Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Grascals Release "American Picker" Video

published by BMNN on Thu, 10/31/2013

Here it is, friends! It’s the companion video for The Grascals' song “American Pickers” which appears on When I Get My Pay (street date November, 19). Yep, those are our pals Mike Wolfe from the History Channel TV show American Pickers and superstar/all-around-good-guy Dierks Bentley making guest appearances. The Grascals commented, "We love those guys! Whatcha think???"

The Grascals recently announced the addition of fiddler Adam Haynes to the band. Adam has an impressive pedigree having played with some of the finest: Melvin Goins & Windy Mountain, The James King Band, David Parmley & Continental Divide, Dailey & Vincent, Larry Stephenson Band, and most recently Grasstowne. Adam is originally from Norwalk, OH but spent quite some time in Eastern Kentucky where his family has roots as deep as bluegrass. Adam currently makes his home in Portland, TN with his wife, Janette, and two daughters, Bella (8) and Ellie (3).

Great musicians will always find a way to make good music, but for great musicians to make great music, they must form a bond – one that, more often than not, goes beyond the purely musical to the personal. For The Grascals, that bond has been forged at the intersection of personal friendships, shared professional resumes and an appreciation for the innovative mingling of bluegrass and country music that has been a hallmark of the Nashville scene for more than forty years. As their releases prove, The Grascals’ rare musical empathy gives them an unerring ear for just the right touch to illuminate each offering’s deepest spirit - whether they’re digging into one of their original songs or reworking a bluegrass classic or pop standard.

We are looking forward to the release of When I Get My Pay! he Grascals are among the most beloved and acclaimed bands on today’s bluegrass scene, having won SPBGMA’s Bluegrass Band of the Year award in 2010, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year award in 2005 and earning its Entertainer of the Year honor in both 2006 and 2007.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Three Reasons Why I Don't Put Prices On My Website

by Adam R Sweet
October 30, 2013

Reason #1

Tire Kickers Love The Game

I sell a lot of stuff on Craigslist and through pages on Google+ and other social bookmarking sites.  I get dozens of inquiries from "tire kickers".  You can tell who they are instantly.  They always start out with "what's the model number" or "what are the other specs" or words to that effect.  They are not looking to purchase or to make a deal, they are often trolls or troglodytes interested more in the game of bargaining you down, or worse, making you feel bad about yourself, than actually doing anything worthwhile.

Reason #2

Tire Kickers Don't Buy Locally

Tire Kickers who are not trolls or troglodytes are not interested in buying locally.  They want you to do the research for them, then they'll bargain someone else down somewhere online "I saw it on Craigslist for $X and got the dude to go down to $x"

Reason #3

Tire Kickers Don't Have The Money In The End

If the tire kickers are not trolls and not interested in a bargain, they probably don't have money anyway.  I've had my share of long winded "negotiations" with people on the internet who always end up saying they don't have the money to afford it "now" but will "keep you in mind" for the future.  Right.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Promotion for the Independent Musician


In a market saturated with the music of aspiring musicians and already well established acts it can be difficult for new acts to gain exposure. This begs the question, how does an artist stand out and get heard over the masses of music uploaded to the web each day? This guide was written as a follow-up of sorts to our blog “treating your band as a business” and also ties in with our online marketing crash course. The article will be split into two sections: the first pertaining to more traditional “physical” promotion techniques and the second focused on marketing your music online to listeners around the globe.

The Demo CD

The demo CD (or tape if you remember the golden days of the cassette) has long been a staple of promotion for aspiring musicians. A demo of your music can be anything from rough DIY live recordings to a selection of two or three professional recordings of your best songs. Although sometimes a well-composed, well-performed song can shine through a muffled and noisy home recording, it is often more beneficial to select a “single” and a “b-side” at minimum to have professionally recorded. You might be surprised to learn that the cost of creating a professional recording using high quality equipment is often less than the cost of purchasing an entry-level home recording setup of your own. A great sounding demo can be invaluable in getting your act booked for shows and also makes a great freebie to get people interested in your music!

Tips for an effective Demo:

  • Put your best songs forward
  • Have high quality recordings (if you record yourself a small studio can often mix & master your project fairly inexpensively, a pro mix can really take your home recordings to the next level)
  • Keep it short (2-3 songs is generally a good number to shoot for)
  • A small CD insert with art can really help grab attention
  • Don’t forget to include your contact info! (A booking agent can’t book you if they can’t contact you, regardless of how great your demo is)   

“Freebies” As A Promotion Tool

While we’re on the topic of freebies we want to take a second to give you a few ideas that will help get the creative juices flowing on ways you can use inexpensive merch items as promotional tools! The idea behind freebie promotion is simple: people love free stuff and are more likely to tell a friend or co-worker about your awesome band within a 30 day window if they have a small reminder in the form of “low overhead” merchandise. As a general rule of thumb, you will probably want to use lower cost merch items for promotion and avoid giving out items with a high manufacturing cost such as clothing or vinyl. For example, stickers are one of the best low-cost, highly-effective promotional tools available. Most everyone likes stickers and wherever, whatever or to whoever they are applied instantly becomes a free promotional outlet for your band. A great eye catching design is definitely a must if you’re aiming for maximum effectiveness. Try giving out smaller stickers for free and place them next to other larger stickers for sale on the merch table (but be sure fans can separate free from for sale!)  Download cards are another simple yet effective tool directing fans to your online music and can be printed, at low cost, on formats from business cards to flyers. A good download card design will be eye-catching without being cluttered. You can decide to require “liking” your facebook page (via a “like gate”) before the download will begin.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Crossing The Pond - A Live Concert

Crossing The Pond is a trio consisting of Mark Vocca, Jamie Bunting and myself (Adam Sweet).  We get together in the spring to play a few St Patty's Day gigs together at pubs and libraries in CT and western MA.  It's a lot of fun and they are great guys to play music with.  I hope you enjoy this video.

Newfoundland Dancing And Music from Fogo Island in the 1990s

A very lively video of an old fashioned Newfoundland kitchen party featuring Fogo Islands most well known accordion players, Harry Eveleigh, Pat Freake, Harvey Budgell. Which took place somewhere within the early 90's on Fogo Island, Newfoundland.

Some of the tunes played (not in order)
- Off She Goes
- Cock Of The North
- Mussels In The Corner
- Boys Of The Bunkhouse
- I'se Da Bye

These clips were taken from "Fogo Island, my Island home" movie published and produced by Gerald Freake.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Making the most of your hours in the practice room:

by Christine Carter

One simple change that could drastically increase your productivity

When it comes to practicing, we often think in terms of time: How many hours are necessary to achieve optimal progress? While this is a valid concern, a more important question is how we can make each hour count. What is the most efficient way to work so that what is practiced today actually sticks tomorrow? There is nothing more frustrating than spending a day hard at work only to return the next day at the starting line. Unfortunately, our current practice model is setting us up for this daily disappointment.

Repetition, babies, and brain scans

Early on in our musical training, we are taught the importance of repetition. How often have we been told to “play each passage ten times perfectly before moving on”? The challenge with this well-intentioned advice is that it is not in line with the way our brains work. We are hardwired to pay attention to change, not repetition. This hardwiring can already be observed in preverbal infants. Show a baby the same object over and over again and they will gradually stop paying attention through a process called habituation. Change the object, and the attention returns full force. The same goes for adults. Functional magnetic resonance imaging has demonstrated that there is progressively less brain activation when stimuli are repeated. The fact is, repeated information does not receive the same amount of processing as new information. And on some level, we all know this. Constant repetition is boring and our boredom is telling us that our brains are not engaged. But instead of listening to this instinctive voice of reason, we blame ourselves for our lack of attention and yell at ourselves to “focus!” Luckily, there is an alternative.

Blocked practice schedules

In the field of sport psychology, the continuous repetition discussed above is called blocked practice. In a blocked practice schedule, all repetitions of one activity are completed before moving on to a second activity. For example, a baseball player who must hit fifteen fastballs, fifteen curve balls, and fifteen change-up pitches in practice would complete all of the fastballs before moving on to the curve balls and so on. This most resembles the way the majority of musicians practice, especially when it comes to challenging passages. We work on one excerpt for a given amount of time and then move on to the next excerpt until all tasks for the day are complete. A blocked approach seems logical.  Muscle memory requires repetition and why wouldn’t we do all of the repetitions in a row? After all, if we are working on a difficult passage, it feels a lot more comfortable 10 minutes into practice than at the beginning. It is precisely this feeling of comfort and improvement that reinforces our reliance on blocked practice. The problem with this kind of practicing, however, is that the positive results we feel in the practice room today do not lead to the best long-term learning tomorrow. Practicing in a way that optimizes performance in the practice room does not optimize learning.

Random practice schedules

What if we took the blocks of practice on particular tasks and broke them down into smaller segments on each task? In the baseball example above, the players could hit the three different types of pitches in an alternating fashion, instead of doing all of one kind in a row. Two breakdown options are a repeating order (e.g., abc abc abc…) or an arbitrary order (e.g., acb cba bca…). In either, the net result will still be 15 practice hits of each of the three types of serve, exactly the same as the net result in the blocked practice schedule. The only variable that changes is the order in which the pitches are practiced. This type of interspersed schedule is called a random practice schedule (also known as an interleaved practice schedule).

In a random practice schedule, the performer must keep restarting different tasks. Because beginnings are always the hardest part, it will not feel as comfortable as practicing the same thing over and over again. But this challenge lies at the heart of why random practice schedules are more effective. When we come back to a task after an intervening task, our brain must reconstruct the action plan for what we are about to do. And it is at this moment of reconstruction that our brains are the most active. More mental activity leads to greater long-term learning. In the blocked schedule above, the baseball players must only construct the action plan for each type of pitch once, at the beginning of each block. In the random schedule, they must construct and later reconstruct an action plan fifteen times for each pitch. Although a blocked schedule may produce superior performance during practice, study after study has shown that a random practice schedule consistently produces superior retention following practice a day or more later (i.e., the amount actually learned). This phenomenon is called the contextual interference effect.

How much better is a random practice schedule?

It turns out that the hypothetical baseball example used above is not hypothetical.  In a 1994 study by Hall, Domingues, and Cavazos, elite baseball players were assigned to either the blocked or random practice schedules discussed above. After twelve practice sessions, the baseball players in the random practice schedule hit 57% more of the pitches than when they started. The blocked group only hit 25% more of the pitches, meaning that the random practice schedule was almost twice as effective, even though the two groups hit the same number of practice pitches. Similar results have been found across a wide variety of fields. Most pertinent to our interests as musicians, my preliminary research at the Brain and Mind Institute in Canada provides empirical support for the use of a random practice schedule in music. Not only does this research suggest that a random practice schedule is more effective than a blocked schedule for practicing musical passages, participant interviews also reveal that random practice has positive effects on factors such as goal setting and focus.

How to use a random schedule in the practice room

Rather than spending long uninterrupted periods of time woodshedding each excerpt or section of a piece, pick a few passages you would like to work on and alternate between them. If you want to spend a total of 30 minutes on a particular excerpt, practice in shorter segments, continually returning to this excerpt until you have achieved your 30-minute goal. Experiment with lengths of time. If you are practicing excerpts that are very short, you may be able to switch between them at a faster pace than would be required for longer sections. You can use a small alarm clock to time specific intervals or switch after each repetition. At its most basic level, random practice might look like this:


Material to Practice

3 minutes Excerpt A
3 minutes Excerpt B
3 minutes Excerpt C
3 minutes Excerpt A
3 minutes Excerpt B
3 minutes Excerpt C

Practicing passages in different rhythmic variations is a great way of introducing contextual interference on a smaller scale. But instead of doing all rhythmic variations on a single excerpt before moving onto the next, do one variation on excerpt A, one on excerpt B and then return to excerpt A for a second variation etc. Technique can also be interspersed into the random schedule, instead of doing all of it in one long block. An example of a more complicated random practice session might look something like the following:


Material to Practice

2 minutes Long tone, scale, long tone, scale…
3 minutes Excerpt A (using first rhythmic variation)
2 minutes Third progression, arpeggio, third progression, arpeggio…
3 minutes Excerpt B (using first rhythmic variation)
2 minutes Long tone, scale, long tone, scale…
3 minutes Excerpt A (using second rhythmic variation)
2 minutes Third progression, arpeggio, third progression, arpeggio…
3 minutes Excerpt B (using second rhythmic variation)

The permutations are endless and the exact division of time is not important. What is crucial is that you are keeping your brain engaged by varying the material. More engagement means you will be less bored, more goal-oriented (you have to be if you only have 3 minutes to accomplish something), and substantially more productive. Most importantly, when you return to the practice room the next day, you can start from where you left off. This type of practice sticks.

Les Poules huppées

CRESTED HENS, THE (Les Poules huppées). French, Bourrée à 3 temps (3/8 time). E Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). Composed in 1983 by French...