How to properly wrap audio cables: the no-knots method!

Ever since I saw this video, my life changed into one free of tangled cables. If you wrap your headphone in this manner, you’ll never have to spend precious time gingerly pulling out knots. The over-under method also prolongs the life of your cables.

I also highly recommend getting some cheap velcro cable ties from Amazon so that you can keep everything organized. With the amount of gadgets that need chargers, wires, cables, and adapters, it’s great to be able to make sure that I never have a drawer that looks like cable spaghetti.

 

 

Video Tutorial | “Broken Arms, Broken Neck, Mended Heart”

Welcome to the first episode of a series where I teach you how to play my music!

I’m focusing my efforts on this series over the 5 minute tutorials because I feel that they will be more helpful to people. We’ll go over specific techniques I use in the songs so that you can learn my song or add some more tools to your arsenal!

Grab your guitar, and let’s get started!

 

 

Gear:
The Engle Guitar Hammer — http://amzn.to/1fWjuuY
Stonebridge Sheltered Turtle custom guitar — http://www.stonebridgeguitars.com
MiniFlex Microphone Model 1 — http://www.miniflexmic.com/
John Pearse Stings 700M — http://amzn.to/Pkg1Ac
John Pearse Armrest — http://amzn.to/1eEnT5G
Grover 106 Tuners — http://amzn.to/15Rbi0P
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5 (main video) — http://amzn.to/1aqFDSG
Logitech c920 (tutorials) — http://amzn.to/1ncYnOb
Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 (interface) — http://amzn.to/1aKrK24
Vox VAC19 (cable) — http://amzn.to/12BWEcq
Full Disclosure: The Amazon links are my affiliate links. By clicking on these links before you shop on Amazon, you can help support my music … at no additional cost to you! Basically, when you click on the links, you’re telling Amazon to donate a portion of the proceeds to help make my music. That’s it! Thanks so much for your support!

Why can’t I sing? 7 easy tips to become a better singer

I’ve been receiving a lot of feedback from an article I posted in a little while ago titled Overcoming fear of singing. If one thing has become clear from your E-mails, Facebook messages, Tweets, and face-to-face conversations, it’s that I’m not alone in these fears and insecurities. Since then, people’ve been asking to relay some tips. Here they are!

 

Singing

 

1. Go on a date

… with your voice. Be engaged, good-humored, and listen to everything it says. Get to know it.

Similar to learning an instrument, a big part of improving singing is becoming familiar with your instrument, in this case, your voice. Find your limits (how low/high can you sing?), the ranges your voice sounds best (somewhere between your limits), and the tone/volume/style that seems to fit you. More on the last bit later.

A lot of people get discouraged because they try to do covers that never quite sound very good. Many times, the cover falls short because they’re trying to sing like the artist and not like themselves. Learn songs in different keys (basically higher or lower pitched from the original recording) and see which keys feel comfortable for you. Don’t worry about how it sounds, rather, become familiar with what your body wants to do. If you listen, it’ll tell you.

 

2. An audience of me

Ever heard your voice through the phone and hate the way your voice sounds? (“Do I really sound like that?”) The reason why this is so shocking is because when you talk you’re not hearing your voice, you’re hearing the vocal vibration in your head. In other words, we all hear voices in our head: every time we talk! Don’t worry: you’re not going crazy, especially if that voice tells you to give me all of your money.

The voice you hear when you sing sounds different from the voice that people do. Using a mic and PA allows you to better hear what audiences will hear. If you don’t have access to that, you can simply record yourself over your phone and listen back to it (if you’re an iPhone/iPad user, this is a fantastic option). If you don’t get used to the sound of your own voice, you’re going to spend your entire life fighting it instead of forming a partnership. 

 

3. 10 minutes of heaven

This is a singing tip from one of my favorite singers, Bobby McFerrin. Set a timer and sing for 10 minutes straight. No accompaniment, no instruments, no breaks. Just sing. Make things up. Make sounds. Make-up your own scat vowels. Don’t prepare anything or think about what to sing. Improvising for 10 minutes straight is harder than it sounds, but you’ll be surprised with what you come up with.

Do this on a regular basis (once daily for me during my commute to teach), and you’ll gradually come to see improvements in your flexibility as a singer. This is a great opportunity to incorporate a new technique you’re focusing on whether it’s falsetto, vibrato, beat boxing, scatting, etc.

Because you’re the sole musician for those 10 minutes, work on breaking down your fear and reservations; try something goofy and different. The point of this exercise is not to sound amazing for 10 minutes. It’s to work on your instincts as a singer by setting aside time to be a purely instinctual singer.

Think of this as the equivalent of having a giant piece of paper, closing your eyes, and scribbling randomly until a timer goes off. It’s not going to look like the Mona Lisa or much of anything really, but you will become aware of how you hold the pencil in your hand, what direction scribbling feels comfortable, how fast or slow you can draw, how hard or soft you can press. That awareness will become your singer’s instinct.

 

4. Get down with it

Mechanically, a singer is a lot like a bagpipe–every girl’s dream, I know. As a singer, you’re a wind instrument. Without the proper airflow, your singing won’t reach its maximum ability to … bagpipe. My point: posture is important. Try this out: lie down flat on the floor on your back. This position will force you to have a straight back which is good for airflow.

Take a deep-bellied breath sing, “Laaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.” Your belly should go from looking darn-near pregnant and deflate like a balloon (disclaimer: if you actually are pregnant, your belly will still look pregnant). Repeat this 5 times, taking care to stay relaxed and not rush through the exercise.

You should strive for a similar airflow when you sing. Sing an easy song (still on your back) and see if you can recreate the sensation. Repeat until your girlfriend comes home to find you singing “Mary had a Little Lamb” on your back and institutionalizes you.

 

5. The jaws of a snake, the face of Jim Carrey

A lot of beginner singers lock their jaws when they sing and don’t let their mouths drop past what it normally would while talking. Try exaggerating mouth, jaw, and face movements. Watch any good performance of the Star Spangled Banner. In the closing, climatic notes of the song the singer’s mouth is probably wide open. An open jaw drastically opens the sound of your voice. You might not like it right away, but it sounds better to the listener. Like with any practice method, you want to practice by exaggerating desired results so that instinct will eventually override bade habits.

 

6. Go international

Sing with an accent. You might be surprised with the results! By consciously adopting a different manner of enunciating, you’ll immediately become more conscious of your spoken syllables. When you sing in your usual way, it’s easy to fall back on sloppy speaking patterns. You don’t have to be convincing, but you do have to be consistent and sincere in your effort as goof as you might feel. It can be fun, and in the process, you might stumble upon more poetic elements to the language in your songs.

7. Don’t go it alone

Go to open mics. Watch singers sing. Try it for yourself. Most open mics I’ve been to have very positive and supportive vibes; they understand that many people there just want a low-pressure outlet to be musical in a setting outside of their bedroom. You can also join a choir or amateur singing group. The main point being to get experience singing with other people. You’ll learn good habits from the bad and can often get direct tips from those you admire.

 

Have any singing tips that’ve worked for you? Want to see more posts like this? Disagree with something in the article? Write it in the comments below!

What is Adobe Bridge used for? 5 Easy tips to get you started!

As I work on booking performances for 2014, I realized that I need a quick and easy way to edit the photos I take/are submitted by fans. I’ve dabbled in Adobe Bridge but never quite got why  it’s any better than just organizing my photos in file folders to begin with. As it turns out, I was missing out on a lot!

This great tutorial made it pretty clear that I was wasting a lot of time with my old workflow.

 

Click here for SLR Lounge’s full article.

 

Here are my takeaways:

1. Editing in Camera RAW mode allows you to make most the contrast, saturation, and other edits quickly and easily.

2. For someone like me who has all of his photos organized in dated folders, there is a way to preview the photos from multiple folders.

3. By going through Bridge, you edit multiple photos simultaneously through Camera RAW.

 

Not covered in this tutorial:

Bridge also allows you to rate your photos using a star system (1-5 stars) or flagging photos that aren’t any good. Then you can have bridge only show photos that are above a certain rating (4+ stars for example). This is great when you’ve taken a bunch of photos and have a handfull of duds that you don’t want to sort through.

 

Have some more beginner-friendly tips regarding Bridge, Camera RAW, or other Adobe products? Share them in the comments below!

How to clean and maintain your acoustic guitar like a pro! (Video tutorial + shopping list)

If you’re serious about maintaining the condition of your precious acoustic guitar, using your sleeve to wipe off fingerprints isn’t going to cut it!

For today’s tutorial, I’ve compiled a shopping list on Amazon so you don’t have to go searching for all the parts individually (they’re not necessarily hard to find but do require trips to multiple stores). The videos below detail the steps I use to maintain my guitars. If it’s good enough for Taylor, it’s good enough for me! Let’s get started.

 

Prep: your work station

An old beach towel and a pillow is all you really need to set up a work station. You’ll be putting the body of the guitar on the towel. The neck will rest on the pillow. Use a pillow that you won’t be using to sleep: the pillow and towel will likely be covered in steel wool fibers and some chemicals. If you’re clumsy like me, you’ll also be spilling linseed oil and car wax. You’ll also want enough table space to have access to the tools and materials. Bridge pins in particular have a tendency to roll around and get lost.

 

Part 1: De-stringing, polishing, and cleaning

 

First, here’s what you need (links open in a separate tab):

String/wire cutter – This multi-tool will cut strings, quickly wind tuning pegs (alternatively, here’s an electric winder), and remove stubborn bridge pins. Must-have for any guitarist!

Microfiber cloth – For polishing the guitar

Clear wax or guitar polish – Protective coating for you guitar

Painter’s tape – For preventing steel wool particles from getting into your guitar

#0000 Super fine steel wool – For cleaning and polishing frets

Paper towel – For cleaning your fretboard

Linseed oil – Conditioning your fretboard

10mm Socket – For tightening down tuning machine heads & pickup jack

Phillips head screwdriver – Adjusting your tuning machine heads

 

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Part 2: Restringing, adjusting neck/action, and properly stretching the strings

Materials Needed:

New strings. I generally use medium gauge strings, so if you prefer a lighter gauge, you’ll want to get the correct gauge (most players prefer lights or medium-lights). You’ll want to try out different strings to see what sounds and feels best on your guitar. My favorites are:

  • D’Addario EJ-17. My go-to strings. I buy in bulk because I change strings before every show and recording session.
  • Elixir Medium Nanoweb 80/20 Bronze. I use these on my teaching/workshop loaner guitars because they last a long time. If you don’t want/need to change strings all that often, these are a great choice.
  • John Pearse 700M Phosphor Bronze. These are my favorite sounding and feeling strings. However, sound quality degrades pretty quickly (for me, within about a week of heavy playing). Fortunately, they’re inexpensive.

String/wire cutter – This multi-tool will cut strings, quickly wind tuning pegs (alternatively, here’s an electric winder), and remove stubborn bridge pins. Must-have for any guitarist!

Digital/Chromatic Tuner – Unless you have perfect pitch, you’ll want one of these

Phillips head screwdriver – Adjusting your tuning machine heads

Truss rod wrench – Some guitars come with it. Others (like Martin) have to be bought separately. Generally, it’s recommended to get a professional to do neck adjustments as it’s very possible to permanently damage your guitar beyond repair if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you want to do it yourself, you’ll want to make sure you have the right size and length wrench. Every guitar has its own dimensions.

 

 

Questions? Did I miss something? Have a hot tip? Let me know in the comments below!