“Don't Bite the Hand That Feeds You.” Every one of us would like to think of himself or herself as a professional, or at least qualified as such, whether or not we’ve committed our passion to a marriage of commerce and talent. But the measure of professionalism is not limited to talent. It's how you comport yourself on the gig or session. And it's knowing how to relate to the leader, which may require a well-lived life's worth of experience to draw from.
I like to tell my students that, in addition to practicing their backsides off, the best way to be sure you ace the gig is to pay strict attention to the person who hired you. That might be the client directly, such as a clubowner or bride’s mother, or it might be the bandleader who in turn works for them. In other situations, it could be the session producer or the booking agency. In each case, the expectations might be slightly different, even if the music you’re playing is exactly the same.
By contrast, if the person who hired you is the bandleader, make sure you don’t start taking orders from the drummer (“Dude, that sounds awesome! Keep wailing through the singer’s next verse!”). Undercutting the musical leader’s authority is just as bad as not following it at all. For many musicians, this is never an issue: it’s obvious who’s calling the shots. But the more you play, the more different situations you’ll find yourself in, and sometimes the lines of authority are less well drawn.
For example, I recently played a gig where the drummer was the leader—the guy who called the tunes and gave the cues—although the lead singer schmoozed with the client and fronted the band. (They were a team, with these skills well delegated.) This created an interesting situation onstage, because at first it wasn’t obvious where to look. The normal thing is to look toward the front of the stage, but the singer offered no direction or support to the instrumentalists. That wasn’t his job, after all. But it created a sense of disorientation on the bandstand.
I like to think that if I wasn’t born brilliant, I am at least a quick study. It was obvious to me early on that the drummer was in total control: He delivered the onstage patter; he counted off the tunes; and he cued the stop-time sections, endings, and vamps with total aplomb. So I quickly adopted the technique of facing outward for most of the song while turning my head to the back of the stage when I sensed there was an “arrangement event.” It was clear the drummer appreciated the effort—and the eye contact. The bass player didn’t seem to grasp this—even after being told—looking to the singer for all his cues, and inevitably missing a stop-time cut or playing through an ending. I continued to work with this team, the bass player did not.
I have seen this sort of confusion in the studio too. Sometimes the boss is in the live room and sometimes she’s behind the glass. In one situation I was in, “the boss” was the songwriter trying to get rhythm tracks down for her demo. She sat in the control room with the engineer. I and the rest of the musicians were in the live room and knew her strengths and limitations well. Yet one musician continued to ask technical questions she couldn’t answer, using terms like “subdominant” (instead of “the F chord”), etc. Worse, when he didn’t get the answer he wanted, he turned to a fellow musician for support, when he should have simply rephrased the question and maintained that direct line of authority. He made her look bad, and so no one was surprised when he wasn’t at the next session.This is just common sense: If your leader wants to talk about the A minor chord or A minor scale, don’t start spouting off about the submediant and Aeolian. The best producers I’ve worked with know how to adapt their approach to communicate with the boss first, and then with the musicians after a translation process. The lesson is this: Know who the boss is and work in their world. When it’s your gig you can tell everyone to play the Locrian mode over the fifth mode of the harmonic minor. But when it’s necessary, make sure you can also say, “Do you want me to strum the sad chord four times after the happy chord, or three?”
— Jon Chappell
|This Week on HC|
One of our strategic partners here at Harmony Central is GrooveZoo, and together we’ve created HC Studios—accessible by clicking the link at the top of every page.
Through HC Studios, GrooveZoo has created the ultimate environment where members of the HC community can meet to create music online. This is the place to find instrumentalists of any style and interest, and at commitment levels from “just jamming” to full-contract partnerships.
If you’re looking for a sideman or session player to play on your demo, you can use the sophisticated filtering system to search for that exact like-minded individual, simply by keying in the relevant search terms. Conversely, if you’re a multistyle, multi-instrumental whiz-kid, you can offer your session services for hire—and display your wares in audio files. GrooveZoo’s interface makes sending tracks and different song versions back and forth easy and transparent. And because GrooveZoo takes care to provide great detail in their members’ profiles, people will know exactly who they’re getting when they contact you. (No more, “But you said you were a bass player! Where’s your washtub and broom handle?”)
GrooveZoo is always running contests, deals for their premium services, and tips for better promoting your music and connecting with your community.
If you haven’t checked them out yet, sign up for a GrooveZoo account and create a quick audio avatar. At the very least, try out the search engine. You may just find that harmonica player or that lyricist or that ambient guitar player you’ve been looking for to complete that unfinished project.
By Phil O'Keefe
By Craig Anderton
The buzz on this box has been huge, and it turns out there's a very good reason
By Russ Kent
All-in-one wonders for beginning guitarists and bassists
Many engineers and recording musicians will reach for a directional microphone out of habit or by default (often because that's all they own). While cardioid microphones have many advantages (such as the ability to reject much of the sound that hits the rear of the microphone as opposed to the front), they also have some limitations—such as the proximity effect, which is the tendency of directional microphones (figure-8, cardioid, hypercardioid, etc.) to emphasize low frequencies when placed in very close proximity to the sound source they're capturing. This is normally an issue only when you have the mic within a few inches of the sound source, and decreases with increased mic-to-source distances.
When ultra-close miking gives you the sound you want, but has too much bass buildup due to proximity effect, try substituting an omnidirectional microphone instead. Omni mics do not have the rear rejection of cardioids, but they also are completely free of proximity effect. While you won't be able to position the "back" of the mic to reject other sound sources or ambience in the room that you don't want to capture, often the source-to-ambience ratio will be high enough due to the extremely close distance to the source you're trying to capture, and the relatively far distance to the sounds you want to reject, that you'll still obtain similar results—but without the added "boom" from the proximity effect.— 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
Yes, it’s a file sharing discussion, but with a twist. Not only are the moral aspects of file sharing debated, so are the viability and fairness of the newer streaming services such as Spotify. And what about artists giving away their music freely—is it madness or a means to an end? Hear both sides of the debate then express your own views.
Some effects are instant hits and loved by nearly everyone who tries them, while others seem to gain far less positive acceptance. Still, just because something doesn't work for the majority doesn't mean there aren't those who find ways to make those pedals work well for their music, as this thread illustrates.
Our two newest Pro Reviews represent a sampling of attention-deserving gear from different sectors, though each brings together high-tech and guitars. The Epiphone Les Paul Ultra-III is a classic-looking Paul sporting such forward-looking features as a dual-pickup system, onboard USB, and an “invisible” onboard tuner; while the DigiTech iPB-10 Programmable pedalboard ingeniously employs the iPad as an integral part of its design—but you don’t necessarily need to take it onstage. Check them out!
The vast majority of acoustic steel strings come with spruce tops. But many players are discovering the warm and intimate sound of a cedar top, which were previously more associated with classical and flamenco guitars. This thread explores and discusses some excellent choices in the $500-and-under market.
This thread includes 25 links (with more being added) to articles involving a variety of psychoacoustic phenomena, including things like stereo illusions, “barberpole tones,” and more. It’s great reading material if you’re snowed in on a winter’s day!
You want a pedalboard, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Who you gonna call? Why, the DIY forum, of course.
Opinions, lots of pix, some truly esoteric pedals, and even applications—friends of fuzz will find this fantastic.
Artistic preference? Can’t find good players? The economics don’t work out? It’s more fun? You’ll find a variety of answers in this interesting thread.
Although the Kemper has been the subject of a lot of speculation, few have heard it in action—but now you can, thanks to a tasty sound clip. And yes, it really does work . . .
This interesting thread starts with product bashing, then some actual users weigh in with positive experiences, and eventually, it becomes clear that this little box definitely has some great uses—but also some major limitations. We report, you decide!
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Editorial Craig Anderton, Editor in Chief • Jon Chappell, Senior Editor • Phil O’Keefe, Associate Editor • Chris Loeffler, Reviews Editor
Production Editor • Carrie Brown
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