Microphone Technique for DJs

By Chris Pointo

Although it sounds strange to you to hear your own voice over the PA, in fact it doesn’t sound any different to the audience than if you were talking to them in normal conversation.

The trick here is to be yourself. If you haven’t got the skill to project a warm friendly personality at the sort of functions where ice breaking is required, then being an entertainer isn’t for you. You need to find a balance.

Most people would simply hire the gear – saving around 50% of a DJ’s booking fee, and throw a NOW CD on – if human input and personality wasn’t important to them.

At some functions, if they pay for an entertainer and get a human jukebox who doesn’t own a mic and just sits there playing music then they occasionally feel cheated!

I can’t stress the “BE YOURSELF”, advice enough; don’t put on a radio style zany DJ voice – that will sound false and doesn’t fool anybody.

If you are lucky enough to have a D.J training you, or you are a young person assisting an older mentor DJ, then DON’T be tempted to become a clone of him or her. Adopt your own mic style (not a false voice), use your own tag lines but don’t rely on the same clichés 20 or 30 times a night – this becomes boring and predictable.

Don’t rely on “that was”, “this is” introductions all night.

At some functions, going out with a Radio Mic and creating banter with your audience is a great way to break the ice at the beginning of difficult, non formal functions – and a good way of encouraging them onto the dance floor early on. You can relax the mic work and the frequency of them once the dance floor is filling.

Of course, there are always going to be functions where you need more mic work than usual, and other functions where it is going to be little mic use, but the key is to develop a style and strength and confidence in your mic working ability and not to rely on non stop music alone to do the work for you.

Just be yourself, and talk normally into the microphone. The thing to work on is to speak confidently and clearly and try to pace yourself. Speaking too fast will make what you are saying sound garbled, speaking too slowly will make you sound like you are addressing a bunch of village idiots.

Pretty soon, with a little time and practice, you’ll develop your own individual skill and style and that’s the most important aspect. Don’t try to copy anybody else or put on a different voice; it will sound false and make learning and maintaining the technique a lot more difficult.

If being funny is not your strength, then avoid the jokes unless you are good at this sort of thing; forced comedy can sound false and you may find yourself laughing alone – after all the client has booked a Mobile Disco and not a stand up comedian!

One of the best pieces of advice I was given by the DJ who trained me, was to “stick at doing what you are good at and have been booked for, and if in any doubt then leave it out”.

Spontaneous one-liners are another matter. If something amusing happens, then share it – use the mic to get requests, make a fuss over other people celebrating birthdays/anniversaries – people like to have their 30 seconds of glory and hearing their name mentioned over the PA system.

My advice to those nervous about public speaking for the first time is not to be frightened of the mic or to avoid using one – it’s your closest and most useful ally at all functions. Don’t talk all over the track, learn to pace yourself over the outtro of the previous track and any intro of the next track – don’t gabble – talk clearly into the microphone as if you were talking to a friend.

With time you should be able to familiarize yourself with how the more popular tracks end and finish. This way you can talk up to the vocal, similar to how they do it on the radio – stopping your banter at the moment the vocal on the next track starts. Don’t rush to perfect this or gabble to do so; it all comes with time and practice. Keep it simple to start off with.

Begin with the easy stuff, just introducing tracks and buffet announcements.

Once you’ve built up a bit of confidence, you can move on from the ‘that was….this is….’ routine. Try to include your audience; invite requests and make them feel welcome. Even if you are having a difficult gig don’t take it out on the audience and try to look like you are enjoying yourself – even if it’s not going to plan.

Don’t worry about making mistakes on the mic, we all do from time to time; but don’t draw attention to it or dwell on it – it’ll just make it worse. Besides, making mistakes shows that you are human and not a pre-programmed jukebox.

Keep key information on the gig, such as the Bride & Grooms’ names, Best Man’s Name etc on a piece of paper on the mixer, so that you can casually glance down if you have a sudden memory blank, but don’t write your links down as a speech, otherwise it will sound like you are reading from a script and less natural.

Remember that once the dance floor is full, you can ease off the mic a little, but keep doing the requests and don’t forget that it exists.

Learn to find the balance; too much talking can bore the pants of your audience; too little mic work can make people think that you aren’t earning your keep! There are functions where you have a full dance floor and it would be obtrusive to chat all over the music when people want to dance.

Equally there are more formal functions where there isn’t the room or inclination to dance, and so a bit of light hearted banter to break the ice and putting more emphasis on the entertainment side of being a DJ is required rather than just continuous music.

All of this will take some time. Don’t expect to develop a mic technique overnight; just take it one gig at a time.


Chris Pointon is a UK-based working DJ since 1988 and Administrator of a mobile DJ Forum at http://www.dj-forum.co.uk . Called DJs United our forum is intended for DJs to assist other DJs with advice and assistance and to mentor those who are new to the business and unfamiliar with the entertainment industry .

Playing Live – The 20 things you need to know

By Lynn Monk

As a “performing artist”, you want to come across to your audience and other music business professionals as being reliable, and professional in your work.

To do this, it is important to maintain a business ATTITUDE throughout all your stage shows, and when communicating with venue owners and staff.

1. Where possible, issue written contracts or letters of agreement in advance. Check with your employer or agent the week before the show, to make sure no details have changed.

2. If you are booked to play at a venue that you’ve not been to before, try and visit on another band night before your gig. This will enable you to check access for the equipment; where the stage or playing area is located; where to position your mixing desk and speakers; whether your cables need to be flown over fire exits; what volume levels are tolerated, and what kinds of music the regulars enjoy most.

3. Always arrive at the venue in plenty of time to complete a full sound check BEFORE the public arrive.

4. Always carry spares of things like fuses, cables, backing tracks, strings, or any other small item that could mean the difference between doing the gig or not.

5. Always take along an extra long mains cable in case the nearest socket is broken.

6. Safety first! – Buy yourself a mains power polarity checker (such as a “Martindale” Ring main tester) and a set of circuit breakers for all your backline amps. No matter how badly your guitarist played tonight, he didn’t deserve to die!

7. Always create a “set list” for every show. This can be tailored to the type of audience that you now know frequent this venue (See tip no. 2). If you have rehearsed well, you will know exactly how long your set will last. Don’t go on stage late and overrun your contracted time. The venue owner’s licence will depend on all music ceasing at a certain time. You don’t want to be the one who gets the venue closed down!

8. Play your set without long gaps between songs. Only communicate to the audience what REALLY needs to be said. A slick presentation and tight performance shows how well rehearsed you are, and keeps your audience on the dance floor.

9. Rehearse a polished entrance and exit. There is nothing more unprofessional than a bunch of musicians meandering onto a stage carrying the remains of a sandwich or pint, then spending several minutes chatting to each other, tuning up, playing along with the record on the disco, jamming, smoking, adjusting their clothing, answering a call on their mobile…. The list goes on! Believe me, I’ve seen it all!

Use the dressing room to apply your stage clothes and make-up. Wait for your performance to be announced, then march briskly onto the stage and launch straight into your first number.

At the end of your performance, the reverse should be observed. Don’t hang around trying to encourage the audience to shout for an encore. Leave the stage as quickly as possible and wait in your dressing room to hear whether the audience wants more.

10. Never be seen on stage in the same clothes as you were wearing in the sound check, or whilst mingling with the crowd.

11. If you are hiring a PA system, take your own can of telephone cleaner/sanitizer. Rented microphones are rarely cleaned!

12. Rehearse in your own time, not in the sound check!

13. Practise the show thoroughly, but always leave a “breathing space” of a few days between the last rehearsal and the gig. Over-familiarity can make you complacent.

14. Always be pleasant and business-like when dealing with staff at the venue. Especially with the person who is paying you! Don’t automatically expect gratuities such as free food and drink. These are bonuses unless stipulated in your contract, where they then become part of your “fee”.

15. Respect the venue’s fixtures and fittings. Don’t damage their furniture or wall coverings with your speakers and gaffer tape. Ask permission first! They will often be glad to fetch you some beer crates to stack your speakers on, rather than using their tables.

16. Don’t get drunk or high on illegal substances before, or during, the show.

17. Don’t hang around the venue for longer than is necessary after the show.

18. Don’t stop playing a number whenever a small problem occurs. Never re-start a number if someone in your band makes a mistake. You should be sufficiently well rehearsed for these mistakes to go unnoticed by your audience.

19. Don’t play any louder than you absolutely need to. Not everyone in an average venue will be there to listen to you. Don’t try to fill the whole venue with loud music. Just the area or dance floor immediately in front of the stage will do! People will want to be able to hold a conversation in other areas, such as at the bar.

20. If you know you have a good mix and a member of the audience wants you to turn down, pretend to turn a knob in order to please. The chances are he/she just doesn’t like that particular song.

On the other hand, if the venue owner or bar staff tell you to turn down … DO IT!! They know when it is too loud; after all, they are there every night!

Finally… Your bonus tip No. 21. If you have released CDs, make sure they are on sale at every gig you do. Employ a friend, or one of your fans to set up a table with your merchandise. It is also a good excuse to get new people to sign up to your mailing list. After the show, you can even go out front and sign a few autographs!

Lynn Monk has experienced over 30 years in the music business as a musician, concert sound & lighting engineer, DJ and record producer; and is now the proprietor of Wobbly Music. An indie record company dedicated to supporting the “Mature Independent Artist”. Find out more about our artist services and recording contracts at http://www.WobblyMusic.net

A Musician’s Guide to Band Agreements

By Andy Whitehead

If you write songs within a band, you need to plan for the day when you will be earning royalties from your songs, and be clear what will happen if a member of the band leaves or if the band splits up.

The best way to deal with this is to all agree what is fair, and then put this in writing as a formal agreement which you all sign. This way there is little chance of any comeback if the band splits for less than amicable reasons.

Here are a few specific points you should consider:

If a member of the band leaves, do they forfeit all rights to the songs, and the songs remain the sole property of the band?

Are the songs written by one person, or a few principal writers, who wish to retain all rights?

If a band member leaves would both he and the band both retain a claim to the song, (this is probably the most likely option).

How do you determine each persons share?

Do you base it on a song by song basis ranking each member’s input, or use the same formula for every song?

Do you simply divide everything up equally, (e.g. 5 members each own 20% of all the songs and therefore receive 20% of the proceeds/royalties), or do you rank each individual’s input?

If a member leaves, can he/she perform or profit from the music outside of the band.

Sample band contracts can be viewed and downloaded from the following sites:



The advice from the UK Copyright Service on this subject is:

“Where music is written as a group effort, we recommend that you draw up an agreement to clarify issues, such as which rights belong to which member, and how royalties would be distributed in the event that members of your group leave.

For successful commercial bands, incorporation is also an option. As with a normal incorporated company, the band members would own shares in the band/company. In this situation, a band member would typically sell his shares to the other members if he decided to leave.”

Music Copyright fact sheet:


Understanding Copyright

By Frank Dee

In the UK, the following can be copyright: Music, Text, Recording, Broadcast, Film, Publication (layout), Art, and Drama.

However, song titles and most (separate) musical arrangements are not subject to copyright. This means that for a typical CD package, copyright exists for the words and music on the tracks; the recordings of the tracks themselves; the artwork on the CD, inserts and booklets; plus any other text on the CD, inserts and booklets.

Technically, in the UK, your work is copyright automatically as soon as it’s written down or recorded in some way.

It’s important to remember the distinction between the copyright in the song and the copyright in the sound recording. Both may be owned by different parties and generate separate income.

If you are the writer of the music and the lyrics, then you will be the first copyright owner of the musical copyright work and the literary copyright work.

You may choose to appoint a publisher to administer/exploit the copyright and assign to them the right to receive subsequent royalty payments on your behalf.

If your song is recorded and a master sound recording is created, a new and separate copyright exists; namely, the copyright in the sound recording.

This is owned by the person(s) who made the arrangements necessary for the making of the sound recording – usually the record company.

At the moment, copyright in the song lasts for 70 years from the death of the writer, whereas the copyright in the sound recording lasts for 50 years from first release or publication.

This explains why the BPI, on behalf of record companies, and artists such as Cliff Richard (who sang on, but did not write his recordings) are now frantically lobbying the government to extend the term before all those rock ‘n’ roll recordings of the late 1950s become out of copyright.

To prove ownership of your copyright, it’s best to keep sealed, dated masters with a third party, such as a bank or solicitor. The standard advice has always been to post a copy to yourself and keep it sealed, with a clear postmark date – probably OK, although some legal experts have warned that this method might not be entirely foolproof.

You don’t, strictly speaking, need a copyright statement, but it won’t do any harm to include something like this:

© Your name, year, all rights reserved (a P in a circle is used for recordings).


© 2006 – 2009 CareersInMusic.co.uk

Offering Free Downloads Of Your Music

By Frank Dee

I see this so often – musicians put up a great-looking site to showcase their songs, but only allow visitors to hear or download the briefest of samples of each track. No doubt, this is done in the interest of protecting and “monetizing” their music, but it’s really a false economy.

Think back to how you’ve ever come to love a piece of music or become a fan of a particular band. Chances are, it happened after you were exposed to a large enough chunk of their repertoire. Once you were “sold” on the artist, you were happy to consume and “own” a piece of related product.

Be confident in your songs and let people have access to them. Don’t be afraid – you’ll be creating fans.

Here’s an article by Andrew Dubber which expands on this concept:


There are lots of sophisticated tricks and tips for marketing music, online and off. But if you mess up this one fundamental principle, you might as well not bother at all.

Music is pretty much unique when it comes to media consumption. You don’t buy a movie ticket because you liked the film so much, and while it’s conceivable that you might buy a book because you enjoyed reading it so much at the library, typically you’ll purchase first, then consume.

DVDs are, perhaps, a little closer to the music buying experience. You love a film, so you buy the disc. But equally, you tend to love the film because you once took a chance and paid to see it in the cinema.

But music is different — and radio proves that. By far the most reliable way to promote music is to have people hear it. Repeatedly, if possible — and for free. After a while, if you’re lucky, people get to know and love the music. Sooner or later, they’re going to want to own it.

This isn’t just true for pop music. It’s not just about getting a hook stuck in someone’s brain so they hum it to themselves as they take out the rubbish. So-called ’serious’ music also benefits from familiarity — perhaps even more so. The more challenging a work, the more exposure is required to really get inside it and appreciate it.

Likewise, liking music is not just about entertainment. Music consumption, to many people, is a serious business. And by consumption, I don’t just mean buying or listening. It also involves collecting, organising and making sense of the music in relation to a personal canon. It takes more than an impulse purchase to break into that sphere.

But either way — whether it’s a pop tune, a heavily political punk album, or an experimental, avant-garde suite — the key is very simple: people have to hear music, then they will grow to like it, and then finally, if you’re lucky, they will engage in an economic relationship in order to consume (not just buy and listen to) that music.

That’s the order it has to happen in. It can’t happen in any other order. There’s no point in hoping that people will buy the music, then hear it, then like it. They just won’t.

This is not, I trust you’ll agree, rocket science. It’s perfectly obvious, straightforward and practical. And yet it’s the one mistake that most people make when promoting music online.

Nobody really wants to buy a piece of music they don’t know — let alone one they haven’t heard. Especially if it’s by someone who lies outside their usual frame of reference.

And a 30-second sample is pretty much a waste of your time and bandwidth. In fact, it’s worse than useless. That’s not enough to get to like your music. Let them hear it, keep it, live with it. And then bring them back as a fan.

More than ever before, you have to build that relationship, because it’s easier than ever before to just not bother and simply go elsewhere. No matter how good your music, it’s competing with millions of other choices. Millions.

The simplest way to promote music and build an economic relationship with a consumer is to let them hear it. Let them hear it repeatedly, without restriction. Let them grow to love your music and hear it as a part of their collection. Then they will want you to have their money.

This is not just a truism about music online — it’s also just how capitalism works. You provide value, then you are rewarded with money.

You don’t get the money first — and you don’t get to decide what value is.

Andrew Dubber  http://NewMusicStrategies.com

How To Promote Your Music

By Frank Dee

These are exciting times for everyone involved in the creation of music. The ability to produce professional quality recordings is becoming within the means of more and more artists. The channels of communication available, on a global scale, are unprecedented. Music, in all its forms, has never been more popular across such a wide range of media.

But such a cultural and technological boom brings new challenges.

In an era when so many new bands, artists and performers are discovering the benefits of DIY production and promotion, how can you get your music to stand out from the crowd?

Well, the technology might be changing, but some of the basic rules of marketing and promotion will always hold true. Here are some tips to help get your music to the top of the pile.

Establish your niche

You need to understand where your music should be positioned in the market. Yes, I know you’re unique and unclassifiable, but for these purposes, just leave your artistic inclinations to one side and concentrate on defining your image. This will help you to target the appropriate areas for your promotion, which will make your marketing more effective.

Think rifle, rather than scatter-gun.

Connect, connect connect

Music is and always has been a “who you know/who knows you” business and the quality and quantity of the relationships you build will have more of an effect on your career than almost any other factor.

Never pass up an opportunity to network. Always have your contact details and samples of music to hand. Give testimonials to every band or business when you buy a cd or any music product from them. Describe the benefits you felt from using their service and let them publish your testimonial on their site in return for including your sig file at the end.

Leave messages on discussion boards and forums and include your (subtle) link; but be careful not to appear as though you’re just posting to advertise yourself.

Similarly, write reviews, sign guestbooks and send emails to ezine editors – take every opportunity to get your link details onto as many sites as possible.

Remember to be polite and NEVER spam. By all means upload your profile onto viral sites such as MySpace, but bear in mind that some of these sites might be really hot one minute then become a bit of a marketing cliché the next; so don’t look upon them as a substitute for your own website.

Try developing creative projects with fellow musicians in a similar genre. For instance, maybe you could combine your live show with two or three other acts and present the package to a local promoter. There’s safety in numbers and you’ll be building more contacts.

Keep your website updated

(You do have a website, don’t you?)

You’ll be giving out your web address to other site owners, fans at your gigs and every industry contact you meet, so make sure you’ve always got your best songs and images on there.

You must have a way of capturing your fans’ email addresses so you can get in touch with them when you post new tracks or have a show coming up.

Take the time to respond to any requests from your fans – treat them well and they’ll be your willing army of viral agents.

Look beyond the obvious

The use of music as a marketing tool and for gaining youth credibility is now widespread.

Whether it’s soft drinks, mobile phones, coffee, banks(!!) – it seems that non-music businesses are looking for creative ways to add music-related services to their mix. Could this work for you, maybe on a local level to start with?

Think of any companies or organisations you might already resonate with and see if you can find a way to add value to what these businesses are doing with what you have to offer. This may even evolve into a sponsorship for a tour or a recording project.

The point is, if you want to attract corporate support, you don’t just have to rely on the “traditional” record company/publisher route to kick-start your music career.

Make use of music download sites – but be selective

There are tons of websites out there where any artist or band can sign up and have their songs available for download.

Before you do this, make sure that the site is going to say the right things about you. For instance, does it give the visitor the right impression? Is it professionally designed and in keeping with your particular genre/image? Do they charge you a fee? What’s the revenue split? How much do they charge customers for downloads?

You shouldn’t be too keen to sign up with a site with the cheapest download prices – that could make you look amateurish.

Will the site provide you with details of who downloaded your tracks? These people are your fans and you should nurture them. If the site refuses to share this info, they’d better compensate for that by having a huge customer base and selling loads of your stuff. And be sure that the site has been around awhile and has a good reputation for actually paying on time.

Check out the following download sites, but remember that the best place for your music is on your own website, where you control the whole experience from start to finish.

© 2006-2009 CareersInMusic.co.uk

Download Site Links










And a couple of our favourite US sites



How to Create the Perfect Structure for your Song

By Ian Waugh

You know what they say about rules? Actually they say lots of things about rules but here’s two – rules were made to be broken, and you have to know what the rules are before you can break them. While Judge Dredd may not agree with the first, the second is certainly true and never more so than in writing a song.

The song structure may not be the first thing you think about when you start writing. You probably work on the verse or chorus, or maybe you have a good riff that you want to expand into a song. So you get that down and then you start to think about the other parts – the intro, how many verses, middle eight, do you want an instrumental, the ending…

Some song genres have a fairly rigid format, others are more flexible, and you need to know where you can bend the rules and why you may not want to do so in order to make your song stand out from the others. Let’s look at the sections you’ll find in most songs and the part they play in song construction.

Song parts

Intro. Yes, this leads you into the song. It may be two, four or eight bars long or longer. Some songs don’t have any intro at all. A pop song intro will often be reminiscent of the chorus or the hook.

In a club song, it’s often a good idea to have eight bars of rhythm to help the DJ to mix match your song. They say that music publishers typically only listen to the first 20 seconds of a song before deciding whether to reject it so if you’re sending material to a publisher, keep the intro short and get into the song as quickly as possible. Save the 5 minute intros for the CD version.

Verse. This is the preamble to the chorus. It sets the scene, certainly lyrically, and as the verses progress they often tell a story or recount episodes from a situation although that’s by no means essential. They are typically eight or sixteen bars long and melodically not usually as strong as the chorus although, again, that’s by no means essential.

However, it often seems as if the songwriter ran out of ideas when writing the verse. One of the strengths of The Beatles’ songs is that verses and choruses are equally strong and most people could hum or sing their way through most Beatles hits. Not so with many songs where the verses are little more than fillers to get you to the chorus.

Chorus. This is the bit everyone remembers, whistles and sings along to. It should be the strongest part of the song and generally is or contains the hook. It’s usually eight or sixteen bars long.

Middle eight. As a song progresses, there’s a danger of boredom setting for the listener. The middle eight offers them a break and typically comes after a couple of verses and choruses.

Some people think of it as an alternative verse and that’s one way to look at it. It often modulates to a different key or introduces a new chord progression and it usually doesn’t include the song title.

However, all too often it’s simply an excuse for waffling on for a few bars. Although it’s called the middle eight it could be four or sixteen bars long.

Bridge. Many people use the terms ‘middle eight’ and ‘bridge’ synonymously and so popular is this usage that it would be churlish to disagree.

However, among those who prefer to note the difference, a bridge is a short section used to bridge the gap between verse and chorus. It may only be two or four bars long and it’s often used when the verse and chorus are so different from each other that a ‘joining’ phrase helps bring them together.

Instrumental. This is part of the song without any vocals. Yeah, okay. It’s often an instrumental version of the verse or chorus, it may be an improvised variation on one of these, or it may be an entirely different tune and set of chords altogether. Sometimes it fits into a song where a vocal middle eight would otherwise go.

Breakdown/Break. This term has been hijacked from songs from the early 1900s when it was common either to reduce the instrumentation or stop it altogether while a tap dancer would strut his stuff.

The term ‘break’ is still sometimes used to indicate an instrumental section. ‘Breakdown’ is now most commonly used in dance music for the section where the percussion breaks down or is reduced, and it may be the dance equivalent of the middle eight.

Outtro/Ending. Once upon a time, songs had definite endings but the mid 1950s heralded in the era of the fade-out and songwriters thought they would never have to write an ending again.

However, fade-outs became such clichés to the extent that fade out meant cop out, so songwriters started writing endings again.

With that in mind, you can do as you wish, and considering that the endings of most songs get talked over or cut short by radio DJs and mixed over by club DJs, you have only your artistic integrity and your CD listeners to answer to.

Some songs work extremely well with fade outs but listen to songs in your chosen genre to see how other writers approach endings. But whatever you do, avoid like the plague the three time tag ending.

Hook. The hook is not a song part as such; rather it’s the term used to describe the part of the song that people remember and sing. It’s what they buy the record for.

It’s usually the chorus although it need not be the entire chorus, but simply a two- or four-bar phrase. It could be an instrumental riff as in Whiter Shade of Pale or Smoke on the Water, or a processed vocal as in Cher’s Believe.

All together now

Having described the parts of a song, let’s see how they are commonly arranged.

The most popular arrangement by far is simply verse-chorus and repeat. Here are two variations on the theme:


Verse 1
Verse 2

Verse 1
Verse 2
Verse 3
Middle eight

You get the picture. However, these are conventions rather than rules so you can adapt, change or ignore them as you see fit. But they have developed for a reason and that is simply to make the song as immediately appealing to the listener as possible.

Listen to some of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman hits of the 80s (it’s not compulsory if you really can’t bear to) and you’ll see that most follow the simplest format, guaranteed to brainwash the listener with as many repeats of the hook as possible. They tend to be:

Intro (similar to the chorus)

Verse 1
Verse 2
Middle eight

Notice that the hook’s there straight away in the intro, there’s only one verse before the chorus so you get to it quicker, and the chorus tends to repeat at the end, just to imprint the hook firmly in your mind.

There are obvious exceptions to these formats.

Ambient, trance, chill-out music and the like, are obvious candidates. With these you can start at the beginning and work through to the end creating an evolving music form without any clear verse/chorus structure.

Genres such as trance tend to build to a series of crescendos several times throughout the song. However, even these types of song often have a hook or two on which listeners can hang their hat.

Build ups and downs

Bearing in mind that the purpose of a song is to keep the listeners listening and not allow them to get bored, you need variety within the song.

Simply strumming a guitar and singing verse/chorus/verse/chorus won’t cut the mustard unless you’re in a folk club. The usual method is to start with a simple arrangement and add to it as the song progresses.

So, the first verse might consist of light drums, bass and rhythm guitar. As you move into the second verse you could add strings or a synth pad.

A drum fill takes you into the chorus which would include busier drums, maybe some additional percussion, a fuller string arrangement and perhaps a lead line. When you dip back to the verse, you revert to the simpler arrangement.

The middle eight is usually a lighter arrangement than the chorus and gives you the opportunity to use different instrumentation if you want to.

When you hit the second chorus, add backing vocals and a lead riff. The final chorus is the culmination the song and you can add more backing vocals, more percussion and additional lead lines.

Listen to songs in the style you are writing and analyse their formats to see how far other exponents have stuck to or departed from the traditional formats. When you’re familiar with the rules or conventions that they use, then you can experiment by breaking them.

There’s a lot more about making music plus a free book to download at www.making-music.com

Ian Waugh is one of the UK’s leading hi tech music writers.  He has written for most of the major – and not so major – hi tech music magazines in the UK and many general computing titles both offline and online. His output numbers over 2,000 articles, features and reviews and he has written several books and albums.

How to Become a Songwriter and Successful Independent Artist

By Lynn Monk

By far the most important skill to have if you wish to become successful with anything is ATTITUDE. The same goes for becoming a songwriter. An old Chinese proverb once said, “90% of the journey towards success is over once you have stepped outside your front door.” The reason many people fail, is because they’d rather stay in and watch the TV.

Of course, that first step outside is a philosophical one. As a musician or songwriter, you spend the vast majority of your time being creative. If you think that writing a great song, or playing an instrument well, is the hardest part of being a successful artist, you are wrong.

Despite all the skills you need to know and perfect in order to make your music shine, these pale into insignificance compared with the hard work and other skills you will need to learn in order to record, market and sell your art successfully.

Fortunately, most creative people also seem to excel at other things. The term “Jack of all trades” could quite easily apply to most musicians or artists. After all, the first thing most artists have to learn, is how to find time for their art whilst running a home AND holding down a Day Job in order to pay the bills! It is therefore not unusual to find musicians who are also Physicists, Engineers, IT Professionals or Teachers, to name but a few.

Most of these people are quite content to keep music as a hobby, at least whilst bringing up a family. However, we all get to a stage in our lives (usually once the kids have grown up and left home), where we want to cease working for a “Living”, and instead, work for our own “Satisfaction”.

There are few things in life more satisfying than being admired for something we created. If our creations also manage to influence others, then it is even more rewarding.

This “first step outside your front door” is taken when you decide to pause from the creative aspect (the ideas), and take a positive step towards learning new skills, or employing others who can do those things for you.

There has never been a better time in the history of mankind, to take those steps, either by yourself, or with others who would help you.

–Where you used to have to pay for tutoring, or buy books, in order to learn the techniques of songwriting, or playing an instrument, you can now find scores of articles on the Internet (like this one!) that will help you for free.

–Where you used to have to save up a considerable amount of money to pay studio costs and hire session musicians to make a decent demo recording, you can now find all the necessary tools, and even the musicians, on the Internet who would help you for little or no cost at all.

–Where you needed to sign a record deal in order to be able to afford a producer and a master quality studio, you can now buy your own PC and some music software, and collaborate with a producer online, who will give you the capability to make radio-ready recordings.

–Where you needed a record company with a huge advertising budget to market and sell your recordings, you can now (with some hard work), market and sell your CDs to the Whole World for next to nothing.

The Music Industry doesn’t like the changes that the Internet has brought to the business. Digital media can be freely copied by anyone with a PC, anywhere in the World.

No longer do the record companies just have to worry about the CD pirates who manufacture illegal copies to sell on the black market; they also have to now worry about every PC-literate man, woman and child, making their own copies too!

This has led the music industry into a perpetual fight against file sharers (making enemies of many consumers in the process), instead of embracing the business advantages that the Internet brings to us.

The Music Industry still believes that 8-16 year-olds buy most of the records, so they are still catering primarily for that market. Recent industry figures are telling a different story, and the secret is the “Baby Boomers”.

Yes … The same people who created the above market perception in the 70s by buying the largest proportion of records ever, whilst they were teenagers, have now grown up!

The largest age group to buy CDs TODAY, at 26% of the population, are over 45. Not only that, but they still like the same kinds of music as they did then. So there is no need to change your art to fit today’s teenybopper market if you aren’t that way inclined.

Now that we know the secret, we also know that the next big thing in music, isn’t going to be another form of Hip-hop, Techno, or R’n'B; but a return to real music, such as was made during the 60s and 70s.

However, we’ll be creating it with modern tools on a Home computer DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) system, instead of in a multimillion pound studio complex!

So, whilst the Music Industry is still hesitating by trying to shun the new digital era in favour of antiquated business models, hardware in the form of CDs, and markets that still only cover limited territories; we can now jump ahead of them onto a more level playing field, find our own markets, and sell to the Whole World with only a simple website!

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? … Well, that is the first hurdle you will face. So many musicians think it is easy, that there are millions already doing it! So to be successful you will need, like any other business, a proper business plan.


The road to being a successful independent musician begins with ATTITUDE.

You need to find enough time in your schedule to drop the guitar & scoresheet and use your creative energies towards developing a proper BUSINESS PLAN.

This means taking a step back and listening to your music through Joe Public’s ears. You need to think up a business name, logo, and short slogan that encompasses what you are, and what your music is trying to say to people.

Register your business “name” by buying a domain name that suits you as soon as possible.

Pages on free MP3 sites and free domains do not give you a professional image.

You MUST have your own site, or at least something that offers you a unique look and features of your own.

If you want people to find your music unique & special, then you also need an image that is unique and special. That goes for your email address too. Genuine business people don’t use their Hotmail, AOL, or Yahoo addresses for formal communications.

Make sure all your paperwork is in order.

If you are planning on making an eventual living from your art, you will need to be registered as a business or as a self-employed sole trader.

You need to make sure your tax and income are all accounted for, so you may have to buy yourself an accounting package, or learn to use Excel Spreadsheets, or employ an accountant.

There is also a lot to learn about how copyright systems work and whether you feel you need to form your own publishing company, record company, or register your copyrights with an agency. Much of this will depend on the laws of your home country.

Alternatively, you can sign a non-exclusive deal with a small independent label or publisher to handle all the music-related paperwork for you.

You need to either take the time to develop some basic web design skills, buy ready-made templates, or employ someone to design a site for you.

Make sure your logo and colour scheme is fluent throughout your site, your stationery, your CD artwork, and any other communications device, such as email.

Make sure your site includes some way of gathering a mailing list, such as a response form or a “double opt-in” form of registration.

Plan a marketing strategy

Marketing is all about finding the right market for your product.

This may involve a certain amount of consumer research. This can be expensive, so use the internet as much as possible to find groups of people who like similar music to yours.

Try to find out other things about these people so that you can get a clearer picture of who would be interested in your music.

Plan a promotional strategy

Gather contact lists of magazines, local newspapers, TV and radio stations.

Plan an 8-week promotional strategy leading up to the release of your CD. Use any press, or airplay you get as a news item on your website.

If you have some money to invest, plan a set of concert dates in local venues for dates close to any publication dates.

Plan a poster or postcard campaign. Contact local charities, hospitals, schools and shops, in fact anyone who might be prepared to play your CD in a public place.

If you want local record stores to stock your CD, you will also need barcodes and counter display boxes.

Use the mailing list you have been gathering from your site to promote any news to your fans with a regular newsletter. Offer free tickets to gigs, or run competitions for free CDs. Use your fans as extra leverage to increase the momentum of your promotional campaigns.

Don’t under-sell yourself

Make sure that any music you decide to give away as a promotional MP3 is different in some way to the music you are selling.

For example, it may be an early un-mastered mix (demo), or a different mix, or a song you are never going to release for sale.

Otherwise, make sure all samples you make of your records, are either short clips, or low-fi mono samples.

The price you set for your releases should never be too far below that of major record company releases. Your price tells your customer what “stage” you are at in the business. Price yourself too cheap and you are more likely to lose customers because they will automatically assume you are an “amateur”.

Make yourself and your CD easily accessible to your fans

Always answer any emails promptly. Check your emails at least once a day and reply to any new enquiries immediately.

The average time expected by most people for a response by email is 12-24 hours. Do not SPAM. Make sure you only send bulk emails to people who have opted into your mailing list, and if anyone wants to opt out, make sure you delete them straight away (not several weeks and 10 disgruntled emails later!).

To contact businesses, you will need to write individually and personally to each of them. Always use a business “signature” with your artistic or business name, slogan, web site address, and possibly your telephone number, on every email you send. If you have released a CD, make sure you add the link to that too!

If you have had your CDs duplicated professionally and are bar-coded, you can also expand from selling them in internet stores such as iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby, to high street stores. You must also sell them from your own site or at least provide links to the stores where they are available.

Never stop “Networking”

Carry your business cards with you at all times. At every conversational opportunity, if someone happens to mention music, or gigs, make sure you advertise yourself as an independent artist.

If you have a compatible mobile phone or MP3 player, make sure your latest CD is on it! You never know who you’ll bump into in the supermarket. The first thing someone will ask when you mention you are a recording artist is “What kind of music do you play?” If you have your MP3 player with you, you won’t even have to answer! (This is always a difficult question for an artist). You can just play it to them!

Also make sure you frequent all the music-related newsgroups, forums, bulletin boards, MP3 sites, chat rooms etc. at every opportunity.

Finally, my “Promotional Tip of the Week”

Familiarise yourself with all the P2P file sharing systems that the music business hates so much. You can use them to your advantage. Make ads or lo-fi samples of your music or CD and label them like this… John_Mckeon_Friends_SoundsLike_Simon_&_Garfunkel.mp3

Make copies labelled with every well-known artist you think you sound like, and keep all the files in your shared folder. Then, whenever you are logged onto the service and someone searches for music by these well-known artists, your music will be on their list of results!


How to Become a Successful Independent Artist or Songwriter was written by Lynn Monk who has over 30 years experience in the music business as a musician, concert sound & lighting engineer, DJ and record producer; and is now the proprietor of Wobbly Music. An indie record company dedicated to supporting the “Mature Independent Artist”. Find out more about their artist services & recording contracts at http://www.WobblyMusic.net

Online Recording Studio Options

By Elad Fish

The World of Drum Recording

Many people today, especially in home studios where you often have only two inputs to record at once, record their songs one track at a time.

Most people starting a home studio can easily acquire the basic engineering skills needed to record vocals, guitars, keyboards and bass. Recording an acoustic drum set on the other hand is perhaps the biggest challenge a recording engineer has to face when recording a single instrument – mainly because drums aren’t really a single instrument.

Especially in Rock, each drum will often require its own microphone in order to capture its full depth and “punch” quality so highly desired in hard-hitting rock anthems.

A multi-channel recording system, lots of expensive microphones, acoustic room treatment and knowing where to place microphones and how to get the best out of the equipment make recording drums a highly expensive and complex endeavor.

If one decides to record drums at a studio, they will find themselves paying through the nose for a recording engineer and a professional drummer. Bands often don’t have the budget to pay for hours of studio time required for their drummer to nail a decent take.

Even if the drummer is well versed in the songs when playing gigs, recording in the studio is different in many ways and requires its own experience.

Online drum recording services such as DrumsForYou.com provide a refreshing alternative. Maintaining a studio dedicated to the sole purpose of recording drums, online drum recording provides a simple and quick method of getting a solid drum track.

For those venturing into a studio for the first time, it can be very intimidating not knowing how big the hole in your pocket will be at the end of the day. In online recording studios, a high volume of customers keeping the studio busy recording drums daily allows the service to offer a fixed price rather than charge by the hour.

There is no need to collaborate a schedule of meetings with musicians and producers. As soon as one track is finished there is no problem in getting on to the next one.

How Does It Work?

You may ask yourself, how can someone record drums the way I want them without me there to play along, guide and explain what I need?

The answer is – free preview.

This feature is made practical thanks to the special traits inherent in an online recording service.

The entire process will usually begin with the user filling out a form specifying parameters such as how they’d like their drums played, at what sample rate they need the track to be recorded and a choice from several snare drums to play.

Then the customer is asked to send an mp3 file with a sketch of their track without drums on the left side and a matching click track on the right.

The service is then obliged within a certain amount of time to send a preview mix of the drum track over the song. If the customer for some reason doesn’t like what they hear, they can ask for changes or scrap the track without paying. If they do like what they hear, upon payment they may choose between online or CD delivery of the full separate tracks as well as a suggested stereo mix.

With this feature, you have nothing to lose by trying. You know exactly how much you’ll have to pay, you’ll know exactly when you’ll get it and you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for before you need to make your decision. In a studio, being charged by the hour, you take a lot of risks, because you pay for time spent regardless of the result.

The experience and versatility attained by drummers who record parts for songs every day also means they’ll probably nail the track the first time. Most people aren’t really that picky about having their drums played a certain way and will often trust the drummer’s judgment to play what they believe fits best with the sketch provided by the customer.

Who May Benefit from Online Recording?

This unique service can be very useful for budding musicians and bands struggling on their own and professional musical producers alike.

Producers will appreciate the speed and professional quality delivered by this service. Because it’s so quick, they effectively won’t lose time by trying the service, so their options remain open to go the traditional way if needed.

Thanks to the ever advancing computer industry, home studios have become very commonplace these days. They are relatively cheap, easy to build and maintain.

Therefore, many budding musicians already have the tools they need to record their sketch and use this service. Until recently, they’ve had to compromise the live feel of their recordings by using drum loops and samples. Online drum recording services finally allow them to mend what has been until now a consistently weak link in their chain.

Finding talented musicians dedicated to one’s cause is also nothing to be sneezed at. Having a demo for your songs that sounds good enough to be on a record can help your wanted-ads on the internet stand out from the crowd. You may find yourself attracting more people to work with you in two weeks than you managed to do in two years.

Not Just Drums

It doesn’t stop at drums either. DrumsForYou.com, despite its name, provides services for recording bass, guitars and keyboards as well as drums. Granted that equipment becomes less of an issue when recording these instruments, the expertise of a professional player combined with the speed and no-risk policy of online recording makes these services very attractive.

Musicians trying to produce a good track on their own will probably sing their own track, or have a singer, and play one instrument that they know well. Yet many guitar players like to try playing their own bass, only to find it doesn’t sit as tight with the bass drum as they’d like. They would have to choose between keeping their part or take their chances hiring a musician. With online recording, you just order a bass track preview and chances are you’ll have the problem solved.

Indeed, online recording services could very well be the shape of things to come in how music is produced. As the infrastructure of the internet expands and advances globally, online recording services will also advance.

For example, it will be possible to hear a recording session online, give comments and even play together in real time from anywhere in the world with low latency. Soon after that you will also be able to see each other. Musicians will effectively be able to rehearse, record and even perform online.

The Bottom Line

Sitting in a fully equipped studio with experienced personnel, including a producer, recording engineer and professional drummer obviously has its advantages. At the end of the day, however, most people look for bang-for-buck solutions – amateurs and professionals alike.

Using free preview to solve most of the problems that could arise from not being face to face with the client, online recording services provide a viable solution that fits the bill for all but those who are not willing to compromise on having their own musician play the part note for note.

I highly recommend paying a visit to DrumsForYou.com and taking a venture into online recording. After you do, you may find yourself wondering how you got along without it.

Author: Elad Fish

Music Production and Mixing Tips & Tricks

By Ian Waugh

What makes a pro recording pro? What is the “sound” that the pros get and how can you make your recordings sound more professional?

The simple answer is – there’s no simple answer. But with careful listening and a little experience you can create excellent results with modest equipment.

Good mixing starts ear

The first and most important item of equipment is – who knows? Anyone? It’s your ears! Sorry to tell you this, but listening to ten hours of Rave at 110dB will do nothing for them and you might as well give your mix to a turtle as try to mix with misused ears.

Listen to commercial recordings of mixes you like, analyse them, listen for the effects and get to know what constitutes the sort of sound you’re after.

Mixing secrets

There’s no hidden secret to getting a good sound, but if we had to sum up the secret of mixing in two words it would be this – EQ and compression. Okay that’s three words.

These are probably the two most important tools used by professional producers. However, like any tools, if you don’t know how to use them you’ll be carving Habitat tables instead of Chippendale chairs.

That’s where your ears and experience come in. Here we have assembled some production ideas, suggestions, tips and tricks but they can only be guidelines and need to be adapted to suit your material. There are no presets you can switch in to make a bad recording sound good. And if your original material has been poorly recorded not even Abbey Road could salvage your mix. But follow these suggestions and see how much your mixes improve.

Get the level right

You can’t push the levels when recording digitally as you can when recording to tape but you still want to get as much signal into the system as possible. This means watching the levels very carefully for clipping, and recording at an even and constant level.

Some recording software lets you monitor and set the input level from within. Some expect you to use the soundcard’s mixer while others have no facility for internally adjusting the input level and expect you to set this at source.


Your ears are only as good as the monitors they listen to. DO NOT expect to produce a good, pro mix on tiny computer speakers. It may sound fine on a computer system, but try it on a hi-fi, in a disco and through a car stereo.

Oddly enough, you don’t necessarily need the most expensive Mic. Many top artists use what some might call “average” Mics because they work well and get the job done. You can spend a wad on a large diaphragm capacitor Mic (yes, they’re good for vocals) if you have the lolly but check out dynamic Mics which are much more affordable and can be turned to several tasks.

Mixing MIDI and audio

One of the great things about computer-based recording is that the parts can so easily be changed, edited and processed. It’s also so easy to combine MIDI and audio tracks and many musicians use a combination of sample loops, MIDI parts and audio recording.

Audio recordings are generally guitar and acoustic instruments such as the sax and vocals. Incidentally, the best way to record guitars is by sticking a Mic in front of its speakers. You can DI them and process them later and this may be cleaner but for a natural guitar sound a Mic’ed amp is hard to beat.

It’s not necessary to record drums live and, in fact, it’s difficult to do and retain a modern sound. You can buy off-the-shelf MIDI drum riffs and audio drum loops, or program your own. The quality of the gear which makes drum noises these days is such that anyone with a good riff can sound like a pro.

Mixing MIDI

As MIDI and audio parts appear on the same screen in modern sequencers, it’s very easy to arrange them into a song. However, when you come to mix everything down there’s another consideration. If you are recording to DAT you can simply route the audio and MIDI outputs through a mixer and into the DAT machine.

However, if you want to create a CD you must first convert the MIDI parts to audio data. The entire song can then be mixed to hard disk and burned to CD. Converting MIDI to audio can have another benefit and that’s the ability to process the MIDI tracks using digital effects.


There are three positions for effects known as Master, Send and Insert. Use the Master for effects you want to apply to the entire mix. These will often be EQ, compression and reverb.

Although giving each channel its own Insert effects is kinda neat, each one uses a corresponding amount of CPU power. So if your computer is struggling and if you’re using the same effect on more than one channel, make the effect a Send effect and route those channels to it.

Many pieces of software let you apply an effect Pre or Post fader. With Post fader, the amount of sound sent to the effect is controlled by the fader. With Pre fader, the total volume level of the signal is sent. Post fader is the usual default and the one you’ll use the most.


EQ is the most popular and the most over-used effect. Yes, it can be used to try to “fix a mix” but you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear as me Gran used to say and what she didn’t know about mixing could be written in the margin of the book of honest politicians.

But before you start messing with EQ – or any other effect for that matter – make sure you have a decent set of speakers. Have we said that already? Oh, must be important, then.

There are plug-in effects such as MaxxBass which can psychoacoustically enhance the bass frequencies to make it sound better on smaller speakers. However, this is by no means the same as getting a good bass sound in the first place by observing good recording principles.

EQ can enhance a mix to add gloss, fairy dust, shimmer, sheen, a sweetener or whatever you want to call it to the final production. It can be done with enhancers and spectralisers, too, although these tend to mess with the harmonics which some producers don’t like. However, don’t dismiss them out of hand.

General EQ lore says that you should cut rather than boost. If a sound is top-heavy, the temptation is to boost the mid and bass ranges. But then what usually happens is you start boosting the upper range to compensate and you simply end up boosting everything and you’re back where you started – only louder!

The reason why cutting is preferred is that boosting also boosts the noise in the signal which is not what you want. Try it. Boost every frequency and listen to the result. If you think it sounds okay, fine. What do we know?

But when you’re fiddling, do keep an eye on the output meter. Boosting EQ inevitably means increasing the gain and it’s so-o-o-o easy to clip the output causing distortion which does not sound good.

Finally, check EQ changes to single tracks while playing back the entire piece. In other words, listen to the tracks in context with all the other tracks. It may sound fine in isolation but some frequencies may overlap onto other tracks making the piece frequency rich in some places and frequency poor in others.


Reverb creates space. It gives the impression that a sound was recorded in a hall or canyon instead of the broom cupboard. Recording lore suggests that you record everything dry, with no reverb, so you can experiment with a choice later on. You can’t un-reverb a track once it’s been recorded.

The more reverb you apply, the further away sound will seem. To make a vocal up-front, use only enough reverb to take away the dryness. Vocals don’t want to be mushy (lyrics can be mushy) so use a bright reverb.

A common novice error is to swamp everything with different types of reverb. Don’t – it sounds horrible!

Mixing down

You’ve done all the recordings, done the edits, applied the effects and now it’s time to mix everything into a Big Number One Hit! Before you do, go home and have a good night’s sleep. Have two. In fact, sleep for a week.

Yes, we know you’re hot and raring to go but your ears are tired. They’re falling asleep. Listen carefully and you might hear then snore!

There is a phenomenon known as ear fatigue and consistent exposure to sound, especially the same frequencies, makes our ears less responsive to them. Goes back to the bit about spending your life in a Rave club – you’ll never be a master producer. If you try to mix after spending a day arranging, your ears will not be as responsive, so do them and your mix a favour by waiting at least a day.

Now, go forth and mix! And don’t forget – you get better with practice. For more information about mixing, pick up a FREE copy of Creating the Perfect Mix at www.making-music.com.

About The Author: Ian Waugh is one of the UK’s leading hi tech music writers and creator of www.making-music.com. He has written for most of the major – and not so major – hi tech music magazines in the UK and many general computing titles both offline and online. His output numbers over 2,000 articles, features and reviews and he has written several books and albums. He is the author of the “Quick Guide To…” series which includes the Quick Guide to Dance Music, Digital Audio Recording, MP3 and Digital Music and Analogue Synthesis.