American Idol, Talent or Hype?

   It’s amazing to see all the press coverage and the numbers of viewers that American Idol attracts. I’ve talked to a lot of musicians about the show and I always ask them their opinion. I usually get a mixed reaction with some believing that there’s some real talent on there and some believing that it’s all rigged and that the songs are recorded in advance.     Continue reading “American Idol, Talent or Hype?”

Get A Good Soundman

   One of the most difficult things we have to deal with as live music performers is determining how we sound out where the crowd is. It can be a real nightmare to try to determine if you’re really sounding good out in the room. We’ve tried asking wives, girlfriends, fans, bouncers, managers and they all have a different opinion of how we sound. It’s a very subjective question and the feedback you get seems to depend on who you ask. If you ask the singers wife how the band sounds, of course the vocals are too quiet. The guitarists wife wants more guitar… You know the drill. Then you get the “Pro Sound Technician” that comes up to you at a gig and gives you all sorts of advice and then pesters you until you change things that almost invariably ruin your sound.   Continue reading “Get A Good Soundman”

“Big Bends Nut Sauce” Tribute Song, by Shufflin’ Noah

   Okay, I had a request to hear the tribute song my band “Shufflin’ Noah” recorded one night for our favorite guitar lubricant:
Big Bends Nut Sauce Tuning Lubricant

Continue reading ““Big Bends Nut Sauce” Tribute Song, by Shufflin’ Noah”

Learn Music Theory

I can’t stress enough how important it is to know some music theory. It’s really not that hard to understand music theory and once you get a basic knowledge you can apply it in many ways. Having a working knowledge of music theory has helped me in my songwriting and my ability to communicate with other musicians. Music theory is like learning to speak the language of music and it’s a very easy language to learn. Once you know it then you can really communicate with higher level musicians. Knowing how to determine what key a song or chord progression is in has helped me immensely when I’m jamming with other musicians. Continue reading “Learn Music Theory”

Rock Band – The Video Game

As musicians, we’ve all heard the same word repeated over and over our entire carreer…Practice! I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned, if you love to practice you’re probably not playing out very much. I personally don’t love to practice. I love it when I have a brand new instrument or when I’m learning a new instrument but that newness wears off quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I practice regularly and so should you. But don’t you like to practice when you’re having a lot of fun at the same time?
I have to tell you that the new game Rock Band by Harmonix has had a profound effect on my singing. I knew the game would be fun, whacking away on a toy guitar controller and pounding on electronic drum pads but I didn’t give the singing a second thought. When we got the game, I found the singing portion to be easy and fun. The game detects when you sing in tune, sing on the beat and say the correct phrases. Then you get scored on those abilities and if you suck too badly, you kill off your whole show. I have to admit, that’s real world when it comes to bad singing. People don’t stay at your shows very long when you have a bad singer.
Since I’ve been playing Rock Band it’s helped my singing several ways and I’ve noticed it when I’ve played gigs. These are the ways it’s helped me the most in terms of singing:

  1. I sing a lot more in tune now.
  2. I have tons of stamina and can sing a whole show without losing my voice.
  3. It’s helped my timing with getting the words into the rythmic groove with the rest of the band.
  4. I can hit high notes a lot easier now.
  5. I can hold notes out longer and keep them in tune.

That’s just how Rock Band has helped me with my singing. It helps on the other instruments as well although not as radically. The next instrument it helps the most with after singing is drums. It doesn’t help you with technique such as the proper way to hold sticks or the proper striking technique. It does really help with hand and foot coordination. In fact, it radically helps with that. It also helps you keep a steady beat. If you’re not steady, the band gets booed off the stage. Again, true to life.
On guitar, Rock Band helps primarily with rhythm and a little bit with finger coordination. You probably get the least real-world benefit from playing guitar in Rock Band.
On all instruments, it helps you as a musician to follow a chain of notes or phrases that you must complete on the beat to be able to continue playing. This does somewhat translate into reading music notation even though you don’t have to read the entire musical staff. It does help you keep your eye on the page while playing without looking at your hands all the time.
So I’m recommending Rock Band for all of those reasons. It really is a good purchase for a musician. Is it the same as playing in a real band? Kind of, but not nearly as fulfilling as a crowded room of people going crazy over a killer performance that you really played. Does it help your live playing? YES IT DOES! So get it, I put some links in this post so you can find the game easily. Have fun!

Song Selection

   “I know what music I like, and I’m going to play it!”.

Man, if I had a dime for every time a band member said that to me I’d be rich. We all have our favorite music and we’re all partial to it. But is that what you need to play to keep an audience happy? Well, it really depends on where you’re playing.

  If you’re playing in a dance club, you sure better be playing music that the audience can dance to. If you don’t, you’ll hear about it and it usually won’t be kind.

  In the Song Selection category, I’ll be discussing how to choose music to suit your audience. There are a lot of tools out there and a lot of reference material you can use to increase your chance of playing music that people are going to get out of their chairs for. Check back often, as I’ll review song collections and make suggestions as to what CD’s should be in your collection.

Welcome to Live Musician Central

  This Blog is dedicated to all the real world musicians out there who have made the leap from the garage to the stage. If you’re ready to play your first gig in front of an audience or if you’ve played hundreds of gigs in front of all kinds of audiences then this Blog is the home for you. Bookmark it now! I’ll be discussing the ins and outs of playing in front of an audience. I’ll discuss equipment, song selection, marketing, band chemistry and crazy stuff that happens at a gig and how to deal with it.

  If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to post.