Ten Christmas Gifts for Aspiring Musicians 

With Christmas coming soon, it can be difficult to decide what to get everyone. Fortunately for anyone shopping for a musician, several options present themselves. This article will point out some items or services you may not have thought of while seeking to fill your musicians’ stockings.
  1. Music. If you at least have an understanding of the particular genre your musician is a fan of, you can always get them a digital album. Depending on the age involved in the performer or band, you may also be able to earn some brownie points by getting them a CD, a vinyl or even an 8-track; just make sure that they have the necessary equipment to play them.
  2. Musician’s Dice Ideal for singer-songwriters, these 12-sided dice feature a different key on each facet. Their purpose is to nudge creativity by encouraging the musician to perform or write a segment in a different chord.
  3. Concert DVDs. If you happen to know your musician’s favorite performer or band, you might want to see if that performer has released any videos of concert performances.
  4. An Instrument. If you know your musician wants to get into performing with an instrument or know that she could use something better, feel free to pull the trigger and get them that instrument. Just be sure to check that no one else has the same idea
  5. Lessons. While every performer could use some improvement, not every performer needs the same level of improvement. Paying for lessons from a competent instructor is a great way to continue your musician’s interests in music. Just make sure to research ratings before putting up the money; a poor instructor can lead to a great disdain for music.
  6. A Meeting with Their Musical Idol. While this is likely the priciest item on this list, arranging a meeting with your musician’s favorite performer can lead to life-changing memories.
  7. Headphones. A great pair of headphones can isolate a player’s sound so that your musician can better savor the music without bothering others’ peace.
  8. A Year’s Subscription to Prime Music or Google Play. If you know that your musician likes music but have no idea what sort of music she likes, consider getting her a subscription to one of these libraries of music. There is also the chance that she might discover a new band she’d never heard of.
  9. An External Hard Drive. Free up hard drive space by giving your musician a dedicated storage point for all of her musical files and content.
  10. Sound Dampening Barriers. These are ideal for recording because they minimize background sounds that might otherwise be captured during recording.

Whether you are shopping for someone interested in music or for a musician seeking improvement, at least one of the items on this list should have powered that light bulb. After all, no one said that Christmas presents must be physical objects.

The Anatomy of a Great Band

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Truth: Good bands aren’t all that hard to find. Your favorite club or pub probably books a decent band or two every weekend, right? Great bands, on the other hand, are a totally different animal and not as thick on the ground. So what’s the difference? What sets a great band apart?

Well, they don’t play musical chairs, for one thing. Band members stick, because they know you have to consistently jam with the same lineup for a good long while to form solid connections with your band mates. It takes time to develop the kind of gut-level rapport that translates into great music and a seamless but always fresh on-stage dynamic.

These musicians love what they do. Each and every member is all about the music and would be if the band didn’t make a dime. Because the music comes first, a great bands generally produce high-test tunes—both original material and maybe their own special twists on the occasional covers.

These guys and gals practice ‘til their ears bleed. No such thing as too many rehearsals in their world. Great bands operate on the assumption that if practice makes perfect, more practice makes better than perfect. Gig or no gig, band members get together at least a couple times week to run through new material and fine-tune old.

Band members know how to mix it up, musically, vocally and instrumentally. Seriously, nothing keeps the music fresh like switching things up every now and then, for grins and giggles and/or to keep Old Man Boredom at bay. Plus, you know the lead singers’ going to get laryngitis at some point. Making sure the bass player can take up the slack, no sweat, is just smart.

These folks consider themselves professionals, and act like it. Everyone shows up on time and ready to perform. Band members are all good with putting money into the collective pot to finance better equipment, produce CDs and maybe manufacture some merch.

Gigs, gigs and more gigs. Live performances are to bands what a whetstone is to your favorite Ginsu knife. They help by showing the musicians what they’re doing right and what they need to work on. Plus, gigs are where bands attract diehard fans and learn how to put out just as hard for an audience of ten as they do for a wall-to-wall sellout crowd.

Great bands are bands that didn’t quit. They started in somebody’s garage and practiced until they got good enough to play school dances and tips-only gigs in Podunk. They pushed the envelope, then pushed it some more, both as musicians and performers. Eventually, they managed to book a few paid appearances, then more and better paid shows, until they finally elbowed their way out of the crowd and across that boundary line between good and great.

You want it all in a nutshell? Great bands are like brother- and sisterhoods, close-knit crews of dedicated professionals who stay together to play together, put the music first, work hard for their money and constantly reach for more, from their band mates and from deep within themselves.

 

How to Get Hired in the Music Industry

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You say music is your life? Maybe you fantasize about working in the industry but aren’t sure how to get a toehold, let alone snag your dream job. In that case, you’re going to love these tips geared toward transforming your fantasy into reality!

Got skills? Like life, the music industry isn’t one size fits all. Saying you want to work in the biz isn’t nearly good enough. Ask yourself what, exactly and ideally, you’d like to do. Pinpoint your specific dream job and take stock. Do you have the skills and know-how to fulfill the vision? If not, maybe you should think about getting them.

Look at the big picture. When you think “music industry,” don’t just think Beyoncé concerts and Broadway musicals. Music is everywhere—on stage, television, commercials, radio (traditional and Internet) and websites. Industry jobs run from sound checks to marketing to reviewing and reporting and beyond. The more doorways you’re willing to step through, the more likely you are to find a way in.

Get geeky with it. You’d be surprised what online job websites have to offer music-minded folk such as yourself. Be creative with your search terms, though—you don’t want to miss a choice television gig because the glittering search term music industry was your Plan A and Plan B didn’t rate a passing thought.

Think headhunter. Believe it or not, there are employment agencies that specialize in finding multiple kinds of talent (one of which could be you) for the music industry—Handle Recruitment in the U.K. and Arts and Media would be two examples. Identify the players, connect via their websites, and follow them on social media like a bloodhound. You never know when or how you might stumble onto that golden brick road.

Desk jockey or disk jockey, you need a good resume. Not talking good resume as in experience—or not only that—but as in crisp, clean and professionally done. Boring, right? You won’t think so if the perfect job slips through your fingers because your resume looks like it was formatted by a hyperactive three-year-old.

Schmooze it up. Let’s face it, nothing beats getting up close and personal. Outfits like the National Association of Record Industry Professionals and The Association of Independent Music get together for all kinds of conferences and panels and workshops and such. For some events you don’t even have to be a member. Check their calendars, drop by and make a few connections.

Stuff envelopes if you have to. Any foot in the door is a good foot. That being the case, think about volunteering—for any kind of duty—at a record company, sound studio, TV station or newspaper. And, hey! What about those music industry internships? Like, you know, with the Grammys! Are those worth checking out, or what?

Finally, follow through with the follow up. Listen, people, you’ve got to stay on top of this stuff. Follow up on the resume, keep in touch with contacts made during that internship, chat up headhunters on social media, and be giving with your demo disks. Be the hungriest early bird out there, and you’ll worm your way in before you know it!

 

What To Ask When Hiring A Band

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Hiring a band for your next party or engagement should be an exciting time for you and the band. The band is excited to play your gig, and you should be excited to have them playing their brand of music. However, you want to make sure that the band you hire is a good fit for your event. Here are a few questions to ask:

1: What Music Do They Play?

You need to know what sort of music the band plays. They may play cover songs from any era, or they might play their own material. You want to ensure that the music they play meets your needs and the need of the crowd. A band that does not play your brand of music will not be as much fun as another band that plays more enjoyable music.

2: How Must The Band Set Up?

You need to know what the band needs to setup for the gig. You must accommodate the band with electrical outlets, a stage area and a backstage area to prepare. The band needs room to move around, and you must provide them with the amount of room they ask for. A band that requires a setup area bigger than what you can offer may not be the right band for you.

3: How Many People Are In The Band?

Do you want a soloist or a big band? Knowing how many musicians are in the band is a great way to know if they are going to be a great fit for your event, and can help you know what to prepare as far as room for the band to perform.

4: How Much Do They Charge?

You should ask the band how much they charge for the gig and make sure it is within your budget. Most bands have an hourly rate or a flat rate for the night. This is also a great time to ask what they might need – how much room they will need to perform, if they require a certain number of outlets for their equipment, etc.

5: How Long Can They Play?

You want to know how long the band feels comfortable playing. Some bands can go on all day, but other bands prefer to play just a few sets before stopping. You need to be familiar with the band’s preferences before hiring them. If you want a longer set, this is a great opportunity to give a new up and coming band a chance to open for your hired band and gain some experience and recognition.

By asking questions, you are protecting your event, while also respecting the band by ensuring they have everything they need to give you a great show!

Spring Cleaning

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As we approach warmer weather, you’ll likely want to jump into outdoor activities and bring along an instrument or two with you. You can get your instruments looking and sounding their best for 2015 with this spring cleaning checklist.

 

Cleaning Tips

First and foremost, spring cleaning is a great time to revitalize your instrument’s appearance. A good cleaning won’t only keep the instrument looking its best, but it will also improve the longevity of the instrument.

Instruments such as acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and bass guitars can typically be cleaned with an absorbent cleaning cloth and feather duster. If you’re cleaning the strings as well, never the use the same cloth on the body. This often results in a transferring of the dirt and grime from the strings straight to the body. Wrap up the cleanse with a good polishing.

Drum kits can be cleaned using a soft cotton cloth dampened with mild detergent and warm water. After completely wiping each shell down, finish off with a dry cotton cloth. When cleaning the drum heads, never spray cleaner of any kind directly onto them. This has been known to cause damage to the heads as well as severely impair their sounds. Brasso is commonly used to clean cymbals, but it’s highly recommended that you steer clear of using cleaning chemicals as much as possible when wiping your kit down. Usage of cleaners over time can cause corrosion and significantly affect the kit’s sound.

 

Polishing Tips

Instrument polish is useful for uprooting grime that doesn’t normally come off with regular cleaning practices. Be sure to use a polish that’s approved for your particular instrument. The metal hardware on instruments can, most times, be cleaned with chrome or jewelry polish. This will instantly restore life to faded and scratched up instrument hardware.

Drum kits can also be waxed and polished, but it’s incredibly important that you use the softest cotton possible to do so. Check to see what types of polish the kit’s brand approves for cleaning.

 

Restringing and Maintenance

One of the best parts about spring cleaning your instruments is breaking in brand new strings on guitars. While an older guitar will improve as it ages, the same can’t be said for its strings. You’ll know your strings are ready to be replaced when they are corroded, caked in dirt and grime, fall easily out of tune, or simply haven’t been changed in a long time.

To start changing out strings, use the turning pegs to loosen them until they can be unraveled by hand at the posts on the head. Pull the string out from the post and remove it from the bridge. After removing all strings, begin installing the new ones into the bridge. Slip each string into its appropriate post, and tighten it using the turning peg. After tightening and tuning each string, you’ll have officially restrung your guitar.

 

Caring for Musical Equipment

Lastly, you can spring clean your musical equipment, such as amps and microphones, with a few tried-and-true tips. Before cleaning anything electrical, ensure that it is unplugged and away from water. Using a mild cleaner, spray a bit of the solution onto a soft cotton cloth and wipe the exterior of the equipment down. Use a vacuum to clean out bits of dust and grime from enclosed spaces, such as the inside of an amplifier cabinet. If the equipment has knobs, be sure to remove them for a more thorough cleaning.