Is Singing To Backing Track “live” Music?

This was a recent topic of discussion and debate amongst members of a musicians Facebook group I am a part of. I must admit it was entertaining to read some of the comments on the thread as people had their egos damaged by some home truths on the matter. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on this never ending argument:

For me, live music, is exactly that, a LIVE band with LIVE instruments fronted by a LIVE singer. When I see a poster outside a pub with the words “LIVE MUSIC FRIDAY NIGHT” I, as a musician and avid gig-goer, expect an entirely live performance! Of course, the singer is live, they are actually singing, using their own voice, but some may argue that they are merely a glorified karaoke singer… I mean this in no disrespect to any of my fellow entertainers, but that is essentially what you are doing.

I understand the use of backing tracks amongst some entertainers, it saves costs and allows the said singer to only have to worry about themselves but I do not agree with venues labelling them as live music, because they are only half live. In the Facebook group, there were lots of arguments amongst members on either side, some people even getting into insults and age difference.. really?! I chose not to add my “2 cents” to the conversation simply because it seemed the group were too immature to have a normal discussion..

Another point raised was that there are many famous acts that choose to mime during this performances, this is a completely different thing and bore no relevance to the discussion, but since it mentioned, I’d like to add that I do not agree with this practice, playing to backing tracks for ease when you can’t ship your whole band across the world, fine, miming to said backing track out of laziness, not fine.

Let’s wrap this one up here with this final point from me; singing to a backing tack does NOT necessarily make you a less skilled performer, you still have to be able to sing to a high standard in order to get booked and re-booked by venues. HOWEVER, I know that I would much rather spend my money watching a live band, wether it be covers or originals, than watching one person sing to a track.

 

 

Track Review: BLAB – Johnny

Track Review: BLAB – Johnny

BLAB, an interesting name right? What is it? It is one person, 17 year old Frances Murray. Frances, under the BLAB alter-ego, creates rough but great sounding indie rock from her bedroom. All instruments are played by her, apart from drums which is programmed in, the joys of technology eh?

BLAB’s first release “Johnny” caught my attention immediately, not only is the song insanely catchy, it is something out of the ordinary, something you hardly ever hear in today’s mainstream music media and certainly not something I’d expect a 17 year old in today’s world to produce.

The track is so raw and completely off the cuff, there hasn’t been much mixing or mastering done to it from what I can hear, and to some, that has been a huge negative. However, for me, the imperfections are what gives the track it’s charm. You can hear many punk/ indie influences in not only the music but also the lyrics, it’s refreshing to hear something different from a musician of my age group.

BLAB has already been given kudos by well known blog “Little Indie Blog” and rightly so too. I don’t think it will be long before BLAB is a name to be reckoned with in the local and possibly national music scene,I have high hopes for this project and can certainly see it going far if Frances keeps up her hard work!

You can listen to “Johnny” here:

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The BRIT Awards 2016: Roundup of last nights events

The BRIT Awards 2016: Roundup of last nights events

Last night was the night of the biggest Music awards ceremony in the UK and the world. The BRIT awards certainly shifted up a gear and lived up to the hype. Hosted by Ant and Dec, the famous faces of the Music world came together to celebrate each others success stories from the past year.

The evening was full of star studded performances from Coldplay, Justin Bieber, Jess Glynne, James Bay, The Weeknd, Rhianna and Adele, tears and laughter as the winners of the glorious BRITS was announced and even more laughter when Ant ended up wearing a dress as part of his “costume change”. It certainly was a night to remember!

 

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It all started off with a performance from the Wonderful Coldplay. Performing their latest release “Hymn For The Weekend” they definitely opened the show with a bang. Thankfully, they didn’t get their table destroyed this time. The other performers certainly had something to live up to after this one.

 

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Their performance was followed by the announcement of the winner for Best British Female. Despite the list of incredible nominees, the winner of this one was going to be obvious, Adele picked up this one which would be her first of four awards for the evening. This speech went a lot better than Adele’s last Brits appearance because she didn’t get cut off,she’s learnt to keep it short and sweet.

 

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Following the first award of the night, there was a performance from Mr. Justin Bieber, he sung two songs, both from his latest album “Purpose”. He even invited fellow musician James Bay to play guitar for his first song. I realised how much James resembles Bieber’s actual guitarist from a distance! I thought the performance overall was average, but having Bay on guitar was certainly a nice touch.

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The next award was then announced following Bieber’s performance. Best Male Solo which was presented by Kylie Manaogue, and it was deservedly won by the talented James Bay. I think he deserved this award the most out of all of the nominees,  although I predicted Calvin Harris, I should’ve changed my decision before posting.

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After a short advertisement break, because I wasn’t lucky enough to be in the audience, there came the award for Best International Group. This one was picked up by Australian band “Tame Impala”, I haven’t really heard much of these guys so I can’t really comment as to wether they deserved the award or not, although I thought U2 were definite winners. Tame Impala seemed to have trouble working out which way to face for the camera which was entertaining to witness I must admit, the whole “which way am I looking?” fiasco seemed to continue throughout the rest of the ceremony.

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After this interesting, and slightly disappointing awards acceptance and speech from Tame Impala, we were treated to another live performance. This time we were entertained by the wonderful Jess Glynne, this young lady was nominated for a few awards last night too! I think this performance was the only performance besides Colplay’s that I actually enjoyed so far, Jess clearly has a bright future in Music.

A great show so far! I definitely enjoyed a lot of the performances in the first half of the evening!

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The next award to be announced was Best British Single. This was Adele’s second award of the night which she won due to her single “Hello” which was off of her latest album “25”. So far, so good with Adele not blundering any of her speeches! But not for long!

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This was followed by another award announcement which was Best British Group. Coldplay deservedly won this one, they’ve certainly come back with a bang after taken a brief hiatus. They have returned with a new, modernised sound, it took me a while to get used to the new Coldplay but after listening I found that I actually enjoyed their new twist, you’ve got to keep up with the latest trends after all! They did antagonise some One Direction fans when lead singer Chris Martin signed each member of Coldplay off as a member of One Direction as they left the stage.

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We then had another appearance from last years Critics Choice winner James Bay, this time he was doing a solo set and he smashed it out of the water as he always does, he certainly showed the audience why he deserved to win Best Male Solo this year. I really respected the fact that every instrument he used was live too! There aren’t many musicians in today’s industry that do that.

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We then had the announcement for Best International Male. This was claimed naturally by Canadian, Justin Bieber. This was his first ever Brit award and I’m sure there are many to come. I must say, he didn’t exactly dress for an awards ceremony which I was shocked by, it was a black tie event, maybe Justin didn’t get that memo.

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Next we had a performance from Rhianna and Drake. I’m going to be totally honest here, the performance was complete and utter garbage! It actually made me angry knowing that there were talented artists scratching and clawing for a record deal and then there was this performance from Rhianna repeating the same words over and over again! I don’t see how this was even allowed to be released or how people were cheering instead of booing during this performance, she really has gone down hill! By far the worst moment on this years Brits!

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Once the performance thankfully finished, we had another award. This time it was British Breakthrough, this one was captured by Catfish And The Bottlemen. This was another band that I hadn’t really heard much from in terms of their music, but after checking them out briefly I can agree that they did deserve that award above the other nominees, James Bay was my favourite to win this one but he ended up winning Best British Male so all is fair.

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Singer Adele cries as she accepts the award for Global Success onstage at the Brit Awards 2016 at the 02 Arena in London, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

The next award was unexpected and I didn’t know about it so didn’t make any prediction for it. The award I’m referring to is The Global Success Award. This award is given to the artist that has had the most of global success within the previous year (2015). Naturally, the award was won by the incredible Adele, this was awarded after her crazy success with her latest album “25”.

The way this award was presented was really cool too! As it was called The Global Success award, it made perfect sense to present it from outer space, right? and that’s exactly what happened! The genius production team over at ITV got ahold of Major Tim Peake via satellite and he was able to present Adele with the award literally from outer space! It made Adele cry and swear! This has got to be the coolest moment of the Brits without a doubt!

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Adele sure is cleaning house with the awards this year and it’s no surprise!

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After Adele’s emotional meltdown and Tim Peakes satellite appearance, things shifted back to the performance side of the Brits with a set from X Factor finalists turned female supergroup “Little Mix”. I actually enjoyed their performance and can commend their level of performance integrity to some extent. This is because despite the fact that they were dancing, they were able to sing without having to mime (that much). The reason I added that bracket in there was because they decided to mime the choruses, there was no need to do this at all, they could’ve just minimised the dance routine.

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We then moved on to the International Female Solo, this one had an unexpected turn out for me with winner being, Bjork. I haven’t really listened to any of her music if I’m honest and I didn’t think she would get that award. I was caught between Meghan Trainor and Ariana Grande to be the winner.  Bjork’s acceptance speech also ended up being via satellite because she couldn’t make the ceremony for whatever reason.

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After Bjork’s acceptance speech, we were treated to a tribute to the late Music legend David Bowie. The tribute consisted of speeches from Annie Lennox and Gary Oldman and an incredible musical tribute from Lorde. Lorde performed a spell-bounding rendition of one of Bowie’s greatest hits “Life On Mars”, she sung with her incredible vocals whilst backed by musicians who had played with Bowie for years who done their stuff behind her.

This entire tribute to Bowie was incredibly emotional and touching to watch, it is clear that the industry is still in mourning for one of their leaders. It’s no surprise either, Bowie’s death left a mark on all musical and non-musical people around the world, including myself, he didn’t influence my music as such, but I knew who he was and had huge respect for him and his work.

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Anyone performing after the tribute certainly had an extremely tough act to follow. Thankfully, no one had to stress over a follow up performance straight away as we had the presentation for Best Artist Video. The award was one by One Direction for their music video of “Drag Me Down”.

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Following One Direction’s acceptance, we had a performance from up and coming artist, The Weeknd. I wasn’t completely blown away with his performance to be fair. Obviously, everyone sounds amazing on a studio record, but I was really hoping for something more than we got when watching his performance, disappointed is an understatement and it’s a shame really, I’ve always liked The Weeknd’s music. It just goes to show that you don’t always get live, what you hear on a record.

British singer and songwriter Adele accepts the award for best British female solo artist at the BRIT Awards at the O2 arena in London
British singer and songwriter Adele accepts the award for Mastercard Album Of The Year at the BRIT Awards at the O2 arena in London, Britain February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

After The Weeknd’s anti-climactic performance, we got to witness the final and biggest award of the night, the award that every artist seated at The Brit’s wants to win! the Mastercard Album Of The Year! I’ll give you three guesses as to who won? Of Course it was Adele with her most successful album yet “25”. This album is honestly incredible, a track by track CD of genius that more than deserves Album Of The Year!

And Finally, the night ended in spectacular and perfect fashion with a flawless performance from the FOUR TIME Brit winner Adele! she performed her latest single from “25”, “When We Were Young”. It was the perfect way to end the perfect show! I really enjoyed watching and writing about this years BRIT awards and I cannot wait until the next ceremony!

 

How to increase your stage presence

How to increase your stage presence

First of all, what is stage presence? Stage presence is having the ability to command the attention of an audience through the way you act on stage. Having good stage presence is one of the most important things to master (besides your musical instrument) if you wish to have consistently great and memorable performances.

As a keys player, for me, being able to having good stage presence can be a challenge since I’m stuck behind my keyboards and unable to move around the stage. However, there are other techniques I have adopted to increase my stage presence, and these are the techniques I am going to share with you today.

1. Interact with the audience!

The audience are there to watch you perform and enjoy themselves, sure they will enjoy your music but it has been proven that an audience enjoys a performance if they can relate to the performer on a more personal level. You have to have charisma if this technique is to work to it’s full potential, introduce yourself after your first one or two songs and explain what you’re about, the audience will appreciate the feeling that they’ve met you before!

Once you’ve done this, try ask the audience to do something! Get them to sing along to a song or even simpler, get them to clap their hands. They’ll enjoy your show a lot more if they feel like they’re allowed to get involved and it will also make you more memorable.

2. Make it obvious that you are enjoying yourself!

This one sounds like a given for most but you’d be shocked at how many acts I’ve seen that just stand there and sing into the microphone. These sorts of people bore me beyond comprehension! I understand that some performers struggle with confidence which is why they are so rigid when performing but eventually that should fade with practise, the more gigs you do, the more confident you’ll become!

Try moving around a bit during your performances, take the microphone out of the stand and walk about the stage, this doesn’t seem like much to some but it is 100 times better than just standing there! Obviously, as a keys player I can’t more about the stage so instead, I nod my head or “headbang” as some people call it! I also communicate verbally with the odd “woo” or something of that kind, it’s difficult to explain using words but it does add to my performances and helps the audience enjoy my sets, these ideas apply to drummers as well seeing as they also can’t move away from their kit.

3. Go into the crowd!

Trust me, audiences feed off of this technique! If you’re able to do so and it’s safe, go into the crowd and interact with them that way, shake their hands, sing to them. It really works a treat because they feel even more drawn into the show which will of course make them have even more of a blast, which is objective for the night, to make sure your audience have a good time!

A bit of a warning for this one, make sure that it is 100 percent safe to do this during your set, in other words, only do this if you are using a WIRELESS microphone! It’s all well and good thinking that a wired one would be long enough to sustain the crowd walking , but you really don’t want to take that risk of getting snagged by the wire and causing accidents! I would also pre-warn/double check with the venue that it is okay to do this, just in case theres some form of health and safety guidelines that you’re not aware of.

4. One final tip

If you’re struggling to find inspiration with regards to stage presence, take a look at the live performances of well known musicians! One artist in particular whose stage presence I admire is Jazz musician Jamie Cullum, he does all sorts of crazy stuff throughout his performances, he’s favourite thing to do is to jump off of piano’s, look him up! seriously I think some of you would appreciate his performances and music!

 

Feature image credit: http://www.rockinggodshouse.com

How to minimise or even completely stop stage fright

How to minimise or even completely stop stage fright

Stage fright is one of the most common barriers musicians and other performers face. I have gone through phases of stage fright on many occasions, the most recent one being at the Essex Entertainment Awards 2015 when I was performing in front of 700 people. I didn’t get it awfully, but when I was backstage I was sweating on my hands quite profusely and also struggling to breathe at times. However, I managed to perform and it went very well, this is because deep down I knew I was in control as soon as my hands touched the keys.

Some of you reading this will be new to performances, therefore stage fright affects you quite badly. In this article I am going to provide you with my top tips to combatting the performer’s worst enemy.

1. Take some deep  breaths

I know this is one of the most cliche things to say, and I know that you’re probably sick of hearing this same old line, but this does work. Just take five minutes to compose yourself before you go on stage. The performance will be fine!

2. Practise performing in front of friends and family

If you’re comfortable with doing this, it is probably one of the easiest ways to get used to performing in front of an audience. This is how I started out, from a very young age I would put on small shows at various family parties and it really did help build my confidence up as a performer. If you don’t want to perform in front of family, maybe perform in front of some close friends.

3. Invent a pre performance ritual that relaxes you

There are so many famous musicians that have crazy pre-gig rituals, it may sound silly but it really is not that uncommon. I have one too, I must have at least one cup of tea before going on stage, I also have to stretch my fingers and wrists since I’m a pianist. Selena Gomez likes to drink Olive Oil, John Legend eats Chicken and Keith Richards eats Sheppards Pie. These sound really strange I know but take it from someone who knows, this genuinely really helps calm the nerves!

4. Have an experienced performer accompany you on stage

If your first performance is at an open mic night of some kind, or you are a singer and can’t play an instrument, have an instrumentalist like a pianist or guitarist accompany you. This will not only look better than using a plain old backing track like everybody else, but it will also increase your confidence on stage because you won’t be alone.

I have worked with a lot of amazing singers who are under confident and the first thing I do for their first performance is offer to accompany them on Piano so that they’re up there with somebody else.

If you’re going to do this, I would definitely advise recruiting a musician with a good deal of performance experience. This is because you can be sure that they will not get too nervous and are able to help you and comfort you if you get too nervous, you certainly don’t want to be having to worry about them whilst you’re petrified yourself already!

5. ENJOY YOURSELF!

I cannot stress this enough! Live performances should be enjoyable both for the performer AND the audience, it’s key that you have fun with your performance and that you have a good time. If you don’t at least look like you’re enjoying yourself, the audience 100% will not enjoy your performance and that is definitely something you don’t want.

I know enjoying yourself is difficult when you are nervous whilst on stage, but if you follow all of the above steps, I’m confident that you’re stage fright will become easier to manage or even completely disappear.

I’ve been performing for a long time and I do still get nervous when I have a big gig like the one I mentioned. That being said, having some nerves is always a good thing and you’re bound to be a little nervous when getting on stage to perform in front of people no matter how many years you’ve been in the business!

The key to it all is learning how not to let it show!

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