How To Become A Session Musician

Someone just asked me for advice on this - this is what I told them...

In my experience, you basically have to:

1. Be amazing at your instrument, and the more instruments the better. You need creativity as well as technical prowess. Actually the most important thing for session work is probably timing - practise to a metronome. Also you definitely need pro quality top-of-the-range instruments/gear to get taken seriously by the good studios.

2. Get some sort of showreel/portfolio and/or website/youtube/whatever showing off your skills. Include as many genres/styles as you can, and also experience and skills (eg can you sight-read music? etc)

3. Call all the nearby recording studios and ask if they can add you to their list of session musicians (probably they'll tell you to email a portfolio, contact details and rates etc)

4. Wait for the call... whenever a project comes into the studios you've called that requires a session player of your instrument, they will call the best/cheapest/closest depending on what the client wants. If that's you, then you'll get the work.

A tip would be to charge as little as possible until you have done a few sessions, then slowly raise prices. Have an hourly rate and a cheaper day rate eg. £10 per hour, £70 per day.

That's how I'd suggest getting into studio session work. Many people would say you'd need to move to London, but there's quite a few studios around Yorkshire (where I'm from), and everywhere else (wherever you're from), and probably less competition than there would be in London. You might get 1 or 2 bookings a month at first (assuming you call as many studios as possible), hopefully more once the studios know you and your reputation.

Regarding live session work, I'd probably do the same but call management agencies instead of recording studios. I assume its management who sorts that stuff out for solo artists...

OK gang, GO GET INVOLVED! Feel free to email me links to your portfolio if you're a yorkshire-based session player -
james.grover (at) peak-studios.co.uk



10 Hilarious Comedy Shows You've Never Heard Of (Probably...)

Right, I think 7 months is too long to not have a blog update, so I'm getting this in now... I will try harder in the future, I promise!

Here We Go:

Of these TV shows, the first 5 are US, the second 5 are UK, so depending on where you live, you're more or less likely to have seen these. but they're all excellent and reasonably obscure as far as i know, so look them up if you're a comedy connoisseur and want some good laughter-times! PS these are almost all X-rated shows, only really Happy Endings that's primetime friendly (I think).

Louie - Fairly new show from amazing comedian Louis CK; gritty, bleak, and insanely funny. Second season has just started airing.

Archer - Adult animation about the best/worst secret agent ever. Takes a while to get used to hearing H. Jon Benjamin's voice coming from a suave spy instead of from the mouth of the title character in Bob's Burgers, though that adds to a lot of the humour.

Party Down - Just a nice simple show about a catering company. Cancelled after 2 seasons coz Jane Lynch left for Glee and Adam Scott left for Parks & Recreation, but I was sad to see it go.

Happy Endings - New US show with Elisha Cuthbert, on ABC so probably gunna be big very soon worldwide, but not yet! Starts airing on E4 in the UK in september. Really stylish sitcom, no laugh track needed...

Testees - Show about 2 professional medical-testing subjects, who invariably end up suffering from unpredictably ridiculous side-effects. Deserved a second season, but was axed after one.

Time Trumpet - Probably the cleverest show I've ever seen; in 2006, Armando Iannucci managed to set a show 30 years in the future and to satirise events 5 years in the future (a future which has now happened, with many of the joke predictions coming true...)

Nathan Barley - Chris Morris is a legend, and this is some of his finest work; razor sharp satire of new media culture, basically about idiots who think they're cool.

Bromwell High - Basically the UK's answer to South Park... just as funny, but cancelled after 13 episodes.

Campus - A one-off show from a few years back that was commissioned into a series earlier this year on Channel 4. From the makers of Green Wing, it's kind of like The Office except way more surreal.

Dead Set - only one series, only five episodes, Charlie Brooker's tale of a zombie apocalypse from the point of view of the Big Brother house. Genius.

The first 3 of these shows are on FX, which i'd never heard of until I started watching It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia (another awesome show, but you've heard of that one right?!) I imagine at some point the big UK networks will catch on and start syndicating all that stuff, but for now it's only on FXUK, which apparently is on Sky.

OK comedy fans, enjoy!



Self-Doubt, Hope, etc.

Aw guys,

Do you ever lose faith in the music industry? Even in music itself?


1. As a producer, I think I can see the potential in any song, no matter how bad it sounds at that moment. Because of course every song is written by a human and must be inspired by some emotion somewhere along the line... it's usually just technical issues or lack of experience that stop a song living up to it's potential.

I truly believe that, and by that logic it means that there is no such thing as a bad song, only bad production. Which stresses me out, because everything I hear by amateur bands, I wish I could produce. But of course there isn't enough time in the world. And also I start thinking if I don't know what a good song is, maybe I'm not a good producer at all! Maybe I should give up?

Consider this - people like familiarity. How many times have you heard a song on the radio and thought "that's not very good", then a week later when you've heard it 5-10 more times, you'll find yourself singing along to it. Maybe you'll even buy it. So is that a good song? Who knows? But there's not many songs I can remember hearing for the very first time and loving straight away. (Recent exceptions: Polarsets-"Leave Argentina", James Blake-"Limit To Your Love", Jónsi-"Go Do")

2. Of the bands that DO have great production and great songs, only a small percentage get the recognition they deserve. This seems to be based mainly on luck. Although if you have money, it helps. Which is in a whole different realm of unfair. C'est la vie...

3. A good song can be good in any genre, so as an artist who likes almost all genres equally, how do I commit to just one for potentially the rest of my career? I flit between ideas at such a rate that I get bored doing the same thing for more than a day most of the time. I go through long periods of doubting myself and my music, thinking maybe I should change it all to a different genre.

4. I spend a lot of time wishing I had time to make and promote multiple projects at once. That's the thing to add to the list: Promotion. I hate the importance of promotion.

As an unsigned artist, without promoting your stuff through every available channel, you have virtually no chance of getting anywhere. But there's so many channels of promotion via the internet that it's hard to even keep track of. You could spend literally ever waking hour on it, at still not be guaranteed that it would lead to anything.

To sum up:

Basically all you need for success in the entertainment industry is MASS EXPOSURE and a minimal amount of talent. Nothing else matters. Which seems to take the magic out of it.

And basically the only to get mass exposure is with luck or money, whether it's your or the record label's. It's really not just a case of hard work any more.

So here's to hoping.



Digital Audio Workstations

Ok. For the next few months I'm an intern at Peak Studios in Bradford, where I'll be honing my sound engineering and mixing skills. So for the first time ever, I'm in a professional environment in the field in which I want a career; even though I'm starting from the bottom, it's just refreshing to be around people with the same interests as me.

And I've made the long-delayed leap of faith from Cubase SX3 to Pro Tools 8, which was far less of a painful experience than I was expecting. So I'm gunna take this opportunity to write some quick overviews of all the DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) which I have had the pleasure/headache of using:

GARAGEBAND - If you're totally new to music production, I think this is the best place to start. It's got all the tools you need to make a decent demo, and (reasonably) realistic-sounding virtual instruments and loops for when you can't record the instruments you want. Just look up some "getting stated" tutorials and you'll quickly be able to make some decent music (T-Pain's first album was made in GarageBand). And it's free with all Mac computers. Trouble is that it's pretty limited functionality can hold you back and slow you down once you get more advanced...

LOGIC - Apple promote Logic as the natural progression from GarageBand, which to some extent is true, though it's a big technical step up, and it seemed like a steep learning curve for me (you'll probably need to actually read the manual!). The effects plugins and virtual instruments are excellent but take a while to understand, same goes for the editing features, and the layout is good but a little awkward at times. In my opinion it's a good tool while composing and producing the music, but I don't like to edit or mix with it... just seems cumbersome for some reason. I wouldn't buy it myself, though it will probably be perfect for some people's needs.

CUBASE - Love it. My favourite program to use, with the best layout and easiest to use features. But the built-in tools can usually get the job done but aren't amazing, so to really get the best out of Cubase you need to get a good selection of 3rd party plugins and virtual instruments to help make your tracks really shine. Luckily the choice of available plugins for Cubase is huge (VST/VSTi format). Apparently you can get Cubase for Mac as well as Windows, though I've never seen anyone who uses that combination...

PRO TOOLS - The industry standard, and for good reason. And now you can get it in the LE or M-Powered versions for under £200, to me it seems like the first choice for anyone who actually wants a career in music production/mixing/recording. In the new version, Pro Tools 8, the interface and features are excellent as you would expect (though not quite as good as Cubase in my opinion), and it finally includes some worthwhile virtual instruments (though not a patch on Logic). However, one big drawback is the need for the Digidesign hardware to be connected to your computer whenever PT is open, which makes PT the least convenient DAW of all of these.


REASON - I've heard this is amazing for producing all electronic music (with MIDI), but I assume it's quite limited when recording real instruments and bands. And apparently you cannot get plugins for it, at all. So normal professional mixing with Reason would be out of the question.

NUENDO - Made by the same company as Cubase, this one is aimed more at the post-production side of things.

FL STUDIO - Windows only, and aimed mainly at electronic music producers. Lots of great plugins available.

REAPER - Free to try, cheap to buy, and looks to be very powerful. Compatible with many formats of plugins.

SONAR - Don't know much about this, but it looks pretty good.

LOADS OF OTHERS - including some open-source ones (for free!)

So if you're want to know how to get started being a music producer, you'll almost certainly need one of these programs, so I hope this list helps :)

Also, when you get one for the first time, the interface will probably confuse the hell out of you, so you should either read the manual, or look for some tutorials on youtube or whatever. I promise that this will make the learning curve less steep.




The Autotune "War"

Frankly, I wish everyone would shut up about it. But here's my views anyway...

To start with, there are 2 groups of users that the arguments should be separated out for:

1) People who turn it up full for that specific & deliberate sound (Kanye West, Lil Wayne, T-Pain, etc)

2) People who use it like it was intended; to save time in the studio by fixing tuning problems with otherwise good vocal takes (almost everyone else in the pop music industry)

These are 2 distinct arguments (although there is a sometimes a blurred line with singers like Chris Brown, etc).

The first is a question of taste, and so is subjective. They use it because they want that sound, and when that sound is no longer fashionable, they will stop using it. I think my main concern with this group is the homogenised music that it tends to produce, but you could hardly say that this is the first bandwagon the pop industry has ever jumped on!

However, I think that rather than dropping out of vogue quickly as people were predicting a few years ago, it has become the norm, and people largely don't notice the weird digital autotune artifacts anymore. As this is the quickest and cheapest way to produce vocals, and as people keep buying it regardless, autotune use like this is gunna continue I reckon.

The issue surrounding the second group of autotune users is one of efficiency and morals. Producers and singers want their records to sound as good as possible, and using autotune is (probably) the most efficient way to achieve vocal perfection. However, some people believe this is unethical, and that it misrepresents the vocalist's talent.

My opinion is that if the singer is marketed on the strength of their vocal abilities (Leona Lewis, etc), then it is morally questionable to digitally correct their voice, but in all other cases morals are irrelevant, as I would much rather hear a robot sing in tune than a human out of tune (to take it to extremes).

To put it another way, when it is the song that is being sold rather than the singer, it is unimportant how the record was actually made, and I think that to disagree would be pretentious.

The only people who I believe are justified in thinking otherwise are audiophiles, but surely autotune artifacts in pop music are just a drop in the ocean compared to "loudness war" distortion, etc.

To sum up, use of autotune is only unethical if you're lying about using it. The rest of the time it's no different to using other studio effects/tools like EQ, reverb or quantization. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

This blog's getting a bit rant-y. I'll have to lighten it up.




R&B Production Clichés

Ok, so track tagging is getting out of hand... the last Jason Derulo single had 3 whole, seperate tags at the start! ("Jason Derulo", "Beluga Heights", "J J J J JR", ridiculous) And it's the same on the first five or so track of his album.

It's such a massive cop-out, like they're just admitting that their music is so generic that no-one would ever recognise it if it didn't say their names at the start.

What happened to having a unique voice/sound/production style so people will instantly know who did it? The weird thing is, it's actually HARD to be THAT GENERIC. They must try. They must have a checklist of triteness to cram into every track.

But still, they're the rich and famous ones, so you gotta respect that, I guess - they must know how the business works. And I suppose technically it's not selling out if that's the style you were always going for. Plus, I do actually like the songs, so...

Anyway, here's a list of R&B-pop production clichés I would like all producers to avoid from now on ;)

- Decending-pitch snare runs at the end of any/every section

- Sub drop/long 808 into every quiet section

- Pitch shifting down low just before a chorus

- Full auto-tune on every line (use the graph mode if you can't sing in tune ... like me)

- Boring piano arpeggio intros (!!!)

- Piano ballads that are over 4:15 long

- Using the old 1 5 6 4 chord progression on more than two tracks per album (or 6 4 1 5)

- Verses written with big gaps in the lines just so you can delay the last word loads (too much)

- Having the phrase "808" in the lyrics ("909" is fine though, so far)

- Having the word "shorty" more than once per song, never again in the chorus please (IYAZ pulled it off, but Sean Kingston has spoiled it for everyone. Unsurprisingly. Seriously, is he famous just as a practical joke on the global public?)

And by the way, if you want a surefire hit, refer to this as a to-do list. Also, try to make the rhymes so obvious that a toddler can always guess the next line.

Rant over. Now go make some awesome tunes, eh?



Youtube Covers!

Right, so you may have noticed over the last week or so I've been posting acoustic cover songs to youtube, and you might think the song choices have been pretty odd (JLS, ke$ha, etc!!), but for anyone who hasn't realised why, here's the strategy behind it:

Whenever a single is popular, loads of people upload videos to youtube of themselves playing it in their bedroom or whatever. Even though most of these covers are lacklustre (to be polite), they often get thousands of plays, just because people like the song. Obviously more plays on youtube equates to more clicks on your link, and therefore more exposure for your own music, and as a bonus, more money earned from your GoogleAds (like the ones on here!)

However, until you build up a decent youtube fan base in the form of channel subscribers and friends, not many people will hear about your video, and if there are many covers of that song then yours will be bottom of the list. Hence what I've been doing is covering singles that are due for release soon, so that my video is the first cover on youtube. Also, posting the cover as a video response to an official version of the song with many thousands of plays helps drive traffic to your video, and optimising the keywords so your vid is top of the list helps too (google how to do that).

Another benefit is that, since YT is one of the most popular websites in the world, Google bots crawl the site many times per day, so you can get high up google's search pages in a matter of hours if you know what you're doing (see my previous post on this, three posts down).

They say the only way to be a lasting success on youtube is to consistently upload quality content, so hopefully is I keep following this strategy, by the end of the year maybe I'll be getting thousands of hits per day.

If you wanna see an example of how well this strategy can work, check out Boyce Avenue; their covers are class and they just got signed from it after millions of views, even though their own songs are generic soft rock rather than the cool R&B/pop covers they do.

So that's one small tip for getting exposure for your own music (even though it is a lot of hard work). Hope it's useful.

And please check out my covers, and eventually my original songs at www.youtube.com/SongsByGROVER, and don't forget to subscribe, comment and rate them if you like 'em.

Cheers chappies!



Ok, so what that I haven't posted for 10 months? (Shh...don't mention it).


- Universes - got sick of that commitment after just 8 weeks, it seems. First 8 are still up HERE, but no more.

- Yellow Clothing - you can still by the tees at the link on the right, but I won't mention it any more coz I'm bored of it.

- My degree - finally graduated. Now I'm a full-time music producer and aspiring popstar, technically ;)


- My album - finally getting some of my solo tracks finalised. Links coming very soon. Promise.

- Charity single - a comedy dance track, details very soon.

- Youtube acoustic covers - watch me HERE! I'll explain the strategy of this some other time.

- I've got an iMac at last, with bootcamp XP so I can run Cubase, etc.

- New season of Chuck, HELL YEAH! Also, Tosh.0 (shame it's almost impossible to get that in England).

- Waves Plugins are the absolute bollox! I can't wait to be able to afford to buy the Mercury bundle.

I'm getting a new tube preamp tomorrow, so I'm happy :)

I guarantee the next post will be less than 10 months in the future, ok.

Peace out, J-Town!



So today I bought a bar of Bournville thinking I could make it last all week. Then I ate it all. Damn.

Speaking of food, here's a spreadsheet I made that automatically calculates how much protein, carbohydrate and fat you have eaten per day (you just tally how many of each thing you eat). Get the data you need here if it's not on the labels. For the last 3 days I've been close to 3000 calories per day, mainly due to chocolate addiction ...

BTW, chocoholics are people addicted to chocohol, and that don't understand the rules of word endings (according to Demetri Martin!)

Something I invented (I think) while pretending to work this week - I call it wikisurfing.


The Rules:

- Pick any 2 random unrelated things/words/topics that you know are on wikipedia. Go to one of the articles.

- The aim is to get to the other page in as few clicks as possible, using only the links within the articles.

- Each link you click counts as 1. You can press the back button if you need to - this doesn't count as a click.


- It's most fun to play in against an opponent on another nearby computer (with the same 2 words).

- Try to think of paths through the topics related to your 2 words before wasting clicks.


"iPod" to "Pimp My Ride" = 7 clicks ... see if you can do better.









That's all for now folks!



SEO 101!

OK, so I finally did something that might actually help me promote my stuff: I got the Yellow page (sort of) high up in the google rankings (for a while). And this is how:

1. Make simple + entertaining video advert for [product/service].

2. Upload vid to youtube - include main keywords in title and also in description, plus try to give it a title that sounds interesting. Also, obviously INCLUDE A LINK TO YOUR SITE, duh!

3. Mass-bookmark the page with Onlywire or summat else, or you can just post links to the page on forums or other blogs or whatever you want (but try not to be an annoying spammer ...)

4. Register a free account at .TK (if you use that link I get 'virtual fish'!!!), and pick a free domain name to redirect to your youtube page.

5. Go to Browsershots.org and request all browser (102) screenshots of your URL (eg. http://www.yellowad.tk) This should get you probably around 50 views (half of them will probably fail) - you can do this every day if you want, or even more often. The reason you can't link to the youtube page directly is because browsershots limits the requests for 1 particular domain (www.youtube.com) per day, and it hits the limit straight away.

It seemed to take about a day for the vid to start appearing in youtube searches and a further day to appear in google seaches - eg. a few days ago it was #4 for the keywords "yellow funny t-shirts" on google, and #4 for keywords "funny t-shirts" on youtube, which took about 2 days from when I posted it ... but apparently this doesn't last, coz now its well down on google, and a bit down on youtube. Damn.

The reason it works at first is because streaming video is apparently the most viewed thing on the internet, so google servers crawl youtube loads of times a day, whereas it might take months for them to get around to crawling your actual site. Getting automated hits will make your vid higher in the Youtube ratings (I think), and bookmarking the page on Onlywire makes the googlebot think your page is more popular since more other pages have linked to it.

This is all really basic stuff and it will probably backfire on me somehow with my luck, but I know the pro internet marketers do stuff like this all the time, just on a bigger scale.

BTW, anyone who watches the vid is seeing your advert before your site, so you can easily make sure only the very best bits are emphasized (hence only my favourite T's are featured in the ad).

I found out how to do this ages ago which is when I first head about Onlywire, but now I've got round to applying it, I have my (and your) proof that it actually works! :) Plus I added the twist of using the browser preview site to get automated hits, thereby further pushing it up the listings.

Actually, here's the link to the vid I watched about it back last autumn: BOOM!

You can check out my ad here, and listen to the my R&B remix backing-track of "Enter Sandman" by Metallica (it's just a loop at the moment, but I'm gunna make a whole song eventually ... I just needed some interesting music for the advert).

Another good thing about .TK + browsershots.org is that .TK free domains expire after 90 days without 25 hits, but if you ever get near that threshold, you can easily top up the hits in seconds.

And another thing about browsershots is you can get hundreds of (undetectably) automated plays on your band's myspace profile per day (if you can be bothered). Just register for free, or set up a free .TK redirect domain to get around the screenshot request limit on the domain www.myspace.com.

Still haven't sold any T-shirts though ...

Ah, well.

Have fun cheating the system (in a very minor way)!