Now that it’s the weekend and you’re not dedicating your brain power towards work, you’ll have time to digest Polyphia’s new track ‘Neurotica’! This …Polyphia Play With Intricacies on New Track ‘Neurotica’
Hobby #4: Create a Fake Band – HUH???
I hadn’t planned this post, but I woke up early this morning and this was on YouTube. It’s already the last day of August, summer is falling. That marks this time sensitive so here we go…
Pat Finnerty does a comedy video series called “What Makes this Song Stink.” It’s tremendously clever satire of YouTube videos loosely following the format of Rick Beato’s music appreciation series called “What Makes This Song Great.” You should check them both out. Seriously, they’re some of my favorite channels.
Pat recently made a video poking fun at the MGK song Emo Girl. In his video he analyzes the song and forms a fake band and records a song in the same style.
The name of the fake band is August is Falling and their first fake song is called Mad This Summer. Long story short, through a strange series of event which he describes in the video below, August is Falling accidentally became a real band and now the members are inching closer to that elusive hot tub money.
Like Pinocchio, this fake band wants nothing more than to be a real band, but they need subscribers. So check them out below and subscribe. Then go back and watch all of Pat’s videos. I recommend watching them in order because his material is rife with call backs to previous jokes.
It’s ok, click away, enjoy Pat and Rick’s videos, then come back and leave me a comment if you enjoyed it.
Maybe you’ll feel inspired an you’ll want to start your own fake band. If so, you may want to write parody songs like Pat Finnerty does. If so, you may want to check out my post on writing parodies for some more inspiration.
Garage bands, guitars, notebook paper
Sharing a fun story about a garage band I did as an unconventional back-to-school piece. Teenagers are still teenagers. 🙂Garage bands, guitars, notebook paper
“Pisces” by Jinjer – A Hasty Music Review to Support the People of Ukraine #Music4Ukraine
I’ve been doing this series for several days now and I’m really loving learning more about the music and people of Ukraine. I hope those of you who read this blog are listening to the tunes and recommending them to your friends. Hopefully we can send these tremendously talented musicians a little support through our viewership.
Typically in these posts I give a brief description of what you’re about to hear and try to encourage readers to listen to songs based on similar Western artists. I’m not going to do that this time. I could draw parallels to some important and beloved artists, but this time I’d rather just encourage all of you to listen to the track below. (If you’re the type of creator that is inclined to do a Reaction Video, please record yourself as you listen for the first time. I promise, you will thank me for giving you the heads up.)
“Pisces” is an absolutely hauntingly beautiful and brutally powerful song that needs to be experienced. I will warn you that it gets pretty heavy, and some of you may not normally be inclined to listen to music like this but please listen through to the end. It is a musical rollercoaster and it is absolutely worth the ride.
If you like this song, please check out more tracks from Jinjer. I’ve been listening all week and I keep finding more and more to love about them. “Judgement (& Punishment)” is one that I highly recommend. The reggae influence is unique in metal and in my opinion it is something other artists should consider experimenting with.
Also, I found a few clips of them talking about the war that you may want to check out.
Some of you may be trying to support Ukrainian musicians with the #Music4Ukraine Challenge, but maybe you don’t know where to start. I’m here to help. The playlist below has tons of great songs you should check out from a variety of musical styles. When you find something you love, please share it with others!
A Lil’ Freaky Fun For The Songwriters…
If you’ve ever written a stinker of a song before you’ll get this. Enjoy!
Hobby #1: Don’t Start a Band – Part 1
This is part 1 of a series dedicated to grown adults who love music and are considering starting a band. In this article I will highlight some reasons why you shouldn’t start a band. Future editions will consider some of the reasons why you might want to start a band despite this advice and some alternatives to starting a band that might work better for you.
Part 1: 5 Reasons Why You Should Not Start a Band
Canadian rocker, Bryan Adams famously sang, “Me and some guys from school had a band and we tried real hard. Jimmy quit and Jody got married. I should’ve known, we’d never get far.”
The 1990s ska band Reel Big Fish had an even more pessimistic take on starting a band, “Don’t start a band. Nobody wants to hear, nobody understands. Don’t start a band. You’ll be so disappointed that it was nothing like you planned.”
Adams ultimately finds success and looks back on the struggle nostalgically, while Reel Big Fish seems to provide their listeners an earnest warning about the music business. Both of these artists ultimately found success in the music business, so perhaps their perspectives on the business should be taken with a grain of salt. Their experience is relevant for sure, but it’s an outlier. After all, how much could they possibly have in common with those of us who are just restarting our rockstar dreams, most of us haven’t even bothered to replace our rusty guitar stings yet. We’re worlds apart from each other, but perhaps Bryan Adams and Reel Big Fish are tapping into a universal truth that we all can relate to: being in a band takes a lot of time and effort.
It’s not my intention to kill your rockstar dreams. By all means, it’s your life, I think you should chase your bliss. In fact, that’s what this blog is all about, finding happiness through making music. So, if starting a band is how you find your joy, I truly believe you should. However, if you’ve been out of the game for a while, you may be able to learn from my experience and find a better path to happiness with out all the effort that goes into a starting a band.
So, here are five reasons why you shouldn’t start a band:
Reason 1: Starting a Band Takes Resources
You’re and adult now. You’ve been working for years and built a nice little nest egg for yourself. You have a little expendable cash to spend on equipment. Maybe you’re blessed and you’ve acquired gear you never dreamed you’d own when you were younger. That’s wonderful, I hope you enjoy all that you’ve earned, but there are resources other than money that a band needs that are harder to come by:
- Time: Good bands need time to rehearse, write music, play shows, make promotional materials, etc. Do you have enough spare time to do all of this? Do your bandmates have the time too? Chances are that you have enough adult responsibilities that will conflict with your band duties. Even if you have the flexibility to make it work it’s unlikely that you can find enough bandmates that don’t have scheduling challenges like soccer games, work trips, and other special events that just can’t be missed. It’s like Adams said “Jimmy quit, Jody got married. I should have known, we’d never get far.”
- Energy: If you’ve never played in a gigging band before, you may underestimate the importance of energy. Consider the following situation: it’s Thursday afternoon and you’ve got a gig tonight. You sneak out of your day job a few minutes early to meet the band at the rehearsal space to pick up the gear. You put everything into cases including the drums, amps, guitar, public address system and load it all into your cars. You drive to the club, but there is no parking nearby, so you have to park several blocks away. You make multiple trips to load your gear into the club. You unpack everything from the cases and set it up. If you’re lucky you have a quick sound check and even have few minutes to grab a bite to eat from the bar before you play. The lights dim, you rush on stage and play a blistering 2-4 hour set. You put every ounce of energy you have into the set, and it paid off, you played an amazing set, and you are wiped out. Now, the show is over, the bartender pours you a beer and you get a quick minute to relax before the gear needs to be packed back into the cases and lugged back down the block to the car. You drive back to the rehearsal space and unload the cars before driving home for a few hours of sleep before work on Friday. Sure, not every gig is that exhausting, but many are. Maybe you’d be willing to do that once in a while, but maybe not every week. How often do you need to play out to be happy? Maybe you’d be content playing one gig a year. Maybe you wouldn’t mind having a year to rehearse between gigs, but that is a lot of effort with only a little pay out. Would your bandmates all be content with that? Maybe, maybe not.
- Talent: A lot of us started bands when we were kids, some of you probably started your first band before you could even play an instrument. We got together with friends, and we learned together. We essentially created our own talent pool. Sure, that model might work as adults, but learning to play when you’re older is more difficult (but definitely not impossible if you’re dedicated). Maybe your buddy says he’ll learn to play drums, but do you think he really has the time and dedication to make it happen. Maybe he will, I hope he does. However, there’s a good chance he’ll washout before you ever play a gig with him. When you’re older, you may need to draw from an established pool of players. This may be possible in some communities, however, it may be impossible in some smaller communities. After all, how many people in a town of 2,000 people will want to join your Meatloaf cover band?
- Network of support: young people are set up with a unique social structure that gives them an advantage for starting new bands. They have easy access to their classmates, many of whom are motivated to go to shows. Moreover, they are active on social media and have time to promote their gigs. Of course, the average adult can learn social media and you may have tons of friends who are willing to come out to your shows. However, most of us adults don’t have the time to keep up with all the social media trends, and our social circles tend to grow a bit tighter as we age. Even our closest friends may not be able to make it out to see you play your 10pm Tuesday night set.
Reason 2: Competing Priorities
You and your bandmates are not kids anymore. You have real responsibilities, things that can’t take a backseat to your band. It’s sad, but it’s true. You may be able to get a way with putting the band in front of work or family occasionally, but if it happens often, you’re likely to alienate yourself from those that you love the most.
If you’re a solo artist, perhaps you’ll be willing to make that sacrifice. However, if you have bandmates you have to realize that they will need to make similar sacrifices. Do you really expect your bass player to miss his son’s graduation to come to rehearsal? That’s just not going to happen.
Let’s say you practice every Thursday night. If you have 4 or 5 people in a band, it’s fairly likely that one of them will have a conflict that night. Perhaps work is sending your singer to Santa Fe for a conference next week. Next Thursday your drummer’s kid is turning three. You’ll find that more often than not, someone will have a conflict.
Of course, you can have rehearsal when a band member is missing. However, making progress that way is extremely difficult. After all, how well can your metal band play without a drummer? Even if you rehearse without your drummer, she wouldn’t have learned everything that you did, and she’ll have to catch up when she returns.
Reason 3: Difficult to find an Audience
With all due respect to Rush, does anyone really want to hear another Rush cover band?
When you’re young it’s easy to find an audience. Young people are more willing to stay out late to see your midnight set at the club than us middle-aged folks. Even if you happen to play in a great location with good foot traffic, do you think that a young crowd is going to come out and see you and your grey-bearded buddies jam each week? Maybe they will if you’re tremendously talented or if your music is in tune with the zeitgeist, but that’s probably a stretch.
Musical tastes change over time, and most of lose interest in chasing the fads as we get older. It’s very likely that stylistically the music that want to play doesn’t have a real world audience in your area, at least not the way it used to. How many clubs book heavy metal bands or grunge bands anymore? There are a few I’m sure, but not as many as there once were. In fact, bars that book bands seem to be dwindling across genres. Those that remain are probably trying to fill a particular niche. If you’re not aligned with it, you’re going to have a tough time booking a show.
Reason 4: Competing Goals
Maybe you have assembled a reasonably talented group of people and you want to start a band. Do you really all want to accomplish the same goals?
Maybe you really want to write your tunes and play live, while your drummer is more concerned with making an album. Your singer is just in it to meeting groupies. Your bass player is in it because she loves to hang out with you and jam, but she’s already got an important day job that is her key focus.
If you and your bandmates are not aligned in your goals, then some of you will eventually be disappointed with the outcomes you achieve (or do not achieve). If you really love to write, would you be satisfied playing in a cover band? If you’re not happy, why put in the effort for a hobby?
You could try and replace some folks or quit and find another band to join. These are options and that might work out for you, but is it worth it? Maybe if you’re dedicated to finding a way to superstardom, it might be worth it to shake up the lineup, but is superstardom really your goal? If not, is it worth burning bridges with those you care about in the process?
Reason 5: Things That Are Cool When You Are Sixteen Aren’t As Cool when You’re Sixty
This is easily the worst reason not to do something that you love. Nonetheless, it’s worth pointing out. When you were younger, some people may have thought you were cool if you were in a band. Now that you’re older that luster tends to fade. Some people may think it’s amazing that you’re following your dreams, or struggling for your art. However, I think many other people see you a poor struggling artist, or worse, someone having a midlife crisis.
I’m woefully unqualified to speak for the younger generation, but I think it’s safe to assume that they have a very different relationship with music than us older folk have, and they may not value the type of music that you do, at least not in the same way.
Admittedly, this is an overgeneralization. The younger generation has grown up with digital music readily accessible throughout their lives. This means that they can choose to listen to new music and old music, or even better, they can listen all of it. I think there is good reason to suspect that they do relate to some music associated with previous generations. Consider the recent uptick in the popularity of Queen. On the flipside, they’ve also grown up with newer genres like EDM (electronic dance music) that are computer-based, and not particularly well suited for bands. Regardless of how open-minded and well-listened they are, they might enjoy hearing your band’s spirited cover of Free Bird, but an ever dwindling niche of listeners wants to listen to your four hour set of Lynyrd Skynyrd covers. In my experience, decades based cover bands seem to do well if they can capture the zeitgeist of a time gone by. It’s been really exciting for me to see 90’s cover bands play the songs I loved growing up. It’s great to see how they reinvent the tunes I loved, and sometimes hated.
Regardless, what is considered cool changes over time and you’ll need to adapt if you want to continue to play live. After all, no one wants to go see a lame band.
I stated it earlier, but it is worth repeating: my goal is not discourage you from chasing your dreams. Rather, I want you to consider whether or not this is really the dream you want to be chasing. We all have limited time on this planet, as we get older the time remaining is even more limited. A rational and wise person will recognize this and try to optimize the time that they have doing activities that they love or that otherwise enrich their lives.
If you simply must play in a band, do it! Part 2 of this series will share some reasons why you should consider ignoring what I wrote above. Be sure to check back.
If by the end of Part 2 you agree with me, that starting a middle-age band is not the best way for you to spend your time then you should definitely check back for Part 3. In that installment I will share a series of ideas of what you can do instead of starting a band that might get you that similar rush, without all the effort, time, money, and sacrifice.
Hobby #22: Play for Patriotism & Community – Join a Firemen’s Band
Did you play a brass, woodwind, or percussion instrument in high school? If so, this may be a new fun hobby for you.
Firemen’s Bands and Community Groups
Summertime is here (if you live in the northern hemisphere) and with the warmer weather comes many community events. Hopefully Covid won’t ruin them for us this year!
In the U.S. we have several national holidays during the summer like Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Small towns also usually have local holidays. Often these events are commemorated with parades and festivals. Parades may look a different in various parts of the world, but I bet most of them feature music. So, if you’re looking for a new hobby, there is a good chance you can adapt what I say here to fit your local culture.
There are several different community groups that take part in parades such as drum & pipe corps, fireman’s bands, and high school marching bands that fill up the rosters. Unless you’re a person of a certain age, you’re not going to be in the high school marching band. (However, you may be able to volunteer to support them. Perhaps I’ll write another post about that. In the meantime, consider reaching out to your school’s band director to see how you can support them.) Luckily, you may be able to join a drum and pipe corps or a fireman’s band. I’m sure that the process for joining these groups will be different based on where you live, but when I played trumpet in fireman’s bands about 20 years ago it was easy.
Will You Fit In? Do You Have the Skills?
Fireman’s bands, despite the name, are not usually composed of firefighters. The band is usually local volunteers who march with the firefighters to show support and bring extra energy to the parade. These bands usually play patriotic standards like John Philip Sousa marches, most of which you’re probably already familiar with. The people in the bands I played with were of all ages from high school on up to their 70s. If you could walk and play an instrument you could join. Occasionally we even played on the back of a flatbed truck to allow the elderly and less mobile founders of the band to play. I think they were in their 80s, so it was very inclusive.
The skill levels of band members varied considerably, but I don’t remember there being any real superstar players. Some folks could play well, but there were Miles Davis caliber players there. If I had to guess, most folks would have sat in the middle of the section of their high school bands. Players of most skill levels were welcome.
We tried hard to sound good, but enthusiasm was valued more than perfection. If you could play a familiar song like “The Stars and Stripes Forever” reasonably well with just a few rehearsals, you were in. I don’t recall having to play an audition, so it was pretty low pressure.
Being able to sight read was a helpful skill, but I think a player who plays by ear could have easily gotten by, especially since the music was mostly standards. However, occasionally the band leader would throw a less familiar piece into the mix with little notice, so it really is best if you are a competent reader of music.
I believe we rehearsed about once a week during parade season and the few weeks preceding. Of course, you were encouraged to attend them all but it was a volunteer organization so they understood if you couldn’t make it. I believe there was an expectation that you’d come to rehearsal before each parade, but once they knew that you could play even that was a flexible requirement.
I grew up in Upstate New York, where it’s frozen half of the year so we stay inside mostly. The rest of the year is party time, so the parades tend to fall between the end of May and early September. This meant there were parades most weekends during that time. Of course, band members had lives outside of the band, so we didn’t expect you to be there every week. If I had to guess I might have made it to half of the parades, maybe even less.
The band leaders were flexible about attendance. That sometimes meant we were challenged to put a full band together for parade day. Occasionally the band leaders had to resort to gentle “arm twisting” to get enough people there, but I think most weeks we got by with whomever was available. I can remember a few parades where we only had a handful of people. Surprisingly, it didn’t stop us from participating, we just played louder, and we had just as much fun.
What Kind of Equipment Do You Need?
You had to bring your own instrument and a lyre to hold your music. The bands provided the uniform and the sheet music.
I recommend choosing your instrument carefully. I used to own two trumpets, my fancy expensive silver Bach Stradivarius, and my modest student model horn. If you have the choice, I recommend using a less expensive instrument for marching. There can be a lot of people bumping into each other, at the end of parades or in the fairground, especially if you or your bandmates like to get a little tipsy in the beer tent. You won’t carry your case with you when you march, and you may have to leave at the beginning of the parade. Then you’ll have to carry your horn around at the end until you get back to the case. (PRO TIP: Park at the end of the parade route and walk to the rally point. That way it’s easy to throw your horn in the trunk and you’ll be able to enjoy the festivities without worrying about it.) Some folks were trusting enough to leave their horns unattended on a picnic table. I can’t say I recommend that, but if you do you run a bigger risk of theft with an expensive horn so be wise. (Check eBay and Reverb.com for inexpensive or used instruments).
We traveled around the surrounding counties, so transportation was something you had to consider. We never went more than an hour from home for a parade. Some members carpooled to reduce emissions and travel costs.
Benefits of Playing in Community Bands
This hobby is a fun way to show your support for your community, show your patriotism, honor veterans and first responders, support your local chamber of commerce, and connect with your neighbors. It’s low commitment and more likely than not, you’ll be familiar with most of the songs you’ll be asked to play so unless you’re in a particularly ambitious band, you probably have the skills you need.
The band that I played in paid small stipends for each parade that you played. As I recall, it was about $19 a parade (that’s what it was in 1997-1999). This money came from prize money and from the parade organizers. That was enough to cover the gas to get there, but not much more. It certainly wasn’t the sort of thing you did to get rich; it was a fun way to keep up my chops over the summer.
One of the best perks was that we usually got into the beer tent for free. Sometimes that meant free admission, sometimes it meant free beer. I was not of legal drinking age at the time, so the admission bracelet was highly coveted by my friends.
Admittedly, my experience with marching bands is fairly dated, so if you’re thinking about exploring this idea, I strongly recommend reaching out to your local fire department. Do NOT call 911 for this, please find the non-emergency number or email. Even better yet, use google to find the community groups in your area and contact them directly. Alternatively, next time you’re at the parade you can usually meet up with the band at the end of the parade and ask them in real life. Often there is a bonus concert at the end of the parade near the beer tent. If you’re not sure where to find them, I recommend looking there.
One last bit of advice: Beware of horses! Always keep one eye on the ground in front of you and make sure to choose appropriate footwear. You may even want to keep an extra pair of shoes in the car. Other than that, have fun… and thanks for supporting the community!