Upcoming Show – September 25th, Rapture Lounge

We’re playing another Live show this Thursday, September 25th at 8pm at the Rapture Lounge in Astoria.

Come by and bring friends! 

How Good Do I Need to be at an Instrument to Write Music

To all of our dedicated readers (okay, the intonation of sarcasm is difficult to deliver online, but it’s there) we apologize for this hiatus – as you can see there hasn’t been a post since late March. Nevertheless, we’re back on track now. Time to jump into the actual topic of this post.

The answer to the question that the title of this post poses is: not very. In other words, you don’t have to be a virtuoso in any instrument. Let’s use the example of a guitar (after all, what band doesn’t use a guitar). If you have ever picked up a guitar or have taken a couple classes you know that the first thing you learn is open chords. Open chords are named as such because at least one or more string will be left untouched when playing the chord (hence open). The basic chords are A, Am, C, D, Dm, E, Em, F sharp, and G. Once you figure all of these out all you have left to do is practice enough so that you can easily switch from one to the other. Believe it or not that’s pretty much all you have to do to be able to compose music using a guitar.

What’s even easier than open chords is power chords. This is when you push down on only the top three strings (either from the E or the A – remember the six strings are EADGBE) – here’s a picture of what we mean.

A lot of rock songs use power chords because they actually sound pretty good with the Gain and Treble on the electric guitar. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana was actually considered to be a relatively poor guitarist. So, as you may have guessed most of his songs were composed using power chords. Lyrically however the man was a genius.

Many songs ranging from modern to classical use similar (if not the same) chord progressions. Here is a link to a comedian that proves exactly this point http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdxkVQy7QLM. Thus as the video shows just because two songs use the same chords doesn’t mean they have the same lyrical melody. Disc Jockeys that mix music have a keen ear for recognizing similar chord progressions and beats. If you want an example of this click here.

To drive the point home (as cliché as that sounds) you do not have to be a professional guitarist or pianist to compose music. Obviously if you get better at an instrument your music becomes more complex, but sometimes simplicity is bliss.

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Finding a Topic for Your Song

This question seems like it might have a relatively simple answer. Still, a lot of times even we find ourselves sitting there trying to figure out what to write about. Of course given the nature of the art, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. But there are some points that could lead you in the right direction.

In our opinion the theme or underlying message of your song will ultimately sprout from the melody and feel of the music itself. Needless to say, if the song is in minor it will have a slow, sad feel to it and if it’s written using major scales then it’ll be more upbeat and energetic. Sometimes if you play back the melody to yourself lyrics will just flow out. But, it doesn’t always happen like that.

For us the easiest way to do it is to simply start singing lines. At first they’re going to sound very simple and maybe even cheesy, but keep it going. A lot of times after you have written a stanza or two you have a good idea of what will and will not work for the song. Once you have something written pick out the lines that sound the best. If there’s nothing good there then just start the process over again. This is good practice because once you have at least a few good lines most likely the rest of the song will flow. Plus it will also help you figure out what you want to sing about.

There are many factors that can go into the story of your song. Perhaps it’s something that has happened in your life, or a specific message that you want to convey to your audience. The problem is unlike writing a poem, not only does your song have to follow a certain rhyme scheme but it has to fit the progression of the melody. This makes it hard to assign a specific topic to a song. But remember, the more you do it the better you will become at manipulating the lyrics to fit a specific message. Until then practice by writing down anything that comes to mind and building off of the most creative lines in your piece.

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Bands Reach Out To Online Fans

There are many bands out there using the internet to gain recognition or otherwise reach out to their fans. We are of course one of those bands, and we stumbled upon an article discussing another already well known band reaching out to its fans to sell its music without a record label. You have probably heard of Radiohead releasing its In Rainbows album online and offering its album for free and urging fans to pay whatever amount they thought was fair for a song. It is estimated that Radiohead already made $10million in initial sales of the album.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080317/ap_en_ot/music_radiohead_contest

This article discusses the band’s new online venture in a contest for Radiohead fans to produce a music video for any of the songs on the 2007 album. There is of course a grand prize to the winner of $10,000.

It will be interesting to see if this trend picks up by other aspiring independent artists, or even already well known artists who are not currently signed to a record label.

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New Projects Underway

We wanted to take this time to let you guys know some things we’re working on right now. As we have mentioned earlier we have written a number of songs and at this point just need to take the time to record them. Along with that we’re doing some things to further promote our music.

A) Within this next week or two we will be recording our new song “Her Story.” We wrote the song about a month ago, but it has taken some time to put the finishing touches on it. The recording will be using the software we have at home. If you want to read more about how we do our recordings or just want some tips for yourself check out our post on “How To Record a Song at Home.”

B) For a while now we’ve been wanting to make a video of us playing our song “Losing You.” That should also be recorded within the next week or two and will be put up on YouTube for you guys to watch. Obviously YouTube is a great way of getting your music heard and a good way to get some feedback from the listeners. The video recording will be dubbed with the professionally recording we have of the song.

C) We have also been working on a new project with one of our friends who has been writing music for quite some time. He does a lot of work with recording software so it should be able to put an interesting spin to our usual genre of music. There’ll be a separate post on that within the next week.

Other than that, even when we’re not working on something specific we’re always trying to come up with new material. This way if we do get some support from a record label in the near future we’ll have enough songs for a full album. Short post for today, but make sure to check back for our new song(s) and new posts.

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How We Learned the Guitar

When we go to concerts, listen to CD’s or get interested in a band its always fun to look up their biographies. But the one thing you usually don’t find in a band’s bio is how they learned how to play the instruments that they play. In this post we’re going to tell you about how we first picked up the guitar and taught ourselves to play.

Like we mentioned in our about us, or first post, we bought our first guitar at the end of Sophomore year in high school. We promised our parents we would learn how to play, and although they were skeptical, we ended up learning pretty quickly. It was a black Fender Squire Stratocaster that came in a package with a small amplifier, guitar case, tuner, some picks, and a basics video all for only $200 at The Guitar Center. The package is $250 now. The good thing about this electric guitar is it has a relatively thin neck and the strings are not hard to press, so it’s ideal for learning. The video ended up being pretty useful and from it we quickly realized the first most important thing to learn are the basic open chords. The song that motivated us to learn was “Time of Your Life,” by Greenday. At first this song seemed impossible to learn, but after learning the open chords it turned out to be pretty easy since the same chords are repeated throughout, and only some picking is required.

The process of learning the open chords correctly took a while. The hardest thing to get used to when you first start playing guitar is how hard to press the strings. And well, basically, you have to push as hard as you can until none of the strings are muted and they sound clear when strummed (It will hurt a bit). After you learn the correct finger positioning and strumming techniques you have to learn how to switch from chord to chord as fast as possible. The best way to practice switching fast is to learn 3 chords at a time and switch from one to the other in every combination. The song “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” for example has only 3 chords, D G and A. You can literally learn how to play the entire song and many others just by knowing those 3 chords. Most songs really only use 3 to 4 chords, so you can see how important it is to learn these open chords.

The more songs we wanted to learn the more we realized that learning barre chords was crucial. Certain bands such as Jack Johnson use barre chords for basically all their songs. These chords are difficult because they involve barreing or placing your index finger across an entire fret and then using the other 3 fingers to make chords. This way you can play any chord up and down the neck. We didn’t start learning that until about 1 to 2 years into playing the guitar and by that time the calices on our fingers have long since developed. We are still working on perfecting our barre chords, and its probably going to take a while to get really good at them.

Other things we learned after about a year were scales, but we’ll go into more detail about Barre chords and scales later. The best tip we can give you about learning how to play the guitar is find a few songs that sound simple enough that you really want to learn. This will keep you motivated in learning the basics quickly so that you can play more and more. Also learn how to read tabs. It makes learning songs a lot easier.

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How To Think of a Good Band Name

Before we get anyone saying “wait a minute…you can’t teach someone how to come up with a band name” we want to say, chillax brohemian. This post is merely for people who either can’t come up with a good name or just may want some suggestions. We are by no means saying this is how all bands get named or that this is the only way to do it.

For those of you who may be interested, Seeing Double was by no means our original group name. As a matter of fact we probably had ten other names through our existence, but we’ll mention that a bit later. If you’re in a band of two, three, four, or more members the first thing you can do is think of what you all might have in common. Ex: at one point the group my brother and I are in was called 8:30 Tuesdays. Sound kinda silly? Well the reason for it was that all three of us (there was a third member for a brief period) had a class freshman year on Tuesdays at 8:30 a.m. (I know, brutal). At the time we thought it was pretty cool, but we have since changed our minds.

Another thing you can do, which is pretty popular these days, is just name it after your lead singer. Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews [Band], Alanis Morissette, Sean Kingston, etc. have all done it. You do want to be careful that you don’t alienate the rest of your group members, so definitely have a consensus. Also, if your lead singers name is Pontiface Fluederschmintel (apologies to all the Pontiface Fluederschmintel’s out there, your names are beautiful) you might run into some trouble promoting your band.

The third suggestion we can make is to think of an interesting play on words that might be associated to your band somehow. Ex: Seeing Double (how convenient). While you might be seeing double because you just got punched in the face or your eye-sight isn’t that great, in our case you’re looking at identical twins. Some other examples are Eminem, The Beatles, Nickelback etc. NickelBack is actually an interesting story. Band member Mike Kroeger used to work at a coffee shop and would always say “here’s your nickel back” when giving change. See, a relatively simple story made for a pretty cool band name. By the way you can also just make up a word. Guster, Nada Surf, Moby, Mika, Kutless, etc. are all pretty interesting, so as long as you have a decent story behind it why not?

The main thing that you should remember when coming up with a band name is to keep it marketable. That simply means that make sure it’s easy to remember, easy to pronounce, relatively short, and has some back story to it. When we were thinking of names for our band we would picture what it would sound like if we were being announced to come on stage. That’s a good way of weeding out awkward band titles. Some of the names that we considered before sticking with Seeing Double were Belamerica, Square One, Twins With Matching Pants (bad idea), and the list goes on. In the end we chose a name that we both connected with and one that will hopefully stay with us through our music career.

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What Happens at a Recording Studio

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We thought that some of you might be curious about what actually goes on in a recording studio, and since we have recorded one of our songs at a professional studio, “Losing You,” we will tell you about our experience.

The first thing that we quickly realized is that you have to be over prepared when you get to the studio. You must know exactly what you want your song to sound like, what instruments and vocals go where, and how to play and sing the entire song without mistakes. Although there is plenty of room for trial because you can always re record, you don’t want to be wasting anybody’s time and money. The first thing we did was tune the guitar that was provided by the studio, and take a quick recording of it to make sure everything sounded the way we wanted it to. The song had mostly strumming throughout with 2 verses, and the chorus played a few times. Near the end of the song we had a guitar picking part and finally the ending of the song. We thought that we would just have to play the song in its entirety a few times to get it right and be done with it. But it ended up being much more involved than that.

First off, we had to get the timing right. This was one of the most essential things for the studio manager who was doing the cutting and editing of the tracks once they were recorded. We used a metronome since the song being recorded was just an acoustic version without drums or other instruments. After that he had us play the intro first, then the verses, choruses, picking, and finally the outro. All these were recorded separately and took several tries to get completely right. Then he put them together using computer software at the studio. This ensured smooth transitions with the guitar from section to section, and made the song sound even better than played out live.

After that, one of us went to the sound proof room to do the main vocal recording, and the other went separately to do the harmonizing recording. As we sang into the microphone we could hear the enhancements the studio manager was doing on his computer through our headphones, and with the addition of echo, and other sound enhancement effects the song began to sound better and better. After the manager played around a bit more with the recording he played to us the finished product to make sure we were completely satisfied with it.

The entire process took a total of about 3 hours. And that is for a 3:16 minute song with only vocals and acoustic guitar. Granted it was only our first professional recording experience. Hopefully we’ll get faster and better the more we get exposed to it. Although we we’re lucky to get complemented by the studio manager who said: “they definitely sound like they’ve done this before.”

 

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Promoting A Music Blog

As you guys may know (if you read the about us page…which is kinda thick so don’t worry about it :-p) one of the purposes of this site is to help us get some of our music professionally recorded. To do this we obviously have to work on making this site grow. We have worked on other websites in the past so we have some idea as to how we’re going to do this.

There are some basic “marketing” things we can do. We have a MySpace page, and as you can see at the top of this page we made a link for it. But, if we want more people finding our blog from MySpace we have to add more friends, which is pretty time consuming. Something else that we’re going to do which most webmasters spend a lot of time on has to do with the “Links” section you see on your right. Basically, the point of this is to find blogs or websites that we find interesting. Then, we put their link on our site and hope that they link back to us. This is a good way of getting more visitors and hopefully finding more people that are interested in reading our blog. It’s also a good way to get a high Page Rank (PR) from Google, but we’ll skip the technicalities.

If you guys want to help out with getting our name out there then please feel free to submit this blog to digg.com, reddit.com, or any other social bookmarking site you might use. Soon we will be adding an option at the end of each post to submit the article to a social news site (which will make it easier for those of you who want to submit one of our posts).

If we write an informative post that other musicians might want to use then we can send that article to news sites. Websites that find it interesting will publish it, which again will bring more visitors our way.

Hopefully within a few months we can start recording our music in a studio. We have a lot of material and are excited to get it out there. In the future the main purpose of this blog will be to constantly update our readers with information about our new music and any leads we may have regarding getting signed. Until then hopefully you enjoy these posts and our music.

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How to Record a Song at Home

Ok, so now that you have a song written you’re going to want to record it so you can show it off a little. Not many of us have the resources to be able to record at a professional studio all the time, or have a studio in the home, so we will share with you a simple way to make your own “studio” in an affordable way. You will need the following items to be able to record a song.

a) Multi-track audio recording software such as ACID, Cakewalk etc. We like to use ACID because its relatively simple. You can get trial versions online or a copy from your friends who have it.

b) Any musical instruments you would like to incorporate into your song, guitar, keyboard, drums, banjo, didgeridoo…you get the point.

c) If your computer has a built in microphone you can just use that depending on how good it is, if not then get a microphone. Still, even if your computer has a built in microphone we recommend you get an external one as well. It will come in handy if you want to record any acoustic instruments that don’t plug in directly into the computer.

d) If you want to use a keyboard, electric guitar, electric bass, then you will have to buy a power converter with one side that you can plug your guitar in, and the other side that you can plug into the computer headphone jack. This is called a 1/4″ Jack to 1/8″ Plug. We like to use a dual adapter because our headphones have a 1/4″ output jack and we want to be able to hear the instrument thats plugged into the computer while we’re playing it. The jack should look something like this, and will run about $5.00.


e) Finally, you will also need some headphones. The best ones are the sound canceling. We know that you’re not working in a sound proof environment, so use any chance you get to minimize erroneous noise. They should look something like this:
The first thing you want to record is a drum track, whether you get it from actual drums, keyboard, or online, this will be the track that sets the tempo. If you don’t want drums in your song then use a metronome – this is a tempo setting tool that comes with recording software, keyboard, or an online metronome. You can set what tempo you want and it makes clicking sounds based on that tempo.

After you record the drums, you plug in your headphones and record the remaining guitar, keyboard, and vocal tracks as you listen to the drum track and follow the tempo. Remember to do each of these separately including the different vocals tracks. You will have to play around with your recording software to enhance the recordings you make, take out white noise, add echo, etc. But unless you are working with professional software this shouldn’t be too difficult.

We hope that this entry is helpful in getting you started with the recording process. Yes, there might be better ways out there to record, but we have found this to be the most cost and time effective method. We will go into greater detail in later posts about every step of recording a song.

 

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