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Voice care tips for singers

Singing in a band is an extra challenge because of the volume of rehearsals and shows.  Here are some basic tips for singers to keep your instruments in tip top shape. Start with a few that resonate for you and add the rest as as you progress. -Yes I meant for that to rhyme 🙂
1. Be conscious of your voice when you are singing or talking.  Pushing your voice a bit too hard to try and hear yourself is never the best solution.  It’s easy to over-sing in a loud rehearsal or show.  You want to feel your sound vibrating in your body.  If your throat and jaw feel relaxed and you can feel a heart warming vibration in your body, you are singing with the correct pressure, even if you can hear yourself.  If your body feels tight, for example strain in your throat, you are applying too much pressure to get your volume.  Let the sound engineer push up your mic volume, you just focus on that sweet vibration in your body.  This keeps your tone warm and your voice connected to your soul.
2. If you are at a party or a loud event, don’t shout.  Just lean in closer to someone’s ear and speak at normal volume.  Try to feel that easy vibration every time you make sound.
3. Warm up before a rehearsal. I love breath of fire (yogic breathing) and the pant exercise to connect my voice to my body.
4. Cool down after a rehearsal.  A few lip trills (motor boats) or sirens can be good for this.  keep it nice and light.
5. Warm tea (non-caffeinated) is good for relaxing and healing your throat.  Try Slippery Elm Tea, Licorice Tea… There is a Throat Coat Tea that is great too.
6. Avoid drops and sprays that numb your throat as a pain reliever.  I believe it’s best to feel what’s going on in our bodies, even if it’s sore or painful.  By remaining sensitive to how our bodies feel, we can make minor adjustments that will impact our health far better and faster than if we numb ourselves.
7. Gargle with salt water.  This is a good way to reduce swelling of your vocal chords.
8. Get a good night’s sleep as often as possible.
9. Rest your voice throughout the day.  Just reduce the amount you speak until your voice feels at full strength again.  Think of yourself as an athlete.  If you want to perform at your peak, you must rest so your body can recover.  As a singer, your whole body is your instrument.  Love it, treat it well. Let it rest and recover.
10. Personally when I have a sore voice I find that I cause more harm when I am speaking through the day (or at the after party).  Try speaking a 1/2 step to a full step higher than your normal speaking voice.  This may sound funny at first, but it gets you up and over your chords and allows you to speak more lightly.
11. Check your blood sugar level.  If your voice is beginning to feel tired throughout the day or night, it could be because you need some healthy fuel.  Eat well and see how you feel in 30 min.  This is the primary cause of a tired voice for me.
12. Exercise.  Especially cardio.  Walk, run, bike, swim, whichever is your favorite.  These activities reduce stress and get you in touch with your breathing.  Relaxed breathing helps our voices recover.
13. Periodically throughout the day or night. Stop and take 10 deep breaths.  good for your voice, good for your mind, good for your soul.
Enjoy!
James Mays
PS.  If you have other ideas that you would like us to share.  Send comments and questions to info@bandaidschoolofmusic.com
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Summer Camps for Music

Rock-and-Roll for the Soul

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Dig deep, live better.  Those four words encompass Band Aid Rock Summer Camps’ desire to inspire kids by exposing them to music and creativity.

“Passing along music to anyone is feeding their soul and their connection with something higher,” said Band Aid founder James Mays. “I feel really honored to be able to do that.”

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After two decades as a professional musician and nearly a decade working in music education, Mays founded Band Aid School of Music in 2009. Six years later, kids not only attend during the school year but can also experience one to two exciting weeks in the summer.

“What’s unique about our summer camp is the immersion into the music,” said Mays. “Now, my own son goes through the camp. To see it from the perspective of a parent – I was shocked by how much progress my son made!”

Older kids spend two weeks perfecting their musical skills while younger children at the Little Rock Star camps have abridged sessions that expose them to the exciting world of music. Both camps are filled with professional musical staff members who expose students to all parts of the music industry.

“Our whole school is based on giving the students the skills to be in bands,” said Mays. “Experiencing what it’s like to play together in a band and all the ins and outs of that like writing songs and promoting their music.”

After training the youth band that was voted Best Teenage Band in the United States, there’s no double that Band Aid School of Music knows what it takes to create an amazing band.

“The level of education someone gets at Band Aid School of Music is the highest in the United States,” said Mays. The camp lives up to that standard by providing an incredible learning environment.

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Collaborating in small groups lead by expert staff challenges kids to work together and create a unified vision for their summer band. The camp’s average 4:1 student to teacher ratio ensures that every student has the special attention they need to excel at their craft. Mays explained that staff members are selected both on their musical experience and their mentorship ability.

“We make sure we’re putting the students in a situation where they’re able to thrive,” said Mays. “The goal is to see a student come to life doing something that’s completely liberating – where they understand that they can be inovative, think outside the box and create what they want in life. They’re empowered to unlock the potential inside themselves.”

This summer, Band Aid has camps available for “Beginners”, “Rock Stars”, “Little Rock Stars” and “Little Mozarts”. There’s a camp that suits your child no matter their age or musical skill level.

“It’s just a blast,” said Mays. “They really are having a lot of fun and coming out of the camp with smiles on their face.”

To learn more about the summer camps offered by the best music school in Texas, visit Band Aid’s website or their Camp Sloop page for more information.

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Music Study make you a better reader – here’s some proof

Ever wonder why those who study music seem to be more successful?

For decades, educators, scientists, and researchers have observed that students who pick up musical instruments tend to excel in academics—taking the lead in measures of vocabulary, reading, and non-verbal reasoning and attention skills, just to name a few. But why musical training conferred such an advantage remained a bit of a mystery. Until now.

read more

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Drumstick Choice

Wanna find out what drumsticks work best for you and the sound you want? Wes Armstrong has a few easy tips for you.

When you walk into the drum department at your local music store, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. They probably have all sorts of lights, giant displays, some kind of drum video playing over the PA, not to mention all the kids banging on the kits that are for “demo use only.” If you’re just starting out as a drummer, the most important thing you can do is experiment and find what you like. Go to your local music store and poke around a bit. There are a lot of factors that go into shaping your signature sound as a drummer. The first and most basic step may also be the one that’s the most overlooked, stick choice.

There are a million and a half drumstick companies, and they all want your business. The first thing to think about is drumstick size. Most companies size their sticks using some combination of numbers and letters. In general, the lower the number is the thicker the stick will be. For example, a ProMark 3A stick will be thicker than a ProMark 7A. What kind of music are you playing? If Jazz, you’ll want a thinner stick. Think 7A and up. If you’re playing Rock or Funk, you may want a thicker stick for a “beefier” sound. Think 3A-5B. The middle road is generally a 5A or a 5B.

The next step is manufactures. There are new companies starting every day. The industry standard is Vic Firth. You can’t go wrong using their drumsticks, that being said, you should explore the market. You may find, as I did, that you end up breaking most every pair of Vic Firth sticks you own.  Eventually, I ended up using ProMark sticks. I love the way they feel, they’re made in Texas, and they don’t break on me. Some other companies I recommend checking out are: Vater, Regal TipZildjian, and Innovative Percussion. Those are the “industry standards” but explore newer companies as well, SilverFox Percussion, 3Drumsticks, etc..

Once you’ve found your favorite manufacturer and drumstick size, now you can think about stick finish, stick length, bead type, and “signature sticks.” Each of these companies are going to have a multitude of customizations and other choices for you to explore. It may take you a couple of years to figure out what sticks you like but after a certain point in your development, drumming comes down to feel and there’s nothing you’ll notice more than the sticks in your hand.

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15 gig bag essentials for guitarists courtesy of Fender

In this blog I’m taking the easy way out, since Fender spelled it out pretty clearly right here. happy clicking!

or read 15 gig bag essentials right here…  Thanks Fender!

Gig bags—those bastions of convenience for the working musician—have undergone something of a renaissance in the past decade or so. They’re cooler looking, tougher and more utilitarian than ever before, as attested by all manner of water-resistant fabrics, comfortably padded shoulder straps and the part we love best: all those cool pockets.

Even a modest gig bag of today has room for several other accoutrements besides the instrument it was designed to transport, so we’ve compiled a list of 15 Other Things You Really Should Have in Your Gig Bag (besides the guitar):

1. Strings. Most important. Don’t be the guy who didn’t have a spare set of strings when one broke halfway through the first set.

2. String winder. And don’t be the guy who had a spare string but took half an hour to replace it.

3. A tuner. A small digital one will suffice. There is absolutely no reason in this enlightened technological age to say things like, “Hey, would you give me an E?”

4. Another strap. In case you forget your usual one for some strange reason. Or if it breaks. Or if another guy in your band forgot his. It’s inevitable.

5. Another cord. The day will come when you hear the maddeningly annoying crackle of a bad cable. Be ready for it.

6. Picks. These are always disappearing; probably to the same mysterious void your other sock went.

7. A pen and paper. Indispensable for everything—signing merch, making set lists, labeling the soundboard, getting numbers, emergency tracheotomies, etc. For set lists, notes, song charts, on-the-spot lyrical inspiration and myriad other uses. They say Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope. On the way to the gig.

8. Tape. Duct tape or black gaffer tape, for which there are so many uses that we won’t even attempt to start listing them all.

9. Power strip. When you show up at the gig, count on there not being enough outlets.

10. Nine-volt batteries. Not every rehearsal or gig is near a convenience store. A must-have spare for effects pedals and active instruments.

11. Ground lift. Spend the buck-fifty and get the little adaptor that will reduce hum, accommodate ancient two-prong outlets and occasionally save you from being zapped by your mic.

12. Flashlight. Just a little one, small enough to hold between clenched teeth. Indispensable at bars, most of which are monuments to inadequate lighting. When setting up and adjusting your gear, it helps if you can actually see your gear.

13. Business cards. You really should have these anyway if you’re working consistently. But you still need the pen.

14. Ibuprofen. Be prepared. Aches and pains happen, especially when you are carting around gear.

15. Tool Kit. Bring along a tool kit so you are prepared to make minor adjustments as needed.

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How to headbang on stage

  • Make music you can headbang to: 
    It’s difficult to headbang to some types of music, so make some tunes that really make you want to throw in a headbang every once in a while.
  • Determine which parts of the song you can headbang to:
    Sometimes launching into a wicked headbang right as the song starts with a gentle acoustic guitar part doesn’t come across as an effective headbang. Make sure you know when the energy level is going to drop into awesome-land, and reserve your headbangs for then.
  • Get in the “headbang stance” right before the part in the song:
    I can’t tell you how many times headbanging made me want to fall over on my face on stage. I’ve launched my head at incorrect angles with incorrect leg stances, and I’ve gone as far as hitting my forehead very hard on my keyboard stand mid-headbang due to a bad stance. Put one foot forward, and one foot back so you can go back and forth with balance, and make sure to headbang in bursts, not constant, because you steadily get more and more dizzy as the headbang persists.
  • Lean back:
    To really set off the first headbang of a headbang burst, you have to get a solid, well-timed, giant headbang in on the first down beat. Right before the moment of headbang hits, lean back, and coil up that potential headbang energy.
  • Whip forward but never straight down (that’s the key to not injuring your neck):
    Once you’ve let loose, make sure you never headbang straight forward, and always headbang in a ‘J’ pattern. Whip your hair down and right, or down and left. The ‘J’ pattern seems to not stress the neck and spine, whereas the straight-down headbang seems to stretch the spine in a painful manner.
  • Think of your hair, not your head:
    Use the momentum of your hair to make the headbang epic. If you’re just shaking your head, then your hair might look like a big ball of messy crazy hair, but if you’re swinging your hair around, you can do all sorts of cool designs like figure eights, helicopters, etc.Happy headbanging!-A.J. Vincent
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7 Steps to a Successful Show

1. Get to the show on time – getting to the show on time makes everything flow better, and it starts everything off well for the night between you and the venue staff. Go say hey to everybody at the venue when you arrive, then…

2. Get the plan for the night from the venue staff – 
it’s great to know and plan ahead of time if you’re going to sound-check or line-check before the show, and if you are immediately loading to the stage when you arrive, or if you will be loading to the stage right before your set. Be prepared!

3. Know your gear – when the sound engineer asks any questions about how to mic your amps, or when you’re asked how many “lines” does the band have, you should have the answer immediately, because you’ve thought it out already (especially if you have less than 10 minutes before your set starts, and you need all the time you can get to set up before you play). Sound engineers generally appreciate you taking the least time possible when setting up and tearing down the stage. Every second counts!

4. Don’t break things – although rocking out on stage is awesome, and crazy things naturally happen on stage, try your very hardest not to break the microphones (anywhere on stage), don’t break the stands, don’t step on the cables going into the monitors, and just generally try to never break anything at the venue. You can always scope out spots to stand when you’re rocking out that are safe and stable before your show, so when you go for a crazy solo, you don’t wind up crushing something important. Sound engineers treat their equipment like musicians treat their instruments – with detailed care and concern.

5. Work with the sound engineer on solving problems, and don’t ever get an attitude – good sound engineers will quickly fix a problem when it arises, and bad sound engineers will leave the board for any random reason, and if a problem arises, you can’t find them. Strive to work with focused sound engineers. If a sound engineer isn’t doing something to your specification (like the monitors being the wrong volume, the engineer forgot to check something, or something sounds very wrong), do not get frustrated and show a disgust for how things are not perfect. Simply let the engineer know the problem, and work together to fix it, and do anything that can help fix the problem the fastest.  I have seen bands express impatience/disgust towards engineers and engineering issues many times, and you just have to work with everyone on any problem with a positive attitude to get things done.

6. Play really hard – sound engineers like watching something exciting and new. They see a lot of bands, and when you get them stoked about your sound, they get really into making it sound awesome.

7. Thank everybody on the way out – make sure that when you’re packing up, other bands are packing up, the engineer(s) are packing up, and everyone is tired… make sure to thank everyone for working so hard all night to make it happen. People really appreciate it, and it takes a lot of people to pull off a show, so let everyone know you appreciate all the effort.

-A.J. Vincent

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How to attend a music festival

by Wes Armstrong
We Austinites are incredibly lucky to have an event like Austin City Limits on our doorstep. The two weekend festival brings thousands of fans and some of the best local and national talent together.
This year will mark my seventh year of attending the fest, and although there are a multitude of online articles giving their tips and tricks, I thought I’d give my top 5 overlooked details that will help give you an amazing experience.
1. Drink enough water- The last thing you want is to be dehydrated in the middle of a crowd. Take advantage of the filling stations, and plan ahead. One water bottle a day is not enough!
 
2. Bring hand sanitizer- ACL has many amazing and delicious food options. When eating something messy or sticky, napkins alone will not do enough to keep your hands clean.
 
3. Ziplock bags- The forecast looks beautiful this year, but this is Texas and we all know how temperamental  the weather can be. Don’t get caught in a rainstorm unprepared. Throw your phone and schedule in a ziplock bag. Your phone will stay dry and clean, and you’ll be happy to have a pristine paper schedule when your phone dies and they run out of schedules to hand out. 
4. Bring a handkerchief– The most versatile thing in my pack every year. It can be a sweat rag, emergency tissue, headband, neck-cooler, even a tourniquet!
5. Have a plan– If you get separated you need a set place to meet your friends and family. Pick a spot in advance to call home base.
Have a happy ACL fest!
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How to support your child in practicing

I recently received a frustrated email from a parent of a 10 yr old piano student, who needed help encouraging her daughter to practice  piano.  This was my response, I hope you find it helpful in encouraging your child to practice. – James Mays – Band Aid School of Music Director

I hear your frustration about _____ practicing.  I’m sure you have your own techniques for supporting ____ to spend more time at the piano.  Here are some of my observations and techniques to support Merlin, my 9 year old son.  I hope they will help you find creative ways to support _____ or at least further our discussion.
I find that Merlin will wander up to the piano and play a bit on his own, but it’s usually not even what he learned in his lesson.  We set aside 30 min blocks of time for him to play and practice a few days per week.  This is building in him the habit of practicing.  At first we do it as a means to something he really loves, like play mine craft.  After he practices, he get to play.  It’s important that it feels like a positive challenge rather than a negative reinforcement.  “All you have to do is 30 minutes of practice on the piano and you will get a special treat, 30 minutes of mine craft.  How’s that sound?  Good?”  Rather than “No practice, No mine craft” After a while I’m seeing him embrace and even enjoy going to the piano to play and practice.  For Melin, if it’s all practice, it’s no fun, so I make sure he has time to just plunk around and discover, or try to pick out a melody he’s familiar with, like the theme to the pink panther, which he loves.  This way he feels empowered to explore and enjoy.
Another successful method my wife Kate and I employ, is to create time each week where the family has nothing scheduled and no time commitments.  During that time we restrict the use of any electronic devices, like phones, tv, computers.  We call it “Creative Time”.  This allows space for Merlin to be creative.  He will draw, read, etc.. often he will naturally go to his drums or the piano and just play.  Sometimes, he needs a suggestion, “Hey Merlin, can you show mommy that piano rhythm Chris showed you?”  This is helping him to make the decision to play on his own.
How we respond to his practicing is crucial to him wanting to continue to practice in the future:
We make sure that our first response to any of his playing is positive.  We make an effort to pay full attention to him while he plays and make a big fuss by clapping when he’s finished.  I personally have to leave out any suggestions about how he can improve.  I simply relate my thoughts to Chris, his teacher and let Chris make the suggestions.  Merlin would rather show me how good he is than hear my feedback on how he can improve.  Kate, my wife has better luck giving him feedback on how to improve, but she mainly sticks with positive reinforcement.  This empowers Merlin to feel good about every little bit of practicing he does.  The idea at this age is to constantly encourage him to enjoy playing, so that he will choose it on his own and feel empowered by his choice.
All the best!
James Mays -Director
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