Q&A: Seussical Mayzie La Bird Tryout Tips

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Photos of characters playing Mayzie La Bird from Seussical the Musical. Click for full size.

Received this question about the character Mayzie La Bird from Seussical:

I’m trying out for MAYZIE LA BIRD and i was wondering what song i should sing? and what vocal range does she need?

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In Seussical the Musical, Mayzie La Bird is the antagonist and well experienced city girl. She’s the “Bette Midler” of Seussical. She’s brassy and street smart. Her counterpart is Gertrude, the innocent ingenue and protagonist.

For an audition song for the part of Mayzie, I would suggest something brassy and/or big traditional broadway. A song that says “Here I am!”. Look for any songs Bette Midler or Liza Minelli would have done. “Cabaret” would be a great song.

We had a great Mayzie for our production, Ashely Henning. She sings great traditional Broadway. After doing Mayzie she had leads in “Little Women” and “Evita”, to give you an idea of the character. Mayzie could be played by a wide range of ages – but she does have a baby, so take that into account. Younger actresses might go for Gertrude, or if you have a powerful bluesy voice you could tryout for the Purple Kangaroo (a very fun role).

Mayzie’s songs in Seussical the Musical are what I would call “Torch Songs”, and usually played by a mature voice (18 years and older).

Hope you have fun. Seussical was a very fun musical to perform. Musicians that have worked with me count it as one of their favorites. In fact I recently received an email from a cello player who says it’s bar they use to judge the fun of all other musical productions.

Auditioning for a musical is one of the hardest processes to endure. The more you do, the better you’ll get at it. The first couple auditions might be (read “probably will be”) bad experiences and embarrassing, just keep doing it if you want parts.

Mazy Suessical Muiscal Mazee Mayzee Soosical Seusical

Question about Playing Piano on Broadway

Hi Mr. Askland,

My name is *name edited* and I am currently a sophomore in high school and I’m studying to major in piano. My dream one day is to play the piano/conduct/ and musical direct on Broadway. I was wondering could you possibly give me any advice that could help me achieve my goal.

Thank you so much

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Good question.

  1. Play your ass off.
  2. Be nice to people.
  3. Find people that are doing what you want to do, and find out how they got there.
  4. Take responsibility for things not going perfect and figure out how to keep it from happening again.
  5. Do not join a cover band, play private parties, weddings or casuals.
  6. Be nice to people.
  7. Play your ass off.

Pretty simple, huh?

Celine Dion and Anastasia Live with Shook Me All Night Long

Email Received:

Hey, big guy! We need a professional’s opinion…

We saw a surprising video tonight – Celine Dion and Anastasia singing “You Shook Me All Night Long” – quite different from everything else we’d ever heard Celine sing before! (Quality of video is poor, but holy cow, talk about two power voices) Apparently most people hate it, but we loved it. I know it’s not the type music you usually listen to, but we’d like a pro’s opinion!

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Watch the video on YouTube at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=TytsReHWoRI
Or search YouTube for “Celine Anastasia Shook Me”

Politically Correct Answer:
This song works well in live performance and is an easy crowd pleaser most bar bands do late in the night. It pumped up the audience so that’s a keeper for the live Vegas show. I don’t think it’s something that would get a lot of radio play because it’s a straight cover – no remix or new rendition.

The OTHER Answer:
Hey, this is a DUDE song. Get your grubby hands off our AC/DC memories. If they ain’t gonna be singin it, ain’t NOBODY should be singin it. They made it into a chick song? EEGADS! Ok, when you go to Vegas, you all can do the girls night out with that stuff and then watch Sleepless in Seattle. Me and the guys will be waiting for you at the blackjack tables. Take your time…

*MEN STOP READING HERE*

PS – Celine, you know us men love you too, we just can’t admit it in front of the women. It’s a guy thing. You’re in good company, we don’t admit to liking Streisand either.

Is It Important To Know Names of Artists?

Email question received:

Aiight… my lil brother right he listens to alot of music and shit.. he knows his stuff, ya feel me… He heard some of my new beatz and he was like that it’s good and shit.. but, that I need to listen more to rap and shit.. since my beatz are more towards rap.. ya know.. i was wonderin if this is true or not.. I know that if I listen to it more… I know that I would get influenced, of course.. it’s only natural.. but, if i’m tryna be unique.. wouldn’t listening to them only make me unconsciously duplicate their work.. if you understand what i mean… with most of the shit that they play on the radio.. I hate…some of them… not al of them.. like shit like walk it out, and other shit like that.. ya know.. and my brother is like I don’t like the whole rap industry.. I don’t know where he got that from if I only hate like a few songs… ya know.. now if I don’t listen to rap and can make ill rap beatz.. is that wrong.. if I was to produce my stuff. would I be to some inadvantage because I don’t know the names of other rappers.. and stuff like that.. i mean.. i’m open to suggestions.. ya know.. cuz.. I might be gettin serious into the beat makn and shit ya know.. hopefully to produce.. but, if I can bring somethin fresh and new.. ya know.. without listenin to other peoples stuff.. where is the problem in that.. If I know how much work I put into a beat, and sell it for what it’s worth.. after doin my financial homework.. then what is the problem? If I have someone who.. might just be fresh and new, and can sing or rap on my shit.. and is good.. and I get someone.. to open us to the world.. ya know.. then what is the problem.. the problem with the world is that.. they get all high off the stuff that’s played on the radio.. and that’s not all the music in the world.. ya know.. on myspace.. you have alot of fresh artists.. i mean fresh.. my only problem is that I can’t name them because that’s just me.. I don’t be studiien them ya know.. same thing with rap.. I hear music.. I like the beat.. but, I don’t go findin out the name of the rapper and stuff.. cuz.. I don’t c the need.. if I know is name wow.. how does that help me.. ya know.. but, I should know the producer.. right?

that’s basically my dilemma.. can you help me?

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REPLY TO EMAIL

Your wording is just a tad verbose, but it’s actually a very good question. I THINK your two questions are:

  1. For me to be successful producing a certain genre, is it important for me to listen to that genre?
  2. Is it important for me to know the specific names of artists and producers that I am studying?

Yes and No to both.

When people first approach a new style of music, they usually think it’s very easy and they have it nailed. The reason is that they don’t listen to it very much, so they don’t realize how far off they are. I can’t tell you how many times a new client came to the recording studio all excited about their new country song – To me, someone who listens to a lot of country music, it was NEVER what “real” country was all about. It was very obvious it was a songwriter THINKING they were country.

Same with hip hop – have you ever heard a rap performed by someone who doesn’t listen to rap or hip hop? It’s a hideous thing to listen to.

The bigger concept here to grasp is that people usually only can see what they don’t know as it sits on the outskirts of what they DO know. Imagine a circle that represents your knowledge. Let’s say it’s Calculus. You just started studying Calculus so your circle of knowledge is small – and so is your knowledge of what you don’t know about Calculus. It seems like you’ve almost mastered it. But someone who has studied for twenty years has a much larger circle of knowledge – and with more knowledge also comes more knowledge of what you do NOT understand. The body of unknown knowledge sits on the outskirts of knowledge.

Short read: If you just started learning something it may feel like you’ve already mastered it. Don’t delude yourself. You haven’t mastered it yet.

On the flip side of all this – often times great strides in artistic changes to genres come from people outside the genres. They don’t know all the rules yet, so they break them without even knowing it. A good example of this in country music was Garth Brooks. He just came out of left field and updated that entire genre single handedly. There are many examples in every genre of music.

Is it important to know names of artists and producers. I don’t think so. BUT, if you are really into a certain sound then you’ll probably want to make a note of their names so you can track other projects they’ve done. For instance, my favorite composers and arrangers are Howard, Besterman, Jones, Dre, Morricone, Bach and Elfman. These are all people I’ve tracked to get as much as I can out of their work. If you are really studying them – you’ll just automatically know their names.

More important than knowing names is to understand the elements of the groove and arrangement – on two levels. The first is to understand the theory and technical aspect of the work. The second is to understand what hits you in the gut and makes you say “I LOVE THAT”. The two are seperate entities. When you can produce both technical and emotional response yourself from scratch and other people are also saying I LOVE THAT! – I’d say that’s the point you become a master artist. It will happen so slow you won’t even notice it (unless you’re Sean Combs!).

Tip: When I am working on a project – it’s normal for me to totally immerse myself in that style and listen to ONLY that around the clock. Especially when I work on shows, I listen to the soundtrack exclusively. For me, that’s what I need to get uber-focused.

Let the other people memorize names – you just tear into that groove aiight.

Conrad

Finding the Right Tempo

Question received via email about finding the right tempo:

Hi there
I am a song writer who is having trouble with finding the right tempo. Many of my songs are constructed on basslines, drum beats, riffs or vocals and I feel that everything is recorded at it’s most suitable timing. However, something lacks in either the drums or percussion where I begin to feel song’s ‘dragging’ or too quick, and I NEED to know if there’s something I’m overloooking. Is there a certain ‘off beat’ thing for percussion, half time hats, attacks on notes, etc.? Help me if you can please – it’s really frustrating me.
Thanks.

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This email is a follow-up to my post:
“What is the best tempo for a song”

Let’s see if I can answer this coherently at 3am…

Try to follow me here. A good friend of mine is a session Sax player in Los Angeles. He does a lot of sessions at many different project studios, so he has a great bird’s eye view of what’s going on. In the early days of my mixes he encouraged me to think of frequency ranges, whereas I tended to think in terms of counterpoint. He’d say, “you need something in the high frequencies” on this mix, so I’d add a flute….it was thinking in terms of sonorities instead pads and layers. And I’d have to say he was usually (if not always) right. Thankfully I stayed employed, because although he had the ears for these things, he didn’t know how to execute them – which is how music producers stay in business – knowing what to do and when.

This same thinking can apply in terms of rhythm tracks. Tempo is speed – and from your email it sounds like tempo isn’t really your problem, it’s groove. If I was listening to your track I it would be easier to give specific suggestions – but not having that we’ll take the long way around the horn here. So think in terms of the rhythmic layers – you might need a stronger anchor like a kick, or a higher subdivison like a shaker.

SOME REASONS A SONG DOESN’T GROOVE

  1. Do the lyrics really fit the melody well, or are they kind of scrunched in there to make it work.
  2. Are you writing melodies on paper, or doing it by ear? I’ve found that if you rely on the visual of printed music too much, the groove can get lost in the translation. Try to hear it in your head first before you put it down, this will give you a more natural feel. Most of the great classical composers heard the music, then put their ideas to paper – not the other way around. Just my guess, I don’t have a source on that.
  3. Are you sequencing drum tracks? Using samples or live players will give you a better groove if you’re not a percussionist. I’ve sequenced MIDI for over twenty years now and am pretty strong at it, but I always prefer a samples groove of a live player – or better yet use a real human that knows how to play well.

EXAMPLES OF GROOVE PROBLEMS – AND CORRECTIONS
Here are actual examples I’ve encountered just in the last week that had to do with pieces not grooving, and how I fixed them. The specifics of each probably will not apply to you, but will give you an idea how a very small element can be the make or break for a groove. Every song has a groove, doesn’t matter the style. Yes, even orchestral music has a groove. If you haven’t found the groove, you’re not ready to play the song (read “you have no business playing the song!”).

  1. “Once In A While” from Rocky Horror Show – Didn’t have a legit 70’s country groove. Bass rhythm was dotted quarter, eighth to quarter (One-twoAND-three-four) – bass player was rushing the dotted rhythm a bit, once he layed it back the song fell into a nice groove pocket.
  2. Original song by Christian artist – Straight 4 groove with a feel a little like “Venture Highway”. Original guitar track by artist was a little blocky, had session guitarist overdub double time syncopated strumming over the top. Artist had a live recording and wanted me to duplicate guitar parts, but failed to recognize that their live recording and our studio recording were two different tempos (like 110bpm compared to 135bpm). If I had gone ahead and duplicated what their slower tempo had, the artist would have been happy out of the gate, but there would have been no groove at all to the song. Artist is happy and likes new sound. *Note* – Artist set tempos for both renditions, so that’s what I had to work with.
  3. One Day At A Time – song for church service. Southern style country waltz. Singers were singing with a classical waltz style: ONE-two-THREE, or kick-blank-snare…..not cool for a laid back country waltz. Change snare to beat one on every other measure for KICK-blank-blank SNARE-blank-blank, etc. Like the groove in “Here’s a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares”. For country waltzes, there’s also a syncopated sixteenth note hit after beat one that gives it a little lift.
  4. Brigadoon – Orchestral Dance – Waltz section. Opposite of country waltz, for this I wanted a Viennese feel – where beat three has a little lag in it. When you hear it, your mind goes “Aha, that’s Strauss!”. Once the musicians understood about delaying beat three in a Viennese style, the song had the “groove”, or to say it was more authentic to the style.
  5. Church choir – a classical church choir singing a gospel song. Was way to square – had them put their music away so they could feel the rhythm. Wasn’t quite like “Sister Act”, but it improved the feel. Musicians that are used to reading music and aren’t seasoned pros, will often get lost in the red tape technicalities of the printed music. Remove that barrier by letting them feel it.
  6. Vocal track – artist was singing to blocky. Used several different visualizations with them. The one that clicked for this artist was to imagine they were soaring above the land, like in a helicopter shooting the opening panorama for a movie. It let them give their mind something to occupy itself so they weren’t as stressed with singing each note technically correct (the recording studio is note a time to practice technique).
  7. Violin recording session – Overdubs for an album project. Player was doing quarter note and eighth note movement of a busy track; they were trying to cover anticipations and suspensions all in their one part rather than let the tapestry of the instruments unfold. I had them switch to whole note movement, so the busy parts moved around them instead. It helped the groove the have those anchoring “pads” in the music, and still created it’s own anticipations, resolutions and suspensions – but at a slower pace that gives the ear more rhythmic dimensions to entertain it.
  8. Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring – Piano student learning to play this song which is in 9/8 time. The playing was mechanical, no flow to the line. Had them accent first group of every three notes (first note of every triplet) and used dynamics for rise and flow of melodic line. Yes, very simple and rudimentary. But giving simple tools like that is much more affective than giving the nebulous instruction of: “Play it with feeling”. After a short time they were getting the music “off the paper” and feeling the movement of the music.
  9. I Will Survive – preparing song for a drag show. Band played song too fast, it was apparent they had not actually ever danced to the song before. This song needs that steady four on the floor club beat that is slightly restrained, feeling like it is held back a bit. Let’s the vocal push against that restraint to create the classic club, or “house” groove.
  10. Plainsong Chant – for church service. Kind of a”Simple Gifts” type melody. My pick for the culprit was the lame piano arrangement, which was blocky in quarter notes. I improvised a drone on eight notes and let the choir take the lead on the melody, so my piano because harmony and rhythm drone. Saved the song.
  11. Cirque Du Soleil – practice piece from Dralion. Very simple sixteenth note rhythm on string synth part – realized I was using the wrong patch and needed a volume pedal for dynamic swells into the downbeat.
  12. Medium tempo acoustic rock song – needed a little pickup and delineation for the chorus which wasn’t present enough in the drum track. Added a sixteenth note shaker. Sometimes a trite thing to do, but worked well in this case.

Simple stuff. A note here or there. The trick, as in most things, is to specifically identify what needs to be changed and know how to change it. What’s the right way to do it? I don’t think there is – or there might be 20 different “right” ways to do it. It comes down to what sounds good to you.

What Keyboards to use for Seussical?

Question received about what keyboards to use for Seussical the Musical.

I am musical directing an upcoming production of Seussical TYA, and we are trying to figure out what sort of keyboards to rent. We are doing the production with two keyboards in the pit. On the Instrumentation page on the Musical Theatre International website, I’ve noticed that there are some very specific instruments (ie: “Doing” or Bird Fart) to be played on the keyboards. What brand and model of keyboard(s) would you suggest using?

Thanks.

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Hi,

As I remember it, there are two main keyboard parts for STM for two different players.

  1. Piano – any 88 key weighted keyboard.
  2. Synthesizer – Sounds needed are typical to any mainstream synth by any major manufacturer (Roland, Korg, Yamaha, etc.)

There are sound effects for Seussical and I have a download pack available for free here on my website. Use the search function on my blog for “Seussical Sound Effect”. I triggered the sound effects using a virtual keyboard on a laptop using the Kontakt software. I love setting that up, but most people find it super geeky. You could also have someone run these sound fx on CD. I also have detailed notes on Seussical sound fx here on my website. (I’m not posting links to all those things because links on my website change over time – please use the search function).

I’ve done a fair amount of musicals and I have to say that Seussical was the most challenging, and also the most fun, of any musicals I have done. The orchestrations are wonderful. I also have detailed notes on the person who did the orchestrations. Check out the “Seussical” section here on my website.

Rock on!

Conrad

Address to Emerging Artists – Is Rap Valid Music?

http://www.zoominfo.com/search/PersonDetail.aspx?PersonID=2835876

I fell upon this link and am in awe of your bio. I love that you are passionate about us here at Rapdogs.com. As someone who loves music from the smallest seed of its creation…I find that sometimes those with such experience as yourself do not consider “us” (emcees, turntabilists, beat miners) as real musicians.

I think what i want to say is…reading this bio made me realize that a passionate and genuis voice like yours is a blessing to have behind us. That ..the fact that you run this for us and recognize our importance in music history is just really nifty.

no suck up intended…just being real.

meg

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Sweet! (Meg is our leading “femcee” commentator and article writer for RapDogs and very involved in the Northeast Canadian music scene).

RapDogs.com is actually my offering and begging for forgiveness of two errors in judgement I have made in my life. The first was back in 1984. I was 18. My best friend Jerome and I were in Denny’s after a night of clubbing. He told me that rap was the next major audio art form and was here to stay. At the time Sir Mixalot was cutting edge and rap was just starting to emerge in the dance clubs in Renton, WA. Being so smart and knowing everything, I told Jerome that “people won’t even know what rap is in two years. It’s a fad.” Kind of funny to think of that in retrospect. Since that time I’ve produced and mastered hundreds (probably over a thousand) of hip hop tracks and artist demos.

To me, hip hop is currently the leading edge genre for freedom of speech in the audio arts Most artists I have recorded take it VERY seriously – it is their high art. They do not approach it with a pedestrain attitude – their conviction is inspiring to me. As hip hop has matured, many artists are questioning and revisioning how hip hop can be used for a message that challenges and uplifts us. I like seeing that emerge.

Second mistake. It was 1987. I was 21. There I am playing a grand piano in a tux (all classical) and a lady comes up to say, “Can you play any Patsy Cline?” I was SO offended. I stopped playing, looked at her and said, “M’am, I play REAL MUSIC.” At the time I was totally serious. Country was not even considered music in my book. It was something people listened to because they were uncultured idiots that just didn’t know any better. Liking country music told me all I needed to know about someone. Well, after that I ended up playing on the Southern California country music circuit, grew to love country. Eventually even played on TV at the Grand ‘Ol Opry and was with Freddy Fender when he got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (crossover artist: Country, Latino and Pop).

I’ve grown to love Country music – especially early country from the 1930’s to 1960’s. It’s a horrible thought to think I could have lived my life without knowing so many of the classic lyrics of country music.

So why do I write about hip hop and country in the same post? They have a very strong connection. Both styles are all about the story. The music is there to bolster what the lyrics have to say. Turning a clever phrase, finding a new way to express situations and thoughts that are universal – Country and Hip Hop share that lineage.

Those were two main paradigm shifts for me and my views of music. Now I feel that if someone doesn’t like a particular style of music, it might very well be that they just don’t understand it. Read that sentence again.

There is no shortage of people that are eager to tell us what is “real” art and what is not. Although their intention is to show how cultured they are, to me it is a sign they haven’t been around the block much.

So my message to emerging artists: Don’t make any calls on what is valid art and what is not. Do not make light of the styles that are not your own. Do your thing, push the envelope and don’t follow others down the path you’re “supposed” to take. Make your own way. Say what is on your heart, because it is YOURS to say.

I think you’ll find that if people have done a closed set of musical styles for most of their life, or make their living withing a closed genre – those are the ones that will be more likely to make derogatory comments on art styles outside their sphere of influence.

There’s no time for fellow artists to make calls on the validity of artist expression. There’s far too much work left to do…..

Q&A: How To Become a Music Producer

Email Question: Advice for a Budding Music Producer

Ok i have been talking about becoming a music producer for some time now i am 24 i have no music talent what so ever but i have a real passion for music and i know alot about it i wanna start my own record lbel and see what happens if you could give me some advice i would like that thanks for.
you time

Mike

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Hi Mike,

I have several responses to questions like this here on my website. You can find them by entering “Music Producer” into the search box. Or here are some links:

How To Get Started as a Music Producer

Legal Requirements to be a Music Producer?

What is the best Tempo for a Song?

General Music Production Questions

How To Be a Record Producer

I Really Want to be a Music Producer

How to be a Professional Music Producer

How Do I Become a Music Producer?

On my other responses I’ve talked about resources and approaches to learning the technical side of producing. This time I’ll answer your question in a different way by talking about the social interactions that I think will benefit you on your road to producing music.

The way you get your next project, is by exceeding the client’s expectations on the last project. Notice I didn’t say that you exceeded your OWN expectations – it’s all about pleasing the client. It’s important to understand what the client’s expectations are before you start so you know what your restrictions are. A big red flag is if you don’t know the client well and they say “Do anything” – if you start working on that then there’s a good chance you’re going to be re-arranging ad nauseum.

Music production is a design art, much like designing graphics, custom home building or interior design. You are taking your talents and experience to the table in order to bring the client’s vision to life. And EVERY client does indeed have a vision, even if it’s not very defined.

First step – talk with the client and just listen. Listen carefully to what it is they are looking for. Think the project through and think of all the elements needed to make it happen for them. Make sure you know you can bring the project together. If you can’t do it, don’t take the project. It’s more important to get a track record of SUCCESSFUL projects than it is to get a track record of lots of projects. “Successful” means the client is happy with the final project.

After you know what the client wants and you have an overall idea of what needs to happen to complete the project, then figure out what you need to make that happen. Make sure you have the funds, time and desire to do the project. There has to be something in it for you. If it’s a project that will give you notoriety or rare experience, you might want to lowball your price quote. If it’s something you’ve done dozens of times and you already have a rep for doing it, then stick to your price.

If there’s not something in it for you – you will do a poor job. At least that’s the way I work. For me a project either has to garner me Money, Experience or Fulfillment. If the project does not have at least one of these three elements, I don’t take the job.

Starting out you’ll want to take every job you can that comes your way. Think experience. Do your best on every project, and each one will have it’s own list of demands that will force you to learn new things. Important note: You cannot think your client is stupid. If you do, you can’t do your best work. Respect your client. I seperate a client’s vision from the client themselves – for me it’s not so important to “click” with a client as it is to “click” with their vision.

What if you seriously don’t like a client? Don’t take the job. With music production you are likely going to have a lot of interaction with this person. On the rare occassion where I truly and simply did not like a client and did not want to do anything for them, I just said “I don’t think I’m the best person for this project.” When they still press, which they will, then say “Your project will be done better by someone else.” I say this gently and respectfully. I’m saying the truth and not being rude. You are letting the client know that your #1 priority is that there project be the best it can be, whether or not you do it.

If you can click with the client’s vision, see a compelling reason to engage in the project and you have the tools and resources to deliver – THAT’S being a music producer.

TRUST – Once you have committed to the project it’s important to have the complete faith and trust of the client. That’s how I need to work anyway. Once working on a project if a client is second guessing me or jumping in and muddling things up, I’ll simply say to them “You hired me for this job, you need to let me do it.” or I’ll say “You need to throw me the ball.” I say this gently, because I am truly ASKING them for this. With rare exception, client’s understand this and step back to let the work carry on. I’ll usually tell clients upfront once we agree to go forward that I need the space and creative trust to do it. I would say that overall, to me this is the single most important part of working on a project. It doesn’t mean there won’t be changes from the client, it just means you have that creative wiggle room that makes you go “Ah, this is the best project ever!”

And a final note is on the term music “producer”. Music producers “produce” no matter what. There is no excuse. People want to know that you will get it done.

I hope that helps.

Conrad

How Did You Get Started as a Music Producer

Hello Conrad,

My name is Kaylee and I am doing research for my 8th grade school assignment. We where asked what was our career choice and I chose music producer.

I wanted to know how you got started as a music producer and what advice can you give me? I have been taking piano lessons since I was seven and music is just a big part of life.

Thank you for my time,
Kaylee

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Hi Kaylee,

I got started as a music producer by doing a series of telephone on-hold music libraries for GTE and Contel. That was my first “pro” production assignment. This was back in 1989 – MIDI had just been released. The telephone company wanted classical music but didn’t want to pay royalties of MUZAK fees, so I sequenced Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi and Mozart on my computer. At the time there were no midi libraries available like they are today, so it was a little cutting edge for corporate use back then. It started with one full length CD and ended up being a four CD library that was sold by a third company. By the time the project was done I had used all the money from those projects to buy computer gear. Inadvertantly I had started building a recording studio.

For the first CD I just did the programming and a seperate engineer and studio did the mix-downs. By the fourth CD I was doing the mixing and engineering myself.

My advice is to get serious with your piano lessons – study theory and as many styles as you can. If there’s a style of music you don’t like, that just means you need to study it more. Keep your eyes open for the opportunities that are around you. If you don’t see opportunites, then study and practice until you do.

Hope that helps.

Conrad

Questions about Schubert’s Ave Maria for Wedding

This question about the Ave Maria by Franz Schubert is in reference to my previous Ave Maria Lyrics post.

Great post! Just the info I was looking for.

I am getting married in a Catholic ceremony in a few months, and my soon to be wife had the idea of me singing Ave Maria during the ceremony as she presents Mary with flowers. In my searching the intarwebs, I came across someone who posted that Ave Maria is rarely sung by tenors and practically never by baritones.

My questions are:

1. Is this really true?
2. Is it inappropriate for a male to sing Ave Maria due to the original context of the lyrics?
3. If it is, does it even matter these days because it is more widely known in it’s Latin incarnation?
4. Is it ok for me to actually do that? (by “that” I mean do the singing during the ceremony while my wife does her thing with Mary)

Thanks for any help you can throw my way. I’ll be subscribing to your RSS feeds!

****************

Hi Tony,

Here are answers to your questions. I am Protestant, not Catholic, but I don’t think that should have much bearing on my answers since the piece was originally secular.

1. Is this really true?

Yes. The Ave Maria by Franz Schubert is most commonly sung by a female voice. But there is no reason it cannot be sung by a Baritone or Tenor. Common Baritone key for Ave Maria is A flat major. Most of the great tenors have recorded this piece at one time or another. When performing this piece with the Latin lyric text there is no definition of gender for the performer. Either female and male can sing the Latin text.

2. Is it inappropriate for a male to sing Ave Maria due to the original context of the lyrics?

If you are singing this song in a church setting, you should probably use the Latin lyrics. The Latin lyrics were added later for this purpose.

3. If it is, does it even matter these days because it is more widely known in it’s Latin incarnation?

See answer to #2. The original German lyrics makes it a secular piece, part of a song cycle. The Latin lyrics make it appropriate for use in a church service.

4. Is it ok for me to actually do that? (by “that” I mean do the singing during the ceremony while my wife does her thing with Mary)

Unless there is a Catholic-specific reason not to do this, then yes I would think it to be ok. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this piece. Although it’s commonly associated as a Catholic piece for obvious reasons, it’s performed just as much in Protestant and non-denominational settings and to my experience always welcomed with open arms.

So my vote, from a Luther-loving Protestant, is to do the piece. What a great thing to share during the wedding!

Audio Compression Settings for Kick Snare and Bass

 *NOTE: The answer to this question is based on ACOUSTIC kick, snare and bass. For compressing digital samples you can hit them as hard as you want. Your ear is the guide.*

Question: What type of compression settings should I use as a starting point on the kicks and the snares and the bass. and are there any other tube pre that are less expensive that can work , I’m on a bit of a buget and I trying to upgrade to an Pro Tools HD rig.

P.S Thanks for your info it nice for you to share this info I like to learn as much as I can.

Answer:

1) Any other tube pre less expensive that can work?

Yes. With DIGITAL preamps the idea is to not colour the sound. Alternately, the usual intention of a TUBE preamp IS to colour the sound with tube warmth. So the answer is any preamp will work that will give you the tube warmth, and it just so happens that the higher end tube preamps tend to do better at this (that’s why they’re more expensive). I prefer the Avalon, but I also have an ART tube pre. The difference is night and day, and you won’t really appreciate the difference until you hear it. My suggestion would be to google reviews to find what’s currently out that is working for audio engineers. I consider MIX magazine an excellent resource. Spending an entire day or two reading reviews on tube preamps would NOT be a waste of time in my opinion. Might be the best time you spend for improving mixes.

1) What are good compression Settings for Kick, Snare and Bass?
First thing is to know in your head what sound your going for. Where you’re going will dictate how you steer the ship. If the kick and bass guitar are meant to work as one whole, then you may want to daisy chain the bass guitar compressor and kick compressor together so they work in tandem. If you want a beefy 40kz 808 bass sound compress it hard and fast to keep it even. If it’s jazz then let the kick breathe a little. IN GENERAL your attack can be between 3 and 14 milliseconds. Release depends on the style, adjust it so there’s no “pumping”. You will destroy a mix more often with too much compression than with not enough. Don’t try to get as much overall volume as the latest major artist release, 99.9% odds if you get it that loud then you’ve crushed any life in the mix. Let Bernie Grundman and Glenn Meadows do that work, they are the masters.

If you have a really good studio bass guitar player, you won’t have to use much compression. But for most bands you’ll have to use stronger compression to “tame” the playing of the bassist. Overall I like the bass guitar working together with the kick drum, so that will dictate my compression settings which vary.

If you’re using ratios more than 6:1 then something else might be a little off. For a jazz kick you might use 12ms attack, 30ms release and 2:1 compression ratio. For a heavy metal kick might be 3ms attack, 12ms release and 4:1 compression ratio.

The biggest single tip I ever got about audio engineering: Know what you want before you reach for a knob.

Hope that helps.

Conrad

QandA: Legal Requirements to be a Music Producer

E-mail question received:

Mr. Askland, I have been producing tracks for a few years and I’m trying to figure out what to do to sell my beats legally so i decided to ask a professional with more experience. How did you become a music producer? What steps did you take to get started? Is there a certain license you have to apply for with the government or can you use a specific business license?

Response:

I’ve received several emails similiar to this over the last month. Either it’s the same person or a widespread question. I’ll assume it’s a legitimate question.

This seems obvious to me: To be a music producer you just have to produce music. There is no legal stipulation or registration involved. Think of it as being a painter. “Do I have to register with the government to be a painter?” – No, you just paint.

I think your unspoken question has to do more with sample clearance and copyright issues. I’ll address each seperate issue as to what I THINK you are really asking.

SAMPLE CLEARANCE

If you use a sample of pre-recorded music in your track, it is NOT cleared, and someone recognizes where the sample came from – you are in a bad spot. If your track has generated over $10,000 of revenue you can expect some legal papers in the mail. Copyright is seperate from Master Recording rights. One person owns the copyright on the song, and a different person can own the rights to the recording (ie: the source of your sample). US Copyright Office website.

Mechanical rights can be obtained to re-record a song already published (published means at least one copy has been offered publicly for sale). The mechanical rights only allow permission to re-record the song, not to use any source master audio material. Mechanical rights are usually in the ballpark of ten cents per copy sold. (If you record an album of ten songs by previously released material, you may pay about one dollar per CD sale in royalties). The amount of mechanical royalties varies but is “reasonable”.

The owner of the Master Recording has the right to negotiate whatever amount they like to clear a sample from it. If they want one million dollars for a two second sample, then you have to pay that or not use it. These fees are considerable. As an example: Around 1996 I used a sample from the “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast. The sample I used was about ten seconds long and only played once in the song. The owner of the master recording wanted $20,000 to use that sample in the piece which was slated to be part of a movie soundtrack.

If you’re already playing in the big leagues (which you’re not if you don’t know this info already) like Aftermath Entertainment then you can afford some sample clearances. Short of that, you need to use samples that are already cleared from sample libraries or create your own material. Quick read: Don’t use samples.

WHAT I DO FOR SAMPLES

There are a lot of “royalty free” libraries out there that really aren’t totally cleared. I’m referring to seperate stand alone websites and a lot of Ebay sales. I don’t trust fringe producers of royalty free libraries because I have little faith that they have the discipline to actually know where all their material came from. For that reason I only use cleared samples from large established companies like Sony, Roland, Big Fish Audio and Sound Ideas. For my productions I do a lot of original MIDI work and also create my own samples if I want a grainy feel, so the other samples I use are just for a little color.

Like my view on Trademarks, don’t worry about it so much until you need to. As my music became more widely heard I would run into situations where something wasn’t cleared properly. So for me it was a slow shift to tighten up on my use of samples. Sometimes a client would bring in a sample of their own and would say they knew it was cleared. My response was “That’s fine. I just need you to sign a paper that you are responsible for any legal action regarding that sample.” I never had a client follow through to sign that piece of paper. They liked relying on me for making sure the project was legal and clean. As a music producer I feel this is one of your chief responsibilites, especially in hip hop music.

SAMPLE VIOLATIONS AND COPYRIGHT LAW

There is no set time limit of how much of a sample violates copyright law. There is no “two second” rule or anything like that. So be careful.

TRADEMARKS
Trademark registration is handled by the US Patent and Trademark Office. A trademark is a name or graphic that represents an entity. You can register with the government if you like for a trademark. It will go into a waiting period for possible disputes, then become “registered” over time – usually 1-3 years. For example, the symbol for Prince is probably trademarked. As is the golden arches for McDonalds, the windows logo for Microsoft, the logos for major television stations and corporations. The name “Dreamworks” was in legal dispute several years ago between Dreamworks in Los Angeles and a smaller Dreamworks company in Florida. Google for more info, I could go on for a long time just about trademarks. Yes, I have trademarked elements of my business. Yes, it was a hassle.

I really think if you are starting out and worrying about trademarks, that you are putting the cart before the horse. It’s like recording artists that spend their time worrying about agents and they haven’t focused on their material yet. I would suggest to worry about these things down the road. For instance, the few trademarks I have personally registered were because I had entities with noticeable marketshare, and there was confusion in the market place about who was the “real” entity. So in order to keep my product lines intact I had to do it. Also, to register for Trademark you should already be doing sales nationally across state lines. Trademark is to protect entities on a national level.

If you think having a trademark is a status symbol then you need to read more information about it. It’s a tremendous burden. Once you are granted a trademark it’s your responsbility to police it’s use. Often you will read stories about major corporations going after mom and pop businesses or college students who are infringing on their trademark. Those news stories usually make it sound like the corporations are behemoths trying to control the world. Simply not true. Those corporations are under a LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY to enforce their trademarks. If the trademark becomes diluted, ie: other people are using it actively, then the trademark holder can lose their trademark. Some stories you can look up in this area are Kleenex and Xerox. In my case, I had one trademark in process that unfortunately used a name that was original on a local level but in widespread use in different variations on a national level. I finally had to abandon it because it made bad business sense to commit the amount of legal resources it would take to enforce the trademark.

BUSINESS LICENSE

If you are running a recording studio then you can obtain a business license from your local town. You don’t need one as a producer, but just for the business if you have paying clientele. These are usually inexpensive, from about $40-$100 per year just for the license.

THE EXCEPTIONS

Most of the info I’ve put out here is for people starting out. If Disney is doing a major push on a new artist then they will do everything all at once: Trademarks, Sample Clearance, Copyrights, Licenses, etc. That’s a different animal. For the rest of us mere mortals my advice is to take it as it comes along and focus on your art.

Let me know if there are particulars I didn’t cover or if you have more questions.

Email Q&A: When Did Conrad Askland Die?

Question: When was Conrad Askland born? If he has died, when?

Answer: To the best of my knowledge I am still alive. I plan on continuing in that fashion until directed otherwise. Born 1966.

Now I should add that in December 2005 I did indeed post announcement of my death on my website. I will sheepishly justify it as representative of a spiritual death and rebirth. The sublime philosophy and genius introspection of this grand act was not shared by my friends who were not very happy with me about it. In retrospect, I admit that the additional dates of body viewings and detailed instructions for funeral donations was perhaps in bad taste. You may add it my list of eccentricities and bad judgement.

When realizing my folly, the announcement was updated to: “The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated.” A Mark Twain quote many of us love, but few get to use with real life plot and drama.

On the plus side, it did provided me with several free lunches from friends who wanted to meet with me for apologies. In closing I would like to add that I am available to give apologies on any subject to anybody, as long as the task can be performed concurrent between bites of free food.

Q&A – What is the best tempo for a song?

UPDATE: “Getting the Tempo Right” – additional info at:
http://www.conradaskland.com/blog/2007/09/finding-the-right-tempo/

Email received:
I am an artist from Adelaide, Australia and am curious to know how top producers/engineers detremine what tempo a particlar song should be played at.

Much of my songwriting stems from a vocal melody, and when everything seems to be “built” around that, the overall song tends to somewhat drag a little.

Is there anything I should go by in order to get the perfect tempo (slow down vocal or riffs)?
I hope you can be of some assistance and thank you immensely for you time.
Kind regards
Michael G

************

Hi Michael,

What an incredibly fantastic question! As usual I busy myself with complicated things thinking I am making a difference in the world. You know, I have never addressed this question online – So here you go.

Your fast answer is this: There is no correct tempo for any song.

I know, not very helpful. Try this: The environment a musical piece is performed is what will dictate the “proper” tempo. Quick proof of this is to think of all the song remixes out there. A fusion jazz group may take a standard and play it at lightning speed. Or a choir may take a faster song and slow it down for a more reverent a capella presentation. (Or as a recent auditioner called it: “All Compalla”)

That is the aesthetic side of tempo, now let’s go back in history a bit:

The declaration of tempos and phrasing has becoming more specific over time. In early music composers would not notate tempos (or phrasing for that matter). It was assumed that any musician was trained enough to just “know” the correct tempo. As you can imagine, many pieces sounded different than we hear them today due to varying tempos. Even up to the Baroque Period (1685-1750) tempo markings were virtually non-existent. In my manuscripts of Bach there are not tempos or phrase markings. Editors have added these, usually in lighter print, to indicate how the piece is USUALLY played.

As a composer I cannot even describe the pain to hear someone play your own piece incorrectly. I once wrote a book of progressive etudes for piano. The book graduated in difficulty for serious piano students. I had to listen to a university professor play my pieces entirely wrong. I still hold a grudge over that and I hope that an eternity of fire awaits him for his transgression. Back to tempo…….

Over time composers have realized if they want a piece played a certain way they are obligated to mark it so. A hundred and fifty years ago songs might include tempo markings like “Allegro”, “Andante”, etc. Then more info like “Allegro non troppo” or “Moderato con anima”. In modern music it’s common to see specific metronome markings like MM=116 – which usually means the quarter note is going to be 116 beats in a minute (depending on your time signature, blah blah blah).

All of that to let you know this: I would suggest you mark a specific tempo in your music with a definate metronome marking of beats per minute. Example: MM=120 or simply write: 120bpm.

HOW TO SET TEMPOS
In hip hop music I’ve found artists don’t like to push the beats, so I set tempos on the slower side for rap. If an artist says it “feels right” at 92bpm, then I’ll click it to 90bpm. Rock bands like to push things a bit, so if I’m setting a grid and the band says it feels right around 112, I might click it to 115 or so.

In general I’ve found the tempos I set during production need to be bumped a bit for the final. If I write a song at 120, it’s just a habit to start bumping it up to 124 as I work on pre-production.

THE REAL TEST – Don’t settle on a tempo until you’ve heard it several ways. Keep bumping up a tempo until you’re absolutely sure it could not go any faster. Then take it so slow that you’re absolutely sure it can’t go any slower. This starting point gives you your window. Want to know how I learned that? By clients who knew little about music telling me to bump it up. I can think of several songs that I had started to work on around 120bpm and ended up being in the 150’s. When the client told me to bump it up I would roll my eyes at them – but you know what – sometimes it works. Experiences like that make me very humble, and I have to always remind myself that the most genius ideas can come from anybody at any time.

SETTING SONG TEMPOS
Finally to your real answer – most songs just have a groove where they feel right. Once you’ve identified the window, don’t settle on a tempo until it feels like “ah…….that’s it”. To me, it quite literally feels like you finally settled down into a bean bag chair. It will just feel right, and you’ll know it. During preproduction I absolutely OBSESS over the tempo and key, and it’s not uncommon for me to change either several times before laying real audio tracks. Sometimes I’ll even give songs a bump of two or three BPM’s during the final mix.

Some genres have fairly defined tempos – Euro Dance is almost always 130bpm. An example of Euro Dance would be “Barbie World”. 60-70bpm is a good tempo for healing music and audio therapy, many people like the purity of the clean 60bpm. I’ve done a lot of rap soundtracks in the 68-86BPM range. It always feels too slow at first, but the artists lock it down if their rap is seasoned.

Have confidence in your tempos. It is one part of what makes your productions have “your” sound. And remember, they are hiring YOU for your sound, so you need to do what YOU hear. Stick to what YOU hear, and you will never have to second guess how things should be. The next producer will set it at a different tempo according to their ears. My biggest suggestion, don’t settle on a tempo until you feel in your gut that it’s right.

I had a production where the director ordered me to bump tempo of all songs because the show had no energy. As a result, all of the songs lost the “pocket” feel for me, I didn’t like it at all. To me this is an incorrect use of tempo. Tempo is about groove and feel for a piece, not for pumping caffeine into a dead horse. But I always yield to the Director, it is their vision you need to feed into. They were happy with this so I did it, but with much pain. I hope you don’t find yourself in a similiar situation. Always know the pecking order, and always know who you need to answer to. Some day you’ll be the head producer, and you will really appreciate others following your lead when you have a vision for a piece.

I hope this helps. I’m happy to provide more info….but I have blathered on so long you are probably currently asleep at your keyboard with drool running down the monitor.

Conrad

keywords: tempo, finding right speed, improve groove, find speed song

QA Email – Seussical Sound Effects

UPDATE: Now you can Download Free Seussical Sound Effects.

E-mail received:

Hello,

I happened to come across your website this evening while I was doing some “net surfing” for Seussical the Musical.

I am the music director for our high school’s musical theater productions, and the Orchestra Conductor and myself are trying to work out all the instrumentation and sound effects issues.

What caught my attention was the way you ran the sound effects on you laptop through a kepyboard. COULD YOU BE SO KIND AS TO ELABORATE!! Information on the program you used and how to create the sound bank….even how to connect the keyboard would be AWESOME! We can handle all the instruments, but the sound effects have us a little freaked out!

Thanks so much for ANY help!

Eric
Director of Choral Activities
Waynesboro Area Senior High School

Music Education Advocacy Committee Chair
Pennsylvania Music Educators Association District VII

Choral Director — Gold Tour
American Music Abroad

***************

Hi Eric,

Here is a link to my sound effects used in Seussical the Musical.

I didn’t think Seussical was very sound effects intensive. I identified 10 sound effects needed for our production. In comparison, I just finished a run of the non-musical version of Peter Pan and was running sixty-four sound effects for that show.

Here is the list of sound effects I used for our Seussical production:

SOUND EFFECTS FOR SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL

Slide Whistle (you’ll get better samples than performing this live)

YOPP! (Jojo’s yell in Act II – I process multi-tap delay with panning, so it “calls across the universe”)

Elephant Call

Egg Hatching

Explosion

Water Splash (For the Cat’s sneeze onto the Planet of Who, my own twisted addition)

ACT II Entracte – Overture clangs and bangs

Thunderstorm (To add to ACT II melodrama string music)

Bird Chirp

Animal Grunts (For intro of Monkey Around, listen to CD)

Dog Bark “woof”

All of these sound effects can be done well from a CD player. To trigger sound effects I use Kontakt by Native Instruments which is a virtual sample keyboard. I load in my sound effects and map them onto a virtual keyboard. Then trigger these sounds from a laptop via a MIDI keyboard. To do this you’ll need a laptop, Kontakt software, a MIDI keyboard and a USB midi device. Total cost starting around $2000 for all if you shop around.

I prefer running sound effects this way so I have control over the final product. I also played the keyboard one parts, so it was very natural for meto reach over and trigger a sound effect at my keyboard rig. I only played piano in the parts that needed it, otherwise I conducted and let the orchestra do it’s thing. We had a twenty piece orchestra so it was a pretty full sound. You’ll probably find that the Reed One, Two and Three parts will have to be split among multiple players. Check my “Seussical” section here on my blog for details about instrumentation.

Hope that helps. If you’re a control freak player/conductor/audio engineer like me you’ll have fun mapping a custom sample bank. Otherwise leave the sound effects to your sound crew and you’ll be fun. The challenge to me for Seussical is the almost non-stop music; and keeping the orchestra tight on the wide variety of grooves.

Email Q&A – Christianity and Homosexuality

Email from forum member:

I’m checking out. Advertisements for homosexuals doesn’t belong on this website. I don’t want to be associated with filth.

*screen name omitted*

******************

This member is referring to my bible discussion website at www.Bible-Discussion.com – With few exceptions, my public forums are open to public discussion from a wide variety of viewpoints. The forums are a blank canvas for members to discuss and debate related issues. On my forums I have contextual ads running, which means that ads are displayed according to the content of the pages. If you are on my motorcycle forum, you will see ads for motorcycles. This member was posting in the “Homosexuality and the Bible” section of my Bible Discussion website. The website contains around 50 some discussion topics on bible related issues. Because they chose to discuss in the “Homosexuality and the Bible” forum of that website, the ads displayed were from related groups – a mixture of gay Christian organizations, mainstream non-profit Christian groups and retailers of Christian related products. The “filth” he refers to is not porn or adult related. It is from gay Christian groups running ads, and occassionally also anti-gay Christian groups trying to reach gay Christians.

This member also posts: “I’m a born-again Believer, frustrated over all the confusion “out there” among Christians, resulting in so many denominations (and a few cults masquerading as Christian). The discussion groups I have been a part of reflect that confusion. How can we Christians counter the onslaught of Islam if we don’t understand our own faith? Perhaps THIS discussion group will offer something that the others haven’t ~~ so far.”

So my answer to this member, who lasted 3 days with a total of 13 posts (on a free public forum) is this: It seems you have a history of condemning those that do not believe as you do, I see no inclination for that pattern to be changing anytime soon.

You see it fit to condemn gays and Muslims – I do not. Of course, you are free to disagree with me on my own discussion forum; the forum that I pay and upkeep so people like yourself can disagree and debate, for free.

And when finally no Muslims or homosexuals are left (having all been “fixed”), then we can attack the Buddhists and Hindus. Once they are gone we still have left the Wiccans, B’ahai and other weirdos. Then onto Mormons – let’s not forget atheists and Unitarians – they are nasty breeds. Finally we will have weeded them all out from the “true” faith, and it will be you and I alone on an island. In time we will find that one of us does not have the truth, perhaps an askew interpretation of the Trinity or some other theological device. And then only one of us will be left, and the world will finally be as it should be.

Let me share a story with you, one that I doubt you will enjoy. When I was younger there were many people who mistook me for being gay. It’s not something I encounter so much as an adult, but as a youth engrossed in the arts and with a fair complexion. I attended Pacific Lutheran University, a good Christian school in my opinion. In my Freshman year I returned to my dorm room to see someone had spray painted “FAG” on my dorm room door. No doubt this act was fueld by a misplaced religious conviction. I was the brunt of several homophobic attacks at that University and also later in the workplace. It still boggles my mind that these actions took place at a Lutheran University. Is this the testament of our Christian faith, to spend our time pointing fingers and condemning? As close a parallel I can draw is what the author of “Black Like Me” must have experienced when he was mistook as an African American in the South. In that very small way I have known the pain of the gay community. And I knew from that experience at PLU that I would never condemn a gay person the way others were condeming me.

I do not get a message of condemnation from NT scripture, I receive one of compassion and understanding.

I see no reason to condemn either homosexuals or Muslims, and I do not view either as “filth”. The closest thing I can label as “filth” is fundamentalism, of any religion. It is mankind’s cursed creation.

“Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come.” – Casting Crowns

.
IF WE ARE THE BODY – Lyrics
By Casting Crowns

It’s crowded in worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls’ teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

CHORUS
But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances tells him that his chances
Are better out on the road

CHORUS
But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the Body of Christ

Chorus (2x)
If we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus is the way

Email Q&A – General Music Production Questions

Dear Conrad,

After reading your biography, I can appreciate your work ethic and “rules to live by”.

My wife and I have successfully raised two children through high school and college and we’re proud to say we have two degreed, positive, productive citizens to our credit; a school teacher and a civil engineer.

I played jazz acoustic bass and electric guitar in my musical past I was also a radio air personality by trade for many years and I love what music does for me daily; good movie soundtracks, radio, or my favorite artists. I want to build a retirement lifestyle that I enjoy and motivates me.

If you would be kind enough to outline your view of basic recording/production studio equipment I would appreciate your guidance.Â

My questions are;

1.     Are you a standard mixing console guy or laptop with recording & production software?
2.     If you use laptops, do you recommend Apple or MS?
3.     What is you preferred choice of microphones?
4.     Do you play instruments during or in accompaniment to your artist productions?
5.     A&R; do you just supervise, mix and master your artists?

Regards,

Jeffrey

****************

Hi Jeffrey,

First of all, my disclaimers: I consider myself a feeble pawn in a world of enormous talent, this is just my input to your questions and not necessarily “the way things should be done.”
1.     Are you a standard mixing console guy or laptop with recording & production software?

Both. I recorded analog for ten years before switching to digital. Recording tracks analog is great, but for editing I prefer digital. For mastering a combination of analog and digital gives you the best of both worlds. For editing, I can accomplish in two hours on ProTools what used to take me DAYS on analog. When I look back on all the hours I spent editing analog for dance and electronica tracks before digital, I could just cry.

2.     If you use laptops, do you recommend Apple or MS?

Have you seen the latest invasion of Apple ads? MAC will let you run Mac software AND MS software, so for all my future computers I would go with Mac. I currently own 12 PC’s and one MAC, but times are changing, Mac is back. (Which is ironic since I now live about 40 miles from Microsoft). My understanding is you can have both operating systems running, and just flip between them.

3.     What is you preferred choice of microphones?

What’s the application? For vocals I like the Neumann TLM103 or a good tube mic like Groove Tube, but not for every vocals. Vocals are a precarious animal because for some vocals a Sennheiser 421 is the best pic, which defies logic. For vocals on a serious track, I try 5 different microphones with the vocalist – then listen to them blind and pick my favorite by ear. If I pick the same one 3 times in a row, then that’s what I use. For other instruments and applications there are ones I gravitate towards, but would be too long a list without knowing the specific instrument.

4.     Do you play instruments during or in accompaniment to your artist productions?

Depends on the project. As producer my job is to get the artist/artists to a finished product. If that calls for keyboard tracks, midi layers and sampling – then yes I do those tracks. If it’s a style that I’m not strong on then I would call in a session player, but for most styles I’m the strongest player I know – so I do the tracks. I will bring in guitar players, solo instrumentalists, background singers and percussion on most projects.

5.     A&R; do you just supervise, mix and master your artists?

If I’m producing and mixing, then I have someone else master. If someone else did the mixing, then I’ll master projects that come my way. It’s important in the mastering process to have a fresh set of ears. By “supervise” do you mean promoting the artist and guiding them in concerts? No. The reason is that I consider this a very scam oriented side of the industry that I really can’t stomach – in addition I can’t guarantee results like I can with my audio production work. I have really never understood the whole concept of artists getting managers right out of the gate; from what I’ve seen it usually ends in disaster. I feel strongly that artists should perform A LOT, and don’t worry about looking for managers and promoters until you need them. Artists often use managers and promoters as scape goats, like they will magically make everything happen. When an artist talks to me about management before they’re project is done I don’t take it as a sign they are thinking long term – I take it as a sign they are not focused on their art.

And with all this remember that I don’t yet have a Grammy award on my mantle, so it’s quite possible I am a bumbling idiot and my counsel should be avoided at all cost.

🙂

Conrad