Floor wedges vs In Ear Monitors: The Pros and cons of both

One of the most important things for a musician when they are on stage is the need to be able to hear themselves clearly, if they can’t, they are going to produce a sub-standard performance.  There used to be only one way of doing this and that was through what is known as a floor wedge or floor monitor, this is simply a speaker that is placed in front of the musicians so that they can hear themselves. As you can imagine, these speakers would be quite bulky and take up a lot of space on stage, especially if there is a large amount of musicians on stage, all requiring monitors.

This issue has now been solved with the invention of in ear monitors or I.E.M’s. The clue is in the name as t how these work, just like a floor monitor but rather than having a massive speaker on stage, each performer has a set of in ear headphones in which they can hear themselves and whatever else they require, for example, a click track if the performer is a drummer.

The debate about which monitoring method is best has been going on for years and there are pros and cons to both forms of monitoring, let’s start with the pros and cons of floor monitors:

Pros

  • Less expensive – A fully functioning in ear system can cost hundreds of pounds)
  • No sound blocked ( having in ears can sometimes block out the noise of the crowd etc.
  • Freedom of movement – if a performer isn’t on wireless I.E.M’s, they are attached to a cable.
  • Shared mixes – If time is not on a bands side, the engineer can arrange to have various band members using one wedge, not ideal, but time efficient.

Cons

  • More noise on stage – If you combine the front of house speakers, guitar amps and several monitors on stage, it sure is gonna get very loud, very quickly.
  • Less space on stage – Again, combining the amps, instruments and people with more bulky monitors doesn’t create the most comfortable stage plan.
  • more chance of feedback  – Because of the amount of things blasting out at you and the audience.
  • No chance of a custom mix – for some musicians, having a custom mix is essential, such as the drummer needing a click track at times, you can’t put a click through a floor monitor or the audience will hear it, not good.

As you can see, having a floor wedge has its advantages and disadvantages, now onto in ears. If you’re gigging week in week out like me, I would suggest investing in some in ear monitors, we’ll go through the pros and cons of these now:

Pros

  • Hearing protection – In ear monitors are designed to block out as much noise as possible to protect the hearing of the wearer, with in ears, the harsh frequencies like that produced from the crash of drum cymbals are either blocked out completely or blocked to a certain extent so you can still hear them but just not as loudly.
  • Custom mixes – With in ears, you can have a mix that is custom made for you, this take quite a lot of time during soundcheck but is well worth it. The quality of a mix can make or break a performance for a lot of musicians, if you can’t hear yourself or can hear too much of yourself, things could go horribly wrong. Thankfully with in ears, the sound levels can be adjusted without affecting anybody else in the band.
  • You can hear more clearly – Because your monitor is literally in your ear, you can hear everything more precisely and be really locked into the rest of your band members, this helps your performance a great deal.
  • They look cool  – I know, probably not the reason anybody chooses in ears, but I must say, I like the fact that I’m wearing what the pros wear, it makes me feel cool, okay? Try not to judge me!

Cons

  • Expensive – A good quality in ear system can burn a rather large hole in your wallet, we’re talking £500 + if you want the high end stuff. For your first set, I wouldn’t recommend going out and spending that much, get something quality but within your price range!
  • If they break, you’re done – This doesn’t happen too often if you look after them, but if they do break and you don’t have a spare set, then your kinda stuck, musically and financially. Especially if they break on stage and you don’t have a wedge running too, which is not likely.
  • Could cause hearing damage – If your sound guy isn’t responsible or experienced, they could send a massively hot feed to your ears, this could potentially damage your hearing if it keeps happening, before you switch to in ears, you have to be sure that the engineers your working with know how to handle their desks properly.
  • They can’t always be used – I’ve had experiences of going to a venue, telling the sound guy that I run in ears, and having them freak and not know what to do with these foreign objects.. dude… just run an XLR cable from your desk to mine.. oh well.

These are my personal pros and cons, added to the extensive argument as to which way works best. Personally, once I switched to in ears, using a wedge was never the same, I just couldn’t do it, and I’d imagine its the same for many people that have made the switch. A fellow session musician friend of mine described using in ears as “hearing in HD” and I have to say, his right.

SIDE NOTE: I wrote a little review of my Moxpad X6 in ears, take a read!: https://garycunninghammusic.wordpress.com/category/reviews/page/2/

 

 

 

 

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The Unfinished Record

The Unfinished Record

The music industry and the sound of unsigned music seems to be going through another evolution as of late.

I’ve reviewed various bands for my unsigned music blog recently, and they all had one thing in common. Their finished releases didn’t sound.. finished. That’s a bad thing, right? WRONG. The evolution that the unsigned music world is going through right now, is that many unsigned bands (dependent on genre) are releasing records to the world without having them perfect.

For example, the vocals aren’t smothered in auto-tune (everyone knows how much I hate auto-tune, if you don’t, READ THIS) and sometimes they aren’t even at the front of the mix, they’re buried deep behind the lead guitarist. I’m not going to lie to you, this did get on my nerves at first because I was so used to hearing that perfected, fixed up, radio perfect release for so long. Becoming a regular music blogger opened up my eyes to the dark, under-belly of unsigned material. It took me a while to appreciate it, but now? I love it!

It works so well, you can really feel and appreciate the amount of effort and heart that has been put into these sorts of releases, the imperfect product has a certain charm to it that you’ll never hear when listening to mainstream radio. The amount of chaos that I’ve heard within these records is astonishing, it sounds as if these sorts of bands have just hired a studio, plugged in their instruments, hit record and just started playing random notes! I’ll tell you now, to the commercial labels, that is their idea of a recurring nightmare.

BUT it’s an ever-growing trend to push out, raw, un-edited music! It really works in my opinion, but you need to have a certain character about you to sit down and enjoy it.

Is the unfinished record going to be the new way of doing things in the future? who knows? What I will say is this: listening to music that is raw has helped me discover a new side to the industry I fell in love with at the age of 9 (yes, 9), it has shown me that you don’t have to rely on expensive equipment to produce something of high quality, and it’s shown me that no matter what, don’t give a damn what people think, release what makes you happy and proud to be an artist, and eventually, people (like me) will catch on and appreciate right along with you!

My thoughts on episode one of The Voice UK

My thoughts on episode one of The Voice UK

Popular TV talent show “The Voice” returned to our screens this weekend, bringing with it some new rules and new coaches as well as the return of fan favourites Will I Am and Sir Tom Jones.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this season so I sat down with an open mind. I have to be honest, I was very very underwhelmed with the standard of contestants within this first episode. None of them really got my attention or got me excited, and to be frank, some of them were awful!

There was one contestant that got my attention and made me excited and that was the final contestant “Mo” performing “Iron Sky”. I could just tell that he really wanted a turn and he really deserved it, his passion during his audition was like nothing I’d seen in a while and certainly blew the other contestants out of the water, I predict a bright future for him on the show.

The same can definitely not be said for his friend Max Vickers who performed “You Can Call Me Al”. I use the term performed very loosely.. It sounds harsh but he just couldn’t get ahold of himself or his vocal technique during this performance, he genuinely sounded and looked like he was having a fit on stage! Remarkably, he got a chair turn from of the new coaches Gavin Rossdale.

Over the last few years, the standard of performances on The Voice UK has been shocking, the American’s, Australian’s and all the other countries are blowing the UK out of the water, we don’t have a leg to stand on at the moment and we haven’t for quite some time. The shows should be about showcasing genuine talent, not about sticking someone diabolical in front of millions of people to make good TV, they’ll only end up showing themselves up in the end.

Overall, I am completely disappointed and underwhelmed by the first show, even the coaches performance (bar Jennifer Hudson) was mediocre. I hope that in episode two, things improve drastically.

My biggest issue with The X Factor

XFactor-logo.jpgThe X Factor is probably one of most well known reality TV shows in the world these days. For those of you that don’t know, it is a televised singing competition produced by music mogul Simon Cowell. The aim is of course, to win and then go on to receive a record deal from Simon’s label “SYCO”. Some of the most successful UK X Factor contestants are: Olly Murs, One Direction, Little Mix and recently Louisa Johnson and James Arthur.

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Recent X Factor Winner Lousia Johnson Credit: WENN.com

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this show in particular if I’m honest. I’ve had friends that have competed on the show (and won it) so naturally, I can’t argue that the show doesn’t create that leap to fame that most musicians crave . However, there is one huge thing about the show that I absolutely cannot stand.

That thing, is that the show allows bogus acts through above actual talented people, and it is all in the name of “entertainment”. This is especially the case in this years X Factor. Take “Honey G” for example,  a supposed “rapper” who can’t sing for toffee but is being allowed through to the live shows above actual singers.

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Honey G on X Factor live shows  Credit: Metro.co.uk

Some news sites are saying that Honey G is always being put through because her gimmick is “saving The X Factor”. It’s no secret that the ratings for the long running talent show have been at an all time low in recent years, with the possibility of it being cut from our airwaves completely, it is possible that Mr Cowell has decided to go to extreme lengths to give the British public a reason to tune in.

Many industry stars, including Little Mix, have dubbed Honey G a fake and an actress, could this be true? If so, I wonder how much Simon is paying her to make a fool of herself in front of millions? After her Linkedin profile (holding multiple degree qualifications) was un-earthed, the authenticity of the rapper from “South Weezy” has been truly called into question.

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Anna Gilford A.KA Honey G on Linkedin Credit: Thesun.co.uk

However, I do believe that if the show focused on actual talent, that people would tune in for that too. I personally would rather watch an hour of exceptional musicians give it their all for a record deal than watch people like Honey G try to rap ( and therefore make me struggle not to scream at the top of my lungs)

As a musician, it really does sicken me to the core that untalented people are being given airtime whilst I know singers that have auditioned this year and got turned away that are on another level, it makes no sense and to me, ruining dreams of hard grafting musicians in favour of bogus acts in order to apparently “keep ratings up” defeats the object of a TALENT competition.

I really hope that Cowell starts to realise that he doesn’t need fake acts in order to create a successful show, before it’s too late and acts like “Honey G” leave a black mark all over his hard work.

 

Auto-tune Culture And How It Has Ruined The Music Industry

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Auto-Tune, the revolutionary invention of recent times, it’s saved many an artist from complete vocal embarrassment and dubbed the worst performers “talented.” This is until, they begin to sing live, of course.

Being one of the dying breed of ACTUAL musicians who don’t use auto-tune to create their stardom, my opinion on it’s use is VERY strong. To be honest, I think using auto-tune is so disrespectful to the artists who can actually sing, and it’s also disrespectful to the unsigned talent that put hours and hours of work into their music, just to be ignored by industry brass in favour of an artist who has no talent whatsoever. It makes me sick to the core knowing that I have friends that have more talent in their little fingers than most of the “stars” do, yet they’re still having to post covers on Youtube and release their singles/albums on a tiny budget and get limited success.

Let’s be frank for a second and cut the bullshit. Today’s music industry is more focused on wether an artist has sex appeal, that classic line “sex sells” has never been more true. So true in fact, that as long as you’ve either got big boobs or a six pack, it doesn’t matter if you can sing or not, because they’ll just auto-tune your stuff and you can mime your set when live.

What’s happened to the authenticity of this industry? I’ll tell you what, it’s died along with the many great artists we’ve lost in recent years, and I’ll bet my career that they’re turning in their graves, I know I would be! Don’t get me wrong, there are some brilliant modern artists that can sing up a storm without the aid of auto-tune but the majority of today’s stars are sounding more robot-like than human, and that is what makes me so angry.

Not only that, but many artists actually have the audacity to deny using auto-tune. This one really makes me laugh because it’s so blatant a deaf person could spot it! (before anyone gets offended, it’s sarcasm, obviously) The point I’m trying to make is this, if famous muso’s are going to use it, they may as well face up to the fact that they can’t sing and either admit to their shortfalls and face the backlash, or quit, because they don’t deserve any of the music awards they’ve received throughout their career of lies.

I’m going to wrap this article up with a huge, heartfelt, tearful plea to the music industry to just wake up! Open their eyes and realise what this apparent “revolution” is doing to what was one of the greatest industries in the world. Just stop using technology, ditch all the talentless dead-weight, stop being concerned about an artist’s “sex appeal” and within a few years, you’ll have some of the most (genuinely) talented musicians at your beck and call, therefore, you’ll have a crazy amount of money! It’s a win win, so please, for crying out loud, wake up and act before this industry becomes an even bigger shit-pit than it already is.

 

 

Is there any future for One Direction after hiatus?

One Direction, you either love them or hate them. Either way  there isn’t a person that doesn’t know they’re name. After they’re formation on ITV’s “The X Factor” in 2011, they quickly became one of the hottest bands ever, with fans around the world.

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The start of everything – One Direction in their X Factor days. Credit: betting.betfair.com

As the years went on, the boys went through various chart successes, with all of their records but one (Made In The A.M.) reaching number one. The future of these lads has been hanging in the balance for quite some time. The uncertainty began after the departure of Zayn Malik, who has gone on to forge his own solo career. After this, the boys used “Made In The A.M.” as a farewell record.

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Five become four, One Direction without Zayn Malik. Credit: celebmix.com

This was due to the group of five turned four decided it was time for them to go on a 12 month hiatus from the spotlight. This announcement shocked their fans beyond belief, reducing their most loyal followers to tears, this was understandable, sort of. The boys’ manager, Simon Cowell has said that it is “their decision as to wether this is a hiatus or a break up”. He is just as in the dark about the future of the group as everybody else.

Despite the boys bringing their joint venture to a halt, each member is still gaining individual recognition, some in football, some in film roles and some even taking the same approach as former bandmate Zayn and forming their own solo careers.

Although the group have said that the split is only for a 12 month period, assuring fans in the past that they will be back, there have been many people wondering (including myself) if there is anything for the once critically acclaimed One Direction to come back to.

With the rise of “5 Seconds of Summer”, the group that One Direction championed for so long (the irony), it doesn’t seem to me that there is a gap in the market for another boyband. 5 S.O.S have swooped in to save the day and fill the huge void in the industry that 1D left behind.

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“The new One Direction” up and comers “5 Seconds of Summer” Credit: ticketmaster.com

In my mind, you only need one huge boy band to fill that market gap in the industry, and the Summer boys have done just that. One Direction, are old news, they had a great run don’t get me wrong, but there is simply no need for them anymore. Sure, the odd reunion gig will be great to appease fans, but their time as the top dogs in the boyband world are well and truly over. Was this a fault of their own? Was it fate? Who knows? I just think that their last release was their best material and the best way for them to go out, with a huge band and their heads held high.

 

Is the Music industry sexist? – I tear apart Laura Mvula’s claims

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Singer/songwriter – Laura Mvula. Credit: wmc.org.uk
I am asking this question because I recently saw some comments made by singer/songwriter Laura Mvula. She has claimed that the music industry is sexist in a recent interview, this can be read here. I have read through the article and picked out some key comments that Laura made, and I have developed an opinion on each of those comments.

The first comment that struck me was “Laura Mvula has labelled the music industry “sexist” because of the lack of female headliners at festivals.” Okay, this statement is slightly true, there are more male headliners at big festivals than there are female and I do admit that this is unfair. For example, there has only been one female headliner confirmed at this years Glastonbury Festival, this being Adele, whereas there has been two male headline acts announced already.

However, there are still many female performers, it’s not as though the Glastonbury organisers have made this a male only event, not to mention that you don’t really need to headline Glastonbury to prove that you’re a huge star, especially if you already have millions of loyal fans. Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine) stepped in to headline last years festival after Foo Fighters pulled out at the last minute, if the industry truly was “sexist” surely, they’d’ve chosen another male act to take Foo Fighters place? it’s not as though there isn’t plenty to choose from.

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Florence Welch headlining Glastonbury 2015. Credit: telegraph.co.uk
Another thing Mvula used to back up her sexism argument was the “amount of men that work behind the scenes in the music business”. I can pull this argument apart straight away, simply by dropping a link to an article I found on Billboard with not 20, not 30 but FIFTY women who are high up in the music industry, from agents, to managers, to producers, they were all women. To this end, I fail to understand how Laura’s statement about lack of women behind the scenes holds any weight. (The article can be found HERE)

From personal experience, I work with more female artists than I do male these days, I am in 1 all male band which is a Pink Floyd tribute, all of the other singers I work with are female, and they are doing very well for themselves, so again, how is Laura’s argument even getting any attention or agreement?

To further my counter argument, the latest winner of X Factor was female (Louisa Johnson) obviously, X Factor is not deemed a “serious” contest, but it still has millions of viewers every year and Louisa did end up performing at Capital’s SummerTime Ball, twice. The head producer of the show, is male. It’s not really that sexist is it? If it were, Louisa wouldn’t’ve won and before we get people saying that it’s down to public vote, we all know the show is rigged, (not taking any of Louisa’s glory away from her of course) but if Simon Cowell was sexist or the industry was sexist at all, a male winner would’ve been chosen, regardless of “public vote”.

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Capital FM Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium – Arrivals Featuring: Louisa Johnson Where: London, United Kingdom When: 11 Jun 2016 Credit: WENN.com
Mvula also claimed that she felt “isolated and misunderstood” due to the apparent lack of females. How? In my opinion, your gender really doesn’t matter, all musicians, producers, agents, managers, label heads are in the same boat, doing the same job, regardless of gender. I don’t see what’s to be misunderstand.

Personally I believe that Laura Mvula is blowing the whole situation out of proportion. If the music industry really was sexist, anti-women or whatever she wants to call it, then the likes of Adele and Taylor Swift and Florence Welch wouldn’t even be signed, let alone have their songs be number one in charts around the world.

Let me be clear, I am not saying for one second that there wasn’t a time in which female recording artists were oppressed and abused. The scandal between Kesha, Sony and Dr Luke is a prime example of this happening and trust me, I found the whole situation and the way Sony acted as a label, disgusting. However, this wasn’t a case of sexim, it was an act of sexual abuse upon an innocent young woman that was brushed under the carpet by a label of people whose job it was to protect their artist.  For those of you that don’t know what happened in this incident, you can read a detailed timeline of events HERE and you can read my article on the incident HERE

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Kesha was abused and held under contract by her producer Dr Luke and her label Sony Music. Credit: businessinsider.com
To wrap this up, I really do think Laura should think about how she words things. The fact that I could rip apart her argument with some research and a presentation of facts and sources shows how little weight her argument holds. I did end my argument on a statement sort of supporting what she was saying, but as I said, what happened between Kesha and the opposing parties was not sexism, it was abuse. There is a very stark difference between the two.

I understand why Mvula said what she said, she was just trying to stick up for her gender. Maybe next time she should bring forward a far more watertight argument, so it doesn’t get torn apart by an 18 year old music blogger from Essex.