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Recording rock drums: pro tips for tuning, mic’ing, and mixing the kit

By Guest Blogger
August 20, 2015{ No Comments }

Recording rock drums: tuning, mic'ing, and mixing techniques[This article was written by Adam “Nolly” Getgood, recording engineer, producer, and bass player in the band Periphery. To hear more recording tips from Adam, check out his free class online, broadcasting August 26-27.]

Recording drums is arguably the most difficult part of a session for an engineer working in modern rock genres. With upwards of 12 microphones on the kit itself as well as capturing the room ambience (often closer to 20, or more!),  there are many chances to slip up and ruin a recording, but there are also so many ways to really fine-tune the sound – and that is where the joy of engineering comes from, for me at least!

Tuning the kit

Tuning a drum kit can be a very mysterious process for a beginner, but with some practice you can get to grips with the concepts quite quickly. I’d recommend borrowing or buying a halfway decent kit and some heads to experiment with.

There are myriad ways to skin the kit (ba-dum-TISH…) when it comes to tuning drums, but my experience is that drums record extremely well when the resonant heads are tuned higher in pitch than the batter heads. On the toms and kick, the slacker batter head will give a pleasing “slap” to the attack, while the tighter resonant head will prevent the drum from sounding  “flabby” and minimize pitch bend. On the snare, keeping the resonant head tuned tight will get a crisp and responsive response from the snare wires, and elicit a lovely “poppy” attack when you hit  the drum with some attitude. Read more »

3 merch rules most musicians break

By Chris Robley
August 19, 2015{ 2 Comments }

How to sell more merch at your showsOff stage? Get to the merch booth NOW!

Last month I took my daughter to her first rock show. We saw the band Dawes perform on the lawn of L.L. Bean’s flagship store.

I love Dawes. The lyrics. The tunes. The vocals. The playing. Love ’em. My daughter loves them too. And thanks to a friend we had front row seats (see below for some video).

Dawes isn’t, like, Beyoncé famous or anything, but I was still surprised to see a couple of the members — I think it was the singer and drummer — standing at their merch booth after the show with a line that must’ve been a hundred people long. It was tough to see through the crowd but I think they were chatting with fans and autographing posters and albums.

At that point, my daughter was more interested in the giant fish tank inside L.L. Bean, so we didn’t wait in line. An hour later, we left the store and walked past the merch booth. The band was gone. The crowd was gone. But there were still a couple people working the booth, just in case someone (like me) wanted to make a last-minute purchase. Read more »

Live performance tip: plan for disaster (so you can turn it into the highlight of the show)

By Chris Robley
August 18, 2015{ No Comments }

Live performance emergencies

What was your biggest mid-show emergency, and how did you deal?

I went to a wedding this weekend and danced for hours to the music of Funktapuss, a super fun funk band from Hyannis, Massachusetts.

They were great players, but what impressed me most was what they did when things took a turn for the potentially disastrous.

Let me paint the scene: outdoor wedding under a tent, summer humidity, open bar, a single extension cord running from the stage to a barn. As the band ramped up and the dance floor was bouncing, BAM, the lights go out. The amps go silent. The PA peters out. The guests inhaled and paused.

I’m not sure if an inebriated guest stumbled over the the cord, or the venue blew a fuse, or what — but here’s what amazed me: after the power went out, the energy actually got turned up a notch (much to our relief).

The drummer kept playing. The trumpet player stepped right into the middle of the crowd and blew a solo. The keyboardist picked up his saxophone and joined in. The singer led us all in a funky chant. We danced and danced and danced for what must’ve been about five minutes of ecstatic, spontaneous, non-amplified funk (while the guitarists took a beer or bathroom break). Read more »

Protect .music websites from the exploitation of big tech companies, pirates, and domain squatters

By Chris Robley
August 17, 2015{ No Comments }

Protect .music domain namesSave .music for the indie artist! It’ll take less than a minute of your time.

What if all musicians and bands had websites that visitors could be certain were safe, legit, above-board, official — like .gov and .edu websites? In the coming years, .music domains will become the norm for musicians worldwide, but only if we ACT NOW to keep it in the hands of independent artists.

There is an effort to make sure the new .music website names are protected from domain squatting and piracy, and to keep the names out of the hands of non-music corporations who have already snapped up a lot of the valuable Internet real estate.

The goal is to give DotMusic control over the .music top level domain. They would issue domain names to artists, bands, and other music companies; they would prohibit spammy “parking pages” and domain squatting; and they would ban any .music domain guilty of mass copyright infringement.

You can support that effort by e-signing this community support letter: It takes less than a minute.

We know that domain names don’t sound all that exciting or cool, but this is very important. Because .music sites will become the norm for music-related content online, who controls that top level domain is a big deal. Read more »

Building an incremental album with singles

By Chris Robley
August 17, 2015{ 2 Comments }
Boyz in the Woods at Tro-Heol

Boyz in the Woods at Tro-Heol

Earlier this month we talked about ten different kinds of singles you can release — and ten different ways to release them.

 Today we’ll talk about the incremental album. It’s a super simple concept, and one that is perfect for the social media age where fans expect frequent access to your creative process at the very least, and participation at best. They want to feel connected to a musical journey, not JUST consume the finished product.

And if that’s the ideal fan experience, waiting a year or more to put out the perfect collection of songs all at once, as a traditional LP, could actually be costing you.

With an incremental album, you have dozens of chances to get your fans involved

Read more »

Louis C.K.’s performance advice for songwriters and singers

By Guest Blogger
August 14, 2015{ No Comments }

Louis C.K.'s advice for songwriters and singers[This post was written by guest contributor Anthony Ceseri.]

Recently I heard Louis C.K. being interviewed on The Howard Stern Show. After Howard asked Louis if he ever changes his act when he’s performing at bigger venues, like Madison Square Garden, Louis revealed some great advice for performing songwriters and singers to latch onto. He said:

I never change my act no matter what I’m doing. It doesn’t matter… In the end it’s what you do. When I watch guys on… America’s Got Talent… When I watch singers on TV… I always wish I was a judge. I would ask them… “Do you know what the song’s about? That [song] you just sang?”

They always have this look like, “I want to be a star!” It’s what they’re saying with the song.

I remember a guy on American Idol. He was singing “Folsom Prison Blues,” and he’s, like, excited…

Do you know what this song is about? He shot a man in Reno just to watch him DIE… Now he’s lamenting his mother and… has no way to turn back. And you’re singing it like you’re excited. Like it’s a birthday party. Read more »

How to get a cover song license, then LOSE IT for good

By Guest Blogger
August 13, 2015{ No Comments }

Re-upping your cover song licenses

The importance of re-upping your mechanical licenses

It started out as a lark, the product of a late-night joke with your bandmates.

“Why don’t we bring the cassingle back?” you asked. “We could put out a cover of that Human League song — you know, the one about the waitress in the cocktail bar.”

Your bandmates agreed with you, so you recorded an alt-country cover of “Don’t You Want Me” in the basement home studio of your brother’s house. You found out what a J-card was (those paper inserts they put inside cassettes), then designed one for the single. You mixed the sessions, then mastered the mixes. You even went to a website that sells cover song licenses, like Loudr Licensing, to purchase and pay for the rights needed to legally sell your cover both as a cassingle and an iTunes single.

You probably thought that you were ready to put the project to bed after shipping the masters to the cassette duplication plant and clicking “Submit” on CD Baby. However, you only purchased a cover song license for 100 cassingles, the number of copies you made, and 200 digital downloads, the number of copies you expected to sell on iTunes. You may not have remembered or thought you needed to keep track of the numbers as fans continued to buy up the cassettes and rack up digital downloads, especially after BuzzFeed featured you in a listicle about great 80s covers. Read more »

Soundcheck your rehearsals for great band sound

By Guest Blogger
August 13, 2015{ No Comments }

How to soundcheck before rehearsal[This article was written by Alex Andrews of Ten Kettles Inc. It originally appeared HERE. Check out the  new music theory app from Ten Kettles — “Waay: Music theory that matters.” Click here to learn about its video lessons, interactive exercises, progress-tracking tools, and more.]

You’ve just arrived at rehearsal and you’re really excited to dig in. You plug in your instrument, jump into the first jam and… you can barely hear your instrument. So, you turn up… but now the drummer says you’re too loud. The vocalist then complains that her microphone keeps electrocuting her face, and under it all, you can’t help noticing that the bass sounds like a swamp. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you should start soundchecking your rehearsals. This article explains how.

First, for the purposes of this article, let’s assume a couple things:

* Your band has a pretty typical “rock band” instrumentation: drums, bass, guitar/keys, vocals.

* All instruments are amplified, except for the drums. (That means that the vocals are going through a soundboard and speakers.)

Even if your situation is slightly different, a lot of the same principles apply, so read on.


Once you step into your jam space, one of the first things you should think about is where the amps are sitting. Make sure two things are happening: Read more »

Behind the Black Curtain: what really happens when you master a track?

By Guest Blogger
August 11, 2015{ No Comments }

Mastering studioThe challenge of home producing is that what you want your audience to hear is rarely what they will hear.

When I started out, my studio was totally barebones, just a small desk shoved in the corner of a skinny, vinyl floored room…

Monitors? I didn’t have monitors; I had headphones.

And yet, I expected my bedroom recording to stand up to the big guys. I wanted the drums to explode!

This was a tall order because where you mix – and what tools you have to mix – really impacts how your track sounds to other people.

And that’s where mastering comes in, making sure your audience hears the track the way you intended – no matter where it was created.

Here’s how.


If you’re happy with your final mix, your ears aren’t broken, it probably is that good. But unfortunately, you can’t invite everyone to your house to hear it how you hear it.

Read more »

How to protect your music against piracy

By Chris Robley
August 11, 2015{ 2 Comments }

Five years ago, I was of the opinion that protecting your music from piracy on a case-by-case basis was a waste of time.

You could get a Google alert on Monday notifying you that some site had just posted your MP3s for free, and if you wrote to that site’s owners asking them to remove the music, by Tuesday there would be two more Google Alerts in your inbox.

Trying to address each instance of piracy could quickly become a game of whack-a-mole, and meanwhile you’ve got gigs to play and music to promote.

Besides, isn’t piracy a form of exposure? Shouldn’t you be happy that people want to download your music for free?

Well, that’s debatable, for sure. Some labels and artists have really been hurt by music piracy, while others have been able to build their careers around free music on torrent sites. Like most things in this industry, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for distribution, pricing, and copyright issues. It comes down to you, your fans, what you’re willing to deliver, and what they’re willing to pay for (and how and when).

If you see it as a plus that your music, even when unauthorized, is widely available for free online, great — no need to combat piracy! Hopefully those fans are compensating you in other ways (coming to see you live, telling friends, following you on Instagram, creating UGC videos with your songs, etc.)

But if you DO want to remove your music from pirate sites, things have changed quite a bit in the last few years, and you’ve got options… Read more »