Impressive impressions

Impression

 

What does it mean to leave an impression? This is important to me, as I try to carry myself in a professional light, as a musician and entertainer.  I know so many musicians who are just… slobs. They dress poorly, show up late, act like children, and honestly just make me want to make an impression on their face… with my fist.

That being said, the bar is set pretty low, in my area, as far as musicians go.  In fact, when my wife met me, she was leery because I was a ‘musician.’ Most musicians she knew, before me were pompous, arrogant, unprofessional, dirty, and most of all impolite.

I’m not saying I’m the most gentlemanly person on the planet, but if you’re going to do what I do, and be somewhat successful, you need to get your shit together and act like an adult.

What does that mean?

Show up to your gigs early:  Trust me, you look like a total tool, when you’re trying to rush around and set things up.. That’s when you make mistakes.  Nothing turns a crowd away from a band faster, then having microphones squeal and there being a large ruckus where the band/solo artist is setting up.

Dress the part: I’m not saying you have to be in full rockstar garb all the time, but try to look presentable. You’re holey Led Zepplin Tshirt from 1981 is not impressive. Wearing a nice button down shirt, jeans that aren’t falling off of you, and looking relatively well kept are not hard things to do.  Now, If you’re in a 90’s grunge band, and you’re playing at a venue, go ahead, wear ripped jeans and flannel..  I’m focusing more on the acoustic aspect of things. I’m pretty sure Dave Grohl isn’t reading this blog, so real rock-stars need not apply.

Be respectable: Walk into the place, without a chip on your shoulder, find the nearest bartender/server/whoever is in charge, and figure out where you are to set up. Say please and thank you. Order a drink, pay for that drink, and worry about what’s free later on.  REMEMBER, they are a business just as much as you are. You’re not doing any favors by drinking and eating all of their food for free.

DO NOT HAVE A RIDICULOUS GUEST LIST: Especially, if you are playing with other bands and charging a cover. Pick one: your girl/boy-friend, your favorite roadie, your corgi, I don’t care. Don’t expect to get your whole entourage in to the place for nothing. If there’s no cover, that’s fine, don’t try and get everyone free stuff, while you’re playing. Again, the venue is a business, and needs to be respected as such.

There’s just a few tips on leaving impressions, as a musician. I have so many of stories of groups that have done some seriously asinine things, and I wonder how they even manage to book gigs (most of them don’t anymore.)

Remember, live music and music venues need to work hand-in-hand to be successful.  Don’t expect them to do all of the promoting. I know you’re too busy changing the world with your music, but making a Facebook event and inviting your following only takes about 10 minutes.

Alright, I’ve rambled on long enough. What other tips do you guys have, to leave great impressions?

 

-Joe

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I Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart…

It’s a sad day, for Rock and Roll…
As you probably figured out by now, I love music, passionately.

Not just playing it, and writing it, but listening to it…

It boggles my mind, that with 12 notes, you can create endless masterpieces…

People that use those 12 notes wisely, sometimes get to be famous, and influence other musician’s lives.

I have different areas of focus, when it comes to music. On bass guitar, I can do almost anything I want, I’ve been playing for 17 years, and studied the likes of anyone who’s ever used the instrument in a unique way… I’ve taken inspiration from every walk of Bass guitar and formed my own style…

That style translates into my acoustic playing.. I’m not your ‘typical’ guitar player… I approach guitar, like a bass player, and have my own unique style.

But aside from bass and guitar, there are vocals. I take singing very seriously, because it’s something I love to do. As my wife has noted to me: “I don’t think you would be able to function, if you couldn’t play music. It’s like it’s a part of you, an extension of who you are.” roughly states what she told me, not too long ago.. That’s one of the greatest compliments, I’ve ever received as a musician!

That being said, one of my vocal icons passed on last evening. Mr. Chris Cornell, the hard-hitting vocalist from Soundgarden, Audioslave, and a successful solo career.

Cornell had one of the most powerful voices I’ve ever heard… Anyone who’s ever heard “Hunger Strike” has heard that spine-tingling belting in the song…

A lesser known ‘vocal cameo’ is with Alice in Chains, in the song “Right Turn.”
There is this haunting, eeriness about this song, and near the end there is a soul ripping vocal, from none other than Chris Cornell..

“Its hard to believe that somebody tricked you
When you can see as far as I have
Its hard to believe that someone you cared for
Put your face into the fire”

He was not only a man of extraordinary range and talent, as a singer. But he wrote some songs that really hit home, with me…

He died, while on tour… which I think is appropriate… I think anyone who dies doing what they love, dies the most noble death that there could be.

So, Rest in Peace, one of my favorite singers. Prayers for your family.

Thanks for reading!

Struggles With Singing (smoking is bad, m’kay?)

Good afternoon (non)followers!

It’s a beaut-.. well.. It’s kind of alright, out side, here in Pennsylvania.
To be honest, it’s cold and windy… and it’s going to rain all damn weekend!

Enough about that , though.

I quit smoking back in November of 2015, best decision I’ve ever made in my life, as far as my health is concerned, but I swear… I used to have a better vocal range.

Either because I’m getting older, or I’ve just done far too much damage to my vocal chords, I can’t sing as high, consistently as I used to… Anyone else ever deal with this? It’s a real pain in the ass…

That being said, I can still recover some of my range for gigs by REGULARLY doing vocal warmups.. I found a fantastic set of classic vocal warmups by an artist named “Pete Faint,” on Spotify.  This has been my pre-show and sometimes even my daily morning ritual on the way to work.

I commute about 20 minutes, each way, for work. During that time I often pop on the vocal warmup album, and at least make it through the first 6 exercises: everything from humming, to vowels noises, sliding up a 5th, sliding up an octave, legato/staccato warmups, and anything you need to warm up them pipes…

I’ve played with far too many musicians who don’t take the time to do this, and they just can’t keep up for days at a time, of long gigs. My acoustic gigs can go anywhere from 1 hour to 3+ hours, and I often have multiple gigs a weekend! (For example, I have 4 gigs between May 24th and 28th, for a total of at least 7 hours I am going to have to be able to sing and play.)

Vocal warmups MAY sound corny, but I can not stress how important they are… I’m not by any means a “lead singer” and I think the ego of those types, tend to get the best of them… They’re also the ones spraying God knows what down their throats 5 minutes before they go on, and then are often complaining about sore throats the next day… (let’s not forget how they also cup the microphone, which is the most irritating thing in the world for a sound guy… more on that later…)

Speaking of spraying un-known chemical compounds down your throat to preserve your vocal ability… Try drinking some water instead…

We as people (ESPECIALLY Americans), go through our lives practically dehydrated… You should be drinking about a gallon of water A DAY!! It’s a lot harder than it sounds… but totally worth it… I can usually get 3 quarts in, which is better than most, but it really does help.. Let me dispel a couple rumors about things that ‘help’ your throat.

Tea w/ honey & lemon – Nope.. Just.. Nope… Caffeine dehydrates you, lemon juice (or anything sour really..) doesn’t do you any favors, and sugar just makes ya feel gummy..

Any kind of alcohol – I used to believe this one… I’d try ginger brandy to ‘loosen things up’  The truth of the matter is, alcohol relaxes you… So, when you’re relaxed, you’re obviously less tense, even in the throat muscles… the alcohol contacting your vocal chords does nothing good.

Smoking – I’ve heard singers that tell me they sing better when they smoke… I think this may be related to my previous statement about alcohol… Hot smoke from a cigarette just dries you out…

There’s just a few of the many ridiculous things I’ve read on the internet before.. The fact of the matter is this: You need to drink water, NOT strain your voice, and do vocal exercises to keep your voice in shape. Do not rely on ridiculous home remedies to do it for you. If you want the job, you gotta do the work.

Alright, well, I’m done scolding you for today. I’ve gotta go suck down another half gallon of water, before the day is up!

Until next time!

 

-Joe