What am I doing here?!

As a working musician, or anyone whose work is also their passion, it’s easy to forget why the hell you’re doing what you’re doing.  Creating art and performing can become “commoditized” and become arduous or even *gasp* feel like a job.  I feel it’s important to change things up, play around with new things just for fun.  Take time to play or write for zero reason, with no inward or outward pressure.  Keeping the “love” when involved in a “labor of love” is key to keeping the fire alive, maintaining growth, and creating meaningful work.

Silence is golden, your riffs sometimes are not

When performing with other musicians, it’s important to know when to get in and get out.  If the singer is singing, back off, let it happen and wait your turn.  Fill in the gaps between the main melodies with connecting riffs or runs, then get out again and wait your turn.  A true measure of a seasoned musician is knowing when not to play, where to place the “silence”.  It can really ruin a performance when the lead guitar is playing some sweet licks right on top of the vocals.  Peppering the tune with some well planned licks in the right places, will result in a much more impactful, cohesive performance.

Tuning and Tone Are NOT Just “nice-to-haves”

Ok look, this is probably just as much for me as it is for you.  The “2 T’s” as I’ve always called them (literally just made that up upon this writing…).  I’ve seen way too many acts bands/solo/open mic’ers perform reasonably well but throw me completely off because of TUNING!!  It’s important, it’s not optional, and also something many do a haphazard job of and take their tuner’s word for it.  The biggest, most overlooked thing when tuning, is your ear.  Use. Your. Ear. When. Tuning…..a tuner is a tool, not a replacement.  Make sure you really get to know your instrument and develop your ear by truly listening.  How fast does it go out if tune if at all?  Feel out the turns and how it sounds when you really lock in on the note as you’re cranking the tuning machine.  Play a few chords, a BUNCH of chords in both open and barred positions to hear where there might be problems.  Get tuned up to your tuner, then play a bunch of licks and chords, tweak your tuning tiny bits as needed until it all sounds perfect.  Then go back to your tuner and make sure your base tune hasn’t drifted from 440hz, or whatever you started from.

Tone is the other subject.  Once you’re in tune, actually listen to and play with your tone.  Too many times have I heard the peaked out bass/treble and near non-existent midrange that has made a performance nearly unbearable to listen to.  Your guitar lives in the 400Hz range…typically that’s “midrange” for a guitar.  Don’t “suck” that out thinking you’re Dimebag Darrell of Pantera (RIP) and think you can get away with it…done wrong, it sounds awful and uncomfortable to listen to even for someone who’s 100% musically un-inclined.

I feel a video tutorial coming in the future on this to dive further into this subject.  Tuning and tone are absolute musts as failing at either, or worse, both, will set you up for failure before you even play your first note whether on the stage or in the studio.  No matter how great your performance, act, presence, etc…poor tuning and/or tone, will yield a less than your best result.

All the best,

Mark

I’m new here

Hey there.  This blog post is going to suck, you’ve been warned.  It’s inevitable as I’m sure there’s no other possibility.  I mean, I’ve never written a blog post, or had a blog, or really written much of anything other than the tiniest tidbits to accompany a Facebook post, IG photo, or a long time ago, something I felt was Tweet worthy for a fleeting moment.  However, what the hell, I’m giving it a shot, only way to go is up when you start something from nothing, right?

I actually remember exactly when I heard someone organically tell me about blogs (before ‘organic’ was a…thing).  I moved with my band from Syracuse, NY to Rochester, NY around 14 years ago.  We were doing the college acoustic/rock thing and felt we had a good thing going.  Standard issue 4 piece band (2 guitars/singers, bass, drummer), that’s a story for another writing.  I ran a project recording studio in the attic of the house we were renting, it was actually a sweet setup.  I was recording this guy in his 40’s at the time who was really into having a “schtick” (sp?) and 50’s genre music.  I know Fabian was a common reference he used.  He was all fired up about what we were doing and how to market and who to market it to, etc…and he told me about “these blog things” that people were doing.  I had never cared much about them before that, I only kind of knew what the word meant and for another 14 years after that I didn’t really care much either.

Fast forward, I’m a husband, father, software engineer by day, working musician by night and sometimes day too, and I’ve been hunting, searching for my next “thing”.  I’ve always wanted to be self-employed, and have been in a few different capacities.  I have a tech start-up that my partner and I have been simmering on for a while now.  I’ve got another dozen or 5-dozen ideas in the mental percolator but recently somehow I decided to try out Podcasts.  Podcasts are another one of those things, knew they existed for many years, and didn’t give a rats ass.  I sought out some “techy” stuff and found that Grumpy Old Geeks and Bootstrapped Web  really resonated with my mental state these days.

I’ve been uber-curious about starting up a web-based business of some sort.  Get away from the “here’s my time, pay me for it” lifestyle.  My kids are only getting older (6 and 8) and my wife and I want to travel, do things, experience life.  Sean McCabe was a guest on Bootstrapped Web and his appearance here hit me like a ton of bricks.  He talked about honing his craft and just doing it for the love of it and not really thinking about monetizing etc… but it ultimately was a very rewarding venture ($90k in first day he launched his learning series!) and his work/advice/blog garnered huge interest and helped lots of people with something they were interested in pursuing.  Definitely listen to this if any of that resonates with you: Building a Business From Your Passion w/ Sean McCabe  

That brings me to my point (I told you, this post was going to suck)…I’m starting a blog.  Largely music oriented, for the musician, beginner, seasoned, working musician, commercial musician….”other” muscian?  I’ve been involved in music for well over 20 years, everything from garage bands to basement studios and pro studios to commercial composing to voice over…even hosting an open mic/jam night and teaching lessons for a period of time.  I often underplay my experience and knowledge across the board.  I’m no “virtuoso” by ANY means, but I’m pretty good, solid even and I feel like I’m able to just say that now because I am.  I abhor boasting, but this isn’t that, I’ve worked for this one.  Many times I’ve heard partway through a solo gig at a bar, “Wow, I thought the radio was playing!” which I always find amusing.  Here I start a new chapter, a new venture, a place where I can share experience, divulge helpful “secrets”, teach, and even learn new things while bringing folks along for the ride.  Here’s goes nothin, thanks for reading and stay tuned.

Cheers,

Mark Mniece