Monthly Archives: March 2012

Ellie Goulding

Dance/Electronica music has become an extremely popular musical genre in Europe.  In the past few years, many European artists have become very successful creators in this realm of music.  While popular artists such as Armin van Buuren and Tiesto being some of the biggest names in the Dance/Trance genre, many new artists are discovering many niches within the broad scope of the genre to which they shine out of.

One such artist is Ellie Goulding.  Her most popular song, Lights, has become well-known in the Dance/Electronica genre.  The popularity of this song has only been made greater due to excellent remixes by artists like Bassnectar, a Dubstep artist.  Combining her very strong European accent with the excellent electronic music accompaniment, Ellie brings a very rich listening experience to the Dance/Electronica fan.

Ellie Goulding – Lights

Ellie Goulding – Lights (Bassnectar Remix)

Being a fan of the Dance genre, I have found myself coming back to listen to this song quite often.  Her vocals, combined with the distinct flavour that the Dance/Electronica genre is known for, brings a refreshing listening experience to me.  I hope you feel the same way after listening to this song.

Strings Aren’t For Chumps

Have you ever heard Chopin’s “Ballad no. 1?”  What about Mendelssohn’s third sonata?  No even as a classically trained musician, I have not heard them either.  Most everyday music listeners have not heard pieces like these, great as they are, because this music is no longer what is played on the radio.  On the contrary, what about “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay, “Hallelujah” by Paramore, or even “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga.  Most likely even if you do not like these songs, you have heard of them.  Although the tradition classical music still has its value, many ensembles are turning to arrangements of new “popular” music for their performances with traditional ensembles such as string quartets.  This is because traditional music is not selling very well.  Many orchestras throughout the United States have had to close the doors on their concert halls because they did not have enough audience members to support their financial needs.  Most of them were and are supported by older people who merely want to hear the greats; Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, ect.  However, the younger generations no longer have the great appreciation for these composers that their grandparents did, therefore the seats remain empty.    Seeing this, a new movement has begun in which its members play their Bach tunes, but they also play Nirvana, Green Day, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park, and many more.  They also are willing to arrange new versions of Classical, Baroque, Renaissance, and Romantic music.    An excellent example of this is a group called “Vitamin String Quartet”.  They are a string quartet that started small, but have now gone global with their hundreds of string arrangements for popular songs.  A generation of people who turn their backs to Bach’s string music, beg for string music by their favorite artists.  Here is an example of  VSQ’s remake of “Bad Romance.”

In addition to VSQ, there are other groups such as Apocalyptica, John Schmidt, The Piano Guys,  or The String Quartet.  So before you knock Nirvana, try listening in a different light.  For the traditionalists in the music field, including popular music as a dignified art may seem foolish; but replace an electric guitar  with a violin and a cello then take a listen.   You just may change your tune.

Did You Know? [Copyright Laws]

All of us know that as an artist, you cannot use lyrics or melodies from a previously composed song if it is under copyright.  Sometimes you can’t even perform or play a recording of a copyrighted song in public! Individuals and corporations can pay a great deal of money to ensure that their music cannot be illegally distributed. BUT, did you know that a copyright is not necessarily permanent? 

I have recently discovered that copyrights tend to expire depending on the initial amount paid for the copyright and when the music was copyrighted. Any copyright granted since 2002 is valid for 70 years after the death of the creator. If the copyrighted work is held by a corporate entity, it expires 120 years from the date of creation or 95 years after the date of publication, whichever comes sooner. Because copyright information and fees are subject to change based on legislative decisions, it is important to consult the U.S. Copyright office for the most current information.

(Read more: What Is the Music Copyrighting Process? )

Once a copyright has expired, the composer’s/performer’s music has entered public domain, where the music and lyrics are available for anyone to borrow, alter, or rearrange.

It is important to check the public domain so that you can avoid copyright infringement. It is even a good idea to have proof that the music you are using is considered part of the public domain, just in case anyone is suspicious. Here’s a helpful fact for all of you who are curious about what music is safe to use – music that was copyrighted in 1922 or earlier is automatically placed in the public domain, unless otherwise noted.

For more information regarding copyright laws, visit this link at Public Domain Music.

Happy composing!

So What?

As a musician, I find myself frequently asking the question, “So what?”  What makes a particular piece of music exceptional?  What made that technique so affective?  But most importantly, I feel the need to ask what the drive was behind any composition.  In essence, what is the message?

Having recently studied the intellectual music of the 20th century, I have found myself nearly giving up on ever attributing “real” meaning to some contemporary “classics.”  But that is for another discussion.  (Though, I would be glad to take suggestions regarding this topic.)  I believe that music should always translate into something deep – something that speaks to the soul.  I know.  It’s an ideal, and a rather romantic one at that.  But if not, then so what?

I walked into the living room about a month ago and was stricken by an unusual soundtrack practically floating from the speakers of the bulky, nearly ancient television.  The Book of Eli was the movie feature for the day.  I had seen the movie once before, but was more or less too enamored by the plot to pay much attention to the sounds.  But now, I heard before I saw; I felt inside before experiencing the outside.  The music, by Atticus Ross, is quite possibly the most intriguing soundtrack I have heard.  And I wonder why.

Maybe it has to do with the story.  Maybe it has to do with the minimalist treatment of melody and harmony.  Or maybe because it’s different?  Disregarding pop artists of today, I am not one to listen much to electronically generated sounds combined and molded together into something called “music.”  I guess I always attributed that to dance clubs, and my mother told me to stay away from those.  But the soundtrack to The Book of Eli seems to be different.  It seems to be screaming some deep message, but one that I cannot yet understand.  I think because it is so … futuristic?  New?  Different?  The message seems to be in some other language, one that I have not studied.  So what allows me to catch a glimpse of something deeper?

Unfortunately, after racking my brain, I still have no answer.  (Another call for help, apparently.)  But I find the need to ask, “So what?”  In an age when technology pervades every aspect of life, why not music?  (Music, after all, says much about one’s culture.)  And if it is in music, how should it be incorporated?  Again, I have no answers.  But in the future, I plan on paying closer attention to the innovations found in modern music, and asking myself, “So what?”

YouTube Symphony Orchestra

YouTube started the YouTube Symphony in 2008. Everyone from everywhere was invited to audition by posting a video online.  Tan Dun wrote the “Internet Symphony, Eroica” specifically for the YouTube Symphony. This piece was made available for anyone to print off and practice. Another video was then posted of a conductor conducting the piece. Players were to practice and record their audition while watching the conductor to ensure that everyone played together and with the same tempo and style. Musicians were also allowed to audition with non-traditional instruments as long as they played on the same pitches as a written part.

The submissions were compiled into one piece.

When music and technology are used together there are no limitations to what can be done. The YouTube symphony is a wonderful example of this. People from around the world, both young and old, playing several different kinds of instruments all came together to make music. Without technology these people would not have been able to share their music with the entire world. Technology also is what enabled the makers of the mashup video to create it. It is exciting to be in a time where music and technology are colliding.

The Effects of Effects

When asking the casual listener what makes a good piece of contemporary music you will hear many different responses. Answers will vary from the lyrics to the smooth rhythm present in a song. One answer that will not come up very often is that the effects used help create a hit song. I would agree that things such as lyrics, the beat, and the catchiness are all vital to a good song but I would also add that the effects and the way that they are used take many songs from mediocre pieces to great works of art. Many times in contemporary music effects are used in such a way where listeners do not even notice them. I believe that the details make a strong song. The details that I will refer to in this post are the effects used throughout different times of contemporary music.

There is a vast number of effects available in todays technological world. Some of the most common are time related effects such as delay and reverb. Delay is used to make a sound repeat over a preset amount of time. Reverb is used to create the effect of room or cave echoing when a person claps or yells. It also tends to make a sound “bigger”. Reverb is very similar to delay but the repeats are faster. Other effects are different kinds of distortion, compressors, wah, phasers, chorus, and whammy effects. The GM Arts website gives a good description of what these and other effects do. The website talks about how the effects are applied to the guitar but the effects will do similar things to other instruments and vocals as well. Click HERE to go to the site.

One thing to remember when creating your own music is that context is key. Less is more in some styles of music but then other styles of music demand more effects to keep the listener interested. For example jazz often doesn’t contain many effects but electronica needs several effects. One great thing about contemporary music is that it is constantly evolving and has been for years. It is ok to push the envelope and try effects in music that haven’t been done before. One band that did this with great results was Pink Floyd. This short video shows how they created one of the sounds that they used in Dark Side of the Moon.

It is important for us as musicians to always use our creative talents to make new and interesting music that people can relate in some way to. I don’t think that the use of effects will slow down anytime in the near future. Through this post I hope that you have discovered why it is important for musicians to understand how and when effects work work and how important it is to keep pushing the limits of your creativity. Although you need to push the limits of what has been done I would also encourage you to love what you create. If it doesn’t sound good to you it probably wont sound good to others. Whatever effects you choose use make sure that they are effective.

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Youtube

“Charlie Bit Me”, “David Goes To The Dentist”, “Charlie the Unicorn”, “The Count Censored”, “Leroy Jenkins” and many more youtube clips have become an integrated part of our society and culture and are quoted or referenced on a daily basis.  People are shocked if you haven’t seen a popular youtube video and insist that you need to see the video, as if it was imperative to your social status and life that you see that 3 minutes of ridiculous entertainment.  Many people don’t realize how much of an influence youtube has on our culture.  Within days a video can go viral and spread all over youtube, then it spills over and is spread all over facebook and twitter.  No wonder youtube has also influenced the music industry.  Not only can people listen to their favorite songs for free on youtube, but many people record their own songs or covers of popluar songs.  While this endless show and tell fest can get annoying to other youtube surfers; there are some artists that have used this outlet to get their foot in the door of the music industry.

The most well known example is Justin Bieber.  He was discovered in 2008 when a former marketing executive, Scooter Braun, accidentally clicked on one of Bieber’s videos.  And because of that, Justin Bieber is now one of the most popular artists.

Justin Bieber is not the only one that used youtube as a stepping stone into the music industry.  There are many local artists that utilize youtube to increase their popularity and to spread their music.  Another trend of youtube artists that has developed recently is the ability to use home recording technology not only to record, but to put their own creative twists on their music and the covers of popular songs.  Some great examples of using technology and youtube to get started in the music industry are the artists Karmin and Sam Tsui.

 

So as you can see in these few examples, the advances in technology has not only affected the sound of modern music, but it also has had a very big influence in how music is spread, how its recorded, and how it is used to discover new artists and music.

 

Voice Nodules

Here’s a post with some stuff that I thought was interesting about Voice Nodules:

It is far too common when singers do not sing with good technique and end up with nodules. It can be prevented, but many singers feel the need to sing a certain way because it sounds cool. However, what many singers don’t realize is that you can still sing with style while using good and safe technique. This would definitely help prevent nodules. Nodules, also known as nodes, are dangerous and should definitely be avoided.

Voice nodules are small lumps on the vocal chords caused by continued stress and misuse of the vocal chords. It often happens to singers. Doctors differ on whether or not nodules are more common with the style of musical theater or if it is just because of a busy schedule with many intense performances. Nodules are most common in adult women and young boys. According to speech-language-therapy.com, some common causes of vocal nodules are “excessive and over-enthusiastic rehearsal of school plays or concerts, excessive choir or solo-singing practice, overusing the voice on school camps or excursions, talking and shouting against background noise, overusing the voice during an infection such as a head cold, overusing the voice when tired or emotionally upset, glottal attack, coughing and loud forceful sneezing, shouting, cheering, screaming, throat clearing, making sound-effects, dryness,  and restricted fluid intake.” There is probably many more things that contribute to nodules. It really depends on the person and their voice.

Nodules aren’t that common for everyone, though. “They are more common with a family with loud voice habits, chronic asthma and/or allergies, recurrent and frequent upper respiratory tract infections, gastric reflux, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, behavior problems, excessive stress or tension in the person’s life, a loud, outgoing, enthusiastic, competitive personality with a tendency to act out emotionally, a highly conscientious personality, and a tendency for the young person to push themselves to succeed” said speech-language-therapy.com. Many doctors believe that the style of musical theater is very common to cause nodules. Another common field is pop singers. Mostly, it’s caused by singers not treating their voice in a good and healthy way. If singers were classically trained to have good technique they would be much less likely to develop nodules. However, it also can happen with professional singers that have insane schedules and may over-practice or over-perform. Similar to something mentioned before, it is also very dangerous to continue singing when ill. Many doctors believe it adds an extra stress onto the vocal chords. This could create a lot of pain, does not help the healing process at all, and may lead to nodules. Nodules can happen to a lot of people if they’re not very careful.

One of many singers’ main goals is to never develop nodules. One major con of nodules is that they may need surgery to remove. And, because of the surgery, many people will have to go on complete vocal rest for an entire month. If you’re a singer or educator, this can be very detrimental. So, many professional singers are very cautious in their habits. Non-professional singers, or even singers that are popular but have had no classical training, may be more at risk simply because they don’t treat their voice well.