8 Tips For A Better Rehearsal

1.) Get Your Amps Off The Floor

This is my #1 piece of advice, especially in a small space. While on the floor, your amp is pointing at your feet and all you're hearing is reverberation. I'm astounded at how many bands have never properly heard themselves before they record and I'm convinced this is the one of the biggest reasons why. If you can't afford an amp stand, use a chair.

 This stand may be the best $30 you can invest into your band.

This stand may be the best $30 you can invest into your band.

2.) Take Short Breaks

Rehearsal time is work, whether you realize it or not. Even if you're paying hourly to rehearse in a professional facility, short breaks will make you far more productive than grinding through a four hour block. Every hour, take ten minutes to chug a bottle of water, use the bathroom, or smoke 'em if you've got 'em; it does wonder for morale.

3.) Face Each Other, Not Toward A Non-Existent Crowd

Facing each other is incredibly important; this is how you learn to read the rest of your band members during your performance. Not only does it help cultivate chemistry between each band member, you can hear what everyone is playing better if you can see them playing it. Only face outward toward a "crowd" after you've refined your set together and you're working on your stage presence.

4.) Don't Bring Non-Essential People

Everyone who isn't a part of your act is a distraction. This means not bringing your girlfriend or your bros to "hear your band." You can't work on being solid as a band when you're already performing for the people only at your rehearsal to listen.

5.) Don't Practice at Rehearsal

This may sound like an oxymoron, but I promise it's not. Practice is what you do on your own; it's working out your parts and getting the musical mechanics in order. Rehearsal is putting your practice together into a performance. Rehearsal is not the time to be working out a lead or remembering the lyrics.

6.) Print A Setlist and Stick to It

Printing a setlist for your rehearsal helps you focus on what you're doing in the first place. Not only does it keep you focused, but also playing your songs in the order you're going to perform them will help with the transitions between them. With a setlist, everyone in the group knows where to go next; this separates the men from the boys on stage.

7.) Rehearsal Is Not A Party

This should go without saying, but rehearsal time is not the time to be plastered drunk or blazed. I know the proverb "if you learn it drunk, you can play it drunk," but who is going to take your band seriously if you can only play drunk? Be a professional and everyone will treat you as such.

8.) Record Your Rehearsal

Stick a GoPro in the corner of the room and play the video back after you run your set. You'll immediately know what you need to work on.

 Anything works; GoPro, handheld audio recorder, phone, etc.

Anything works; GoPro, handheld audio recorder, phone, etc.

If you're in the Springfield, MO area and you're needing a clean, professional place to rehearse, I've got your back! Check out www.dococonneraudio.com/shirestudios

Music Video: It Is Well (Bethel Music Cover)

This is a passion project of mine; we play this song at church and I think it's a powerful modern adaptation of a classic hymn. As much as I love the original arrangement of this song by Bethel, I wanted to put our own spin on it musically. This song is about tension and having faith in hard times and I wanted the instrumentation and chord flavors to reflect that in an emotional manner.

If you haven't heard the story behind the hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul" penned by Horatio G. Spafford, I strongly suggest you take a look at the link below. Knowing what inspired these lyrics make this song come to life.

http://staugustine.com/living/religion/2014-10-16/story-behind-song-it-well-my-soul

New Music Spotlight: someonebrave

Here is some new music from West Plains, MO from a band named someonebrave! The track below is a single from their upcoming self-titled album. The LP to set to release on October 1, 2017.

Brent Holt is a Christian, prophetic songwriter with a firm technical grasp of the piano and the guitar. Each song is a soundscape in-and-of itself. The entire album is a thick arrangement of soaring vocals and harmonies, melodic piano and synth, ear-tickling guitar, fat bass, and organic, roomy drums. I would consider this as much a melodic rock album as a Christian album.

 Brent Holt, songwriter, vocalist, guitarist

Brent Holt, songwriter, vocalist, guitarist

Their sound reminds me of mid-2000's Coldplay (if they wrote a worship album). Regardless of your faith, the imagery the music and lyrics of this album invoke are truly marvelous. Each part of the arrangement is intentional, no part of this album exists for the sake of existing. To Rule And Reign is my favorite song on the album; not only does it speak to my faith, the music is jaw-dropping. The way the piano and vocals soar over the bass and drums is striking.

 Nate laying down some bass.

Nate laying down some bass.

Brandon Worley, the drummer on the album, knocked out almost every song in one take. He's what we call a "unicorn" in the studio business. Nate and his 5-string Fender bass filled out this low end of this album beautifully with worshipful technical prowess. Brent and his wife Becky recorded nearly every other part of this album in addition to writing the entire thing, which is quite a feat.

 Becky Holt, a harmony vocal machine.

Becky Holt, a harmony vocal machine.

This has been my biggest project to date. 10 songs, each over 5 minutes. It's been in production since March 2017. This album in particular is close to my heart; so much modern Christian music reflects a formulaic pop songwriting approach. I feel this album is counter-cultural in the sense that as much intention was put into the music as was the lyrics. I can honestly say this sort of project is the life and blood of my craft; creativity, excellence, and focus meet to create music that reflects someone's soul.

Know Your Gear, Know Your Music More

Let's address something every musician deals with at some point: GAS. No, I'm not talking about the kind on Family Guy that makes us laugh. I'm referring to Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Seemingly every guitarist, bassist, and drummer I've met in my 10+ years of recording music has established a relationship with me based on our common knowledge and differences of opinion on music gear. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with making friends by nerding out on gear. But, when we apply this notion to our music rather than the people playing it, we run into problems.

 Source: www.carlosvincentblog.com

Source: www.carlosvincentblog.com

In all my years of recording music and serving in church bands, GAS has been a thing I've witnessed firsthand and tried to avoid like the plague. Great sounding gear is important in both creative and technical aspects, but I personally know some truly excellent musicians who spend more time crafting and tweaking their tone than actually playing music. I find this particularly prevalent among worship band musicians, but it's rampant in every genre.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating the use of $20 DI amplifiers and $50 yard sale drums that sound like wet cardboard. This is my case: spend as much time learning and perfecting your music as you do working on your tones. Good tone with great playing trumps great tone with mediocre playing 100% of the time. For example, let's take a look at Eric Clapton. His guitar tone never sounded exactly the same across his many records. His musical style is what makes him unmistakable as an artist; his tone always fits the context. His musical fingerprint lies in his playing, not his sound.

 Unless you're Adam Jones from Tool, you don't need this many pedals.

Unless you're Adam Jones from Tool, you don't need this many pedals.

Avoid GAS and be intentional with your purchases. Music gear loses value like a used car; the moment you take it out of the store as new it loses at least 40% of its value. When you make a purchase, make it count.

When you hit the stage or the studio: know your sound, but know your music better.

Why Your Album Sucks

This article is geared toward bands and musical artists playing real instruments. The following doesn't hold true for electronic styles of music, i.e. EDM, hip-hop, etc.

I love going to a local show and getting blown away by a band I've never heard before; it's that awe-inspiring, magical feeling that keeps me going to shows. Unfortunately, it seems that roughly 4 out of 5 albums I buy from a local (or local-level touring) band can never hold a light to the live energy I just experienced. Most local-level albums I buy just sound "dead and clunky." I have a collection of CDs in my truck I'll never listen to again because the album just doesn't do for me what the live show did. Why is this so?

 Don't say I never stop by the merch booth...

Don't say I never stop by the merch booth...

I believe with the mass availability of recording technology we've lost the art of performance in the studio. The problem doesn't lie in your lack of technical knowledge, the technology itself, or even the DIY mindset. The problem is we use technology as a crutch. Going to the recording studio is no longer an occasion to prepare for when you have unlimited time to work on it in pieces by yourself. You already (should) work on sounding tight live as a band, why should sounding tight while recording be a different process altogether?

Ever since music has been recorded to tape (or vinyl), the performance an artist gave the engineer is what they got in return. For many years, bands had to make an active effort to know their music and not suck when they went into the studio. Until the mid-1990's, there weren't computer programs giving us the ability to record pieces of a song at a time. Nowadays, it's seemingly customary for a band to crap out a sketchy performance in the studio and expect the audio engineer to make it something it's not. It bothers me that this is the norm. When a well-practiced audio engineer can fix your entire sloppy performance with a few clicks, it has the potential to remove any motivation to be excellent as a musician. What we're ending up with are pieced-together, mathematically perfect, white-washed, dead-sounding recordings. This is the exact opposite of why I bought your album when I heard your band play live.

The video below from Jared Dines both accurately and humorously depicts exactly what I'm saying:

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not against using a computer to record music. Pro Tools is one of the greatest advancements in recording technology. I can do on a computer what used to take hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment to do. However, I am against using a computer as a crutch for a crappy performance. This rant isn't about making my job easier, it's about making your music better. The art of your music is in the composition, but no one else can enjoy it unless it's performed by you with excellence. My advice to you, from musician-engineer to musician: regardless of where or how you're recording, be prepared to play your parts all the way through in as close to one take as possible. It doesn't matter if you're recording live or tracked, this level of preparation and excellence ALWAYS translates into better recordings.

 This is what hard work looks like.

This is what hard work looks like.

If you want real recordings, I can help you achieve them. I'm going to make you work for it, but you're going to walk away with an album you're proud of because you've poured your sweat and soul into it. Your fans aren't going to pop your CD into their car after your show and be underwhelmed. Here's what I do.

New Music Spotlight: Funk Tank

Here is some new music from Funk Tank, a band from Springfield, MO! The track below is a single from their EP released on August 23, 2017.

Funk Tank is a 70's style funk revival band with some delightful jazz and hip-hop elements sprinkled in. They consist of three vocalists, three percussionists, a keyboardist, a guitarist, a bassist, and a horn section consisting of a trumpet, trombone, and saxophone. Each member has a college education in music and it certainly shows.

20286916_1594077543957472_6935987259832441026_o.jpg

Never before in my career of 12 years have I worked with an 11-piece band (live or in the studio). This session was as much a pleasure to work on as it was a challenge. I stayed as close to the 70's as I could in terms of production style; most everything you hear was recorded live and in the same room. The sheer technical skill shown by each member is what enables them to sound as tight as they do; anything less than virtuoso-level proficiency will easily trip up an arrangement like theirs. This "tightness" is one of my favorite things about them. Because of their huge lineup, no one person is always in the spotlight. Funk Tank operates as a single unit and no ego is spotlighted on stage.

Artists like Funk Tank are why I love my town. They symbolize the marriage of education and art that Springfield, MO has to offer. The band genuinely wants to bring "the funk" back to life and there's an entire community supporting it. Our citizens' respect for art and something different is what creates a launch pad for a band like Funk Tank. Groove on, my friends, groove on.

New Music Spotlight: Dillan Cate

Here's some new music from Jonesboro, AR from a man named Dillan Cate! The track below is a single from his upcoming album, "Fuel All The Flames." This EP is set to release Tuesday, August 29, 2017.

I've never seen a country artist produce music that so finely rides the line between pop-country and alt-country. Dillan's music is edgy and "rocky" enough to appeal to a red dirt crowd while remaining just poppy enough to be played on a Top 40 country radio station. It's a true marriage of country and rock without being "country-rock" in the Jason Aldean sense.

 (L to R) Keyven Dunn, Dillan Cate, myself, Jay Sheppard

(L to R) Keyven Dunn, Dillan Cate, myself, Jay Sheppard

Dillan's band who appears on this album, Jay Sheppard and Keyven Dunn, are two of the most solid musicians I've ever worked with. Jay plays guitar on the album; he's a professor of music at Arkansas State University. His technical prowess shines on this album. He manages to play just enough to serve the songs while still showing off his chops when the songs calls for it. Keyven laid down bass and drums both with virtuoso level proficiency. Each groove on the album is rock solid and ear-catching thanks to him.

I felt particularly honored to work on this album. Dillan spent an insane amount of money to record this album in Nashville with professional studio musicians before coming to me. He was displeased with how vanilla and "canned" his songs sounded. One of my strengths as an audio engineer is cultivating an atmosphere of creativity. This album is the answer to his discontent; a series of well thought-out songs where each part of the musical arrangement is intentional. I'm a firm believer in taking time to cultivate a sound when it comes to recording an album; I'm glad Dillan brought me his songs to do just that.

New Music Spotlight: Blank Canvas

 Alec Inglett, Photo: Nina Todea

Alec Inglett, Photo: Nina Todea

Here's some new music from Springfield, MO's own Blank Canvas! This track is a single from their debut EP titled Blur. Blur is set to release on February 5, 2017. Blank Canvas reminds me more of a collective rather than a band. Reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac's Rumors album, members of Blank Canvas have "their songs" featuring different vocal styles and musical tonalities. Their sound reminds me of Deas Vail and The Civil Wars with hints of Ed Sheeran in the vocal style. Take a listen to their single titled "Goodness Gracious" below!

Alec, Noah, and Landon are excellent songwriters and even better musicians. I can honestly say it was a pleasure working with these guys in the studio. Noah is one of the most technical and smooth acoustic guitarists I've ever worked with. Alec's brother, Tyler, even jumped in and covered a song which will be released as an online-only bonus track! They manage to maintain a soothing, haunting, virtuoso-esque sound across all of their tracks, including the ones featuring the electric guitar as the foundational instrument.

 Tyler Inglett, Photo: Nina Todea

Tyler Inglett, Photo: Nina Todea

All the vocals you hear were recorded using a Shure Sm7b ran through Avalon VT-737SP preamp emulation. The acoustic you hear is a Martin dreadnought recorded in stereo and the electric guitar you hear is a Fender Stratocaster ran through a Fender Hot Rod Deville 4x10 combo amp. The cajon is an LP and took quite a beating during the session. "All That's Left Now," "Goodness Gracious," and "This Too Shall Pass" were all recorded separately. "Blur" and the bonus track were recorded live.

 Noah Gray, Photo: Nina Todea

Noah Gray, Photo: Nina Todea

Be sure you like Blank Canvas's page on Facebook and pick up their EP when it drops!

 Landon Summerville, Photo: Nina Todea

Landon Summerville, Photo: Nina Todea