even painful), hurt your voice, crack etc... when you sing in this way. 

R = Riding the Air -- Riding the air is a concept and a set of actions that are extremely helpful for singers. Riding the air means holding up the air in your body so that you are supported, then sending/directing the sound up and over in a line to a point (imagine) across the room. Part of this is a mental image, part is a body muscle memory stance and the last part is mouth placement (riding along the palate). 

S= Sing, Sing, Sing -- Sing everyday. If you aren't in a group, sing in the car, take classes, and most importantly, do vocal exercises. They will maintain your instrument (and build it) as you look for a steady singing gig. 

T= Take feedback and direction. Be teachable. Sometimes other people can guide us when we don't know the way. Sometimes other people are dead wrong. Trust your intuition. Learn who to trust and then take what you like and leave the rest. 

V= Vocal Exercises -- Vocal exercises are critical to maintaining and building your instrument. Do NOT underestimate them. They warm up your vocal chords in ways just singing a song cannot and will not. Lip rolls are a good way to start any warm up routine and can be 
done on a variety of scales. 
 

W=Warm Up -- This is critical to a great performance -- you must warm up your muscles. A rule of thumb is to do at least 20 minutes of vocal exercises and 40 minutes of singing. If you perform a lot, it could take less time. If you perform infrequently, warm up longer. Otherwise you warm up on your audience or, worse, you find congestion, range weakness or other problems on stage rather than in the privacy of your home -- where you can work to overcome them. If you're sick or tired or very congested, having enough warm up time allows you to make good decisions on song selection and the actual set list. 

X= X Factor -- Once you've got some solid vocal technique, let your personality and spirit shine through. Your voice is the window to your soul and vision; your technique needs to support your vision, not overtake it. If you are technically in control and have clear intent, even a single word can move listeners to tears. 

Y= You are the Messenger -- If you're on stage or in the studio and you have to be perfect, it never works. Focus on communicating the song, sharing that experience with the audience. It's easy to make mistakes when it's all about us 
(how great or not we are). 

Z= Get in the Zone -- Singing is a mental, spiritual, emotional and physical pursuit. It takes preparation, focus and energy! Prepare mentally for a performance. Take time to get quiet and focused before you sing. Warm up and visualize yourself giving a great performance. 
 
 

The Music Business

Top 10 Mistakes Artists Make

If you want a record deal the answer is to develop a mindset that naturally attracts people to what you're doing as well as an understanding of how the music business game is played.

As you develop as a person, your music career will develop with you. Sounds crazy, but it's true, and I've seen it time and time again, with thousands of acts that I've worked with, from garage bands, to the guys selling out arenas.

Of course, part of developing includes making mistakes along the way. Check out these ten common music business mistakes, and ways to avoid them...

10. Being too difficult (or too nice)
First of all, let’s get this clear... Just because you wrote a few good songs and recorded them, it doesn’t mean the world revolves around you. Lots of people write and record good songs, so get in line.

Contrary to what the online rumor mill or media would have you believe, people in the music business are involved because they love music, and they’re not making enough to deal with jerks. And they won’t deal with jerks. If you’re a pain, they’re just go to the next guy, who also writes good songs, but has a better attitude.

With that said, don’t be too nice. You don’t have to say yes to everything. Pick your battles. If there is something you really feel strongly about, don’t settle for anything less.

Bottom line: Keep your ego in check and behave with courtesy and respect. At the same time, don't let anyone treat with you anything less.

9. Trying to convince people of anything...
You play music, and people have strong opinions about music. Either people get what you’re doing or they don’t.

So, some reviewer, booking agent, or manager doesn't like your new album. Let it go! Don't try to convince him he'll like it better after a second listen. He won't. And the more you press him to give your music another shot, the more he’ll remember how annoying you were. This means he’ll be far less open to ever listening to you again.

There are a lot of people who won't "hear it" when you approach them. So what? Move on. There are plenty of other people in this business who can help you. Go find the people who do "hear it" and put your energy into building good relationships with them instead.

8. Looking for industry approval
There was a time when the "industry" had a lot more pull when it came to breaking an artist, getting them distributed, and everything else. This is a new time, so we're playing with different rules now.

Distribution is easy. Every day, more and more albums and songs are being sold online, physically and digitally. Recording music is easier than ever. You are not limited by a lack of options for getting something recorded that sounds professional.

But more importantly, once you get a recording together, you don't need the industry to tell you your music is worthy. The consumers, the people who buy music, are really the only opinions that matter. And when you have the love of the consumers, the industry will come around.

The thing is, in the music industry, technology has changed faster than mindset. Stop believing you are at the mercy of any record label executive. You're not. Connect directly with your fans on your terms. The feedback, loyalty and money you receive from them will be far more gratifying than you spending your time beating your head against a wall trying to figure out a way to get an approving nod from a record label.

7. Not building strong relationships with fans
People aren't stupid. They know when they're being marketed to. They know when you're looking to sell them something.

Do they mind? No.

In fact, if you have a good relationship with your fans, they won't mind being marketed to, and if you do it well, they look forward to being marketed to. However, they have to know you care. Building relationships with fans take time. You have to show them you care.

Do things like:
• Give them a few free songs to download.
• Have message board on your website and build a community there.
• Do a "fan appreciation" show.
• Record a holiday album or an EP that you give out exclusively to members of your fan club.

Show them in special ways that you not only care, but that you're willing to go the extra mile to show your appreciation. In turn, they will buy your music, travel to see you play, call radio stations on your behalf, and promote you all over the web.

Every day – no matter if you're busy recording, on the road, or at home worrying about how you're going to find the money to make your project happen – do something (no matter how small the gesture is) to reach out to your fans.

6. Not "getting" how the fan/artist relationship works
You’re the leader and your fans do the following. You make the offer, they choose whether or not to accept.

Take charge, record the music, play the shows, print the t-shirts, and let them have the options of buying your album, coming to see you, or getting something to wear.

The average person has enough leadership duties to deal with in his or her own day. People are looking for somebody else to take control, so take control and let them ride along for a little while.

5. Laying Everything on the Table...
You're a rock star. You’re living the dream. Keep up that fantasy. Don't tell people how broke you are, that you're still living with your mother, or anything else that breaks the image of you fans have in their minds.

One of the reasons people like music is because they have the opportunity to live vicariously through the people they are listening to. When you are on stage, they're up there with you. When you're on the road in your tour bus, they're riding shotgun. Don't take that away.

Give them insight into your life and what it's like in your world, but always remember, you're not just selling music – you're also selling a persona.

4. Thinking the key to success is just musical talent, money, or looks
Yes, if we're talking about pop music, MTV, or the major label system, a certain amount of a contrived "image" probably helps sell records.

Obviously, money helps things. And it's always good if you can play and sing.

But "image" without marketing won’t get you on MTV. Good songs without marketing won’t get you on the radio. You can play well, have money, and look like a model, but if you don't have the marketing to back you up, none of it matters.

You know what? If you don’t have a good, solid marketing plan in place, everything else doesn't matter so much.

3. Giving up power
Keep control as long as you can. Yes, a label deal will give you opportunity that being an indie won't. And a professional manager has connections that you don't.

But when you sign with these guys, you're handing over your career to somebody else. Nobody cares as much about your career than you do. When you and your talent are the most important commodity you have to offer, do not give up your power easily and without a damn good reason.

Your music is worth something. You are worth something. Think of your career as being "virtual real estate" which, if marketed correctly, will pay dividends for years to come. So, treat it like that.

2. Jumping at every opportunity
You don't have to say yes to everything. In fact, sometimes, saying no to something can be more beneficial to your career than saying yes.

Why do you say yes to things? Take a look at your standards and make sure they’re high enough. As an example, just because a club has a PA system, it doesn't mean that it's worth playing there. There are some gigs that just aren't worth playing. There are some connections that just aren't worth developing.

When you say yes to something, especially something that takes your time, you're likely saying no to a host of other things by default. Leave yourself open to saying yes to the opportunities that really matter.

Trust your own judgment. If something doesn't feel right and you want to say no, it's okay. At that moment, you may worry you're passing up a great opportunity and will be missing out. The reality is better opportunities (that are a better fit for you) will come if you are open and ready for them.

1. Not getting help
You don't know everything. This business has been around for a long time – long before you were involved.

Read books, get advice from people who work in the industry and keep studying every aspect of the industry. Don't be afraid to ask for help. You can bypass a lot of the problems you're likely to run into simply by asking people who have already been in, and dealt with, the situations you find yourself in.

Remember this: Time is worth more than money. You can always earn more money, but you have a limited amount of time. Don't waste your time. If you don't know something, or need specific help, don't be afraid to pay somebody to help you deal with whatever obstacle you face. Don't let anything stop you from having all the knowledge and know-how you need to have the success you aspire to have.
 
 
 
 

Top 10 Signs It's Time to Fire a Band Member
 

No one wants to have to do it, but there may come a point when a single member of the band really  is holding everyone back.  It isn’t a decision to be made lightly, but if it is really keeping you from seeing your potential, you need to make your decision with your head, not your heart.  How do you know if it’s time to fire a band member?  Here are some signs to look out for:

1.    They aren’t making it to practice/rehearsal

Being in a band requires a certain commitment of time and energy.  Regular rehearsal is the lifeblood of any hungry young band, and if someone isn’t willing to take the time to be there, it doesn’t matter how talented they are (or think they are).  It is simply not going to work.  A successful band has an element of business to it, and holding regularly scheduled practices that everyone is expected to attend is just good business.  It ensures that you’re ready to kick ass at your shows and it gives the band time to gel and work out the kinks in their performance and relationship.  This is a  totally non-negotiable issue.  No practice, no play.

2.    They are easily combustible.

Everybody has problems.  That doesn’t mean it is ok to blow up and freak out on other people regularly.  If everyone in the band feels like they have to tiptoe around one person because they don’t want to deal with the ensuing drama that is sure to occur if they get upset—then it’s time for that person to take some time for themselves and work their issues out.  Just like a family, a band is dependent on each member making a positive contribution. 

3.    They refuse to support the decisions of the whole group. 

Hey, it’s great if you have strong vision and a lot of creative energy, but if everything always has to be one person’s way, then things are going to get very uncomfortable very quickly.  Every member should be able to contribute in ways that makes them feel good and excited about what you’re all doing.  Every member should be able to say how they feel and express their style.  If one person is making it all about them, or if they are a control freak who insists that they know what’s best at all times, then it’s not a band.  It’s a dictatorship.

4.    They don’t buy in to the whole vision of the band and music.

Every band has a vision for their music.  The collective talent of the members creates a unique and beautiful blend that comes across in a single style which defines them.  Because of that, it’s important that every person in the band feels like they can stand behind the music you’re playing.  If even one member of the band doesn’t feel like they can support the overall musical vision of the band, then you’re not getting 100% of their creative energy, and it’s going to affect your success.  Sometimes it is as simple as a mismatch between one person’s style and the rest of the band.  Sometimes it may be something deeper.  Whatever it is needs to be addressed.  Until everyone gets on the same page, you’re not going anywhere.

5.    They refuse to try to improve themselves.

Even the most successful musicians in the world can’t sit back on their laurels and coast through their careers.  Being an artist requires constant attention to your craft.  That means practice, trying new things, learning techniques, knowing the business, and being open to new creative ideas.  If someone has an attitude that they don’t need to improve themselves, or if they are just plain lazy, they aren’t ready to move forward with your band. 

6.    They have a problem with drugs and booze.

This can be a difficult issue, because you don’t want to hurt someone when they’re at a low point.  On the other hand, you don’t want them to think they can go on destroying themselves and taking your band down with them.  It’s worth talking to them if they seem to be developing a habit that is out of control, expressing your concern, and giving them some information and resources on how to handle things.  If they refuse to listen, or if it’s beyond anything you think you can handle, it’s time for a serious ultimatum.  For some, using drugs and alcohol can be part of the musical culture, and sometimes it is hard to know where to draw the line, but if you see someone’s habit affecting their art, their relationships, and their health, it’s time to get serious. 

7.    They are hyper-critical of one or more members.

Every band wants to be the best they can be, and it’s really important to have honest self-criticism from both inside and outside the band.  But if someone is fixated on every single tiny mistake or error that is made, they are not being helpful.  Constant criticism is a good hint that someone is dissatisfied overall with what they are doing.  It may be time for that person to move on and they might not know how to express it to the band—or they may not even realize it themselves.  But you can’t let someone be a constant drain on the energy of your group just because they themselves are dissatisfied.  It’s time to sit down and talk to them about what’s happening, and whether or not they need to go somewhere else to be happy.

8.    You find out they’re talking smack about one or all of the members to other people.

Everyone needs to vent once in a while.  Bands are like any other relationships.  Sometimes there’s conflict and sometimes you need to just talk to a trusted friend and get some perspective.  But if one of the members of the band is out airing dirty laundry all over town, it’s time to have a “family meeting” and find out what’s going on.  Creative energy is best expressed in an environment of trust and confidence.  When a band gets together to create music, they’re baring their souls to one another.  If one member of the band is untrustworthy and can’t talk to the other members about a problem they have with them, then the creative energy is not going to flow.  A person who refuses to communicate with the band but is talking all over town is a liability.

9.    They refuse to pull their weight.

In the beginning, every member of the band has to wear multiple hats.  Everyone is collectively responsible for publicity, sharing expenses, and being present and honest during practice.  There’s no free ride, and no one is too good to hang up flyers or pick up a case of t-shirts.  If someone doesn’t want to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, tell them to go be a slacker in someone else’s band.

10.    They are always trying to borrow—money, instruments, drugs, etc.

Even if one member of the band has more than the others, it’s never ok to mooch.  If you can’t buy your own beers, it’s not ok to ask everyone else to cover you.  Same goes for rent, guitar strings, weed, hair gel and toilet paper.  Some people might view their band as a family, but you know something?  It’s still not okay to mooch of your family, either. 
 
 
 

10 People to Surround Your Band With
 

No man—or band—is an island.  The success of any musician is the cumulative effort of many people.  As you set out to become a legend, there are ten people you want to surround yourself and your band with.   Whether you hire these folks, or simply find them and build a mentoring relationship with them—they have the expertise you need to get where you want to be:  on top.

1. Stylist

Stylists aren’t just for corporate bands.  Someone who is an expert in style and public opinion can give you an objective view about how other people see you.  Talk to a stylist about your overall sound and the vision of your band and get some feedback about ways you can express that with your on-stage appearance. 

2. Graphic Designer

A graphic designer is going to be able to help you design your “brand”.  That can include everything from your website design, to your t-shirt graphics and your album cover.  These are items that make a huge impression on people long before they have a chance to hear your music.  Most graphic designers appreciate it when you bring them solid ideas and examples of things that inspire you.  The more direction you can give them, the easier it will be for them to provide you with a finished product you’ll love.

3. Recording Techs

Live music and recorded music are two entirely different animals.  You may have a great live sound, but if you’re going to make any money off your music, it needs to be recorded—and recorded well.  Your MP3s can be placed on your website and circulated around the globe, so you want them to be the best possible representation of your band.  Add to that the fact that recording time is so expensive, and mistakes can cost you time and money.  It’s easy to see how important it is to find people who know their way around a mixing board. 

If you can, ask other bands who they have helping them with the technical aspects of their recording.  Or, you may place an ad and interview people who will help you in your session.  Even if you use studio staff—don’t go in blindly and expect perfection in only a couple hours.  Try to meet with the technical staff before you record and give them some idea what your expectations are.  You may also want to hang out on some music industry message boards and get informed on techniques and terminology so that you can communicate what you really want when you get in to the studio.

4. Other Bands

Don’t look at other bands as competition.  Each group is unique and has something different to offer.  Each band has its own personality.  You can co-exist peacefully with bands and find they are your best allies as you try to establish yourself.  No one else knows what you are going through like another up-and-coming band.  If you can find musicians who have more experience than you or who have already achieved success, try to form a mentoring relationship with them and let them help you through the landmines that take down so many young bands.

5. Groupies

No, I’m not talking about Tawny Kitaen.  I’m talking about Classic Groupies—girls (and even guys) who are loyal fans.  These are people who will be at every show, wear your t-shirt until it falls apart, and tell everyone they meet how great you are.  These people will develop in to an entourage—they create a party wherever they go—even if it is just waiting in line to buy your tickets.  They are an asset, and a time-honored tradition on the road to success.

6. Web Guru

The internet is where you’re going to be marketing yourself for the rest of the century, so you might as well get comfy there.  No one expects you to be a geek, but you should definitely have an in with a geek to can help you establish yourself online.  A web guru is going to be well-versed in web design and implementation, have technical skills for generating web traffic and search-engine optimization, and an eye on anything new that you can latch on to and use.  Not only do you want a professional website, but you want to appear web savvy; which means using online tools and giving your fans access to those tools, too.

7.  Business Advisor

Most musicians are terrible businesspeople.  That makes having a business advisor all the more important.  Whether you hire someone, or simply have a trusted friend with a business background give you some pointers, it is absolutely essential to have someone with a business mind help you make the most of your money.  That means managing any income you have from gigs, album sales, or merchandise.  It means planning a budget for the band, and knowing where and how to invest wisely.

8. Club owners

People that own clubs can give you great opportunities to perform live—but they can also give you added perspective and the experience that comes from seeing musicians perform on a regular basis.  A club owner, if they befriend you, can provide you with all kinds of information including warnings of pitfalls they’ve seen bring other bands down.  They know their own club or bar better than anyone else and they can tell you how to optimize your performance’s sound and appearance.  They can tell you which nights are the best to book, and what kind of crowd to expect.  They have their finger on the pulse of the music scene from a business perspective and can give you highly specialized information to make the most of your shows.

9. Friends and Family

Your friends and family are the people who believe in you more than anyone else.  They are going to stick by you through ups and downs, successes and discouragements.  They are a ready-made army of marketers who will tell the world how great you are with total conviction.  Don’t alienate yourself from these folks.   Let them put your name out there, and let them share in the victory when you get recognition.

10. Radio DJs and Press People

These guys have the ability to promote you in ways you cannot imagine.  Most radio stations have featured staff picks on their shows, and radio DJs and music journalists also keep blogs on their company websites.  If they make it to your show and like it, they’re going to tell thousands of people.  Take the initiative and seek out DJs on stations that play music similar to yours and press people who cover music in your area.  Send them CDs and invite them to your shows.  Offer to give them an interview for their blogs and ask them to share their experience with you. 
 
 

Top 10 Ways to Get More Money from a Gig

You are an artist, it's true.  But just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean you don’t need to get paid.  Money makes a lot of things possible, including time in a recording studio, new and better instruments, and paying your rent so you don’t have to live in a cardboard box and burn your guitar for warmth.  There’s nothing wrong with making money from your shows, and if you’re smart you’ll try to optimize that earning power.  You don’t have to be a marketing genius or a public relations guru—just think outside the box and make the most of what you already have going for you.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth.

Just because you want the gig doesn’t mean you have to beg for it.  If you’ve got experience performing, and you regularly draw a crowd, your venue stands to benefit as much—if not more—than you do from the show.  So don’t let them tell you that you’re not worth paying as much as a “bigger name”.  It is also a good idea to go in and tell them exactly what you’re doing to generate a buzz about the show.  If they can see that you’re working to get a crowd in, they’ll be a lot more willing to pay you a good rate.

2. Don’t run up a huge bar tab. 

Take a lesson from the Blues Brothers.  If you’re buying your own drinks at the show, it’s going to eat in to your bottom line.  You don’t want to end up owing them money for playing a show.  A couple beers to keep you loose isn’t a big deal, but when you start buying round after round of top shelf drinks you’re going to rack up quite a bill.  Not to mention that it’s going to affect your performance.  You might not think it’s a problem…but then, neither does Amy Winehouse.  Stay on top of your game while you’re on stage.  There’s plenty of time to party after the show.

3. Sell T-shirts, bumper stickers and CDs at the show.

A small investment in your own marketing merchandise can help generate income.  Make sure whatever you’re selling is cool in design and functionality.  You can’t go wrong with T-shirts, as long as they don’t look cheesy.  Don’t try to sell them for $40 each. You’re not Pink Floyd (yet).  The kids that are going to your show aren’t loaded, but they’ll gladly buy and wear your shirt around if it’s affordable and looks good.  That’s free advertising.  Stickers and other inexpensive items can also bring in some extra money.  Remember, you’re not trying to get rich off this stuff—just clear a little profit and get your name out there.

4. The Tip Jar

It never hurts to set it out there.  And even if you only get a few bucks, it’s a few bucks more than you had before.  Make sure that you sincerely thank the audience for their tips before you close the show.

5. Generate a buzz to ensure a big crowd.

If you’re getting part of the cover, you want to do everything in your power to get people in the door.  That means going out and hitting the streets for weeks before the show, printing flyers and cards, asking friends and family to spread the word, and using your contacts to get people to the show.  Even if there’s no cover, the more people at your show, the more opportunity you have to sell your CD’s and T-shirts and get tips.  Don’t leave it to chance—work hard to get people to the show and it’ll pay off in more ways than one.

6. Make sure your venue will attract people who will like your music.

If you’re an acoustic singer/songwriter, don’t try to play at a club that is known for head banging.  It sounds simple enough, but there’s something to be said for playing up to the regulars that are used to going to the venue where you’re playing.   Go to a few shows at the same venue beforehand and hang out.  See who’s there and talk to some people about your upcoming show.  People that are already at the venue are more likely to come back than people who’ve never been there before—even if they know who you are.

7. Look for different types of venues—not just the same old bar scene.

There are lots of places you can play to earn a few bucks.  Big corporations often throw parties a couple times a year to celebrate holidays or sales performance.  Schools have festivals and events.  There are endless places where you can attract a crowd and sell your CD’s.  Think outside the box!

8. Make sure you have a website and blog—and a mailing list to remind people where they can see you!

This is such an important piece of getting recognition and money.  Make sure people know how to find you online.  Every piece of advertising or marketing you do should have your website address on it.  Keep your site updated regularly and post information about upcoming shows.  When your shows are over be sure to immediately post pictures and videos.  Respond to inquiries from fans, prospective venues, and press.  You can also sell MP3’s of your songs or the entire CD on your website to generate income.  There are literally endless possibilities, and with today’s web tools, it is easier and easier for anyone to create and manage their own website.  Most importantly, once you’re on the web, people from all over the world can find you and hear your music.  Think big, and make yourself available to an unlimited fan base.

9. Treat your booking professionally. 

Make sure you keep track of phone numbers, dates, and venue contacts.  This is going to ensure repeat bookings.  Until you make it big and have yourself a real business manager, you’re going to have to keep things organized.  Some people are naturally good at this, and some people, well…aren’t.  Bare minimum, get a big calendar and scribble phone numbers and important dates and times on it to keep track.  The more you treat your band like a business, the more money you’re going to make. 

10. Stick around after the show and work the room.

Don’t just pack your stuff and high tail it out of the club when you’re done playing.  Unless it’s closing time, spend a while chilling out with the crowd and talking to people.  When you’ve finished your show, you’ve got a little bit of ‘star quality’ that comes from having been the center of attention for the duration of the show.  When you take the time to walk around and thank people for coming, introduce yourself to people and tell them your CD is for sale, or hand them your card with your website on it, you are doing yourself an invaluable service.  Try this for three shows in a row, and I guarantee you’re going to see huge results.
 

Top 10 Ways to Get More People to Your Next Gig

For an up-and-coming band every gig is a vital step toward your success.  Your shows are where you get the chance to prove yourself.  They are your opportunity to do what you do best.  A good gig can also have a ripple effect, securing you a loyal fan base and ensuring good crowds at future shows.  So when you land a gig, the key is to make it count.  Hours of practice and rehearsal won’t matter unless you have a decent crowd that can go back and tell their friends how great you are.  Your mission is not only to kick ass on stage—but to convince other people to come and see you.  Sure, it would be nice to be able to just focus on your music and let someone else handle the promotions, but few unsigned bands have those kinds of resources.  It’s up to you to get people in the door. 

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of ways you can make sure you have a full house at your next gig. 

1. Start early. 

Don’t wait until a week before your gig to start advertising.  As soon as you have a booking, sit down with the band and come up with a strategy for marketing the show to the public.  Remember, you’re competing with about a million other things someone can choose to do on a Saturday night—movies, other bands’ shows, parties, sporting events.  You want to get yourself on the calendar as soon as humanly possible, and give yourself plenty of time to remind people a few times before the show date. 

2. Posters, flyers, and cards. 

You have to have them.  There’s no excuse these days not to have cards, flyers, and posters. With the online digital printing websites you can upload your own art, or use their existing art to create marketing materials that are professional and eye-catching.   Remember, you’re competing with professional bands which have marketing departments and public relations people, so put some thought into it. 

One way you can get some great art done for little money is checking out high school and junior college art departments.  Some of these young artists would love the chance to do your design work and earn a little cash—and they’ll charge you a mere fraction of the amount that a professional graphic designer would.

However, even if you can only go the old-fashioned route of hand-drawing a flyer and photocopying it on eye-catching colored paper, do it. 

Make sure everyone in the band has stacks and that they’re giving them out, hanging them up, and making them available.  Leave them at the record store hang them on community bulletin boards at schools, coffee shops, bookstores and libraries. 

3. Get your family and friends involved.

These people can be your best allies as you start your career.  People that love you are your cheerleaders.  They are going to promote the hell out of your band even if they aren’t particularly interested in your style of music.  Maybe grandma won’t come to a show, but she knows a lot of people and can help spread the word.  She’s just the type of person who would relentlessly hand out your flyers to everyone and anyone, just because she loves you.  Take a stack of flyers to each of your friends and family, tell them how important it is for you to get people to your show, and ask them to spread the word.  Unless they still haven’t forgiven you for breaking their favorite crystal vase when you were eight-years-old, chances are they’ll be happy to be part of your success.

4. Use Myspace, Facebook, and other online social networking tools.

Technology is one of the most powerful tools you have.  If you are one of the last five people on earth without a MySpace or Facebook account, get one NOW.  Make sure you regularly update the pages with news and show dates, upload MP3’s or videos of your songs, and respond when people leave you a message.  Look for bands on MySpace with a similar style to yours and go through their “friends” lists—and invite those people to be your friends.  You can generate so much interest in your band with regular “farming” of these sites, even people who live in other cities and states can become fans and your impact can quickly go from being local to you having a national presence.

5. Create a press release. 

This sounds more complicated than it is.  Not just big names can create and circulate a press release. Basically, it is a formal description of something current—like a show or a new CD release—that you can give to different media outlets.  Sending a press release doesn’t ensure that you will get publicity, but it will definitely get you noticed and the media folks in your town are going to pay attention to your professionalism.  Send your press release to entertainment papers; corporate, public, and college radio stations; bloggers and online communities that feature local events. 

Check out this site for a description of how to write a professional press release:  http://www.publicityinsider.com/release.asp

6. Tell everyone you know—and don’t know. 

This is not the time to be shy.  If you can get up in front of a crowd and pour your blood, sweat, and tears into your performance, you can strike up a conversation when you’re out getting coffee and tell people about your show.  Think of yourself as a really cool Jehovah’s Witness.  Have flyers in your pocket and be ready to hand them out any time any place.  A personal connection with someone, even for a couple minutes, is more compelling than a thousand flyers stuck to the side of a building.

7. Go to other shows and network.

Get out there and see other shows.  Hang out before and after and talk to people about your music.  The people you meet at a show are people you know are interested in seeing live performances.  Again, making a single personal connection is one of the most effective ways you can generate interest in your music.  You can be cool and still be friendly.  This is not the time to be stand-offish.  In the beginning you can’t just rely on your music to attract people, because in the beginning, no one has heard your music. They’re going to come to see you.

8. Offer to play a couple songs unplugged at an event to warm up the crowd.

In every city there are about a thousand things going on any given weekend.  There are plenty of opportunities to warm up the crowd at a charity, a school play, an art show, or any other number of events.  You don’t need to drag all the equipment out.  Go and play a couple songs acoustic.  Give away a couple CDs in a raffle at the event.  Ask if you can leave some flyers on the registration table so that when people come in they can grab one with their name tag or program.  There are endless possibilities for getting yourself in front of people and giving them a little taste of your music—plus, you might just get to support a worthwhile organization or event. 

9. Advertise a giveaway at the show.

People love free stuff.  It’s just a fact of life.  It doesn’t even have to be good free stuff, but if you advertise that you are giving something away, there is a much higher likelihood that more people will show up.  Give away a couple discs, a couple t-shirts.  If you have the cash, give away an iPod Shuffle ($49) or some gift certificates.  It is a small investment that will pay off in spades.  Make sure you let everyone know—on flyers, on MySpace, and by word of mouth—what you’re giving away and when. 

10. Open for an established band a couple weeks before the gig.

Be a part of your indie community.  Make friends and allies with other bands.  If you can open for another band a couple weeks before your gig, you are going to give people a chance to see you in action.  You’ll have a ready-made audience you can pitch your upcoming show to.  Hang out after your performance and work the room while you enjoy the main show and support your friends.

There are so many creative ways to promote your show, and these are just a few suggestions to get you going.  Remember, if you don’t promote yourself, no one else is going to.  Be fearless and let the world know who you are and where your next show is going to be!

Building Hip Hop Beats

On a casual listen, tracks by Jay-Z, Tupac, or KRS-One might seem simple in construction – charismatic rhymes riding a driving, repeating drum groove. But if you’ve ever tried building hip hop beats on your own from the ground up, you probably already know that producing something propulsive, gutsy, fresh, and original is not such a simple science – so where do you begin? We brought in one of the genre’s founding experts to offer some advice.

Multi-platinum producer Johnny “Juice” Rosado is one of hip hop’s pioneers. He’s worked with artists like Run DMC, Public Enemy, The Beastie Boys, Ashanti, and Dan the Automater, and is a highly respected DJ and scratcher as well. Here’s what Juice recommended in order to give your original hip hop beats the funk and power they need.

Find a unique influence
When developing your own unique voice as a beat programmer, Juice recommends latching on to an influence that inspires you – whether it’s within hip hop or not – and digging in deep. “Study what makes that musician, composer, producer, or vocalist sound the way they sound,” he says. “And then apply that to what you’re doing.”

Juice has long taken his own advice in this regard, paying tribute to diverse influences in his production and DJ work. “I don’t scratch like a DJ,” he explains. “I always wanted to scratch the way [renowned Latin percussionist] Ray Baretto played conga. I also scratch to recordings by Bobby Timmons, who’s a great jazz piano player. He plays very intricate solos and I like to scratch along, matching those rhythms.”

Regardless of whether your influences come from grunge or go-go, Juice affirms that listening closely and studying any style that inspires you will help you bring a fresh perspective to whatever beats you end up building.

Learn about drums – and other instruments
Juice recommends becoming as proficient as possible playing at least one instrument – not just programming samples of it – and learning at least the basics of as many others as possible. “I see a lot of producers not understanding how drummers actually play drums,” he says. “They have the hi-hat playing throughout a song, and if you’ve ever watched a drummer play, you know that when he or she does a fill, the hi-hat usually stops until the fill is over. Even if you’re using a drum machine that’s not supposed to sound like a real drummer, you still want to program it as if a real drummer were playing. Also, I always have a crash symbol hit with the kick drum underneath it to give the hit more power – because that’s the way a lot of real drummers play.

“Knowing even one instrument comes in really handy when it comes time to program,” he continues. “If you’re studying drums and want to build a beat, start with the drum track. If you’re studying bass, then that’s your launching pad.”

Build your sound library
Keyboard synthesizers, software-based virtual instruments, DVDs full of exotic drum hits – the sounds you use to build your beats can come from all over the place, and Juice recommends amassing as deep, diverse, and unique a collection as possible. “Learn what the santour is!” he says. “It’s a really cool sounding Persian instrument – kind of like a guitar, but played with sticks. It sounds great – so try starting with that and constructing a beat around it. Make sure you have all sorts of unusual things like that in your repertoire. A new sound can be a creative spark, and you tend to program differently when you use different sounds.” 

Start with a song you love
“If you’re having trouble finding inspiration, I always recommend sampling your favorite record, throwing drums underneath it, adding some keyboard parts on top – and then taking the sample out,” says Juice. “What you’re left with is a mirror image of that song that you love, but it’s your own. It may have the same tempo and chord progressions as the original song, but it’ll be something new that’s unique and really yours.” From there, he says, continue adding other elements to fill the space left by the original sample you were using for inspiration.

This technique can work with a track of nearly any genre – country, reggae, metal, you name it. Just make sure that whatever record you use as source material has a good groove and gets you excited about making music. 

Don’t forget to pan
“Panning is a lost art in hip hop,” says Juice. “A lot of hip hop records today just sound like one big mono track. Or everything just gets panned hard right and hard left.”

Regardless of whether your drum sounds come from an acoustic drum kit or a classic Roland TR-808 drum machine – or anywhere in between – pan your drum sounds according to how they’d show up on stage, says Juice. “You have to have a panning arrangement that gives everything its space. I always pan snare drums a little to the right, because if I’m looking at a drummer, the snare is a little to the right. The hi-hat is a little further to the right. Toms go from right to left, from higher pitch to lower pitch.”

Quick tip: If you’re unsure of where to pan any particular drum sound, listen to a few classic jazz albums on a good pair of headphones and pay special attention to what sonic elements are placed where, left to right.

Be aware of mono and stereo
Many of the sounds used in hip hop beats come from popular keyboard synthesizers like the Korg Triton and Yamaha Motif, says Juice – but when outputting sounds from these powerful instruments into an audio interface to record, he warns that you have to be careful.

“When you record from a Triton, you have the left and right outputs going into channels 1 and 2 of the mixer, so it’s easy to record everything that comes out of the keyboard as a stereo track,” he says. “That can lead you to record something in stereo that should just be mono, like a kick drum or snare drum.”

If you’re recording a sample that comes from a single point source – like a kick or snare – just record it from a single output as a mono track, then pan it over a bit, says Juice. “Because many producers record all of their sounds in stereo from the keyboard, they just assume that they’re already panned correctly, and they’re not. If you’re recording a kick sound in stereo, you’re basically just recording two identical mono tracks sandwiched together. You have to do the panning yourself.”

Avoid sloppy tuning
To create a unique sound, hip hop producers often change the tuning of a sample, making it sound higher or lower in pitch than the original. “They’ll detune and slow down a sample to a point where it’s unrecognizable,” says Juice. “That’s fine – but at least learn your notes on the piano so when you detune your sample, it’s tuned to a real note, not some gray area between E and E-flat.”

Why is tuning such an important thing? “When a singer or live musician comes in to record over your beat, it can cause problems,” he continues. “I fix a lot of that in my studio. If the vocalist sounds like shit, the problem usually is that the sample isn’t tuned correctly.” Imprecise de-tuning of a sample can also cause problems if you choose to add sampled bass lines, or other melodic elements to your jam. “Synthesizers and virtual instruments are usually tuned correctly, so they can really grate if you have them playing up against a badly tuned sample.” 

Leave space
“Remember that the vocals are the last instrument in any beat,” says Juice. “The rapper or singer is what’s needed to finish the beat – when you’ve finished programming it, your beat should be at the point where all you need to do is add vocals, mix, and serve. If you get to the point where a vocalist is fighting the beat for space, it’s too full and you need to take something out.” Even if you’re not a professional-level vocalist yourself, an easy way to see if you’re leaving enough space is to hum a made-up melody or spit a nonsense verse over top of your beat. If you feel like you’re fighting with the music, try stripping the beat down a bit to create more space – but if the vocals and beat seem to breathe together, you’re on the right track. 

Experiment
“Music isn’t dog food,” says Juice. “Dog food is manufactured. There’s a formula and a process. Unfortunately, people can fall into the trap of manufacturing music, not creating it, so it’s important to stay in the creative mindset, and not feel like you’re just formulaically going through an assembly line process.”

To avoid creating your own sonic dog food, Juice recommends giving yourself extra time to try new things that could crash and burn, or could lead to something exciting. “Experimenting with all sorts of stuff is the key,” he says. “Every producer programs differently, so don’t always start with the same instrument. Try using an instrument you’ve never used before. Try to mix a harpsichord with some reggae. And give yourself the time to try new things. A lot of people are hell bent on getting things done now, and that can get in the way of real creativity.”