music

Lip Syncing and Miming

Many artists do it, (perhaps more than you know!), but why?What else do bands do which might be considered "cheating"? Under what circumstances might you be reasonably expected to mime? All this and much more! Lip syncing and miming!

What is lip syncing?

Lip syncing is when a singer mimes their performance along to a pre-recorded vocal track. Sometimes this is a skill in itself and pretty damn impressive- Ru Paul?  Other times, it's just Britney Spears with a mic stuck in her hair…-BS footage?

Lip Syncing and Miming

What are backing tracks?

What are backing tracks then? Backing tracks are the same thing but for an entire band - think of old shows like Top Of The Pops. It used to be common on many TV shows in the “Back when times”, because it was easier to point a camera at someone and play a record, rather than having to worry about mic’ing up an entire band. One reason you might use a backing track rather than performing live in this day and age is so a track matches it’s album version - if you’re performing on TV example, people can use apps like Shazzam to find out who you are. Bands can use really short individual sounds, (which we call Samples), to make a live track sound more like it’s original - especially in pop, rap and experimental styles, but becoming more popular with other genres every day. Often it’s the drummer who get’s the job of triggering these FX from something like a Roland SPD Sample Pad. If, like me, you use a lot of ambient FX and found sounds in studio tracks I think that’s fair enough to bring them to a live show in this way - no one’s going to blame you if you can't find space on the stage for half a factory, so you can trigger these the machine noises and it’s all perfectly cool.

One time that you’ll definitely have to use a backing track, regardless of your genre, is when you record a music video. These are basically never live because, again, they have to match the album version of your track. So, you will be miming. When I say mime, you can go ahead and play your guitar, it just might not be plugged in, (and if it is, that noise won’t make it onto the finished product anyway) With that in mind, you may as well make your playing visually interesting and, (heaven forfend), have some fun with it. The exception is if you’re doing a live session, but I’d almost call that a separate thing to a music video - their function is similar to that of a music video, but I tend to think they’re more for the fans you already have.

Here’s a few other things you might not

know some of your favourite bands do:

  • Fake amplifiers. A lot of bands do this, but the biggest example I know were Status Quo, who would have a massive array of Marshall stacks on stage when actually the amps you hear would be a tiny single Vox amp hidden behind them.
  • Many big bands have additional band members, sometimes off stage and seldom seen. Is it wrong that Green Day use an additional guitarist when it’s generally only the 3 core members who appear on the posters? Maybe, but it happens.
  • Dragonforce never used to be able to play live as fast as they did in the studio, because they couldn’t. But that’s how they gained notoriety, by being REALLY fast to an unbelievable degree.
  • Pedal switching by guitar techs off-stage is super common as well, as it leaves the guitarist free to run around mid-solo without having to think about tapping their boost pedal.
  • Lastly more singers will use teleprompters than you think - Ozzy Osbourne did, Axl Rose did - I’m sure there’s many more contemporary bands, across all genres.

creative ways to retain your 

dignity

Transpose your songs - if you want to make them easier to sing but maybe your singer is getting on a bit, or you just want to make it easier on their voice because you’re playing song after song after song, just put them in a lower key so they don’t have to stretch so far. Your audience will probably not even notice and you’ll still be giving an authentic performance.

One of my favourite ways to avoid lip-syncing altogether, if you are being made to by music labels, or tv producers or whatever, is just to piss about on stage and make it obvious you’re not happy about it!

Theres loads of footage on YouTube of bands swapping instruments, dancing about and just clearly not performing. Muse have done it, Nirvana did it, The Eels played toy instruments. Bob Gedolf once came on stage and ‘played’ the candelabra during their trumpet solo - at least he was cool enough to make his rebellion entertaining.

Perhaps deliberately undermining a lip-sync policy back in the day was a great way of publicising a band’s “anti-authority” image? When you say “lip sync” what springs to mind? The times it was used effectively and no one noticed, or the times it was embarrassing because it was obvious? Why even run the risk of being found-out when you could hilariously undermine the concept?

Final considerations

Ultimately, when thinking about whether or not to use backing tracks or lip syncing, you’ve got to think about what’s more important to you and the people who might buy your music: your integrity as an artist or the accuracy of the performance? This can change from performance to performance, so don’t feel like you need a blanket policy.

Specific to lip syncing, most big pop bands or solo vocalists will want to have an impressive performance with a shed-load of visuals. If, as an audience member, you want to see a visually impressive show with full-on choreography you might to accept that something’s gotta give. Usually that’ll be the vocal performance, because it’s so easy to do. If you're a fan of pop music, you can make your own mind up whether you're happy with that compromise. If you're a pop performer, again, come to your own conclusions but I’d bear in mind just how many lip sync fail videos there are online. In terms of samples, work out what you think your audience is likely to find acceptable. If you need to re-work samples to make them usable in a live situation, and to avoid being called a phoney, then do that; if it’s easier to just remove them from the song then that’s cool too; or if you think you’ll need to use a sample because your trumpet player can’t make the tour, is your audience going to be annoyed that they can’t see a trumpet when they can definitely hear one? Or, are you going to have to be a bit more creative with your solution? Lastly, it’s always handy to work out what you’re willing to sacrifice in terms of integrity and honesty in order to get ahead in your industry. Ultimately, when playing live you are playing for your fans and you need to think want they want to see or hear, whatever that may be.

 

A Guide to Twitter for Musicians

It can be problematic trying to use social media to promote your gigs and new releases, especially when you need to dedicate time to their inner-workings. However, this guide to Twitter for musicians explains how to use the platform in detail.


Profile Creation

If this account is for your band then probably use the band name, if you’re an individual then maybe use your own name - durh. Your Handle is how people will tag you in stuff on Twitter - it’s the thing that starts with an “@”. This should be similar to your band name, perhaps adding your country initials if you think there’s another band with your name elsewhere in the world, or adding the word “Music” to the end, especially if you’re a solo musician.

You have your main profile pic which I strongly suggest is your band logo. Then, you have your header which is a much larger image. I’d suggest either using a band photo either of you performing live, or a studio shot - something to visually evidence the fact that you are musical performers. Or, it could be some kind of extension of your logo. 

Solo musicians often do this the other way around, which I think is fine because you only need to fit one person into the tiny profile pic. I think as long as you have a pic of the band and the logo in there somewhere you’ll be fine. Some bands are clever and overlay an “available on Spotify” image on their headers - you could do the same with tour dates, album art or website URLs.

In regards to your Bio, either go factual and concise, or get funny with it.

Lastly, remember to provide a link to your Website, SoundCloud, YouTube or anywhere you want people to listen to your music. Don’t just send them to your Facebook page if there isn’t a way to listen to music there.

Tweeting

Posts on Twitter are called "Tweets" -a form of what’s referred to as a micro-blog. You make posts of up to 140 characters, which includes alphanumeric characters, punctuation and spaces, about whatever your subject is or whatever interests you. Because you’re so limited, it’s important to make your posts as concise as possible. Don’t be afraid to break out a thesaurus in order to cram more detail in there. Also, unfortunately, links do count to your character limit so you might want to employ bit.ly or some other link shortener. Definitely provide a description of what the link is, otherwise people won’t click it because it looks like spam -you have to make fan interactions easy.

Focus on the product

That's your music, in the form of a new album / E.P., your next big gig, or a new music video. My pet peeve is when I follow a band but then go to their feed with the intention of getting my Re-Tweet on but there’s no… friggin'… music… links… What?

You can pin a post to the very top of your profile - make damn sure your pinned post is somewhere to listen to your music and something you want Re-Tweet as much as possible. Stay on message the rest of the time as well - make sure that for every few tweets you create you’ve got some music links in there or some actual news. I find that maybe 10-15 tweets is the amount I’ll happily scroll through before I get bored and leave if there’s no music. Again, make interactions easy, and don’t be afraid to request replies, likes or Re-Tweets - those are what we call a “Call To Action” which could also include a track download, or a newsletter sign-up. You need to be clear what it is you want people to do.

Aside from posting music, what else is good to tweet about:

  • Pictures or videos from rehearsals, (visual stuff works much better than text across all social media)
  • New gear you like.
  • New gear you want.
  • Teasers of album artwork.
  • Other bands you like
  • How much fun the last gig was

Don’t tweet nothing. No,that’s not a double negative. For example:

"Exciting stuff on the horizon guys!"

Oh, yeah, really? Tweet us then, idiot.

Whatever you tweet, make sure it’s consistent - if more than one person is going to use the account, (which is fine), make sure they all have a solid understanding of grammar and spelling, (or at least an equal understanding). Make sure you all stick to whatever rules you decide on.

Give some music away for free. You should be prepared to do this anyway, as I’ve said in previous videos. Ask people to RT the post then help themselves to the download link.

Leverage your existing fans / friends / family to relentlessly Re-Tweet your posts. By leverage I mean blackmail. Or, just ask politely.

Personal Accounts

Have personal accounts in addition to band accounts. Some people tell me that you should make your personal account first, get a bit of a following by just being you and socialising on it, (I mean, that’s what it’s for - networking, right?) then create your band profile and shout about it to your personal followers.

This means 2 things. Firstly, you can retweet your band stuff on your personal account and tag it in your profile bio- giving your band a slightly greater reach because your own account will have different followers.

It also means that you can post your political opinions on your personal account without it tainting your band profile. The exception is if your band is politically motivated, and that’s part of your appeal, and lyrical content, in which case go nuts with that.

The Followers / Following Ratio

Some people feel like if you follow more accounts than follow you, (basically if this number is bigger than this number), then you might not be worth following. It’s this weird hierarchy thing - it doesn’t actually mean anything other than the more people you follow, the more you’re likely to actually use Twitter. A lot of other tutorials will tell you to not follow many people, but I think that’s B.S. - I think twitter users are smarter than that, and will be more likely base their following of you on how many interactions you have (replies, likes, and Re-Tweets)

Tweet aggregation / automatic tweeting

If you’re worried you won’t tweet enough to be interesting then there are ways to set up automatic posting from, say, a blog you really like - so every time they post, you tweet about it. Now, I don’t use these so I’m not going to make any recommendations, other than those services are out there if you want them. You can also setup sites like SoundCloud and ReverbNation to tweet on your behalf when you post a new track or follow another artist, that kind of thing.

There’s also services like HootSuite which allow you to schedule posts, so it’s a little more personal than aggregating from a website - I used to use this before I properly made time for Twitter. So, you could make sure that you post about your music at least once a week, then you only need to focus on tweeting about new stuff as and when it happens - just alleviates some of the pressure.

Hashtags

This is one of the big things with Twitter, and one of the ways you can gain new followers and fans. You can turn a word into a hashtag by adding this icon (#) to the front of the word. It’s common to tag phrases as well, you just have to remove any spaces from between the words. Sometimes it looks nice to capitalise the first letter of each word when you do - it’s a bit easier to read that way.

The weird thing with Twitter is that you can find posts using a certain term regardless of whether or not it’s tagged. I think tagged posts tend to show-up earlier in searches, and you can actually select the tag and see who else is talking about this same issue. When you make a post with a tag, select the tag and interact with people talking about the same issue - don’t be afraid to start a conversation.

Because you’re so limited on characters, try to work tags creatively into the sentence. Rather than:

“New song from my band: LINK #music #rock”

How about:

“New #music from my #rock band: LINK”

You can add tags to the end of the post as well - just try and leave some space so people don’t try to read it as a single sentence.

 

Hammer-Claw Finger-Picking Technique

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIbqGtzHHr4] Hammer-claw finger-picking is a technique used in country, jazz and sometimes blues music where the guitarist plays with their fingers rather than a pick. In this style your thumb is the “hammer” and your fingers are the “claw”. Your “hammer” is intended to play the bass strings, (E, A and sometimes D), and replicate the job of a bass guitar, while your “claw” plays the chords on the higher strings. The really cool thing about this technique is it can replicate more than one instrument, which can thicken-out a solo performance remarkably.

Below are the charts for the 4 chords you’ll need. Although other notes are used between these chords, these are the shapes you’ll be holding down the majority of the time.

image

Here is the tab and notation, broken up into each figure as discussed in the video.

image

Backing track.

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