Ever since the release of compact disc in 1982, we’ve had 44.1kHz. Most of the music which has ever been released in a digital format has used this sample rate; millions of albums, both on CD and more recently as MP3 and AAC downloads. 44.1kHz has been with us for a long time but the question is, do we still need it in the modern world and why was it chosen as a sample rate in the first place?
During the development of CD, one of the requirements was that the format must be able to reproduce the entire audible frequency spectrum. This is generally quoted as being roughly 20Hz to 20kHz for human hearing. It was known from Nyquist’s Theorem that in order to reproduce any given audio frequency, the sample rate had to be at least double the highest frequency you wanted to reproduce. This meant that CD had to sample at a rate of 40kHz or higher in order to cover the audible frequency spectrum. In the early days of digital audio, storing the equivalent of a CD album worth of digital data on a hard drive wasn’t possible because the drives of the time simply didn’t have sufficient capacity. Video recorders were therefore re-purposed to store audio samples as black and white video signals. In the US, these video recorders ran at 30 frames per second and had 490 useable lines per frame (excluding blanking lines). It was decided that 3 audio samples should be stored per line of video.
3 samples per line X 490 lines X 30 frames per second. This gives us a total of 44,100.
In the UK, video recorders operated at a slightly different resolution and frame rate. Once again though, if you store 3 audio samples per line of video, the maths still works out:
3 samples per line X 588 lines X 25 frames per second. Again, we get 44,100.
As you can only store a whole number of samples per line (1,2,3,4,5 etc), 44.1kHz was the minimum sample rate possible in order to fulfil the nyquist requirement and also to allow for CD masters to be stored on video tapes.
The Two Families Of Sample Rates
By contrast, TV production and modern digital video workflows have always used 48kHz as their standard sample rate. Multiples of both 44.1kHz and 48kHz are also now fairly widely used. In certain workflows, higher sample rates can be of use. The two common sets of sample rates today are:
CD derived rates:
Video derived rates:
Why Do We Need So Many Sample Rates?
It’s evident that 44.1kHz was borne purely out of the technical constraints at the time of the development of CD. Its derivatives, 88.2 and 176.4kHz only exist because they’re mathematical multiples of it. As we move away from physical formats and into an era where most content is delivered electronically, is there really any reason to keep 44.1kHz? Obviously, we’ll need to retain the ability to work with legacy content at that sample rate and to be able to produce CD masters for as long as the format still exists, but shouldn’t we now just move to 48, 96 and (where required) 192kHz? I’m very interested to hear your viewpoints on this.
Even if you’re locked away in a basement for eight hours a day with a metronome and a torturous practice book that is equal parts Mel Bay/Guantanomo Bay, you’re still not assured of transcendent six-string skills. Sure, you may get stenographer-like dexterity and harmonic book-smarts up the f-hole, but playing soul-shaking music often requires a more diverse skill set. But this doesn’t mean that attaining the level of expression produced by someone like Jeff Beck necessitates a life of guitar monk-dom.
First, don’t worry about the transcendent and unattainable talent of Jeff Beck. That’s just silly. What you need to do is ensure that whatever you play makes the hair on your arms stand up and quiver with bliss and excitement.
Here at Guitar Player, we figure that if you’re going to expand and maximize your talents, you may as well learn from the best. So we offer these 25 tips from cats who know their stuff—from rock royalty to jazz patriarchs to any-and-all top-of-their-game bad-asses.
Hopefully, you’ll find something in these cosmic, practical, and musical nuggets of wisdom that will kick that rut-raddled mind of yours into higher gears of inspiration.
1. Joe Satriani
“Moving into uncharted territory is a key ingredient to making your practice sessions a success. Playing the same stuff over and over will only take you so far. Introduce a new set of chord voicings, tunings, or scale patterns to your routine every week. It’s not necessary to know how to implement the stuff right away, just make your fingers go to new places, and let the musicality follow naturally.”
2. Carlos Santana
“A good way to crave your individuality is to get a tape recorder and get into a room that’s kind of dark—where you don’t have interruptions—and then just play with a rhythm machine. After a while, it’s like a deck of cards on the table, and you can begin to see the riffs that came from this guy, the riffs that came from that guy, and then the two or three riffs that are yours. Then you start concentrating on your riffs until you develop an individual sound.”
3. Steve Lukather
“The most important thing to remember when you’re attempting to increase your speed is to relax. Don’t push your muscles beyond what they can give. Practice for about a half hour, and then take a break. You can always resume after a few minutes. This is especially important when you’re trying to get seriously twisted patterns under your fingers. I used to sit in from of the TV when I was a kid, and alternate-pick scales very lightly. I wasn’t really paying attention, and it actually helped that I wasn’t concentrating so much, because I stayed relaxed, and yet I was able to build up my technique and stamina. But never keep playing if you start to feel pain. Ever. Tendonitis is no joke.”
4. Jerry Garcia
“To work on picking dynamics, plug into a practice amp and turn your guitar all the way up. Then play arpeggios—very quietly at the beginning, and then gradually louder by adjusting your touch. The goal is to vary your dynamics, but not change the position of your hands. Many guitarists change the way they hold their hands when changing dynamics. As a result, they end up with a ‘light-touch’ group of licks—the very fast stuff—but they don’t develop any power. What you want to achieve is continually making those conversions back and forth from quiet to loud picking.”
5. Rusty Cooley
“Wherever your guitar is when you’re sitting and practicing is where it should be when you’re standing. I discovered this the hard way. Years ago, I’d practice my solos sitting down—and I’d nail them—only to go to rehearsal and blow it because my right- and left-hand positioning was completely different when I stood up. Now, most players think it looks uncool to wear your guitar up high, but I think it’s cooler to sound kick ass than it is to look cool and suck! Zakk Wylde slings his Les Paul really low, but as soon as a solo comes up, he’ll put his foot on a stage monitor to raise his guitar up. Hell, Tom Morello wears his guitar so high that he says it sometimes hits him in the chin. So, for the sake of killer guitar playing, raise ’em up!”
6. Barney Kessel
“Keep your guitar out of the case and handy. Practice short periods—anywhere from five to 45 minutes—many times throughout the day, rather than for one prolonged period. Often times, five minutes is enough time to work on a technique or musical passage. The whole idea of practice is to get your reflexes working like a gunfighter’s, so you can pull out that gun and be instantly hot.”
7. Nels Cline
“Don’t listen to unimaginative naysayers when it comes to personal creative expression. At some point, there will no doubt emerge a conflict between the rules of instrumental mastery, and the need to follow one’s own intuition. Be strong! The only so-called advancements in art—forget about commerce—have come about when someone has either boldly modified or completely disregarded the norm. Those who deviate must stay true to themselves.”
8. Dave Wronski Pickup Balance
“To balance your pickups, plug your guitar into something with level meters, such as a 4-track recorder. Play each string individually, and adjust the pickup height until the level of each string hits the same point on the meters. Typically, you’ll have to lower the bass side of the pickup. If your guitar’s overall output is quieter than what you had, simply turn up your amp to compensate. The benefit here is string-to-string clarity.”
9. Jimmy Page Room Miking
“There’s a very old recording maxim that goes, ‘Distance makes depth.’ I’ve used that a hell of a lot—whether it’s tracking guitars or the whole band. People are used to close-miking amps, but I’d have a mic out around the back, as well, and then balance the two. Also, you shouldn’t have to use EQ in the studio if the instruments sound right. You should be able to get the right tones simply with the science of microphone placement.”
10. James Hetfield
“For heavy rhythm, it has to be downpicking. It’s absolutely key. It’s tighter sounding, and a lot chunkier.”
11. Oz Noy
Moving In Stereo
“Try using two amps and some stereo effects to get a bigger sound onstage. A ping-pong delay sounds huge when you stand between both amps, and any type of stereo chorus, flanger, phaser, or, in my case, a Leslie simulator, creates the illusion of an even wider sound. Panning your signal from side-to-side is a cool effect. I do it using a stereo Ernie Ball volume pedal. I like the amps to be almost identical, while others—including Stevie Ray Vaughan—prefer two amps that have different sounds that compensate for each other. Finally, it’s important to understand that unless both of your amps are miked, and panned left and right in the house, nobody except you will hear the stereo effect.”
12. Jeff Beck
“Over-indulgence in anything is wrong—whether it’s practicing 50 hours a day, or eating too much food. There’s a balance with me, as there should be with everything and everybody. I’ve tried to keep it so that I’m able to execute the ideas that come out, but practicing too much depresses me. I get good speed, but then I start playing nonsense because I’m not thinking. A good layoff makes me think a lot. It helps me get both things together—the creativity and the speed.”
13. Al Di Meola
“A good way to work on alternate picking is to choose three or four notes, and work on those. Too often, players who are trying to improve their right hand dexterity get hung up by trying to play too many notes with the left hand. I hear a lot of players running whole scales from the sixth string to the first, and playing them really sloppy. Keeping it very basic—using only a few notes—and playing slowly with perfect rhythm is a task in itself.”
14. Marty Stuart
“The greatest musicians are knowledgeable about music’s roots. Experience provides authenticity for the music we create. Eric Clapton and Keith Richards can teach you a mess of blues, but it’s good to find out about the original artists whose tunes they covered, such as Robert Johnson. It’s like the old saying: ‘How can you know where you are going, if you don’t understand where you’ve been?’”
15. Deke Dickerson
“Use your pinkie! When I first started playing, an older country musician told me to keep practicing with my left-hand pinkie—even though it felt awkward—until it was second nature. That was the best advice I ever got. You were born with five fingers—don’t forget to use ’em all!”
16. Stevie Ray Vaughan
“Use big strings. I like a set with a .013 E string, but I’ve gone as high as a .018-.074 set. They’ll eat your hands, your tuning pegs, and your amp, but they sound great.”
17. Wes Montgomery
Hang in There
“It takes time to develop every aspect of your technique. A lot of people don’t realize the crises you’ve got to go through. I used to get headaches when I started doing the octave thing, but, over time, I was fine. All it takes is to hear a little improvement in your playing, and that little bit of inspiration is often enough to push you even further.”
18. Eric Johnson
“Remind yourself that you’re free to feel great instead of reserved or insecure. When you’re feeling good, you’re more apt to take chances onstage, and if you make a bunch of mistakes, it won’t matter. It’s almost like you’re the instrument, and the music is flowing through you like electricity. Like John Coltrane said—the paramount aspect of being a musician is to try to get more in touch and in tune with yourself. When you do that, its like returning to the center and everything emanates from there. You automatically become a better musician in becoming a more aware individual.”
19. Dickey Betts
“Learn to damp notes to control feedback and noise when playing slide at high volumes. Many people play slide with a pick, and then use the heel of the hand or something to control the sound. The style I got from Duane Allman is to use the thumb and the first two fingers without a pick. If you have glass or steel on your left hand, and a plastic pick in your right, you are completely isolated from your instrument. What you have to learn to do is to strike a note, then stop the note with the fingers before you strike another one, so only one note sounds at a time. It works kind of like a damper pedal on a piano.”
20. Joe Pass
“Practicing eighth-note lines with a triplet feel is very helpful for improving one’s rhythmic feel for jazz. Of course, the best way to get a jazz feel is to play with records or with a group. It’s something you’ve got to inherently feel. A lot of rock players have such a straight-eight feel that they can’t play jazz. They’re too stiff.”
21. Steve Vai
“Try to separate yourself from what your fingers are doing and listen to the amp.”
22. Allan Holdsworth
“When playing legato, try to make all of the notes come out at a consistent volume. To achieve even more control, practice accenting the notes that aren’t picked.”
23. Pete Townshend
“For an electric guitarist to solo effectively on an acoustic guitar you need to develop tricks to avoid the expectation of sustain that comes from playing electrics. Try cascades, for example. Drop arpeggios over open strings, and let the open strings sing as you pick with your fingers. It’s kind of a country style of playing, but it works very well in-between heavily strummed parts and fingered lead lines.”
24. David Gilmour
“A bit of delay can smooth out the unpleasant, raw frequencies you get from a fuzz box. I have two units, and I have different echo settings on both. There are times when I have both running at the same time for certain effects. During solos, I usually try to set the delays to have some rhythmic time signature in common with the tune. I usually set them to a triplet—the notes all intertwine, so it doesn’t really matter anyway, but I find that a triplet delay is very melodic.”
25. Eric Clapton
“Don’t play every lick you know before the end of the set, because then you’re screwed. You’ll just end up repeating yourself. But it’s a very youthful thing to jam—it’s like sowing wild oats. But as grow older, you become interested in doing something more lasting. You have to settle down and make everything count—make sure what you do is worthy of being heard again. I’ve become more devoted to the song, and I feel that jamming, unless it has a goal at the end of it, is pretty much a waste of time.”
Peter Hodgson of gibson.com thinks so. Here’s his article, “From Zakk to Jimmy Page: A Study in Strap Length”
We guitarists reveal ourselves to the world in a lot of different ways. Our note choices, the tones we choose, the notes we avoid, styles we gravitate to. Playing music is a very personal form of communication, unique to every individual, yet it’s also a universal language with enough common information to be understood by anyone. And just as with verbal communication, body language is crucial when it comes to guitar. You can tell a lot about a guitarist by how they wear their instrument. And that is the crux of our hypothesis today: that strap length is directly related to personality and musical style. This is merely a hypothesis, one of many possible interpretations of the strapular-guitaristic-personality matrix.
There are six main guitar strap length personality types: Low-precise, Low-relaxed, Mid-precise, Mid-relaxed, High-precise and High-relaxed. There are very, very few exceptions – for example, those who exclusively play sitting down, or who have an entirely unorthodox technique like WWIII guitarist Chet Thompson, whose party trick is playing the guitar upside down with the body on his shoulder and the headstock between his legs, with both hands on the fretboard.
Zakk Wylde is capable of incredibly nimble feats of guitar daring. The speedy ascending licks in the “No More Tears” solo, the epic harmonics of “Harvester Of Pain,” and of course nailing the neoclassical fury of Randy Rhoads nightly on stage with Ozzy Osbourne – all are indicative of Zakk’s technical command of the instrument. But watch Zakk in concert and you’ll see that the guitar itself is part of the performance, not simply an instrument to perform upon. Zakk wears his guitar low and if that’s the perfect position from which to blast out a fast alternate-picked chugging riff like “Parade Of The Dead,” so be it. But when it comes to laying into those precise solos, Zakk typically hoists his Les Paul into a much more shred-friendly position. Whatever it takes to do the job, Zakk is able to do it while simultaneously stalking the stage like a heavy metal viking god.
In the studio, Jimmy Page is a sonic explorer, a brilliant arranger and producer, and a man who can craft three-dimensional musical experiences seemingly as easily as breathing. But on stage an entirely different side of Page’s musicality comes out. The studio craftsman is pushed aside by a swaggering rock god, the ultimate guitar hero, with exaggerated gestures and sure, the occasional gloriously sloppy note. Page’s onstage blues-meets-prototypical-metal style doesn’t just work better with a low-slung Les Paul: it practically demands it.
Joe Bonamassa is that rare kind of player who lives in the moment yet never seems to lose control of what they’re expressing at the same time. He has the ability to see in between each beat, each note, and pull out the most perfectly phrased licks and melodies time and time again from his Les Pauls (such as the Gibson Custom Joe Bonamassa Les Paul and the Gibson USA Joe Bonamassa Les Paul Studio). If you watch his hands while he’s playing, there isn’t a single muscle twitch that seems to be out of his control, yet the musical results are always human, never mechanical.
Paul Gilbert is still a very precise axeman – that’s why this category called Mid-relaxed instead of Mid-sloppy – but he’s the perfect example of a player who wears their guitar mostly around the mid level (around tummy-height rather than sub-belt or encroaching-on-chest) and who employs their whole body in playing guitar. In clinics and lessons Gilbert is fond of expressing the importance of using ones’ picking hand as a type of metronome, letting it travel far away from the strings before crashing right back down on the perfect beat. It’s the same type of approach used by great funk guitarists like Nile Rogers, whose pioneering rhythm style is dependent on the physical manifestation of rhythm.
The electric riffs Tom Morello has pumped out with Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave and Street Sweeper Social Club are deceptively nuanced and intricate. Just listen to the fine details in the rhythm guitar work of “Killing In The Name” by RATM or Audioslave’s “Revelations” – surely Morello wouldn’t be able to rock out that hard or play such sensitive arpeggios if he was slinging his strap down at Johnny Ramone levels.
Albert Hammond Jr.
One half of the guitar team from The Strokes, Albert Hammond Jr. is instantly recognizable even in silhouette: his distinctive ‘just out of bed’ hairstyle and high-slung guitar are very identifiable. Hammond regularly employs a very loose picking technique that appears to originate from his elbow rather than the wrist, and his guitars are worn at precisely the right height for maximum efficiency and attack. And if you listen closely to The Strokes in headphone it becomes immediately apparent who is doing what. Nick Valensi handles more of the lead and single note work, while Hammond’s insistent, consistent strumming technique makes him a rhythm guitarist in the truest sense of the word.
Students from Purdue University’s School of Mechanical Engineering recently developed the Ghost Pedal, a wireless device that uses sensors attached to the guitar player’s foot to create a wah effect—minus the physical pedal.
“Because Ghost Pedal is wireless and does not have a physical pedal, guitar players can activate and use their wah distortion effect anywhere on stage at any time,” said Robbie Hoye, part of the the Ghost Pedal team at the university in West Lafayette, Indiana, talking to the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch. “They also have the ability to deactivate the effect whenever they choose.”
Once the Ghost Pedal is turned on, the user enters a 10-second mode during which the variable resistor calibrates the ability to flex the foot from the floor. After calibration mode, the guitarist enters freeplay mode.
“During freeplay, the user actively manipulates the wah level by changing their foot’s angle from the floor,” Hoye said. “The calibration mode adapts itself to modify the resistance sensor to each user and their foot flexibility at the touch of a button. Ghost Pedal and traditional wah pedals use the same motion to activate the wah effect; the guitarist doesn’t have to learn a new motion.”
For more on this story, give Google a try. For some reason, there’s not much out there.
Last weekend at the ASCAP Music Expo at the Loews Hollywood Hotel I attended the Music Supervisor panel containing 5 music supervisors who actively place music in film and television.
Over the course of my career, I’ve had about 30 TV placements (20 in the last year from my new record). I’ve gotten songs placed on high profile shows that are known for their music, like One Tree Hill and shows you’ve never heard of, where music is very much “background,” like Friendzone. And everything in between.
And I’ve also been 1 week away from having a song on So You Think You Can Dance. Contracts were signed. The only problem was, the contestant who was going to dance to my song got bumped. Balls.
There is no one way to get music placed on TV (or in film). In addition to how I’ve gone about it, I’ve spoken with many of my musician friends who make livings on song placements about this.
“A qualified professional who oversees all music related aspects of film, television, advertising, video games and any other existing or emerging visual media platforms as required.”
Music supervisors are the actual people who take the cues from the producers and director when the “picture is locked” and underscore the picture with songs. The composer underscores the picture with original, scored compositions written specifically for that scene.
Sometimes (most of the time) music supervisors use the instrumental version and most of the time it’s just a small snippet of the song (however, now I have to brag a bit, One Tree Hill used all 3:43 of my song – words and music. But that’s very rare).
On the ASCAP panel sat Rebecca Rienks, who currently places music for E! (you know those promo montage spots that always seem to have Ryan Seacrest looking… Seacresty); Holly Hung, who primarily places music in film trailers; Jeff Gray just finished a feature film; Lindsay Wolfington (who placed me in One Tree Hill), mostly works on TV shows; and the moderator, Jason Kramer, is a music supervisor at Elias Arts, a music production company that specializes in original music composition and sound design for TV, films and commercials. Kramer is also a host on Los Angeles’ KCRW.
They rapped for just over an hour about what types of music they look for, day to day challenges (mainly dealing with producers who say stuff like “can you make this more purple?”) and showed us some of the spots they’ve placed music in.
“As long as it fits and tonally hits everything that it needs to hit, it doesn’t matter if it’s an indie band, somebody not signed, somebody just dropped, if it works it works.” – Holly Hung, Music Supervisor
Hung told a story about working on a trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. She said they had a Coldplay song as temp music and she spent 3 weeks looking for a replacement for it. She scoured iTunes and found a band who had just gotten dropped by their label and the singer was currently working at Starbucks. She used the song and the band got $80,000 for the placement.
Getting Music To The Music Supervisors
As you can imagine, music supervisors get inundated with emails from people wanting their music placed. Be it musicians, licensing companies, publishing companies, managers or just fans of the supe (that’s short for music supervisor – and yes they have fans), supes can get overwhelmed and are very picky about HOW they will take submissions.
DO NOT ATTACH MP3s
There’s no correct way to get music placed, but there are a few incorrect ways. All supes on the panel said do not attach mp3s to an email. It clutters up their inbox and will go directly to the trash (and your email will probably get blocked).
How To Get Your Email Opened
Hung said to put who you sound like in the subject line. Like “Sounds like Coldplay.” Keep the body short and to the point and only send the songs that make sense for the project that supe is working on. So, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Do not send your tear-jerker ballad to Rienks who needs upbeat, fun, exciting music for her E! spots.
How To Get Your Song Listened To
In the email, include links to where the song can be quickly listened to (without having to be downloaded) where there is ALSO an option to download it if they want to use it. Also, directly below the song, include a link to the instrumental.
Wolfington mentioned that she loves Box.com. Box.com (unlike Dropbox) will open a window with a player and it has a download link in the upper right hand corner. Very convenient.
Do not include links to ALL of your music. Send the best 1-3 songs that will work for that supe’s current project.
If the supe wants more of your music, she’ll ask.
In the email, it may help to list a couple distinctive adjectives below each song or key lyrics. Like:
epic, explosion at end,
key lyrics: “I will find the artist inside me”
full wav: link to box.com
instrumental wav: link to box.com
And yes, always upload .wavs. Not mp3s. If the supe wants to experiment with your song in the spot, she isn’t going to want to have to REEDIT in the wav once she realizes it’s a low-quality mp3.
If you don’t have a publishing company, there are companies out there who solely pitch music to music supervisors. Unlike publishing companies, they do not own any part of your song. Similarly, though, they will not go hunt down your mechanical royalties around the world for you (like publishing companies will).
Some will take a back-end percentage of your performance royalties (like from ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN), and others won’t. Some will work with you non-exclusively and others (the more established ones) will require you to work exclusively with them.
Typically licensing companies will take about 30-50% of the total sync fee and 30-50% of the back-end performance royalties.
All network TV shows have a budget for music. Most higher profile cable TV shows have a budget for music. Most reality shows have a very tiny budget for music and will not pay you for the placement unless they have to.
Network TV shows will typically pay $3,000+ (depending on the spot and your level of clout). Cable TV shows will typically pay $750+ and reality shows on cable mostly pay indie artists nothing. Movies, trailers and commercials typically pay the most: $20,000+.
But these are very loose numbers. I’ve heard of major label artists getting $30,000 for a cable show and indie bands making $80,000 for a trailer.
Before you breakout the pitchforks for the reality TV show producers, you won’t NOT get paid EVER for these spots, you just won’t get paid up front. Meaning, many of these shows will ask you for the rights to place your music for free, knowing that you’ll make back-end songwriter/publisher performance royalties from your PRO (Performing Rights Organization – ASCAP, BMI, etc). If you get a bunch of these kinds of placements, they can really add up. It just takes about 9-18 months to see that check, though. These shows also (to compensate for their lack of payment) do a decent job of maximizing the band’s exposure. Most shows have an entire music section on their websites that list all music from each episode with links to iTunes and Spotify and to the bands’ websites. The Real World also puts the name of the song and the artist on the screen while the song is playing.
So, it’s not completely free. It can be pretty decent exposure.
And hey, if you don’t want to let them use your song for free, there is no one forcing you to.
Also worth noting, you don’t make any performance royalties when the movies are shown in theaters. There’s no legitimate reason why. It’s one of those messed up parts of the music business.
Pay To Submit Companies
There are companies like MusicXray.com, Sonicbids.com and Taxi.com who charge you to submit to music supervisors (oh you also have pay to become a member) for consideration. Taxi.com openly admits that only 6% of their artists get some kind of deal (who knows how many paid submissions they already submitted). But one of the music supervisors on the panel (I’ll withhold who) when asked about these companies, said, “it’s bad business.”
I’ve never actually heard of anyone getting a placement through these services. If you have PLEASE post it in the comments.
You have to see it from the supe’s perspective. They want music from people they trust, like licensing companies, publishing companies and musicians who they have a relationship with. Not some service that pushes out music where the only barrier for entry is a fee.
How To Get In The Door
Now that you know HOW to submit, how do you know WHO to submit to? Well, simple, do your research. The first handful of placements I got were from watching TV shows, noting the kind of music they used, looking at who the music supervisor was (they’re always listed in the ending credits – or on IMDB), Googling a bit to find their email, and cold emailing. Actually, I tweeted Lindsay Wolfington my song for One Tree Hill.
They’re all mostly on Twitter too.
Above all DO NOT SPAM them. This is a quick way to get blacklisted and blocked. Be polite and respectful. Make sure your emails are short and to the point.
If you don’t get a response don’t think they’re not interested. Wolfington mentioned that she puts all of these emails in a folder and when she’s looking for music, she sifts through the folder. So make sure your links don’t expire.
If you want to find a licensing company, there are a ton out there. Google around for a bit. Ask your friends who have gotten placements who they use. Check the credits of films to see who the song is “Courtesy of” – if it’s not a label, it’s most likely the licensing or publishing company.
I get asked all the time who are some good licensing companies out there, and the fact is, I don’t know all of them. I don’t know most of them. I’ve worked with a handful of them and have a few now who pitch me (non-exclusively), but it’s pointless for me to share this information because then the few licensing companies I know would get flooded by your emails. Do your research and find the company that’s the best fit for you.
Getting songs placed on TV shows and in movies is a highly sought after part of the music industry. Some musicians make their entire income off of it. Many companies do exclusively this. Like any avenue in the music industry, if you want to do well, you must put in the time necessary to master it. You can’t blast out 50 emails to 50 music supervisors and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. It takes years of building up relationships, networking and trial and error. And again, DO NOT send out music that is not right for the show (or underdeveloped). That gives a bad name to all self-pitching artists. Every time a supe gets an email from an artist with shitty music or music that is completely different from what she places, she is less likely to open another email in the future. Don’t hurt your fellow independent musicians. Be respectful and be professional.
Mac DeMarco’s “Salad Days” uses a cliché theme in a fresh way. (Photo by Coley Brown)
How do we define cheesy? What separates a lyrical motif from a cringe-worthy cliché? And is there any way that these songwriting taboos can actually work in your favor?
The answer to the latter question is simpler than defining the errors. If you’re aware of the tropes you’re tripping over, the work can be understood as satire, irony, or camp. Another option: pair familiar lyrical lines with an otherwise unconventional song. None of those suggestions are foolproof, and it’s not a guarantee that your use of cheesy or cliché wording will make your music unlistenable. Figuring out what works in any particular situation, as always, is ultimately up to you.
Here are some of the most commonly relied-upon songwriting clichés, and why they’re mistakes – plus instances in which they were successful.
Whether it’s playing “Stairway to Heaven” until your fingers bleed or always finding yourself in the center of a group of people intent on singing “Wagon Wheel,” some things are common to all guitarists.
Including, as it turns out, their brain chemistry.
For starters, guitarists literally have the ability to synchronize their brains while playing. In a 2012 study in Berlin, researchers had 12 pairs of guitarists play the same piece of music while having their brains scanned. They discovered that the guitarists’ neural networks would synchronize not only during the piece, but even slightly before playing. So, basically, guitarists can read each others’ minds better than they can read music.
That synch happens in the areas of the brain that deal with music production and social cognition, so it makes a real difference in how tight a band sounds. When people talk about a band’s chemistry, this may well be what they’re seeing. It also explains why brothers are the core duo in so many famous rock bands.
But part of this ability to synchronize actually comes from one overarching truth about guitarists: they’re more intuitive than most.
It sounds weird to solo while hooked up to a scanning machine, but a few brave guitarists pulled it off and contributed a major finding to the science of guitars. Researchers found that, when a guitarist shreds, he or she temporarily deactivates the brain region that routinely shuts down when achieving big-picture goals, signaling a shift from conscious to unconscious thought.
And when mere mortals (non-musicians) attempt a solo, the conscious portion of their brain stays on, which indicates that real guitarists are able to switch to this more creative and less practical mode of thinking more easily.
All of the research makes it clear that guitarists are just super spiritual, intuitive people. Think about anyone from the Jimmy Page to the Edge right on up to Bon Iver. That sort of intuitive thinking runs all the way to how they learn. Unlike musicians who learn through sheet music, guitarists, according to researchers at Vanderbilt University, get a better grasp of a song by looking at someone playing it rather than reading the notes on paper.
The intuition might come from one truth every guitarist knows: playing guitar transcends basic brain chemistry. In a famous incident, Pat Martino, a renowned jazz guitarist from Philadelphia, had 70% of his left temporal lobe removed in his mid-30s due to a hemorrhage. When he came out of surgery, he couldn’t play any longer.
But guitar-playing is about more than any one part of your brain. Within two years, Martino was able to completely relearn how to play the jazz guitar. Scientists everywhere have used his brain as an amazing example of cerebral plasticity. For guitarists, he represents something else — playing guitar isn’t a skill. It’s a way of being.
Story originally posted on policymic.com by Jordan Taylor.
There is a false assumption about songwriting that some magical moment of inspiration will suddenly strike a person sitting in a room with a guitar, causing them to give birth to a small piece of artistic brilliance and until that happens, it’s not worth picking up a pen and a piece of paper.
It’s true that inspiration can come from a variety of places, but the hard reality is that just like playing an instrument, great songwriters become great by practicing. It’s especially important to remember that early results are almost never that promising. It’s okay to write a crappy song. The key is figuring out what about the song wasn’t so great and what needs to be done to improve it.
In the meantime, there are exercises you can do on a daily and weekly basis that will strengthen your writing muscle and make you a better songwriter. Some of these are tried and true techniques, some are a little bit outside of the box. Some of them may work wonders for you, some may not. Every writer learns to find what processes work best for them.
Learn, Play, and Diagram Your Favorite Songs
Influences are a big part of every songwriter’s individual sound. The hard part is figuring out how to absorb your favorite writers and let their influence seep into your own creative process without copying them outright. Learning to play and perform a song that someone else wrote is one way to learn from the inside out what it feels like to sing from that writer’s perspective. The reality is, you will never be able to perform it the same way they do, so take liberty in interpreting their song with your own voice. Memorize the lyrics, practice and learn it as if you were preparing to perform it. Really let it sink in.
Freestyle Write and Record It
Freestyle, stream of consciousness writing is deceptively simple. Training your mind to spit out new ideas without stopping is a discipline in and of itself. Whether your playing guitar, DJing in Ableton, singing and playing piano or whatever medium you prefer to write in, freestyle writing can not only be a discovery tool for new ideas, but can also reveal crutches and patterns that you lean on too often. Make sure and record yourself and listen back, you might be surprised as to what you hear.
Write With Someone Else
It’s always a good idea to try out writing with another writer, whether or not they are more or less experienced that you are. There are always methods you could pick up, but more than anything writing with someone else forces you to put ideas to paper. Writing alone can often include distractions, but when you have a set aside time in front of someone else there is more of a sense of urgency to create something. Don’t expect every co-writing session to be fruitful, remember that a lot of these are exercises to make you better . You might not end up with a great song at the end, but the process can teach you a lot.
A complicated song with multiple sections and a fully developed theme can often be a daunting task to jump right into. An award winning prolific writer told me about this exercise. Write a series of verse/chorus combinations and think about each of them like a point/counterpoint. Identify one idea and flesh it out. Follow it up with a second idea that counterpoints that idea – melodically, lyrically, rhythmically, however you see fit. Once you’re done and this two part creation is complete, start over and do it again. Some of these ideas might even turn into actual songs, but you can’t expect them all to be great ideas. Again, it’s all about the exercise.
As we get older, there are more and more responsibilities that get in the way of practicing. For most adults, the 10-hour days spent glued to your instrument are long gone. I’ve encountered the same issue and have thus tried to really streamline my practice. In doing so, I’ve found (or have been shown) some really great methods to maximize efficiency in the practice room.
Note that many of these tips will be twice as effective if you’re also working with a private instructor. If you can’t afford it, there are many organizations that offer scholarships to those who want a tutor. I highly recommend trying to find a way to get lessons.
1. Go into it with an actual plan
No matter what the subject is, having a plan of action is the key to efficient progress and productivity. Practicing an instrument is no different.
Keep a record of what the weak areas of your playing are. (If you’re unsure about where you’re weak, see my second point.) Your primary focus should be on addressing these weak areas until they’re no longer weaker. That’s improvement, right? But take it a step beyond that. If you know what you need to work on, keep a list of the songs and exercises that are going to help you the most, and make a detailed plan every day about what specifically you’ll be doing.
As far as your practicing goes, try to have both long-term and short-term plans. First, set your ultimate goals. Where do you want to be a year from now? Five years? From there, you can make weekly or monthly goals that will serve as stepping stones to reach your primary goal. Then, set daily goals to help you reach those weekly/monthly goals. Even if you aren’t able to do as much as is on your plan, as long as you’re taking steps towards your goals every day, you’ll reach them.
2. Record yourself
The microphone tells no lies. Recording your practice is essential, as it allows you to see and hear any weak spots in your playing loud and clear. It’s especially essential if you aren’t studying with and getting feedback from a private teacher, as this will basically let you see yourself from an outside perspective.
Recording yourself is also a wonderful way to keep track of your progress. I tend to record the things that I’m working on once a week, so that I can see the progress I’ve made over the week and adjust my goals for the following week. After a while, you’ll have long log of practice time, and going back to listen to old recordings can be very inspiring, as you’ll get to see just how far you’ve come.
While audio is great, video is even better. If you have a webcam on your computer, this whole process can be quite easy. Taking video will allow you to hear and see any issues with your technique. Try it out!
3. Keep a consistent time frame
Consistency is the key to lasting progress. It’s much more effective to practice 30 minutes every day rather than 2 hours every other day. This consistency will not only allow you to retain information better, but will also keep your technique from dropping below its full potential.
Again, I can’t stress enough that consistency is the key. Let me run you through a few scenarios: First, say you have 30 minutes to practice during the week, but two hours on the weekends. Even if that’s the case, stick to 30 minutes. Rapidly increasing your practice time, especially by that large of an amount at once, will put a ton of stress on your body and could lead to performance injury. Your mind also won’t be used to focusing for that long, and you’ll probably have trouble keeping up that high focus for very much of that time period.
Second, let’s imagine that you’re sticking to 30 minutes a day, every day. However, on Tuesday, you only end up practicing 15 minutes, and decide to add that onto Wednesday’s practice. But then, you miss practice altogether on Wednesday, and decide to add that time onto Thursday for a total of 75 minutes. Practicing this way is a straight path to performance injury, and I absolutely advocate against it. Life happens, and if you have to miss a day of practice, then you have to miss a day. Oh well. But if you find yourself consistently missing practice days, you may have a daily goal that’s too ambitious, and you might need to reduce your daily practice time to better suit your schedule.
4. Warm up
If you aren’t warming up, you’re missing out. Many players reach a point where they choose to forgo warming up. However, just like even professional athletes take time to stretch, it’s essential that you give you hands a stretch prior to heavy activity.
If you don’t typically warm up before you practice, try it out for a week. Even something as simple as running a couple of scales to a metronome will do the trick. I assure you that will be playing better, simply because your hands have woken up.
5. Use a mirror
This is one of the easiest ways to be your own private teacher. A mirror is instant visual feedback and will allow you to check on your practice posture and see any glaring issues in your technique. If you don’t have the means to take video recordings of yourself or aren’t recording yourself every day, then practicing in front of a mirror will do the job.
It doesn’t necessarily need to be a mirror, as long as it shows you a reflection. I’ve used large, reflective screens and webcams in a pinch. Give it a shot, and see if you notice any technical issues in your posture or playing.
6. Apply concepts to songs
If you aren’t applying concepts to real world scenarios, you aren’t going to be able to retain or use the information. As soon as you have that new scale, chord voicing, or lead lick in your fingers, pick a song and start using it. Sometimes when I learn a new chord, I’ll try to play an entire song using only variations on the shape I’m working on. Or I’ll work with a backing track to practice exercises, or improvisation using the scale that I just learned.
This is also a great way to learn new songs. Once you know a song well enough, try to pick something new to apply concepts to. This will allow you to get to know the song at a pretty deep level, and once you do, you can move onto more tunes.
Rehearsals are great places to try out new concepts (unless you’re involved in an important/big budget production where mistakes could cost you your job), as you’ll be able to see if you know them well enough to apply them on the fly. If the rehearsal is casual enough, you can also ask your bandmates for feedback regarding your new technique. They may even want to learn it from you!
7. Practice mentally in between sessions
In addition to my regular practice routine, I’ve recently started practicing through visualization as well. I often find myself with idle moments during the day when waiting for the bus or friends or sitting between classes. I’ve been taking this time to mentally run through new songs or run over new concepts in my mind. (It may sound crazy, but it’s been scientifically proven that mental practice is actually extremely effective, and really does make you better!) This is also a good time to run through music theory concepts; reciting the circle of fifths or spelling chords in your head is a great way to check your comprehension. You have to have a pretty vivid imagination to make this work, but I encourage you to give it a try!
8. Slow (way) down
If you take nothing else from this article, this is the big point I want to drive home: slow down! It’s far more difficult to play slowly than it is to play fast, and practicing things slowly will really drive in the information and muscle memory, thus allowing you to play quickly, but also accurately. Did I just tell you to practice slowly if you want to play fast? You bet I did.
Establish your “perfect tempo.” This is the speed at which you can play what you’re working on cleanly without mistakes. If you can’t do so, then you’re going too fast. The more you play slowly, the better your time feel will get, and the more precision you’ll develop. And it’s precision, rather than speed, that will typically get you hired.
Dylan Welsh is a freelance musician and music journalist, based in Seattle, WA. He currently plays in multiple Seattle bands, interns at Mirror Sound Studio, and writes for the Sonicbids blog. Visit his website for more information.
After almost five years, lots of speculation and a few Nick Littlemore disappearances, in March local titans Empire of the Sun announced they were coming back with a new record. The long-awaited second album Ice on the Dune wouldn’t be here until June 4, but the boys did have one sneak peek planned: Empire would make their live return at Sydney’s Opera House, as part of the 2013 Vivid Live line-up. They’d play two dates – both of which would end up selling out – and preview material from the new album as well as working through hits from their ARIA-sweeping, platinum selling debut.
It was an important couple of shows for the duo – by their own account, the live show is a vital part of the new Empire story. “It’s mainly a similar story to what we set out writing the record about,” frontman Luke Steele dead-panned to inthemix. “My head piece creates dreams of the world and animals are born. They get stolen by the King of Shadows and there is corruption so we have to set out on journey to regain my head piece to restore sanity to the world.” With that, inthemix set out to catch Empire’s grand return and, just as we did at Kraftwerk, learned a few things on the way…
1. Nick Littlemore is hard to pin down
When the lights dimmed, the smoke machine kicked into gear and the music started to swell, Luke Steele was lifted onto stage on a rising podium, fist raised in salute and headdress on. Nick Littlemore, however, was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he was off writing new Pnau material. He could have been busy scoring Cirque de Soleil with Elton John. Maybe he was just at home on the couch, watching his bandmate do it for the both of them on the Vivid live stream. We can’t tell you where one half of Empire of the Sun was, but we can be sure that he wasn’t at the Opera House.
It’s not the first time Littlemore’s been conspicuously absent, either. “It was kind of heartbreaking at first, I was like…you’re not going to come on the road?,” Steele told Pedestrian about his bandmate’s absence from the Parklife ’09 tour. “But we’re in the same band! Then he just said to me, “when there’s real money on the table give me a call”. And I was like “I don’t know real money you’re talking about, if a million dollars for five shows isn’t real money, then I don’t know what is”. So I was like, okay, I’ll go tour it.”
2. Back-up dancers and costume changes aren’t just for pop stars
How many costume changes does it take to put on an Empire of the Sun live show? About 10, apparently. Throughout the 70-minute set, Luke Steele and his small army of very flexible back-up dancers proved they’ve mastered the art of slipping backstage for the blink-and-you’ll- miss-it costume change. Luke swapped headdress and cloak a couple of times before winding up in a gold lamé number for the big encore, while the dancers worked through a string of skin-tight bodysuits adorned, variously, by fluoro pink guitars, red tutus around the neck, mounds of white fluff on their shoulders and other feats of design I can’t adequately describe. Step aside, Katy Perry.
3. People like the new stuff
Second album Ice on the Dune might not be out yet, but that didn’t stop the crowd enjoying it just as much as that platinum-selling debut album (even if sing-a-longs weren’t on the cards). We Are The People and Walking on a Dream were obvious standouts, but the biggest moment of the night was reserved for the encore of new single Alive. So if the Opera House audience is any gauge, Ice on the Dune is going to fare alright.
4. Just because it’s a seated event, doesn’t mean people are going to sit down
It was bad news for lazy types who were looking forward to sitting down for the show (yes, that’d be me) because midway through the third song, Luke Steele commanded everyone to stand up. Unfortunately the Opera House isn’t really made for dancing, instead permitting only an awkward shuffle in the metre square you’ve been allocated. But that didn’t bother the crowd, who by and large seemed to relish the chance to throw in the odd fist pump.
Besides, sit down and the rows of bodies in front of you will block the theatrics happening on stage – which, really, is as integral to the show as the songs. “It’s pretty much as important as the music,” Steele told inthemix before the show. “It’s like the colour of the skin of the music or the blood or the hair. It’s all encapsulated. Like Chad Atkins said “people hear with their eyes”. That’s the quote I always use.” So there you go.
5. The days of smashing a guitar on stage aren’t over
Dance music audiences aren’t often treated to the unpredictable on stage element live music has. Sure, there was that time Skream unplugged his mixer and handed it to someone in the crowd (“I was clearly smashed,” he later admitted) but for the most part, DJs are usually pretty well behaved on stage. So when Luke Steele ended the show by smashing his guitar on stage with no shortage of force, it was hard not to enjoy the spectacle. Was it all a bit over the top? Sure, but that’s Empire.