Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 59

author: Van Hammersmith date: 09/21/2011 category: junkyard

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On vacation for a week at Mom's place. The house smells like cigarettes, but the pancakes are good. Remember to be nice to your mom. You'll need her someday when you're hungry.
Dear Van Hammersmith, I am in a band with my friends and we just finished recording our first original song. I wanted to post it on my band's page on Facebook, the only thing is, there's no way to post just an audio file, there needs to be a video with it. My question is: What are some ideas for interesting things I can put in the video? We can't record a video of ourselves due to lack of video camera and time. Thanks, Someone.
I imagine the simplest thing would be a black screen with the names of your band and the song. If you get bored/ambitious you could attach a slide-show of still photos of the members of your band, which I assume you already have, because you have one of those camera telephones. If you don't have pics, take a bunch at your next rehearsal. Make sure everyone looks awesome and fierce, and let a slide show of that be your "video." If you have some pics of you guys being awesome at a gig, that would be a good thing to use. Can you believe that I don't have any photos of several bands that I've been in? It's like the whole thing can't be proven to have actually happened. Sometimes that can be a good thing.
Hey Van, Do you think it's wrong that I don't like to share my favorite music with certain people? It's a small scene where I am, and I feel that my musical taste is a huge part of what keeps my originals quite different from what's out here. And when it comes to covers I'd like to be the first to present what really moves me. Thanks.
You're welcome. Yeah, it's okay if you want to keep your favorite stuff to yourself. That can't protect you forever, of course. Either the outside world will gradually creep into your sleepy little forest village, or you will get so awesome that you will outgrow your home town and have to go out into the real world and compete with bands who have grown up listening to the stuff you're trying to keep secret. You're going to have to grow up sooner or later. Don't worry about protecting your influences. Just worry about being awesome.
Dear Van Hammersmith, Can you recommend me some recipes on the road? Also huhuhuhuhuhu. Regards, W. K.
No. What the hell do you think this is, a cooking show? Just remember to stop by a grocery store and get some fruit for every day. That's a good piece of advice your you slags who are out there on tour having nothing but beer and fast food burgers: try to have a piece of fresh fruit every day. And try to eat some vegetables. Oh, hey, wait a minute... were you about recipes for food to hide your drugs? Pot cookies? Hash brownies? Acid cough drops? Cocaine meringues? Heroin pies? Man, you can look for those recipes anywhere on the internet. This is a MUSIC site, man! Aw, you made the rest of us feel dirty. Van Hammersmith judges.
Dear Mr Hammersmith, Me and my band are about a month out from a competition that runs in New Zealand called Rock Quest. All our music sounds great, and after playing live a few times at school the crowds are only getting bigger. But this will be the first time we have played our own music for a crowd, so we want to make a good impression. Here's our (potential) problem: because it's a competition with roughly 800 bands playing over 3 days, we don't get the opportunity to do a sound check. What can we do beforehand to make sure we sound reasonably good? Is there a happy medium for distortion pedals EQ settings that will sound okay with any amp? They supply the amps. Thanks in advance. James.
Leave all your settings and gear at the levels that you use to rehearse as a band. When you go out there and set up, take the time before you play your first song to do a thirty second sound check. Play some stuff for a few seconds, and adjust your levels if you need to. Give a shout out to your sound guy and ask him if anything should be changed. Don't worry about looking dorky to the crowd. They'll think it's cool. They'll think it's "real." Play two songs, then ask the sound guy about the levels. Hopefully you'll be able to hear if he shouts anything back. If there actually is no sound guy and you just have to get on stage, plug in and go, then do a quick check, then blast out a song and then ask the audience about the levels. Adjust as you go. Ask each other how it sounds. You'll do fine. Remember, crowds love pyro.
Dear Van Hammersmith, my question is probably like someone else's. I've been playing guitar for two years, and this year I took guitar class at my school for an easy A and an excuse to have a guitar at school. The class is fine, and yes, I do carry an acoustic around with me on the days of the class, and I'll usually play it in-between classes, or if I have any free time. Now, I see the same people a lot over the course of the day, and I always feel that they're going to get sick of me strumming away at the same Metallica riff or Nirvana song, so I try to throw in a few made-up melodies here and there, just to keep the complaints from rolling in. Should I give a damn if they get irritated? I'm not playing to impress anyone, and who doesn't want to hear the opening riff of Master of Puppets at least 20 times in a day?
Quit deluding yourself. Of course you're doing it to impress people. And yes, if they decide they want to stick around for a while where you play, they might get sick of hearing you play the same damn thing over and over as the weeks drag into months. And yeah, I understand playing a song because you like it, or playing it because you want to get it exactly perfect, but sooner or later you're going to have to expand your repertoire. Have you considered learning more songs? And maybe songs by more bands? I know a lot of high school kids get locked into the Yin and Yang of Metallica and Nirvana, but there really is more music to be found out there, and some of it is valid, man. So for the sake of you and all of the people who are not beating the shit out of you for stinking up the hallways with the same fifty bars of a song over and over again, broaden your horizons. Learn some Huster Du or something. Sorry, I don't know how to make my word processor make the umlauts in Husker Du.
Hey Van, I've got a band related problem which I think is pretty crucially in need of resolution. We've got a drummer, and three guitarists. The three of us realize that this group needs a bass player, and we've cycled the instrument around, but we've all presented one reason or another why the bass isn't right for us. One of us says they lack the stamina to confidently play on stage, and one of us is singing and can't do it "Geddy Lee" style. I personally lack the equipment and passion for the instrument, but I am also the member of the group with the most technical ability on bass. This organism we're trying to piece together can't survive without us at least knowing what instruments we're gonna handle. I would like to alternate between guitar and horn, but bass guitar will be necessary 100% of the time, eliminating that chance for sonic diversity. Any suggestions for resolving role conflict? Should I man up and grab a 4 string, or get us all to draw straws, or what? -Bendystraw.
It would be nice if you could alternate enough that everyone could be playing the instruments they really want to play on particular songs and otherwise showed some flexibility, but that would demand a lot of maturity and willingness to experiment on the parts of your other members. Fortunately for you, rigid, immature young players are usually pretty easy to manipulate if you're willing to use a bit of subtle shame. If you tell them they are mature and willing to experiment, they'll usually act that way, at least to a limited extend, for a little while. If you really need to play horn on a song, get someone else to take bass for a single song. If you really want to play guitar on a song, convince someone to take bass. Convince the guys they are all multi-instrumentalists, and that they all need to do their parts, man. But that means you'll have to do your part too, and if you 're the best bass player, then you should probably do your turn playing bass. At least until your band goes out and hires an actual bass player, freeing you up to return to your true instrument: the triangle.
I am just curious if you are the Hammersmith that played with Local Anesthetic out of Toledo, Ohio back in the day?
No, but I once tripped and hit my head on a fire hydrant in Toledo.
'sup? So I've been playing bass for three years, guitar for four, and I feel like I'm pretty dedicated. I play both probably 3-6 times a week. Anyways, I have no formal music education, and so my self-teaching occasionally leads me astray. For example, when I was first learning I didn't know what chords or scales were, so I just played power chords non stop for probably 4 months or so.... okay, probably more. Anyways, now I'm sitting here 4 years later and I can't help but feel I'm still at beginner status. But it's a love of my life (not to get all mushy or anything. We're strictly platonic at this point), and so whenever I tell someone "ya, I love guitar! I play it all the time!" and I try to show them and all I can play are bits of fragmented musical nonsense the only thing that goes through my head is Brian from Family Guy watching Stewie play guitar before saying "Dooooooouuuuuchhhhhheeeee" and walking away. Almost done. Anyways, I don't intend to play professionally by any means. I'm a third generation artist and it's been both me and my father's philosophy that you do what you love as a hobby so you don't sell out or die broke (sorry, not that much faith in my power chords). Carrying this on to guitar and bass now - I want to improve to the point where I can entertain friends and strangers and brighten their days, as well as my own day. I don't want to sell out gigs, and I don't really want to buy a $4000 guitar and music lessons. Any tips (besides perseverance. That's what they said about skateboarding and it took me 4 damn years to ollie). You affectionate lover (or insert whatever you find flattering), Slawdog17.
Let me guess: Grandpa died broke, but he never sold out. Respect. Dude, you can only go so far playing by yourself. Even if you don't want to pay for lessons, if you ever want to start leveling up, you're going to have to start exposing yourself to other players with different experience. If you've only been playing by yourself, there are going to be holes in your game. You can comb the net for tips and free lesson videos, you can play songs until you know them in your sleep, but you're still not going to know what it is that you don't know, you know? I think I've made this joke before. Get together with another guitarist and start jamming some songs that you both like. Not like a serious thing, just have some fun. Teach each other songs. Learn them and practice them together. Trying to play a song through start to finish with other players is one of the absolute key turning points in a new player's development. Because you're nowhere as a musician if you can't play through a song with another player. Gee, that wasn't funny at all. How did you write such a long letter and ask such a lame question? Your questions basically boils down to "how do I get better at guitar?" Man, you guys have got to bring your "A" game. I'm hustling here, people. Give an old man something to work with.
More Van Hammersmith columns:
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: Legacy Songs Artists' Discussions 01/09/2014
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: How to Dump a Band Fiction 01/06/2014
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: Band of Equals Fiction 12/24/2013
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 62 (Final) Junkyard 10/12/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 61 Junkyard 10/05/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 60 Junkyard 09/28/2011
+ view all
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