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And The Number One Sign You’re In a Rehearsal or Hobby Band Is….

Turns out, I came up with nine reasons in that list, and thought of one more the other day

Drum roll please… And the number one sign that you're in a rehearsal or hobby band is

  • When you say, "we're spending too much time rehearsing," someone replies, "I don't care, I just like to play music."

Tue, 2016 03 29 at 10:05 AM |Permalink for this entry

No Major Adjustments Below 500 Feet

Stay on target…

WAY back when I was in high school, I took an aeronautics course. The teacher said it was basically the same as flight school without the flying part. While I thought the whole course was interesting, the biggest thing that stuck with me all these years was that when you’re landing, as you get closer to the runway, you stop making major corrections to your flight. A friend recently described this by saying you make major changes at the beginning of the landing procedure, and you make smaller and smaller changes on the way to the final landing point, sort of like a pendulum making smaller and smaller swings as it comes to a stop.

Why did this stick with me and what does this have to do with music? In general, I realized that the same philosophy applies to many areas of life. When you’re working on something, I think if you make big changes just before you’re supposed to finish, you’re asking for trouble. It’s almost like starting over at the last minute. “I know we’re supposed to release this tomorrow, but I decided to use X instead and replaced all of Y with it!”

In music, I don’t think it’s wise to change the set list or how you play the songs the week of the show. Maybe you’ve realized you’ve been doing it differently than the record, or maybe you think doing it some other way is better, but you’ve been doing it that way for weeks. To change that now could be asking for trouble. If what you have been doing isn’t bad, don’t change it. Save it for the next show if it must be changed.

Similarly, when I was in college, I came up with a rationalization for not cramming. I decided that if I didn’t know the material by now, I won’t learn it “tonight.” Along those same lines, I think rehearsals the day before the show or worse, the day of, are a bad idea. Any problems probably won’t get fixed, and even worse, if the rehearsal goes badly, people’s confidence can get shaken and/or they’ll be drained spending a ton of time and energy trying to fix the problems at the rehearsal, making them less energetic for the show.

Happy flying!

Thu, 2016 03 17 at 10:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

How to Prep a Band for a Gig

It ain’t that hard, really.

  1. Hire good musicians and an interesting front person
  2. Pick the songs. Send them to everyone. If they’re originals, provide recordings and charts. For covers, make sure to send adequate info regarding which version. Don’t just say, “it’s on YouTube,” provide a link to the right version, dammit
  3. Give everyone a reasonable amount of time to learn the songs, then
  4. Rehearse once a week for a month to solidify
  5. Play the gig. Have fun
  6. Repeat as necessary

Mon, 2016 03 14 at 10:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

Wastin’ Time

Recently when I said I couldn’t make a rehearsal, I had a band member perhaps jokingly admonish me saying, “you have something better to do???”

Mind you, this is a band I have had problems with unproductive rehearsals. Later, I started thinking about it and remembered my last “square” job. The boss was a micromanager, and nothing I was working on would get approved until he got around to it. Since it was a small company and he was also the lead programmer, this led to a lot of downtime. Some might suggest that it was up to me to find something to do. Trust me, I did. But after a while I ran out of things to find and got burnt out trying to do things and having him eventually nix them or make me wait forever.

Anyway, the frustration that came from that situation became painful and one of the reasons I left. Yes, I was getting paid, but getting paid to do nothing was really annoying. If I had to do nothing, I would rather it be my nothing.

Coming back to these frustrating, unproductive rehearsals. do I have something better to do? I don’t know, but if I’m going to waste my time, I’d rather it be my choice of what I waste my time on, like writing blog posts such as this one.

Thu, 2016 03 10 at 10:00 AM |Permalink for this entry

Signs You’re in a Rehearsal or Hobby Band

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if that’s what you want to do

  • There aren’t any gigs booked. Or if there are, they don’t pay or pay enough.
  • Gigs don’t get booked because “we aren’t ready. We will gig when we are ready.”
  • There’s no set list and thus no one works on the material at home.
  • The set list or itinerary isn’t followed at rehearsal.
  • People don’t practice their parts at home and aren’t ready for rehearsal. (“Practice separately, rehearse together” - say it over and over)
  • People don’t show up on time for rehearsal or worse, cancel at the last minute leaving other band members there high and dry.
  • Rehearsals expand instead of contract. In other words, people want to have more rehearsals as the gig approaches instead of getting better and needing less. Or, they keep having rehearsals but that’s all the band ever does.
  • Replacing a member starts the whole process over. Instead of the new member learning the songs on their own and jumping in with maybe a couple of rehearsals (“Practice separately, rehearse together”), it’s like the whole band has to learn everything again.
  • Someone describes the band as “pro’s” [sic]. Could you imagine someone in another field (plumbing, dentistry) saying, “I’m a pro [plumber or dentist]”? Or, “I’m Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and we’re a pro band with over 20 years of experience and we’re looking for a pro drummer with his own gear”?

Disclaimer: I don’t have anything against any type of band people want to do. My old band started out as a hobby band, never intending to play out. Some bands do want to play out a little, others more, and some hope to make a career of it or nearly so. As one friend of mine put it, “The beauty of music is that there are lanes for all types of musicians i.e. full-time, semi-pro, weekend warriors, hobbyists, etc. It’s really just a matter of finding the right lane.” Another friend replied, “Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right lane because what people say doesn’t necessarily match what they really want or do.” That’s the point of this post. I have had struggles “finding the right lane” for what I want to do as far as a matching (not marching) band. After discussing it with some musician friends, I came up with this list.

Tue, 2016 03 08 at 12:03 PM |Permalink for this entry

Cutting the Crap

Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!

Lately, I have found myself cutting things out of my life. Most of them were not bad, but I have realized that in order to get where I am trying to go, I need to focus. I think all my life I have said, “that would be cool” and did stuff or tried things. There is nothing wrong with that, but lately, things I would have considered before just do not interest me anymore. For instance, I was looking at an iOS programming book at a bookstore and I glazed over. I’ve done programming for years and often considered it when I thought about doing something other than music. This time, I just did not care.

Some non-musical work opportunities have come my way, but I realized I was not interested in doing them. While I would like that big paper rectangle with the numbers on it that comes at the end of the project, I just want to focus on music.

There are some other activities that I’m ending because I have lost interest, and I feel that they distract me from music.

We started studying Italian last year, but one of the reasons I am taking a break from it is because I want to focus my learning on music.

I have even ended piano lessons (at least for now) because I feel that I need to spend time implementing what I have learned over the years of lessons. There is still tons more for me to learn, but right now I just want to “catch up” to what I have learned.

I have seen and heard a few people lately talk about “the one thing.” Apparently it has to do with a line from City Slickers, which I have never seen. But the point is, to get good at doing something, the one thing you have to do is “the one thing.” I would love to play classical piano, and pop, and whatever, but if I am going to pick one style right now it is jazz piano (do not ask me why I picked the difficult one). In order to get good at jazz piano, I have to focus on jazz piano. That means not playing other stuff, not spending lots of time getting ready for an audition for a rock band, etc. So that is what I’ve been doing. It has not paid off yet, but it is still early days. I hope.

The other big thing I have been allowing myself is doing recording at home, along with songwriting. It is still behind the jazz piano thing, but it is something I definitely enjoy doing and want to spend more time doing.

Mon, 2015 08 31 at 10:28 AM |Permalink for this entry

My Logic Pro Tips Blog

You hardly keep this blog updated…

Yeah, I know. I haven’t done a good job writing posts for this blog. I think social media is a factor. Stupid Facebook. And Twitter. And Instagram. And…

I have started a blog for tips and tutorials for Logic Pro (X mostly, though some older versions get covered), MainStage, and even GarageBand. If you use any of those apps, I hope you check it out. The more visitors I get, the more likely it is that I’ll write new posts for it. Also, feedback and questions will help, too. I love exploring these apps and seeing what they can do.

Check it out at - yes, that’s the correct URL. Neat, huh?

Tue, 2015 08 18 at 10:25 AM |Permalink for this entry

The Problem with Streaming Music

I gotta eat, y’know?

I like streaming music. I like it better than finding some homemade video on YouTube. As a musician, I’m often referred to YouTube but too often, there are a zillion cover versions by people and I need to hear the original (and perhaps a live version) by the original artist. Streaming sites let me find actual official releases. Usually.

But the problem for us artists is that streaming sites want to pay based on their revenue. Maybe that will end up paying us a boatload of cash, but I doubt it.

The way it works is they take all the money they make from ads and/or subscriptions, take their cut (usually around 30%), divide the rest by the total number of streams* played, and pay based on that. It seems fair on the surface, but so far, it isn’t. See some of the many articles musicians have posted that basically say, “my song got played a jillion times and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

I can’t think of a single industry where the price paid for the product is solely determined by the revenue of the distributor. That being said, I don’t know what the answer is. We can’t expect the steaming sites to pay more than they make, not for long anyway. Or can we?

I don’t currently have a lot of stake in this, but I think we as artists should stand up together and say, “I’m not allowing my music on streaming sites until the payment is proper.” But, I don’t know what that number should be. Should I get a buck for every hundred streams of my song? Or every ten? I don’t know a good answer to that one.

* One stream is a single song played once. A song played ten times is ten streams. Another way to look at it is that popular songs will get paid proportionally more.

Wed, 2015 06 24 at 5:07 PM |Permalink for this entry

I Know What I Did Last Summer

Quite the opposite of horror

I was going to write this a few months ago but things have been going so well that I forgot about it. Truthfully, I’ve forgotten a bit about the details as well. I guess it’s like when you go to doctor and you feel better and can’t remember being sick.

I’m not saying things are perfect nor that I am so busy that I don’t have the time, just that I feel good and I have mostly forgotten the story.

(The stories we carry about things that have happened to us are another entry I should write.)

Over the past few years, I started getting pretty bad about playing with bands. When someone would call about a gig, I would say yes but inside I was screaming NO!!! Preparing for a first rehearsal or an audition was pretty unbearable for me and maybe worse for Lori. I would often look for an out and be extremely relieved when I got one. Even after a few rehearsals I’d be a mess, waiting for the other shoe to drop. (Interestingly, the gig itself would be no problem. That’s why I don’t like to call what I have ‘stage fright’ as I don’t have a problem with stages nor audiences.)

After doing some research, I decided to get help. I went to the Anxiety Disorder Clinic (ADC) at the University of Houston. They use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which first educates you about what you’re doing (the cognitive part) and then exposes you to your fears gradually as you apply what you’ve learned to overcome them (the behavioral part). What’s nice about CBT is that it’s short-term treatment, and it’s a “cure.” This isn’t going to a therapist for the rest of your life talking about your problems. You are given the tools to deal with your problems and enough practice that you know how to use them.

I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did this. I am far from perfect, but I feel so much more under control now. I hardly even think about it, and most self-help stuff I see now seems rudimentary. I mean, I don’t have any problem with it if it works for you, but I don’t connect with it anymore, nor try to.

I have seen some say that a little bit of anxiety or nerves is good, it keeps you prepared. I understand what they mean by that. But where I disagree is that I’d MUCH rather be confident and prepared. I love that feeling. The next best thing is knowing that I’m probably close enough, I can pull it off and if I screw up no one will die. Feeling either of those ways is much better than any anxiety. That is where I am now for the most part. This is really much more fun.

I think it is important to share this because a lot of people won’t talk about it. It is really nothing to be ashamed of. I think most people have it to a degree. In fact, I see a lot of people manifest it in different ways. I also see a lot of people flounder around in various methods and self-help avenues. Those are fine if they work for you, but CBT really got to the root of my problem and seems like a long-term fix.

Unfortunately, the director of ADC at UH has moved on. He told me they would continue to treat patients there, so hopefully that’s the case. If so, I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for help with this. Life is much better this way.

Tue, 2014 11 11 at 11:58 AM |Permalink for this entry

Pushing a Rope, part III

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon updating the blog software. It actually wasn’t too bad. The software update itself went pretty smoothly, but I had to update my web site to work with it. I also had to figure out why the new software wasn’t seeing my files. That’s where all the time went. It appears the new version of the software keeps the files in a slightly different location. Once I figured that out, it was all okay.

The big surprise for me was how I took it. It didn’t really bother me, and I didn’t end up sore and tired from it. That doesn’t mean I’m going back to web design, though.

Tue, 2014 11 11 at 6:30 AM |Permalink for this entry

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