Archive for chris bracco

7 No-Brainers for Recording Electric Guitars

Posted in Recording Techniques, Tips & Tricks with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2010 by Chris Bracco

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything related to actually MAKING music…..soooo, yeah. Let’s do it.

Guitarist

At first glance, an electric guitar seems like a pretty straightforward instrument to lay down. I, for one, never really stress too much over it. I can always get a decent guitar sound recorded without too much effort – thanks to my trusty Shure SM57, and some patience while tweaking the mic position millimeter by millimeter until I hear something I like. Recently, though, I had some excellent equipment and a good player to work with, so I wanted to make the session worth it, and really nail it. Enter Internet.

After some trolling around Google, and some soul searching, I’ve dug up 7 good pieces of advice to consider while recording your axe:

1. Show your axe some love – GET A TUNE-UP!

Intonation and old strings can easily transform a $1500 American Strat into an $89 Yamaha. Take care of your guitar and make sure you have some fresh strings put on about a week (max) before hitting the studio. Also, if you hear any buzzing notes or notice the higher notes are a bit out of tune, spend the $35 bucks to get that sucker tuned up. The differences are SO noticeable, and will help your guitar sound great when its time to record.

2. Spin around in circles until the hum is gone.

Sounds ridiculous, but it actually works (And it makes for some great b-roll video)! Equipment containing transformers will often cause hum interference with electric guitars, especially with single coil pickups. If you experience this humming, move the player as far away from the interfering equipment, and have the player rotate until you find an angle that produces the least amount of hum. Then, have the player stand or sit like a Roman statue throughout the entire performance. Seriously, it works. And saves you a ton of headaches trying to figure out where that damn hum is coming from.

3. Can I get a big amp sound out of a dinky practice-sized amp? YES! It’s all about mic positioning.

Here is where engineering and trickery can go hand in hand (awesome). If you don’t have the luxury of some beastly amp setup, like a JCM-800 head  over a 4×12 speaker cab packed with Celestion Vintage 30’s – then, well, fake it! Plug in the 5W tube amp, and start moving that microphone around the room. Seriously, everywhere. Try putting the microphone at the position of your head, so it “hears” what you hear. Try miking the amp from the side, the rear, the top, even the bottom (hang that wimpy thing from the ceiling!). If you lift the amp off the ground, you can eliminate bass, or shove it in the corner to enhance the bass. If it sounds brittle, try facing the amp into a corner, then miking the amp from behind. You can get some crazy cool tones just by mic positioning.

-Extra tip: pick up a pair of noise-canceling cans, enable input monitoring, and have the guitar player strum away as you experiment with mic positions. This is much easier than recording a short take, playing it back, moving the mic, recording another take, playing it back, etc (ow, my head…).

4. Double your takes RIGHT AWAY.

Many artists, producers, and engineers like to save overdubs for another day. However, guitar parts aren’t usually written out note for note – there is a bit of spontaneity involved while doing a take. If you think you may need to beef up the part a bit, it is much easier to just lay down the double track during the same session so these spontaneous moments are much easier to replicate. Swap guitars or amp settings to get a slightly different tone, and have at it. Don’t worry – you’ll nail it on the first try. 😉

5. Only use effects pedals that are crucial to the song.

I’m not gunna lie – I’m kind of a pedal whore. I love screwing around with my rig to find some crazy new sound. However, when recording, it is important to use the least amount of pedals necessary in order to get your point across. With too much going on, it’s easy for the microphone to pick up a garbled mess of junk. More often than not, reverbs can be turned off and added during mixing instead. While it may sound great live, it may not serve it’s purpose in the studio. Back it off  bit, and your track will thank you.

6. Don’t overlook timing.

Lots of axe players fear the metronome. PLEASE, make it your friend. As a result, you will have more friends. At least in the studio. Playing fast may be impressive, but if you can’t time your killer solo perfectly with the click track or the rhythm section, people will notice. And it will suck. My advice is to start absurdly slow with something that you normally play fast, and work your way up until you reach the desired speed, while still being able to articulate the notes well. If you already have experience playing with a click track, then just make sure you get a few weeks of solid practice in before the recording session so you aren’t rusty. This saves a TON of time having to redo a rhythm take 75 times because you were off by a 1/16th note in the bridge.

7. Broke? Get a 57.

The Shure SM57 is the go-to microphone for recording electric guitars. You can get one used on eBay for like 75 bucks, which is dirt cheap compared to the other end of the microphone pricing spectrum. GET ONE. This thing is a warrior, and will probably outlive you. Just place it in front of your cab and you are pretty much guaranteed an okay guitar sound. Play around with mic positioning and you can track some excellent tones! If you are the non-conformist type, or have some extra cash on hand, give the  Sennheiser MD 421 a try. You can get some cool sounds outta that guy as well.

I hope these no-brainer tips were helpful! Even if you have been given all of this advice before, consider them as important reminders. 🙂

_chris

Re-Blog: How to Turn a Show in Front of 8 People Into Your Most Important Show Ever

Posted in Music Industry, Newbies with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by Chris Bracco

I absolutely love Musformation — every single freaking post there is valuable & interesting. Now if only the site didn’t take 384 years to load….. 😀

Anyway,

I showed this article to the rest of the members of my band a few days ago, and it totally inspired them. Minutes later, no joke, they actually came up with this insanely awesome idea to get more people out to our gigs (can’t share, top secret hehe).

This article really drives home some great points that I would like to summarize for all you busy people out there.

Play a killer set, regardless of audience size

Give it 3,924,873,289%. You never, ever know who will be listening.

Also, if there are literally eight people there, make them A PART of the show. Dedicate a song to “that guy in the corner,” everyone will know who you’re pointing at since the place is nearly empty. Buy a round a drinks for them on the band…you get the picture.

Socialize with bands & fans

This is something that my band and I took literally YEARS to realize. Just talk to people at the place! Bands, fans, bartenders, managers, etc…just talk. About anything. Make a new friend.

My band and I used play our set, pack up, thank the owners/booking agents and leave. I hate to admit that, but it was true. We we’re such boneheads in high school, it was ridiculous. We had this mentality that we were better than the rest and that our music would speak for itself.

If you read nothing else in this post, read this quote –

“If you don’t know it by now, being a dick doesn’t make you seem like a rock star, it makes you seem like a dick.” – Jesse Cannon, Musformation

_chris

Artists Need To Be Fairly Compensated in the New Music Industry

Posted in Music Industry with tags , , , , , , on October 6, 2009 by Chris Bracco

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[img courtesy of f5m-millionaires-club]

While scanning through my RSS feeds on my phone this evening, I came across a good article over at audio4cast. This article then led me to another excellent article at the Future of Music Coalition’s website called “Principles for Artist Compensation in New Business Models.” They are both a few months old, but still drive home some interesting viewpoints that are relevant to my business idea I posted about last week and that I am currently developing (which got great feedback! thanks again to everyone that contributed).

Key points from audio4cast’s article:

“While record companies may be getting paid from all the new online music services, those payments are not necessarily making their way to the artists’ pockets.”

“…there’s a significant struggle brewing between record labels and artists, which has become aggravated by declining cd sales and new online music business models.”

Key points from FOMC.org’s article:

“Legitimate digital business models and legitimate digital music marketplaces are critical to musicians’ ability to promote, distribute and earn compensation for their music.”

“The history of the music industry is littered with stories of artists who have not been paid anything for the sales of their recordings. Typical major label contracts only give musicians 10 to 15 percent of the revenue from sales, and that’s after the label has recouped all the costs of recording, manufacturing and promotion. It’s no wonder that many musicians never see a penny in sales royalties.”

“This principle simply says that revenue generated by new models for music access or delivery should be fairly shared between rightsholders and artists — after all, they created the music that provides the value for these new business models.”

“…services should be able to experiment with variable pricing and offer different marketing opportunities depending on the level of the artist or based on the size of catalogue…”

Do you think we will ever see the day when the majority of mainstream musicians and performers own 100% of the rights & control to their music? I have considerable doubts, but something’s got to give. And in some ways, it has already started happening with the advent of companies like ReverbNation, TopSpin, InGrooves and many more aimed towards helping artists reach large audiences in cutting-edge and unorthodox ways.

I am definitely excited to see what the future has in store for the music industry.

_chris

4 Ways to Book Your First Gig

Posted in Newbies with tags , , , on September 19, 2009 by Chris Bracco

So you’ve written some music. Your friends dig it. But, that’s about it.

What now? Aren’t satisfied?

Get out there and play to some randoms!

There are dozens of ways to go about getting your first gig, and it can be an intimidating process at first. So you can delegate more time towards creating your music, I’d like to present some quick, basic methods for booking your first gig:

1) THE INTERNET – There are an insane amount of places you can go on the internet to find somebody willing to give your music a chance. Although it’s popularity is diminishing, I still believe that MySpace is an EXCELLENT starting place to locate venues and booking agents on the net. This is precisely how I booked the first gig for my band.

Of course, at the bare minimum, make sure you have your own MySpace page with a few of your songs available for listening. Once you’ve established that, do a MySpace search within 10-20 miles of your zip code and use keywords like “booking,” “entertainment,” and “agent.” There is bound to be at least a few search results that pop up. Check out their pages carefully and search for e-mail addresses, official website links or other type of contact information. If there is nothing, send them a MySpace message. In your message, briefly tell them why your contacting them and make sure to give them a way to listen to your music and a way to contact you directly. Tell them your extremely interested in working with them and willing to help them in some way. If you sound professional, chances are you will get a reply back.

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[Img Credit: ala.org]

2) THE VENUE – If you’re search results came up empty, don’t give up there! Burn some CD’s, walk around town and look for places (bars, clubs, coffee shops, VFW halls, churches, restaurants, houses) you think may be interested in booking your type of music. Go into the venue and say you would like to talk to whomever is in charge of booking the live music. Introduce yourself to him/her, hand them a CD and tell them you think you’re music will work well in their venue and you would like to play a show sometime. Usually they will direct you to their booking agent or give you their contact information. Follow up a few days later and see if they have any open slots in the near future. If they enjoyed your music they will usually give you a shot. And don’t feel bad if you end up opening for someone; be glad you got on stage in the first place! You have to start somewhere.

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[Img Credit: terragalleria.com]

3) THE COMPETITION – If you’ve found a few places that you’d like to play your first gig at but haven’t been hearing back from any venues or booking agents, get to know some of the bands already playing there. Find a band of similar musical style that you enjoy, and go out and support them! Go up to their merch table after the set and introduce yourself to them. Give them a CD and tell them you’re looking to play your first gig here. More than anyone else these guys will likely sympathize with your situation since they had to book their first gig at one time too. They can put in a good word for you and increase your chances of landing a show date. Befriend your competition.

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[Img Credit: hollywoodteenmovies.com]

4) JUST DO IT NIKE STYLE – If your genre of music can allow for it, just go someplace public and …play. Make some CD’s and hit up a mall, a beach, a street corner, a parking lot, a front porch, a subway, whatever. Somebody new is bound to hear you and who knows – maybe they’ll dig it.

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[Img Credit: republicupdate.com]

_chris

Recording A Demo CD

Posted in Music Industry, Newbies, Recording Techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by Chris Bracco

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(Image from http://www.associatedcontent.com)

If you’ve ever been in a band, or attended any sort of event with local music, you have surely crossed paths with “demo cds.” Unsigned bands have been using these for decades, whether it be on vinyl, cassette or CD. They are an excellent promotional tool great to hand out to fans before, during and after shows.

Demos can be created in many different ways, but all too often bands are overwhelmed by the process and don’t even know where to get started. Here are some guidelines to head you in the right direction:

1) Pick the Recording Venue: Where are you going to set up shop? Do you have the cash to book studio time, or are you planning on recording from home? If home, try to find a room in the house that is relatively dead (low echo/reverberation). If you are a one man show (acoustic guitar/singer), recording from home would suffice. If you are a twelve man bassoon army, it may be worthwhile to save up some dough and hit up the studio.

2) Choose the Recording Method: This depends largely on your budget and your style of music. Hardcore punk band crunched for money? Record live. Pop music intending to be radio friendly? Multi-track that shite.

3) Choose Recording Equipment: If you book studio time, you should check out the studio prior to your recording session to see what kind of equipment you will be able to use. If you are looking to do a home job, there are several options both cheap and expensive:

– Super Cheap: Purchase a voice/mp3 digital recorder and stick it in the middle of the room. Results will probably be crappy, but if you have virtually no money to spend, it’s better than nothing!

– Cheap: Record one of your gigs. Talk to the sound guy and see if you can work out some deal to get a recording of your show. If possible, see if they can record straight from the mixer, that usually yields better results. Nice sound guys will do it for free 🙂

– Moderate: Rent/Purchase an 8 track recorder and some microphones. Recording equipment is pretty cheap nowadays, you can usually rent or purchase everything you need from your local music store. Ebay is a good resource as well for used gear. However, this could be difficult if you do not know how to set levels correctly or use EQ effectively. Do your homework before jumping into this option!

– Expensive: Buy a computer, audio interface (sound card), sequencing software (Pro Tools, Sonar, Cubase, etc) and some microphones and create your own budget home studio! Record into the sequencer, and either mix & master the tracks yourself or send them to a studio. This will run you at least a few grand, especially if you don’t have a sufficient computer for recording music. Check out Tweakheadz website for some excellent example home studios.

-Very Expensive: Book studio time. It’s expensive, but can yield great results for your demo. Just make sure you prepare thoroughly so you don’t have to book too much extra time to finish your project.

4) Mix & Master: Record labels and fans won’t expect your demos to sound perfect, so these steps are as critical as the actual tracking. If you can put together a rough mix by yourself, more power to you. If not, there are some studios that will offer mixing & mastering services for relatively low costs, just search around your town for them.

_chris

Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth!

Posted in Randomness with tags , , , , , , , on May 10, 2009 by Chris Bracco

For some reason I recently felt the need to know how to destroy our planet. I mean hey, you can find out just about anything on the internet, why not look for something crazy every once and a while?

BOOM!

It took me about 5 minutes to find the top 10 ways to destroy our lovely home. Turns out it is a lot harder to do than originally thought!

One of the methods is to simply have no method. Just wait around, and hope that all 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in our planet spontaneously cease to exist. What?! Yeah, its possible; the chances are greater than a googolplex to one. Your chances of winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning within the same hour are exponentially better.

My favorite one by far requires only a light bulb. Yes, theoretically you can destroy our planet with a stupid light bulb. This theory claims that the vacuum within a light bulb contains enough energy to boil every ocean in the world! The only reason nobody has tried this yet is because no one has figured out how to harness this energy. Once you figure that out, stick this energy into a power plant and let the reaction run out control. KABOOM! Goodbye, Earth.

Here are some other methods from the article in case your interested:
http://www.livescience.com/technology/destroy_earth_mp-1.html

Disclaimer: yeah…don’t try any of these at home. 🙂

_chris

Microsoft Surface Demo (CES 2008)

Posted in Randomness with tags , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2009 by Chris Bracco

Where the hell have I been the past year and a half?! Microsoft Surface?? Wow, I feel very stupid and out of the loop, this thing is so cool! A touch screen table computer. Sweet. Here’s a video demo of some of its uses:

The capabilities of this thing are really just insanely awesome, I really like the wine demo towards the end of the video.

I can’t wait for the future to get here. God I’m such a geek, somebody save me PLEEASE. 🙂

_chris