Blog Archives

Making A Cappella Cool Again

Meet Deke Sharon, the man behind the current a cappella revolution, vocal arranger for  Broadway’s first a cappella musical, In Transit, coming this fall, and author of the new book, The Heart of Vocal Harmony. Deke spoke with Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered, about how he got involved with a cappella, how it’s changed, and his time with the actresses of the hit movie, Pitch Perfect! Listen to the interview below!

>>Listen<<

00156135Most choirs spend their rehearsal time focusing on notes, rhythms, and precision. They rarely, if ever, discuss a song’s meaning and feeling, even though those elements are precisely what draws people to the music in the first place. Thousands of books have been written about choral technique, teaching people how to sing technically well. What sets The Heart of Vocal Harmony apart is its focus on honest unified expression and the process of delivering an emotionally compelling performance. It delves into an underdeveloped vocal topic – the heart of the music and the process involved with expressing it.

The Heart of Vocal Harmony is not just for a cappella groups – it is also for vocal harmony groups, ensembles, and choirs at all levels, with or without instruments. In addition to the process, the book features discussions with some of the biggest luminaries in vocal harmony: composers, arrangers, directors, singers, and groups – including Eric Whitacre, Pentatonix, the Manhattan Transfer, and more!

A Cappella Musical ‘In Transit’ Set To Open On Broadway!

00156135

In Transit, the new a cappella musical that counts Frozen Oscar winner Kristen Anderson-Lopez among its writers, will begin previews November 10 at Broadway’s Circle in the Square. Among its many talented writers and directors, vocal arrangements will be by Deke Sharon, who is best known for his work on Pitch Perfect and The Sing-Off and is also the author of The Heart of Vocal Harmony.

In Transit, the a cappella musical that played a critically acclaimed run Off-Broadway, will begin previews November 10 at Broadway’s Circle in the Square, prior to a December 11 opening night.

Casting and creative team have not been announced.

Circle in the Square is currently home to the Tony-winning musical Fun Home, which will end its run September 10.

Advance tickets for In Transit go on sale to American Express Card Members July 25 (10 AM/EST) through August 2 (9:59 AM EST). Audience Rewards members will have advance ticket access from August 2 (10 AM EST) through August 8 (9:59 AM EST).

Tickets will go on sale to the general public August 8 at 10 AM/EST at Telecharge.com. Tickets range from $89-$159.

With a book, music and lyrics by Academy Award winner Kristen Anderson-Lopez ( Frozen), James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth, vocal arrangements by Deke Sharon ( Pitch Perfect, The Sing-Off) and musical supervision by Rick Hip-Flores ( Rocky), In Transit will be directed and choreographed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall ( Anything Goes, Nice Work If You Can Get It).


Learn more in PlayBill.com

The Art of Recording a Big Band

The Art of Recording a Big Band is now available at Groove3! This inspiring and educational documentary, shot by Shevy Shovlin, is all about studio legend Al Schmitt. Watch the video trailer below for a look behind the documentary!

A highly anticipated documentary, The Art of Recording a Big Band is now available for streaming and download at Groove3.com. The Art of Recording a Big Band was filmed at the famed Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA, over the course of a two-day master class by industry legend Al Schmitt and partner, Steve Genewick recording Chris Walden’s GRAMMY® Awards-nominated 18-piece jazz big band.

The film focuses on the recording methods of Schmitt, one of the most celebrated recording engineers, producers and mixers of all time, winning 22 GRAMMY® Awards, the most recent for Paul McCartney’s “Kisses on the Bottom” in 2012. Over the course of his career, Schmitt has recorded and mixed more than 150 gold and platinum albums. His credits include: Henry Mancini, Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis, Jr., Natalie Cole, Thelonious Monk, Elvis Presley, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, and many more.

Shevy Shovlin, a well-known recording industry professional in his own right, makes his big screen directorial debut with this 90-minute educational documentary film. “This project is near and dear to my heart not only because I am a huge fan and good friend of Al’s, but because I was there to witness the magic that he brings to his recording sessions. Our hope is that the film will not only inspire and educate a new generation of the recording industry, but pay homage to a recording legend through the unique challenge of recording the exciting genre of Big Band.”

The educational and inspirational film includes interviews with Schmitt’s longtime recording partner Steve Genewick as well as Chris Walden, Dave Pensado, Ryan Hewitt, Kenny Wild, Paula Salvatore, and a cameo appearance by engineer and mixer Andrew Scheps. Longtime friend and collaborator, Quincy Jones provides a poignant opening statement about the importance of “the person who captures the sound”.


The film is now available for streaming (with the All Access Pass) and for download for $24.99 at Groove3.com

 

 

Sylvia Massy on Lynda.com!

Sylvia Massy, author of Recording Unhinged: Creative and Unconventional Music Recording Techniques, is featured in a new video that is now available on Lynda.com. Click play on the video below to watch a preview and check out the full video in the link below!

>>Click here for full video<<

Recording Unhinged: Creative and Unconventional Music Recording Techniques dares you to “unlearn” safe record-making, to get out from behind the windshield, stick your head out the sunroof, and put the pedal to the metal! 

“There have been countless how-to books on sound recording, but this isn’t one of them. Sylvia Massy has a unique perspective on what makes musicians tick and how great recordings are created. This book is a brilliantly assembled insight into their world and is a cracking good read,” says Alan Parsons.

Recording Unhinged, Sylvia Massy and her cohort of celebrity music industry producers, engineers, and recording stars discard fixed notions about how music should be recorded. They explore techniques that fall outside the norm, yielding emotionally powerful, incredibly personal, gut-wrenching, and even scary recordings. With commentary by Hans Zimmer, Al Schmitt, Bruce Swedien, Jack Joseph Puig, Dave Pensado, Tchad Blake, Bob Clearmountain, Linda Perry, Michael Franti, Michael Beinhorn, Bob Ezrin, Geoff Emerick, and many others, this book includes the stories, tips, and advice that you won’t find in any other instructional manual. 

“Working with Sylvia on Undertow was an absolute pleasure. Whether recording the destruction of a piano with sledgehammers and shotguns, or dialing in killer drum sounds with the greatest mic choices, her approach was always fresh, fun, and never preconceived. This book will assuredly inspire some wacky recording sessions!”, praises Danny Carey (drummer from TOOL).

Recording Unhinged is also unique in its inclusion of exercises, diagrams, jokes, photos, and other images all related to more adventurous recording techniques. Throughout the book (and on the cover) are many full-colored illustrations – created by a musical genius – Massy herself! 

Simon Bradley speaks with Queen Online

Co-author of the book Brian May’s Red Special: The Story of the Home-made Guitar that Rocked Queen and the World, Simon Bradley, recently spoke with Queen Online to talk about the book and how it all came together. Read what they had to say in the excerpt below, and read the entire interview over at QueenOnline!


00119108OK, here comes the introduction – who are you and what do you do?

I’m Simon Bradley, 28 years old, Aries, wrestler of alligators, decimator of beers, breaker of hearts. I worked for Guitarist magazine for 17 years until the meaty fist of redundancy knocked me out of there in 2014 and I now earn a crust as a freelance guitar and music journalist. Actually, call it 28-ish.

How did you get to that position? Failed musician?! Ha, just teasing…

Believe it or not I saw a position on Guitarist being advertised, applied and got it. That was in 1996 and it’d never happen that way now: these days you need to be good. I worked in guitar retail in Birmingham for a time before that, during which I underwent my ‘I gotta make it in rock and roll!’ phase. I didn’t, needless to say (yep…failed!), but got a guitar tech gig with Brummie prog dudes Magnum out of it, which was reward in itself. And if you thought Mötley Crüe, or, indeed Queen at their decadent height, were hardcore on the road… let’s just leave it there.

Why are we chatting today, what is your Queen connection?

I am the co-author of the Red Special book with Brian. I’ve also interviewed him many times since 1998 and, if anyone remembers the 1999 National Music Show at Wembley Conference Centre where Brian chatted and played for over 2,000 gobsmacked fans, I was the sweating bag of nerves sat to his right on the stage who’d booked him for the event. I also tried out for one of the two guitar slots in the original We Will Rock You theatre band in 2001. I auditioned in front of both Brian and Roger, and got down to the last three… gah!

Pressing further on the Red Special book with Brian, how did that all originally come together?

It struck me one day that there wasn’t any sort of book about the Red Special and just decided to do something about it. I knew something about its construction and had fantasized about playing it for years, like most Queen fans I guess. I’ve been mates with Brian’s guitar tech Pete Malandrone for ages, so I rang him to gauge his interest and we both took it from there. My experience with publishing allowed me to formulate a workable concept fairly quickly and, after successfully pitching it to both Carlton Books and, then to Brian, we started it knocking it into shape.

The whole thing took over three years to put together and get onto the shelves, and I have to admit that I loved every single minute of the process. Brian has said subsequently that he’d long wanted to get a book together about the Red Special, and I’m flattered that he not only considered me suitably qualified to undertake such a task, but also liked the final result. In fact, in an email to me he described it as “…a lovely book…”, which did make me go a bit quiet and chin-wobbly.

Did you meet up regularly to discuss progress?

Not frequently, but regularly, yes. Brian, quite rightly, wanted everything to go through him so he needed to sign off on everything as we went. He was so busy, though, that it sometimes took him a while to get around to evaluating my enthusiastically-submitted copy and giving it the attention he felt it required, but he did give us unrestricted access to his huge photo archive, which was vital to the book’s exclusivity.

I’d run ideas past the likes of Pete, Greg Brooks and Richard Gray, and I was always able to drop Brian an email when I needed specific insight from him. He’d get back to me as quickly as he could and would provide the information I needed along with words of encouragement and appreciation.

We had one long brainstorming session in his office one afternoon where, after reading a chapter, he turned to me and said: “It’s not really working, is it?”. My head dropped as I was forced to agree with him, but we spent the next few hours bouncing ideas off each other and forcing the manuscript into the place we both wanted it to be. I was dimly aware that we were speaking to each other as equals of a sort and that I was working closely with the man who played that solo on Bohemian Rhapsody, who’d blown my tiny mind when I first saw Queen in 1979 and who’s still part of England’s greatest ever rock band. I’m very glad to say that he was never anything other than accommodating and positive during the whole process, even when things were getting a little fraught as deadlines loomed.

Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group Launches Backwing

backwing_screenshot

MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, long the reader’s first choice for books on music, film, theater, television, and popular culture, is proud to announce the launch of backwing, a new digital community for creatives and fans.

Backwing will provide visitors with a vast array of information curated by and for aspiring and established actors, artists, authors, gurus, musicians, songwriters, producers, luminaries, entertainers, and, most broadly, fans. Every article on the site also serves as an open forum for those interested in a sustained discussion of any given topic.

“For nearly seven decades, Hal Leonard has provided consumers with the highest quality information available,” said Group Publisher John Cerullo. “We know who our readers are and what knowledge they crave. Backwing offers us a dynamic new means of reaching them, responding to their feedback, and cultivating conversations around our content in real time.”

Backwing is comprised of three main components. The first two—exclusive content pertaining to or drawn from HLPAPG products and a resource database populated with all manner of performing arts-related materials—will feature, in tandem with a vivacious comment section, multimedia created by and for HLPAPG authors and the publisher’s myriad industry associates.

“Since we reside at an intersection frequented by all manner of clientele, from nonprofits, educational organizations, and professional coalitions to gear, equipment, software, and instrument manufacturers, our contacts quite literally run the gamut of the performing arts world,” Cerullo explained. “We now aim to bring these brands together at backwing for the exclusive benefit of visitors to the site.

The third component, a direct-to-consumer sales portal featuring daily deals, giveaways, contests, and a slew of weekly/monthly special offers (many of which are also available to third-party vendors), can be found at backwingstore.com—an entirely separate domain.

Why two distinct websites? For the sake of every visitor’s experience, according to Cerullo: “Since backwing was designed with the end user foremost in mind, we’ve decided against tangling content and commerce. As such, multimedia content and resources are hosted at the deliberately noncommercial domain backwing.com while consumer products and services are restricted to the backwing Store.”

Thus, while backwing.com visitors may elect to peruse the site unencumbered by crass commercialism, backwingstore.com is always available to those who wish to explore HLPAPG’s catalog of more than 2,000 titles, take advantage of promotions featuring new releases and backlist titles, and enter contests to win fantastic prizes.

To get backwing off to a rousing start, HLPAPG is giving away great prizes for devotees of the performing arts, including an Epiphone guitar for music fans; a Rodgers + Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music package along with gift certificates to digitaltheatre.com for theater lovers; subscriptions to online streaming services for film and television buffs; and Met Opera on Demand Gift Subscriptions for classical music and opera enthusiasts.

HLPAPG encourages all performing arts enthusiasts, regardless of their skill level, industry status, or background, to join the creative conversation at its new digital hub. Welcome to backwing!

Norman Harris on Bloomberg Radio

Norman Harris, author of Confessions of a Vintage Guitar Dealer, was on The Bloomberg Advantage on Bloomberg Radio. He spoke with hosts Carol Massar and Cory Johnson about the book, and gave a short story you won’t find inside the book! Click on the link below to hear the entire interview.

>>Listen<<

00149884.jpg

In Confessions of a Vintage Guitar Dealer, Norman Harris tells how he became the world’s leading seller of vintage guitars. As founder and owner of the legendary store Norman’s Rare Guitars, he has sold some of the finest fretted string instruments to the biggest stars in the world, including George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and many others.

In 1970 Harris moved to Los Angeles in hopes of hitting the big time in music. His first plan was performing, but plan B was buying and selling guitars, and he had no idea how much opportunity for this there would be. Many groups came to LA also hoping to hit it big, but those who didn’t might have to sell their instruments. This helped make early-1970s Los Angeles a haven for beautiful vintage guitars. At the same time, Hollywood was beginning to realize the value of time-correct instruments in film, and the recording industry recognized the high-quality sound vintage instruments produced. The value of these instruments has grown dramatically since the ’70s, and the vintage guitar market has become an international phenomenon – with Norman Harris at the center of it all.

Filled with fascinating stories and insights into the entertainment business, Confessions of a Vintage Guitar Dealer is an intriguing memoir from a man who has spent a lifetime getting extraordinary instruments into the hands of extraordinary artists.

Interview with Sylvia Massy

Sylvia Massy, author of Recording Unhinged, was recently interviewed by Mike Levine a contributor of AudioFanzine. AudioFanzine is an online magazine that caters to musicians as well as sound engineers, home-studio recording enthusiasts, and audio and lighting engineers. They spoke about her book and some of the unconventional techniques it offers up. Read an excerpt of the interview below!


00142105The book is really impressive. Not only did you write it but you also illustrated it, including the very colorful cover. Why did you decide to do the book in the first place?

The book came out of just having all these weird things that I would do that other people wouldn’t do, and I noticed that when I went into sessions, I was building interesting things, so I thought I’d share that. And then talking to different engineers that I’m associated with at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and at trade shows, I realized that they also had some interesting techniques that nobody had really documented. And there were about 35 different people that I interviewed, and I collected their stories and some of their techniques. And then I illustrated some of their techniques, because I’m better at drawing it out than trying to explain it. It’s much easier for me. And that turned into doing much larger illustrations and caricatures of these people that I was interviewing. So I just went on with it. And with the help of Chris, my manager, and the co-writer of the book, we created all of these different panels. The Producer Pods and Engineering Marvels and the people in the industry that are heroes.

The book is kind of modular. Little short pieces all organized by type of instrument to record or type of recording technique.

It’s like tapas. You’re going to take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and put it on a plate and enjoy it.

It makes it really easy to read because you can just jump into any chapter, grab a few things, go somewhere else, etc.

And that’s what I was hoping, that it would become a coffee-table type book, where you could open up one page and get inspired. Especially if it was just on the corner of your console or on top of a speaker. Then you just open a page and it should help unstick you.

The book offers lots of unique ways to get results in the studio. For example, I love the part about distracting singers.

It’s something that I’m really good at. I worked on my techniques over the years on how to get a great performance, and a lot of it has to do with distracting the musician or the singer so that they stop thinking about themselves. You can be really goofy in the studio. You can adjust the temperature to get an effect. If you want the singer to be angry, because you have an aggressive part, then you make it uncomfortable for them. Or, I read something about John Lennon hanging upside down once, and I thought I’d try that. It was a disaster, actually, I wouldn’t do it again. The poor guy almost had an aneurysm. That was actually Serj Tankian, the singer from System of a Down.

You had more success with Serj when you set up a tent in the studio for him to use as a vocal booth.

That worked out, really well. If you’re in a studio where you don’t have an isolation booth, and there’s too much reflection from the walls coming back into your vocal mic, a tent works great.

So the tent was there for sonic reasons, but it also gave him give him his own space to be in while singing?

The initial reason was to calm down the reflections. But it turned into his special place, and was even better.

Was it a canvas tent?

It was just a regular camping tent. It was tall enough that you could stand up in it and you could stand up a mic in it. And also, it didn’t require stakes, because we were in someone’s house — Rick Rubin’s basement, actually.


Read the article in its entirety here!

More Than Just A YouTube Success

Nick Messitte a contributor to Forbes, took a closer look at the guys behind Pensado’s Place and caught up with their expanding platform. Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick are also two of the authors behind The Pensadao Papers: The Rise of Visionary Online Television Sensation, Pensado’s Place. Read an excerpt of the article below!


00120020.jpgSince the last time we covered Herb and Dave, their platform has become much more than a lens; in orchestrating partnerships with brands, distribution platforms, and publishing companies, they’ve become a full fledged media company, procuring not only the wherewithal to penetrate a growing marketplace (we’ll touch on that later) but also the physical space to accomplish, as Herb put it to me, “pretty much anything a media company can do—of any size.”

Indeed, the Pensado Media Center, built in conjunction with Westlake Pro, offers the duo an in-house means of shooting high-definition productions, of securing bandwidth for streaming/broadcasting content across various platforms, as well as the ability to hold seminars and master classes, all while housing an art gallery and a library to boot—a place “where people in audio can come up, learn, read, put their feet up and so forth,” as Herb told me.

Now, this is just what’s happening in the Los Angeles area. Elsewhere, with the help of recognizable pro-audio brands like Audio-Technica, Avid, and iZotope, the duo have been able to pull off some eye-opening stunts, such as donating duffle-bags stuffed with quality studio gear to audience members in packed conventions (something I saw them do last year at Washington, DC’s Howard Theater).

And, with the help of Hal Leonard—alongside the production company Groove3—they’ve launched their own curricula: Pensado’s Strive, an umbrella of audio-related information which aims to be “a world-class library of educational materials,” offered both “in a subscription-based model” online, and in “traditional print and digital-print, which is something unique in the space of online audio/visual sites.” This is how it was explained to me by Hal Leonard’s Group Publisher, John Cerullo.

Here we pause for a moment, for if you’ve ever played an instrument in a school-based setting, the name Hal Leonard probably strikes a chord: their “Essential Elements” series is de rigueur in most music-education spheres, as is their “Guitar Method.”

It’s worth noting, however, that Hal Leonard isn’t just a publisher of one series of recognizable method books. They are also a dominant marketing/distribution hub supplying content throughout the entire music-education industry, one that is able to act as a one-stop shop for multiple institutions; they are in the enviable position of single-sourcing ostensibly competing brands to multiple outlets across multiple platforms (for instance, they handle Forbes’ own Bobby Owsinski’s seminal textbooks on engineering).


Click HERE to finish reading!

00120020.jpg

“Five Star Music Makeover” giveaway!

Courtesy of Music Connection, five lucky people will be given the chance to win the book, Five Star Music Makeover The Independent Artist’s Guide for Singers, Songwriters, Bands, Producers, and Self-Publishers!  Music Connection is an online publication that has grown from a popular print publication into a spectrum of products and services that address the wants and needs of musicians, the music tech community and industry support services.

To enter and learn more about the giveaway, click on the link below!

>>Enter Here<<

00145992.jpgIn order to achieve success in today’s music industry, artists must first do a great deal of work on their own. Learning the required skills can take years of real-life experience, and hiring personal coaches, studio professionals, and consultants can be costly. But now, for the first time, there’s an invaluable resource to help you meet these challenges.

Five Star Music Makeover is an engaging all-in-one guide designed specifically for aspiring artists. Written by five experts with over 100 years of collective experience, both on and off the stage, this unique book covers five key skills every musician needs to succeed: (1) improving vocal production/technique; (2) writing memorable and marketable songs; (3) recording your ultimate EP; (4) navigating the publishing world; and (5) promoting music effectively.

Also included are insiders’ stories and anecdotes, helpful tips, creative exercises, celebrity interviews, and all the practical expertise necessary to develop a successful music career. Five Star Music Makeover is a complete and practical career guide – a resource that transforms artists from good to great.