Ask Brixton Music

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Ask Brixton

May 10th, 2012

 I am a solo artist about to start recording a demo. What’s the deal with session musicians? Are they worth it or should I find some friends that can play?

Session players are always good because they know how to play to a click. Session players may cost you more in the beginning but they’ll save you money and time in the studio.

They have general experience in a studio. It’s cheaper to pay for a drummer who knows what he’s doing then paying an hourly rate in the studio.

You can learn a lot from a session play because they have a lot of experience and they can bring a lot to the table you may not have thought of. You can also involve them in the creative process and end up with some very creative arrangements.

If your friends are awesome then go for it, but save up for session musicians if not, it makes everything easier and leaves you with a much more dynamic and polished finished product.

Session musicians can vary in price depending on their skill level and their portfolio, but you can often get a good session musician for cheaper if they really like your stuff or if they are cut into the SOCAN rights off the bat.

I want to start drumming but have no idea what to look for. Any tips for a starter kit and a newbie?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your initial kit. Typically, if you can get a good starter kit for 500 dollars, even used, with new heads and proper tuning it will do the trick.

Cymbals can always be upgraded if you’re not 100% sure so start with the budget cymbals. Sticks are worth investing in; cheap sticks can break 3 songs into a set. Pedals can also be upgraded, start simple and work your way up.

Start off by getting a teacher. You can’t beat lessons. Teachers will help you learn the foundation of rudiments, why drummers play what they play within the song context, and help you to read music and understand theory.

As far as your own practicing goes; stay loose, stay relaxed, and be aware of your body ergonomics. The toughest thing when you start playing drums is either the coordination or the timing or the combination of both. Having a good teacher can help make sense of all these initial issues.

Like any other hobby, at least a half an hour a day is sufficient. Stretch before you play. This includes air drumming, practicing rudiments, or time behind the kit. Playing along to CDs or an iPod is a great way to start.

Professional level albums are all recorded to a click track and following that makes life easier. If you have a heartbeat you can play the drums.


Do you have questions about music and audio, recording and producing or playing in a band?

Email us at, or ask us a question on our Brixton Music fanpage, or @BrixtonMusic on Twitter.


May 3rd, 2012

What is typically your biggest recording challenge?

The biggest recording challenge typically is musicians that aren’t ready to come into the studio. Bands sometimes just aren’t prepared. No matter how much work you do you can’t make a crappy drum kit sound great, or a guitarist play in key. There is no magic button even with the best studio equipment.

If you can’t play tight it makes everything after that much harder. If you can’t play to a click then I can’t edit, if your tones aren’t right no amount of Autotune will fix that.

Wasted time and useless takes require bands to come back after the fact and it costs them money, and the studio time. A lot of bands also have trouble with the concept of time. Bands think they can fire off 8 songs in a weekend, and from my experience, it’s very rarely the case.

Preproduction is the most important process; that’s why we encourage bands to do a preproduction process with us or someone before they come into the studio. It results in a better product and a better use of time.

What age is best to start lessons and why?

That is a tough question. In my opinion, it depends on the student. Typically, students younger than 6 years old are tough. I have had the odd one that can handle it, but it is a rarity. The problem is usually attention span, music reading and discipline.

Put simply, what matters is if they can hold the guitar properly, if they can sit through at least a half an hour of time, and that they don’t quit after one lesson because they don’t, and won’t, get it first try.

I’m trying not to generalize because there are kids that come in and can do it, but some can’t. Typically 6-7 is a good age, and up obviously.

It’s best to start when the kid really wants to. If you want your kids enrolled early, I suggest a general enrichment program like sing-a-longs and camps, or general rhythm things like clapping and playing on pots and pans, not specifically an instrument.

Kids that are a bit older who are discovering music for themselves tend to learn a bit easier. Kids 12-13 years old are more motivated and they’re listening to music of their own as opposed to their parents music.

If you teach a kid hot-cross-buns they won’t stick around, but if you teach a kid something they’re interested in like Billy Talent, something that they recognize and like, they’ll tend to practice it more.

There’s no golden rule for age. Each student is different. And there is definitely no such thing as too old. You’re never too old. People aren’t dogs; you can teach an old player new tricks. The tough part with older students is they have other obligations like kids of their own, jobs and families.

For all students I recommend 15 minutes a day every day. Keep it simple and make it routine. If that’s easy then up it, but don’t bite off more than you can chew or you won’t be motivated to play. Routine is more important than total time. 15 minutes a day is better than 5 hours one day and not picking your guitar up the rest of the week.


Do you have questions about music and audio, recording and producing or playing in a band?

Email us at, or ask us a question on our Brixton Music fanpage, or @BrixtonMusic on Twitter.


April 26th, 2012

If I have software I can record with, why do I need a studio?

Good question – how trained are you with your software? With lots of practice with software such as Protools or Logic, you can make great sounding music. The Gorillaz did their album “The Fall” on an iPad. But if you aren’t trained, the learning curve of the software can be distracting and your work can suffer.

There is still a great need and bonuses you get out of recording in a studio. First is time. Having someone skilled engineering for you can free you up to focus on what’s most important – your music.

The second is Space. One big drawback with recording at home is the rooms. The space you record in is such an important factor. Improperly treated rooms can create phasing issues in your recordings.

Another is ambiance and a good work environment. As an artist, the creative space you work in can make all the difference. There’s nothing more annoying than your Grandma flushing the toilet during a solid take.

A big one is experience. The engineer running the studio can guide you, add valuable input, and spot your mistakes. These things are often overlooked by amateur engineers.

Finally what makes the recording is often the equipment. Although you have recording software, what kind of microphones do you have? Do you have baffling and diffusers? These sorts of things make a big difference. Microphones are hundreds of dollars for a reason. Chances are, if you use a $150 omni-directional microphone, you’re going to get what you pay for versus a $1000 uni-directional.

I’m done my demo but I’m having trouble booking shows. What do I do?

The first thing I would think of – is your demo solid? If it’s sloppy or rushed and you have to explain where you recorded it and why it sounds like that, chances are people aren’t listening. In today’s industry, labels and promoters want to hear a polished product. In the words of one industry fat-cat; “get it to the point where you don’t need me, then I’ll listen.”

Another question is how is your social media? Just posting songs on Facebook, Myspace or Reverb won’t get attention – you need to be consistently marketing yourself and building communities. If you don’t participate in other musicians and artists communities, and you don’t go to shows, what makes you think people will come to yours? Reach out and start building those bridges.

Finally, stage performance may be a factor. The best thing an artist or band could do is tape themselves and see how ridiculous they look. There are people in the industry who make a good living coaching stage presence and performance, and if you are just getting up there and jamming the same as you do at home or in your hall, you probably aren’t setting the stage right. Get some solid performance practice, watch online clips, and make online videos of your live sets that you can send along to bookers and promoters.

Email us at, or ask us a question on our Brixton Music fanpage, or @BrixtonMusic on Twitter.



April 20th, 2012

If I’m an experienced musician, why should I take lessons?

Lessons and training are great for a few reasons no matter what skill level you are at. If you are learning a new style of music, or new techniques, lessons can help make that transition smooth and fast without developing the wrong habits. I came from a jazz and rock background but if I have a session requiring me to play a different style such as classical, I’ll book a few lessons with a teacher trained in that to help with my technique.

Even having another professional help with my technique isn’t a bad thing, think of it as a yearly check-up. It helps me to make sure I haven’t picked up bad habits.

However for beginners lessons are a must. Developing good playing habits at an early stage is crucial. Plus you can experiment with  different styles and focus on getting good at one, instead of just a hodgepodge of songs.

I’m looking to buy my first guitar, what should I look for?

 The nice thing is a lot of the entry level guitars like low-end Fenders or Yamahas are fairly decent quality. I’m not saying buy a 500 dollar guitar, but you can get a nice one these days for $150. The problem is a lot of parents get into is they buy a super cheap or old guitar to start on, but because it feels and sounds like crap to play, students tend to lose motivation.

Find a guitar that you love. If electric is your thing, then buy an electric. Get whatever is going to motivate you to play. There’s a common myth that you have to start on an acoustic. Start on whatever you want.

Cheers, and keep on Rockin’!

Ask Brixton is a weekly addition to Velvet Rope Magazine where your music and audio questions will be answered. 


Do you have questions about music and audio, recording and producing or playing in a band?

Email us at, or ask us a question on our Brixton Music fanpage, or @BrixtonMusic on Twitter.

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