Five for your Weekend

Sorry, NOT SORRY. I know you see link roundups on every blog you read but I feel like there’s so much good stuff on the internet worth sharing. Each week I’m going to share with you things that I’ve seen or heard in the past week that I liked enough to want to pass it on to you guys. I hope you find them interesting. Have a good weekend, friends, and I’ll see you on Instagram.

The Music of Strangers – I had a chance to watch this documentary by Morgan Neville introducing me to the various performers associated with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. If you’ve never heard them perform, jump on Spotify and have a listen. All of these musicians come from different countries and have diverse backgrounds but they all work to create bridges of understanding between all cultures. A lot of them say very profound things too, which made me want to write down quotes to keep for myself. Catch The Music of Strangers streaming on HBO, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, and Vudo.

Rockabye Baby! Lullaby renditions of Beyoncé – Listen, you don’t need anyone to confirm your coolness as a parent but you can surprise your kid-free friends sometimes. Rockabye Baby! has made over 75 albums having transformed all of our favorite rock, pop, and hip hop songs into nursery-appropriate tunes. Even if you’re kidless but still a fan of marimbas and bells, these are fun to listen to. Aaaaaand, just TODAY they released songs from Hamilton. I got you curious, didn’t I?

 

John Mayer is back. A part of me wants to shout from the rooftops, “Get in formation, ladies, because John Mayer wants to settle down!!” but I feel a certain yucky way trying to be a matchmaker-slash-madame. But really, John Mayer would love to settle down. If I ever met him in person I’d tell him that I always liked his music despite his very public love life of the past. If I were an attractive guy with magical guitar-playing hands I’d do the same. The Search for Everything comes out April 14, but the EPs are online.

 

– If you or someone you know lives in New York City, please tell them to go to The Crypt Sessions. All I have to experience this are a handful of video clips from Season 1. Just try to imagine the Naughton sisters playing in a church crypt.

 

– Practicing Bach? SAME.

Hey. If you stumble upon cool musical things, please send them my way! Tag me on Twitter, Facebook, or Insta. I live for all of it.

How to Improve Acoustics in a Room

improveacousticsinaroom

Our house is full of musicians, and naturally a bunch of instruments follow. In order to accommodate instrument and music equipment storage we decided to convert one of the bedrooms into a music and recording space. Figuring out storage for instruments is easy, but prepping a space for recording is more challenging. I’m currently in the research a.k.a Google process of figuring out how to turn a plain room into a do-it-yourself recording “studio.”

One thing I want to do is improve the acoustic quality inside the room so that any music recorded in it will result in less sound reverberation getting picked up by the mic. Sound can reflect back and forth between opposing walls, as well as the floor and ceiling. Here I’ve put together a short plan of action that should help reduce the occurence of echos in the room and I figured it may also be of interest to some of you, should you decide to do any kind of recording in your home.

  • MAKE YOUR OWN ACOUSTIC PANELS
    Professionally made panels use a variety of materials like foam, cotton, polyester, and even wood. I found this video by Matt from DIY Perks where he tested out a variety of materials that are commonly thought as good sound absorbers but SURPRISE! A few layers of towels absorbed the most sound out of them all. In this video he shows how to make a panel by packing a number of towels around a blank canvas frame. To save money he suggests that you can buy used towels from your local thrift shop, and I bet you could even get some cheap frames from the decor section as well.

  • COVER THE WALLS WITH DECOR
    Without having to do some minor renovation to add more walls into the room (some studios create rooms with more than 4 even walls), various objects like bookcases, drapes on the windows, tapestries, and more frames and prints also help absorb and deflect sounds. Try to not make the objects very uniform so that there are varied degrees of height and depth of items all around. Allow the books on the bookcase to be different sizes and not lined up neatly. Add more towels behind the other prints. Shoot, hang a bunch of drapes on the wall. Go crazy! This design concept is probably not for the OCD types.
  • DON’T FORGET THE FLOOR
    Rugs
    Photos via World Market

    As with the walls, we’ll need to decrease the amount of sound hitting the floor. If your room is already carpeted, SCORE. If not, throw a few area rugs down. If you’ve ever seen a professional recording studio you may have seen area rugs on the floor. I bet you didn’t know they served a purpose other than looking nice! If rugs aren’t your thing, carpet tiles work well. You can pick them up at FLOR or your local home improvement store. Carpet tiles are fun to work with. You can mix and match various colors and patterns and create your own patterns.

If you’d like some visuals, here are a few examples of professional studios and vocal booths using various sound absorbing materials. Look at all the fffffffoooooooaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmm.

Exploring PVD: Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel

Immediately after I moved to a town outside of Providence this past Summer I looked up all the music venues and followed them on Facebook. I want to be completely immersed in the music scene while I’m here. Growing up in Connecticut my nearest concert venues were in New Haven and Hartford. Each of those cities were at least a one hour drive from home. For many years I (let’s be honest and change it to my parents’) didn’t find it was worth spending money on gas, food, and concert tickets all in one evening. You can conclude I didn’t attend many concerts in my youth. When I eventually went to college in New Haven I took full advantage of the musical acts that made their way to our school’s performing arts center. Those were awesome years.

Now that I’m less than a half hour away from what I’ll lovingly call it from here on out, PVD, I love it. I didn’t wait long to start attending concerts so I got tickets to see a band I’ve been wanting to hear live for a while: CHVRCHES. This couldn’t have been planned any better. I saw one of my favorite bands with the one friend who turned them on to me. I thought, this night is going to be magical. And it was.

I have a preference for smaller venues as opposed to big venues like arenas. I’ll still attend concerts in the bigger venues, but I like the more intimate feeling with certain bands. Here at Lupo’s there are two levels for standing room attendance and cash bars for those who wish to drink beverages while they watch. Many of the shows allow all ages and this is weird to admit, but sometimes I like seeing parents going to concerts with their teens. ANYWAYS, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel is a venue that I really like and will be returning in the future.

This show was so awesome that I kept my phone in my bag for most of it so here are a few good shots from other concertgoers that night.

If you want to see the energy that the band brought out of the crowd, watch this video:

CHECK IT OUT:
Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel
79 Washington St., Providence, RI 02903
(401) 331-LUPO (5876)
Facebook / Twitter

Ways to Fill Your Holidays with Music

fillholidayswithmusic

What gets you in the Christmas spirit? How do you switch from regular day-to-day you to a festive ‘Tis the Season! you? For me, music plays a big part in it. I know people who get really excited when the local radio station starts playing holiday music nonstop. I know people enjoy shopping a little bit more when the same music is playing in the stores. In the Chorus of Westerly, when we start rehearsing for our annual Christmas Pops concert, that’s the moment I am ready to celebrate the season. If you’re a singer and want to get in the spirit by making the music but aren’t a part of an ensemble, there are ways you can still participate in bringing the holiday spirit to yourself and others. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Attend a Messiah Sing
    These are fun. Messiah sings (or Sing-A-Longs) are events where singers of any level of expertise gather to sing through Handel’s “Messiah” piece. Part I of Messiah is typically called “the Christmas portion” as it is frequently performed during Advent, so it’ll be the bulk of what is played at one of these events. Look in your local newspaper or if you follow a bunch of your local arts organizations on social media, you’ll most likely find a Messiah Sing event hosted by a choir or orchestra, or even a church choir. If you plan to attend one of these events all you have to do is decide which voice part you’d like to sing and bring a score if you own one. More likely than not the host will have copies of the score available to borrow for free or a small fee. If you’re lucky you may even get to hear a partial orchestra and soloists playing along, so it’ll be like attending a concert but also being able to participate in it from your seat.
  2. Go Caroling!
    Going caroling is not a popular thing to do these days, let’s be honest. BUT if you and a few willing friends can get together one night and hit up a few houses in your neighborhood with the gift of song, the quality time spent with people you like is worth it. I would suggest choosing a neighborhood that one of your singers lives in, have him/her ask permission ahead of time from a few people they know in the neighborhood who would like to be visited with some Christmas songs, pick a few familiar songs for your “playlist,” pick a starting note, and go!

    Another way you can gather to sing Christmas songs is to make it a party. Have one or two people pluck out the accompaniment on the piano to sing songs while you invite others to eat, drink, or decorate sugar cookies.

  3. Attend a Church Evensong Service
    In the Anglican church at this time of year you’ll find out that an Evensong (or Evening Prayer) service is very choral heavy. Most of the service will be sung from selections in the Book of Common Prayer. Similarly, the Catholic and Lutheran church has Vespers. If the church is a peaceful and enjoyable space for you, going to an Evensong would be a great way to feed your spirit and soul on a number of levels.
  4. Release a Christmas Album
    Are you a pop singer? You have to add a Christmas album to your discography. It’s totally in your contract. Just kidding.

Not a musician by any means? It’s okay, you can still enjoy the holidays. This is the best time to experience great musical theater. There are productions of A Christmas Carol, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Rockettes in New York City, and more. Do a search of theaters and entertainment venues near you and you should be able to find a holiday-themed show to go watch.

And if you’re lucky, you might see Santa Claus ride around town on a motorcycle. I can gladly say that it’s happened to me twice and made me laugh really hard every time. If running into a cool Santa on a bike doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what will.

[ Image used with permission from Gerd Altmann]

Seen and Heard

seenandheard

I don’t post this link roundup as often as I should. I read so many good links every week, bookmark them, then forget to repost them. I guess I need a new system or schedule to follow, but for now here’s a few things I saved and am passing along.

Another Brain Benefit of Music Lessons: They help kids develop the ability to disregard potential distractions – but would it help me turn off all the thinking i’m doing in my head?!

20 Times Classical Musicians Got #Phelpsface – I’m not going to lie, that’s a good face for those sentiments.

Why Dropping Music on Friday is Pivotal (Hint: It’s Not Sales) – the music industry is trying so hard to keep up. Let’s see if this helps curb internet piracy any.

Good News for MTV’s V.M.A.s: Music Videos Matter Again – Am I the only who always valued music videos? My criticism with the network was when they slowly phased out the shows featuring music videos and replaced their programming with reality tv. TRL wasn’t even a consolation for me because I wasn’t able to watch a music video straight through or without a teen audience member making a shout out. Youtube cornered the market and MTV missed out.

Portland schools reconsider ban on rap music after ‘racist memo’ goes viral“When you outlaw a kind of music that is very indicative of the modern culture of one group of people you’re basically saying that they’re not welcome,” she said. “Those of us in the district, living in diverse communities in Portland, understand the racial equity stuff going on is entirely for the cameras. There is no real meat behind it.”

BlokDust is an open source project allowing users to make music in the browser for free. Even though it looks user-friendly, I think browsing the Guide for a tutorial walk-through may be helpful before you start.

American guitarist uses music as healing force in Kabul – Lanny Cordola founded a music school in Kabul where he teaches music to students, mostly girls from poor families, and hopes they see it as a safe place. I love to see people who have the means to get out there and do something for others, do it.

The Trials and Errors of Music Education- Neesa Sunar reflects on her experience teaching elementary music, and laments the loss of depth in today’s musical curriculum. My heart goes out to her because I too am idealist but some of my ideas aren’t realistic. It’s a bit disappointing but a good reality-check.

Music Technology of the 1970s: A Timeline – They included Pink Floyd’s flying pigs.

So I like this, as well as all the previous ones-

And I’m probably too old to still love her-

It’s cool with me if you wore a SPEAR BRITNEY t-shirt in high school. I would’ve liked it.

Have a good weekend, friends!

Notes from a Composer

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. -Leonard Bernstein

These words were written by Mr. Bernstein after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but after every devastating event that happened in the last few days I think we can all try to live our lives as best we can from here on out. Stay strong friends, and send good thoughts out to your fellow humans around the world. [image via]

‘What’s in My Bag?’ The Choir Edition

In My Choir Bag

The bag I carry most days is a tote because I like to carry my essentials plus a few extra things. Rory Gilmore isn’t the only person who carries a novel just in case. I keep a separate bag to carry all the other stuff I need to bring with me to rehearsal. I’m the kind of person who wants to be prepared for all types of situations that could arise within the span of a rehearsal, therefore I pack it all. When you see the list you’ll understand why I need another bag.

In My Choir Bag

In the photo-

  • Chapstick, because singing with chapped lips could easily ruin my day.
  • Mechanical pencil and highlighter, because we ain’t got time to sharpen regular pencils and sometimes too many staves of music gets me lost I need to highlight my voice line.
  • Page flags and paper clips, because i’ll need to mark my entrances after solos and stuff.
  • Throat lozenges, because a sore throat could severely affect my ability to sing
  • My music folder (get one here, and if you use a 3-ring binder these magazine holders help tremendously)
  • Tea bags, because as much as I love coffee all day everyday, warm tea takes care of my throat and I like that.

Not pictured, but also included:
A bottle of water
Travel-size pack of tissues
Wallet and phone
A snack, because singing makes me hungry.

But wait, that’s not all! When I pack for a concert weekend I bring even more stuff.. I’ll show you that next time.

If you’re curious to know what pieces I’m currently working on…
In My Choir Bag
I’m excited because this is my first time doing the Mozart Vespers and Haydn Missa Brevis.

Do you sing or are in a musical ensemble? What are your necessities for practice and performance?

Seen and Heard

seenandheard

Happy Saturday night! If you’re here with me (and by “here with me” I mean here on the internet) and have some time to kill, here are a few interesting links I found on the internet this week:

Ten ideas for the singer who doesn’t think they can practice on their own

A normal person’s guide to the orchestra

Never-Before-Seen Outtakes of Robin Williams Recording Aladdin

A Student Musician’s Career in Pictures

An a cappella version of Rammstein’s Du Hast:

Ryan Adams recorded an album of cover songs of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Whether or not you’re a fan of Swift, you might like these acoustic versions.

And my hero… is a page turner. (beginning around 4’20” she has to save each musician’s scores that fell on the floor)

Have a great rest of the weekend, friends.