Thursday, October 8, 2009

Last Friday, Relient K at TLA

So last week my girlfriend and I went with my family into Philly to see Relient K play at The Theater of the Living Arts. The bands Barcelona and Copeland opened for them. I missed Barcelona but my brother said they were decent. I wasn't a fan of Copeland though and after they played one song I couldn't wait for Relient K to play. Once they came on it was awesome. We all had a great time and they played some songs they don't normally play. They covered Weezer's Island in the Sun, they played Under the Sea from Little Mermaid with the lead singer Matt Thiessen playing a steel drum. They also played a few of their new songs off of their new album Forget and Not Slow Down. The album just came out this Tuesday. You can listen to it here. This is my review:

1. Forget And Not Slow Down: Awesome mix of electric and acoustic guitar. Great lyrics as always and good melodies. I liked the dynamics and the build at the end of the song to the last chorus.

2. I Don't Need A Soul: Starts out loud then mellows down for the verse. I really like the drum sound in this one. It's a really tight rhythm. The keyboards during the first verse are great as well.

3. Candlelight: Great intro and it just gets better when the vocals come in. I love the lyrics and the melody ans obviously the vocals are incredible. Matt Thiessen always impresses me with his smooth vocals. The chorus is awesome. This song has to be one of my favorites on the album.

4. Flare: Really mellow and relaxed. This would definitely put me to sleep if it was longer, it's only a minute. I find myself singing this song after hearing it, it's pretty catchy. This kinda serves as a transition song. I like this song a lot too.

5. Part Of It: Full band sound on this one. Electric guitar has some great riffs and the drums sound full. I like how it mellows down for a bridge near the end. It would get pretty boring if they didn't add some volume dynamics.

6. Outro: Part Of It blends right into this song. It's got a really cool delayed muted guitar plucking sound. Also the vocal effects sound really cool. This is another short one at only 1:35. I like it better than Part Of It though. They also have a really good piano sound.

7. Therapy: Another one of my favorites on the album. They played this live at the concert on Friday. Really tight snare sound when the drums come in. Also the piano sounds great. Matt Thiessen's vocals sound great right away and the melody of the chorus is catchy and awesome. The lyrics of the verses are really meaningful as well. The breakdown with just the guitar and kick drum are really cool and when the vocals come in it sounds amazing. Then they go right into a chorus with just piano and drums. The dynamics of this song are some of the best on the album.

8. Over It: Starts off with just vocals and electric piano. Then acoustic piano comes in and takes over. Most of this song is piano, drums and vocals. They use an awesome combination of electric and acoustic piano.  The chorus and bridge are great on this one. This song is another one of my favorites.

9. Sahara: This song is up tempo and a lot heavier than the rest of the album. Really cool lead guitar riffs. Also there are many other singers besides just Matt Thiessen.

10. Oasis: This is basically an intro to Savannah. It's pretty cool and has plucked strings and a cello. It blends right into Savannah.

11. Savannah: Awesome plucked strings to start it. Incredible vocals when the verse begins. Everything about this song is amazing and it is probably my absolute favorite on the album. It never gets boring to me with great dynamics and an incorporation of a lot of different instruments. The vocals over the plucked strings is awesome. Just listen to this song and you'll love Matt Thiessen.

12. Baby: Savannah blends right into this song and it's a nice ending to Savannah. The effect on the vocals is fitting and I like how it ends with just unaffected vocals and guitar.

13. If You Believe Me: Awesome build up for the intro adding guitar and drums slowly. I like the lyrics on this one a lot. Relient K always knows how to drop down and use great volume dynamics and this song is no exception. Cause I think this song would get boring if they didn't get quieter sometimes.

14. This Is The End: This song starts out with just piano and vocals but ends up being a pretty loud rocking song. The next track is the same melody and everything but more mellow and just piano and vocals. I like the next version better.

15. (If You Want It): This song is very soothing and mellow. I like this song a lot and there are some strings in the background in the second verse. It's a great song and I heard it live on Friday night and it was awesome.

16. Terminals (Amazon Exclusive): Cool synth leads. Awesome vocal melodies on the verses. The beat is very electronic. I like it but I'm glad Relient K doesn't always implement digital sounds all the time. This song was written with Adam Young of Owl City. That explains the electronic vibe to it. Owl City uses a lot of synth and digital drums.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

5 Steps to Make Money Playing Gigs

There is a lot of money to be made right in your town if you have the ability and know-how. Playing a musical instrument is a valuable skill that took time for you to learn. Why not let all the time you put into it pay off? These tips will help you start out and score enough gigs to really get going.

1. Know your instrument like the back of your hand
Obviously this is the most important step, I'm hoping most of you reading this are already on that level. It's really important to be proficient on your instrument so you can play new things without practicing. Improvisation and picking up riffs on the spot is very important for when you and your band take requests at a party or you start playing with some guys you don't regularly play with. That brings me to my next point.

2. Connect with musicians around you
You should be taking every chance you get to play with other musicians. Don't worry about how much your getting paid if anything at all. I work at a restaurant and after work I used to jam for hours with the waiters and chefs. In the attic of the restaurant we had drums, bass and guitar ready to just play whatever. I'm a sax player so I occasionally brought my sax in to improvise and just have fun but when they didn't have anyone to play bass or drums I would step in a play whatever. By playing with everyone, you can you make connections for future gigs. If any of the guys I used to play with at the restaurant needed somebody sit in and play sax for the night at a bar they would know who to call. Also, when you need another player to play for the night you will have a long list of contacts that would love to play with you.

3. Take any gig even if you think it doesn't pay well enough
This is an important tip when your first starting out. A low paying job might be frustrating at first but it's an opportunity to meet people and score other gigs. If you have a business card ready to hand out when people come up and ask you about your band you can get your name out. When people need a band to play at their party they'll know who to call.

4. Be versatile
The more styles of music you can play the more gigs you will get. If you play with a blues band and love to gig at restaurants, bars, clubs and coffee shops maybe you want to branch out and play places you might not normally. I've played everywhere from weddings to coffee shops and even though it's a big difference, weddings are a normally a much better way to make money then restaurants and bars.

5. Improve your credibility
One trick my mother taught me was to be make sure the managers know that their customers like you at restaurants and bars. If people keep coming up to you and keep saying how great you are then simply tell them to let the manager know. When the manager hears all the praise people are giving the band that night he will be sure to book you again.

If you follow this advice you'll be playing out more often, having fun, and definitely making money. If you have any other advice you would like to share with other musicians post it in the comment section.

Binaural Beats: an auditory phenomenon

So this isn't necessarily music depending on your definition but binaural beats are incredibly interesting and worth learning about. Today I wrote a speech for my public speaking class on the phenomenon. Here it is:

Millions of people drink energy drinks everyday to wake themselves and get more energy, could you imagine that you could have a similar effect by just listen to a sound? Have you ever envisioned yourself listening to a sound to calm you down and put you to sleep? What about a sound that could reduce depression or alleviate pain? Well, binaural beats are sounds that can do all of that and more. This is a phenomenon that is just as important to understand as it is interesting. Binaural beats might just be the next big thing of the future. After researching, studying and even listening to binaural beats, I have prepared myself to fill you in on exactly what they are. After reading this, you will know the psychological phenomenon, history, and usage of binaural beats.

First, binaural beats are an amazing phenomenon that is fascinating to discover. To begin, you must understand the concept of brainwaves. The brain operates at certain frequencies for different purposes. According to Gabe Turow of Stanford University, brainwaves fall into 5 ranges that are commonly studied: gamma, beta, alpha, theta and delta. Each of these wave patterns correlates with various conscience phenomena from being in deep dreamless sleep to an alert state where your brain is functioning the sharpest. Now, binaural beats are the difference in two frequencies. If two sounds are played at different frequencies, a beat is produced. A combination of a tone of 100hz in one ear and a 108hz tone in the other ear results in a binaural beat of 8hz. The phenomena we see with the brain is the entrainment that occurs when pure tones are heard in each ear. An 8hz binaural beat corresponds to a theta wave. By listening to this binaural beat for an extended period of time your brain waves will synchronize to the tone and in this case you will become relaxed, calm and it might just put you to sleep. If you instead listened to a binaural beat of 40hz or greater you would experience higher mental activity and increased cognition. The most important part about listening to a binaural beat is hearing them in stereo headphones with a different tone in each ear.

Second, this all this might sound like crazy new age technology but it was actually discovered in 1839 by a German scientist named Heinrich Wilhelm Dove. says that the human ability to hear binaural beats is the result of evolutionary adaptation. The phenomenon wasn’t researched any more until in 1973 when another scientist by the name of Dr. Gerald Oster published “Auditory Beats on the Brain”. Most of the research I have done originated in Oster’s work from 1973. Today many other uses are being experimented with and that brings me to my last topic.

Third, now that you know what binaural beats are maybe you're interested in seeing their effect on you. Well, there are many different producers of binaural beats for various uses. By using specific frequencies, binaural beats can stimulate certain glands to produce hormones. In the study; “Binaural beat technology in humans: a pilot study to assess psychologic and physiologic effects” by scientists Wahbeh, Calabrese, and Zwickey, dopamine was modulated with binaural beats. Other uses include reducing learning time and sleep needs. Children can learn faster because theta waves are stronger in their brains. By inducing a theta wave, you can enhance your learning ability and also lower sleep needs. “Alpha biofeedback therapy in alcoholics: an 18-month follow-up” is a study by scientists Watson, Herder, and Passini that showed that alpha-theta brainwave training can help in the treatment of addictions. Binaural beats can even be used to attempt out of body experiences, astral projection, telepathy and psychokenesis.

Binaural beats are an amazing phenomenon and everything from what they are, their history and finally their uses is a remarkable and interesting thing. If you are at all interested in binaural beats I encourage you to look it up and maybe try it out.

One interesting provider of binaural beats is i-doser. They make beats that attempt to mimic the effects of drugs. I have had some success with a few of the beats they make. It's definitely worth checking out.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Duet by Apogee: Review

So about a month ago my dad and I decided we needed to replace the audio interface in our studio. We used to have the Motu 828 but for some reason it decided to stop working. We headed out to Sam Ash (a great music store if you haven't heard of it) for a new piece of equipment. After looking at a few other options we decided on the Duet. Now, I was pretty unfamiliar with Apogee but now I have a lot of good things to say about them. When we got home we set it all up and in less than an hour we had everything working perfectly. Right out of the box you can really appreciate the aesthetics of this device. It looks awesome. The one problem that I could see right away was the instrument inputs and outputs. Since the unit is very small, there isn't enough room for XLR and 1/4 inch inputs right on it. Instead, they use a "breakout cable" that goes into a serial port. These wires are very small compared to standard cables. This doesn't present a problem right away but I can see regular wear and tear breaking these eventually. Also, the connectors are plastic which firstly, doesn't look great and second, presents issues regarding the integrity of the construction. In this picture you can see what I mean:

I had no complaints with the sound quality of anything coming in or out of this device. The day after we bought our Duet I worked on a short demo album for a band that I have become a part of. Bring the Noise calls themselves alternative/rap and they had me produce and engineer their album. Using the Duet is completely intuitive and I never had an issue. I don't recommend the Duet if you need more than two inputs though. For my recording needs just an XLR for a mic and 1/4 inch for a guitar at the same time is the most I'll use. Regularly I only record one track at a time. Check out the Duet by Apogee if your in need of a solid firewire audio interface I definitely recommend it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wavedrum WD-X by Korg

So I stumbled across one other amazing instrument somehow the other day when I was at work. The Korg Wavedrum WD-X is the newest version of their original wavedrum from the 90s. It looks awesome and I am trying to get my hands on one for sure. Not to long ago I played a wedding with this guy who used a Roland Handsonic. It was a pretty piece cool of gear but unlike the wavedrum, it wasn't really something that I just had to buy. This drum looks incredible. Here's a video of it in action.

There's more and more videos on YouTube now. The wavedrum just came out overseas but it has yet to hit the US. I can't wait to be able to play this awesome instrument.

Last Weekend, North Point Retreat

So last weekend was an awesome experience for me. My dad invited me to play music with him and a few of his friends at a men's retreat they do every year. We drove down to Maryland to North Point, a retreat center right on the Chesapeake bay. When we first got there we started setting up in the auditorium type room. I had a lot of instruments for this gig. I was playing both alto and tenor sax. I had two djembes and I also was playing my dad's guitar. I even sang on a few songs during the weekend. So once we were all set up we went into our room and chilled until dinner. All the food during the weekend was awesome. So the first session we played at was pretty good. My dad was playing keyboard, his friend Henry on bass and his other friend Rick on drums. We had a pretty nice sound and the system they had in the room was decent.

I had a lot of fun hanging out with my dad and his friends surprisingly. At night we would go out to the bar and listen to some really good bands. The first night we heard a blues band called Lower Case Blues. They were amazing. Definitely the best blues band I've ever heard live. They had one guitar player sitting in but the band consisted of just bass, drums and guitar. With the second guitar player it was awesome though. The two guys would solo back and forth and just looked like they were having a great time. The bass player did the lead vocals and had a great voice. The drummer wasn't too good though. It was really all they needed with all the other great players though. The next night we went out to the same bar. Another band was playing that was also pretty good. I was really impressed with the drummer. She could really play and sang lead vocals for a few songs as well. It was a lot of fun listening to the music even though I got carded every time I tried to buy a beer.

Back at North Point we did a lot of cool things as well. They had two zip lines, a ropes course, a huge swing, 18 hole Frisbee golf course, and two rock walls. I wish I could have done the zip line but they only had the one going into the bay open and I didn't really feel like getting wet considering it was like 65 degrees out. I did do the swing and it was pretty cool. Later that day one of the guys on the retreat did it and nearly fell out. He was hanging upside down out of the seat. I saw a video of it and he could have died. The ropes course was pretty sweet but only a shortened version of it was opened. I also climbed the rock wall but it was pretty easy.

Overall I had an awesome weekend, played great music, and got payed $400. I'm definitely looking forward to playing another retreat. I don't really know what my next gig is going to be but I'll fill you in when I play out next.

The Hang

At around the same time I discovered the udu, I also came across another amazing instrument. The Hang is like an upside down steel drum. It looks kind of like a UFO or something but it has one of the most hypnotic sounds I've ever heard. After watching this video your going to wonder why your not playing one of these right now. In fact if I had one I would be playing it instead of blogging:

After watching that I know your interested, at least I was, but the problem is that they're impossible to get a hold of. They were created in Bern, Switzerland originally in the year 2000 by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer of  The PANart Company. The company only accepts orders for the Hang by mail however. And if they get to your letter on their two year waiting list you can't just have the Hang shipped to you. You have to travel to their workshop in Switzerland to pick it up. So it's pretty hard to obtain one of these nowadays. Occasionally, there are sales on eBay of Hanghang (believe it or not, that's the plural form of Hang) but the auctions have reached extraordinarily high prices. I think one Hang went for around $10,000 before. Luckily, there is one alternative producer of a hang type knock off. The Halo, by Pantheon Steel, a US based company. They are also on around a two year wait however. We'll see what the future holds for this amazing instrument. Maybe someday I'll be able to play one.