Out of the Green and Into the Black

October 30, 2009 12:09 PM

How best to stay on beat, then find out how I sound to an audience.

Originally posted on AskMe, and I was advised of this here black page, so here I am.

After playing guitar and singing for years, feeling pretty pessimistic about my ability I set my laptop (MacBook Pro) to record on its built in mic while I played a set's worth of material. Hey! I'm not bad at all, except my rhythm isn't so solid here and there (which I already knew.) If I can work that out, I'd be considering performing, which I've always wanted to do.

The thing is, a metronome doesn't help me. The flat tick. tick. tick. tick. isn't groovy at all, and ends up confusing me. I want to be able to make drum tracks that I can pipe either into an earbud or through a PA or whatever I'm playing through. I might even want to put in a rudimentary bass line. I could do this in garage band or anything similar, but what are my other options? Are there solutions that would let me (I'm not sure how to say this) queue up another few measures if I wanna keep soloing or do an extended outro?

The other part: How can I record myself in such a way that I'd have the best idea of how I'd sound to an audience? Will a 4-track recorder and a mic across the room do it? Will a mic through adapters give me significantly better sound on my MBP?
posted by cmoj (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

great title./
Hydrogen music is a really neat little piece of free software that allows pretty easy creation of drumlines and rhythms...
I am not sure if you ever use linux (it's getting easier with every release to use as a beginner.) There is even an Ubuntu studio edition, for being able to dabble in music/video/graphics production...without fully investing in the more powerful/versatile Mac . But it's pretty fun actually to build little drum bits to jam with using the included 'garage band' on yr' Mac. Also there are several types of 'effects pedal' (and many more 'drum machines' out there which allow for a simple drumline to be programed in (like the zoom 707, which is great, but I include the negatives below, for any kind of actual usage)

\as far as knowing how you would sound to an audience; I use this, it has the ability to cancel out room noise, and echo (as well as inputting to your comp. via the óptical audio port (which MBP's have built into their 'audio in' ports). It has effects, compression, and is VERY quiet in line (clean sounds SOUND clean... no unwanted gross static or other sounds of noisy parts and wiring, I am looking at you, Zoom 707 pedal hissing through my amp...)

I personlly think someone on an mpc would make for really cool sounds to have as a co-performer with you. (can be used for both drumlines and bass/atmospherics)

--But nothing will beat a Real drummer... plus they may be the strangest person you ever meet (and who doesn't love meeting new quirky people!)
posted by infinite intimation at 1:48 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

(Not actually an answer to your question, but...)

I actually found practising with a metronome helped me a lot. You learn the bits that are easy (that you play faster) and the bits that you need to work on. You need to be hypercritical when you're doing it, and work hard to stay on the beat but it helps a lot.

But, no, it's not musical as such - it's an exercise. It's like weight-training, designed to improve you capacity for when you are playing.
posted by Grangousier at 2:18 PM on October 30, 2009

If you want to use loops and be flexible for playing in public, check out Ableton Live. Its interface is fairly intuitive and it goes deep enough to allow some pretty complex material. There's also a lot of folks out there using it for regular gigs.
posted by man vs sun at 3:03 PM on October 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

i'd practice with garage band and simple drum loops for awhile - it's going to take some practice to get your time down to where it's consistent with a non-responsive drumbeat, but it's worth it

when you get this down, you'll know it and the confidence in playing will show if you're playing to an audience - and i honestly think you won't be so concerned with how you sound to them if you know you have your timing down

its very tempting to look for a technological solution to this musical problem, but there's no substitute for experience and feeling comfortable with your sense of groove

it would be also better if you miked yourself fairly close rather than across the room - if you're playing live in front of an audience, you're going to be miked close, not across the room - and learning to perform with a microphone close to you is also a valuable skill
posted by pyramid termite at 9:00 PM on October 30, 2009

I struggle with this too, the more so because I mostly play traditional acoustic stuff which tends not to have percussion. (Bad spoons players who show up at open sessions don't count!)

When trying to multitrack myself I use a click track over headphones by necessity since I'm recording acoustic instruments, but I also find that it's easier to hear and concentrate on the beat through headphones than it is with a regular old metronome clicking out loud in the room.
posted by usonian at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2009

Playing with a metronome is probably great for practice (that is, at home alone with your instrument), but it's nothing like playing with another human being, which is one of the great (frustrating, exhausting, embarrassing, deliriously thrilling) experiences available in this life.

And nothing you do not in front of an audience is going to be quite like what you do when you are in front of an audience. I say start performing in front of other people as soon as you can, because it's a huge skill set all to itself. Timing, along with everything else, will be very different, when you're "onstage". And I say that as a person who's been playing to (minuscule, teensy weensy) crowds for 15 years or so and still gets totally nervous and high when two people are watching.

I'd say, let other people decide how you sound. You decide how you feel.

Apologies if I'm misunderstanding your premise.
posted by Erroneous at 12:01 PM on March 10, 2010

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