Hey, Coach, put me in! If you’ve ever played organized sports, you’re familiar with that unique authority figure called a coach. In the hierarchy of people who can tell you what to do, coaches fall somewhere between team leaders and teachers. You have to listen to them, but you don’t have the formal relationship with them that you do with a teacher. Coaches exist for every team sport, from little league to pro, and many individual athletes have them, including tennis players and figure skaters.
And now regular people are getting in on the coach act. We’ve seen the phenomenon of “life coaches,” who come in and supervise every aspect of your life, from recommending more efficient work habits to supervising fitness routines to organizing closets. It seems a somewhat amusing notion, one reserved for well-heeled, over-achieving types. But secretly, we probably all wish we could afford a life coach. Who wouldn’t want someone to tell us we’re singing flat or someone who would redesign our studio for better ergonomics? Who wouldn’t want to have a guru live our life with us for a while, and then tell us how to do it better?
As musicians we could especially benefit from having a coach, because we have so many parallels with the sports world: we must practice our instruments regularly to stay in shape; we measure performances; we quantify output; and we evaluate the quality of that output. But unlike running, swimming, or weight training, we can’t log improvements with a stopwatch or reps. We are engaged in highly personal and creative acts that require the input of other people for validation. In other words, we need an audience. We need to move listeners to succeed. We need our best friend and toughest critic to say, “That is your best song to date. More compelling than the one you played for me yesterday.” We need a coach to bust us when we're slacking.
In this way, we can turn our friends and trusted musical partners into coaches. Not permanently, not necessarily for hire, but for trade. Ask a friend to be your coach. Choose the friend based on his or her musical strength. For example, I would ask one person to read to my lyrics, another to listen to my instrumental work, and still another to comment on my mixes. The great thing about this arrangement is that it can often be reciprocal. The one who creates it, by definition, cannot be the one who edits it. But we can be each other’s “second set of ears.” An ideal coach is someone who has your best interests in mind and who is objective.
Your coach doesn’t necessarily need to be your superior in the subject, either, just as Rafael Nadal’s coach can’t beat him in a tennis match while he instructs him on getting more power out of his serve. To benefit from a coach, you just have to be coachable. You have to be the one who says, “Okay, we’re friends, but right now I need you to take control and tell me what I’m doing wrong here. Why doesn’t this lyric work? Am I rushing this passage? Does my voice sound intense and passionate here, or am I just out of my range? Is this song really funny or just sophomoric?” A sensitive listener can help you improve a song or recording, and may even be able to offer advice that extends further than the project at hand. You just have to be able to answer, “Yes, Coach.”
— Jon Chappell
|This Week on HC|
Time for a Shout Out to the IT Team—and You Too!
Unfortunately Harmony Central doesn’t just run itself, and as it’s hardware- and software-based, from time to time we need to get “under the hood” and give the site a tune-up. Much of this involves rebuilding databases and other mundane things that can be time-consuming, but we do try to keep down time to a minimum.
Last week, we had our hands full with a meltdown of the newsletter just prior to publication, a barrage of spam posts, the need for new categories for news, and a search function that couldn’t find recent posts. Who you gonna call? Nishant Mohapatra, another HC behind-the-scenes unsung hero. Of course he’s not the only valued IT person here, but he’s the one who’s devoted primarily to Harmony Central—so when you wake up one morning, log on, and find out the forums are zippier than usual . . . that’s Nishant.
But we’d like to thank you too. Many times it’s your reports that help us isolate a problem, and also, we greatly appreciate your patience while our servers crunch their numbers in search of a smoother forum experience—it’s all part of what keeps this machine humming.
The Ghost in the Mix
It's October, which means Halloween is right around the corner—so thoughts turn to the haunted and the spooky. I sometimes like little elements in a mix that, like a ghostly apparition, are sensed . . . but that leave you not quite certain about what you heard.
Like what, you might ask? Use your imagination! A whispered, softly spoken monotone or octave up (or down) vocal phrased the same way as the lead vocalist, but mixed way back behind it can sound cool in the right context. When done right, the listener may sense something's there, even though they can't easily hear it or quite place exactly what "it" is.
Another option is sticking a mic up close to an electric guitar, and mixing in some of the string and finger noises with an electric guitar part.
Of course, you can do similar tricks with instrumental parts as well. Try playing in one room with your amp isolated and miked up in another room, then aim a second mic directly on your electric guitar strings and record that to a second track. Mix some of that audio in "behind" the main guitar part. (In a similar vein, record fingers hitting the keys on a keyboard, and mixing that in with the main sound). Double a vocal with a whispered part (Pink Floyd did this a lot, dating back to the days of Syd Barrett), or put a ghostly voice or phrase into the mix. The Beatles did this often; for example, John Lennon saying "Cranberry Sauce" at the end of Strawberry Fields Forever (which was famously misheard by many as "I buried Paul"). Pretty spooky indeed.
— Phil O'Keefe
|Featured Industry News|
This week's pick hits from our News section
A few of this week's top discussions from our Forums
Jon Finn, Berklee guitar instructor and regular contributor to the Lesson Loft forum, throws down a minor-funky-jazzy backing track and invites readers to solo over it. The results are excellent and include a variety of bebop, Lydian-flat-7 modal, over-the-top rock, and more. Check ’em out, and post your own!
Discofreq and bieke, two highly respected Effects forum regulars, recently gave a vintage effects workshop in Europe, with an emphasis on fuzz pedals. They took lots of photos of some exceptionally rare pieces, and give us a rundown of their top ten favorites.You're almost guaranteed to see some pedals in this thread that you've never even heard of before.
The Effects forum's take on the Electric Guitar forum's original Doom Room thread; Doom, Drone, Sludge and Noise—loud, brash and brutal, this is the thread for videos, discussions, and info on bands and rigs. Most epic.
Is the StudioLive as cool as it looks? Given the price, what can you really expect from the Zoom R8? How about some audio clips and movies covering Universal Audio’s latest plug-ins? And is Geist the answer to an electronic musician’s dreams? Only Harmony Central puts this kind of gear under the microscope in our unique, interactive, in-depth Pro Review format.
Are recording schools selling an impossible dream—or truly helping those who aspire to a gig in the music business? Turns out it’s a little bit of both.
Are you worthless without a half-stack? The Amps forum has some definite idea on the topic, laced with some strong language—and useful advice.
We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s still going strong, and still generating a ton of discussion. And with over 35,000 page views, a lot of drummers obviously agree!
Is it worth taking a trip to the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame? Opinions vary, as well as opinions about the nature of marketing music with mystique.
This is thread where Telecaster fans show their love for one of the classic guitars of all time. Even if you’re not a Tele fan, you’ll definitely find out why other people are.
The late Gary Moore was a phenomenal guitarist who really had two careers: as the guitarist with Irish hard rockers Thin Lizzy, and then as a virtuosic blues soloist in his own right. In this thread, forumites weigh in with some of their favorite Moore performances. If you’re not familiar with Moore and want to check out some of his hallmark work, this is the place to start.
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Editorial Craig Anderton, Editor in Chief • Jon Chappell, Senior Editor • Phil O’Keefe, Associate Editor • Chris Loeffler, Reviews Editor
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