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5 Ways Microphones Have Changed the Music Industry

If you’ve ever stepped on stage to perform, you may not have thought much about the microphone you’re about to use. But its history is actually pretty interesting, as music recording equipment has developed drastically since the first condenser microphone came on the market. These changes have made a big impact on the music industry as a whole, and, for better or worse, are here to stay.

Power Requirement

Dr. Zaza, Mr. Zura & Muki M. im Gleis 1 in Waldenburg

Without outside amplification, the loudest musician wins every time. But when you introduce microphones into the mix, every individual instrument can be heard as the composer intended. So you can have brass instruments playing at fortissimo, and woodwinds and strings playing mezzopiano, but the final decision as to the volume is up to the sound engineer running the music recording equipment.

Likewise, in a live setting, a quiet singer or instrumentalist can still be heard in the back row with proper amplification. Microphones can be strategically placed around a stage to pick up any whisper or important sounds, so the audience can hear them regardless of where they are seated.

Live Performances

While microphones have definitely become a powerful tool in the arsenal of music recording equipment, they are equally as important in live performances. A vocalist or musician does not need to be exceptionally powerful, as detailed above. This allows him or her to be more agile and experimental with the sound. Whereas a non-amplified performance requires the emphasis to be on power to reach the audience, a microphone gives the performer the freedom to deliver the highest quality sound to the audience at whatever output power is manageable, and the amplifier picks up the sound from the microphone and brings it to a proper volume.

Overdubbing and Effects

guitar and microphone

With a live performance, a performer can relax and focus on quality over quantity, so to speak. In addition to the value of amplifying the output, microphones can be used in conjunction with music recording equipment to provide a wide variety of aftereffects.

Overdubbing, for example, can be beneficial for a solo artist who plays multiple instruments or sings different parts on a track. With the right music recording equipment, the artist can set up for the backing vocals, instrumentation, and then focus on lead vocals and one instrument during a live performance — or put it all together for a music video, like this YouTube artist.

Effects also heavily rely on a microphone. A vocalist can change timbre or distortion, and many acoustic instruments can be amplified with different waveform filters to change the sound. Without the microphone, all of these effects are limited, or nonexistent.

Sampling

Sampling requires a microphone for it to be of any sort of use at all. The difference between a cover and a sample lies with who is doing the performing. An artist who wishes to sample another needs the original recording, otherwise he or she will be covering the work instead of just sampling the original artist. With a microphone used in conjunction with the rest of the music recording equipment for the original recording, the sample can be overlaid with the new artist’s and processed through another microphone.

Architecture of Performance Halls and Recording Studios

Walt Disney Performance Hall

Prior to the use of microphones, live performances relied on natural amplification for the audience to experience the sound. This required extensive work on walls and ceiling segments that would reflect the sound in the proper direction. It also required performances to be quite exact, as improper placement or slight variations in tempo would have a drastic effect on audience perception.

While recording studios were few and far between before the microphone was in common use with music recording equipment, they also had to abide by the rules of natural amplification. Nowadays, every vocal and instrument has at least one microphone, and performers can even be isolated into separate recording booths, so that the microphone has no chance of picking up any other sounds. Effects such as echos, reverberations, and delay, which were originally built in to recording spaces (or present unintentionally), are now added after the original recording. 

Whether in studio or on stage, microphones should not be taken for granted. They help both first-time and seasoned artists make the most out of their music. And microphones add a new dimension to the production capabilities of music recording equipment. Who knows what technological advancements will be next for the music industry?

 

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Photo by saulk61, erik forsberg

how to write pop song

The Anatomy of a Hit Pop Song [Infographic]

When you’re learning how to write a song, looking at how other songs are structured can be a great place to start. Like looking at a map before you go on a roadtrip, checking out the basic elements of songs you love gives you a sense of how they were written and what you need to do to write a song of your own.

If analyzing all your favorite songs sounds like a daunting task (it is), you’re in luck. The Billboard Experiment wanted to know if there was a formula that could determine which songs would be hits and which songs were destined to flop. They ran the numbers on the top songs on the Billboard Charts since the 1950s, plus information from the Million Song Dataset, to get a high-level look at what goes into a hit pop song.

Of course, this study isn’t the ultimate guide to how to write a song. If everyone followed these rules, we wouldn’t have “Stairway to Heaven” or “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Standing out from the crowd can make you more memorable as a songwriter, so you might choose to avoid the things you see these popular songs doing.

If you’re just getting started as a songwriter, try writing something simple along the lines of the famous pop songs The Billboard Experiment studied. You don’t have to write a hit on your first try, and you probably won’t. Most songwriting teachers agree that the best way to learn how to write better songs is to start writing now, and keep writing as much as you can. Through dedication and practice, you will find your unique voice as a songwriter, and you’ll only get better from there!

If someone asked you how to write a song, what advice would you give them? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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Piano Apps

8 Piano Apps Worth the Download

You might think of your smartphone as something your music teacher asks you to turn off before your lesson. With the right apps, however, it can move from being a distraction to a tool that helps you practice, play, and learn about music wherever you are! Here are eight apps every pianist should have for Android or iOS.

Metronome

Metronome for iOS

Metronome for iOS

The simplest and most common tool for the beginner pianist is a metronome. If you’ve taken at least a few piano lessons, the myriad uses of the device have likely already been drilled into you. When starting out, a metronome teaches you basic rhythm and helps you stay on tempo while you’re playing. Downloading a metronome app on your smartphone saves you a trip to the store and consolidates your gear.

Unlike the old-school wooden contraptions you may have seen, some metronomes piano apps have extra features. Metronome stands out on iOS for using a custom timer built by clock software specialists, which is more accurate than the standard iOS code most metronome apps use.

A good choice for Android users is Metronome Beats, which combines great features with a developer who actually responds to user concerns and bugs.

Sheet Music

forScore for iOS

forScore for iOS

Have you noticed some more forward-thinking musicians ditching the three-ring binder or stack of loose-leaf sheet music for an iPad on their music stand at live gigs? Chances are, they were running forScore. A sheet music organizer might seem like a simple app that’s hard to do wrong. Maybe you even think opening up some PDFs in Adobe Reader is close enough. But aside from organization and easy searchability, the key component of forScore is speed. You’ll never know how slowly the pages in e-readers or PDF apps turn until you are waiting on one to know what note you need to play next! Musicians call forScore’s turning “near-instantaneous” and “as fast as paper.” On Android, Midi Sheet Music is the clear leader. It doesn’t have the across-the-board professional acceptance that forScore does, but it is free (without ads!).

Music Theory and Ear Training

Tenuto for Android

Tenuto for Android

Depending on your instructor and your curriculum, you may already get a healthy dose of music theory within your lessons. A great way to use technology to supplement your lessons, however, is to use piano apps that focus on music theory and ear training.

Here, both iOS and Android have excellent  solutions with Tenuto and Perfect Ear, respectively. Both apps solve the problem many have with learning theory from a book by including interactive keyboards that show you what you’re playing and why it adheres to a specific rule of music theory. Exercises and quizzes keep you sharp by turning work into games. Do games really accelerate the learning process? Well, just think about how easy it was to memorize the names of all of those Pokémon!

 

A Piano Itself

Sometimes you’re away from your piano, but how many of those are times when you’re also away from your smartphone or tablet? Enter the many excellent piano apps on iOS and Android that replicate the actual instrument! Of course, a touchscreen with flat representations of keys and sound coming from a single tiny speaker is no substitute for a real keyboard. But when you want to practice, to paraphrase a great photography adage, the best piano is the one you have with you.

Virtuoso Piano for iOS

Virtuoso Piano for iOS

Once you’ve resigned yourself to playing this way, the iOS piano app of choice is Virtuoso Piano Free 2 HD. The app does everything it can to replicate the key-tickling experience on a touchscreen, and while it’s better suited to the larger keys on a full-sized iPad, you might be surprised at the creative solutions you can come up with if you have six iPhones to play on at once.

The Android equivalent Perfect Piano is even more flexible, supporting external Midi keyboards over USB OTG so you can make use of the practice games and recording features in a more tactile way.

Perhaps more than any other pursuit, learning piano is best done one-on-one with a private instructor. None of these piano apps can take the place of that relationship, but they can definitely keep you motivated at home or when you’re on the road. The more resources and tools you have at your fingertips, the faster you’ll learn!

 

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Teacher Spotlight: Buying Socks For The King Of Pop

Michael JacksonDreaming of a career in the music industry? Whether you’re interested in recording, performing, promoting, or some other career path, it’s often all about your network – which sometimes means taking odd jobs along the way, just for the experience. Read on for Winston Salem guitar teacher Rob D.‘s story…

 

I would guess that most people who graduate from college with a music degree have an image in the back of their mind. They may see themselves on stage, singing in front of thousands of people. Or maybe they imagine writing that hit song that gets on the radio, or working on those hit songs in the studio with some of the world’s biggest artists.

In my case, one of these aspirations actually came true, but not nearly in the way I had imagined it would. Right after college, I moved to Los Angeles and started looking for my first job in a recording studio. Since I was one of the few people knocking on the door with a degree in music production and engineering, I had no problem landing a position at one of the major studios in Hollywood.

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Music To Money [Infographic]

Forget the “starving artist” cliche – with the right skills and network, it is possible to make money in the music industry! Whether you want to write your own compositions or get the party started as a DJ, there are tons of career options to consider. A strong music background can help, no matter what your preferred instrument is – so signing up with a private instructor for guitar, piano or singing lessons, for example, can give you a great head start.

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Getting Started with Composing for Films

film composersLearning how to read and write music can open up tons of possible pathways for music careers, including composing for films. Read on for some helpful advice from Linden, NJ piano teacher Richard D

 

 

 

Have you ever found yourself listening to your iPod or stereo, and felt like the music was perfect for whatever you were doing in that moment?  Sometimes, when I’m walking to the store or heading to work while listening to music, the song plays with my imagination and emotions, almost as if I’m in a music video or a movie. Maybe I just have an overactive imagination, but this is the power that music has over us. We can feel the emotions that the piece is expressing. If you’ve ever wanted to be a film composer, I have a few tips that I’d love to share with you.

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Jumpstarting Your Music Career: 5 Tips Nobody Talks About

street performerIf you’re one of the many with dreams of scoring a record deal, embarking on a world tour, or gracing the Broadway stage or maybe even the big screen, you’ve probably received a wealth of advice from teachers and mentors. You know the importance of working hard, practicing a ton, acing your auditions and networking. But there’s actually much more to it.

When it comes to “making it” in the entertainment field and getting the opportunity to do what you love, the path to success can be filled with frustration and unpredictable outcomes. So how do you survive the ups and downs? New York, NY teacher Natalie W. recently gave us her 5 tips for survival that aren’t always mentioned in the career guidebooks.

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Insider Advice From a Glee Warbler and Industry Pro

GleeWhat’s it like to work in Hollywood? For Jon H., one of our newest instructors in North Hollywood, it’s a life of auditions, long days on set, and of course, a lot of fun! Jon’s experience began at an early age, spending much of his elementary and middle school years going between studio sessions and singing for movies like Armageddon, Deep Impact, Amistad, Hush and Jungle Book 2. After nailing the job as a background vocalist on the hit TV show Glee, Jon continued on and was cast as a Warbler on the show for Seasons 2 and 3, and is currently filming Season 4. Jon also competed on NBC’s The Sing-Off with his a cappella group Kinfolk 9 in Season 3 of the show.

Sound fun? We thought so too! Read on for my interview with Jon, and check out his advice for students hoping to ace their next audition…

- , TakeLessons staff member and blogger

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Never Be Disappointed by a Live Show Again ShowScoop Presents Concert Reviews

Never Be Disappointed by a Live Show Again: ShowScoop Presents Concert Reviews

rock concertImagine you’re in a new city, looking for somewhere to eat. You and your buddies decide that Mexican food is what you want, and you see a few options down the road. Sure, you can look at their menus, but how do you really know which restaurant is better?

Many people in this situation might turn to Yelp, the website that allows users to write reviews for everything from dentists to dollar stores. In this generation, when sharing your opinion with strangers is almost expected, word-of-mouth recommendations coming from social sites like Yelp are usually held at a much higher regard than any paid advertising.

Now, let’s flip this into the music scene. You’ve heard all about that awesome new band that’s topping all the charts. As polished as they sound on the radio, how do you know what they’re like at a live show? Do they kill it on stage, or do they leave you wondering what just happened? Is it worth your hard-earned cash, or are you better off paying a $5 cover to hear a lesser-known band at the dive bar down the street?

Enter ShowScoop, the newest social platform to join the scene. The idea: members can review live shows and music festivals they’ve attended, rating bands on things like sound quality, stage presence and crowd interaction. In addition to the concert reviews, ShowScoop also offers an exclusive community feel for its members. You can keep track of what shows you’ve been to, and also see which shows your friends have attended. And similar to Yelp’s “Elite” status, members with the most reviews may eventually gain access to private parties and VIP events.

And there you go – never be disappointed at a live show again. Or at least that’s what they’re hoping to achieve.

The website is still in its initial launch (as of today, it had a little over 100 reviews in total),  but we think it’s an interesting concept. The power of peer-to-peer reviews is undeniable – but would you really let a couple of bad reviews sway you from seeing a band? Just because they were “off” during one show, does that mean you wouldn’t give them a chance? Readers, we want to know your thoughts. Would you use – or rely on – these reviews to make your ticket-buying decisions? Leave a comment below, or stop by our Facebook page to join the discussion!

- TakeLessons staff member and blogger

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Photo by partie traumatic.

5 More Awesome iPhone Music Apps

What a year for Apple – iPhone sales are still through the roof, Siri continues to be a hot topic, and Steve Jobs is now being recognized with a posthumous Grammy award for his part in revolutionizing the music industry.  Nowadays our smartphones help us with anything and everything, it seems; it’s hard to imagine living without them!

But besides organizing our calendars and feeding our Angry Birds addiction, the iPhone is a great resource for music teachers and music fans alike.  Check out our original list of 5 apps for music lovers – now, here are 5 more especially great music apps for teachers to check out, courtesy of www.funmusicco.com:

1. ACappella – This simple song recording app can be used to record voices into tracks that can be played at the same time or one by one. The user can adjust the volume, tempo, and time signature. The app was designed for ease of sharing files: song URL’s can be posted to Facebook and Twitter or shared on a special website called “SingSing.” ($1.99)

2. Notes for Little Composers – Designed for ages 3 and up, this app can be used to introduce beginners to music notation and basic composition. The user taps on the treble clef screen to make notes, hear the names of notes, and create simple songs. Ideal as an accompaniment to starting music lessons. ($0.99)

3. Ear Trainer – This app is designed for beginning to advanced music students, and provides exercises on intervals, chords, scales, and relative pitch. A virtual piano keyboard helps you recognize the notes that have been played. Individual progress is tracked so that users can pinpoint areas of strength or weakness. ($6.99)

4. ImproVox– Record your voice into your device and create harmonies as you sing. This app demonstrates effects such as reverb and echo, and enables you to generate 4-part harmonies in different styles. ($3.99)

5. TabToolkit – This guitar tablature and notation viewer can be used for learning guitar and practicing music. The interface shows a fret board or keyboard with finger positions and/or standard music notation. Upload tabs from your computer or download from the Internet. ($4.99)

What other music apps do you love?  Leave a comment below!

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Image courtesy of http://www.appstorehq.com/playthisnote-guitar–iphone-89811/app