Friday, 12 April 2013

Song Trivia

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ABC - The Jackson Five.   Michael Jackson was only 11 years old when he sang on this No.1 hit. According to co-writer Freddie Perren, the music of this track was derived from the chorus of their previous hit, 'I Want You Back'.

Achy Breaky Heart - Billy Ray Cyrus.   This was a remake of a 1991 song by country act The Marcy Brothers titled 'Don't Tell My Heart'. It became one of the most popular tracks during the line-dance craze of the '90's, and actually spawned a dance called 'The Achy Breaky'. It was the first million-selling country single since 'Islands In The Stream' (Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton).

All Out Of Love - Air Supply.   Lead vocalist Russell Hitchcock holds the note at the end of this track for more than 20 seconds.

All Right Now - Free.   There are quite a few different releases of this track. The shorter version has a more complex guitar riff at the beginning, and there was a later release with the same vocal line but replaced with heavier bass and drums. An early version was sent to the radio station for airplay which still had the click-track accidentally mixed into it. A band member only realised this when he heard it playing on the radio. Have a listen to the beginning of the track 'Rock 'N Me' by Steve Miller Band, the intro is surprisingly similar.

All The Young Dudes - Mott The Hoople.   Written by David Bowie and listed in Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time, Mott The Hoople released this track in 1972. The original lyrics had to be changed for radio airing in the UK, as there is a line in the song 'Wendy's stealing clothes from Marks and Sparks', which was a reference to the UK retailer Marks and Spencers, and would have breached broadcasting advertising legislation at the time. The chorus of this track and the chorus of the track 'Telephone Line' by E.L.O. are quite similar in composition.

Another Brick In The Wall - Pink Floyd.   Roger Waters wrote this about his views on formal education. He hated his grammar school teachers, and felt they were more interested in keeping the kids quiet than teaching them. The chorus came from a school in Islington, England, and was chosen because it was close to the studio. It was made up of 23 kids between the ages of 13 and 15. They were overdubbed 12 times, making it sound like there were many more kids.

Bad - Michael Jackson.   This song was initially conceived as a duet with Prince. When Prince heard the song he told producer Quincy Jones that the track would be a hit without him, and turned down the project. Martin Scorsese directed the video, and Wesley Snipes played the rival gang leader. The full music video for this track is an 18-minute short film.

Disco Inferno - The Trammps.   Trammps keyboard player co-wrote this song. He was inspired by a scene from the movie 'The Towering Inferno' whereby a disco on top of a building is on fire. The song features in many major movies including 'Ghostbusters' and 'Saturday Night Fever', and the cult comedy classic 'Kingpin'. In 2005 the track was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame.

Dock Of The Bay - Otis Redding.    When Otis recorded this, he didn't have a last verse written, so he whistled it. He planned to return to a Memphis recording studio and fill in the verse after performing in Madison, Wisconsin, but he died before he had the chance. When Cropper produced the song, he left the whistling in, and it fit the mood of the song perfectly. It is probably the most famous whistling in any song.

Don't Know Why - Norah Jones.   This was almost the victim of record company stupidity. When the album started selling and the song was apparently a hit, Virgin Records, who owned Blue Note, thought radio stations would prefer a different version and remixed it with a dance beat and processed vocals. Norah Jones thought it sounded ridiculous and insisted on distributing the album version to radio stations.

Down Under - Men At Work.   The lyrics were written by lead singer Colin Hay who says..."the chorus is really about the selling of Australia in many ways, the over-development of the country. It was a song about the loss of spirit in that country. It's really about the plundering of the country by greedy people. It is ultimately about celebrating the country, but not in a nationalistic way and not in a flag-waving sense. It's really more than that."  Some translations: Fried out combie - a broken-down van. Head full of Zombie - Zombie was a particularly strong batch of marijuana which was floating around Australia for a long time. People called it 'Zombie Grass'. Vegemite Sandwich - Vegemite is a fermented yeast spread that is pretty much a national institution in Australia. Some people love it and can't start the day without a piece of toast spread with Vegemite, and some go so far as to carry a small jar of it with them when they travel overseas. Some are indifferent to it, and others can't stand it. It kind of resembles smooth black tar, and is similar in taste to the English 'Marmite', but Aussie's will always tell you that Vegemite is far superior. 

Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles.   The Beatles didn't play any of the instruments on this. As the string section was difficult to play live, they never performed this track live. 'Father Mackenzie' was originally 'Father McCartney'. Paul decided he didn't want to freak out his dad and picked a name out of the phone book instead. Paul got the name 'Rigby' from the name of a store and the name 'Eleanor' from actress Eleanor Bron.

Golden Slumbers - The Beatles.   Paul McCartney wrote this on his step-sister's piano. He saw the song 'Golden Slumbers' in her songbook and, unable to read music, made up his own using most of the original lyrics.

For You - John Denver.   Denver wrote this for his wife Cassandra. He wrote it in 1986 while she was in Australia working on a film. John debuted it on his tour that year. 

Hello - Lionel Richie.   This was the second No.1 song from Richie's second solo album after leaving The Commodores, and is from the biggest selling album in the history of Motown Records. The track has featured in various movies including, 'Herbie: Fully Loaded', Scary Movie 4 and Shrek Forever After, and has been used in TV commercials for Starburst, Yahoo, Ikea and Tesco.

I Don't Like Mondays - The Boomtown Rats.   Reached No.1 in the U.K. charts and is about Brenda Spencer, a San Diego high school student who, on Jan 29, 1979, brought a gun to school and killed 2 people. When asked why she did it, she replied, 'Because I don't like Mondays.' Spencers family tried unsuccessfully to prevent the track from being released in the U.S.

I Feel For You - Chaka Khan.   Chaka Khan's biggest hit, 'I Feel For You' was originally written by Prince (a.k.a. The Artist). In that same song, Stevie Wonder did the harmonica solos, and Melle Mel of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five did the rap breaks. Hence the infamous lyric: "Chaka Khan...Ch-ch-ch-ch-Chaka Khan."

I Love Rock 'n' Roll - Joan Jett.   Originally recorded by British group The Arrows in 1975. By the time Joan Jett released this, very few jukeboxes took dimes, but 'quarter' wouldn't sound good in the lyrics.

I Shot The Sheriff - Eric Clapton.   Written and originally recorded by Bob Marley in 1973. A member of Clapton's band played the Bob Marley album for him and convinced him to record this. Clapton didn't want to use this on the album because he thought it might be disrespectful to Marley. Members of his band and management convinced him that it should not only go on the album, but also be released as a single. Marley called Clapton after this became a hit. Eric wanted to know if the story in the song was true, but Bob wouldn't tell him.Eric is also credited on the Dire Straits 'Brothers In Arms' album due to the fact that he loaned Mark Knopfler one of his guitars the for the album.

I'm Like A Bird - Nelly Furtado.   In this song, Furtado sings about how she values her freedom, and how that keeps her from commitment. She's warning a guy that she could fly away at any time.

In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins.   Collins' first single as a solo artist. All the original songs on the album, including follow up hit 'I Missed Again', were intended to be 'messages' to his first wife in an attempt to lure her back to him.

In The Navy - Village People.   Peaking at No.2 in the UK singles chart, the video to this was shot on the USS Reasoner at San Diego Naval Base. The song was also parodied by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. His version 'In The Brownies' peaked at No. 38 in the UK singles chart. 

Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry.    'Johnny' is Johnnie Johnson, a piano player who collaborated with Berry on many songs. Berry got the word 'Goode' from the street where he grew up, Goode Street in St. Louis. The word 'go' is repeated in the song 45 times.

Killer - Adamski.    British house music producer Adam Tinley (Adamski) wrote this as an instrumental and hired a singer who was little known at the time (Seal). Interestingly the title of the track 'Killer' does not feature anywhere in the lyrics.

La Bamba - Los Lobos.   The day after 'La Bamba' peaked at No.22 on the Hot 100 (2 February 1959) Ritchie Valens was killed in the plane crash that also claimed the life of Buddy Holly. The 1987 biopic about Valens was called La Bamba, and screenwriter Luis Valdez pegged Los Lobos to perform the title song, originally an old Mexican marriage tune known for generations.

Lido Shuffle - Bozz Scaggs.   This is about a musician that's hitting all the bars and clubs in an attempt to make it as a star and leave his humble past behind.

Light My Fire - The Doors.   For a TV appearance the producers of the Ed Sullivan Show asked Jim Morrison to change the line 'girl we couldn't get much higher', to something more suitable. Morrison said he would, but sung the line anyhow, claiming he was nervous and forgot. This didn't go down too well and The Doors were never invited back.

Like A Prayer - Madonna.   Pepsi's commercial featuring Madonna's single 'Like A Prayer' only aired once before the company pulled it after seeing her video for the single. It aired during the Cosby Show.

Money For Nothing - Dire Straits.   A song about rock star excess and the easy life it brings compared with real work. Sting sings on this and helped write it. That's him at the beginning singing "I want my MTV." The innovative video was one of the first to feature computer generated animation. The characters were supposed to have more detail, like buttons on their shirts, but they used up the budget and had to leave it as is. 

Mr Lonely - Bobby Vinton.   The fourth and last of the No.1 singles by Vinton, it is the only one that was not a cover.

Mrs Robinson - Simon & Garfunkel.   Contains the famous line "Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio?" Dimaggio was a star baseball player for the New York Yankees who was briefly married to Marilyn Monroe. Simon was using him to represent heroes of the past. Dimaggio was a little miffed when he heard this, since he was still very much alive even though he retired from baseball in 1951.

Needles & Pins - The Searchers.   Two six-string guitars are playing in unison on the intro...it sounds like a 12-string guitar because an engineer accidentally left the echo switch on, but liked the result. Jackie DeShannon recorded the original in 1963, but her version barely made it onto the Hot 100.

Over The Rainbow - Judy Garland.   This was almost cut from the movie. Some executives from MGM thought the film was too long and wanted this removed. They thought it slowed down the action too early in the movie. This would have been sung by Shirley Temple if the producers could have gotten her to play Dorothy in the movie. She was their first choice.

Poor Side Of Town - Johnny Rivers.   Ray Charles did the string arrangement on this track. It was Johnny Rivers' only American chart topper.

Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell.   Rhinestones are fake jewels that are popular on Country-style clothing. A 'Rhinestone Cowboy' would be like someone who wants to be a real cowboy, but isn't. This was written and originally recorded by a Nashville-based singer named Larry Weiss. When Campbell heard this on his car radio he thought it could be about him and wanted to record it.

Rikki Don't Lose That Number - Steely Dan.   This is their highest charting single. The keyboard riff for this was taken from 'Song For My Father' by jazz composer Horace Silver. The opening of both songs are almost identical.

Roxanne - The Police.   About a man who falls in love with a prostitute. Sting got the idea for this after walking through the red-light district of Paris. He imagined what it would be like to fall in love with one of the prostitutes. Sting chose the name Roxanne because it has a rich history behind it. Roxanne was the name of Alexander The Great's wife and Cyrano DeBergerac's girlfriend. The laughing at the beginning is Sting. It was recorded when he tripped in the recording studio and fell over the piano.

Run - Leona Lewis.   This is a cover version originally recorded by 'Snow Patrol' and became the UK's faster ever selling digitally only download, selling 133,000 in it's first seven days of release. Snow Patrol vocalist Gary Lightbody said of the Lewis' version 'She obviously studied the song and thought long and hard about how to interpret it. She's stripped it to it's bare core - I think she sounds absolutely phenomenal.'

Sledgehammer - Peter Gabriel.   During a BBC radio interview, Gabriel reflected how he spent 16 hours lying beneath a sheet of heavy glass for the shooting of this video. The video was a major breakthrough in music videos, and Nick Park (Wallace & Grommit) worked on the animation scene where oven-ready chickens are dancing to a flute solo. Director Stephen Johnson also directed the Talking Heads video 'Road To Nowhere' from the previous year, where you will see similar editing techniques.

Stairway To Heaven - Led Zeppelin.   The most famous rock song of all time, it never charted because it was never released as a single to the general public. Radio stations received promotional singles which quickly became collector's items. This is about a woman who accumulates money, but finds out the hard way her life had no meaning and will not get her into heaven.

Sussudio - Phil Collins.   This track was recorded in his living room. When released in 1995, critics quoted a similarity to the hit '1999' by Prince. Latterly Phil mentioned that is was influenced by the Prince track - he was a big Prince fan, and that the original studio version sounded even more like the Prince track.

Tequila Sunrise - Eagles.   Glenn Frey came up with the title. He was up all night drinking tequila and the sun was rising when he finished the song. The line, "take another shot of courage" refers to how if you drink tequila, it will give you courage to talk to women (although maybe not coherently).

The Ballad Of Bonnie & Clyde - Georgie Fame.   Georgie Fame's biggest hit, this upset some moviegoers when it was first aired on the radio, as it gave away the ending to the film.

Ticket To Ride  - The Beatles.   This was the first Beatles song that was over 3 minutes long.

Walking In Memphis - Marc Cohn.   This was the first single for Cohn, who was discovered by Carly Simon. He won the 1991 Grammy for Best New Artist. The song line "walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale" refers to Beale Street, an actual street in Memphis. 

What's Going On - Marvin Gaye.   Gaye's lyrics in this song were inspired by the stories his brother Frankie told him when he came back from the Vietnam war.
 
What's Up - Four Non Blondes.   Originally titled, 'What's Going On', a line repeated many times throughout the chorus. By renaming it, they kept it from being confused with the 1971 Marvin Gaye classic. The group consisted of 4 women who really didn't have blond hair. They named the group Four Non Blondes because they wanted to be known for their music, not their looks.

Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton.   About Patti Harrison, Clapton's love interest at the time. They were married from 1979-1988. Clapton wrote this in 1976 while waiting for Patti to get ready for a night out. They were going to a Buddy Holly tribute that Paul McCartney put together, and Clapton was in the familiar position of waiting while she tried on clothes. Patti insisted on trying out outfit after outfit and each time she came downstairs he would say "You look wonderful". Becoming tired of this he eventually picked up his guitar and wrote the song 'Wonderful Tonight'.

Yesterday - The Beatles.   Paul McCartney's song 'Yesterday', which was recently voted the most popular song of the century by a BBC poll, had music written before the lyrics. Paul used the working words 'scrambled eggs' before coming up with 'yesterday' while composing this song.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Band Trivia

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808 State - The band are named after the famous Roland TR-808 drum machine, and were formed in Manchester , England in 1988. They are considered pioneers of the acid house scene. 

Abba - The name is an acronym of the first letters of the bands christian names (Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid). One of the best-selling music artists of all time, in 1978 they were Sweden’s most profitable export, car maker Volvo was number two. ABBA have never officially split, but they have not recorded music or sung together for over 26 years. Their last performance was on the British TV programme The Late, Late Breakfast Show (live from Stockholm) on 11 December 1982.

A-ha - Formed in Oslo in 1982, the origin of the name A-ha comes from the title of an early song 'The Juicyfruit Song'. This name was chosen because the phrase means the same in a number of languages. The band has sold over 60 million albums and 15 million singles worldwide, and are still considered to be within the top 50 largest grossing bands in the world from music sales, tours and merchandising. 'Take On Me' is still considered to be one of the top music videos of all time together with Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. In 1986, Michael Jackson was in the audience at their first US concert. Notable comments on the band's influence have been made by major artists such as Chris Martin (Coldplay), Adam Clayton (U2) and Graham Nash (crosby, Stills & Nash).

Ace Of Base - The band's first studio was in a basement, hence they became masters (ace) of their basement (base). Selling over 30 million albums worldwide, they are the third most successful Swedish band of all time, behind Abba and Roxette. 

All Saints - Formed originally as a trio in 1993, the British/Canadian band were named after All Saints Road, London. They thought of 'Spice' as their original name but decided it wasn't good enough. They appear at No.12 in the worlds best-selling girl groups of all time (3rd in Britain, behind Spice Girls and Bananarama). 

Aswad - They are are a British reggae group and have been performing since the mid-1970's. Their name means 'Black' in Arabic, and they have released over 20 albums. The band has toured extensively, playing in locations such as Montego Bay, West Africa, Israel and Japan.

Bachman Turner Overdrive - Often referred to by the initials BTO, they are a Canadian rock group which featured predominantly in the 1970's. The band's name is derived from a combination of the band members' surnames and a trucker magazine. They were also featured in The Simpsons episode 'Saddlesore Galactica'. In 2012, writers of three comic strips in the British weekly science fiction anthology 2000AD used the names Bachmann, Turner and Overdrive as the names of the three principal villains in a storyline starring Judge Dredd.

Backstreet Boys - American vocal harmony group named after Back Street Market, Orlando, Florida. They are the best-selling boy band of all time selling over 130 million records worldwide. On June 2, 1999, the Backstreet Boys embarked on the 'Into The Millennium Tour', which comprised 115 sold-out shows in 84 cities

Bay City Rollers - Often referred to as 'the tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh', the band randomly chose their name after sticking a pin in a map and it landing on Bay City, Michigan (which incidentally is the birthplace of 'Madonna'). Although best known for their hits 'Bye-Bye Baby' (a Four Seasons cover) and 'Shang-A-Lang', their first hit was 'Keep On Dancing' which reached No.9 in the UK charts in 1971. It was a cover of a 1965 hit by 'The Gentrys'. 

Billy Joel - Born William Martin Joel to an English Mother and German father, he was raised in The Bronx. Before deciding to pursue music as a career, Joel boxed as a welterweight on the amateur circuit in the New York area. He Released his first hit song 'Piano Man' in 1973, and has sold over 150 million records worldwide. Joel battled depression for many years. In 1970, a career downturn and personal problems aggravated his condition. He left a suicide note and attempted to commit suicide by drinking furniture polish, saying later, 'I drank furniture polish. It looked tastier than bleach'. In November 2010, Joel opened a shop on Oyster Bay, Long Island to manufacture custom-made, retro-styled motorcycles and accessories.

Bob Dylan - Originally named Robert Allen Zimmerman, he thought this name was too long, and was electing to call himself Robert Allan (until finding that there was already a saxophonist with this name). Being inspired by the writings of Dylan Thomas, he decided on the surname Dylan and chose the forename Bob because there were several 'Bobbies' in popular music at the time. Explaining his change of name in a 2004 interview, Dylan remarked: 'You're born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.'

Bon Jovi - Formed in 1983 they are an American rock band from Sayreville, New Jersey, consisting of Jon Bon Jovi (vocals/guitar), Richie Sambora (lead guitar), David Bryan (keyboards) and Tico Torres (drums). The band name is a re-spelling of the lead singer Jon Bon Jovi's real name John Francis Bongiovi (Jr). At 16, Bon Jovi met David Bryan and formed a band called Atlantic City Expressway. Still in his teens he then played in the band 'John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones', and by 1980 had formed another band 'The Rest'. 

Boney M - The band's German producer Frank Farian named them after Boney, the hero of an Australian TV series. Famous for hits such as 'Rivers Of Babylon', 'Brown Girl In The Ring' 'Mary's Boy Child' and 'Rasputin', the group has sold more than 150 million albums and singles worldwide. Boney M was hugely popular in the Soviet Union in the 1970s, although the song 'Rasputin' was banned by the Soviet authorities during the group's concert in Moscow in December 1978.

Bush - The band was formed in London (1992) and was named after the district Shepherd's Bush in London. Dave Parsons (bassist) joined Bush shortly after leaving the band Transvision Vamp. They toured with Nickelback on their 'Here and Now' tour.

Chicago - Self described as 'a rock & roll band with horns', they are one of the most successful and long-running rock groups in history. Originally named 'Chicago Transit Authority', they shortened their name to to Chicago when the actual Chicago Transit Authority (the operator of buses and trains in Chicago) threatened to sue. Lead vocalist Peter Cetera left the band at the end of 1985 to pursue a solo career.

Crowded House - The pop/rock band was formed in Melbourne, Australia in 1985. The band's name alludes to the cramped quarters they were sharing whilst recording their album in L.A. They are referred to as 'The Crowdies' by Australian fans. The track 'Chocolate Cake' is a humorous comment on American excesses that wasn't taken well by some US critics and sections of the public. Perhaps unsurprisingly it failed to chart in the US. Bassist Nick Seymour, who is also an artist, designed or co-designed all of the band's album covers and interior artwork. He also designed some of the costumes worn by the group, notably those from the cover of the group's debut album Crowded House

Cypress Hill - An American hip-hop group from California, named after a location where the first band members lived, Cypress Avenue, South Gate, Los Angeles. Selling over 18 million albums worldwide, they are one of the most well-known groups in West Coast rap and hip-hop in general. The sound and groove of their music is notable for its spooky sounds, together with bass-heavy rhythms and odd sample loops ('Insane in the Brain' is notable for having a pitched-altered horse neigh looped in its chorus).

David Bowie - David Robert Jones was born in Brixton, London in 1947. He changed his name to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of 'The Monkees'. The Bowie surname is a tribute to the Alamo hero Jim Bowie and his 'Bowie' knife. Bowie received a serious injury at school in 1962 when his friend George Underwood punched him in the left eye during a fight over a girl. Doctors feared he would become blind in that eye. After a series of operations during a four-month hospitalisation, his doctors determined that the damage could not be fully repaired and he was left with faulty depth perception and a permanently dilated pupil. The latter condition has misled some to believe that Bowie has different coloured eyes, when in reality both irises are the same blue colour. Despite their altercation, Underwood and Bowie remained good friends, and Underwood went on to create the artwork for Bowie's early albums. Throughout his career, he has sold an estimated 140 million albums.

Deacon Blue - Formed in Glasgow in 1985, Deacon Blue were one of the top-selling UK bands of the late 1980s and early 1990s. They took their name from the title of a song by Steely Dan (Deacon Blues). Ricky Ross, a former school teacher, was the group's frontman, penning the vast majority of Deacon Blue's songs. He married band member Lorraine McIntosh in 1990. Although the band split in 1994, they held a reunion gig in 1999, and the band continues to work on a part-time basis.

Depeche Mode - Formed in Basildon, Essex, the band name is derived from a French fashion magazine, loosely translated meaning hurried or fast fashion. They have sold over 100 million singles and albums worldwide and are probably the most popular electronic band the world has ever known.

Duran Duran - One of the most successful bans of the 80's, they were named after the character Dr. Durand-Durand from the science-fiction film 'Barbarella'. Formed in Birmingham UK (1978), they were resident band at the city's Rum Runner nightclub. The band were noted for their movie-like music videos, shot by professional directors with 35mm movie cameras.

Elton John - Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947, he derived his stage name from the two British musicians Elton Dean and Long John Baldry. He started playing piano at the age of 3, and had took up formal piano lessons by the age of 7. At the age of 15 he became a pianist in his local pub 'The Northwood Hills', earning £35 a week + tips. Early in his career he was also a session musician which included playing piano on The Hollies' 'He Ain't Heavy' and backing vocals for the band The Scaffold. In 1979 John became one of the first western artists to tour the Soviet Union. In 1986 he played piano on two tracks for heavy metal band Saxon, on their album 'Rock The Nation'. John's voice was once classed as tenor although now it is baritone. A longtime tennis enthusiast, he wrote the song 'Philadelphia Freedom' as a tribute to his long-time friend Billie Jean King (her tennis franchise has the same name).

Elvis Costello - Originally named Declan McManus, he derived the stage name from a combination of his grandmother's maiden name and Elvis Presley. A vegetarian since the early 1980's, Costello says he was moved to reject meet after seeing the documentary 'The Animals Film' (1982), which also inspired his song 'Pills & Soap'.

Engelbert Humperdinck - Arnold George Dorsey was born in Madras, India (one of ten children). As a child he moved to Leicester, England. He originally performed as Gerry Dorsey, playing saxophone in various nightclubs before moving into singing, but latterly changed his name to that of the German 'Hansel and Gretel' composer. He also fronted a television show 'The Engelbert Humperdinck Show', although this was rather short-lived. He represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in Baku, where he came in 25th place (out of 26) with 12 points.

Eric Clapton -  Born in Surrey, England, Clapton has been referred to as one of the most influential guitarists of all time.  Born in 1945 to an unwed mother, he grew up believing that his grandparents, Rose and Jack, were his parents and his mother was his sister. This was to shield him from the shame as this was quite often frowned upon during this time. Clapton cites Freddie King, B.B. King and Albert King as guitar playing influences (bit of a 'king' thing going on here). He stated blues musician Robert Johnson to be his single biggest influence, and to be 'the most important blues musician who ever lived'.   

Eurythmics - Synthpop duo comprising of Annie Lennox and Dave Stuart, the band name is a respelling of a classical dance and music technique called 'Eurhythmics'. Taken from their second album 'Sweet Dreams' the title track was a worldwide success topping the charts in many countries.

Everything But The Girl - The duo met at the University of Hull, England (1982) and took their name from the slogan of a shop on Beverley Road called 'Turner's Furniture'. Their most famous track is entitled 'Missing' and was remixed by Todd Terry. The shop slogan read 'for your bedroom needs, we sell everything but the girl'.

Fleetwood Mac - Record sales exceed 140 million worldwide, and they are ranked No.22 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists Of Rock & Roll. They derived the name from the surnames of the rhythm section of the band Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. On a US tour in 1971, Guitarist Jeremy Spencer left his hotel to visit a book shop and did not return. He was eventually tracked down and found to have joined the religious group Children of God, and declared that he no long wanted to be part of the group.

Guns 'n' Roses - Formed in Los Angeles, California, the name originates from combining the names of the two previous bands from which the band members came (Axl Rose and Tracii Guns). They have been credited with reviving the popularity of rock music at a time when music was dominated by pop-metal and dance music. They embarked on a tour, the 'Use Your Illusion Tour' lasting over 2 years, which is still currently the longest tour in rock history.

Hall & Oates - An American musical duo comprising of Daryl Franklyn Hohl and John William Oates. They were from competing bands in a competition at the Adelphi Ballroom in Philadelphia in 1967. Whilst waiting to perform, gunfire between two rival gangs broke out and the couple met in the elevator whilst making their escape. Hall & Oates surpassed the Everly Brothers as the most successful duo in rock history, having earned 19 gold and platinum awards.

Herman's Hermits - Formed in Manchester, England (1963), the band commented on lead vocalist Peter Noone's resemblance to the character 'Sherman' in 'Peabody's Improbable History' (a cartoon in the 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' show), however the bassist Karl Green misheard the name as 'Herman', and it stuck ever since.

Jamiroquai - Greater Manchester born lead singer Jay Kay (Jason Cheetham) chose this name as a combination of 'jam session' and 'iroquai' (the latter referring to his empathy toward the Native American Iroquios tribe). 'Buffalo Man' is the name of the dark silhouette character, sketched by Jay Kay and featuring on many of their releases. He has a strong love of exotic cars and owns over 60 including various models of Ferrari and Porsche. In 2007 he drove a Maserati Quattroporte in the Gumball 3000 Rally as part of Team Adidas. 

John Denver - Originally named Henry John Deutschendorf Jnr., he used the surname Denver as a tribute to the state of Colorado which he loved. One of the most popular acoustic artists of the 70's, he began his career in folk music groups during the 60's. During his career he had released approx. 300 songs, about 200 of which he wrote himself. The Colorado state legislature adopted 'Rocky Mountain High' as one of it's state songs in 2007. He was an avid pilot, and died whilst flying his personal aircraft at the age of 53. Upon announcement of Denver's death, Colorado governor Roy Romer ordered all state flags to be flown at half mast.

Keane - Keane are known as 'the band with no guitars' for using a piano/synth as the lead instrument instead of guitars, differentiating them from most other rock/pop bands. Originally named 'Cherry Keane', after an older lady the boys knew when they were younger. 'Cherry' was eventually removed from the name to just become 'Keane'. Since the start of their career the band have sold over 10 million albums worldwide.

Kool & The Gang - The 'Kool' in the name refers to vocalist/bassist Robert 'Kool' Bell. The band started it's career as a pure jazz outfit called the 'Jazziacs'. In 2012 they toured with Van Halen. How 'kool' is that?

Level 42 - Named after the supercomputer's response to the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything, in 'Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy'. The response after 7.5 years calculation was...42. Mark King's slap-bass guitar playing was the driving force behind many of the band's hits. In 1992 King toured as a solo act, and played at the Jazz Cafe in London under the name The Mark King Group.

Linkin Park - An American rock band formed in 1996 from Agoura Hills, California. The name Linkin Park is a homage to Lincoln Park in Santa Monica. They wanted to utilise the name Lincoln Park, however changed it to Linkin Park to acquire the internet domain name linkinpark.com. Linkin Park's influences include Nine Inch Nails, Deftones and Aphex Twin, and they are the first rock band to achieve more than 1 billion YouTube hits.

Lionel Richie - Born Lionel Brockman Richie (Jr). Richie was a star tennis player during high school, and during his music career has enjoyed a remarkable run of 13 consecutive top ten hits, including five number ones.

Little River Band - An Australian rock band who chose it's name after passing a road sign leading to the township of Little River, near Geelong. They have enjoyed sustained commercial success in both Australia and the U.S., selling more than 25 million records. During 1982-1986 vocalist Glen Shorrock was replaced by John Farnham.

Lynyrd Skynyrd - The band Lynyrd Skynyrd took their name from their Physical Education teacher, Leonard Skinner. Skinner had given some of the band members a hard time in school because of their long hair. Ask someone to spell this bands name - unless they're a fan, it's unlikely they'll get it right first time.

M People - Originating from Manchester, England, the band's name is short for 'Mike's People', and refers to the band's founder member Mike Pickering, one of the original DJ's from the famous Hacienda in Manchester. Heather Small became the lead vocalist of the group with her distinctive vocal style.

Pink Floyd - One of the most commercially successful and influential groups in the history of popular music, they have sold more than 250 million albums worldwide. When they played in front of a large lake at the Crystal Palace Bowl in London in 1970, they played so loud that a number of fish were killed. Regarded as pioneers of live music performance and sonic experimentation, Pink Floyd have influenced numerous artists including David Bowie, Queen, Tool, Radiohead, Kraftwerk, Queensryche, Nine Inch Nails, The Orb and Smashing Pumpkins.

Singing - Starting Out?

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There are many reasons why people choose to sing to an audience. Allowing others to share in something you really enjoy can be one of the most worthwhile experiences. We hope the next few paragraphs make useful reading, and perhaps help in your new singing career or experience.

Choosing the right song


An important factor commonly overlooked is choosing which backing tracks are best suited to you and your vocal range. We all have our personal favourite's and like to sing them, although sometimes the songs we like to sing are not best suited to our vocal range. We can have a backing track changed to a specific key, although depending on how far this needs to be changed from the original, the subtle nuances and instruments that were specifically intended for the song can have an unfavorable result on the overall effect. 

Singing along to our favourite track on the radio can have quite a different effect once it is performed minus the original vocals. I'm sure many of us have experienced the karaoke disasters performed by those who thought they could sing a particular song? The major difference here is that karaoke is usually for fun, and it doesn't really matter if you're good or bad as you're not usually paid for your performance. Indeed, some people enjoy listening to an off-key singer during a karaoke performance. In reality, clubs, pubs, auditions or any fee-paying gigs are not as forgiving. 

Try to have a good mix, including many of the older 'classics'. Music has a much faster turnaround today, therefore many of the chart tracks in recent years have less potential to be recognised by a mixed age audience.

An important tip...make sure the song is right for you. Ask family and friends to be honest in their opinion about the songs you choose. These are typical members of your future audience. The most successful artists are the ones who aim to be different, and hand-pick varied quality music covering a number of music genres, rather than attempting to sing a number of different songs every week, irrespective of the quality of the track or the likelihood that the track will still be known or appreciated in a couple of years. Try and stand out from the crowd - the likelihood is that you will receive more bookings, from a wide variety of different venues.

Quality of backing tracks is essential to a successful career - remember that a song may be used hundreds of times during your work. It's amazing that some people will spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on their PA speakers, mixer and microphones, yet download karaoke tracks from the internet. Many of these tracks have already been copied from one format to another (each time losing quality along the way). Some also purchase hastily produced backing tracks from re-sellers because they are a few pennies each (the quantity over quality trap). 

Choose your tracks carefully - using a poor quality track with your nice PA system is the equivalent of putting a piece of mouldy cheese into an expensive fridge, and expecting the cheese to come out fresher. The best PA system in the world will only accentuate the faults within the track (background noise/badly mixed instruments etc.). It cannot make it sound 'better'. Your good tracks will obviously sound better with a good PA system, although your bad tracks will probably sound worse. It really is as simple as that, bad sound in = bad sound out.

 Repertoire

Try to have a good mix to your repertoire. Performances are usually 2 x 45 minutes or 3 x 30 minutes. Within this time you should attempt to provide a mixture of material covering a number of eras and tempos. If you have enough material, try to be selective to suit your audience rather than using a general running order. Sometimes even the most stubborn crowds can become compassionate once they hear a few familiar tunes.

Singing and dancing

Singing and dancing to up-tempo tracks is generally considered as one of the most difficult things to achieve to perfection on stage. Due to vocal techniques and breathing requirements, it is important to realise that there is usually a tradeoff between the two. You may want to be the complete entertainer but there are very few vocalists who can sustain the quality of singing to their desired level whilst dancing. It's great to show the audience that you're multi-talented, however it is essential that you understand when one aspect may be detracting from the other. Try to find a compromise between the two and you won't go far wrong.

Microphone and technique

One of the most important pieces of equipment you will purchase, the microphone, basically comes in two varieties. Corded (with lead) and radio-microphone (cordless). Generally, you will achieve far better quality from a corded microphone than from a radio microphone of equivalent price. Radio microphones are great for those who dislike a wire trailing around the stage, and for those who wish to involve audience participation, however if vocal quality and price is paramount, the corded microphone is usually the better buy. Microphones are the link between you and your audience (although we mustn't forget the speakers).

The choice of songs performed during your performance should dictate the way in which to use the microphone. There is an old tried and trusted method of leaving the microphone in its' stand for the 'ballad' or sentimental numbers. This seems to add subtlety and sincerity to a performance. This technique has been used successfully for many years, therefore there's no reason to suspect that it should not be used today.

The microphone should be held gently between your fingers, with the fingers slightly spread apart. Try not to 'cup' the microphone, as this can significantly increase the likelihood of feedback through the speakers. Take the microphone away from your mouth when you reach loud high notes to avoid the vocals sounding too overpowering. By varying the distance of the microphone from your mouth, you will find this an extremely useful way of keeping even volume levels between the very soft/very loud passages. Try to avoid singing over the top of the microphone, unless intended, as a portion of the vocal sound will be lost when relayed through the speakers.

Criticism - how should it affect you?

Music is an industry in which many people voice their opinions - and, to use sports people or actors as a comparison, we all have our personal favourite's What one person likes another can loathe. This can be good or bad depending on how criticism is viewed. How many times have we had discussions with friends or colleagues about the quality of a singer or song? Sometimes it is about the type of music that we do not like, other times it can be the vocalist or band. These are factors within the entertainment industry based on human preference - which is why we all choose different houses, cars, partners and so on.

The important thing is to learn when criticism is useful, and when it is merely an opinion. There may be times when you are singing at an audition, competition, pub or club, and nobody seems to take notice. When a person wants to be entertained their expectations can be entirely different than those people sat on the next table to them. It is essential that you learn to accept these experiences without feeling that you have underachieved. If you have performed elsewhere and the crowd have been pleased or you have received a re booking, you must be doing something right! Even the world's top vocalists have an army of people that would rather be elsewhere than spend a night at one of their concerts.

Stage Presentation

An important part of your performance whether for audition or occupation is the ability to communicate effectively and comfortably with the audience. This may involve a simple introduction before the your first number. There is no hard and fast rule regarding what you should say, however you should find with experience that you soon develop your own rapport which makes you and your audience feel a little more comfortable.

If possible, try to avoid routinely introducing each track with the artist name and song title - add a little more normal conversation and this should help the audience to feel at ease. The sooner that the audience recognise that you are at ease with the situation, the more comfortable they will feel.

Depending on your venue, there are certain dress codes and presentation which are deemed acceptable. Many public houses are quite happy for you to perform without a change of outfit for the complete performance, however most cabaret clubs expect a change of outfit per set (or spot). Although your performance may be suited to a more modern era, and perhaps looks quite suitable for performance in jeans and T-shirt, there a still a number of customers, concert secretaries and committee members that would deem this dress code inappropriate for a cabaret performance. This is not to say that they are right or wrong, however, as we mentioned earlier acceptance within the music industry is often based on people's expectations and preferences.

A re-booking can hinge as much on presentation as vocal talent. An important thing to remember is that when you receive a booking you are undertaking a form of employment, and may at times be expected to dress in a way which you do not feel most comfortable. This is quite a similar situation to a male office worker who is required to wear a shirt and tie. If in doubt, always contact the venue first. This not only raises the chance of a re booking, it also shows a willingness to please.

We hope this brief information has been of some use, and will soon be featuring more articles concerning equipment purchase and other relevant features. Good luck with your future performances, and most of all...enjoy.
 

Singing - Finding Work

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Finding Work

Once you have purchased the necessary equipment, and have enough material to provide approximately 2 hours entertainment (most spots are usually 2 x 45 minutes in length or 3 x 30 minutes - the extra 30 minutes of tracks are necessary for times when you may be expected to sing a few extra numbers at the end of your performance), the next step will be to find enough work to either earn a sustainable income or use as additional income. There are numerous ways to increase your booking potential - some are surprisingly inexpensive and others require a substantial amount of time and effort, for which there may be no guarantee. We shall cover the possibilities as follows :-

Entertainment Agencies

One of the most common methods for finding work is to use an Entertainment Agency. These can be considered similar to an Employment Agency. The agency will try to find work for you, for which there is usually a commission fee payable. There are many agencies to choose from, each having their own criteria. Varying commission rates are charged amongst different agencies, and also some are VAT Registered (meaning that you may be required to pay commission plus VAT). A decision to use an agency should not be based on these factors alone, but should be based on the overall package. One agency may charge a higher rate of commission than another, however if they are able to find you more work at better venues, or with venues that pay a higher fee for the artistes, then this can be beneficial.
An important point to consider is the area in which an agency operates; are the venues likely to be within a reasonable travelling distance from your location? If not it is important to consider the additional fuel expenses which may be incurred when travelling to the venue.
Contact as many agencies as you think appropriate - many do not charge for registration. Some may wish to see you perform at either an audition show or a local venue before they will offer work. This can only be deemed acceptable as the reputation of the agency is at stake - and it will be the agency that is contacted by the venue if the entertainment was unsatisfactory.

Audition Shows

A good way to showcase your talents is to attend audition shows. These are held by various agencies or concert secretaries - details of which can usually be found in local music/entertainment brochures. It is quite common for the artiste/s to perform a few tracks on a no-fee basis. This may seem a little harsh, however this does give everyone a chance to see a sample of your performance prior to a booking. There may be a number of landlords and concert secretaries at your audition show, therefore the few free numbers you have performed may turn out to be extremely worthwhile. If you do not receive a booking do not worry, there can be many reasons. Some people are especially looking for duos as opposed to individual vocalists etc. Try to use the audition as a learning experience - you will have gained some invaluable experience of performing on stage, in front of a live audience.

Talent Competitions

Although you are now looking for professional work, it can be important not to overlook advertised talent competitions. These can be extremely useful as there are usually music-related people attending these events. As an example, I recently attended a talent competition whereby one of the judges owned a vocal recording studio. The prize on offer was a studio session to produce your own CD. Steve's Trax sponsored the event providing free backing tracks, therefore the winners received quite a lucrative prize. The venues which host these events usually are involved in entertainment, therefore there is also a chance of receiving a booking.

Promote Yourself

One of the most overlooked methods, yet one of the easiest, is self-promotion. The internet has opened up advertising opportunities which were previously only available to large corporate companies. Have you considered setting up a web page advertising your talents? This can now be achieved in minutes with the many basic web editing packages that are on offer. Your website could consist of a photograph, description of your music style and details of equipment used. If you are considering updating the site regularly you could even list your future available dates. Start an online blog, this could have details of your forthcoming gigs, and be a good way for audience members to keep in touch. Perhaps consider advertising in a local pub/club brochure, these can be surprisingly inexpensive. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Which Brand?



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One of the hardest questions to answer is which brand should you choose. 

There are hundreds of brands on the market, each catering for a specific need and price bracket. Unfortunately there are not a great many resources providing feedback regarding tried and tested equipment. Every equipment producer will always promote their product with a bias towards making a sale (which is only natural), however your aim is to purchase equipment which fits your requirements exactly. I would recommend watching acts at different sized venues and listening to the quality of sound. Choose acts which have the same number of band members as your own, to ensure the equipment setup is feasible for your own purpose. You may hear a great sound from a five piece band, however the likelihood is that there would be a lot of equipment used that would not be necessary for a smaller setup.

Don't be afraid to approach the artistes with a few questions, as many people are only too willing to provide honest feedback on equipment they are currently using, and equipment they have previously purchased, and now avoid. These are the best people to provide advice as they are not trying to sell the equipment, and have also had the opportunity to put the equipment through it's paces.

Once you watch a vocalist or band, try and focus on the sound, this is not necessarily the quality of the music, more importantly it is the depth and clarity of sound coming from the speakers. Try and listen to the bass notes (are they deep but still smooth), the high notes (are they clear, but not uncomfortable), and the vocals (do they add richness to the singer's voice, without being uncomfortable to the ear). If the answers to these questions are yes, the chances are that you are listening to good equipment, which has been set up correctly. Take a note of the brands of equipment used, and use this as a basis from which you can now look around with a view to purchasing. 

You may not find that everything falls into place immediately, as the equipment may be too expensive, or difficult to locate, however the main thing is that you have now listened to equipment in it's natural setting, and have gained some knowledge about which equipment sounds good, and which to avoid. You will undoubtedly find that you start to see the same brands and models of speakers/amplifiers/microphones appearing on stage time and time again. This is always a good sign that the equipment is preferred by the majority.

Some typical well-established brands are:

Mackie, EV (Electro-Voice), RCF (purchased by Mackie in the mid-90's), Crown, Nexo, Dynacord, QSC, Crest, Roland, JBL, Boss, Alesis, Tascam (Teac Professional Division), Studiomaster, Peavey, Sennheiser, Shure, Lexicon, Soundtech, Beyerdynamic, Chevin, Cerwin-Vega, AKG, Audio-Technica, Soundcraft, Yamaha, Beyerdynamic, Bose, DAS, Allen & Heath and Marshall.

Although there are hundreds of brands to choose from, it is important to remember that although a product may carry a brand name, there are always low-budget pieces of equipment produced by these companies, which may not sound anywhere near as good as the mid to higher range of equipment. As the saying goes; 'Rome wasn't built in a day' therefore it is worth realising that you may not immediately purchase the setup of your preference, due to available budget or availability of product. In this case, the lower end branded product or higher-end non branded product may suffice.

Big Is Not Always Better

A common mistake made by many people is to purchase an incompatible system. This is the equivalent of throwing money down the drain. Regarding sound quality, your system can be split approximately into two halves (50% of quality comes from the speakers, the other 50% comes from the amplifier/mixer/microphone and effects). One doesn't perform to it's potential without the other. For example, due to available budget, purchase may be made of a set of expensive high output professional speakers, however only a small amplifier can be afforded. 

The problem here is that although the speakers can handle 10 times the power that your amplifier can produce, they will never sound as good as intended, and probably only sound as good as a low-budget speaker. A speaker needs to be 'driven' to a certain volume before it displays the characteristics that makes it a good speaker. If the power is too low, or the speaker cannot be used at a high enough level (perhaps due to the size of venues that are being played), then it will not perform to it's potential. Similarly if you purchase a huge expensive amplifier but can only afford lower quality/output speakers, the same rule applies. 

Speakers/amplifiers only running at a small portion of their intended capacity will only produce a small portion of their intended quality. The general rule of thumb is to decide on your budget, and then purchase compatible speakers and amplifiers. They do not need to be of the same brand (and in many cases are not), however the size of venues and handling capacity needs careful consideration.
 
A Word Of Caution

Please resist the temptation to try and gig with a TV/Video surround-sound system. There have been a few people who have purchased a large surround-sound system thinking that the sound quality in their home lounge will be replicated in a pub or club environment. There is always huge disappointment when it becomes clear that the sound has little chance of carrying past the first twenty feet or so. A dedicated PA amp/speaker set-up is the only cost-effective way to offer a professional experience to the public.

Product Worth A Mention

Although we appreciate that artists will always have a preference, every once in a while a product is produced which stands the test of time regarding performance and durability. One of the products we feel we must give a mention to is the Shure SM58 microphone. Still used by seasoned pro's today, if you want a durable first microphone and are on a limited budget, you can't go far wrong using one of these. Over a number of years the SM58 became the vocal industry standard for consistent performance and durability that very few other microphones have been able to emulate.

To avoid worry about compatibility and technicalities, the safest route as a beginner is to follow paragraph one, and listen to the various products in their natural surrounding. After all, you know what you like to hear - and if it sounds good to you when listening as a member of the audience, you won't go far wrong with a similar setup.

Basic PA System Setup

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Basic PA setup

An easy way to remember the signal direction (whether to plug your equipment into inputs or outputs), is to remember that anything traveling from the direction of your microphone into the mixer should generally be plugged into the inputs of the mixer, whilst anything traveling out from the mixer (to the speakers/monitors etc.), should generally be plugged into the output. Always remember the amplifier/mixer as the central piece of equipment, and you shouldn't go far wrong.

  1. Firstly, make sure all plugs are removed from sockets and power is off.
  2. Plug the end of the microphone cord into the input socket of the mixer (input line 1 of the mixer could be used). There may be two alternative input jacks - a standard jack plug or XLR connection. Many corded microphones have the XLR type connection, however either of these connections will suffice for a basic setup.
  3. Plug one end of the speaker cable into the output socket of the mixer/amplifier. The speaker outputs are frequently found at the back of a mixer.
  4. Plug the other end of the speaker cable into the input socket on the rear of the speaker.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with the speaker cable for the additional speaker.
  6. Plug the amplifier/mixer into the mains.
  7. Switch on.
There we have it!  Your first PA setup.

PA setup including monitors


Monitors, although not suitable for every environment, should become an essential part of every professional musician's equipment. The reason for this is that on many occasions a vocalist or instrumentalist will be stood slightly behind the speakers. This makes it almost impossible to hear the clarity and sound that the audience is hearing. The performer does not necessarily want to hear the sound as loud as the audience, however the monitor relays an isolated sound to the performer, so he/her can easily distinguish the clarity, without too many distractions. For this reason, monitors face towards the stage and are are usually angled from the floor directly toward the performer.


The setup should follow the same as above, however if your mixer/amplifier has a monitor out socket, this can be used with a separate amplifier to allow independent controlling of volume levels to the monitors (N.B. you would want to hear sound from the monitors at a lower level than that of the main speakers). Many monitors have their own volume controls for this purpose. Powered monitors (monitors which have their own built-in amplifier), are available which avoid the need of a separate amplifier.

Common questions


Q. Why can't I keep connecting more and more speakers to make my system louder?

A. All amplifiers are designed to deliver their maximum amount of power into a certain number of speakers. This number is indicated (usually located near the speaker jacks) as impedance and is rated in Ohms (named after the man who discovered this electrical property). The most common amplifier impedance is 4 Ohms. This means that the amplifier will put out the most amount of power (be loudest) when it has a total of 4 Ohms worth of speakers connected to it. It will put out less power (be quieter) if the total of the speakers calculates to be more than 4 Ohms. The goal in any PA setup is to try and get the speakers to calculate up to, but not less than, the amplifier's rated impedance. If the speakers add up to less than the amplifier's rated impedance, the amplifier tries to put out more power than it was designed to do and may overheat and cause damage.

Generally speaking, the more speakers you add to your PA, the lower the impedance number becomes. This is why you cannot just add more and more speakers to make everything louder. Fortunately, most modern day amplifiers have built in protection to shut down the amplifier when it gets too hot. This is called load protection.


Q. What are the differences between microphones?

A. There are mainly two types of microphone used in a live PA environment :-
i. Dynamic microphones - Usually the most rugged, consisting of a coil that moves through a magnet field to introduce a small electrical signal (a similar principle to how speakers work). They tend to have a limited frequency response.
ii. Condenser microphones - now one of the most popular microphones. Although not usually as rugged as dynamic microphones, they usually have a broader frequency range, and require a power source to operate (either an internal battery, 'phantom power' as provided built-in by many mixers, or an external power pack).

Additional microphone info


iii. Uni directional microphones - often sold as 'cardioid', these are usually the most common, as they only pick up sound from an area in front, and around the front of the microphone. Omni directional microphones are rarely used in live vocal environments, as they pick up sound from all directions. They are however quite regularly used in 'interview' environments, where the microphone does not travel a great distance, and the pick up of surrounding sound is not an issue.

Q. Should I use a corded or cordless (wireless) microphone.

A. This is really down to preference, and the nature of your act. Generally speaking, if you tend to move forward of the stage by some distance, or do not like the idea of a trailing lead, then a cordless microphone may be more suitable. Bear in mind that if you have a limited budget, or do not tend to need a cordless microphone, then you will always get a much better quality corded microphone than cordless for the same price. Beware of very cheap cordless microphones - these are usually not suitable for anything more than home use. You really do get what you pay for with microphones.

PA Terminology

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If you are new to PA equipment, here's a terminology list :-

Basic Terminology

Amplifier - The part of the system that amplifies the sound. May be purchased independently (with a separate mixer) or can be purchased as an integrated unit (a powered mixer). 

Channels - 'Input' channels usually relate to those items coming into the amplifier/mixer (microphones, or other equipment which needs to be amplified or mixed). 'Output' channels usually relate to those items leaving the amplifier/mixer (speakers/monitors etc.)

Delay -An electronic circuit or effects unit - purpose being to delay the audio signal for a specific period of time.

Equaliser - Equipment used to alter specific frequencies of the sound, thus having a precise overall effect on the sound heard from the speakers. This equipment is commonly integrated into an amplifier or mixer, and is now seldom used as a stand-alone unit.

Fader - Another name for an audio level control. Usually refers to a straight-line slider rather than a rotary control.

Jack - Commonly used term to refer to an 'input/output' socket.

Level - Another word for signal voltage, (volume, strength or power.)

Line-In (Input/Return) - This is where a signal enters the amplifier/mixer.

Line-Out (Output/Send) - This is where a signal leaves the amplifier/mixer.

Master Volume - Microphone volumes and backing track levels can be controlled independently via the input channels, however the master volume is used to increase or decrease the sound of the overall performance (microphone and instruments simultaneously.)

Mixer - This is the piece of equipment which enables you to control various settings such as the volume of individual microphones/instruments, pan, bass, midrange and treble. There may also be onboard effects such as reverb, chorus, delay, echo etc. Many mixers are referred to as having 6, 8, 12, channels etc. This relates to the number of different microphones or instruments that can be connected to the mixer. E.g. three connected microphones would use 3 channels (or lines) of the available 8 on an eight channel mixer. A powered mixer is an integrated unit that can combine amplifier, equaliser, mixing deck and effects.

Monitors - Additional speakers, commonly placed in front of the vocalist/instrumentalist, enabling them to clearly hear their own sound/performance.

Pan - This refers to controls on the mixer used to adjust the amount of volume sent between left and right speakers. Although very useful when sound from a left or right speaker may be hindered or obtrusive, many people usually leave the panning knobs central.

Phantom Power - A system providing power for condenser microphones from the mixer. Most quality microphones are designed to use +48 VDC phantom power.

Return - A mixer line input dedicated to the task of returning sound from effects devices such as reverb units, echo units etc.

Phono Plug/Jack - Commonly found on consumer audio equipment. One of the most inexpensive connection types - use alternatives if available on your equipment.

XLR Connector - Three-pin connector used in audio for transmitting a balanced signal (microphones etc.) - also referred to as a Cannon connector.