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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zeppelin Steals And Is Stolen From

I just love this video series called Everything Is A Remix from Kirby Ferguson. In it he puts forth that when it comes right down to it, all current art is "borrowed" from previous art.

In this video, Kirby singles out Led Zeppelin and provides some concrete examples of how they not only borrowed from some of the legendary Bluesman as well as some of their contemporaries, but they outright stole from them by not giving them credit. And one good turn deserves another, as some of the today's artists have turned around and down the same thing, this time with Zep being the victims.

The Zeppelin part starts at around 1:35, but first, he outlines the number of times that Chic's "Good Times" has been used as the basis of other records. It's a pretty awesome video.

Be sure to check out Kirby's site to see the other episodes.

Everything is a Remix Part 1 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.


You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Music Has Died On 48th Street

Manny's Musical Instruments from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
Any musician from the 60s through the 90s knew of 48th street between 6th and 7th Avenue was a mecca for music stores. In fact, these were arguably the best music stores maybe in the world, always with the latest gear and the best prices. The famous Manny's Music would battle it out with cross-street rival Sam Ash while Alex Musical Instruments, Rudy's Music, We Buy Guitars, 48th Street Music, Colony Music Center, New York Woodwinds and Brass, and a few others that I can't remember picked up the crumbs.

If you had gear lust, like every musician has, this was the place to either go to or stay away from. It was actually worth the 125 mile trip from my home in rural Pennsylvania not only for the best deal, but for the best sites as well. You never knew when a star or two or three or four would be in one of the stores (especially Manny's) buying an instrument for stage or studio. The autographed pictures on the wall always had us in awe.

I can remember one day near 6PM when Manny's was about to close when in came a young and fresh Eddie Murphy along with Joe Piscapo, both on a roll at the time from being on Saturday Night Live. While the staff set a kit up for Eddie to try right there on the main floor, I remember having a nice talk about Martin guitars with a rather subdued John Sabastian. And remember, I lived 125 miles away from the city at the time. My head just about exploded. I always thought to myself after leaving, "Image who I might meet if I lived in the City and went there more often."

Sam Ash eventually bought Manny's as well as most of the other stores on that famous 48th Street block, which subdued the scene a bit since the competition was now gone, but now it looks like the music on 48th Street is about to die forever. Sam Ash has now signed a new lease for a huge new store on West 34th Street, and will move its stores there one by one. What's happening is the classic "going condo" in the 48th Street area, and now it looks like the famous and beloved Music Row will soon be just a memory. Goodbye, Music Row. Some of us are going to miss you!


You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What Not To Ask

questions image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blogAfter I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago entitled "Here's What's Wrong With Your Music," I received a number of emails from people who apparently got the mistaken impression that I was looking for artists or songs. That's not the case at all. That's not the business I'm in. But I do like to help people with their production, arrangement, engineering, etc. if I can.

Look, here's the deal. I promise I will do my best to help you if you have a specific question!

When you make a question that's too general you put me in an impossible situation in that you probably don't really want to hear any criticism in the first place, you just hope that I'll fall madly in love with your music and open every door in Hollywood for you. I wish I were that powerful or had those kinds of contacts.

If I tell you "This is no different than something I've heard a hundred times before," or "I have no idea. I don't know your market," you're going to say, "That guy doesn't know what he's talking about," or "He doesn't want to help me." Let's face it, you really weren't looking for a critique in the first place. You were looking for help placing your music, which I can't provide. That's why specific questions are the only way you'll get a specific answer from me.

So here's a list of what not to ask not only of me, but most other music professionals as well:

Take a listen to my song. Here's where you can download it. If you have a specific question, I'll be happy to listen to your song, but it must be a stream and not a download. There's a potential legal issue if I accept a download, sort of like record labels not accepting any unsolicited material. Put it on YouTube with a private link or on Soundcloud, ask a specific question, and I'll have a listen.

What do you think of my song? Go ask your fans. They're much more important and relevant to your success than I am. You do have fans, don't you?

My songs are on iTunes or We just finished our CD...... Sorry, it's too late to ask any questions about it. You're product's already complete. If you want advice on distribution or marketing, go to the Music 3.0 blog, but check the archives first, and once again, be specific with any questions.

Will you listen to my CD? See above.

Give me some feedback. On what? The mix? The songs? The arrangement? The production? The sound? A question like this makes me think that you're only looking for a pat on the back.

Which song is the most commercial? Once again. Ask your fans. They're the ones that count. And by the way, so many times the song that you think is least commercial is the one that everyone likes anyway.

How can I make my songs better? Do you really want to hear me tell you to write better, play better, and use better sounding instruments? That's a good place to start.

Can you introduce me to.....? Nope, I probably don't know them, and if I did, it's unlikely that I'd introduce you unless I knew you a lot better than just from an email.

Can you introduce me to publishers, record labels, etc? Nope. You probably know more of them than I do at the moment. Here's a tip. To meet publishers, join the AIMP for 60 bucks a year. Want record label contacts? Try the A&R Registry.

I have some songs that I'd love to get to ..... Sorry, I'm not a songplugger and I barely have enough time for my own things as it is.

Will you write with me? I don't write songs anymore, and if I did, I'd do it alone.

Can I write with you? See above.

Can I watch you work in the studio? Highly unlikely. If I'm working in the studio, I'm with a client who I can guarantee doesn't want any distractions from people that they don't know.

Can I visite you in the studio when you're working? See above.

Will you produce, record, mix my band on spec? Nope. My time is valuable and I get paid well for it.

Will you partner with me on a project? Only if there's some money involved, and even then, I have to be absolutely in love with the project first. I no longer work on anything that doesn't knock my socks off.

Wait, don't listen to version 7 of the mix I just sent. Mix 9 is so much better. You've wasted my time. Next.

A full quality recording is attached. Next. I already told you I will only listen to a stream because of any potential legal issues that might come with downloads.

What should I do to get my music noticed? Sorry but there's not enough time to write you an email that long. I already wrote a book that tells you all that, or you can read my Music 3.0 blog every day for free.

Can you send me one of your books for free? Nope. I don't get that many complimentary ones myself, and the rest I have to pay for.

I'm from (pick a country) and I want to translate your books. I have 3 book publishers that control my copyrights so you'll have to ask them. I have no say in the matter. Be aware that they'll probably want some sort of a license fee.

For students:

Can you please answer these 10 questions to help me with my desertion? I'm sure you want answers that are sufficiently helpful and thoughtful, but I'm slow at writing and it takes me a looong time. I'm really happy to talk to you by Skype and answer every question and more. Make sure to record it because you'll get more info than you ever expected. If you're happy with a one sentence answer to your 10 questions, no problem, but neither of us will probably like that.

Wow, this sounds really harsh and I didn't mean it to sound that way. Once again, I'm really happy to help if you have a specific question. Here are some good examples:

How do you do (name the technique)?  Finally, a specific question. Ask away. I'm pleased to help if I can.

Do you think the bottom of this song is too big?

The song isn't working. Can you tell me why?

How can I get the vocalist to sing in tune?

How do I get a better guitar (bass, sax, piano, etc.) tone?

What can I do to make the reverb work better with the track?

What can I do to make the drums punchier?

See what I mean? With a specific question I can get right to the core of the problem and help you. So ask away, but once more - no downloads, only streams!

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Monday, July 23, 2012

How Many Songs Use These 4 Chords?

Melody makes the song, although sometimes that's difficult to believe if you're part of the EDM (electronic dance music) world. While you can read the frequent song analysis posted here to illustrate the fact, here's a video that proves it nicely. Hear how many well-known hits are built around the I-VIm-V-IV chord pattern (that's the typical C-Am-G-F pattern if you're not familiar with Nashville notation).

If you're interested in some other songwriting tips and tricks, check out How To Make Your Band Sound Great. You can read some excerpts on my website.

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

4 Reasons For Effects Problems

Effects Order #1 image from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
Effects Order #1
I was asked by a guitar player recently why his tone wasn't what he wanted, and the first thing that got my attention was the maze of stomp boxes he was using.

Although that wasn't the only problem with his rig, it was a good place to start, since everything was connected more or less haphazardly. Here's some info taken from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook (written with the great player/composer/writer Rich Tozzoli), that can help you get a handle on your effects.

"A couple of the common negative side effects that occur with some stomp boxes is how much they change the sound when you don’t want them to. Here’s are 4 things that can happen: 

1. Tone Suck
Tone suck is a term that means the tone of your guitar changes by simply inserting a pedal in between your guitar and amp, even if it isn’t turned on. The reason this happens is because your guitar signal still runs through some of the pedal’s circuitry even without the effect switched in. That circuitry degrades the signal either by changing the frequency response a bit, or by decreasing the volume a bit. Either way, this is not something we want if we’re to maintain that great tone that we hopefully started with. 
There are two answers for this:
  • True-Bypass means that when the effect is switch off, the signal totally bypasses all the circuitry so the pedal has zero influence on the sound as long as it’s not switched in. This is a rather recent development in the grand scheme of pedal building (since about the late 90’s) and just about all boutique pedal manufacturers use True Bypass as a sales feature these days.
One of the problems with true-bypass is that it gives the illusion that the volume and tone of the signal won’t ever change, but that’s not necessarily true. If you have a 15 foot cable from your guitar to your pedalboard, a one foot cable between each of your 15 stomp boxes, and another 15 foot cable to your amp, that’s 45 combined feet of cable, which will degrade your signal! There are ways around this with buffers (a unity gain amplifier) and loop-switching systems like the ones mentioned above, but many players never consider the consequences of just what could happen by the simple fact of connecting all those pedals together.

2. Noise Buildup
The next problem that happens with effects in the signal chain is the noise buildup that occurs when you switch them on (or even when they’re switched off if they don’t have true bypass). This can be anywhere from a slight escalation in the noise floor to the sound of a full-on hurricane, depending upon the gain of the device or devices. There are three reasons why this happens.
  • Each device adds a bit of it’s own inherent noise. Some devices are designed better than others (they’re usually more expensive as a result) and keeping the noise floor down is one of the byproducts of a better design.
  • The type of power being used. Although many effects can run on a 9 volt battery, they’re actually designed for 12 volt use. If you use an external AC supply, the noise level can drop considerably. Be aware that the noise floor can also rise in some pedals as the voltage drops from a weak battery.
  • The input stage of the amplifier. A typical amp input stage is looking for the relatively small signal coming directly from a guitar, which it will then boost up as much as 50 times. If the gain from a pedal is cranked up, it will still be boosted by that 50 times despite where the volume control is set at on some amps. This means that your noise floor just went down the drain.
3. The Wrong Effects Order
There are two things that will directly affect how your effects interface with your amp; the effects order and gain staging. Effects order means the order that each pedal appears in the the signal chain between the guitar and amplifier. There are several schools of thought on effects order, and they each have a different result.

School Of Thought #1
This effects chain is the order generally recommended by most of the pedal gurus. There are several rules that make up this order:
  • Any distortion pedal must come first right after the guitar. The exception is if you’re using a compressor pedal, which will be first in the chain. Do not put a volume pedal first, as this can alter the way a compressor or distortion pedal sounds.
  • Any modulation or tone devices like wahs should come next. This enables you to keep the sustain coming from your distortion or overdrive devices and alter an already harmonically rich signal.
  • Delays come almost last in the chain, since you want to be delaying your already effected signal.
  • A volume pedal comes either last in the chain, or directly in front of any delay.
  • In situations where a pedal is providing a lot of clean gain, that will come last in the chain so as not to overload any of the other pedals.
So a typical effects order might go something like:

 compressor --> distortion --> wah --> chorus --> delay --> volume pedal (see the graphic on the left)

While this might not be the quietest order, it does sound really good because any distortion, overdrive, or sustain is being affected by the effects that come behind it.

School Of Thought #2
If we’re talking about recording, we may want the least amount of noise going into the amp. With that in mind, there are two rules in this scenario:
  • The noisiest pedal goes last in the chain before the amp.
  • The one with the most gain goes last before the amp.
The reason for both of the above points is simple; if the noisiest pedal is first in the chain, that noise will be affected and amplified further by every other pedal in the chain that you switch on. Same with the pedal with the most gain; if it’s at the beginning of the chain, it could possibly overload any other effect that comes after it, since most pedals only want to see a typical guitar signal and nothing greater (see Figure 4). Also, any noise caused by increasing the gain on a pedal will be amplified downstream by any other pedal switched on.

Generally, you’ll try to keep the basic order as in School of Thought #1 in order to be sure that any distortion or sustain is affected by the effects placed later in the chain. That being said, this order won’t sound the same as Order #2, especially if a distortion pedal is placed last in the chain (which isn’t recommended) because of its gain, so it might not be for everyone.

4. Improper Gain Staging 
Proper gain staging means adjusting the gain of each effects device to keep the noise at it’s lowest and prevent overloading of any device after it. Since almost all pedals have output gain controls these days, the best way is to adjust all the output controls so the gain is exactly the same whether they’re switched on or off. If you’re running a distortion or overdrive pedal, put that last in the order, and increase the output level of that one pedal up to the sound that you like.

If you follow the above suggestions, you’ll find that your signal chain should clean up quite a bit and your recordings should benefit greatly as a result."


You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.


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