Cadenza Method™

For the purposes of this article, the discussion will focus on live microphone technique, rather than studio performance, which I will write about in a later article.

Most singers start out learning their craft singing without amplification, e.g. in choirs, at a piano etcetera; some may discover their talent via karaoke nights at local bars. There will come a point when you begin using microphones more and more and it’s good to know your equipment.

MICROPHONE BASICS

One thing that is common among beginners, and sometimes with singers who have performed for years, is not holding the microphone properly or failing to utilise it in a way to get the best sonic results from the equipment.

Holding the mic round the shell may look cool but impedes sound quality and can create unpleasant feedback. And don’t blow, tap on or drop the microphone, and please please please do not swing…

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Effective Practice

(Some of the points I raise here may be more applicable to playing an instrument, some targeted at singers, so use your judgement when reading and apply what you find helpful to your own musical journey.)

A topic that frequently arises when tutoring students is the importance of sticking to a regular practice schedule. Perhaps because it is a reminder of schooldays homework, or because is in addition to younger students’ workload who are still at school or college, but some players who enjoy playing during class and melodic repertoire are loath to practice regularly (and effectively) at home.

Students who shirk practicing think tutors don’t know. We know! Trust me. I’ve used all the excuses in the book to get out of practicing. Tutors who have taught for years are also able to gage the rate at which you should be progressing with a good teacher and regular time set aside for practicing.

If you don’t commit, you are only cheating yourself.

This next sentence is the most important part of this blog entry, so please read and re-read it until it sinks in.

Regular practice is the most important thing you can do to improve as a player.

Let’s read it again.

Regular practice is the most important thing you can do to improve as a player.

Did you get that? Are you making best use of your practice sessions? If not, why not? Think about what changes you need to make in order to better the outcome of your rehearsal sessions.

Everyone who plays should practice and practice can often be fun. For me, as a perfectionist, my fun is in seeing the progress I make, regardless of study content, but students who need a little more motivation (particularly younger learners) may need to find fun material to work with (catchy melodies etc).

Rudimentary mechanics is the basis for all great performance, so take your medicine in the knowledge it will make you a better player. Most importantly, structuring your practice will help you maintain regular sessions.

Below are some ideas I have for you.

FOCUS ON THE FINISH LINE

What do you want to achieve from playing your instrument? Close your eyes and visualise it; see yourself doing whatever it is that you want to do, be it performing onstage at the BBC Proms or Carnegie Hall, touring with a live rock band, or teaching others. See yourself already doing it.

Inhale slowly through the nose and then exhale slowly through the mouth, all the while seeing your future self in your mind. Visualisation is half the journey and helps you accomplish your goals more quickly. It is done!

Me as a child, playing with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra

Me as a child, playing with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra

SET TIMES

Decide when you can best practice and stick to that slot daily. Maybe you prefer to play as soon as you get home from school or work, or maybe you’d rather have a rest first and then get to it. Whichever works best for you is fine.

Make sure to rehearse for at least half an hour every day. Longer is preferabl for intermediate and advanced students as the first portion of practice sessions merely warms up the fingers/larynx/lips etc and wakes up the mind; I find with busy students, this in itself can take up to an hour to accomplish – especially if practicing at the end of a stressful/busy day – so if time permits, spend another half hour or more actually playing the study pieces. Younger students and beginners can start with twenty minute sessions.

If you have been playing for longer but can only find twenty minutes in your day to practice, do it and do it daily! Don’t beat yourself up about having small amounts of time free to dedicate to your musicianship, just knuckle down and do it. Quieter times will come when you will be able to extend your sessions, but for now, it is better to be consistent and have daily practice than play for an hour or two one day and then do nothing for two or three days.

The mind and body needs repetition in order to make playing your instrument a habit. Think about when you learned to walk or tie your shoes. These activities are second nature now and need little to no thought, but initially, you would have had to concentrate in order to accomplish them. We want wonderful playing and singing to come as naturally to us.

One thing to note:

If you are overly tired, not concentrating, or unable to play/sing (cracked lips, sore throat, sore joints, stop. There’s no point in worsening your state or wasting time. If it is a matter or tiredness or concentration, go and do something that fires up your brain or relaxes you – whichever you need – and then come back to play.

FIND YOUR SPACE

There is no perfect space in which to practice. Some people prefer to work in noisy environments, others in quiet solitude.

Find the best place for you.

Set up your music stand, ensure your books are at hand, and try to leave your instrument there so it becomes a dedicated practice space. When not touring, I have one of my violins on a stand in plain view from anywhere in the room; seeing it reminds me to play and I practice more often than I would if it were locked away in a case.

MAKE NOTES

I’m not just talking about the audible ones; write down what you do during your sessions. At the end of the week/month/year, you can see visually how much you have accomplished. If you do not have a teacher who provides goal sheets or keeps regular notes in your homework diary – perhaps you are teaching yourself or working with a friend – find your own way of metering your progress. Set goals for the next day and then mark off each goal as you achieve it. This could be a list of scales, a difficult passage in a piece, anything you decide.

ACTUALLY DOING IT

Don’t just idly play through your material, give each note or syllable full attention. Practice standing u, if you are able, and breathe regularly and in a relaxed fashion.

SWITCH IT UP

If you are practicing alone, play with a friend and vice versa. If you usually start with technical studies, begin with a piece from your repertoire and then play through your studies. Change when you play your scales, or if you start with major scales and arpeggios, start with the minor ones. Whilst the repetition of practice is essential for growth, making changes in how you practice help keep you on your toes. Join an ensemble and better your sight-reading and awareness.

START AT THE MIDDLE (OR END)

When playing longer pieces, especially if they are dificult, starting at the beginning can be a waste of time. You may find there is a point at which your mind switches off and you keep making the same mistakes, or there’s a tricky passage that always gets the better of you and so you play something else instead. Sometimes, simple boredom can throw you off.

Attack it.

Start with that section, regardless of page number. If it is tricky, slow down and play it at a pace you can manage. Maybe the bowing trips you up, or position changes. Focus on what makes the passage hard to play and go over it again and again. Repetition is key to muscle/mental memory.

HIGHLIGHT MISTAKES

It is tempting to skip past difficult passages that you consistently play in a sloppy manner. DON’T. Go back and try again, taking it SLOOOOOOOOOWLY. Take those few bars and play them until you’ve mastered them.

I will touch upon these points in more depth in a future article. For now, happy practicing!

Best,

Emma Diva

Copyright © Emma L. M. Sweeney 2012. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder, except as follows: You may repost this article on your website or blog, providing the articles and author are not depicted in a negative manner, and you have linked back to this original page.

Pop stars anonymous – Session musicians

They’re on hundreds of hits – but you won’t know their names. Graeme Thomson meets six session musicians who’ve made everyone from Girls Aloud to Paul McCartney sound better.

I refuse to call them backing vocals, it sounds so nondescript,” says Beverley Skeete with an imperious giggle. After two decades of singing “complementary” vocals with everyone from Tina Turner to Robbie Williams, Skeete has perfected her pitch. “We make a huge contribution. When I listen back to Let Me Entertain You I think, ‘I helped to make it like that,’ and I’m very proud.”

If making great music is almost always a team sport, session musicians are the undecorated journeymen. For every Cristiano Ronaldo hogging the glory, there’s a rump of dedicated pros keeping their heads down and the show on the road. Listen to Girls Aloud’s Sound of the Underground and what leaps out: the technical brilliance of the vocals? Don’t be silly. It’s that irresistibly twangy guitar, brought to you by a sessioneer called Shawn Lee. Or try to imagine Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side without Herbie Flowers’s hypnotic bass line. Impossible.

Though session musicians are sometimes caricatured as musical mercenaries, eyeing their bank balance as they phone in another slick, soulless performance, the six players interviewed by OMM here displayed humour, humility and passion about their work. Traditionally session musicians had to be able to read music and do what they were told, whereas the modern breed play by ear and have greater scope for creativity. Geraint Watkins, who has played piano with Van Morrison, Paul McCartney and, most impressively, Shakin’ Stevens, makes a distinction between what he does and “someone who can read music and play anything at the drop of a hat. That’s a bit sterile, like a machine. I like things a bit looser.”

Most of them have a history of dodgy record deals, a few obscure singles, band mates that let them down. They might blame bad luck, management or timing, but in their hearts they know they lacked that quirk of DNA – rampant ego; ruthless ambition; the X factor – that stardom demands. Having drifted into session work many, including Watkins and Skeete, still release records, play solo shows or put songs on MySpace. Fame, however, is no longer an ambition. Instead, they serve other people’s songs without overshadowing the main attraction; on stage they are often less visible than the dancers.

There is no hint of bolshie attitudes. The key is to be reliable, professional (cliched rock’n’roll misbehaviour is liable to result in a P45), discreet (a good session musician practises omertà), adaptable, patient and, above all, get on with people. “You’re Only as Good as Your Last Gig” is the mantra. Follow the rules and playing sessions can be a good living, but in the age of ProTools, slashed production budgets and reduced record sales there are no guarantees. None of the six musicians employs an agent or manager, instead relying on word of mouth, chance, and established connections, while they all operate a flexible scale when it comes to fees. It doesn’t always work. Watkins recalls once doing “six songs for 100 quid”, while Skeete has learned to steer clear of the “dangling carrot” syndrome – play now, get paid when the song is a hit. But what if it isn’t?

As long as artists and producers are honest and upfront, music usually takes precedence over money. “If I hear a young band and I really like the music, we’ll work out whatever they can afford, pretty much,” says Pino Palladino, the Welsh bassist whose fretless sound defined the 80s as surely as JR Ewing and the Rubik’s Cube, and who is now a permanent touring member of the Who. “The only way I remain enthusiastic is by playing on stuff I feel good about. You can get very cynical if you just turn up and play the notes.”

Between them, our six-piece session band has performed at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and the Hollywood Bowl, Glastonbury and the Grammys, Central Park and the Colosseum, while their recorded work has reached hundreds of millions. Not a bad return, even if they remain unknown and, like any other job, the work can be a grind. “Get up early, fly out, stay in a hotel room facing a car park, go straight to a windowless room and play for 12 hours,” laughs Palladino. “There’s not a lot of glamour in that.” So why do it? “I wanted to be a musician,” he says. Simple, really.

1. Beverley Skeete

Instrument: Vocals

Sung on … Walk on By (Gabrielle), It’s Raining Men (Geri Halliwell), Return of the Mack (Mark Morrison), Millennium, Let Me Entertain You (Robbie Williams)

“You have to do what the song requires. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the music, you have to make it your cup of tea because your enthusiasm can turn it into something it might not otherwise have been. It’s very unforgiving: if the artist is wrong, it’s a little artistic moment; if we’re wrong, we’re sacked! But I’m doing what I always dreamed I’d be doing. I was rehearsing with Annie Lennox once and I got a session with Tina Turner. I was watching the clock so I could rush off, but Annie wanted to go over something. Of course I couldn’t say to Annie, ‘Can you hurry up, I’ve got a better offer!’ Eventually I get there, late. I ring to say I’m outside and Tina takes the phone and says, ‘Hey girl, I been waiting on you. You better be damn worth it!’ I get through the session sweating buckets, and afterwards I said how honoured I was to work with her, and how sorry I was. She said: ‘Honey, you were worth it!’ It was one of the highlights of my life.”

2. Pino Palladino

Instrument: Bass

Played on … Wherever I Lay My Hat (Paul Young), Get Here (Oleta Adams), Alone with Everybody (Richard Ashcroft), Surprise (Paul Simon), Endless Wire (the Who)

“On some of the early Paul Young stuff it was shocking to me how loud they’d mixed the bass. I was playing all the hooks, so that sound became identified as bringing success, which is bullshit really. It’s about the song, the timing, all sorts of factors, but there are quite a few artists I’ve worked with where I’ve contributed more than they would have expected, coming up with sub-hooks that make the record better. It certainly worked for me; for a few years people were phoning from all over the world wanting that sound. It became a pain in the arse eventually.

“It’s important to be able to reinvent what you do. When the call came to play with the Who I was working with Erykah Badu and D’Angelo, and I had to change my whole style. The manager said: ‘John [Entwistle] is dead. Can you do a gig at the Hollywood Bowl in three days’ time?’ You don’t turn down something like that. It was only afterwards that I thought about the consequences. Pete Townshend’s direction was, ‘Play whatever you want, just as long as you play loud!'”

3. Karl Brazil

Instrument: Drums

Played on … All the Lost Souls (James Blunt), We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things (Jason Mraz), Songs for You, Truths for Me (James Morrison)

“I did an album once which I won’t name where I replaced every drum track that had been recorded. We call that demo-itis. Making James Blunt’s album, on the other hand, was one of the best experiences. We toured together as a band then went to LA for four weeks for the album – it came out exactly as we made it. It’s probably the simplest gig I’ve ever done, but he really makes you think about what you play. He’s got great craft, and he’s a witty guy, really humble. I don’t get too defensive about him, but if somebody walked up to me in a pub and called James a right so-and-so, I’d have a go. Personality is so important. If I’m putting a band together, you have to have a great bunch of people. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re only on stage for two hours max; the rest of the time you’re at airports or on buses together, so you have to get on.”

4. Geraint Watkins

Instrument: Piano/Accordion

Played on … This Ole House (Shakin’ Stevens), Back on Top (Van Morrison), Run Devil Run (Paul McCartney), Fashionably Late (Linda Thompson)

“No click tracks for a start. I hate that thing banging away in your head when you’re trying to play. That’s why recording with Van Morrison is really good, because it’s all live. He records everything from the minute you start; there’s plenty of bloody pressure with Van! Sometimes he just sits with a guitar and starts singing. We’ll start playing along and when he finishes that’s it – that’s the take. I wish it could always be like that. It really is a buzz, because there’s no hiding place. McCartney was a little more particular – do this, do that – but he wasn’t coming out with the stuff he’s got the reputation for, telling you exactly what to play. He was all right with us. Is it a good living? No, not really. I’ve got my thing, but it doesn’t quite spread far enough. I like being a sideman, though. I think you need a bigger ego than I’ve got to have a solo career.”

5. Simon Clarke

Instrument: Saxophone

Played on … (as a member of the Kick Horns) Parklife (Blur), Screamadelica (Primal Scream), Connected (Stereo MC’s), Want One (Rufus Wainwright), Firin’ in Fouta (Baaba Maal)

“We’re all classically trained. I studied the flute but got bored, came to London in 1982 and started playing sessions with Roddy [Lorimer, trumpet]. The crucial moment came when Roddy thought of the name, the Kick Horns. That made all the difference. There’s lots of passionate people in music and they all work differently. Rufus Wainwright’s producer Marius de Vries will have Midi files of melodic lines, and it’s very clear how he wants the horns to work. Then we might work with the Stereo MC’s and Rob [Birch], a lovely man with a great imagination, will say ‘I want to hear something a bit like this,’ and sing terribly quietly while we desperately try to work out what he wants. We first worked with Eric Clapton a few days before his Albert Hall gigs. He played us one song, sent us off to a room for 10 minutes, and then we had to play with the band. That was scary. But it’s always collaborative, always full of variety. I once came home to find a note from my wife saying Michael Field had called. I was busy but eventually I phoned back. Turned out it was Mike Oldfield.”

6. Milton McDonald

Instrument:Guitar

Played on … Spiceworld (Spice Girls), Light My Fire (Will Young). Tours: Ray Davies and Take That.

“Doing this work is 50% ability, and then all the other stuff: social skills, the ability to listen with an open mind. I’ve played on some records I wouldn’t play at home, let’s say, but I treat it all with respect. I can find something worthwhile in almost anything. Often the guitar isn’t a feature – nobody is going to particularly notice what I’m doing on a Spice Girls record – but you have to keep your ego in check. I’ve played live with Take That almost from the start, and that’s a really nice gig because their shows cover a lot of styles. There are loads of dancers and effects, a massive production, but whereas some people would do the music in a cheap way, they never have. It feels like quality. Playing with Ray [Davies] is the same, but that’s purely musical.

“Am I discreet? It’s not in your interests to talk about anything you’ve seen. I’m working for people who are friends, too, so I wouldn’t do it anyway. It’s a carefree life, in a way. If you shirk responsibility it’s not bad. Week for week, it’s good money, but there are quiet times. Then when I’m busy I’m busy all the time: my children don’t see me, and it’s hard to have any kind of home life.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/jun/14/session-musicians-girls-aloud-paul-mccartney

Dance music singers should be seen and heard

Written by: Terry Church

Barbara Tucker, Michelle Weeks, Kenny Bobien and other famous house music vocalists appeared on stage at Britain’s Southport Weekender last weekend. They weren’t on the bill. They weren’t invited. They weren’t even real. But “if you weren’t paying attention, you would have sworn they were actually there in person,” says US DJ Kerri Chandler, who conjured up the apparitions in the middle of his set.

Kerri Chandler believes singers should be seen and heard. He feels so strongly about this, that he built a system that enables him to project singing and dancing 3D holograms of the vocalists behind the tracks in his collection, as he plays them in clubs. He hopes that by taking the spotlight away from the DJ booth and shining it onto the vocalists, their efforts and talent will be recognised.

“You never see vocalists in the clubs anymore,” says Kerri, who seems angry, perhaps even sad about their absence. “Nowadays, it’s all about the DJs and the producers, but the singers behind the records, the beautiful voices that gave house music its soul, deserve attention.”

Read more

‘Trippin’ News

Great news! ‘Trippin’ is currently charted at #17-18 on Beatport, really great news for all of us 🙂

http://www.traxsource.com/index.php?act=show&fc=titles&cr=genres&cv=19&ca=top

Also our track has been featuring release at Traxsource and been selected as “Progressive Essential 20” track for the month.

http://www.facebook.com/colorlessmusic You can be updated about everything through here x