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Auto Tuning Your Vocals. Stop it.

This is a quick post for all you emerging artists out there who are either recording/producing yourselves or having an amateur help you with your tracks. We listen to a lot of music here at OurStage. A lot of it is by aspiring musicians. And a lot of it is downright unlistenable due to the wild and criminal abuse of vocal tuning plugins.

We say this out of love.

Mostly love.

We’re not trying to debate the merits of auto tune as a concept. We could argue about that all day, so let’s just concede that there are times when it is used tastefully and unobtrusively. But as nice as they might be, they are not one-size-fits-all tools. They are much harder to use properly than, say, a reverb plugin. There is a learning curve. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then you DON’T KNOW what you’re doing. If you want to be an engineer, that’s one thing – take the time and learn how to do this the right way.

Otherwise, if you really feel that your vocals need this kind of doctoring, either record them again or go to a real professional engineer for help.


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British Royal Navy Puts a New Spin On Music Piracy

In “totally thought this was an Onion article” news, the Metro recently reported that Britney Spears’ songs are being used to prevent Somali pirates from kidnapping other sailors.

The Navy’s Second Officer, Rachel Owens, told the Metro that several Spears tracks, including “Baby One More Time” and “Oops! I Did It Again,” are routinely blared from the ship’s speakers to keep pirates at bay.

“Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most,” Owens said. “These guys can’t stand Western culture or music, making Britney’s hits perfect.”

While Somali pirates may not be huge fans of Western music in general, there are at least a few maritime-themed songs by American artists that would likely be more of an inspiration to marauders than a deterrent. Here are a handful of tracks that the British Royal Navy should be careful to avoid playing, lest the pirates get fired up.

Set Your Goals – “Mutiny!”

If the exclamation mark in the song’s title wasn’t a dead giveaway, “Mutiny!” by Set Your Goals is an energetic, uptempo number riddled with seafaring references. I have personally seen these San Francisco natives whip teenaged show attendees into a frenzy on more than one occasion, and I have no doubt that their anthemic pop-punk would have the same effect on pirates. With hooky breakdowns, cannon sound effects, and gang vocals galore, SYG have crafted a track that’s guaranteed to inspire some pillaging and plundering.

Continue reading ‘British Royal Navy Puts a New Spin On Music Piracy’

Home Recording

Music Clout has published a pretty good and succinct article with some home recording tips. We see these kinds of things from time to time, but this one is pretty direct, and we like that they appreciate the good over the perfect. Here’s the meat of the thing:

Plan it out - If you’re just going to lay down some drum tracks, the keyboard player doesn’t have to be there. Make a recording plan that makes the most efficient use of everybody’s time. Don’t plan vocal recordings unless every supporting instrument has been laid down. Most of the time, tracks are recorded linearly on top of each other. That’s why you shouldn’t record the bass until the drums are down and tight.

Tune after every take - There’s nothing worse than a great performance that’s out of tune. You’ll never be able to fix it. So prevent your amazing takes from being thrown in the trash. Tune after every take.

Use simple recording techniques - Stick with mono microphone techniques. Don’t over-complicate things. Move the microphone around until you think the instrument sounds good. You won’t have a great ear for this immediately, but keep recording and you’ll develop a sense for where to point the mic.

It’s about the performance - Minor sound issues pale in significance to the power of a great performance. I would pick lackluster equipment but a great performance over a million dollar studio with terrible musicians any day of the week.

Here’s what we can add to this. When you’re thinking about gear, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you’re picturing the last pro recording studio you were in, with racks of gear and huge mixing desks. You don’t need all that stuff. For the most part, you’re going to be in great shape if you have a computer, recording software, an interface (where you plug your mic in), two solid mics, a pair of good preamps, and maybe one or two compressors (plus mic stands, cables, etc, of course). When you compare the cost of decent gear to the cost of recording in a studio, you’ll realize that, while not cheap, the gear is going to end up being cost effective. Spend $500-800 on a pair of preamps instead of two days in the studio. It’s the gift that keeps on giving…to yourself.
Continue reading ‘Home Recording’

Bang, You’re Dead: OurStage Artist Of The Week

We love us some Jes Hudak. The upstate New York singer-songwriter has been a stalwart member of the OurStage community for years and is a frequent winner, including four #1 chart placements, a #1 on Best of the Best, a prize from Ernie Ball, and a spot on 2010’s Lilith tour. Meanwhile, she’s been growing herself a faithful fan base, and she nabbed a spot on Bravo’s Platinum Hit, which exposed her to an even larger audience.

So imagine our delight when we came across a killer track by a group called Bang, You’re Dead only to find that it’s a collaboration between Hudak and DJ/producer Quickie Mart. Together, they are this week’s Artist of the Week.

On the track “Alive,” Quickie Mart has created a lush new context in which Hudak can stretch out, parlaying her melodic tendencies, lyrical skill, and vocal power into a hypnotic, hip-hop influenced groove. On “Arizona,” rapper Dez Hope steps in to provide a counterpoint to Hudak’s soulful hook, each riding a deep and moderately-paced beat. Both tracks incorporate elements ranging from ‘70s soul through ‘90s trip-hop and to contemporary EDM.

And though these two tracks alone (ok, plus a remix) are enough to keep us occupied for a while, Bang, You’re Dead are not resting. Take a trip over to their Facebook page, where they’re teasing the October 1 release of their full-length, titled Late Nights, with some official “leaks” and free downloads, including remixes.


Music To Benefit Victims Of The Boston Marathon Bombing

Click here to donate and download a great playlist to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

OurStage is grateful to be an international hub for musicians and music fans, who are looking to share and connect with something new. But we also have a soft spot for our hometown of Boston, MA, one of the world’s most vibrant music communities. Like the rest of the world, that community was shocked on Monday to learn of, and in many cases to see firsthand, the horrifying disturbance of one of our biggest and best days – Patriot’s Day and the yearly running of the celebrated Boston Marathon.

As readers probably know, there are many victims today, and as a city and a nation, we are reeling. But as many have already pointed out, if someone was hoping to terrify us, they failed. Within moments of the blasts, average people became heroic, rushing to aid the victims, running toward the danger. Runners continued past the finish line to give blood, locals opened their homes to visiting marathon participants with nowhere to go, restaurants and bars sheltered all comers, and police and medical personnel performed at the highest level.

And the rest of us, like you, just want to know what else we can do. Well, what we do is music. Of the many memes that have made the rounds of social media in the last several days, one quote spoke brilliantly to us: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more devotedly than ever before.” – Leonard Bernstein.

In that spirit, our friends at the popular Boston-centric music blog Allston Pudding worked quickly to compile a fantastic playlist of local music that could be offered for download to benefit the victims of the bombing. They put out a call for submissions, and the response was overwhelming, and they finally cut it off when they reached 130 tracks. So now, you can donate anywhere from $1 or more to get 130 tracks of eclectic, quality independent music, knowing that 100% of your donation is going to The One Fund Boston. Download it RIGHT HERE.

The Wallies: Artist Of The Week

The Wallies

Who would suspect that America’s best hope in fending off the vibrant young hordes of Arctic Monkeys, Fratellis, Subways, and Bloc Partys from overseas would spring not from, say, Brooklyn, but instead from Sarasota, Florida? A hopeful nation should be turning their eyes to that city’s very own The Wallies, an indie rock band with the fire, visceral appeal, and goddam great songs to stand up against any frenetic guitar chargers. Singer Neven Skoro (who, okay, originally hails from Croatia) has a casual delivery that compliments the urgency of the band, in contrast to so many singers who struggle to keep pace with the charging, post-punk smash being laid down around them. If The Strokes all took uppers and Julian Casablancas stayed down on Quaalude level, you’d have something like The Wallies.

These guys keep it to three minutes at a pop, for the most part, with songs like “Subtle Romance” and the wonderfully titled “What I Like About You Is You’re Rock Bottom.” A notable exception is “Wrong Way,” which errs on the side of brevity with a 1:44 running time. You’re going to love them all.

JKL Files: Go Backstage At ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ With Three OurStage Artists

In the past six months, OurStage, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and the OurStage community of fans have given three talented, unsigned artists the incredible, career-changing chance to show what they’ve got by featuring them as the musical guest on Kimmel’s hit late-night show. Now go backstage with the artists in these exclusive clips, as they tell their stories and prepare for their moment in the national television spotlight.

Larry g(EE)

Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown

Eclectic Approach

WFMU’s Best Show Pledge Drive TONIGHT

Tom Scharpling, writer, producer, director, Woolery-taunter, and host of The Best Show on WFMU, is hosting his final #TomThon show tonight as part of the beloved radio station’s fundraising marathon. For those unfamiliar, WFMU is a freeform, listener-supported station out of New Jersey. Their programming is dictated entirely by the DJs (imagine that), resulting in some of the last great radio on American airwaves. And, yes, Scharpling’s show is quite likely the best, featuring great and varied music, as well as some strange and subversive comedy sketches, celeb interviews, live calls, and sometimes all of this at once. It is quite often the funniest thing on radio (sorry Mad Pig in the Morning or Whatever) and tonight the host pulls out all the stops with appearances from Patton Oswalt, John Hodgman, and The New PornographersAC Newman, plus some amazing, one-of-a-kind, prizes.

This pledge drive will literally determine whether WFMU stays on the air for another year, so if you’ve got it in you, tune in (listen online) and maybe give what you can. 9-midnight. And when you have some time, delve into the incredible archives.

Meanwhile, check out Scharpling’s most recent directorial effort, The Postal Service Auditions:

The Figgs: Artists Of The Week

The Figgs

As champions of new music discovery, we often feature neophyte artists in this slot; artists just starting their careers, making new, intense, and immediate music of all kinds. Artists with serious longevity are harder to come by. Bands that stay together for a long time often lose that spark, even when the material remains good.

Then there’s The Figgs, who just celebrated their 25th year together (they formed as teens in Saratoga Springs, NY), and who are still making vibrant, creative, and constantly evolving pop music that transcends time and age, putting many a young, hyped-up indie band to shame.

Having recently released The Figgs Anthology: 1000 People Grinning, the band can look back at a career that includes 12 studio albums, two live albums, several EPs and singles, and a slew of side projects (members have played with Soul Asylum, NRBQ, and Tommy Stinson, and the group has had a long-running stint as Graham Parker‘s backing band). Remarkably, the last few records the band has released have been their best. Where other bands become complacent in time, The Figgs have become a lean, confident, powerful unit, taking creative risks to achieve frequent moments of pop perfection. Their sound is clean and simple, but not unadorned. The lyrics are entertaining, insightful, funny, ironic, self-referential. They are indeed known as a pop band, because the songs are most often quick and to the point, but few bands playing live today rock as hard. Most importantly, they know the groove intimately – feeling it is obviously priority one for The Figgs. And that is timeless.

They are not a new band, but you might not know them. So we invite you to discover The Figgs.

Exclusive: Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Skinny Lister’s Upcoming ‘OS Session’

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, it seems only fitting that we unveil a new exclusive featuring one of our favorite jig-performing groups.

Back in January, SideOneDummy’s Skinny Lister stopped in the OurStage studios to perform a pair of songs off their recently released debut, Forge & Flagon. The performance was hands down one of the best we have ever captured, but unfortunately the turnaround time on the actual videos has been a bit longer than expected. So, to get you excited for the forthcoming videos and mp3s, we decided to release a slew of behind-the-scenes photos from our day with the band. Click below to enjoy the images and keep checking back for updates on the release of their OS Session. Continue reading ‘Exclusive: Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Skinny Lister’s Upcoming ‘OS Session’’


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