December 2014

Who is Your Daddy, And What Does He Do?
Keeping a Realistic Perspective

By Paul Cimolini

The White Album.
OK Computer.
Dark Side Of The Moon.

All great albums, but the important thing to note here is that none of them were debut albums.

So many bands go into their first album with an uncompromising artistic intention, as well as the expectation that everyone will love what they do simply because it's good. They want to make their grand masterpiece; they want to make their “White Album”. The problem is, that almost nobody takes time to consider the historical context of albums like the ones mentioned earlier. The bands that made these classic albums all earned the right to do so by appealing to a demand that already existed with great songs wrapped in whatever style was popular at the time. If you try to make and sell a product with no existing demand, then you have to create demand, and that is very expensive.

Before Ok Computer, Radiohead had a hit with “Creep”, capitalizing on the popularity of grunge in the early 90s.

Dark Side Of The Moon was preceded by the critically acclaimed Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (#6 in the UK album charts thanks to the blossoming London psychedelic scene), as well as years of building a solid fan base with spectacular live shows.

Then there's the White Album. How were The Beatles able to achieve such an ambitious feat? It's very simple; after 20 number 1 hits, you can pretty much do whatever you want.

Now, this is not to say that following your artistic impulses exclusively is wrong, or even unwise. If you are happy making art for art's sake, then all the power to you. But, if you choose to go down that road, you need be ok with what happens next, or should I say, with what doesn't happen next. If you have commercial ambitions then you need to make commerce part of the equation before production. If you want to make music for mass consumption you need to consider the masses. There is no right way to think about what your music ultimately means to you. But, if you don't have a realistic and honest view of what you want, then you're in for a lot of disappointment my friend. Then again, you could always get lucky.


Tips and Tricks!

By Jim Blair

If you are an electric guitar player who uses a separate amplifier head and speaker cabinet, you need to remember two important rules.

  1. 1: Never have your amp turned on while it's unplugged from the cab.
  2. 2: Never use a guitar cord to replace a proper speaker cable. Both scenarios can damage your gear.


August 2014

Tips and Tricks!

By Lena Birtwistle

A long time ago I had a friend who was amazing at finding and singing harmonies. I asked him how he knew what to sing and he said that he just always sang harmonies in the car while listening to music....He also grew up singing in church and bands... which doesn't hurt... but I decided... "well, if harmonizing while driving helped him, then I'll do that too and see if it works for me!".

So around 18 or 19 I started harmonizing in the car all the time to anything and everything... I would listen and either try to find the harmonies that were already being used in the song, or experiment to find something that sounded like it sort of fit... it was not always pretty, but I did it anyways and it slowly got easier. Later I joined a choir in college, and years after that I started singing with other musicians and other bands. Working with other musicians who have a well-trained ear for finding sweet harmonies is probably one of the BEST things that I could have done.

If you don't have access to a car or other musicians... (yet)... maybe just start trying to pick out harmonies in the songs you love, and see if you can sing them instead of the melody... and then... find songs with no harmonies and play with some notes that make you go "ooo... I like that!". And have fun!!


Positive Practicing

By Spencer Bowman

Why do we practice? Before we answer that question, we have to make the distinction clear between practicing our instrument, and playing our instrument. To play our instrument is to access ideas that are familiar and comfortable. Playing only involves doing things that we can already do. To practice our instrument is to attempt things that we cannot do yet. When we practice, we stretch our playing - and ourselves – to the point where there is no choice but to grow. We practice so that we may grow as musicians and as people.

True practicing is easier said than done. This is especially the case when we identify as musicians; when being a musician is a central part of our lives. Imagine seeking out the worst parts of yourself and focusing hours upon hours of time and energy on them. It can be a process so uncomfortable that some musicians (whether consciously or subconsciously) stop practicing altogether. This is why it’s so important to approach practicing with the right attitude, what I call “positive practicing”.

Positive practicing begins with accepting where we are on our musical journey. One of my mentors, Mike Johnston, describes the musician’s journey as a timeline. Nobody is better or worse than anybody else, we’re just earlier or later than each other on the timeline of playing our instrument. We’re all at different points on the same path. Keeping this in mind when we approach our instrument is an important step towards the serenity required to practice positively.

Another essential element of positive practice is accepting the distance from point A to point B anywhere on our timeline. As long as we keep practicing, it will take the time that it takes – no more and no less. If we can keep that in mind while we practice, we side-step the frustration that often accompanies working through a new technique or idea. Coming to terms with this fact adds a calmness to our practice routine that is conducive to enjoyable growth.

Positive practice removes the element of fear and discomfort from the process of improvement, and can be applied to every area of our lives. Positive practicing in our careers, relationships, and hobbies can lead to a rich, fulfilling life.


June 2014

Tips and Tricks!

By Spencer Bowman

You already know you need to tune your guitar, but did you know that you also need to tune your drums? The sound of a drum is created by the vibration of the drum heads (or “skins”) that are stretched across the top and bottom. The tension on these heads has a massive effect on how the drum sounds. You can control how much tension is on each drum head by adjusting the screws (called “tension rods”) that circle each end of the drum. Your drum is “in tune” when each tension rod is pulling the same amount on the drum head. You can check the tension of each tension rod by tapping the drum head near that rod. Use a special tool called a “drum key” to adjust the rods until each spot on the drum head generates the same pitch. When all the pitches are the same, your drum is in tune and ready to play!

PRO TIP: If you need a quick fix, press down in the middle of the drum head. If any wrinkles show up, tighten the closest tension rods. This will make your drum sound closer to being in tune until you can tune it properly.


Why Music

By Jane Blair

I have met so many wonderful, kind and artistic students in my years as a lesson coordinator. I feel, as they mature and move on with their lives that they truly have become well rounded adults.

This prose from an anonymous source says it all:

Why Music?

I. Music Is a Science
II. Music is Mathematical
III. Music is a Foreign Language
IV. Music is History
V. Music is Physical Education
VI. Music Develops Insight and Demands Research
VII. Music is all these things, but most of all
Music is Art.

That is why we teach music.
Not because we expect you to major in music.
Not because we expect you to play or sing all your life...

But so you will be human.
So you will recognize beauty.
So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world.

So you will have something to cling to.
So you will have more to love, more compassion,
more gentleness, more good.

In short, more life!

I am so proud of all of the students and parents that have included us in their musical journeys!


May 2014

Tips and Tricks!

By Tamara Martella

Proper care of your instrument is a BIG DEAL!

Instrumentalists take great pride in keeping their instruments in tip top shape. Flutists, Clarinetists and Saxophonists, make sure you use a cleaning cloth after you play to take away any moisture inside and outside of your instrument. Having moisture, better know as saliva or spit can result in corrosion and sticky keys. Before playing your instrument, rinse out your mouth. As gross as it may seem, food gets into your instrument! Cleaning clothes can be purchased at your local music store or get creative and make your own!

Also always wash out your mouthpiece with warm soapy water and wipe it off! Things grow in mouthpieces and this stuff can make you sick! So next time you are going to pick up your instrument to play, make sure to rinse so you won't be cleaning out that cheese burger you left behind during your playtime!


Who is the most important person on the airplane?

By Paul Cimolini

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it's the pilot (Air Force One and the like being the obvious exceptions). Let's also say, for the sake of concision, that it's a male pilot and his name is Burt. Would you expect Burt to pack your luggage for you? If you happen to be running late, is Burt obligated to postpone departure until you arrive? If your diet coke is warm, is it Burt's job to get you a cold one? Or, does Burt have better things to do? The answers are as follows:
No. No. Seriously? Yes.

Similar, in a way, is the plight of your average sound guy (let's continue with the Burt thing). Burt is there to make you sound amazing (if he feels like it). He is there to make your job easier (if he feels like it). He is not there to supply you with patch cords, amplifiers, or listen to you practice your fills in front of the regulars because, trust me, he doesn't feel like it. What he does feel like doing, above and beyond his required duties, is directly related to how you treat him. I know, it sounds patronizingly simple but, you'd be surprised by the number of people who fail to grasp this concept.

A good sound person will usually give you good sound. A good sound person that likes you will often give you great sound. Try to be as kind and patient as possible, even if Burt is an irritable grump. Make sure that you show up prepared, and that you treat the gear, that he is ultimately responsible for, with great care. Again, easy to understand yet impossible to practice for some. If you happen to be lucky and determined enough to make it anywhere in the music industry, what you will find is that it is very small and that reputations travel very far. Sound technicians as well as other non-performing members of the community tend to outlive artists in terms of career longevity. Be nice to them.

So, don't sweat the small stuff and try not to be a jerk. If you can't sing through the occasional bad monitor mix, or drop your sick beatz without nuking the PA, then maybe being a professional working musician isn't for you. But, I digress. Despite individual attitudes, opinions, and temperaments, we all share a common trait, we are all in this because we love music. In short, if you want to survive the trip, let Burt do his job and you'll have a better chance at getting where you want to go!