Monday, October 24, 2011

Song 4: Route 66

Can’t believe this is song number four already!
(For more info on what this is all about, please visit my first post about lessons with Buddy)
All parts except the rhythm guitar were played/programed by Buddy. Buddy operated the computer and recorded me when I played the rhythm guitar

The process:

Session 01: I imported the original song into my recording software. Buddy then sat and (under my supervision) laid out the “geography” of the song. This involved adding markers at various points to show the different parts of the song. (E.g “Intro, Verse, Chorus, breaks etc.)
Session 02: Buddy started programing the drums. First the kick and snare, then hihats and cymbals.
Session 03: Continued with drum programming. Buddy copied-and-pasted the different drum patterns to the relevant sections of the song.
Session 04: Bass. Buddy played the different bass parts in & then copied-and-pasted them.
Session 05: Keyboards. Same as before: recorded a few bars & then copied and pasted.
Session 06: Buddy played the improvised guitar solo. I left the solo as is (ie I didn’t quantize any of the notes). The solo we used was his second take.
Session 07: Buddy operated the computer & recorded me playing the rhythm guitar parts/
Session 08: Vocals were recorded in one session. Buddy sang a verse at a time until he was happy with the take. Most of the vocals were first or second takes. We did a few more takes to try and get the difficult stop sections a little tighter.
Can’t believe this is song number four already!
All parts except the rhythm guitar were played/programed by Buddy. Buddy operated the computer and recorded me when I played the rhythm guitar


I try to outline the objective of each lesson first so that Buddy knows what we are trying to achieve.
The sessions always follow a pattern: We start with rhythm sight reading exercises. (I find the iPad app “ReadRhythm” an excellent tool for teaching reading.) My rule is that Buddy must tap two exercises perfectly before we can move onto recording.
We then move onto recording.
Homework every week is to listen to the original song and practice a particular part for the following week.
(For more info on what this is all about, please visit my first post about lessons with Buddy)
You can read about Buddy’s other recordings here: Lessons with Buddy

Monday, July 25, 2011

Buddy does “Eye of the Tiger”

Eye of the Tiger
Song number three. 
(For more info on what this is all about, please visit my first post about lessons with Buddy)

Our studio lessons have been going well. We start each lesson with 15 minutes of clapping rhythm exercises.

I found an iPad app recently called “Rhythm sight reading trainer” (iTunes link) which is proving to be successful.
It generates 2-bar sight reading patterns. The user taps the rhythms on the iPad and the app shows how accurately it was played. It’s not the most intuitive interface for a kid, but after two lessons Buddy warmed to it and I think it will prove very useful.

“Eye of the Tiger” was Buddy’s choice of song. It had quite a few parts to it and proved rather challenging. As always Buddy programmed every part. I sometimes sang the parts to him first, then he would play them in. I quantised some of the parts, but the guitars are as he played them.

Here’s the finished song:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We Love Rock ‘n Roll (Lessons with my nephew)

Buddy in the vocal booth

Song number two is done! (for more info on what this is all about, please visit my first post about lessons with Buddy)

There are a few time signature changes in this song, so I mapped out the entire song with all the changes so that the click (metronome) would reflect them.

This one took a lot longer than the previous one did, as the December holidays arrived smack bang in the middle of it, and Buddy broke his arm at the end of January!


Once again Buddy played all the parts in on the keyboard. We started with drums (the snare intro first), then added bass and guitars. He practiced the different parts at home. I slowed down the track substantially in the studio so that Buddy could comfortably play the parts. I sang and/or clapped the part that he was to program and he practised along. Then I hit “record” and we put down a few bars at a time. I made him do it over and over until it was correct. I did quantize the parts once they were played in. (For non-music people “quantization is the process of aligning a set of musical notes to a precise setting. This results in notes being set on beats and on exact fractions of beats”  – Wikipedia). I taught Buddy how to copy and paste clips so that he could paste them later in the song and not have to play them again. Lastly we recorded the vocals. I got Buddy to overdub the choruses a few times (and his friend Mandla helped out on 1 take, singing “put another dime in the juice-box baby”)


At around 01min40sec into the song is a solo that Buddy spontaneously played and I was fortunate enough capture. I decided to leave it as is: It’s not quantized or edited in any way and was done in 1 take!

Have a listen to the song below, and as always comments/suggestions are welcome.



P.S. we started “Eye of the Tiger” last week (Buddy requested it) and will post it here once it’s done.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Week 9 (music success in 9 weeks)

Creating a continuum program


The final chapter in Music success in 9 weeks is a recap of previous weeks, and a look to the future.
The idea is to create a way to get fans to buy from you on a regular basis.

Some of the plans we want to put into action from next year:

  • Fanclub for kids, with free gifts when they join
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Freebies in every newsletter (MP3 downloads, videos etc)
  • Competitions
  • Merchandise for sale
  • Teacher’s packs for use in classrooms

And we’re hoping to bring out 2 more albums in the series in 2011.


These 9 weeks have flown by, and I have learned a lot. More than anything it highlighted the need for setting up systems, and routines. I have a ton of ideas to begin implementing in 2011, and we will be more structured and focused in our future marketing/P.R. campaigns.

I intend referring back to the book on a regular basis, and will post further updates on our progress in 2011

Thanks Ariel for giving us some great tools! And thanks to all the other blog contestants for offering great advice on the forums!


Graeme Sacks

Monday, December 13, 2010

Week 8 (music success in 9 weeks)

Networking tips

Going cheap! Only 1 owner!Week 8 is about networking IRL (in real life).

Best tip: (from the music success in 9 weeks book) “The more they talk, the more memorable you are”. People love to talk about themselves, so asking them questions about themselves & what they do makes you more memorable to them…
BUT: I’m not selling a dodgy used car to someone I hope never to see again. Networking is about building relationships. I truly believe in my music (I still find it difficult to call it my “product”). That said, when I’m at a conference/gig/event etc where there are networking opportunities I try to make real connections, and therefore ask people real questions about themselves that I am really interested to know the answers to.

Follow up: When I’m networking with people I ask if they would mind me contacting them, and when would be convenient time for them. This way I make sure that they are expecting my call.

Graeme Sacks

Friday, December 10, 2010

Week 7 (music success in 9 weeks)

Alphabet tree cover

How to build your mailing list

This weeks’ chapter goes hand in hand with week 6, which was about writing newsletters

Firstly, some of the previous ideas have already helped to grow our mailing list: Giving away free songs on our website and getting a blogs review our CDs and/or host CD giveaways. Our Facebook page has grown from by about 40 fans in the past two weeks!

I am slowly trying to mine my email inbox, CD Baby sales reports and Facebook page for prospective mailing list recipients. I’m planning to start sending out the first emails towards the beginning of next year. I feel that some planning is needed first, and am also brainstorming ideas for a kids fan club.

I love the idea of devoting a set time each week to growing the list. In fact my creative partner and I have realised the necessity of a weekly meeting to plan ahead, and to divide the marketing/P.R. and distribution work up accordingly.




Graeme Sacks

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Week 6 (music success in 9 weeks)

Connecting with fans via newsletters


As the weeks go by, I’m getting busier, and the tasks are becoming more difficult.

This weeks’ chapter is titled “Connecting with fans via your newsletter list & conducting surveys”.

Until now, I’ve only contacted fans on my mailing list to announce specials or new releases, once or twice a year (AKA “Spam”?). I now realise we have a long way to go. Firstly we need to build up a substantial “fan base”. As a direct result of ideas garnered from “Music success in 9 weeks” this is actually slowly happening via these blog posts, our Facebook page and the “freebies” on our website.

My creative partner and I have spent hours discussing this chapter and how to go about writing engaging newsletters that will be read by fans, and will be interest/value to them. Since there isn’t much of a live aspect to what we do we struggled to find ideas to write about, but eventually hit on something:

As a kid, in pre-Internet days (no comment on my age here!) fan clubs were the thing. You’d write in to an address on a cereal box/newspaper/magazine (and perhaps have to send a small fee) and receive a parcel in the mail a few weeks later. There would be stickers, badges, a colouring in book and various other odd-and-ends. But aside from the free gifts, you were now part of a special, members-only club. Then there would be the writing/drawing/colouring-in competitions to keep members engaged. Prizes were often a just a poster and a certificate with the winners name hand written neatly with a calligraphy pen.

So the kids fan club is one of the ideas we’ll be pursuing in the new year.

I also love the idea of creating surveys: I’d love to know more about how teachers use our songs in the classroom, which songs kids enjoy and which ones they don’t. There are many things we can learn from surveys that will help us with every aspect of our business plans.

We have some more brainstorming and planning to do regarding the ideas listed above, but look forward to implementing them in due course!



Graeme Sacks