Paul Davis (Dep Bass and Dep Keys plus Harmonies) [Covers & Original, Dep Musician]
Help The Deps To Help You!23 Jan 2019Help The Deps To Help You! Although the beginning of January is already nearly a month in the past, it's still not too late to make two suggestions for 2019 resolutions that could make the small gigging world musicians and live music fans inhabit a lot less free of stress.And before going further, if the mere idea of working with deps sends any band into disgust-induced shock or indignation, this post is not intended to convert anyone.But for those still reading and are tinkering with the idea of having people ready and available for those occasions when sudden illness, unexpected absence or last-minute circumstance stop the entire regular line-up of an act to perform, I'd really love to speak for my own fellow serial deps and suggest two things that I'm sure many of us would love more and more acts to do!1. HAVE A STANDARD “DEP” SET LIST READYIt DOESN'T have to be a night of last-minute play-safe chestnuts when getting a dep to stand in. Far nicer to create a 32(ish)-song set ready for any dep that offers his/her services for future occasions, and simply stick to it! 200 songs listed on a band website is very useful, but not when you need to know which numbers to concentrate on.I often hear phrases like “ah, we don't do that one anymore” or “we only do that song when Fred/Freda is with us” after I've spent quality Google time researching a track that isn't done to death by others!By having such a standard (say 2 hour) set list ready in advance, the band gets to play the songs they really like, and the only thing they need to do is list their favourite 32 songs and make it available to deps in advance.I've occasionally seen set lists where I've thought, “I'd love to be a part of that one evening!”, so please, entice away and free us from the same old same old. ;)Of course, this isn't too practical for a gig with just a few hours' notice, but I'd love to see tons more bands do such lists in advance and let us lowly deps catch a glimpse of them!2. MAKE A LISTENABLE RECENT GIG RECORDINGIt has never been easier! A 4-piece band could give up £20 each of their fee and enjoy the wonders of a Zoom H1n recorder (or similar) for years to come. Recording rehearsals, recording gigs and without that horrible tinniness you get from somebody holding up their phone in the middle of a loud drink-ordering crowd halfway down the pub.If an act genuinely thinks they're worth being taken seriously, this should be a no-brainer.Just shove the device behind & above the drummer, facing towards the audience (or a reasonably short distance in front pointing towards the band, away from talkers), set the manual level controls so they don't distort and simply press record.A simple gig recording capture is the most useful thing most deps could wish for!As I've stated in previous blogs, it DOESN'T have to be “Abbey Road” quality. But just as long as it isn't distorting and as long as the full frequency range of the sound is discernable (i.e.: not sounding like a speaker on a pocket transistor radio), that's all most serial deps need.Relying on ear is usually how most deps are done, so having a recording deps can study and where we can listen endless times to analyse certain unusual phrases without dragging tired band members into rehearsal rooms is a major advantage.There's the Internet if chord charts or notation are required, but most deps I encounter rely largely on their ears for learning.Again, this does away with the need to fill a set with safe musical chestnuts, and might actually excite musicians about being involved with certain acts.One of the main reasons I dep is that I can gravitate towards more varied and interesting musical choices, and many deps I know have this as a primary reason too, along with less exposure to occasional heated band politics and Groundhog Day gigs.Music should always excite!= = = = = =PUBLIC GIGS THIS WEEK:Wednesday 23rd January 2019 – from 9pm to 11pmPlaying bass for STEVE OAKMANTHE MERMAID, St Albans(Both Steve and I find ourselves playing keyboards for The Faith Stealers when needed, so a few people looked puzzled when they see us together on stage and both playing guitars of sorts. Also featuring Howard Tibble, the drummer on Shaky's number 1 singles, so someone whose playing you've no doubt heard already over the years! Lovely chap.)= = = = = =Unusually, no gigs scheduled for Friday, Saturday or Sunday this weekend. Of course, this doesn't mean I don't have jobs to complete (either domestic, paid or musical), but I'm always around for any gig needing bass or keyboards cover for a reasonable payment (for the distance, effort, time, brain cell use, etc.!).Visit my main Lemonrock page for more details and recent gig snippets, which I hope display my willingness to serve bands and the fact that I'm not restricted to one type of genre, venue or instrument. ;)www.lemonrock.com/pauldavisIf I can be of use to you, I'll be on the case!
Zooming In9 Jan 2019Zooming In Carrying on from my blog last week about gig recording, I thought I'd go into more detail with my experiences so far using the Zoom H6, which I purchased about 9 months ago.Over the years, I have recorded many live gigs and demos, for myself and others using my 2002-vintage Yamaha AW16G digital multitrack.This is still an excellent piece of equipment, despite its age. It doesn't have USB or memory card storage, relying on CD-Rs or optical connectors for digital transfer, or even connecting the audio outs for analogue transfer to a computer soundcard.In fact the latter technique tends to be forgotten about these days, but was perfectly effective for decades, and still is!However, I have often found that it can be a bit tricky using the AW16G at live gigs mainly in terms of space (about one square foot of space needed) and of ease of use, if you're playing an instrument at the same time. There's also the negative effect of vibration on units with mechanical hard drives (such as the 20 gigabyte model inside the AW16G).As I often seem to be the main demo maker for most acts I'm associated with, I felt I needed to rectify this with a more modern device that didn't have these problems for live stuff.The Zoom H6 retailed at around £250, which is very reasonable for the features it offered.It was also a far more recent device than the AW16G and geared for the way most people record and mix recordings these days, being a simple high-quality capturing device, which you can then transfer to a computer for mixing on a DAW.You can TECHNICALLY mix and overdub on the Zoom H6 (like a digital portastudio), but it's not something that seems a particular joy to do in respect of the tiny menus and lack of buttons, faders or dials.The Yamaha AW16G in contrast was sold in times where you could still record, mix and master from the same machine (a major selling point then), and when less people did the transfer of WAV files to computers.Although I transfer the WAV to my computer when working with the AW16G, I like the fact that you can also produce an entire master from one machine, something I did exclusively in the first few years of use in fact.And I still record to the AW16G for many of my own acoustic and electric recordings, simply because I'm not looking at a computer screen yet again, and is something rather liberating, because you tend to concentrate more on the music, rather than looking at the waveforms. I happily mix in the computer, but for tracking, I prefer to be looking out of windows (lowercase “c”) than at Windows (uppercase “C”).Back to the Zoom H6, and this is a device designed for simple capture of live sound by musicians. You can buy the most basic Zoom recorder (the excellent H1n) for around £80, and it often frustrates me (especially as a dep) that many bands don't. For £20 each (for a quartet!), they can walk away with a half-decent recording of their sets for reference or even demo use, yet so many acts instead rely on awful smartphone sound captures, whilst excessively spending thousands on other musical gear that very few punters will notice or actually care a jot about!The H6 is several models up from the H1n and offers a similar but bigger X/Y mic capsule for stereo recording, and an additional 4 tracks (with inputs) for other sound sources.In ergonomic terms, it solves many of the headaches I've experienced in the past, as every input can accept either XLR or jack leads. I would have liked to see all those 4 extra inputs on the same side of the machine personally, but I think Zoom were obviously going for a symmetrical design!There is a simple 0-to-10 input gain dial for every channel (including the stereo mic), with the 4 extra channels also having a -20dB pad switch to counter louder inputs and to allow for more control whilst setting levels.Another wish list feature would be to have all the buttons backlit, but seeing as this can operate on batteries (as well as mains power), it's probably to help reduce power consumption.However, each input has a red LED that flickers when the input begins to distort, so it's very easy to keep a check on, even while performing on a darkened stage.I've learned to keep things well away from clipping anyway, as levels can sometimes be recorded too high. And luckily, 24-bit recording quality ensures that even relatively low levels of gain are better than risking distortion.The Zoom H6 also has built in limiting for each channel (which I'll confess I've yet to use), but just leaving lots of headroom is fine for most of the time.In it's most basic use, you can recorded using the mic at a well-chosen spot in front of the band.Obviously, this is not too realistic an approach for pub gigs where audiences might knock it over, but works perfectly well at rehearsals.Preferable to that is also taking a feed from the P.A. mixer, so you can combine both the room sound whilst getting some clarity to the vocals.Some surprisingly good recordings can result from this simple combination, with the help of judicious EQ-ing at mixdown.At real world gigs of course, you might not have the room to be so scientific, so that's where those individual channels become so handy. I also invested in a Zoom capsule that replaces the X/Y stereo mic with two extra line/mic inputs.This gives 6 separate simultaneous channels to record on, so for a typical band (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, backing vocals), I would generally do the following.1. A dynamic mic in front of the guitar amp.2. A line out or kick drum mic from the bass amp.3. A mic from the kick drum.4. A condenser mic behind the drummer, for the rest of the kit.5. The lead vocalist's voice going through a sub-mixer, panned left.6. All the other backing vocals going through a sub-mixer, panned right.It may not be miked up liked a studio recording session is, but it's enough to capture everything individually and give enough separation during the mix. There's plenty of spill between tracks, but as it's a live recording, it's all part of the charm and atmosphere.Another thing that I like about the H6, is that it's virtually impossible to record over something you've already captured. With my AW16G, I might listen to the tracks after the first set, but forget to the move the playback position to the end of the set. You then realise that you're going over the first set! But no such worries with the H6 thankfully.One thing that's struck me since buying the H6, is how useful the room mic is. There is a huge temptation to just use the individual instrument & vocal captures, especially when you hear how clear they are, but you miss out on the live vibe so much.But it's wonderful that you can still be learning things like this first hand, even after recording and mixing for several decades!= = = = = =PUBLIC GIGS THIS WEEKEND:Saturday 12th January 2019 - starts 9.30pmPlaying bass for THE REGGULATERSTHE HORNS, Watford(Last minute dep with this popular ska-reggae covers band, this time on bass)
Abbey Road In A Pub?4 Jan 2019Abbey Road In A Pub? I've done many live recordings of pub gigs over the last decade and a half, often at gigs where I'm also playing an instrument, which while never ideal if you're trying to keep an eye on levels whilst keeping the front of house sound in check, is nonetheless good practice in perfecting and honing those recording skills.That's only half the story of course, because the mixing stage is where everything comes together, although at least this can be done in the relative calm of domestic surroundings.But it's still very satisfying to hear a good mix come together, as it suddenly adds a completely new dimension in sound terms to those ubiquitous smartphone recordings people post in their millions to social media.And if you're ever making a recording for a dep player to learn from, it's so much easier when a recording is half-decent and clear in the first place, especially when there's about 2 hours of it to check out.Although relatively “new” to gigging in life terms, I have been recording and mixing at home for decades, starting off in the lowliest way possible, recording onto my parent's 1970s stereo system, playing back the recording through the speakers whilst adding another track live and hoping the built-in mic of another cheap cassette deck could contend with all that acoustic guitar, piano and tambourine overload.1986 saw me purchasing a Fostex X-15 4-track player, and ten years later found me owning a Vestax HDR-6 6-track hard disk recorder plus Sony DAT player to capture my efforts.Don't laugh – I made two complete solo albums on this set-up which I still feel proud of today!A major downside of having engineered and mixed in a “studio” style, is that many of the practices don't necessarily apply to live recordings or live sound.My early attempts at capturing live bands as a result, had me trying to emulate Abbey Road in a pub (my own phrase and description of unrealistic hopes)!Live sound is a bit more “messy”, and in a positive sense.I've seen a handful of acts where everything is beautifully siphoned through the desk, producing a sound that is impressively hi-fi and could come straight off a CD.But I've also discovered that “hi-fi” is not always the most exciting of gig vibes, and people who attend gigs don't actually mind that the snares rattle whenever the bassist plays, that the guitar amp sometimes unintentionally feeds back, or that the singer uses a bit more reverb than they would on a record.And let's not forget the audience for these recordings, especially outside of the band members themselves.I certainly don't sit for two hours plus, listening to mixes of gigs I've played, and wouldn't expect any outside agencies to get overly excited about them either.Apart from the real-world recording practice aspect, my use of such footage is purely for demo purposes. Snippets from numerous songs played in the space of a few minutes.The people hiring bands from music-hosting venues KNOW what a typical live band will sound like in their establishments, and it will be quite different from a studio production.The public's resistance to Autotune-like technologies have pushed demos into more realistic territories than they were just over a decade ago, and I'm quite happy with this development.Yes, there a still a few technical marvels used in recordings that aren't generally in the public consciousness – there's plenty of EQ and compression used in the live mixes people like me do – but there's no need to attenuate every sung syllable or make the end result overly clinical, like most 3-minute songs would require.As long as the recording's clear, with most elements being able to be heard, you can get away with a lot of “roughness” in live mixes, and as I've slowly realised over the years, listeners don't really mind this at all.And if a demo can help you get a gig, then it's served its purpose in all honesty.= = = = = =PUBLIC GIGS THIS WEEK:FRIDAY 4th JANUARY 2019 – starts 9pmPlaying bass for RIGHT HAND DRIVETHE WHEATSHEAF, Leighton Buzzard=SATURDAY 5th JANUARY 2019 – starts 9pmPlaying bass for RIGHT HAND DRIVETHE VICTORIA CLUB, Aylesbury=SUNDAY 6th JANUARY 2019 – starts 9pmPlaying bass for THE LANDLORDSTHE FARMERS BOY, St Albans= = = = = =
The Two Forgotten Heroes Of Pub Gigging!31 Dec 2018The Two Forgotten Heroes Of Pub Gigging! Before the sun sets on 2018, I'd to draw attention to the two groups of people that make gigging in pubs a pleasure for me. So much of a pleasure that people like ignore all the downsides and continue to load our cars with the gear on regular basis when we get the opportunities to do so.So allow me to make some distinctions whilst thanking …1. THE ROAMING LOCAL MUSIC FAN.Not the paralytic chap about to fall on the guitarist effects pedals, not the intoxicated hen night “princess” screaming in your face, not a musician “brother/sister” types from other acts who spend the entire gig checking their phone & are only there to speak to the landlord about bookings & pick holes in what you're doing “wrong” before they leave after 10 songs! :pInstead, those wonderful people who look up sites (like Lemonrock or word of mouth) and come to gigs to listen. These people don't spend the evening yelling tunes you don't do at your face, nor do they stand directly in front of the band whilst facing the audience and becoming the un-nominated Bez for the night! Instead, they just let the musicians do their thing.As a result, the presence of such audiences help make the establishment a much nicer place for new punters to get recommended to visit, the existing audiences don't get treated like drunken party guests, the band are are happier to get to play at places that let them do their “thing” (at gigs they've often waited months to play), and best of all, I've made lots of friends with people who don't feel the need to drink 20 pints of Stella Artois to become (anti-)sociable. :-DThe genuine music fans continue to support us in a way that the up close drunk requesters and musician “rivals” certainly won't.By the way, I also know lots of wonderful musician friends who fall into the genuine music fan category, and that some slightly drunk people can actually help an evening without being disrespectful morons. Thankfully, life isn't quite that binary.2. THE WELCOMING LANDLORD HIRER.Again, forget the ”we're all in this together” musician brotherhood nonsense, as I've found along with the roaming local music fan, landlords are the people that provide the money, space and opportunities for me to continue to enjoy playing live.The considerate landlord is someone who should be prized, as they make sure the visiting musicians feel welcome and safe. I tend to avoid any place where I know where acts are regarded as simple amusement or an irritation, especially when there are establishments that really care about the simple enjoyment of watching a live act and making it an experience that musicians and listeners are happy to return for.Most of all, the best landlords know that live music can be a major draw for local people, if they know they can come along and have a good time without feeling intimidated or uncomfortable.All the most enjoyable venues I've had the pleasure of playing, operate this way.And when live music is not simply sidelined, but is made a major part of the pub's identity, I always believe that such places deserve our collective support. These are the people that make it possible to play and get paid for it, despite any woes about the less scrupulous operators in my earlier gigging days!No music loving landlords, means no enjoyable gigs, so they will continue to get my thanks and support into 2019 and beyond.= = = = = =Playing at Stopsley WMC in Luton tonight with Right Hand Drive to see in the new year, so it's a members-only event, which I'm perfectly happy about.Readers of my blog will know that I have a criteria for the 31st December gigs I play, and avoid corporate events (it's MY new year celebrating too, not just the wealthy guests!) as well as any unticketed places (unless you like 3 or 4 police cars blocking you in the car park at 1.30am, while they sort out the year-long simmering arguments that have finally come to a head!).Ticketed pubs or clubs only these days, as people are in for the night and don't want their evening spoiled by people who have been thrown out of other places!!I have actually reached a stage in my life where Jools Holland is now an option, so NYE gigs have to really be places where I'm happy to be. :)= = = = = =PUBLIC GIGS THIS WEEK:TUESDAY 1st JANUARY 2019 – 11.30am start (£8 admittance charge)Playing keyboards for MELANIE WALLST ALBANS SUB AQUA CLUB, St Albans(My third year in a row at this fun family event, where people dive into the unheated outdoor swimming pool in Cottonmill Lane for various good causes. There is a ticket charge, but have mentioned this event as it's a public one. It's also the third year that I am playing alongside Melanie Wall, who many will know from the eponymous duo she is part of with Lemonrock editor Mac MacLaren. We're doing all the music this time, and unlike her previous pool-jumping activities of 2017 & 2018 as a penguin and Pamela Anderson respectively, she is staying resolutely dry for 2019!)=FRIDAY 4th JANUARY 2019 – 9pm startPlaying bass for RIGHT HAND DRIVETHE WHEATSHEAF, Leighton Buzzard(Guitarist Guy's local pub!)=SATURDAY 5th JANUARY 2019 – 9pm startPlaying bass for RIGHT HAND DRIVETHE VICTORIA CLUB, Aylesbury(RHD's debut here)=SUNDAY 6th JANUARY 2019 – 9pm startPlaying bass for THE LANDLORDSTHE FARMERS BOY, St Albans(The Landlords' first in this musical establishment)= = = = = =Finally, happy 2019 to all my regular blog readers, and any new ones!Looking forward to seeing many familiar faces in the coming 12 months, and meeting many new ones, both sides of the P.A. speakers ...
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