Some people seem really scared about booking a band for their wedding, so I’ve compiled these handy hints to show what you need to know to choose and book the perfect band for your wedding
Making Your Big Day Extra Special
You want your special day to be remembered, you want to round off with a great party and some great music, you want everyone to have a good time and be talking about your special night for many years to come.
So what’s the best entertainment to round off your big day and complete your evening in style?
Are you looking to hire a DJ, Band, Duo or Solo Singer with backing tracks?
So many people panic over this, “But I don’t know any bands/musicians/DJs and have no idea how to go about booking one”.
These days, with the internet, it’s easier than you think to book acts directly and get exactly what you want and it may not be as expensive as you think. You can search, review, listen to and watch hundreds of potential bands all from the comfort of your living room.
Consider the type of music that you and your guests would like, then search for bands that might cover the relevant genres, do you want Soul, Disco, Funk, Rock, Blues, R&B, Rock & Roll, Latin, dance, tribute band or a mixture. There are acts out there to cover all tastes.
Work out how much you want to spend.
Set your budget, work out the most you want to be spending as your ceiling that you aren’t willing to go above.
If you find an act you like is too expensive, then go back to them and let them know your top budget and see if there’s any room for negotiation. It’s possible that their price involves many hours of waiting time, in which they are expected to set up and sound check their equipment in the morning, and have to wait around all day before playing on the night time. You may be able to arrange for them to arrive after your reception and set up in a couple of hour window before the evening begins.
Wedding Venue Considerations
When selecting your wedding venue, you’ll need to consider the following:
How big is the function room?
Is it quite small and can only handle a solo singer with backing tracks or a duo?
Does the venue have a suitable music performance license and does it cover a live band?
Choosing Your Band
Once you have searched the internet for possible bands, pull together a short list (a spreadsheet is great for making a checklist for comparisons) and use the following criteria (and any other you can think of) to rank the acts:
Do they have a professional looking website?
What kind of image do they have e.g. what do they wear when they play their shows? Do they make a special effort, or do they just wear jeans and T-shirts?
Do they have demos you can listen to? Most bands should have at least a couple of studio quality tracks you can either listen to from their website or download.
How much do they charge? Make sure everything is covered in the price – waiting time (especially if an early set-up is required), travel costs, overnight stays, food, congestion charges, tolls, VAT, parking costs. As you don’t want to be faced with any hidden extras.
Where will they be travelling from? This will give you an idea of the potential for negotiation on price, if it’s a long distance it may be unlikely.
Are they free on the date you want?
Will they ‘pencil you in’ to their diary and do they require a deposit to hold that date (which is probably non-refundable). There are so many people who enquire about a date and don’t make a firm booking, then come back later to find the date has been filled. Bear in mind that the very next phone call a band gets may be to book for the same date as you.
Are they willing/able to play any requests (e.g. your chosen first dance) and how much notice do they require to learn your chosen song(s), and is there a cost for doing that.
The most important thing I would suggest you check out is, do they have any live footage you can watch? You Tube is a great source. Studio demos are fine, but in this digital auto-tune age they can be altered to make the band sound better than they actually are.
Do they have a Sample set list? This is handy so you can really see if they play the songs you want to hear
How long will they play? Normally you can expect a band to play 2 x 45 minutes or 2 x 60 minutes plus maybe a 10 minute encore and allow for a break after the first set. I would also assume that they would start playing after 9pm. Which works you towards a probable finish of 11.30pm as most wedding venues like to be clearing up after midnight, plus you may end up paying more for the band if you expect them to play after midnight, even if the venue is agreeable.
It’s probably best that a full band would not be playing while people are eating. If you could have some incidental background music, or you hire an acoustic act, classical guitarist, harpist to play during the meal. The very nature of a full band (especially with drums) makes it difficult to play very softly while your guests are making polite conversation.
If you want to save money on also having to pay a DJ, the band will probably have a laptop with suitable party songs that could be playing through their PA while they are not performing, or they may allow you to provide an ipod of songs you have chosen to play through the PA. There may be an extra charge for this service, but it will probably work out cheaper than hiring a DJ.
Do they have quality equipment? Do they have full PA and lighting rig? Is the equipment PAT tested for electrical safety (the wedding venue will probably need to know this).
Are they insured for public liability?
Allow enough time for the band to load in and sound check – 2 hours is about average,
Provide the band with full address of the venue, times and a venue contact name and phone number.
What You Need To Provide for the Band
It is good practise to get the best out of the performers to provide some kind of meal/sandwiches, soft drinks, a room for them to get changed in (how would you feel if you had to change into your glad-rags in a public toilet?), arrange parking as close to the venue as possible to aid their loading in (they will have lots of heavy equipment they’ll need to carry), and times they can access the venue.
Also, provide a person in your party who will act as contact for the band, as you will be busy, it’s often either the best man or the wedding planner/organiser if you have one. Swap mobile numbers beforehand in case of any last minute hitches. This is also probably the best person to arrange to pay the band
Provide running time list of how you expect the evening to go, weddings are notorious for running late, so when you first draft the list it’s best to try and work back from the end of the night starting with the time the venue expects you to vacate.
Always pay the band prior to playing, this saves any uncomfortable issues at the end of the night, when the guy who has the money in his pocket has disappeared off to his room and the band are chasing around for their payment.
Hope that helps
Over the past few years a number of my guitar students have asked me how I work out the guitar and bass parts for the songs I play. I’d like to share with you a few tips and tools that I have used to help me.
Back in the old pre-digital, pre-internet days you had two choices, you could either go out and buy the sheet music for the tunes you wanted to play, or you sit down and listed to your vinyl discs or cassette tapes (or 8 track tapes if anyone remembers them) and somehow tried to work it out for yourself.
The sheet music choice let to certain difficulties, that if you wanted to learn a song and play along with your records, you had to find sheet music that a) was in the correct key, and b) actually contained the correct line that you wanted to play, c) was actually available to buy, d) assuming you could actually read sheet music.
The most frustrating sheet music book I ever bought was the Beatles Complete for Easy Guitar, it was inaccurate in many ways. The title was the first inaccuracy as it didn’t include any of the George Harrison songs (I really wanted to learn the solo from While My Guitar Gently Weeps – which was apparently played on the record by Eric Clapton).
The second inaccuracy was the actual chords, working out early on that some of the weird fingered chords from the book bore no resemblance to the actual chords played by John and George, and no mention of the great bass lines played by Paul.
I wanted to work out the guitar solo on “Badge” written by George Harrison as recorded by Cream. I managed to get hold of the 12” 45rpm record and set about my task.
The big trouble was that at age 16 with two years of playing experience on a cheap Lorenzo acoustic, with massive action, now armed with my brand new Satellite Stratocaster, I was nowhere near as good or as fast as Mr Clapton.
The non-guitar tools I had at my disposal were a Portable Record player with a flip top lid (and controls consisted of an on/off/volume and a tone knob), a cheap Sonix portable cassette recorder, a set of pitch pipes (to tune my guitar), a pad and a biro.
The record player had two speeds 45rpm and 33rpm, and I worked out that, if I played my 45rpm record at 33rpm, the tune was actually slow enough for me to work it out and play along. As I didn’t want to ruin my vinyl record I got my cassette recorder as close as possible to the record player speaker and recorded the solo part onto cassette, which I could then work with.
It was a painstaking process trying to work out the notes, I even designed my own notation. Tab hadn’t been invented yet, so I scribbled down a series of fractions for recording which string/fret (1/12 = 1st string / 12th fret) to play. When I’d finished I could actually play the solo along with my record played at 33rpm.
Next came the clever bit (well it seemed pretty clever at the time), I sped up the record to 45rpm. By just working out what the first note was, when played at 45rpm I managed to transpose the entire solo just by using basic maths. I can’t remember the exact equation, but it was something like, if the start note at 33rpm was at say, 1/12, and the starting note at 45rpm was 1/15, all I had to do was add 3 to the fret of every note played.
I spent years using this method, until I discovered that someone had invented tab
For me tab was a great invention, I never actually learned to read music properly, in that I couldn’t just sit down with a piece and play it.
Here’s an example of some tab I recently found when trying to work out how to play the bass line to “Uptown Funk” for an upcoming gig
You picture it like a fret board, in this example the bottom E string is drop tuned by a tone (2 frets) to make it a low D. So the names of the strings are on the left, and the notes are just played left to right with each number denoting the fret number. There are a few little codes in there to give you a few tips on how to play the notes, a slash denotes slide up / or slide down \. S and P on bass tab means Slap and Pop. The h in between fret numbers (3h5) denotes a hammer on, similarly a p (5p3) would indicate a pull off. There are quite a few others and I’ll be looking at doing a blog that digs deeper into tab soon.
There are loads of great websites that contain tab, my first port of call is usually http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/ there’s an app you can download, which does have a cost, but the website is free to use.
Digital Sheet Music
Tab is a good place to start, and mostly the tabs have been posted by people like us, someone who has bothered to sit down with their chosen piece of music, and painstakingly work it out. We are not talking about top pro guitarists, we are talking semi pro to amateur and even beginners, who want to share what they’ve discovered.
Tab to me is the starting point, it’s a time saver and I’m so grateful to everyone that has spent the time, to save me time. Tab is often inaccurate, so if you want to work things out note for note you’ll need to find another way.
In the earlier section I kind of dismissed sheet music, which was my early experience of it. I’m sure, back in the day, it was perfect for classical musicians, but pop musicians hadn’t early been properly catered for then.
I recently discovered a great website called www.musicnotes.com and I’m now a regular visitor. I needed to be able to play Marcus Miller’s bass line to “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross. I searched the tabs out there and nothing helped, I tried working it out myself, but there were still some parts I just couldn’t either hear properly or figure out. Then I found the Music Notes site.You can judge for yourself how well I did as I’ve posted the video in the sidebar.
You have to pay for the sheet music on this site, but sometimes you do have to pay for things if you want the quality. The music is presented in sheet music and tab and incorporates a player so you can pick out individual notes or sections.
It’s a great site and I fully recommend it where you ‘can’t get no satisfaction’ from the free sites.
You Tube is another great way of helping you to work out how to play songs. There are some great players out there, some just sat in their bedrooms, either teaching you how to play, or showing you how they play, the songs you want to learn.
If you just type “Josie guitar lesson” into You Tube’s search box, and you’ll see a lot of people just waiting to teach you how to play “Josie” by Steely Dan.
You can even find concert footage of the original players, playing the tunes, and hopefully, if the camera work is kind to you, you’ll get a few clues as to how they actually played it.
Audacity is one of my favourite free-ware pieces of software, just go to:
It’s not the most intuitive software to use but it is really powerful and best of all it’s free.
Just download it to your desktop, it runs as a stand-alone software application direct from there.
I’ll only give you a brief outline here as I plan to do more of a tutorial in a future blog
The key bits you need for helping you work out songs are these:
1) Double-click the link on your desktop to open up the application
2) Go to “File” and open, then navigate to the music file you want to work on, then load this into the software
3) Look along the top menu for the section called “Effect”, click on this and a long drop down list will appear.
We are interested in just two items in this list
i) Change Speed – using this section you can slow down your music file, or sections of it, and the beauty of it is, that unlike my changing my records from 45rpm to 33rpm, the pitch/key of the song stays exactly the same
ii) Change Pitch – this is a great tool if you need to play a certain song in a different key to the original, if your singer just can’t sing it in the original
I usually work on a “copy” of my original music file, so there’s no way I can ruin it.
There are other software offerings out there (www.nch.com.au/twelvekeys http://ronimusic.comhttps://itunes.apple.com/us/app/amazing-slow-downer/id308998718?mt=8 ) I haven’t used these as Audacity is free and it works for me so I can’t comment on how good they are.
Bass Players Often Ponder: “To Read Or Not To Read?”
Do I need to learn to read sheet music in order to play the bass? There are TABS out there, right? I’ve even written songs and can play them on my bass – without ever learning to sight-read.
The age-old question of whether or not a person needs to be able to read sheet music in order to play an instrument is a matter to be solved internally. Some people play just fine and have never studied formally. Others are deeply devoted to the art of musical structure and consider it the most important part of playing an instrument.
So, why don’t all bass players want to tackle the fundamentals of sight-reading? Why don’t we all want to learn theory and the way music is put together – just leave TABS behind and delve into the intricate world of staves and notes, rests and clefs? One answer might be “it’s too hard to learn.” Others might be “I can play fine without it,” or “I haven’t time to take lessons.” After all, you’re standing up there with the band. You’re playing music and the audience loves your bass grooves.
The biggest question of all? “What can sight-reading give me that I don’t already have?”
The simplest answer is, “you’ll never know if you don’t try.” Ahh, I’ll bet you thought it was going to be some scholarly nugget about mastering the intricacies of musical form and advancing your true understanding of this fine artistic endeavour, didn’t you? Nah. If you’re asking the question, “what can it do for me?” then you already have a natural curiosity. And that’s all it takes. You want to know. Starting on the path of learning to sight read can be as simple as that. I want to know.
Now, just follow up your “I want to know” sentence with “I’m going to try.” One note at a time. Isn’t that how you learned to play TABS? You have a lot of energy for making music, and playing the bass is very important to you. Getting some fundamentals under your belt should be, too. Anything that can contribute to the betterment of your performance is going to do you some good.
Bass teacher Roy Vogt believes strongly in learning to read sheet music. His Teach Me Bass Guitar course starts the student off slowly, with sheet music that is supplemented by TABS. Roy believes TABS “can help students who are just learning their fingerboard to find some ways to play a musical idea with more efficient fingering.” But once you reach Lesson 16, Roy expects you to leave TABS behind and focus only on your sight-reading. “The working bassist (as opposed to the casual hobbyist) confronts a variety of challenges in his or her day-to-day work life. One of them is to be able to quickly learn music from the printed page.”
To learn more theory, sight reading, great tunes, and plenty of FUNdamentals, click here to check out Roy Vogt’sTeach Me Bass Guitar – the award-winning, self-paced bass instruction DVD course.
In this social media/technological age everyone seems to be using the internet to find what they want, If you want to buy a guitar, a car, a house, a boat, a pork pie (I’m very partial to pork pie – with a dash of English mustard, yummy!!) the world is turning to the world wide web to check out items; to see what things look like, see what the reviews are like, get virtual tours, download manuals and through sites like Youtube you can actually see ordinary people using the products. I had a patch of render that needed fixing and I found a video to show me just how to do it. It’s brilliant, it’s immediate, it’s there, 24/7 selling, promoting, teaching, inspiring. I love the internet and everything it can do for us.
So now to the meat of this week’s blog. With all of the above in mind, us musicians are really missing a trick if we are to ignore the power of the internet in promoting our music. Your website is only as good as the content you have on it. it’s your store front, your mission statement, it’s what you are judged by and governs how much work you will get. When I built our first band website, it had one photo, and a bit of blurb that I made up off the top of my head in a few minutes. I added a list of songs we played in our show, a contact page, and that was pretty much it. That took us to three pages. Not a great sell I must say. We recorded a demo, so i added a music player to play the demos, took a few photos and added a page for them, But, although we played the demos in the studio the same as we would play them live, we still weren’t picking up work.
Demos can be messed with, I’m sure there are bands out there who have recorded demos, made mistakes, and had them corrected or had vocals auto-tuned. In these times of X-Factor/The Voice/American idol/Britain’s Got Talent, audiences are more aware of the tricks that can be applied in a studio to make even a mediocre band/voice sound good.
I firmly believe that if you are a band of good musicians, producing good quality music you need to produce good videos. Over the last twelve months I have been producing live videos for my band (http://www.dancefloordeluxe.com/videos), We have picked up more work from having live footage out on our website and Youtube and then also promoting through social media, than anything we have ever done in the past. We have tried chasing agents (most of which never return your emails of calls), We have chased numerous pubs and bars (with the same negative results). With that basic four page website you haven’t got a hope. Most of the agents and bars won’t even bother to click the links you send them, and the few that do won’t be interested if they can’t see your live show.
Record Your Live Shows
So here’s the thing, record yourself live, but use decent equipment to do it, I currently use a Zoom Q4 handy video camera (I used to use a Zoom Q3 which was pretty good but the improvements in the Zoom Q4 are huge, the sound quality, wide angle lens, flippable view finder and the fact you can record entire gigs with this device put it top of my list of “must have” items) for recording the video, I also make sure to use a 32GB SD Card to capture the entire show. I then edit the video with the easy to use AVS Video Editor to top and tail the video (you can add title and effects using this software, but I prefer to get straight to the music – the span of attention these days is so slight you need to hit people quickly with your music).
We also like to have a video record of everything we do, by watching back, and being hyper-critical we can constantly improve the show. Plus our potential clients can see exactly what they are going to get, we also get to promote via Youtube and all of the other social media platforms, and it’s far better to have quality video out there than a few shoddy phone recordings taken by audience members.
So where do you place your camera? You want a good view of the show, but you also want to make sure your camera isn’t stolen during the gig. I usually attach the camera to lighting stands, it’s often a compromise as you are getting more of one side of the stage or the other. If you can hire a room for an afternoon, or do a cheap gig for a club in return for some video time, you can place your camera where you want and try different camera angles.
I’m currently working on a step by step guide on how to construct band videos and other ways you can promote your band yourself and get more gigs, So if you have any questions or topic ideas you’d like me to include or blog about please message me through this website or my personal website at www.nickfrance.co.uk.
Keep music real and live
Harmonics Give Bass Players ‘Hidden’ Notes
Simply put, harmonics are the hidden notes on your bass’ fretboard. Another term for harmonic is “overtone.” So what is an overtone?
Wikipedia defines a musical overtone as “any frequency higher than the fundamental frequency of a sound. The fundamental and the overtones together are called partials. Harmonics are partials whose frequencies are integer multiples of the fundamental (including the fundamental which is 1 times itself).”
So what does this mean to a bass player? It means that if you can learn to press the frets with a certain finesse, at just the right spot along the string, you’ll hear a gentle ringing sound above the actual note you are playing! It’s not easy to do, and you’re going to have to practice, but if you can master the art of creating harmonics on your bass, it’s going to open up a whole new world of tonal possibilities and make your music much more aurally diverse.
To create harmonics, you have to know the best places to hear them. Though they occur all over the strings, the best, clearest places to start with are on the 5th, 7th, 9th, and 12th frets (especially the 12th). Instead of pressing down firmly to close the fret completely, you just touch the string lightly, right overtop the fret, and then pluck with your other hand. The soft, almost bell-like chime of the harmonic should be heard. If you can’t hear it very well, try lifting your fretting finger off the string immediately after plucking.
You can also improve the sound of your harmonics by changing the place at which you actually pluck the string. You’re going to be amazed at the range of new sounds that are available to the bass player – those “hidden” notes!
You can even use harmonics to tune your bass!
Watch this video TMBG instructor Roy Vogt shot in his basement in response to a student’s question about harmonics. Five minutes from now, you’ll understand the fundamentals of harmonics on the bass guitar, and how to play them. The practice, however, is up to you!
Click here to learn more about TMBG. It’s simply the very best self-paced bass guitar instruction course available today. It allows you to study in the comfort of your own home, at your own speed, and to learn from a true master musician who has been teaching bass guitar for over 30 years. Get the course that will give you the structure to become the bass player you want to be!
Click NOW to learn more and to save 25% off the retail price of Roy Vogt’s Teach Me Bass Guitar.