LCU’s Best Friends 2016-17 Pt. 2

The 2nd video from the new album in 2017 is called The River. It was shot on location at the Pecos River just south of Glorietta, NM. For those of you interested, the entire video was shot on my Google Pixel phone using an Ikan Fly-X3 Plus stabilizer.

This song has taken on its own interesting history. We had the opportunity to sing in West Monroe, LA at WFR church. We always stay in the homes of church members, and this time we wound up staying with Jase and Missy Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame.

We stuck around a couple of nights. On the 2nd evening, after a great pizza party, Missy asked us to sing a song that she had missed at that morning’s concert. So the group stood up to sing The River. She said, “Wait, let me video this.” That was quickly followed by, “Hey, I’ll just live stream this. I’ll use Jase’s page – he never uses it.”

So they started singing live on Jase Robertson’s page. Within 20 seconds, 20,000 were watching live. By the end of the song over 50,000 people were watching. Less than 24 hours later, the video had been watched half a million times. Amazing! The platform the Robertson family has is incredible. And they’ve used it well.

This is not the video of them doing it live in Jase’s house, but it’s the official video. You can find the album this came from at this link.

LCU’s Best Friends 2016-17 Pt. 1

I directed the group for another year in 2016-17. We had the chance to record a really good album and shoot a couple of great videos, the first of which is shown here. It’s called Prayer of the Children.

I first heard this song when I was on tour with Acappella. Back “in the day”, before Microsoft was a thing, we used a program called Word Perfect for text editing. In the late 80’s, they sent out an update (via CD-ROM) for the program. Along with it, they included a sampler CD of some really good music. Most of it was stuff from Windham Hill or something similar. The last song on the CD was a haunting a capella song from someone named Kurt Bestor. It was Prayer of the Children.

Autotune was used heavily, as more of an effect than as vocal correction. This was before the world even knew what autotune was. It gave the vocals an etherial feeling and made this wonderful song even more moving. I knew then that I had to do this song somewhere, someday. This Best Friends combination was the group, and this is the video. The album can be found on iTunes at this link.

LCU and Best Friends Pt. 2

As promised in the earlier post, here is the 2nd video produced by Best Friends in the 2015-16 school year. This is a great song called Brother. I hope you enjoy it. The album can be found on iTunes at this link.

LCU and Best Friends

In 1983, as a sophomore in college, I was part of something new. John Paul Blankenship was forming a new mixed ensemble a capella group to travel and recruit for the college (Lubbock Christian College, at the time). I was recruited as part of the original group that became known as Best Friends and stayed with the ensemble for the next three years.

Thirty years later, what goes around comes around, I suppose. LCU has recruited me once again for Best Friends… this time as director. As I write this, we are drawing close to the end of the first year. It has been very enjoyable and has kept me busy and young at heart.

I’ve produced a couple of music videos for the group. I’ll post the 2nd one later, but here is the first. This is the title track to their 2016 album That Was Then, This is Now. The music, by the way, can be found on iTunes at this link. Hope you like the video…

It’s Time for a Compulsory License for Musical Arrangements

Photo credit: Andrew Gustar via CompfightAs an arranger of musical works, I often feel as though my hands are tied behind my back.

I have arranged hundreds of songs for various events and groups, 99% of them being a capella in nature. I would love to publish these arrangements and make them available to the general singing public. How many have I published to date? One. Count them. One. Do not proceed to two.

The problem, as far as it concerns me, is in obtaining a license to publish. Now, any recorded work is a different story. If there is a song that I’d like to record that is something other than public domain, the tools are in place to obtain a mechanical license to be able to record and publish (thank you Harry Fox, Limelight, Loudr and others). Release on video? No problem, just get a sync license.

To release a written arrangement of a work… well that’s a horse of another color. There are no laws in place that allow you to do so. An arranger must contact the owner of the song and request a license to release the arrangement. The answer can be no. Or, the answer could be, “You want to release an arrangement that may sell 10 copies? Ok, that’ll be $2,000.00.” Might as well be a no.

Responses and processes are all over the map. All those composers who make themselves available to arrange that special song you’ve been wanting? Most likely you are breaking the law, since the majority of them do not seek permission and leave it up to you to request the necessary license. And who will most likely get zapped if the copyright police come calling? The arranger.

I read an article that sums up the problem quite nicely. Jonathan Minkoff wrote “The Legality of Arranging” in 2009 and it’s still applicable today (unless a law has changed since I wrote this in the summer of 2014). It’s worth your time to read, but I quote his last paragraph:

The best answer, as I’ve proposed in the past, isn’t a change in the behavior of all these arrangers. It’s a change in the law. It’s time for a compulsory license for musical arrangements. Composers get revenue, arrangers and artists get peace of mind and everybody wins.

I agree. And I’ve got loads of arrangements waiting on it. How about you?

The Fab 3 Strike Again

My son, Austin, has released his third video in the series of five he must do as his Senior Project in high school. This time, he went for a classic (at least in my opinion). He chose The Beatles’ tune Come Together. Enjoy!

Herculean Tasks – otherwise known as Senior Projects

My son, Austin, has a task he must undertake. Like any ancient hero of old, this task must be completed in order to advance “beyond.” In his case, it’s called a Senior Project.

Students at Shallowater High School, here in Shallowater, TX, must complete a project their Senior year. This project must be something that they would not have done otherwise. Something that will stretch them a bit. Something that educate them in a new field… and they must invest at least 18 hours into the project.

In her Senior year, my daughter chose to turn the animated movie Mulan into a staged musical, complete with full cast, props, arrangements of the songs from the movie and sound effects. Her project took over 250 hours and was a big success.

My son also chose to venture into the arts. Being a child of the millennial age, he has grown up watching more YouTube than broadcast television. It came as no surprise that he wanted to create a YouTube channel of his own music videos. Voilà! A senior project is born.

Each senior must enlist the help of a mentor in the process. Austin was able to recruit one of YouTube’s more popular artists, Justin Robinett, as his mentor. Justin has been very helpful and as I write this, Austin is finishing up the mix on his 3rd video. He has two more to go to complete his project.

You can find Austin’s videos on his YouTube channel – ProbablyNotAustin. But for your enjoyment, I present his 2nd video in the series… Don’t Worry be Happy by Bobby McFerrin.

Acappella Classic’s Last Concert… of 2014

George and gangMarch 7, 2014 was a fun night. I had the wonderful opportunity to take the stage once again with many of my old friends. Acappella Classic was in concert in Longview, TX and the joint was definitely jumping.

I was joined by founder Keith Lancaster, bass Rodney Britt, lead vocalists George Pendergrass and Steve Maxwell, baritone Robert Guy and tenor Kevin Schaffer. As far as I can tell, this was the only scheduled appearance of “Classic” in the 2014 calendar year.

The event took place on Friday evening, but most of us arrived around lunch on Wednesday. The next couple of days were packed with rehearsal, laughter and food. It’s really hard to get anything done when all these guys get together. We spend way too much time laughing and telling old stories.

The event was a full house. We sang at Pine View Church of Christ, which officially seats 750 or so. We had 850 or so in attendance. It was one of those nights that you just hope the Fire Marshall doesn’t show up. It probably would have blessed him if he had, but only for as long as it took him to shut us down.

As usual, satan always throws a hitch in the plans. We conducted a quick sound check on Thursday evening… without lights. Friday afternoon, we cranked up the system (with lights) and promptly started blowing fuses. After 3 different attempts with 3 miniature explosions and a couple of busted speakers, the system was finally working. We didn’t get a chance to sing on the system until 5:30, with doors opening at 6:00. In other words, we didn’t really get a chance at all.

That proved rather interesting, as there were several songs that we never had a chance to completely rehearse. One, in fact, that I don’t think we ever sang until that night. Sure, we’ve sung them all many times before… but it’s a bit different with each configuration. Memories fade over time.

Consequently, we made some mistakes. I don’t think most of the crowd even knew it, though – unless someone realized that we completely skipped the bridge of Criminal on the Cross. Or sang the middle section of Holy City twice. Roll with the punches… that’s about all you can do.

For those interested here is the set list for the evening:

Longview setlist

That set list is pretty accurate with one exception. After Teaching the Truth in the first set, we immediately launched into For the Lost. It was basically one long song. They fit together very nicely.

Also, thanks to Randy Lamp for the concert shot. That’s me that you can’t see standing right behind George. Lord willing, this will not be the last time you see us together, but who knows?

Melodyne: Tuning Vocals… and Tuning Guitars, Keyboards and Other Things During the Mix

melodyne

This post will most likely find a much smaller interested audience than my last post, which topped half a million readers (craziness!). This time I’m talking to that unique demographic of people who spend countless hours in the engineer’s chair at a recording studio. So, for the 12 people who will read this, I’ve discovered a wonderful program called Melodyne.

For years, I’ve been involved in vocal production for studio projects. I am always striving to get the best sound, as any engineer would do. Some musical styles call for that slightly out of tune floating-around-the-pitch sound. I am not involved in much of that. My stable of projects either have a full band with a lead vocal and background vocals that need tuning, or a complete a capella song where everything needs tuning.

For years, I’ve used a program called Autotune. Most people have heard of this, since it was popularized by its overuse, resulting in robotic voicing. I believe Cher was one of the first to do this back in the 90’s. It’s so popular it has resulted in a slew of iOS apps that achieve the same result for the fun of it. Too much.

[Read more…]

Kickstarter Success

follow us on kickstarterIf you have followed me on Facebook or any other social media outlets, you’ve probably seen that the Kickstarter campaign I mentioned a few posts ago has finished. And finished very well. We set our goal at $26,500 and we received $31,660… 120% of our goal. To say we are excited about it is somewhat of an understatement. I’ll have a lot more to say about Chasing David and where we go from here in future posts. For now, I thought I’d address a question I’ve already been asked… “What did you guys do to make sure your Kickstarter campaign was a success?”

I’ve seen several books and e-books on this very subject. Here’s my take on it and I’m not charging a thing.

We relied heavily on the social aspect of Kickstarter. We did several big pushes on Facebook and used the promoted post feature 3 or 4 times. Also, every time we did an update on our campaign we would post a link to the update page on our facebook profile.

We were counseled early on to not be afraid to use the “a” word – Ask. Whenever we would post something on Facebook, we would always ask everyone to please share it on their own personal profile along with a message for support. That got a lot of traction.

Also , the use of videos helped tremendously. We took our time and did a humorous, upbeat and yet serious video for our campaign. You need to make sure that it is embedded into your Kickstarter page. They walk you through that and they make it part of the box at the top of the page. That’s important. You don’t want people to have to leave your Kickstarter page to go watch your video because most of them won’t come back. That’s not a statement on quality, that’s just the way the Internet is.

Also, about halfway through our campaign, my daughter suggested that we do some kind of music video. Up to that point we did not have anything showing our musical style. We got together and shot a video with just a few simple cameras and did a quick mix on it. We posted this on Facebook, YouTube, the Kickstarter page, and just about everywhere we could post it. We noticed a considerable up-tick in pledges after the video went live.

And last but not least, since there are 3 of us, we were able to tell people about it at church and get support there. Thats 3 different churches.

Other than that and copious amounts of prayer, that was pretty much the formula. Kickstarter allows you to tap into social media pretty easily. You have to take advantage of that and get people to share your Kickstarter page. It’s the same concept as the “street team” in concert publicity… just all online.

If you have a Kickstarter campaign coming up or are considering it, let me know. Sound off! For now, I leave you with the music video we recorded with cheap cameras and iPhones. Enjoy…