Archive for April, 2015

If you follow pop, it’s certainly not about music but about persona. Not that pop stars don’t have talent, many actually do, but pop is so much more about the image than it is about the music. Besides, very few of them write any of their music, or if they get any songwriting credit, it’s because they happened to participate in the writing process.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those oldies who wants to return to the “good old days” where music seemed to mean much more. That was another time. There wasn’t the Internet. There wasn’t the technology available where anyone with a laptop and GarageBand or Audacity could lay down decent enough tracks to get their music out there. Back then, you had to rely on the studios. There was no choice.

But it was inevitable that eventually the music business would arrive to the point where everything sounds the same. The studios are businesses. Once they find a successful niche (sound, in this case), they want to ride that wave for as long as they can and profit from it; unfortunately, it means that introducing new material that falls outside the wave has a much harder time getting picked up.

And I’m not one of those bitter artists who you hear about constantly complaining about not getting paid. I’m surely not in it for the money… and I guess that’s the point to my meanderings here. From an artist’s standpoint – not the industry perspective – what really is making it?

For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably will never write anything that has real wide appeal. I certainly couldn’t write stuff that 20-something’s could relate to because I’m 30 years out my 20’s. Believe me, I’ve tried to do it; to research things that appeal to younger people; tried listening to “younger” music like screamo, hardcore, modern pop. Very little of that appealed to me.

But I do like a lot of the Indie stuff from younger artists, particularly guys like Passenger, who’s sole big hit was “Let Her Go.” But if you listen to his other stuff, while it’s catchy, a lot of times, the lyrics are WAY too deep, and you have to listen to the songs and read the lyrics over and over again. A good example of this is “Circles,” probably my favorite Passenger song. It’s about aging, and it’s a truly great song. Don’t think you’d ever hear on the radio, but that’s not the point. That song is good. Here’s a clip from a concert, probably recorded with a phone. It starts out with “Circles,” then Mike moves into “Trouble” then segues into “Let Her Go.” When you watch, you realize just how much he loves what he’s doing.

Speaking of “circles,” I guess I should circle back now to the original question. What really is making it? For me, it’s simple: I’ve always just wanted the ability to share music with as many people as I could, and gig – a lot. I do from 150 to 200 gigs a year, and if I wanted, and also if I didn’t have a family, I could probably support myself on doing music alone. I don’t have any ambitions that somehow I’m going to get discovered and get a contract. At this point in my life, I don’t have the time to do the self-promotion that entails. But I do get to gig, and as of late, I’ve been introducing more and more of my own music into my gigs. Some have caught on with my audience, others… well, I don’t do the ones that don’t really catch on much… 🙂

But to me, the fact I can gig as much as I do, is enough for me. To me, I’ve “made it” on my own terms, and that’s good enough. Maybe in the future when I have more discretionary income, I’ll put more time into promoting and playing bigger venues, but right now, I’m happy with where I am and how far I’ve come.

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I played a private party last night; just a small birthday party for about 40 people; hired by a couple who saw me play at my restaurant gig. I went to the gig fully equipped with my Fishman SA220 SoloAmp packed up, my acoustic board, and Yamaha APX900 and of course, my cord and mic bag.

Much to my pleasant surprise, the couple had a friend who did pro sound, and he had already set up a PA, plus a mic stand where I’d be playing. What a relief! While I love my SA220, being able to plug into a board makes life so much easier.

Originally, he had put out a Shure SM58 stage mic. I hate those, so I was going to pull out my Sennheiser. But as Frank saw me inspecting the mic, he said, “I’ve got a Heil PR35 that you could use if you don’t like the 58.” I must’ve had an expression on my face to prompt him to offer that.

In any case, that got me smiling. I didn’t think that I had used that mic before, but then recalled a studio session where I used a PR35, and remembered how great it sounded with a nice, flat response, and wide dynamic range; perfect for the stuff I was recording at the time.

So I set up my gear, ran the mic into Harmony G XT harmonizer, and we did a sound check. O. M. G.!!! I couldn’t believe how responsive that mic was. It picked up everything. Whereas the SM58, and to a much lesser degree, my Sennheiser E85 have a bit of high cut, the PR35 caught some of the higher-frequency characteristics of my voice. Heck! I wasn’t even warmed up when I did the sound check, and it sounded magnificent.

Then it hit me that I could make my performances that much better by using a better mic. I played for 3 hours. Normally for that amount of time, my voice would be just a tad tired, but I found that I just didn’t have to work as hard with the PR35. It was super-sensitive, which I had to adjust to a bit and back off, but once I found the sweet spot, it was game over. Frankly, I actually thought that I was singing into a condenser mic, but without having to worry about feedback, which is so common with condenser mics.

On top of that, unlike my E85 which provides pretty good side and rear sound protection, though to really ensure that I don’t pick up sounds to the side I have to practically swallow the head, the PR35 has incredibly good side and rear noise protection. That came in handy as a party-goer took a liking to my songs and was singing, laughing and clapping a few feet to my right. I couldn’t hear any of his noise in my monitor!

Now while the PR35 is highly directional – the head should be right in front of your mouth – even a off-axis, you don’t get a loss of highs, which can be a real problem with cheaper stage mics. Of course, the mic doesn’t sound as good when you’re off-axis a bit, but the fact the frequency response remains pretty good even off-axis is pretty awesome.

In a nutshell, I’m going to save my pennies to get one of these. It’s not cheap at around $275 street, but it’s not super expensive like a Neumann or a DPA. And according to the PR35 product page on the Heil web site, I can even use this to record instruments and cabs! I can attest to its high SPL handling. There were some songs where I really got into the mic, and there was no overdrive whatsoever.


Output Connection: 3 pin XLR
Element Type:Dynamic
Frequency Response: 40 Hz – 18 kHz (UP- no filter), 80 Hz – 18 kHz (DOWN- filter on)
Polar Pattern: cardioid
Rear Rejection @ 180 degrees off axis: -35 dB
Impedance: 370 ohms balanced
Output Level:-52.9 dB @ 1 kHz
Weight: 9 oz
Max SPL:140 dB

More expensive mics like a DPA d:facto have -160dB Max SPL, but it would be a stretch for me to ever play in a venue where I exceed 100 dB.

For more information, please see the Heil PR35 product page.

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Back in 1980, a girl living on my dorm floor introduced me to Prince. Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback by his androgyny, but his music spoke to me. And as a musician, I respected that the dude could play practically any instrument, but I was most attracted to his guitar work. To this day, I just can’t get over just how damn good he plays.

What prompted me to write this was the movie “Purple Rain,” which happened to play the other night. Weird movie, but who cares. Prince, even back then, could just rip it up on the guitar.

So it got me curious… I thought he was awesome back then, but what about 35 years later? He ROCKS! Don’t believe me? Check out this video: http://www.wat.tv/video/prince-3rd-eye-girl-plectrum-5vnv3_2hztv_.html.

What amazes me is that Prince is rarely mentioned in the guitar press or forums, yet without a doubt not only can he hold his own with established rockers, but he can absolutely steal the show. Check this out (skip to about 3:25 for the start of his solo):

I had never seen this video before, and I was completely blown away. Though he’s the ultimate showman, his technique and especially the feeling he puts into his playing leave me practically speechless. Say what you want about how totally out there he is (the dude’s absolutely weird), there’s no denying how he can make a freakin’ guitar sing!

Update 4/25/2016

I just watched the video again last night, and started laughing out loud! There’s a segment where you can see Tom Petty in the background, and he looks absolutely pissed that he’s getting upstaged by Prince. I can imagine that none of the rockers enjoyed that. In any case, it’s hilarious!

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