Playing for Change Day, September 17, 2011

I love these guys… from the Playing for Change Foundation:


Our vision is to inspire a global community of musicians and fans on street corners, sidewalks, cafés, and concert halls for the 1st annual Playing For Change Day. Sign up and perform to help raise money to build schools, support music and arts programs, purchase instruments, and connect students around the world. Or make a donation and help spread peace through the power of music.

Playing For Change Day 2011: Join in! from PlayingForChangeFoundation on Vimeo.

From the Participate page…


Your participation can take many forms. You can:

  • Perform for a live audience of any size and encourage listeners to make a donation
  • Pledge a show, donate a portion of ticket sales, or play a private benefit – we will feature as many artists as possible through our website and Facebook page
  • Support another artist’s show by making a donation
  • Offer your venue – a club, restaurant, café, business, or residence – to musicians or fans who want to have an event
  • Encourage musicians and fans at your venue to participate in the event by making a donation via our website or SMS/text-to-give (where available, beginning in early September)
  • Send us a link to a YouTube video from a live performance
  • Mentor a classroom and provide music instruction at a local school
  • Spread the word by recruiting others to the cause, showing the Playing For Change Foundation Program Overview video at events and liking us on Facebook


Your participation can take many forms. You can:

  • Make a donation in the name of your favorite artist or live show – via our website or through SMS/text-to-give (where available, beginning in early September)
  • Share the music with friends and family, encourage them to support the cause by giving, by sharing it with their social networks, and by liking us on Facebook
  • Ask a local venue to have or support a Playing For Change Day show
  • Throw a Playing For Change Day party or create your own inspiring event to engage people in the vision
  • Promote music and arts education in your local schools
  • Spread the word by recruiting others to the cause, showing the Playing For Change Foundation Program Overview video at events and liking us on Facebook
  • Enjoy the experience by coming to the website to view inspiring stories of shows

Analog mojo vs digital convenience, part 437…

Some thoughts on one of the places where digital tech fails to live up to some of the more grandiose promises made for it…

Digital does linear very well. So things like summing and EQ processing tend to turn out very much as expected (and presumably desired — unless one is looking for mojo — but then he’s not really looking for just EQ).

But audio signal compression is not a linear process. And some feel that analog hardware does it better (or can have more mojo); a technical case can be made. That said, and while I do use an analog compressor in my input chain, I also have some compressor plugs that I think work very well.

Now… circuit (and tape) saturation simulation is an even more mojo-intensive sort of endeavor, it seems to me.

An amp driven into saturation by an electric guitar forms a very complex, even chaotic system with many alinear, hard-to-predict performance characteristics.

And the mojo/chaos isn’t all in the amp’s circuitry, either — and it’s not all about simple amplitude-driven saturation.

As the dynamic level and as the frequency of the signal put out by the guitar changes, it changes the impedance relationship with the amp, making — particularly at sub-saturation and low-saturation levels — that relationship extremely dynamic.

Depending on the guitar, amp, settings, and playing style, relatively small changes in playing can make very noticeable changes in the sound coming out of the amp.

When a knowledgeable, sophisticated player knows his guitar and his amp and sets it accordingly, he can often capture a wide range of timbral expression without even touch a knob.

That’s why you sometimes here folks say, The tone is in his fingers.

But if the guitarist didn’t know how to set up the relationships between his guitar to make the most of his playing dynamics, the sound of the amp might sound almost as undynamic — and uninspiring — as many amp sim presets.

And one of the main problems is that that highly dynamic impedance relationship that a guitar and amp have is not mirrored by the dynamic relationship between the guitar and the analog front end of something like a computer AD or the AD in the POD.

And once the signal is digitized, that dynamic is carved in stone, except for what little chaos one can pull out of feedback from live monitoring. You can get some typically very limited, highly undynamic feedback from your EG picking up the acoustic energy coming out of your speakers — but it is nothing like the highly complex, highly dynamic relationship of an EG going into a conventional amplifier, where there is some form dynamic signal continuity all the way from the pickups to the speaker.


This is a subject that is fresh for me because, last night, after an uncharacteristically hot day in an apartment where the heat lingered on, the last thing I wanted to do was fire up my Blues Jr tube amp and the 24 channel board I normally use to route my live tracking and cue mix through. So I pulled out the POD XT that a friend left  here a few years ago. I’ve now spent a total of maybe 8 or 10 hours playing with it and I know it pretty well.

I was able to get some OK-ish sounds. But I kept feeling like I was fighting both the unit and my interface’s direct monitoring latency — not a huge amount of latency, by any stretch, probably about 4 ms (AD/DA into AD/DA — but not routed through the computer). Still, I could sort of put myself in a head space where I ‘played ahead’ enough to make it work rhythmically, for the most part.

But the sound, while not bad, was just not anything like the glassy (but noisy), highly dynamic tones I can get out of the Fender amp.

Net / Social Checklist for Musicians

ime changes everything and little has changed as quickly or more drastically in the last decade or so as getting your music out to listeners, potential fans and concert goers.

Even as the revolution in affordable  production and recording tools and software has drastically changed the face of commercial music production, the parallel revolution of the social web has increasingly upended long-established assumptions and institutions, knocked down one industry gate-keeper after another, and created a flood of new promotional and marketing opportunities that is at once exhilarating and exhausting — and likely quite daunting to musicians who were drawn to their field of endeavor because they just wanted to make music and get it out so that people could hear it.

That revolution has created a deluge of music and musicians on the web and other media, all clamoring for the listener’s attention — and, wistfully dreaming here — maybe even a slice of his entertainment dollar. New tools have allowed even those with limited resources (and some might suggest even those with limited talent) to make slick sounding music — and to put it where people might be able to find it.

Problem is, that’s exactly what happened: there is now so much music from so many different artists that no one listener, no matter how adventurous, can expect to hear it all.

Many listeners will settle for the low-hanging fruit, listening to whatever comes their way — buying or otherwise acquiring whatever slick product they are most insistently beat over the head with. Those folks, God love ’em, are never going to tumble to a new artist unless the big music machine pushes it relentlessly into their limited consciousness.

No, if you are or represent an artist or band that isn’t already well known, you’re going to have to make yourself available — findable — by adventurous listeners looking for something new — the kind of folks who do tell their friends about that great new band they heard.

But not only do you need to do everything you can to help those adventurous souls find your music — you need to give them the tools to amplify and broadcast that word of mouth. It’s great if they tell their pal at the bar about that great new track they heard — but it’s golden if they blog about it, post a link or embed videos or player widgets on their Facebook or other social media page, and help spread the word when you have a gig or release a new track or album.

Below you’ll find a  checklist for modern musicians who want people to find and hear their music. Even if you have no intention of selling your music — neglecting one or more of these increasingly important elements is a form of self-sabotage that will just make it less likely anyone but Mom will ever hear your music.

(Hint: your mom only claims to like death metal. No matter how much she says she loves your tunes — you need to reach beyond the familiar and comfortable.)

  • Every band needs a home base — whether it is
    • a blog
    • a social media page (Facebook, Myspace, etc)
    • a page on a music distribution site (Bandcamp, ReverbNation, Soundcloud, Soundclick, etc, etc, ad nauseum)
    • a private website
    • or maybe all of the above
      • you need reach and it’s likely you’ll find yourself with a combination of the above
      • whatever you chose, you need a single home base where you can direct traffic and interest in your band, as well as point visitors to your (likely) far-flung content (videos, label pages, reviews and articles about your music, etc) that they might not have come across. Your home base is a hub where you wick potential fans in and then direct them to the content you want them to see or hear — as well as opportunities to buy your music or merchandise
      • a domain name ( is ideal, since it can be pointed to anything from a Facebook page to a blog to a page on Bandcamp, ReverbNation, or other indie music distribution site and, later, as your needs change and grow, repointed to a website you create and host yourself
  • Must have features for your musical headquarters
    • music
      • before anything else — your site should give a visitor a quick and easy option of getting straight to the music — make it the easiest thing to find on your whole site
      • make sure you allow visitors to hear at least some of your music all the way through, for free
        • for those who have long dreamed of finally making a few bucks off their musical investments of time and money, it can be sorely tempting to put a pay wall between the visitor and the music — but it’s often the kiss of death unless the visitor is already sold on the music — particularly with fellow musicians or the world-wise, the first reaction will likely be: Who does this guy think he is?
    • video
      • video can be an important gateway to your music, giving the visitor a visual handle / mental landmark — a way to visualize and remember your music
      • we live, increasingly, in what the sociologists call a post-literate culture; we can regret that, but, if we’re smart, we will nonetheless recognize and work with that fact; for increasing numbers of preterliterate types, the web means video — and, for many folks, any interface that is harder to understand than the big triangular play button in the middle of a YouTube video is just too much
      • it doesn’t have to be fancy — even a simple picture or a slide show gives your music a face or image for listeners to identify your music with — and that will help them remember it
      • in fact, a slick video can actually be a  turn off to certain music fans — let’s face it, fans often want to feel like their musical heroes are just like them… if you lavish time and money on your video, it may be best to disguise that fact or risk alienating street level fans
    • contact option
      • public email — it’s old school, gives a sense of trust to old school types — but it can also be a big spam magnet (you can fool spambot email addie collectors by putting your email address in the form of a  bitmap graphic and/or using javascript to provide a spambot-beduddling email link
      • contact form
        • using server-side scripting, the person designing your website provides a contact form that visitors can use to send you an email — all without giving them — or spambots — your email address
        • this is often an excellent option (and is usually a feature of social media and indie music distro sites)
        • if you use a third party developer, he or she should give you, the site owner, an easy way to change the email address or add addresseses and/or email forwarding — email addresses as well as band personnel can change
    • fan list / email list / membership info collection
      • you can compile and maintain an email/contact list manually — but it’s a big pain in the neck and if you are slow to remove those who no longer wish to get email from you, you can get in trouble with your site/hosting provider
      • it’s better to use an email list manager that allows users to easily remove themselves by clicking a link in the email
    • blog / news
      • Whether it’s a news page on your band site that you create and update yourself in a web editor, or a blog hosted or administered on a third party site, you should integrate it with your band site or other home page (if you’re handy with HTML and CSS you can probably create or modify a theme/skin to better integrate a 3rd party blog page with the look and feel of your main site; if not, there are many web developers who specialize in customizing WordPress and other blogs); you’ll want to make sure you let your visitors know about:
      • concerts and shows
      • record / track releases
      • important band news
    • social media integration
      • even if you maintain your own website, you will still likely want to have a band page on Facebook and/or possibly other social media sites
      • if you use something like Bandcamp or Reverbnation or other 3rd party music distro site, you’ll certainly want to have a tight integration between your music pages there  and your home base
      • one quick and relatively easy way to integrate social media with other sites and pages is through widgets:  badges, like buttons, players, and videos that can be relatively easily embedded in website and even some social media site pages

One last thing — the web is increasingly viewed on mobile devices like phones and slates — many of which either do not offer Flash or which may handle it poorly. Adapting to that reality is probably outside the scope of this checklist — but moving forward it is something that will be increasingly important. It’s something you ignore at your own risk…