Aug 6th, 2010 by Chris Morrow

Chicago Original Band Venues Part III

euphony-productions-photo-chris-morrow1Chicago Suburban Original Band Venues

For this last blog on Chicago area venues, we are going to stay in the suburbs and look at venues that book original music. Although there are far fewer original music venues than Chicago proper, there are some good spots to play.

fans-in-crowd-picture2Types of venues

Original music venues in the suburbs are similar to the city venues but share traits of the cover venues too. Some are bar/pubs that host music on the weekends, some are large theater-style venues and some are coffeehouses. Again, I’ll grade the venues, but for this list, the qualities of the bands that play are not such a large factor.  I say that because I’ve seen great bands play lousy rooms and awful bands play theaters. Because the market is so crowded, original bands will play and get booked just about anywhere they can, just like the city. The difference is that the talent buyers seem less savvy than in the city and the bands seem less talented (of course, not the bands of anybody reading this blog!!!). I also suspect that good original bands know that their market (young, hip unmarried folk) migrate to the city where the original music venues are more established and ‘cool’. I also think that original bands know that making an impact in the city is much more of an accomplishment than in the burbs given the ‘snobby’ tastes of the city crowd and the number of other original bands competing for attention. I’ll factor in the size of the venue as the main criteria for a grade. After that, I consider the venues history and the quality of the experience I’ve had playing them. Almost all the venues on this list I’ve played more than twice with different bands and styles.

band-tour-bus-picture2Gigging

Gigging at these venues share traits of both the city circuit and the suburban cover circuit. Like the city, bands play may play a 45 minute set, or may play 3 hours like cover bands (or get a friends band to split the bill with). Most of the venues consider music to be a priority so usually there aren’t any hassles like the cover circuit. Generally, I’ve found to be playing these gigs pleasant and mostly fun. Usually there’s plenty of parking (take that Chicago), you can get real drinks on the house (not just PBR!!!), the food can be really awesome at the pubs and the crowds are usually okay (but not always).

money1Money

The money situation can also be a hybrid of both the city original circuit and suburban cover circuit. Some places pay a guarantee (although much smaller than what cover bands usually get) and some pay a cut of the door charge. The clout of the band has a lot to do with money, like anywhere else.

quigleys1A Level Venues

These venues are large and usually need bands to bring a large audience with them. But I have seen touring and local bands with no draw play them as well. I’ve had good experiences at all of them.

Fitzgerald’s (Berwyn), House Café (DeKalb), Kingpin (W. Chicago) Otto’s (DeKalb), Stage 83 (Lemont), Clearwater Theatre (Dundee),

My Favs: All of them

barB Level Venues

Like the cover band circuit, these venues range from awesome to lame, but they are mostly pretty cool.

Tiger O’Stylie’s (Berwyn), Penny Road Pub (Barrington), O’Malley’s (Alsip), Chicago St. Pub (Joliet), Liquid Blues (Woodstock-awesome food too), North Beach (Lombard), Harlem Ave Lounge (Blues music-Berwyn), Lunar Brewing (St. Charles) Bungalow Joe’s (Hanover Pk.), Gus’s Roadhouse (Woodstock)

My Favs: Tiger O’Stylie’s (probably because I live 5 minuets away from it), Liquid Blues (awesome food) and Chicago St. Pub (awesome food too!)

empty-bar3C Level-All Ages Venues

These venues are places that allow kids a place for their garage bands to play out. All of them are C Level in my book. But hey, the youngsters gotta get a taste of the life at some point! Enjoy.

Swing State (Lake Villa), Nite Light (Berwyn), Ashbury Coffeehouse (Willow Springs)

My Fav: the single craziest/strangest gig I’ve ever played in my life was at the Ashbury Coffeehouse so it gets my vote for Fav!


Aug 5th, 2010 by BenCirillo

Effects part I: Primer

ben-cirillo-pictureSo, you’ve gotten as far as you can go with your tone, and now you want to add some more. Where do you go from here?  Many beginner guitarists ask themselves that very question and most don’t really know the answer.  Today’s post is going to hopefully answer that for you all.

toneIt’s time for tone

Adding effects is the quickest and easiest way to enhance your tone, regardless of what you play. A properly placed effect can do anything from a subtle enhancement to complete spaced-out weirdness.

As with anything else, though, you can’t just slap together effects and hope for sound. Well, actually you could, but you’ll still save a lot of time and money if you at least kind of know what you’re doing.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to effects, but I’m going to avoid getting into specifics in this article. There’s plenty of other resources on the internet if you want to tech out, and I may even add more later. But for now, I just want to give you a basic overview of what’s out there and what can be done to get you started.

effectsEffect Basics

So what is an effect and what does it do? An effect, as we’re talking about here, is anything that will change your electronic signal and therefore your sound. It’s like a GOBO on a light rig or a camera, it goes between the source (guitar, bass, or microphone) and the output (power amp and speaker) and changes things along the way.

An effect can be in the form of single stompboxes, multieffects, or built in to an amplifier or recording program. They can be digital or analog, solid state or tube.

Any instrument can take an effect. Electric instruments, like electric guitar, acoustic guitars with pickups, basses and electric drums, can be plugged right in. Microphones that pick up acoustic instruments, like voice, drums, or horns, can also have effects. With a little know-how, you can create wild new sounds.

types-of-effectsTypes of Effects

There are hundreds of different effects pedals and processors. Fortunately, most fall into some pretty basic categories. I’ll cover the most common effects and their uses, by no means is this list going to be complete.

boss-ds-1Distortion

Just about the first thing any guitarist ever owns is some kind of distortion pedal, usually a Boss DS-1. Distortion is also built into most amps, either with a switch or simply by turning it up too loud.

Understanding the basic physics of distortion helps you understand how to use it. The basic principle is this: an incoming signal is too loud for an amp or circuit to reproduce, so the waveform gets cut off, or “clipped.” This causes it to sound distorted.

If you want a better answer to how all this works, our friend Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distortion_(music)) will explain all.

A little bit of clipping is called overdrive. This sounds natural but “pushed.” Moderate to heavy clipping is called distortion and now sounds completely different from your “clean” (unaffected) sound. Extreme clipping is called fuzz and turns your sound into something unrecognizable.

The most important thing to know about distortion of any kind is its relationship to volume. Remember, distortion is created when your incoming volume hits the clipping ceiling. Once you’ve maxed out your signal, increasing your incoming volume increases distortion, not overall output volume!

This fact will affect you in several ways. One, distortion is a dynamic effect, the better ones more so than the cheaper ones. This means the effect will respond differently to different incoming volumes. If you roll down the volume on your guitar, the distortion will go away. Bring it back up, it will come back. Plenty of guitarists use this fact to their advantage. A good distortion circuit will even be sensitive enough to respond to changes in how hard you pick.

Second, if you choose to use a boost or volume pedal, where you put it will dramatically change its functions. Like the name implies, a boost pedal gives you a straight boost in volume, while most volume pedals give you a cut in volume you can sweep with your foot. Put these in front of a distortion circuit, they will change the amount of distortion. Put them after, they will change the amount of output volume. If you get your distortion from your amp and you want a solo boost, not a distortion boost, you’ll have to put the pedal in the effects loop (more on this later).

compressionCompression and EQ

Some effects aren’t about wacky sounds, they’re just there to enhance your tone.

Compression is basically an automatic volume regulator. It takes the loud parts and quiet parts of your tone and compresses them together so they’re closer in volume. This helps quieter notes pop out and keeps your peaks under control. This is very useful for fingerstyle guitarists and essential for slap bass.

As your notes decay (get quieter) a compressor will bring the volume back up, which will give you more apparent sustain. Guitar players love this for solos.

Equalization or EQ is just like it is on your home stereo. It’s basically a set of volume controls for select bandwidths. Therefore you can boost bass and cut treble while leaving the mids alone. The more bands you have, the more control you have. EQ in pedal form is useful when you want to switch settings on the fly, otherwise the EQ built into your amp is usually sufficient.

wahWah

The second pedal most guitarists end up with is a wah. Like an EQ, it boosts and a specific band of frequencies and cuts the rest. Unlike an EQ, the specific band that’s getting the boost is sweeps from low to high and back again, creating a sound similar to a trumpet mute.

Wahs come in two main varieties: A traditional wah is a pedal you can rock back and forth with your foot to create the effect. An auto-wah is touch-sensitive, i.e. it listens for your attack then automatically creates the wah effect.

An auto-wah is nice for when you need your feet free or don’t want to coordinate the timing with your feet. Many of these pedals often have synth settings on them that can make your guitar or bass sound like a retro analog keyboard.

A traditional wah is nice for when you want complete control. Some guitarists even use a wah as a kind of notch filter, leaving it in one position to create a very narrow, concentrated tone.

flanger-pedalModulation

There’s a wide variety of different modulation type effects, but they all do the same basic thing: grab a parameter of your tone and change it in a repeating pattern.

phaser-ph-3Phaser, Flanger and Chorus are all very similar. All three split your signal in two and create a contrast with the second signal.

Flanger puts a very slight delay on one side of the signal, creating a jet-airplane sound. Think “Unchained” by Van Halen or “Barracuda” by Heart. The drums in Zepplin’s “Kashmir” also use flange.

Phaser takes one part of your signal and puts it out of phase, creating sound similar to that of a rotating speaker cabinet. The bass on Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” is a good example of this. It’s more funky and a lot less hair metal sounding than the flanger.

Chorus detunes and delays one half of the sound, creating an effect of multiple instruments playing the same thing at the same time. On guitar, it can make a 6-string sound like a 12-string. I like this one the most, because of its subtlety. It creates atmosphere and depth without hitting you in the face with effect. Harmony Central has sound samples (http://www.harmony-central.com/Effects/Articles/Chorus/)

tremeloVibrato and Tremolo are terms often used interchangeably, but they are not the same effect. Tremolo modulates volume (moves it up and down) in a repeating wave pattern. Vibrato modulates pitch.

Leo Fender decided to confuse the guitar playing world by labeling the tremolo effect on his amps “Vibrato” and the pitch-bending arm on his guitars “Tremolo.” So it can be a little confusing as to what you’re actually getting when you get into this stuff.

Tremolo can be used to create a nice surf-rock sound, or you can crank the controls and get a slicer effect (think Green Day “Boulevard of Broken Dreams). Vibrato can create a wacky little flutter, but too much will make you sound out of tune, so be careful when using this one.

vocal-harmonizerHarmonizers and Pitch Benders

These effects are a little more wacky, so I won’t dwell on them too much.

Harmonizers add a note above or below the one you’re playing, allowing you to play essentially two parts of a harmony by yourself. On guitar, you can be both guys from Judas Priest at the same time. On vocals, you can be a one-man barbershop quartet.

digitech-whammyPitch Benders like the Digitech Whammy work like wahs, except instead of sweeping tone they bend the note up or down. Think every guitar solo by Tom Morello and you’ll get the idea.

boss-dm2Delay, Reverb and Loop

Time-based effects allow you to play way more than you could on your own, and are some of the most fun.

Reverb essentially creates the same kind of echo you would get in various sized rooms, from a small room to a grand concert hall. This can be used subtlety to fill out your sound or cranked to create psychedelic space-notes.

Delay is very simple. You play a note, it plays again; like an echo but this time it’s bouncing off the Grand Canyon. Turned down, you can create reverb-like space effects, turned up you can make it sound like you’re playing twice as many things as you actually are.

Loop pedals work on the same principal as delays, but instead of repeating every note and letting it trail off, it repeats a selected phrase over and over. This allows you to lay down a harmony section and then play a lead over it. For the one-man acoustic act, this is a must-have.

all-togetherPutting it all together

You can, of course, chain more than one effect together. Since each effect changes the sound before passing the signal on to the next, the order in which these effects are arranged can drastically alter the sound.

The following is the preferred order of effects. You aren’t going to break anything by not following this order, you just might not get the sound you were after. If you get the sound you want following a different order, go for it. No one is going to argue.

The preferred order, starting from the instrument going to the amp, is:

Tuner -> Wah (esp. AutoWah)-> Compressor -> Distortions (low gain to high) -> EQ -> Pitch Effects -> Modulations (any order) -> Reverb -> Delay -> Loop.

If you have a separate out for your tuner, use that. If not, and you use a tuner pedal, put it first (closest to the instrument) so it tunes the guitar and not the effects.

Since touch (auto) wahs respond to your picking volume, it should get the cleanest sound possible so it can “hear” what you are doing and respond appropriately. In general, wahs narrow and enhance certain frequency bands, which can get out of hand of there’s a compressor or distortion before it.

Compressors boost low volume notes, which also means they enhance noise. Therefore, you want to keep these close to the beginning of your chain so they are fed as little noise as possible.

Like compressors, distortion can also enhance noise. Distortion can also create noise, especially when used in combination, which makes placement very important. If you use your amp for distortion, the effects loop can help you with this. I’ll talk more about this in a future post, but basically anything outside an effects loop (plugged into the input) is before the distortion, and anything inside the effects loop (send and return) is after the distortion.

EQ can be placed before or after your distortion, depending on where you want to shape your sound.  I prefer after, to shape the final product, but you don’t have to listen to me.

Pitch effects work best after distortions. I have no scientific reason for this, it just seems to work.

You are very unlikely to use more than one modulation at a time, since the competing waveforms will cancel each other out and likely produce nothing but muck. Keep them after distortion and before delay, but it doesn’t matter if phaser precedes chorus or vibrato precedes tremolo.

You most likely want your reverb to capture your whole sound, so put it at the end. You want your delay to capture your whole sound including your reverb, so put it even further at the end. You want your loop to capture everything up to and including your delay, so put it at the very, very end.

start-playingStart playing

There’s lots more to write about the subject of effects, and this will just be the first of many posts to come. Meanwhile, take your new found knowledge of effects and start playing with whatever you might have at hand. There’s no such thing as a fatal mistake, so go nuts!

Contact Ben


Aug 4th, 2010 by Liz O

Sell Out or Being Smart

liz-o-picture1Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a true artists that can shatter the charts, warm hearts, and bring in the money that we all dream about?   Have you wondered whether actually achieving all these things means an artists has to sell out musically to really hit big?     I have.

In this addition lets tackle that question the best I can.

What Is A True Artist Anyway

female-vocalistI often think about what it really means to be a true artist.  Is a true artist one that sings like an angel?  Is a true artist a musician that although cannot sing, has the ability to master the art of songwriting?  Is a successful artist an artist that knows how to sell catchy music? Is a true artist one who knows how to speak to the very depths of person’s soul?  Can one be a true artist and have all of these components.    I have always wondered if a musician could be all about the music while still maintaining mainstream success.

There Is A Choice To Be Made

inner-struggleI have always thought that you could either have one or the other.  But through molding my dreams and aspirations and studying real music, I have found that it is possible to be a successful pop, R&B/alternative and Country artist and still have a great inspiring or empathy driven message.  For me, I want it all.  I want to be recognized for my God given talent, but never conform to mainstream “crap music”.  I am not saying do not write the occasional feel good song, but I believe that music is supposed to speak truth.

Beating To Your own Drum

celine-dionI look at artist like Celine Dion, Whitney Huston, Mariah Carey, Green Day, and Shania Twain, and I see greatness.  They were still able to dominate in the mainstream while singing truth and life.  This is the type of artist that I would like to be.  I think that underground music is great and just as inspiring, but I believe that more people that you can reach and inspire, the better.  So no matter the genre of music that you write for, make sure that you can always be a “crossover\ artist”; this is an artist that stays true to their genre but can supersede musical boundaries.  This is every artist’s dream.  I believe that you when you strive for that, you become the music.  Having the guts to just be yourself if probably the hardest struggle as the end result could mean the listening audience takes you or leaves you.   Put your heart on the line and put it all in your songs because the last thing you want happening is feeling like you’ve left something on the table.

If anyone has anything to add we welcome comments here at Euphony Productions.  Tell us what you want to see and read about and we will do our best to deliver.

Contact Liz O

Aug 3rd, 2010 by Dave Piersall

One Mans Struggle to Own His Musical Destiny

daves-pictureFrom The Beginning

I am 41 years old today and been playing several instruments for 35 years now. I have played over 200 gigs in my life and been in 6 or 7 bands.  I have gotten a lot out of those days and made a lot of mistakes like the one I about to tell you about.   Mistake or not today I always remember to chalk days like this this up to a great learning experience and a new chance to grow from it.   If I only thought that way back then.  Remember to look for the good in all your errors as if you look hard enough there is always a lesson to be learned.

inner-struggle

The Crossroads Vs. The Die Hard Musician

It was about 9 years ago my boss cornered me in the work place cafeteria and stated “You look like shit Dave, you played a gig last night didn’t you?”.   I worked at an Office Equipment seller at the time, had worked there for 4 years, and had just been promoted to the position of Sales manager months earlier.  My boss was right I  had placed a gig at a popular club in Naperville, IL called Keywester the night before, a gig that paid the band $850.00 .   That was a lot of money back then and it is a lot now too.   I have to admit I did look like death warmed over after the 8 drinks the prior night and only 3 hours of sleep.   I told him I was a little tired and he replied  “You need to decide whether you’re a Sales Manager or a Rock and Roll Star”, and he wanted an answer right then too.    With a wife and 2 kids, daughter of 3, and a new born Son, I replied I was a Sales Manager and quite the band the next day.   You see while playing in the band was a a lot of fun and musically rewarding it did not exactly pay the bills solely if you know what I mean.

officeMy Life On Hiatus

Almost a decade passed by while I was growing the family nest egg and building a family plus one more, my loving daughter  born the Summer of 2002.   I had not actively played in a gigging band since the summer of 2003 and to be honest I had not thought about it too much for some reason.   Back in the day, and normal for me, I would write 2-4 songs a week but for the past 5 years I had hardly written a single note.   The thought had occurred many times in the last 5 years that maybe that part of me might be dried up.   Even my wife was surprised by the dry spell and every time I reminisced about the old days and the music she would say  “You should really do something with your music it is too good to just waste”, and I’d say “Yeah your right” and do nothing.

conceptA Brave New World

So I find myself eating lunch with an old friend an ex band mate Jeff Sawalski, during the Winter of 2008, when he asked “Have you written anything lately?”   I actually had written some new songs ironically enough after the long dry spell and I thought they were pretty good too.  That evening I called him and played one over the phone, as I had many times in the past, and he told me he thought it was really cool.   Later that evening I got to thinking about what my wife always asked me, and I asked myself,  what was stopping me from doing something with the tunes anyway?  The answer was nothing and I started thinking about how I would accomplish that new plan as the 3 kids, house that needed fixing, and the wife who wanted to see me once in a while would make it very tough to be in a serious gigging band.   My wife had been doing Internet marketing for almost 3 years at the time and had had some great success, and I always heard that the Internet was a stomping ground where many artists were selling their songs, some of them doing well too.   In that moment the vehicle to become a serious music Blogger, get better known as an original songwriter, and sell my songs had been chosen.

blog-picture1The Undiscovered Country

Now that I had picked the vehicle I needed to find out what the hell that meant as I had absolutely no experience on the web in that regards.   I did not really know where to go for the help, other than my wife, who I already knew would lead me to the water, but would not possess the time to do it for me.  I also knew she would not want to answer the 100 questions the way I needed them answered, like I was a 5 year old learning to read for the first time.   So where did I go for my information?    Where else The Internet!   I was amazed how many articles and videos existed at places like Artists House, and the hundreds of great Blogs dangling shinny little jewels about how I would conquer my monster I had created.   I knew I would need help from someone I trusted on the business side of things, so I enlisted my long time friend, and entrepreneur, Tom Vail.   Tom had many successful businesses, and could tend to the business side of things while I handled the music, and building my new band.

band-tour-bus-picture1We’re Getting The Band Back Together Man!

We had decided to professionally record the songs, as putting an inferior product out just did not make any sense.   We needed a band to do that.    I enlisted my old band mate Jeff Sawalski for the lead vocal spot, even though I had sung very successfully in several bands years earlier.   For this project it was not about egos, or anything like that, it was about putting the best people for the job in place and Jeff was head and heels a better singer than I was.   I called up Stevie Boy my old bass player who loved recording who grabbed the spot in a heartbeat.  Having great friends and resources was a blessing and the only thing that remained was lead guitarist and drummer spots to fill.   I called Tom Allen another old band mate who agreed to take the lead guitar spot.    We got lucky on the drummer ,as my brother Bill Piersall, who worked at Guitar Center, found a drummer he worked with who came out and was great and wanted to join.    With that  the band was formed and we were ready to conquer the world.

battle-of-the-bandsThe Mutiny And The Bounty

We agreed to practice twice a month and it was going pretty well until the day Tom Vail and I gathered the guys up to sign the recording musician contracts.   Tom Vail and I researched the process and found that most studio musicians received between 1 and 5 percent of the total take with exception to publishing and songwriter royalties.   We decided to give the guys 3 percent of everything even publishing and royalties.   That evening everyone agreed the offer was fair except Tom Allen who felt he deserved 20% of the take.  If we agreed to give Tom Allen that everyone would have to get that cut too and 20 percent would be left for Tom Vail and I to split in the end.  That said we did not think that sounded quite fair  so we told Tom the 3 percent was the only offer on the table.   Long story short things did not work out with Tom Allen and I called my long time friend Larry Kucera a great blues guitarist to take Tom’s place.  We thought our troubles where over but we were wrong.  If losing Tom was not enough our miracle drummer went missing in action and after 2 no shows at practice with no return phone calls we needed a new drummer.   Taking the advice of Larry Kucera our new guitarist I put an ad in Craigslist for a drummer.    To my surprise drummers came rolling out in herds and 90% of them were great drummers too.  Now it might be old age or the failing memory of a 41 year old man but back in the day I remember finding a great drumming was harder than finding a stack of hundred dollar bills laying there in the street for the taking.    We auditioned 5 great drummers and settled on a drummer who believe it or not worked at the Guitar Center too , small world huh?.  So with that the band was complete again.

recording-studioOur Day In The Sun

Our day came to hit the studio and we were all more than excited as we had been practicing for 9-10 weeks with all the false starts and line up changes.  We recorded 3 songs and thought we had a pretty good start but Memorex did not lie.   For some reason the drums that sounded so great while recording them did not sound the same when listening back.  They just did not crack the way we needed them to.   In the name of time and money I agreed to let Mario Massi the studio owner take a stab at fixing them with EZ Drummer a drum software.  Now the funny thing is when I was interviewing him he told me I should not use real drums as getting the rhythm section right is tougher than I think.  I remember drum machines from 10 years earlier and was not about to let that happen to my babies but now I needed a solution.  To my surprise the software that uses midi samplings of real drummer Nir Z sounded exactly how I wanted , what a relief.   We had to rerecord the bass lines to get the pocket right and a few other things I really don’t want to go into as that is a sore spot for me after not listening from the beginning to Mario.  Today I simply have Jeff Sawalski who goes by Jeff Anthony these days (Anthony is his middle name) singing, Mario Massi of Mario Massi Studios playing all other instruments, and myself recording the songs and it is a well oiled machine too.  Getting it right for yourself might be something different but I would suggest you explore the possibilities of EZ Drummer too.  Remember the more cooks you have siring the soup the more chance there is your soup could turn out tasting like a pot of swill you dump down the sink painfully one evening.  Every man and woman’s path is different so beat to your own drum as long as you get it right.

web-traffic-pictureThe First Day On My New Website

I started this site a little over 2 months ago now and feel blessed I was able to find great help for the Blog posts from Jeff Anthony, Bill Piersall my brother, and Chris Morrow an old band mate drummer as without them I am certain this all would have taken a different fate.   Today I have over 50 visitors come to the site a day and the traffic is growing all the time.  That said  I have to admit looking at traffic statistics on day two, after putting up 4 new Blog posts the prior day I was really excited about was a very sobering moment.    I found out that only 3 visitors had come to the site for the previous day to see those great posts and I realized this was going to be a lot harder than I thought.   I wrote a post called “Build It And They Will Come” a couple weeks ago, a sort of sarcastic title, that outlines what to do to get traffic to a site should you be looking at your traffic stats today having the same panic attack I had 2 months ago.  I also wrote a great post called “How To Build Your First Music Website” should you be an artists thinking of taking on this struggle too.  This Blog and site is dedicated to helping out others like me get to the next step in sustaining their dream to becoming an expert as an Internet Marketing Guru.  I am not there yet but I learn something new everyday that makes me say “Wow that is really cool”   As I learn you can be sure I will share it with you all here at Euphony Productions.

blog-content-pictureA Brave New Future

So Jeff and I are plugging along and last night we went to the Songwriters Showcase at Backthird Studios in Aurora Illinois owned by Benjie Hughes a well know Internet marketer and songwriter.   We were looking for new avenues to experience what was next and this was a great time.  9 artists played including Jeff and I while the other 8 rated each others songs.  The best rated song is to be showcased on June 2nd 2009 and the artists gets to perform with their full band this time not just acoustically.  Whether we win or not really does not matter as we had a great time and met so many great people there.  I suggest you find something like this in your area, and always remember to network, as it is the best thing you can do for your musical career.   I am really happy with the direction the site and Euphony Productions is taking and hope these last 5-6 weeks have been as helpful to you all as they have been rewarding for me.   I never knew there were so many artists out there like myself floundering with choosing the right path, and struggling with the limitations they had set upon themselves.   Choose today to break free and remember if you need a little direction shoot me a note I am glad to help.

Until next time we wish you the best in your musical endeavors or what ever you are working on.

Contact Dave


Jun 17th, 2009 by Chris Morrow

7 Steps To Being A Better Musician

euphony-productions-photo-chris-morrowChris Talks About Music Etiquette

In the last 4 years, I’ve played 377 gigs. I’d like to speak on the behavior that I’ve seen on and off the stage that I consider to be lame and annoying. I hear a lot from musicians I play with about how the “scene sucks” and about how hard it is to be taken seriously.     I know that the music business is tough. There are no guarantees. But I still find it irritating for musicians that make no effort to find their own faults and correct them. As the man said “the unexamined life isn’t worth living”.    So I’m going to write out a list of what I consider stupid things to do when trying to make a go of it as a musician.   Maybe those of who that are reading this don’t think this applies. That’s not the point. The real point of this list is to get you thinking about what you look like through your audience’s eyes. I consider this behavior to be self-defeating.   If you don’t make an effort to find and correct self-defeating behavior, than I have no sympathy when you don’t reach your goals. If you are serious about getting something out of your music, then you need to be serious about finding and fixing problems. For me, I consider it to be a part of my being a “professional musician” to think about where I might be going wrong, how to fix it if I am and keep it from tripping me up. Self-awareness isn’t easy, but crucial to success.

1.  Drop The Attitude

The first and most important behavior to correct is the attitude of thinking there is nothing wrong. You need to be ready and open to hear criticism. You might need to seek it out so you don’t lose your perspective. Record gigs so you can hear mistakes. Be honest about them and put in the time to fix them.

2.  Be Prepared

The second behavior to correct is not being prepared. Every gig you play you should ready to go when you hit the stage. You should gather anything you need before hand and not have to jump off stage after the first song because you need to get whatever. You should have your set lists, any music or charts, drinks, gear and anything else ready to go when you hit that first note.

3. Get To The Gig Early

You should be at the gig with enough time to get ready, warm up, tune and sound check. It seems every time someone runs into a gig with only 5 minutes till downbeat you can count on a failure of some kind.   It might be technical or mental but not getting to the gig early usually means you’re going be stressed out and not thinking about the performance.   Lack of preparation also means that there is going to be a lot of taking to band mates on stage trying to figure something out when you should be playing. And that is the biggest sin on stage: taking and not playing.

4. Key Into To The Audience

Ignoring the audience. You should try to watch your audience to see how they are responding. If everybody is ignoring you, than it’s time to change up your tunes, energy level or volume level (usually that means downward). If you are so wrapped up in your own musical world that you don’t see what’s going on around you, than you need to snap out of it and try to connect with your audience. Sometimes that means bringing the energy up to get people to bob their heads. Sometimes that means chilling out the vibe to let the audience relax and come to you, then bring the energy up once you’ve got them interested. Don’t take your audience for granted. Make them keep their ears and eyes on you and your band. You might need to get your eyes up and on the audience to make some connections. A guitar solo where the musician keeps his eyes on the floor or the axe just makes the audience bored.

5.  Have Originality With The Audience

Asking the audience “Questions”. Don’t get on stage and ask “how’s everyone doing tonight?” Nobody responds and that usually just makes the audience suddenly uncomfortable. However this is not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes asking questions works, but usually only if the audience is really worked up. If the audience is quiet, than you should stick to making statements like “hope everybody is enjoying themselves and ready for some music”. If you’re on stage and the audience is quiet, than make statements about your bands website, merch or CDs for sale or email signup lists. I think the worse thing any musician can do is to single out people in the audience and try to get them to respond to a question. The performance takes on the quality of bad stand up comedy at that point.

5.  Have Your Gear Ready To Go!

Gear problems during the act. I’m going to lose my mind if I go to another gig and the guitarist pedal board doesn’t work again. This falls under preparation again. If you have gear problems, why didn’t you find out about them earlier like at sound check so you’d have time to fix them before your first note? Excessive tuning. I see this a lot too and it bugs me and I’m sure it bugs the audience. I see guitarists and bassists tuning their axe after every song. You should tune your axe before you hit the stage. If your axe is going out of tune after 5 minutes, then you need to get a new instrument or do something about the one you have. Getting a tuning pedal or system that allows you to mute the sound of the axe is crucial if you’re tuning so much.

6. Have The Right Kind Of Gear

Having too much and the wrong kind of gear. I see a lot of musicians that play tiny clubs and bars with huge speakers and amps and huge drum sets. Almost all the gigs I’ve ever played, all the guitarists and keyboardists need are combos that are of a modest size. You don’t need the volume of a half stack or the pain of transporting and carrying it around. Usually when you need that kind of huge sound, there is a sound system there to amplify it! Plus the amount of stage space large rigs take up does nothing but irritate your fellow band mates. Maybe a half stack is rock and roll, but smaller combos are easier to handle, take up less space and might even leave space in your car

7. Know How To Operate Your Gear

Not knowing how the gear even works. This rule just speaks for itself. I just love it when a guitarist doesn’t know what the “gain” knob on his amp is really for. Don’t even get me started on musicians that buy mixers. That always just ends in tears.

I guess the one thing I really want to say is that if you want to come across as a pro, than behave like one. Prepare, know your gear, know your music, get to the gig early enough and do whatever it takes to stay in positive mindset.

Contact Chris


Jun 16th, 2009 by Liz O

Liz O Speaks Out

liz-o-pictureLiz’ Take On Songwriting

So I gave this some long thought, about what songwriting meant to me, what it should mean to the listener, and what is going on today in music that upsets me.    Lets see if any of you feel the way I do.  If you do go to the Euphony Productions Forum and speak your mind   (The link at the side that says “Euphony wants to know what you think”)   We are looking for all of your opinions on anything about music or the music industry.

What Does Songwriting Mean To Me?

When writing a song, I believe that one has to draw it from a “place”.
A lot of songs today? Oh they come from a place alright. Money.  A theme
is picked in the music business that all the rappers and all the singers
decide to start flowing about and everybody gets on that train and
franchise off of that idea.  Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy some of the
more recent “swagger” themed songs and “I’m the hottest girl all up in
the club” songs.  But these are not songs that can supersede time.

There Has Got To More Out There

Maybe I am a little more meticulous when it comes to songwriting, but
there has to be a time where a songwriter writes for fun and a time when
they write for the real sake of music.  I believe that every song should
have a meaning other than money, hoes, pimps, cars and alcohol,
clubbing, banging the next person you see, and how hot you are.  There
absolutely should be songs about fun, what’s hot, and other amusing
topics, but don’t you think it’s time to get some meaning behind the
music? Don’t you think there’s a little bit of overkill with the
ridiculous dance songs and big beats filled with meaningless lyrics?

Contact Liz O.

May 29th, 2009 by Liz O

Dear Diary Part Two

liz-o-picture3Growing My Musical Roots

As a musician and songwriter, I found that as I matured in my understanding of music, my genre interest began to widen.  I did not grow up in a household that only listened to one particular type of music, but many.  I listen to everything from Phil Collins, to Rod Stewart, Elton John,  Luther Vandross, Diana Ross, Celine Dion, Madonna, Chicago, Classic rock and Motown, and even Nigerian music.

inner-struggle2With Life And Music Come Hard Choices

Because my music taste were so vast, I had no choice but to classify the type of music that I write as Neo-Soul, R&B, and Pop.  I have to say though that calling my music anything more that R&B was a bit hard for me at first.  I took my eyes  off the real focus at hand which was the talent that God gave me and I started to focus on things that had nothing to do with music.  I used to feel guilty about being an African American artist, and not having gone through a hard life.  We all have our struggles, yes, but as a young artist, I used to believe that in order for me to make it in the music business being an African American I had to have a certain type of voice, a certain type of look, and a certain type of persona.  Little did I know that I would let these misconceptions stop me from exploring who I was.

artist-starting-out-picture2It Is A Brand New Day

Now that might have been the case back then, but now in 2009 when everybody is musically doing everything I can be whoever I want to be.  I look at inspirations such as Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Prince, new artists like Jazmine Sullivan and Keri Hilson, and of course Corine Baily.  These are all African American artists that choose to be unconventional and in fact soared in their careers.  I came to know that it is not about fitting in it is about standing out and getting noticed.

original3Carving Out A Place Of My Own

My music is influenced by contemporary, pop, electronic, dance, R&B, and jazz.  When I became of age to realize that my talent was meant to supersede boundaries, I embraced the artist that I was and found out there are a lot of African American artist who grew up in great homes, lived great lives, and still could be successful in the game without having to sing and express poverty, death, and superficial issues.  I believe that as an artist, your life is your testimony, and it is up to you to incorporate that into your talent.

female-vocalist2Look At How This 14 Year Old Girl Grew Up

Now, my voice has become a lot stronger and more powerful than it was when I was fourteen.  I used to think if I could only run my voice and do all the riffs that other successful African American singers do, I will have it all, if I can only start writing a certain way I’d be set.  But guess what, I can run the heck out of my voice now, I can write an amazing R&B song, but I now know that through it all the point was never to fit into a stereotype it was to discover my full potential and soar.  And now when people tell me that I sound like Jennifer Hudson or I can hit Mariah Carey notes, it gives me pleasure for the right reasons now, and not the superficial ones it would have given me years ago.  I would feel just as content if they never told me to be honest.  Because if I do not sound like these great divas, guess what, I sound like Liz O.  It’s music, art, expression, life.  If you know you have a talent but you are unsure right now how to classify it, do not worry, the classification will come with the success.  Right now, find what makes you the artist that you are.  And you will find that through exploring the wide array of talent that you have, you are more powerful than the artists that stick to one category.  My art, my music, is not determined by the color of my skin, but by song in my heart, and the stroke of my pen.

 
icon for podpress  Weak (Original Cut): Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

As always keep up the dream and don’t let ANYONE talk you out of it.

Contact Liz O


daves-picture2Lately I have had a lot of people throw out opinions about whether a serious musical artist needs their own website.    They say Myspace.com is just fine but what is the truth?  There is some truth to that statement and some things they all overlooked.    In this post I will take on this subject head to head.

fergie1. Famous Artists Have Their Own Website

So if it is not really all that important why do all the artists you listen to have their own websites?  I will tell you why it is because a marketing executive somewhere tells them they need it to seriously be successful online.   They have Myspace pages too and they are just to support their own site.  Here are some you can check out.  Fergie,   John MayerEric Clapton.   They don’t have these sites for nothing believe me they promote themselves there and you should e doing it too.

website-picture2. Your Own Site Offers More Freedom

A personal website offers so much more freedom than Myspace.com alone like layout ability, domain name control, Ability to have multiple Blog Writers, More advanced music sales pages, Sidebar layout control, and so much more.   A lot of these things cannot be accomplished with Myspace as someone else is holding the keys to your kingdom.  Get creative and make a splash with your own site

online-marketing3. Artist Name And Band Name Marketing

You can choose a domain name that represents your band or artist name that is not www.Myspace.com/artistname.  A site can be used to sell yourself and it is not that you cannot do that with Myspace only the fact that it can be done better on your own site.    Brand name development is key to an artist being a household name.

online-community4. Ability To Create A Musician Community

With your own site you can create a musician community to get opinions on your music, get a feel for what those buying music are interested in, and creating an artist community that is all surrounded around your site and artist name.   Facebook has done a pretty successful job of creating a community like this.

affiliate-program5. Affiliate Programs

Think this is not important or don’t believe in these programs?  You should as there are Bloggers out there making $10,000 a month through affiliate programs.   There are many music related companies like Taylor Guitars, Gibson, Guitar Center, iTunes, and so many more that you can access to make money.   Think doing this is selling out?  If you can get some traffic coming to your site and make some money off affiliate program ads that your readers actually want to buy  from anyway what about that could e selling out?  Lets face it you can use those earnings to finance recording, tour expenses, and so much more.   Can you do that on Myspace?  No!    Guess what,  Myspace puts ads up on your page and makes money off you anyway so that sort of ruins the selling out thery.

fans-in-crowd-picture36. You Can Give Back To Your Fans With Your Own Site

What do I mean by this?  You can write Blog posts about topics, your tour, or anything they might find interesting.  How about filling some other artists in on what is working for you?   Building a fan base is about showing them how much you care about them and showing them what your all about too.  You can do that pretty easlily through writing a Blog on your site.

myspace7.  Myspace Has More Music Artists Than Potential Fans

Lets face it you are after fans and whether you want to believe it or not other bands are not going to follow your band for the most part and will not be buying your music.  They are doing the same thing you are requesting friends that they really don’t care about at least a lot of them and they ignore most of what you send them just like you do.  How is any of this going to help you?   If you can get 10 real people coming to your site seeing content they have interest in and reading your Blogs that is better than 50 other bands accepting your friend requests on Myspace.

band-tour-bus-picture38. You’re Taken More Seriously By Record Executives

What I mean is if you can show an A & R Rep or Music Executive you have 300 poeple that come to your site a day and have sold 10,000 downloads of a song and have comments from fans do you think they will take notice?  Of course they will.  Can you track these things at Myspace?  No.    You can choose whether to get out of your own way or to be the brick wall between you and your success it is your choice.

Until next time as always I wish you luck on all your musical endeavors

Contact Dave

Want to hear my music check it out below or in the sidebar

 
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May 20th, 2009 by Liz O

Dear Diary Part One

liz-o-picture2Life As A Young Musician

What singer/songwriter doesn’t have a unique beginning story?  Mine is a not so common tale of a young girl full of dreams who has not found her pot of gold yet but at least discovered a beautiful  rainbow at the end.   I do have a story like a lot of you might too and mine goes a little something like this.

female-vocalist1My First Song

I wrote my first song; well it was actually a poem, about my two best friends at the time as well as my sister.  As I wrote it, I subconsciously put a melody to it and before I knew it, it had a hook, a chorus, three verses, and a message!  It was amazing to me and since then I have written close to 300 songs.  Now even though I was only eleven years old, I knew that ordinary people did not just turn poems into full-blown songs.  It was a talent that I knew I had to explore so I started my recording career by looking in the yellow pages for a producer.

supportThanks Goodness For My Parents Support

It was a long time ago but I remember it like it was yesterday sitting on my floor and opening up that big yellow book call the Yellow Pages and telling my mother, at age 14, “You know all of those songs that I sing to you every night?  Well I want to start recording them.”  Now a child that pulls out a phone book one day as I did and recommends that they record some lyrics they wrote to their parents will more than likely be brushed off.  That is what most would think and do but because my parents did not brush it off as a child’s silly little dream, I was able to step into my destiny.

recording-studio1My First Time In A Real Studio

Now I may not have known it at the time but it stuck with me through today.  I walked into my first studio wide eyed and full of dreams and walked out with both parents by my side and a little cassette with my very own voice on it.  Never mind that it had no music on it as I was more than excited and did not even think about the no music part at the time.  My Parents called me a superstar and it felt amazing and was such an ego boost.  I think all parents should support their children’s dreams providing they are empowering ones.

looking-backLooking Back

It really boggles my mind to think sometimes of where I am today compared to where I started a 14 year-old girl with a cassette tape with my first song “To Be Your Girl” on it.  I also wonder where I would be now if it were not for my Parents supporting me way back at age 14.  Now although it was an amazing experience, the road was not always as easy as it was being a 14 year-old singer/songwriter with supportive Parents.  It taught me one thing and now it is my turn to teach that lesson to all of you 14 year-old boys and girls out there too.   If you have a passion for music, I mean a true calling,
DO NOT GIVE UP no matter what anyone says!  That desire is in you for a
reason so let it grow and become a fire inside you that could never die.

determinination-picture1Every Experience In Life Is A Opportunity to Grow

I did not understand a lot of things when I sacrificed every Saturday from age 14-15 in the studio for hours at a time recording, practicing, and playing piano for hours on end.  I see it a lot more clearly now and in fact, it’s crystal clear. Everything that you do leads up to and prepares you for your destiny and your dreams.  So if you are the one that goes to nightclubs and sings with or without pay, keep doing it.  If you are the one who takes the expensive vocal lessons because you have a feeling it will benefit you in the future in some way, do it.  If you are the one that writes the unconventional but poignant lyrics, go ahead and continue doing it because no one was meant to express those feelings inside you like you will.

In closing I share my first song I ever recorded with you all called “To Be Your Girl” written at age 14 thanks to the love and support of my Parents.

 
icon for podpress  To Be Your Girl: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

As always keep up the dream and don’t let ANYONE talk you out of it.

Contact Liz O


May 18th, 2009 by BenCirillo

Playing With Soul Is Harder Than Shredding

ben-cirillo-picture1Controlling Complexity

Geddy Lee was always my hero from the first time I followed my older brother to a Rush concert at Alpine Valley. He was fast, and he played crazy riffs in odd time signatures and, oh yeah, he was fast. When I started playing bass, I wanted to play just like him.  And so I did. Every new song I learned (mostly Rush songs, go figure) had me playing faster and faster and crazier and weirder stuff. If it didn’t have twenty billion notes per second I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t want to even listen to it, much less play it.

stand-up-bassWhere’s The Groove Gone?

Then I grew up I found myself with a few dilemmas.  One, while I was focusing on my speed I’d skipped over the basics. I could play a fretboard-exploding riff but couldn’t hold down a simple groove. Two, my music collection sucked. I’d skipped over a lot of good music just because I thought it didn’t have enough notes.  Somewhere along the way every beginner gets the notion that the quality of a song is directly proportional to how difficult it is to play. When you grow up, you realize that complex ? good, and in fact sometimes the best things are the simplest. Even Geddy Lee figured that one out, and did so well before I did.

less-is-moreLess Can Be More Sometimes

Jeff Goldblum had a famous tagline in Jurassic Park: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” That applies to us as musicians. Just because you can play 27,000 notes in that section doesn’t mean you should.  A simple, repetitive chord structure or riff can make a catchy song. Add in too much complexity and a song will stop sounding like music and start sounding like what it is: musical masturbation. Of course, there’s a flip side: If the song is too simple and repetitive, it’ll be boring, uninspired and probably annoying.  You have to strike a balance between so simple it’s boring and so complex it’s noise. There is no magic formula; this depends on you and your style of music.

complexityUsing Complexity Wisely

When we talk about a complex piece of music, our minds go to one thing: lots and lots of notes, usually in a very short period of time. But there are lots of different ways to add complexity to your songs other than just adding notes. Here are some ideas:

1. Add More Instruments:

Pink Floyd were masters of creating complex music out of simple parts. Break down any Floyd song, and neither the bass part, guitar part, keys or drums are particularly difficult to play. But by cleverly layering these simple parts in a complex arrangement, you get songs that are both interesting and easy to listen to. Years later, bands like Radiohead and The Beta Band mastered the art of taking a simple thing and just adding a part, then adding a part, then adding a part until you had a huge symphonic sound made from simple pieces.

2. Play The Same Thing In A Different Place:

For solos, the oldest bass player trick in the book is to play exactly the same thing you were doing, just one octave up. It’s the stupidest, easiest thing in the world, and it gets people every time. Pull out some Jaco riff and people ignore you (unless they’re also bass players, in which case they hate you). Play one octave up and people think you’re a god. This works on guitar, too. Change octaves and people respond, and unless they’re also musicians they probably won’t realize you didn’t really do anything special. If the octave thing is too cheesy, try playing a fifth up or down. This creates movement and also contrast against the rest of the band, but in most cases it still fits without having to change anything.

3. Create Dynamics:

Dynamics in music officially refers to changes in volume, used to create a sense movement and mood in a piece. Rock music, however, is usually so overcompressed that any actual changes in volume are leveled out and lost to the world. So a better way to think about dynamics is changes in intensity. By switching back and forth between more and less complex sections, you can create a change in intensity. Note that simple is often more intense than complex. In Tidal Wave (http://veipacray.com) we used a more complex pattern for the verses then switched to a simpler rock-anthem feel for the chorus. In Wide Awake, we use complexity to build tension in the verses and simplicity to release it in the chorus. The outro gets crazy complex, then dissolves into simplicity to end the song.

4. Use Odd Notes And Chords:

Sometimes, instead of playing lots of notes, it’s playing the right note that makes all the difference. Venture outside the pentatonic scale to find those underused intervals and chords. Again I return to Pink Floyd and David Gilmour, who could move you more with a well-placed major 7th as all the shred gods with all the sweep arpeggios and pinch harmonics in the world.

5. Use Different Rhythm Patterns:

One of my favorite tricks is to use different rhythm patterns rather than lots of notes to create a complex bassline. I use this all over Mercury Rising and Wide Awake. Rhythm complexity doesn’t have to mean odd time signatures like 7/8 or 5/4. It can be as simple as changing up your subdivisions or playing unusual accents. In “Spirits in the Material World” by the Police, Sting creates a funky feel by starting his 2-bar bass phrase on the “and” of 2 instead of the downbeat. The song is still in a simple 4/4, but it sounds quirkier than it is.

6. Use Effects:

A well-placed effect can transform a boring chord or riff into something way more interesting. I’ll go over effects more in a future post, but for now consider that a creative use of effects can create as much texture as the creative use of a scale. Remember, though, that effects also come with an off-switch. Just like with everything else, overuse can quickly jump the line between interesting and annoying.

listenLearn To Hear, Not Fear

For those of us that like to play more complex music, there’s always that secret fear that if you don’t play enough notes people will think you suck and will come take your guitar away.  With time, you learn that difficult doesn’t always mean good. Music is not an Olympic event; you don’t get skill points for pulling off tough stunts. For the thoughtful musician, adding complexity is not about showing off, it’s about creating movement and balance.  If you always play as technical and complicated as you can, where do you go from there? Thirty-second notes in 7/8 all the time is just as boring as quarter notes in 4/4 all the time.  When you learn to listen for musicality instead of stunt guitar, you might just find that creating interesting music isn’t as complicated as you thought.

Until next time keep on grooving, and let me know how I might help you out by leaving a comment

Contact Ben


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