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Cumulative Trauma Disorders In Musicians
By Kee Fedak, DC
the most amusing things I have ever heard when talking to someone
outside of the musical community is “I don’t understand, I thought
playing music was relaxing, how could you possibly get hurt?”
Almost ten years ago I was asking myself that same question “how
could I have possibly hurt myself playing the piano, it’s not like
playing football or hockey” but I did hurt myself and I had no
I don’t think there is anything more frightening to a
musician than realizing that their body has failed them and they
are no longer able to do what they love to do. The only way I can
explain it to someone who is not a musician, is to ask them to
imagine what it would be like to not be able to speak or
communicate in any way when there mind is full of thoughts and
ideas that need to come out. Even then I don’t think they
understand. I have now come to realize that I was not alone and
that musicians injuries are not a new phenomenon...
Here is one of the most well known examples in the past where an
outstanding composer/pianist suffered from a performance
In 1838 Robert Schumann wrote:
“All the music is complete and alive within me, so that I wish to
effortlessly breathe it out, but now I can hardly bring it forth;
I trip over one finger with the other. This is truly frightening
and has already caused me much pain.”
This quote epitomizes the emotion of every musician that suffers
with a condition that impedes there ability to express their
musical idea and their ability to earn a living. Even in the most
recent past, the medical and public perception is that musicians
are doing what they love to do and therefore should put up with
their problems. Like athletes, musicians perform for the public;
and like professional athletes, they can lose their jobs if they
don’t perform. But only athletes work with physicians and trainers
Until recently very few studies or surveys were performed to
elucidate the widespread nature of injuries associated with
musicians. Here are some examples of recent information discussing
this problem that directly affects you. This well know study tells
us that a survey of the International Conference of Symphony and
Opera Musicians showed that 76% had at least one problem
sufficiently severe to interfere with their ability to play and
36% had four such problems.
What is even more surprising than the
fact that these injuries are so prevalent is that there is an
incredible imbalance between what is known about the problem
versus what is being done for musicians.
At the university and college level the statistics are just as
8.5 new cases of disability occurred per 100 musicians per year in
a university music school setting.
Manchester RA, Med Probl Perform Art. 1988;3:15-18
This next study illustrates the breakdown of the major types of
medical problems that musicians suffer from.
Four Major categories of medical problems in Musicians:
64% - Musculoskeletal
22.5% - Nerve Entrapments
7% - Dystonias (involuntary movements)
Lederman RJ. Muscle Nerve 1994;17:569
The most common has to do with musculoskeletal problems and this
encompasses 64% of injuries; tendonitis falls into this category.
The next most common area of complaint is nerve entrapments, and
though Carpal tunnel syndrome is an excellent example of this, it
is not the only one that exists in this category.
had problems that would best fall into the next category;
involuntary movements of the fingers or hands, also called dystonias. Although most performers suffer from various forms of
nervousness when performing only the first three manifest
themselves in symptoms of pain or disability.
Each instrument has it own unique set of problems. Injuries or
disorders in musicians are not based simply on the instrument
played or the technical level of the musician. Depending on the
environmental stressors a unique pattern manifests itself. It is a
combination of these complicating factors; for example education,
form and size of instrument AND the particular instrument played
by the musician that results in the physical manifestation of
injury. In the literature a few eclectic examples of disorders
include: Cymbal players shoulder, Harpists cramp, English horn
players thumb and cellists dermatitis.
Keyboard instrument players typically experience symptoms or
problems in these areas: The neck, back, the distant muscles of
the wrist and hand, forearm extending muscle and fine muscles of
the hands. Pianist usually find that they injure their right and
more often that the left.
Violin and Violists commonly suffer from jaw problems, back, neck,
shoulder arm and hand problems.
Conductors for example use the orchestra or choir as their
instrument and their problems typically are caused by long hours
of standing and the load placed on postural muscles cause problems
with their upper and lower back, neck, shoulders, and feet.
Most instrumentalist tell me that conductors are their major
source of stress.
There are Nine warning Signs of CTD, all of which indicate the
need to take heed and either examine the way in which the musician
is playing or to be examined by a specialist to rule out any
likelihood that it will progress further towards a more serious
injury. CTDs can be stealth-like; many of the warning signs go
unnoticed or worse are considered just normal feelings associated
with playing or practicing. This perpetuates a state in which the
musician slowly but surely causes more and more damage to the
affected tissue until pain brings the musician to a halt.
The nine warning signs are:
Massage Fatigue or Lack of Endurance
Weakness in shoulder, hand or forearm
of Control or Coordination
Hands or Limbs
Numbness or loss of sensation
There is an important realization that must be made. Understand
that any one of the 9 signs may or may not lead to a more serious
condition. But it does indicate that your body is under a a state
of abnormal stress and each one in itself will cause interference
in the musicians ability to fully realize a musical idea through
With this information in mind you have a very important tool to
take responsibility for your own health and career. Remember when
you body is unduly stressed it will tell you that something is
wrong. Seek professional help immediately because people who try
to diagnose themselves usually center the attention around pain
and treating pain offers no prevention or rehabilitation. Panic
leads to either denial or overreaction, this is not necessary
because of the many treatment options available. When symptoms
first appear it wise to seek the help of a specialist who can
offer an accurate diagnosis and explain what is taking place.
An accurate diagnosis requires 2 things one, the injured tissue
must be identified whether it is muscle, tendon, ligament, bone,
cartilage, nerve, blood supply or lymph two, the stage of damage
that this tissue is experiencing. An accurate diagnosis is the
most important aspect in developing the best treatment plan
because the best treatment plan facilitates the quickest recovery
time and it will address the removal of the CAUSE not just the
Prevention: “Action of overtaking or anticipating.” “to anticipate
by preparation or action: be in readiness for.”
By definition prevention implies that one has the ability to be
ready for an injury before it occurs. Therefore good prevention
techniques should be practiced.
One excellent prevention technique involves heeding the early
warning signs. When your body is telling you that something is
wrong the old advice of “Doctor it hurts when I do this, then
don’t do it” is not good enough. Musicians don’t have the luxury
of not playing their instrument, so they must learn to work
through their problems with guidance. Seek the help of a
performance coach / teacher, or health specialist.
Having someone tell you that repeating over and over again the
same movement is the reason why you are injured is not entirely
true. This cuts to the very essence of the musician and music.
Musicians must practice passages countless times to master the
mechanics, and crystallize the musical intent of the composer.
Repetition is essential for this. It is not repetition in and of
itself that causes injury but the existence of one of two factors
in conjunction with repetition. A musician must be either
repeating improper movements that the body cannot physically
handle OR A musician is repeating a passage while abnormal body
mechanics are present.
On the other end of the spectrum is the total lack of movement.
When a muscle is held rigid, any movement of an opposing muscle
will put enormous stress on the motionless area creating tissue
injury in the rigid structure. For example: in a strong wind the
rigid branches of a tree will snap first, where the more flexible
branches bend with the wind and remain intact. Remember Tight
muscles equal weak muscles; Weakness causes injury.
Forcing your body to perform a physical movement that is contrary
to normal body mechanics will lead to injury. If you feel that you
are experiencing any of the warning signs mentioned earlier,
rework your approach to the piece of music or the passage. Usually
a purely mechanical problem with a passage or piece of music stems
from an unclear musical approach or the need to fine tune motor
control and reflexes.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if
you practice long and hard enough eventually you will solve a
technical or musical problem. It helps to work with a
teacher/coach to find the most efficient movement possible for the
musical idea that you wish to intend. Remember: Efficiency of
movement, not brute force, leads to musical clarity. We have
discussed the warning signs, treatment options and prevention, so
where do you go for help?
If you feel that you should seek help or advise from a health
professional because you have noticed any of the warning sign, it
is a good idea to look for someone who is
Sensitive to musicians needs
Understands the unique problems that are associated with each
Knowledgeable in all treatment options.
Treats the entire individual, not just the injured area.
Just as the sports community has a specialty devoted to sports
medicine, musician now more that ever have the opportunity to seek
a music specialist for their health related problems.
Musicians are in effect super-athletes but that does not mean that
their problems should be approached in the same manner as a
football player or a discus thrower.
“The comparison of dancers with athletes is probably reasonable,
but to compare instrumentalists with athletes is not. Even though
athletes and instrumentalists are both highly skilled performers
and spend a great deal of time performing and practicing, many of
the injuries in sports medicine result from high-impact movements
and physical contact, neither of which is a part of performing
Hoppmann RA, Textbook of Performing Arts Medicine, 1998, pg.. 213
How many concerts, recitals or performances have gone unperformed
because a talented musician was unable to communicate the thoughts
and ideas that were inside their mind? It is unacceptable to think
that a performer must cease playing because of a physical problem
and I believe that even one musician who must stop playing is a
I am confident that the modern musician, when educated
with the early warning signs and the knowledge of where to go for
help, should never have to miss an opportunity to perform again.
It is true that music is a labor of love and musicians always
think about the music they play first.
But please keep in mind,
that whatever instrument you play, all musicians share a common
musical instrument that must be taken care of, and kept in tune.
That instrument is your mind and body. Treat it like you treat
your guitar, violin, piano or drums; as a valuable piece of
equipment but one that cannot be replaced!
Performing Artists' Health Center
1939 Stadium Oaks Court, Suite 101
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Love Letters To Be Sold
17th February 2006
LOVE letters from
AC/DC's legendary singer Bon Scott to his former
wife are to be auctioned.
Irene Thornton, Scott's wife from 1972-74, will
sell the intimate writings of rock's
quintessential wild man in April.
The letters, written from 1973-75, are a glimpse
of Scott the romantic and reluctant rock star.
They reveal Scott as a lovestruck, ambitious and,
after AC/DC conquered the world, a lonely and
"There is 20-30 chicks a day I can have the choice
of," Scott wrote. "But I can't stand that. Mixed
up." He's also romantic.
Pretending to be a friend
of his, he wrote to Irene: "There is no one in the
whole wide world he loves more. Bon is very lonely
and he misses his beautiful young spouse with all
He writes of drug use, heavy drinking and his
disdain for rivals Skyhooks.
"I reckon we'd have to be the hottest band in the
country at the moment," he wrote in 1975. "The
next album will tell."
He also wrote of life on the road: "Got no booze,
no dope and no body to play with except my own."
Scott's letters, his shaving mirror and a vinyl
test pressing of AC/DC's Jailbreak album will be
sold at Leonard Joel, South Yarra.
Scott died, aged 33, of alcohol poisoning in
London in 1980. Irene lives in Melbourne.
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Man Of Shred: Goncalo Pereira
our readers, Daniel Kelly has written in to ask for some
information and articles about Gonçalo Pereira. He has recently
bought Pereira’s CD, Tricot No Pais Das Maravilhas, and reports it
is “absolutely amazing, truly!” So, thanks to Daniel, we’ve
put together some background about the very talented Gonçalo
Pereria which we hope you'll enjoy reading.
Winning the accolade of 'Portugal's best guitarist' could have
been a burden for Gonçalo Pereira. After all, awards such as this
have been known to generate intense critical pressure from
predatory guitar press types, driving the unfortunate guitarist
into obscurity...not so for Gonçalo Pereira. Gonçalo's
latest release "goncalopereira@g_spot", contains 12 brilliant
tracks and well over an hour of reasons as to why he is Portugal's
number one guitarist.
Gonçalo started to play electric guitar, completely self taught,
at the age of 14. His melodic and dedicated approach to guitar and
music in general enabled him to achieve a fast and accentuated
evolution. His musical influences range from Vivaldi, Bach,
Paganini and Mozart to Pat Metheny, George Benson, Joe Satriani,
Steve Vai, Paco De Lucia, Bryan Adams, The Police, Iron Maiden,
Metallica, Extreme, Dream Theater and many more.
Gonçalo started his career as a professional guitar teacher at the
age of 18, following several requests from lots of kids who wanted
to learn those fantastic licks of today. This occupation is still
his main job, not only in private, but also in workshops that he
performs all over the country.
Throughout the early 90’s, he performed in the Lisbon club scene
with several original/cover bands that he formed. He attended the
International Relations course in college (Universidade
Independente) but he didn’t complete his graduation, in order to
work fulltime in his music career.
In 1995, Gonçalo was invited by Portugal’s major selling artist –
Paulo Gonzo – to play in his two multiplatinum records, and also
to tour Europe and the USA. Gonçalo did also participate in the
composition and arrangement process of several of this project’s
songs. Since 1990, he has played more than 500 live shows. As a
solo artist, his first experience happened in 1998, as part of a
compilation album, invited by an independent record company, which
featured some of Portugal’s finest guitar players.
A few months later, relying on his talent, the same label granted
him the opportunity to record and produce his own instrumental
album entitled “Tricot no País das Maravilhas”. In this successful
debut album he presents a special version of Mozart’s “Alla Turca”,
played by four hands on one guitar, with the help of his bass
player; it’s always one of the highlights of his live performance.
In 1998, Gonçalo was voted “Best Portuguese Guitar Player” by the
readers of the most important portuguese music newspaper.
In October of 1999, side by side with the creation of his own
record company, Gonçalo Pereira released his second solo album,
“Upgrade”. His eclectic musical background is perfectly showcased
in all of the eleven original tracks, with a special cover track,
a tribute to the master of portuguese guitar, Carlos Paredes, the
impressive and overwhelming “Movimento Perpétuo”.
In the year 2000, Gonçalo produced the debut album for the band
“Super Teen”, that reached a gold record and was considered the
revelation band of the year in Portugal. Besides producing the
album, he was the author and composer of not only the 1st single
of the band, as well as more than half of the record’s songs. The
building process of the G-Spot Studios, Gonçalo’s new recording
studio located in Caneças, was started in 2001. These new
facilities are the product of all the experience that was gathered
throughout his career, provinding all the tools to achieve results
of the highest quality.
As a result of an invitation from the major label EMI, Gonçalo
produced Nuno Guerreiro’s solo album “Tento Saber”, having also
been the musical director of the band. The last examples are just
some from a growing list of many projects (with many being
released by important labels in the country) in which he’s been
involved as a composer and a producer, having also worked in many
of the projects’s singles. Other work includes artists such as
Sofia Gaspar, Célia Lawson, João Portugal, Duck, Sister Cloud, Str@in,
Squad, and many more. His work also includes music for TV, raging
from publicity jingles to soundtracks for shows.
Being a very active producer, his reputation his building up and
he’s getting more and more demand. Regarding live concerts of
recent years, Gonçalo participated on Nuno Guerreiro’s shows as a
guitarist and musical director, and with Sofia Gaspar, opening for
Rui Veloso. In 2003, with his new studio completely built, he
recorded his new solo album “gonçalopereira@g_spot”, released in
January of 2004. In that month he performed several shows in
“Fnac” stores throughout the country; the attendance was beyond
This album mixes Gonçalo’s eclectic approach to music with his new
working conditions and all the experience gathered in his career
as a producer.
In the present time, besides the scheduled shows, Gonçalo
continues to give guitar lessons in his new studio, and composing
for Shawn Lane’s tribute album, which is going to be released
worldwide during this year’s first semester. His participation,
side by side with other world renowned artists, happened due to an
invitation from the finnish label “Lion Music”. The rock band
Blister, in which he is the guitarist, is always in constant
evolution. After the first demo, which got a good amount of
airplay in the national radio stations “Mega FM” and “Rádio
Comercial”, with the song “Day By Day”, Blister are now recording
their first album at the G-Spot studios. They participated on the
contest “Objectivo Rock In Rio”, having performed live on the TV
show “Cabaret da Coxa” (from the station Sic Radical) and are now
part of the 10 finalist bands that are competing for a place in
the roster of the famous “Rock In Rio” festival.
Bio material taken from Goncalo's website:
The following is an excerpt from an
interview by Simon Badham at
What's your approach when playing through
Well, when I'm composing and there are a few chord changes, I give
myself the liberty of experiment everything that I might be
interested in achieving. I work a lot with intervals, which means
that sometimes I'll use the sound of certain intervals to fit the
next chord that might be in a different key.
I used to think about scales,
arpeggios and stuff, and there are tons of suggested approaches
that you might use, but be sure whatever you do, you let your ears
be the judge, not your fingers or anything else. Nowadays when
improvising, I just try to express myself through the guitar and
that's a thing of the moment. I cannot say honestly that I think
this or that. I basically try to go with the flow.
Your sound is very fluid, do use any
unusual guitar techniques?
Well, if you consider five note per string unusual, oh yeah. I've
been working for many years now to build up my own style of
playing guitar, that includes: very unusual left hand stretches,
the understanding of the fret board in one, two, three, four,
five, six notes per string mixed with all sorts of right hand
picking patterns, including alternate picking, sweep picking, a
lot of string skipping, legato playing and an "always ready to
join the party" right-hand tapping.
As I worked a lot on my style, I try to get all these ingredients
working together, so it's quite natural for me to have a lick that
incorporates a big left hand stretch that goes like four notes on
a string plus a tapping (which makes five notes in a string) with
a melodic repetition of four notes but a rhythmic pattern of six
notes followed by string skipping to another string, and going all
the way up in an ascending pattern and then I'll might finish with
a two and a half tone bend, engage a sweep for just a few strings,
slide left or right as the feel of the moment tells me, and maybe
exit with an alternate picking pattern at three note per strings
but never repeating the left hand fingering, for instance, to
create a total improvisation... A bit like playing soccer, really.
Tapping makes up a big part of your
style, can you expand a little on your ideas for this technique?
I really try to have the tapping fingers to flow the same way as
the others, which means, a tapping finger as to able to bend,
slide, play a whole scale, basically having the same dexterity as
the fingers of the left hand. That's my goal. I've been developing
some really cool techniques that really make me imagine I'm
playing percussion and piano and more obviously sometimes, sax.
Goncalo kindly offered the following musical examples to clarify
his blazing technique.
The following licks can be heard on
the media and audio sections of his website
The Secret Of Speed: Finding The "Incredible
By Jamie Andreas
Click here to read
Jamie's wonderful article about
the incredible feeling of lightness which makes fast, accurate
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Learn to Play
Guitar - Pinch Harmonics and Making Your Guitar Scream
In this article I'll explain how to make your guitar squeal with
A lot of guitarists have trouble learning how to do these, but
it's really a simple technique.
I'm going to touch on all types of harmonics in an effort to
explain how Pinch Harmonics work when your playing the guitar.
If your like me you like to add a little expression when playing
your guitar, by adding some harmonics and pinch harmonics.
To get this started we're going to go into a little detail about
how the guitar strings actually work. Now I'm not going to be all
technical, as that's not who I am :o)
Basically the guitar string vibrates between the nut and the
bridge. If you look closely you can see the string vibrating like
a sine wave.
Natural harmonics happen at the spaces along the string where the
"wave" stops and starts a new one. (Not technically correct but
makes sense to me this way).
This normally happens just above the 5th fret, the 7th fret, and
the 12th fret wires. If you take a minute in a well lit room you
can see the spots where the vibration along the string actually
seems to be stopped. When you lightly touch a ringing string on
these points you will get a natural harmonic chime.
Tap harmonics are simply fretting a string and moving the natural
harmonic spot up accordingly. For example: If you fret the Low E
String at the 3rd fret and pluck the string, your "natural
harmonics" would no longer be at the 5th, 7th, and 12th frets. You
would Tap the string above the 8th, 10th, and 15th fret wire to
sound the harmonic. Hence the name....Tap Harmonic.
Now..to the meat of this...the all powerful Pinch Harmonic!! I say
all powerful just because I love the extra expression and sound
you can get from them.
To do a Pinch Harmonic you basically "Pinch" the string between
your Pick and the side of your thumb that's holding the pick.
This is the way I do them and have had excellent luck with this
When you strike the string you let your thumb sound the harmonic
you want. It takes a bit of trial and error to find the right
areas above the pickups that sound the harmonics you want, but
only a little.
The best way to learn the placement is to crank up your distortion
(easier to sound them), and on put your fret hand on the Low E or
A String on the 5th or 7th fret as if you were playing A note or D
Start with your pick in about the middle of the Neck and Bridge
pickups and "Pinch" the string so that when your pick sounds it
your thumb immediately touches the string. This should sound a
Pinch Harmonic. The motion is similar to turning the ignition in a
car, just not as drastic...it's a slight "Turn" or "Pinch" on the
You may have to move your hand slightly higher or lower on the
string to find the "sweet spots". Keep trying different areas
until you get it just right.
Once you've found the spots that give the sounds you want, make a
mental note of where they are. When you move your fret hand higher
or lower on the neck...the places you can hit the harmonics will
move slightly. This falls in line with the way a Tap Harmonic
works, so keep that in mind.
Keep practicing finding the "Sweet Spot" until you can do it each
time you try. This part does take a little time and practice.
Just as a note: When you change to a different guitar, be prepared
to relearn where the Pinch Harmonics sound. Every guitar I've
played on has them in slightly different places. Differences in
neck length, bridge placement, manufacturing tolerances all come
So, that's all there is to it...Keep practicing till you get the
feel for it, try adding bends and sound another one, you'll make
that guitar scream like a wounded banshee in no time.
If you want to really increase your skill with Pinch harmonics
after you get the feel for them, try practicing them with a clean
sound. They can still be sounded and your accuracy will increase
About the Author: Todd has been
playing guitar for over 20 years. You can find more tutorials and
lessons on how to
learn to play guitar at his website.
Todd is also heavily involved in
Marketing and offers free information at his personal site.
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Learn Guitar By Not Playing Guitar
suppose you think that you learn guitar by playing guitar. Well,
do you learn to say the right things by talking all the time?
Let's take a look at the art of not playing guitar...
you learn to play guitar by not playing? Is it really possible to
develop as a guitarist without touching the instrument?
weight training it is an established fact that muscle growth takes
place during rest, for example when you sleep. It doesn’t mean
that you will become a famous muscle builder by sleeping. Sleeping
is just a part of the overall picture called muscle growth.
ever think that you will become a good guitarist by not playing
guitar at all!
define a good guitarist as a good musician. A good musician can
convey his musical emotions to somebody else and this ability
takes more than just practicing moving the fingers among all those
can you do to become a better guitarist and a musician when you
don't play? Let me give you a few suggestions:
you play classical guitar, get into the habit of often reading
guitar sheet music without your guitar. This practice gives you
training in the art of hearing the sheet music in your head and
also gives you a better chance to really learn notational symbols
in the music and rhythmic subtleties.
a week off from your guitar playing every now and then and use all
your musical energy listening to good music or just being a good
citizen. Learn to spot musical and artistic heights in the music.
Listen to all types of instrumentalists. With concentration. My
best listening position is laying flat on my bed with headphones
on forgetting the rest of the world. Maybe you have another
feel and enjoy musical and artistic expressions in the music these
will probably be implemented in your own guitar playing sooner or
3. Be a
good musical friend by helping somebody else to play. It will help
you become more unselfish and like people more. Well, maybe you
already like people sufficiently but to learn to like people is
part of our development as musicians as we are supposed to give of
ourselves to others when we play.
Prepare your body and mind for playing guitar by learning the art
of relaxation and stretching your muscles. You can of course find
articles on these subjects on the net. Performing in a relaxed
manner will help you enjoy your own music more and will help your
public to relax and enjoy your music too.
time to sit down, or stand up if you like, and ponder about what
guitar playing means to you. Is there something that you would
like to develop in your guitar playing that will give you more joy
and happiness. Set a realistic goal and write down what you can do
every week to accomplish that goal.
believe in practicing on my guitar of course but I hope that these
pieces of advice concerning not playing guitar will increase your
love for your guitar and the art of playing and giving musical joy
Peter Edvinsson is a musician, composer and music teacher. Visit
Capotasto Music and download your free sheet music and learn
to play resources at
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How To Mic
An Electric Guitar
With modern music (especially pop/rock music)
production demands are greater than ever. The average listener
expects the recording quality of your music to be the equivalent
of those amazing productions you often hear on the radio. Since
this discussion could take weeks and weeks and page after page,
I've decided to narrow the focus of this guide to recording the
With any recording, getting the source right is 99% of the
ballgame. This means that a great singer with great tone will
sound good through pretty much any microphone. This means that a
great sounding violinist with a great sounding violin in a great
sounding room will sound this way through any functional
microphone. Granted, some microphones will impart their character
onto the source (for better or worse), but with any operating
microphone a great musician will still sound great.
So with the guitar (and anything else you intend to record), it's
important to get the instrument doing exactly what you want before
you even bother putting a mic in front of it. You should walk
around the room the amp is setup in to hear exactly what is going
on. You might find sweet spots in the room. You may try actually
moving the amp in a few different places in the room.
In my first recording room (which happened to be very small and
very unideal for recordings), I noticed that moving an amp just a
few inches had a dramatic effect on the low end coming out of the
amplifier. I later learned that this was quite normal for small
rooms with no acoustic treatment. (Just a side note, if you are
planning on doing treatments for your room, skip the foam stuff.
It probably won't help. In many instances, it will make the
problem worse. Try a search for "bass trap" or visiting
http://www.recordingreview.com). So experiment greatly with
the amp before you get serious about microphones.
In fact, I recommend that you mess with the tone quite a bit just
to see. You could always settle for the tone already on the amp,
or you could push the highs up too high to see where they end up.
You could pull the highs down too far to see where the tone ends
up. Eventually, you'll find a middle ground that keeps your
perspective out of the way.
The type of guitar you use makes a big difference on how the amp
will sound. This is no secret. However, many people get in a rush
when recording and think that adding some sort of effect or plugin
on the computer will get them what they are looking for. If you
find that you are not happy with a given guitar, maybe you should
try plugging in a different guitar just to see. Try doing
something off the wall or downright wrong. You'd be amazed at what
kind of recordings you could get with a Telecaster through a Mesa
Boogie Rectifier. I've heard success stories of acoustic guitars
running through cranked Rectifiers.
When you have a tone that you are pretty confident about, it's
time to pull out the mics. There are a few methods to trying out
mics. You could slap every mic you own on the amp to see it it's
happening for you. The problem with this approach is mic
placement. Did you take the time with each mic to make sure you
found the best sounding spot on the amp? You could do this with
each mic, but the spot that just sings for each microphone will
probably be in a different spot for each mic. I tihnk your time
could be spent better.
If you are just starting out and have no idea what mic would be
best for a given job, start with an SM 57. They are cheap and
everyone has one. If you don't have at least one, get one used off
of Ebay or something. In the meantime, grab whatever dynamic you
have and give it a try. There are a number of SM 57 clones that
are essentially the same microphone. Even if they are not the same
mic, try them. You never know.
One trick to help choose the best spot to place the mic I read in
a forum years ago. It said to unplug the instrument cable from the
guitar amp, crank the amp up to very high levels, and put the SM
57 (or whatever mic you are using) in front of the speaker. Next,
run the mic through some loud headphones with good isolation.
Then, with the headphones on, start moving the mic in front of the
speaker. You will be amazed at what you are hearing. You will hear
all sorts of changes in the tone simply from moving the mic
around. The users of the forum recommended putting the mic on the
brightest spot. I have not had much luck with putting a mic
exactly at the brightest spot because it can get a little bit too
fizzy at times, but feel free to try it and see what works. The
brightest spot may be perfect with a darker sounding amp.
My favourite trick when recording guitar amps is to use two
different microphones on one speaker. You have to be aware of
phase cancellation. (If you are not familiar with phase
cancellation, check out my website,
http://www.recordingreview.com.) However, when you get the
mics in phase, you will have much more control off your
recordings. I find that what I'm looking for when mixing is much
different when I'm tracking. Sometimes I wish I could go back and
change something on a tone. One remedy for this is recording the
two mics from one speaker to two separate tracks that will allow
you to blend them differently to create different tones on the
I start out by placing one SM 57 on the cone. This means I put the
mic in the dead center of the speaker. This sound is almost always
fizzy and thin. With very few exceptions, I've found it to be a
crappy guitar sound. As crazy as it may sound, that's exactly what
we want. We want a track in the mix that is bright, thin crap that
we can use as much or as little as we feel the mood for.
The second mic should sound the opposite. We want it to be big,
meaty, and full of chunky low end. This mic ends up in different
places with every amp that I use, but most of the time it can be
found 2"-3" from the first mic in any direction. Sometimes angling
the mic towards the edge of the speaker helps, too. This mic
should sound a little dull by itself.
Now record both mics and see what you get. Listen to each mic by
itself first. Then listen to both of them together. Assuming you
like the sound that each mic makes (Remember, you want one to be
too bright and the other to be too dull) you will experience one
of three things.
1) The sound will be extremely thin sounding as if you rolled off
all the low end with a parametric equalizer. This means the mics
are almost totally out of phase. The solution is to push the phase
button on your preamp or mixing software. This is what you want.
You want the combined sound of the mics to be so thin that it
isn't usable. Then when you push the phase button on one track,
the tone comes to life. This is what I always go for.
2) The sound will be big and full. This sound almost means good
things. If you push the phase button, it should sound like what
you may have experienced in #1. If the tone totally disappears and
all you can hear is some fizz, you've got the tone down. Push the
phase button back to your big guitars again.
3) The sound is weird. You are not sure what it sounds like. It's
not bad, but it's not right either. Pushing the phase button only
changes the tone in the mids and does not have make a big impact
on the low end. In this case, some other frequency is out of phase
and the low end is in tact. You need to use your ears on this one.
I usually don't like to leave the mics like this. I go for #1 or
#2. However, many great engineers use phase cancellation as a way
of eq'ing the amps. This is highly advanced engineering, and not
for the faint of heart However, if you stumble on a sound that you
really like, by all means, go with it.
Well that gives you food for thought. You'll notice that we didn't
talk about different microphones. The truth is if you master the
techniques above, you won't have too much need for more mics. If
you want to expand your mic collection, go ahead. There are a
number of mics that work great for electric guitar amps. Check out
my website for details.
About The Author:
Brandon Drury's site,
www.recordingreview.com has links to all sorts of free
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In Three Notes, Can You Name That Band?
Okay, y'all...remember that old TV show called "Name That Tune?"
Well, I couldn't wait a full week to get this one out because, not
only is it so important, but it is, in fact, vital and can get you
involved *very* quickly in a lawsuit, which could be financially
devastating to your career.
Plus, as I would have normally published this article on this
coming Friday, I am otherwise headed to Houston this weekend to
record my new single titled, "Vampire Love." :-)
But, getting back to the main point, if you have become a
successful independent band, and just happen to have the same name
as a band that had the name before you, you can be legally forced
to pay back all those royalties and sales profits, in addition to
an incredible amount of damages. This little pleasant process is
known as a lawsuit.
Okay, Kenny, what are you hammering about NOW?
I'm very glad you asked because there is an increasingly big
problem with successful bands being legally forced to change their
names because they were *lazy* and did not bother to thoroughly
check to see if another band had the name first. They have become
victims of the "It can't happen to us" theory. In fact, not only
can it happen to you, if you become successful, it *will* happen
That's right...if you have managed to assess a small fortune in
royalties, and have not conducted a trademark search on your
band's name, look out! Because, the chances are great that a less
than successful band is waiting on you, figuratively speaking,
just around the corner. And, all this less than successful band
has to do in order to turn your day trading into a nightmare, is
simply prove that it had the name before you.
And, if you happen to reside in the Third Ward district of one of
my beloved hometowns (Houston, Texas) and, particularly, near
McGowen or Scott streets, one of these bands could be waiting on
you, literally, and usually after dark wielding a Lone
But, I'm not here to discuss geography...I am here, however, to
discuss topography...and, specifically, the topography of your
Several years ago, during one of my stints as a broadcast radio
host, my then business partner and I were considering starting a
record label, and were interviewing a very nice vocal group whose
music we had been playing on our station, for our label's first
However, the group's name (perhaps as hindsight) simply seemed
like a name that might already be in existence. Lo and behold,
after searching the 'Net, I discovered a similar group with the
same name, that had been in existence much longer, as well as had
a couple of releases out.
The group that we were considering signing has now folded because
they were so distraught and were so in love with the name, and
simply could not move on to another. I guess that's why they call
it the Blues.
Now, I'm betting that, as a result of reading this, a good number
of you who are in bands will find tonight's sleep a bit of a
disconcerting effort, and for that I am truly sorry. :-( But, it
is my civic and patriotic duty to be the bearer of bad news if it
helps protect your career.
Ever heard the phrase, "This is going to hurt me a lot more than
it's going to hurt you?" Well, this ain't one of them times.
At the very least, if a trademark search is not within your budget
at the moment (around $300-$400), at least, register your name at
BandName.com or BandRegister.com.
And, much success to your getting "legalized."
Note: To see how far the lack of proper registration of your
band's name can escalate, take a look at some popular name artists
who found out the hard way, so to speak, and whom you may
Black Sabbath - they were originally a cover band called EARTH.
The band saw Boris Karloff's 1963 horror movie "Black Sabbath" one
night and were inspired to call their first original song "Black
Sabbath." They found out at a gig that there was another band
called "Earth," so they changed their name to BLACK SABBATH.
Blink-182 - They were originally called BLINK, but were forced to
change their name because a techno band from Ireland was already
called that. 182 doesn't actually mean anything. The band has
helped start rumors about 182 like: Al Pacino said "f--k" 182
times in Scarface, Al Pacino said "f--k" 182 times in "The
Testament is a North American thrash metal music group from
California. Being one of the most influential American thrash
metal bands, while recording their first album, the band was
forced to change its name to Testament because another band held a
copyright to the name, "The Legacy."
Author: Kenny Love is president of MuBiz.com, a radio promotion, media publicity and multi-service firm for independent musicians andd recording artists. Get more extensive details at
Kenny's MySpace.com page.
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Congratulations! Your singing has become amazing, and it's time
the world knew. You've also written some songs that are just kick
you-know-what. They need to be recorded, MP3ed and put on the net
ASAP. But you've got two problems. First, you can't afford a
studio, let alone a band for all this stuff. Second, you don't
play all, or any, of the instruments.
Well there is good news. With a deft combination of the internet
and today's software, you can do wonders. While it's never going
to be the same as a true band in a real studio, which you had
better hire for that big record company showcase, you can still
create great backing tracks.
First, repeat after me. "I love MIDI." Thank you.
MIDI, to refresh your memory, is like sheet music for a pianist.
The paper itself makes no noises, but the pianist gets all the
information he needs from it to let us hear Beethoven (especially
if the music is also Beethoven!). In your computer set up, the
MIDI file is the sheet music, the MIDI sequencer or playback
program is the pianist, and your computer's sound card and
synthesizer are the piano. That's all you need!
Before we get started, I'll mention the ultimate cover song
shortcut - the Internet! There are tons of great MIDI files of
almost every piece of popular music out there. All you have to do
is find them. If you can't, or you've got your own material, read
on. Be legal, though!
If You Play Keyboard or Guitar Well
First, thank your parents for the lessons. Then, get your hands on
a sequencer program and record your tracks. Using MIDI, you can
choose the instrument sound for everything - all you need to do is
input the notes. For drums, you can either record them from your
keyboard or use a plug-in drum machine. If you choose to record
them, a quick way to do it is to record a couple of measures and
then copy/paste to fill out the song. But don't forget to put in
some drum fills!
If Your Playing Is Limited to Little or
Not at All
For you there are wonderful programs, like Band in a Box and
Jammer, to create backing tracks. They are very stylish, meaning,
they function in styles. You must, at the very least, know the
chords for your song. You simply enter the chords, choose the
appropriate musical style, and click a button called "compose" (or
some reasonable facsimile). Before you can say "Holy guacamole,
Batman," your music is playing. The drawback here is that your
band will sound canned. And well it should, for it is! But, have
no fear, there are ways to mitigate that quite well.
Making it Human
Best thing? Play what you can, at least the melody. That, in and
of itself, will help tremendously, as it's no longer just a band
style playing chord progressions.
Next up, record a counterpoint. Counterpoints make ordinary songs
exciting. They are secondary melodies that complement the main
melody. They usually have a slightly different rhythm, and fill in
where the melody has breaks. A great example is in the song "The
Winner Takes It All," by Abba. Listen to the theme that is always
playing underneath the melody - it really drives the song.
Another thing you can do to put life into your tracks is to
customize the style. Depending on how good you are with your
software and its capabilities, you can create your own riffs and
mix them into the song. Also, vary similar styles throughout the
song to break the monotony. And, again, don't underestimate drum
Creative use of layering is a very effective technique. When all
the tracks play all the time, it can be very boring. Wait to bring
in some instruments till later in the song. That creates a
"building" feel. Then, at some point towards the end, take them
out again briefly to create a "break" or "bridge". When you bring
them back, it is very powerful.
Finally, don't allow any perfection. Yes, you read that correctly.
If your music is perfectly aligned rhythmically, it will sound
artificial. Live musicians are never precisely on the beat. Almost
all programs have a "humanize" function which corrects this
automatically. Otherwise, take the time and slide some notes in
the piano roll editor window. If you need quantize (rhythm
correction) on the recorded tracks, set it to less than 100%.
When you've got your MIDI file, there are two ways to convert it
to audio (wav, mp3) for CD burning. The quicker way is with a
dedicated program that renders wave files from MIDI files
directly. Most software synthesizer programs that have a
stand-alone playback feature can do this. Otherwise, open an audio
recording program, play the MIDI file, and simultaneously record
the output. Make sure your audio recorder is set to receive from
the correct input.
If You Play Nothing, and Don't Know
Chords or Theory or Anything
Guess what? You are the one who should hire a musician. Yes, I
know that some programs will offer both a chord progression
composer and even a melody composer. All you would need to do is
choose the style. If you are considering going this route, I have
one request for you.
Sorry to yell, but think about this. The melody is composed by a
computer, the chords are composed by a computer, the band is
composed by a computer. It is music that is completely composed by
a computer. Oh my gosh! How revolting is that?
No, my friend, hire a qualified musician. You sing the song to
them, they create the magic. Do not sell yourself short. Your song
is important -- it's part of you! Show it the greatest respect and
make it as beautiful as you can.
About the author:
Seth Lutnick is a singer, songwriter and arranger. Visit his
website, http://www.getitdone.biz for more on creating and using a home
recording studio, and personal action planning.
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Guitar Made Simple
We've been waiting for this one for a while and it's
Brand new and only in its first few weeks of release, Guitar Made Simple was
developed by internationally acclaimed recording artist Chris Standring (who
wrote the proven jazz guitar method "Play What You Hear").
With this method, you can learn to play electric and acoustic guitar
quickly and easily. It's the most amazing step-by-step interactive program
available today. Without a doubt this unique and brilliant method for
beginners and intermediates is the future of guitar instruction.
thoroughly researching the websites, courses, methods and DVDs for
learning guitar, Chris found that most of them discussed particular aspects of the guitar
that the student could not fully absorb. In other words, in order to play this,
one has to know that, and all too often that important knowledge
is not discussed at all. In short, most method were just way too scattered and
not thorough enough.
Made Simple' is an extremely well thought out beginners program, with a very
thorough and personal approach to help you easily learn how to play the
guitar... the right way! So much more than trying to learn alone with just a book,
this brilliant system connects with you as if an instructor is right with you in
your own home. Don’t just take our word for it though, take a look for yourself!
here to find out more - don't delay!
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you could sing at the front of your band? Or perhaps you'd like to sing
karaoke or sing original material, and want to develop singing ability in the
shortest time possible. Guess what, no matter what your voice sounds like now,
it can be developed to astounding quality in a short amount of time!
We've found an
excellent program called
Vocal Release, which was developed so people could learn
how to sing or write songs the right way from the start. It also suits singers
who are interested in singing at star quality, and those wanting to develop
singing ability in the shortest time possible. Perfect for guitar players who want to sing vocals at their gigs!
In this kit, you will learn techniques
that will enable you to sing in a commercial voice that can be applied to Rock,
Pop, Rap, R&B, and Country Music. A classical and or choir approach to singing
will not develop a commercial voice! Vocal Release is specifically aimed at
learning how to sing commercially.
Click here for more details about Vocal Release's
. Don't delay!
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