Rock crew Of Limbo talk home-studio recording and their debut LP ‘Nicotine’

Long Beach, CA’s hard-rock crew Of Limbo decided to record at home rather than pay huge for a big-name studio. The sparkling production quality of the resulting debut LP album, “Nicotine,” stands as proof the DIY record can sound as titanic as any hit produced at West Beach. They told us how they made it happen.

Why did you decide to self-produce your record rather than going to a professional studio?

Well we did commission the help of a producer, Keith Sorrells [of Project K Studios in Tustin, CA] in the creation of “Nicotine,” so it wasn’t self-produced. However, we certainly didn’t go near a “professional studio,” with all the recordings being taken either at Keith’s house or ours (Jake and Luke).

The decision to avoid the studio really boiled down to how particular we are with our sound. We didn’t want to constantly be under the gun, from feeling pressure about nailing the takes immediately, to being unable to give the songs the attention and time they needed to really come together.

Unless you have your own studio, you’re always gonna be on someone else’s clock. That’s not the feeling we wanted to have whilst developing our first full-length record.

Did you allow friends/family in the studio during recording? Why/why not?

Absolutely not. No reason for them to be there. Imagine your friends having to sit through you diagnosing and agonizing over every 10 second clip of the music all day long. They’d hate it, you’d hate them resenting it. It’d all be bad. In general, we don’t like to show anyone anything until it’s a finished, polished product.

What rooms did you record in, and how did you set them up for good acoustics?

The drums were recorded in Keith’s studio room. It had nice wood floors and an open, spacious layout, so we were able to get some thick, beefy drums sound off the bat.

The vocals we recorded at our home studio. Honestly, we didn’t really do any acoustic treatment to the room at all. Just pressed record and let Jake rip.

Guitars and bass, ha ha, we recorded in Keith’s laundry room. I guess it was the closest thing we had to an isolated room sound, so we went for it. I remember one time, about halfway through recording, we were working on “The Devil You Know,” when we heard a weird low rumble coming through on some of the guitar takes. We thought it was some ground hum or house buzz from bad electricity. Ha ha ha, the washing machine had turned on.

What difficulties appeared first?

Man, there were difficulties all throughout. It took us a long time get it up to our standard. I’m not sure what was the first problem we encountered, but they never stopped coming. We just worked our way throughout the better part of a year until it finally sounded right.

Got any recording tricks you learned, or which worked out for you particularly well?

Laying down scratch tracks as close to the finished product as possible before you even start proper recording.

That was hugely helpful to us. Not only did it help us prepare for and limit the number of surprises throughout the recording process, but it also gave us confidence from day one that the record was gonna turn out the way we wanted and expected it to.

Not to say there won’t be changes, but it’s good to have a road map.

Did you use the overall feel and sound of any album as a benchmark? Do you feel you got it right?

Hmm, there wasn’t an overall vibe of another record that we were looking for, but there were certainly elements of many different records that we looked to incorporate. Marilyn Manson’s “Eat Me Drink Me” was hugely influential in our approach to the drums. We wanted to keep it simple and huge.

How did you decide on the songs to record, and how many of them to record?

The songs chosen were really just a combination of which were most ready and best sounding at the time.

As to the amount, six, that’s a separate question. Our songs are long, averaging around 6:30 on that record. By the time you’ve got six of them (including one at 12 minutes), that’s already a full-length album. We wanted it to be able to fit on a vinyl and for it to keep its quality, so we were kind of limited from the get-go in that regard.

But really, we prefer it that way. In an age of shortening attention spans, I feel like the place of the traditional 12-song rock album is diminishing. If I record a dozen songs, how many are going to fall on deaf hears? Four? Five? Now if you released each of those twelve as singles, giving each one its own specific release and support, that dramatically boosts the likelihood of them garnering more attention.

So six is our version of that, somewhere right in the middle. You’re still getting your money’s worth, just no filler.

Photo: Luciana Toledo

How has reception been?

Overwhelming. From being put inside the jukebox at our local bar, to getting play time on KLOS 95.5, this record has really helped put us on the map. Because of it, we’ve signed on with a large-scale booking agency that’s sending us on tour for a significant part of 2018.

What is the worst difficulty you’ve had to overcome?

The Long Beach music scene is almost exclusively made up of punk and reggae. It’s been an uphill battle being a rock band trying to get its name out in a city that doesn’t have a lot of love for your genre. Drawing in people who don’t normally gravitate to our style of music has probably been the biggest challenge for us.

What are you looking forward to most?

The next one. Making more and more and more and more, being f-cking prolific.

 

“NICOTINE” by OF LIMBO is available directly from the band at their official website here and at iTunes here.

 

 

-S. McCauley

 

2018  OF LIMBO  World Tour Dates

 

DATE VENUE CITY
5/1/18 The Drunk Horse Pub Fayetteville, NC
5/2/18 Mainstage Morgantown, WV
5/3/18 Smiling Moose Pittsburgh, PA
5/4/18 Whistler’s Watertown, NY
5/5/18 Rockpile West Toronto, ON
5/6/18 The Token Lounge Westland, MI
5/8/18 The Forge Joliet, IL
5/9/18 The Gas Lamp Des Moines, IA
5/10/18 Route 20 Outhouse Racine, WI
5/11/18 Phat Headz Greenbay, WI
5/12/18 Cheers Pub Southbend, IN
5/15/18 Spicoli’s Grill / The Reverb Rock Waterloo, IA
5/16/18 Shovelhead Saloon Danville, IL
5/17/18 Fubar St. Louis, MO
5/18/18 The Warehouse Clarksville, TN
5/19/18 Sidetracks Music Hall Huntsville, AL
5/20/18 Temple Live Fort Smith, AR
5/22/18 Gas Monkey Bar & Grill Dallas, TX
5/23/18 Jakes Backroom Lubbock, TX
5/24/18 Rock House Bar El Paso, TX
5/25/18 The Green Room Flagstaff, AZ
5/26/18 The Slidebar Fullerton, CA
5/27/18 Viper Room West Hollywood, CA
5/31/18 Knitting Factory Concert House Spokane, WA
6/1/18 3rd Wheel Lewiston, ID
6/2/18 Perham Hall Zillah, WA
6/3/18 Analog Theater & Cafe Portland, OR
6/4/18 El Corazon Seattle, WA
6/6/18 Diamondz Event Center Jerome, ID
6/7/18 The Gem Idaho Falls, ID
6/8/18 Knitting Factory Concert House Boise, ID
6/10/18 Metro Music Hall Salt Lake City, UT
6/12/18 The Black Sheep Colorado Springs, CO
6/13/18 Streets of London Denver, CO

 

EDM created live: Veserium showcase their innovative instrument, SoundSpace V.3

EDM created live? Veserium (previously Spectrum) made it possible

Ray and Mike are Veserium, an EDM duo of musical composers based in Las Vegas, NV. Today, they quietly published a video showcasing their original, live instrument for EDM, the SoundSpace V.3 interactive gloves.

The gloves incorporate 3D-printed components, LED lights, original programming and more to allow digital music composers to not only play their music at events, but to actually perform and improvise it live onstage.

“The human emotion which once inspired music has become out of focus, obscured by a curtain of transistors and circuits,” a narrator states in their new video, “A Journey Through Time.” The narrator notes that one side-effect of digital music has been to degrade musical performances from “displays of passion to DJs whose primary instrument is a play button.”

Veserium’s solution was to create what they call SoundSpace gloves (just a working name) to “re-inject the human spirit into an electronic world.”

Music before invention

Veserium emphasize that they’re interested in making music with their creation much more than making the invention available to the world. That means that, for now at least, interested parties will need to seek out Veserium performances live or online to get a taste of what SoundSpace can do.

It’s a good thing, too, because these composers work under artistic principles which compel them in ways that will intrigue even the most casual music fan.

“We weren’t so much inspired by the fact that DJs don’t play their music live onstage,” Veserium write. “These guys have spent hours refining and crafting sounds. It’s exactly because their sounds are so complex that it’s hard to actually perform them live onstage … We were inspired by our frustration that we couldn’t control sounds like we wanted to.”

Which begs the question, for precisely what kind of sonic control were they looking?

“We figured we needed an instrument designed from the ground up to play modulation, i.e. craft the timbre and sound quality of what we’re playing in addition to just playing the notes. Since there wasn’t an instrument available to do this, we made it ourselves, simple_smile.”

Physically performing EDM is a game-changer

With the addition of physically performed digital instrumentation (!) to Veserium’s music, public reception has been boiling hot.

“We’ve been performing a lot in Las Vegas where we’re based,” Veserium write. “Our performances have been received amazingly! People are coming up to us afterwards and telling us their minds were blown. We’re really excited by the reaction.”

But if you haven’t heard of Veserium yet, the Cornell-educated crew expect as much.

“We’re still such a young act,” they say. “We’ve only been at this as an official duo for a few months. We’re growing our fan base fast, but we need to keep growing it faster so we can start drawing in crowds at larger events.”

As the crowds deepen and widen, so do the questions. Was it hard to make? (Mike spends interminable hours just debugging the program). How much does it cost? (Somewhere between several hundreds and several thousands). Can you play air guitar?

Air guitar?

“I get pretty frustrated when people ask to see air piano and air guitar and air drums,” Ray says. “Why would we want to do that? Here we have the power to control sounds in ways that have never been done before, and people are asking to see air guitar? Our gloves can play sounds in ways you can’t on a piano, a guitar, or any controller out there. We can literally shape and mold a bass wobble in thin air — controlling every detail of the sound.”

His point hints at a common mistake made by amateur composers: writing parts for virtual instruments the same as they would for the analog versions.

“The question to me is like asking the Wright brothers how fast their airplane can drive down the highway. An airplane would make a sh-tty car. But it can fly.”

Indeed; so how do Veserium’s gloves change the way their music sounds?

“What’s been fun about creating SoundSpace is that we have literally been designing instruments,” write Veserium. “We design how those instruments sound and how they are played in the air. And we use those instruments in our music.”

Live, innovative EDM collaboration without pressing ‘play’

It’s important to note that Mike and Ray perform together with their gloves onstage, complimenting one another’s live performance moment-to-moment, a 21st-century take on “Dueling Banjos.”

“That’s one of the keys to our sound and our writing process: we’re able to compose through improvisation. Mike can be shaping the bass line on one side, and I’ll be right next to him playing a synth lead on top of it. It’s a blast and it’s expanded our creativity!”

See and hear Veserium play their original instruments here and here.

“Thank you. So much. For helping us create this vision and for believing in us.”

— Ray and Mike, Veserium

The first official release by Veserium composed through SoundSpace is expected to drop December 2017.

You can support them at their official Patreon here.

Official Veserium Website here.

Veserium developed their early prototypes of SoundSpace with a grant from the Cornell Council for the Arts, funding from their ECE Innovation Award win, and with a generous donation from Ascension Tech.

— Sean McCauley

Senior Editor

MondoTunes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 ways to make songs better: hip hop edition

To make a song better, a few simple changes can make all the difference. Five ways to make hip-hop songs better are:

I. Change up the back beat

Poetry can get you far in hip hop, but you have a much better chance at fame and fortune if you put your rhymes to a solid back beat.

Pretty much everybody knows that, but few amateur MCs change the beat once it’s laid down.

That straightforward tempo was OK back in the eighties, but if you look at the real geniuses, people like MF Doom, Kendrick Lamar and Eminem, they often change beats twice, even three or four times in a track.

That means more complex songwriting for you, but you’re the best, right? You can hack it.

II. Make songs better by making songs shorter

Some music genres seem built for repetition, like EDM and New Age music, but hip hop doesn’t benefit much from it.

In the ’80s lots of MCs let their songs trail off with beats from an 808 or scratches from their DJ’s turntables. That went out of style for a reason.

Too-short songs may leave listeners unsatisfied, but too-long songs bore them. And what’s wrong with leaving your fans wanting more, anyhow? If it’s really too short, tack on another verse or whatever. Just don’t make songs too long. That’s death, and pretty much everyone does it.

III. Make songs better by taking ideas from your crew

Make songs better by asking members of your crew how to make them better.

Your DJ, your beatboxer, your turntablist, your beat programmer and the other rappers in your crew, all these people have creative ideas. Every song will be better if everyone feels welcome to add their perspective.

Lots of crews have a tendency to let each member’s songs stand as-is. If it works, it’s pure chance. They’d probably benefit from some revision, anyhow.

IV. Embrace the space between the beats

Nothing can make hip hop obnoxious faster than beat crowding.

Beat crowding is when there are so many beats that the listener can’t hear any space between them. It can be easy to lose track of the space when you’re layering snares on top of bass and tom drums with a hi-hat keeping time, but when the space has all been used up, the effect is like listening to a machine-gun orchestra.

Then you’re going to lay your poetry down on top of that, which has its own rhythm. Not good.

Insert some silence between beats, instruments and lyrics, too. If you can clap your hands or snap your fingers in time without landing on anything, you’re on the right track.

V. Make songs better by recording your own samples

Today’s indie rappers have become excellent at using online resources to craft great original hip hop. With millions of samples and instrumentation available, the toolbox can’t usefully get larger.

You can automatically sound more original and have much, much more control over your sound, though, if you simply record your own raw samples.

It’s a simple — and ridiculously fun — skill that 99% of amateur hip hop artists never think to use.

 

That’s it for this week. See you next time!

 

 

 

5 ways to make songs better: rock edition

To make a song better, a few simple changes can make all the difference. Five ways to make rock songs better are:

I. Simplify chord progressions

Make songs better by taking progressions of six+ chords and boiling them down to their main parts. “Stairway to Heaven” may sound complex, but it’s really only five chords. Bands like the Ramones and Green Day have made an art of the three- and four-chord pop single, so we know success doesn’t depend on complexity.

Complex structures make players work harder, and music fans don’t necessarily respond any better than if the song had a simpler structure. Try taking some chords out of one of your math-ier favorites and see if it really makes a difference. It’s usually possible to keep the same mood without going through so many steps.

II. Make songs better by making songs shorter

Amateur rock bands might struggle with song length more than any other genre’s musicians do. Causes include (but are not limited to) showing off, slipping into “jam mode,” and writing hypnotic refrains that don’t successfully hypnotize listeners.

Too-short songs may leave listeners unsatisfied, but too-long songs bore them. And what’s wrong with leaving your fans wanting more, anyhow? If it’s really too short, tack on another verse or whatever. Just don’t make songs too long. That’s death, and pretty much everyone does it.

III. Make songs better by playing with tempo

Make a song better by slowing them down or speeding them up. Most songwriters pick tempos for their music by accident without thinking how tempo affects it at all. This is silly.

If you meant your song to go at breakneck speed, go ahead and experiment by playing it slowly. Often the best slow chuggers originally came out as ripping fireballs. Sometimes quiet, little ballads like “Brown-Eyed Girl” sound fantastic with a one-two beat. You never know until you try.

And speaking of not knowing…

IV. Let your band mates change your songs

Make songs better by asking your band members to make them better. They have creativity, and they have ideas. Every song will be better if everyone feels welcome to add their perspective to the material.

Lots of bands have a tendency to let each member’s songs stand as-is. If that works, it’s pure chance, and probably they’d benefit from some revision.

Don’t just keep an open mind, actively ask the drummer what he or she thinks — the bassist, the rhythm guitarist, the accordionist, and the mook playing triangle, too. That’s how to make songs better.

V. Add texture by letting instruments rest

Make a song better by letting just one or two instruments carry it occasionally.

Jazz figured out a long time ago that it’s obnoxious to have 100% of the crew playing 100% of the music 100% of the time. Rock bands often have a hard time with this.

It’s ridiculously easy to let everyone drop out but the bass player for a few measures. Or the drummer. Or the singer. Or whomever. The point is that your band doesn’t need to have all the lights on when the song’s fun lies in just a couple rooms. Let the others come in when they’re needed.

And if they’re not needed? Let them take five! The modern motif of “nobody gets to rest until after the set” is bizarre. Audiences respond very well to changes in band size during a set. Use that.

 

That’s all for this week’s MondoBlog! Happy Hallowe’en, and don’t miss last week’s piece on how to make music using just your phone!

Make Music on Your Phone!

Want to make music on your phone? Going away but don’t want to slow your roll? Here are some apps that help music artists take a mini studio everywhere they go.

Want to make music on your phone?

Apps for Instrumentation

Want to make music on your phone?

Caustic 3

Caustic 3 has synth sounds and audio effects artists can use to write melody lines and chord progressions. It’s simple to use but textured enough that a clever composer can consider it a legitimate instrument. (Android, iOS)

Want to make music on your phone?Animoog

Make music on your phone with Animoog, an application by the actual Moog company, makers of that inimitable 1960s keyboard sound. (By the way, it’s pronounced “Moag,” not “Mewg”).

The app has all sorts of sonic tweaks and shifts available to the discerning artist and doesn’t cost much. (iOS) only, though.

 

Apps for Recording

Want to make music on your phone?

Audio Evolution Mobile Studio

AEM Studio will record live instruments, vocals and other sounds and lets you modify the results with popular effects. It also has mixing and editing capabilities such as loop, cut/paste, and even crossfade. Get more functionality through in-app purchases. (Android only)

Want to make music on your phone?FourTrack

FourTrack mimics the old four-track recorders garage rockers used in the eighties and nineties to record practices and demo tapes. Unlike those dinosaurs, though, FourTrack records in CD audio quality. Recording, mixing and equalizing included. FourTrack comes standard with a virtual guitar amp, too. (iOS only)

 

 

Song Editors / Visual Composers

Want to make music on your phone?

Propellerhead

Make music on your phone with Propellerhead, which gives any music fan an excellent crash course in song composition. You pick an instrument or sound (guitar, percussion, synth, etc) and just tap to start composing. Lay tracks down one atop another until your creation starts to sound like a legit song. Propellerhead won’t let you screw much up, but don’t expect professional-grade functionality, either. (iOS) only, but it’s free.

Want to make music on your phone?

Yellofier

Yellofier records anything you like and makes little colored blocks out of each cut. You can move these blocks around into any arrangement you like. Create a back beat, then a bass line, then a melody, and lay down some vocals. Presto. (Android, iOS)

 

Bonus: Just for Vocalists

Want to make music on your phone?

WURRLY

Make music on your phone via virtual karaoke!

From DigitalTrends.com:

“Singers can choose a song, customize it by selecting a different key, tempo, or instrumentation, then record a cover and share it quickly and easily via various social channels. Wurrly notes that it is made for singers by singers, and the firm hopes to highlight individuality and empower self-expression and artist discovery. There’s no limit on how much time you spend on Wurrly or how many songs you share, and with features like acoustic piano and guitar backing tracks, a slew of mix filters, and full-band versions of your favorite songs, don’t be surprised if you end up spending hours on this app.”

 

That’s it for this week’s MondoBlog, but read more about free digital audio software here. Happy recording!

What strings should I use? Basic guitar stringing

What Strings Should I Use?

‘What strings should I use?’ is a question every guitarist should ask.

The answer depends on several factors, including the type of instrument, the style of play, and the sound you want in general.

Every category of music today uses guitar from time to time, so it’s useful to know how to string one even if you’re only going to record a couple notes. This basic tutorial teaches everything you need unless you’re an expert guitarist (in which case you know all these things, already).

 

A guitar string’s tone comes from:

1. String Gauge

string gauges

  • Extra Light
  • Light
  • Medium
  • Heavy

(Note that light strings on an electric guitar will have smaller gauges than light strings on an acoustic guitar).

Consider heavy strings for —

  • Heavy strumming – because they offer more durability, more sustain, and less breakage.
  • Slide playing/drop tunings – because they hold a tighter string tension.
  • Low-action guitars – because they have tighter vibrations, and are therefore more resistant to fret buzz.
  • Unamplified acoustic playing – because they’re louder.
  • Jazz – because that style of music doesn’t use much note bending.

And consider light strings for —

  • Beginner playing – because it’s easier if you haven’t yet developed hand strength and calluses.
  • Blues/Soloing – because it’s easier to bend notes.
  • Vintage guitars – because they put less stress on the neck.
  • Small-body guitars – because they just sound better.
  • Fingerpicking – because they’re more responsive to delicate finger-work.

 

2. Metals

guitar string metals

What strings should I use? depends also on the metal used to make the string.

Electric strings use:

  • Nickel-Plated Steel – which has a good combination of warmth and brightness, a strong picking attack, and is the most popular option.
  • Pure Nickel – which is warmer than nickel-plated steel, and has a classic old-school vintage sound.
  • Stainless Steel – which is most resistant to corrosion, least prone to finger squeaks, and has a good combination of both brightness and sustain.

Titanium, cobalt, chrome and copper may also figure in, rarely.

Acoustic strings use:

  • 80/20 Bronze (aka Bronze, Brass) – which is 80% copper/20% zinc, and is the most popular option.  It has a bright, clean sound, but can lose some of its brilliance after only a few hours of play, as the metal corrodes quickly.
  • Phosphor Bronze – which is similar to 80/20 bronze, but with phosphor added to prevent oxidation and increase the life of the strings.  The trade-off is that they’re a little less-bright in comparison.
  • Silk and Steel (aka “compound strings”) – which have greater flexibility and lower string tension, resulting in gentler, mellower sound.  They are commonly referred to as a hybrid between traditional metal strings, and the nylon strings of a classical guitar.

3. String Core

What strings you should use depends also on the core. String manufacturers wind metal around the core. The core comes in two shapes.

hex core round core comparison

 

4. Winding Method

Technically you can find strings wound with three different styles, but only two matter to 99% of the guitar-playing world:

 

 

roundwound vs flatwound sound

 

5. String Coating

Since 1997, you can get strings with a factory-applied coating which will make them last several times longer than un-coated strings. Coated strings have a smoother feel under your fingers and “squeak” less.

However, many players insist that coated strings have less “brightness” and decreased sustain. It may also concern the guitarist that coated strings cost considerably more than un-coated strings. Whether the benefit coating may give is worth the added cost remains up to the player.

Have fun choosing your new brand of strings! And don’t miss last week’s MondoDIY post on free software for your home recording studio.

The Best Free Digital Audio Editors

The best free digital audio editors can help anyone with a computer become a music composer in minutes. But where can these programs be found, and which one is right for you? Let’s take a look at the most popular choices in 2017.

Audacity

The best free digital audio editors must be led by the ultimate in free Digital Audio Workstation software, Audacity.

Audacity has been around for years and runs on Win, Mac, and even Linux. It can be used to do virtually everything any other DAW editor can do, and boasts many, many more features than the average music producer knows how to use.

What’s the catch, then? Why are there even competitors? Because Audacity doesn’t hold your hand at all. Even if you do know what every little knob on a pro- soundboard is for, Audacity still challenges most people just starting to use it.

It’s everything you need at a fair price: plenty of frustration.

Get it HERE.

DVDVideoSoft Free Audio Editor

For those looking to make basic edits to sound but not to produce a professional release, there’s DVDVideoSoft’s Free Audio Editor.

You can get an idea of its streamlined, no-frills format by the straightforward name DVDVideoSoft gave it: Free Audio Editor. Don’t expect much more.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though. It’s still useful for making simple edits to audio files, like cutting silence from podcasts, adding metadata to song files, and converting between different file formats. Its only filter is a volume control.

It’s a handy little tool, but it’s a little tool.

Get it HERE.

Ocenaudio

Ocenaudio has far more capability than the above Free Audio Editor, but very little of the confusion that comes with Audacity.

It doesn’t have all of Audacity’s features, either, though. Ocenaudio doesn’t let you stack sound effects, for example.

What it does have, it has in spades: easy user interface, precision selection tools, plenty of standard effects, additional plugins, keyboard shortcuts, and a real-time preview that lets you see what you’ve altered before needing to save your changes. You can even export your file as a ringtone.

Available on Win, Mac, and Linux.

Get it HERE.

Acoustica Basic Edition from Acon

The best free digital audio editors also include Acoustica Basic Edition.

Acoustica Basic Edition hasn’t been updated in years because Acon released newer versions of its paid counterpart (and didn’t release a freeware version). That doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong on this list, though.

Acon’s ABE can make recordings, import and edit tracks from CD, and combine multiple sound files. It can do all that with zero frustration, too. Having unlimited UNDO and REDO functionality, you can revert to an earlier or later version of your current project at the touch of a button.

However, it’s intended to sell you on the paid version, so don’t expect a multi-track editor, support for 7.1 surround sound, nor tools for digitizing vinyl or cassette recordings.

For a balance between minimalism and professional functionality, a basic DAW could do worse than Acoustica Basic from Acon.

Get it HERE.

 

Now that you’ve got all the software you need, make sure you know how to use your voice to garner fame and fortune by reading last week’s MondoBlog DIY post!

And cheers to all of you from the MondoCrew!

Become a Famous Singer!

Become a famous singer by following these sensible, tried and true instructions.

Become a famous singer through persistence and determination.

Singers and rappers like Chance the Rapper (above) have been climbing to the top by simply never giving up since the beginning.

It’s true, too, that some artists have a style so undeniable they get launched into the spotlight, but for each of them there are twenty more who made it by sheer grit and perseverance.

Become a famous singer for your best song.

Whichever song you sing best, perfect it and stick to it.

Know it better than your name. Work out all the kinks, polish every angle to a high shine, and if it’s not a song you wrote, sing it better than anyone else can.

It doesn’t have to be the last song you’re famous for, just the first one you’re famous for.

Become a famous singer by breathing deeply.

Breathe deeply, breathe more, become an expert breather. Vocal range, volume, texture and timing all depend on the amount of air you can expel.

Even though he’s screaming half the time he’s singing, Axl Rose can still rank at the very top of the world’s best singers. The man has startling lung capacity.

Breathe as deeply as you can when you sing. It can be as easy as that.

Become a famous singer by choosing great songs.

Writing great music challenges artists much more than simply singing great music.

Of course, singing songs you wrote yourself can feel better than anything (and if you write songs to match your personality and voice, that’s important, too).

But if you can’t or don’t write your own music, take time to really research the kind of music you want to cover and pick a real knockout.

Pick one nobody knows, if you can. If you can make a forgotten, wonderful song famous again, it will do the same for you.

Lavender Fields (photo: Mekael Dawson)

Become a famous singer by playing live as often as you can make it happen.

Singers become famous because great singing arrests people where they stand. It’s a law of nature.

If you want people to know you for your voice, you need to let them hear you.

Don’t wait for the phone to ring. Make it happen, and make it happen as often as you can. Create your own shows, if you have to. The other performers will thank you.

Become a famous singer by creating a YouTube channel.

Make an official YouTube channel for yourself and sing live music on it once a week.

This may seem like an amateur move, but consider the list of people who’ve broken big virtually without doing anything else at all: Charice Pempengco, Austin Mahone, Greyson Chance and the undisputed king of Internet fame, Justin Bieber.

Become a famous singer by getting good at publicity.

Finally, you’ll need to make publicity and manage it well.

Make stickers of your professional name and give them to anyone who will put it on their car, notebook, or anywhere else. Make flyers for your performances and post them on telephone poles. Make business cards. Get online and make a social media page every place you can be regularly active. Get your name out there.

Network. Meet people. Know their names. Have coffee or beer with them. Make friends in the music industry, as many artists as you can, as many professionals as will welcome you.

And last but not least, make sure you accept every shred of advice and criticism with gracious thanks and a winning smile.

You might have the best voice in a thousand miles, but unless you have a friendly smile and a humble attitude, expect to sing to your bedroom mirror the rest of your life.

 

That’s what we’ve got for you this week, you beautiful, brilliant artists, you! Don’t miss last week’s crash course on recording your music, and see you next time!

-Sean

A Crash-Course on Studio Recording

The best recording order? It’s a smart question. You have a Digital Audio Workstation, a great song and all your instruments. But in what order should you record them? Here’s a crash course to get you good to go.

     Step One: Programmed Beats (or a click-track)

The very first thing laid down in professional studios are programmed beats.

If you’re recording hip hop, EDM, electronica or some other genre using digital drums and percussion, programming these beats will be your first step. Other instruments and vocalists will use these beats to keep time.

If you’re recording a traditional band or other form of analog music, your drummer will need a click-track to help keep time.

A click-track is just a metronome.

Most modern recording software has a click-track setting somewhere. Set the tempo to the speed of your song and you’re ready to lay down drums.

     Step Two: Drums and Percussion (skip this step if you programmed beats)

The drummer should play right on top of all the sounds the click-track makes. If you can hear the click-track as the drummer plays, it means the drummer is playing between the intended beats and has to do it over.

When you’re happy with the drums you’ve recorded, take out the click-track so just the real drums are left. If the percussion section has done their job, you shouldn’t need it, anymore. Everyone else is going to use the drums to keep time.

Note: some music groups have a “live” feeling. Their sound fluctuates in a way fans like. A drummer may have a hard time playing to a click-track, and forcing him or her to play to the click can result in a forced, mechanical-sounding album or single. Consider setting up mics around a room and recording the band playing together. The result will be much more messy and hard to mix, but you’ll preserve that spirit which a click-track can kill dead.

Step Three: Bass Instruments

Bass instruments should come after drums. Often this means electric bass guitar, but it can also mean cello, tuba, double bass (stand-up bass) or even saxophone.

Traditionally the bass should follow the bass drum so the bassist times notes to land on the kick of the drummer.

However, the recording engineer should not instruct instrumentalists in how to perform on their own recording. (That’s the producer’s job…).

Step Four: Melody Instruments (Body Instruments)

Once you have bass lines recorded, lay down the instruments which play out the main chord progression of the song.

Often this means the so-called “rhythm” guitar, the one playing the body structure of the song.

In hip hop it may be a loop of synth chords, or a sample taken from somewhere with a chain of notes.

In Latin music it’s often a duo or trio of trumpets.

Other common instruments used to form the body over the bass lines include keyboard, some violins, or a chorus of singers.

Lead guitarist Karl Caleb of Caveman Voicebox

Step Five: Harmony Instruments (“Lead,” Head or Solo Instruments)

Home stretch!

By the time you get to leads and heads, recording sequence matters much less.

Traditionally solo instruments which play harmonies — nearly always using single notes — are recorded before vocals or other finishing touches. This is not a concrete rule. If the lead singer or lead guitarist is having a baby the day of recording, feel confident swapping dates.

Lead instruments can include electric guitar, clarinet, violin, flute, trumpet, runs on the piano, or really pretty much anything.

G Funk Supreme at Rec Your Mind Studios, Long Beach (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

Step Six: Vocals

Usually by the time the engineer and producer call for the vocalist, everyone wants to go home.

That’s OK, though, because when the producer says, “That’s it! I think that’s good,” the musicians can go home.

Of course, the lead vocalist quite often provides vocal harmonies, too. Record these right after the lead vocals go down.

From here on out, the engineer and producer will often steer everything else — unless…

Step Seven: Knick-Knacks, Bells-n-Whistles, Other Finishing Touches

The producer may decide to throw in some surprises at this point.

Hip hop often throws in a few additional samples for style or laughs. Other forms of music may lay down some tambourines, castanets, maracas, “egg” shakers, or sound effects like breaking glass, doors slamming, or any other cool, creative thing.

Step Eight: Mixing, Mastering and Distribution!

After the recording artists go home, the engineer and producer get all the levels audible.

That’s mixing.

Mastering is done by professionals.

And so is distribution!

 

That’s all for this week’s MondoBlog. Be sure to check in next time for more how-to’s from the crew who help you do you.

Cheers,

-S

 

 

Rappers should use SoundCloud. Here’s why.

Rappers should use SoundCloud. Hip hop is dominating SoundCloud while SoundCloud fuels hip hop with new artists.  Read on to see why every modern hip hop artist should use SoundCloud.

Rappers should use SoundCloud. That’s a given today, when hip hop artists like Chance the Rapper get big enough breaks by using the platform that they can actually turn around and save the platform itself with profits from their original music.

Of course, these talents needed to distribute their music professionally, too — not just sell it on SoundCloud — but Chance the Rapper and Trinidad James still supply examples of hugely popular artists who can get signed and go on tour without even an LP album to sell while they’re touring.

A couple years ago, nobody would think that possible.

Today, though, the number of SoundCloud titans grows every day.

These popular artists include names like XXXTentacion, Lil Pump, Ski Mask the Slump God, Smokepurpp, Lil Yachty, Princess Nokia, Lil Uzi Vert, WifisFuneral, Gold Saint, and SIDMFKID.

The enormity of rap on SoundCloud even pushed the prior genre giant, EDM, right out the door.

According to NestHQ.com, “The imbalance between the consumption of singular hip hop and dance music tracks has become so great that as of this morning’s chart, there is not one song from the ‘Dance & EDM’ or ‘Electronic’ categories in the Top 10. Or Top 25. Or literally the entire Top 50. And it isn’t a fluke. This complete absence of dance and electronic music from SoundCloud’s most played songs has occurred on numerous occasions over the past six months.”

The point is, rappers should use SoundCloud because SoundCloud is where all the new hip hop is coming from.

On the other hand, though, rappers will still want to move up from SoundCloud to more professional means. While it acts as a great stage for amateurs, it’s not as legit as distributing your own singles through real distribution networks like MondoTunes.

Denver’s 303magazine.com says of this, “…garnering a SoundCloud following is important, but it’s not the end goal. ‘You can get a lot of clout from it,’ [Gold Saint] said. ‘You can win a grammy from SoundCloud now, because of Chance the Rapper. There’s a lot of sh-t you can do on SoundCloud… however, I don’t want that to be my limit.’ This is something that most artists would probably agree with. SoundCloud is more of the track itself than the finish line.”

Why Rappers Should Use SoundCloud
Rappers and SoundCloud

So, rappers should use SoundCloud. That’s obvious.

But they should never take it as a replacement for real studio recordings, mixed and mastered by the pros, distributed to over 600 quality music vendors online worldwide.

The fact remains that just a few people listen to music on SoundCloud.

And most of them are aspiring music artists, too.