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New Music – Katherine Labra ‘Late Nights’

I’m super excited to let you know that this week sees some beautiful new music coming out of the studio! The track is ‘Late Nights’ by new singer/songwriter Katherine Labra. The track was an absolute pleasure to work on both as a producer and a session musician. The feel is delicately mellow and heart felt and I think it shows great potential from this young artist. Check it out on the Spotify player below and read on for a bit of information about the recording process.

Production Process

This project came to me from Katherine after another producer had created a couple of really rough demos to draw from. After listening to these demos I really wanted to create a greater sense of structure and differentiate the chorus from the rest of the track. To do this I decided to simplify it back down to the original vocals and acoustic guitar and build the track up again from scratch. I really felt that the heart of the song was really strong and wanted to make it the focus point of the track.

After spending some time discussing the direction Katherine wanted for the track and establishing some extremely contrasting reference tracks I began layering up ideas the best concepts into what became the chorus. As I knew I would need the flexibility of moving project to the studios at work I found myself doing all of the software instruments with Logic Pro X which was a fun challenge.

The main acoustic guitar is my old Fender DG-4 Captured with an AT2020 and a vintage AKG D190E. I’ve ended up with three of these D190E’s and the frequency response is great for layering acoustics. The electric guitar was my trusty Fender Start recorded direct through my Focusrite 18i20 with Logic’s guitar amp plugins. I would usually record guitars amps but I wasn’t sure of the exact tone I would need until the vocals were tracked. The drum programming was trap influenced but notably less aggressive and the bass is a mono single oscillator sub bass to give it some weight.

The vocal sessions were some of the most fun I’ve had in the studio for a while. I went down to the studio at work to record them and took basically every mic I had to add to their collection incase we could find the right tone. There was a couple of AKG C414’s in the studio but they really didn’t work for this track and we ended up swapping them for my AT2020 and a SE Reflexion Filter through a Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56. I haven’t got one of these filters at the studio currently but they really do help reduce the ambient noise and unwanted reflexions, especially for vocal sessions. I ended up with Katherine in the control room for the session as it felt more comfortable and we could talk really easily between takes and make adjustments together. I am finding more and more that I’d rather have the singer in the control room with me, everything feels more immediate and they seem more relaxed. Maybe this will change in the future but I prefer it that way for most sessions. The only creative editing after the session was the layered vocals at the end of the song which we both absolutely loved how they lift that final chorus and give a much needed counter melody.

After the vocal sessions came a series of mix down sessions without the artist and bounces being sent across until we felt the balance and feel had reached the final stages. It was at this point I left the Logic plugins as I use bunch of third-party plugins for mastering. The mix was intended to have a modern commercial sound but avoiding being overly compressed. I am really pleased with the outcome and the speed with which it came together. Hopefully I will be working on future releases with Katherine as I can see the honesty of the lyrics she writes really resonating with a lot of listeners. Let me know what you think of the track in the comment section below and don’t forget to add the track to your playlists!

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Bass Transcription – Jackson 5 ‘ABC’

It’s common knowledge that I love Motown. It never fails to brighten my mood, the musicianship is inspired and still remains accessible to anyone on the first listen. It’s a testament to the talents of the songwriters. This week I decided to transcribe the classic bass part from the Jackson 5 hit ‘ABC’.

Before we dive into the performance notes go to sheetmusic plus and download your copy of the transcription complete with tab here. The sheetmusic is a princely $2.99 and you get the full notation and TAB.

Go to Sheet Music Plus!

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Solo Guitar Arrangement – ‘I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)’

Introduction

Christmas is upon us once again which means much of my guitar teaching shifts over to arranging classic carols. To help get your guitar playing into the festive spirit I have arranged a solo guitar arrangement of the traditional english carol ‘I Saw Three Ships (Come Sailing In)’.

This arrangement is aimed at intermediate level guitarists with a good control of classical finger-style and natural harmonics. The whole piece has the harmonic structure written in the chords above, which can be strummed by another player to easily turn the piece into a duet. Alternatively you can use these chords to accompany a singer and add the solo guitar arrangement as a introduction. Think of this arrangement as a starting point for your own performance.

Before we dive into the performance notes, head over to sheet music plus and download your copy of the sheet music. Click here to open Sheet Music Plus.

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Bass Transcription – Ben E. King ‘Stand By Me’ with TAB

Introduction

It’s time again for another bass transcription! This week I wrote out the bass part for the Ben E. King soul classic Stand By Me. Stand By Me is a real must for modern bass players and a popular choice in function band repertoire. Whether you perform in a function/soul band or just love a good hooky bass line, this song is worth learning.

Before we dive into performance tips and a bit of music theory you can get a copy of the sheet music with TAB from sheetmusicplus for a princely sum of $2.99.

Click Here To Get Your Sheet Music!

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Bass Transcription – Queen ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’

This weeks transcription is the bass line for Queen’s ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ taken the album, ‘The Game’ (1980). The bass line, like the the rest of the composition, is built round a 50’s rock ‘n’ roll sound although there is some influence from soul and jazz in there for good measure. The rhythmic feel throughout is swung eight notes throughout with the occasional triplet fills and pushed chord changes. It is reasonably fast 125BPM so watch out for any fretboard jumps as there is the little time to change positions.


Before we dive into the performance notes you download a copy of the full score from Sheet Music Plus here.  

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Bass Transcription – Pink Floyd ‘Money’

Money Edit

Introduction

I’m continuing with my series of transcriptions this week with a full electric bass score for the Pink Floyd classic ‘Money’ as performed on the album ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ (1973). The sheet music includes both standard notation and tablature (TAB) for standard 4 string electric bass in standard tuning.

Before we dive into the performance notes, download a copy of the sheet music from Sheet Music Plus here

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Solo Guitar Arrangement – Gary Jules ‘Mad World’

Lesson Introduction

I had a lot of requests lately for the Gary Jules and Micheal Andrews version of ‘Mad World’. The original Tears For Fears version is an absolute classic but there is something about the haunting arrangement of Gary Jules that seems completely timeless. I think a lot of people first heard this on Donnie Darko (such a good film) but it comes around pretty regular with every generation. This was single from the 2001 Gary Jules album, ‘Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets’ and was written by Roland Orzabal of Tears For Fears.

Before we dive in to the lesson grab yourself a copy of the sheet music (with TAB) from Sheet Music Plus here!

Initially I set out to create a very basic open chord version for beginner student. As time passed I found myself bringing in elements of Micheal Andrews piano arrangement and vocal melody into my version. Before I knew it I found myself arranging a full version for solo guitar for my more dextorous students. Despite being arranged initially for solo guitar this arrangement would also work well with a vocalist for a beautiful duet.

To make the arrangement possible and accessible, the piece has been arranged in A minor. To play this arrangement in the original Gary Jules key of F minor simply place a capo on the 8th fret. If you want the Tears for Fears version put the capo on the 9th (this may be a little cramped for some acoustics).

Performance Notes

  • The arrangement requires a basic knowledge of fingerstyle technique. The bass line should be played with the thumb throughout with the remaining fingers focusing on the melody. If you are struggling to get separation between the parts try dampening the lower strings with the side of the palm.
  • As the piano utilises a sustain pedal in the original, aim to let notes ring out were possible and if played amplified add reverb to increase the overall ambience.
  • The only challenging chord shape in the piece is the first D chord of the Chorus which should be approached with a barred C shape.

If you have any other problems with the piece leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this lesson and the arrangement useful for your own performances. I’d love to hear your performance of the piece, put a link to your video/audio in the comments section below and I’ll take a listen. The next solo guitar arrangement on the list is the 90’s classic ballad ‘Kiss From A Rose’ by Seal. Thanks for reading!

New Music – Antony Cull ‘Promise’ Single

New Music!

I am very excited to announce that my latest EDM single, ‘Promise’ is out now! The track is a fusion of classic trance textures, progressive house structures with a hard, modern EDM beat. The track is driven with hooky melodies and broken up by carefully constructed breaks. Take a listen to it in the Youtube player below as you read (links for other players below.)

How It Was Composed.

The track started out as three separate ideas written over a three month period that I cut, fused and remixed into one self indulgent 8 minute mix. From this extended mix, I gradually cut and edited the whole track down to tight 5 1/2 minutes to make it radio/club friendly and to give the track more momentum and urgency. The inspiration behind the fusing of several separate ideas was to capture in a record, the feel and build of a live club set into a single track.

I’ve been looking forward to releasing a following up single to last years ‘Digital Sleep’ EP (you check it out here), for the last few months but thankfully I’ve been busy and hard at work for my various production clients. ‘Promise’ brings together all of the electronic music production techniques I have developed since releasing ‘Digital Sleep’ and moves my electronic sound a lot further forward.

The artwork has a mix of Indian ink and watercolour. I’ve always had a strong sense colour, shape and texture when I listen to music so I aimed to create the image I see when I listen back to it. I would like to continue exploring this area with future release. It would be fascinating to see what art other peoples synesthesia creates from this track.

Antony Cull Promise Single Final 1
‘Promise’ Antony Cull

Where To Get It.

The track is available to buy/stream now from all the usual distribution services including iTunes, Spotify, Deezer etc. Here are the links to all of the usual places, don’t forget to do all the relevant things to support the track on that network, it is really appreciated.

  • iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/promise-single/id1237640902
  • Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/album/4XH9kMCpZd9T7G0zr9FeX3
  • CD Baby – Artists get 90% of all purchases on CD Baby! – https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/antonycull2
  • Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Promise-x/dp/B072354KPM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1495787931&sr=8-1&keywords=antony+cull
  • Google Play Music – https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Antony_Cull_Promise?id=Bi77zyb6ygcgf5kdmvqhdwedoca&hl=en_GB
  • Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2iCDuK_EcI

Everything I earn from these releases is put back into the music and I want to thank you for supporting these projects. I have already started writing new material with a slightly different approach to be released later this year. I’d love to know what you think of the track in the comments section below, thanks for listening!

Production Credits

Composed, performed, engineered, mixed and mastered by Antony Cull

New Music #6 – Jae Sinfield ‘Flawed By Design’ EP

Who is Jae Sinfield?

I have been producing and performing on an EP project with Jae Sinfield for the past five months and I am excited to announce that it is finally out! For those that aren’t familiar with Jae’s work, he is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Northampton. I have known Jae for several years now, we studied and performed in bands together at university and last summer I recorded his debut single (you can check it out here.) To celebrate the launch of his debut EP ‘Flawed By Design’, I thought I’d write a few thoughts on it track by track. I’ve put the Spotify Player below so you can listen to it as you read. If you are a Spotify user don’t forget to add it your playlists and follow him for the next EP coming later this year.

‘Flawed By Design’ – Track By Track

  1. Ripped At The Seams – Let’s dive in! This track came to me in pre-production as a delicate little acoustic finger-style piece and grew into this much larger and more symphonic inspired track. The catalyst for the change was Simon Tinmouh’s beautiful percussion tracks which left the song needing some smoother more legato elements. An electric bass part was a little too bombastic so we settled on a string arrangement. The strings are blended with a synth pad and a mellotron to give them some weight and fill out the super highs and attack. The piano/guitar solo after the Middle 8 might be my favourite instrumental section on the entire EP. Luckily Jae indulged my weirdness and let me write and play an e-bow solo on my trusty Fender Stratocaster for it. It is a really sonically interesting sound, so fat and full of harmonics. I ended up just running it into DI and then straight into the Focusrite 2i4.
  2. Coloured In Grey – Originally released last summer, this track was remastered for the EP. There was some very minor tweaks to the mix, and the new master feels a lot fuller, louder and better balanced to in comparison.
  3. You’re Heart You’re Smile – This track is very sweet and sincere, with some really honest heart felt lyrics. There is the trademark Sinfield vocal harmonies which are very playful on this and I got to write some electric guitar hooks that I loved (Roland JC-20E with a Strat for the guitarists out there). Every single part on this track adds up the whole, and removing anything leaves its dull and lifeless, especially Simon’s percussion. There’s is something really beautiful when a track has everyone grooving with their own style and comes together with such a relaxed vibe. The tonality shift for the coda is really interesting, it almost becomes reflective and content.
  4. New Start – If I had to pick a favourite track on the EP it would have to be this one, it really connects with everyone who I’ve tested it on. There are a couple of versions of this track on Jae’s Soundcloud and this latest version is more acoustic and vocally driven. Similar to ‘Coloured in Grey’ this track has everyone on it. Chris’ piano sound on this is huge, especially the final chorus. I had loads of fun tracking backing vocals with Lucy, it really brought a depth to the final chorus. Each player added something unique to the track and it morphed into this uplifting track with lots for light and shade.

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Performance and Production Personnel 

Here’s a note on all the performers on the record. As always if you like what they do show them some love by following them online (simply click on their name and it’ll take you to their own page).

  • Jared Sinfield – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitars, Bass (except ‘Coloured In Grey’) Backing Vocals
  • Simon Tinmouth – Cajon, Shaker, Tambourine
  • Chris McGuire – Piano (except ‘Ripped At The Seams’)
  • Antony Cull – Electric Guitars, Synths, String Arrangement, Backing Vocals, Bass (Coloured In Grey), Piano (‘Ripped At The Seams’), Arranger, Mixing and Mastering
  • Lucy Atkinson -Backing Vocals (‘Coloured In Grey’ & ‘New Start’)

Final Thoughts

The EP is available right now to buy and stream on all the major distribution services including iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Amazon. I’d love to know your thoughts on the tracks in the comments below.

If you would like to hire me to work with you on your own music take a look at my resume and discography here and drop me a line to chat with me about what you need. Thanks as always for reading the blog  and I’d love to know your thoughts on the tracks in the comments below.

Schooled #3 – What to expect as the parent of a guitar student?

After many years of air guitar your child wants to take it up to the next level and get their hands on a real instrument. The guitar isn’t easy, hence why people revere a great guitar player, so you opt for guitar lessons to give them the edge over online tuition and books. What should you expect from these lessons? I have been teaching professionally for the last 5 years and in that time I have talked to a lot of parents regarding their child’s progression. In this article I take a look at the most frequently asked questions by parents and offer up some advice.

Blog - Acoustic Antony

Communication

An open and regular communication between the tutors, parents and the student is vital. I run a tight teaching schedule so I can’t always talk for long so I encourage parents to e-mail myself with any concerns. Ever tutor is different so ask them what is the best way to set up a channel on communication.

Within the teaching experience there is a triangle of interests; the student, the tutor and the parent. In my experience, parents want to see three key things from the lessons; musical progression, enjoyment and value for money. Students are simply driven to learn material that inspires them and enjoy the process. Whist I cannot speak for all tutors, I am personally focused on delivering the material in a fun and engaging way with a clear sense of progression and targets (and the money, it is a business after all).

I often have strong communication between myself and parents but find students often aren’t aware of the parents concerns. For example, if you would like your child to take grades discuss that with them openly before asking your tutor to teach them. It has to be a three-way conversation to make sure everyone is on the same page.

The best rule of thumb is to discuss your concerns as soon as they arise. Don’t be afraid to ask a tutor why they have approached a topic, skill or technique in certain way. There is always method to the madness, and often the noisiest, silliest activity is stealthily teaching a very useful skill.

The ‘P’ Word

One of the most frequent concerns I hear is regarding the amount of practice a student undertakes. There are huge number of factors to be considered on this topic and every student will vary wildly depending on their goals and personal situation.

The amount of school work (and later employment) that a student has will greatly determine their practice habits. During times of heavy school work or standardized tests you should expect to see less practice as their energies and focus will be diverted. Comparatively I would expect to see a lot more in the holidays and it is reasonable to vocalize this to them so they know what you expect.

If the student is unsure of what they should be practicing then I highly advise asking the tutor at the end of the lesson and/or keep a note of the weekly targets.

If you would like to see more practice it is essential you avoid making it a chore. I’ve seen even the most well meaning parents slip up on this point. Your choice of words here is crucial. I’ve heard parent’s say things like “Why haven’t you been practicing?” when simply swapping tones to “Shall we practice the guitar a little more” helps to avoid any negativity and say essentially the same thing. It might seem trivial but I’ve seen the instrument become a punishment towards the end of my time with a student. Keep it light and fun, music is suppose to be an expressive, artistic experience.

There will be times when you need to put the pressure on. For example, on the run up to graded exams a reminder to practice the graded material is often needed. Graded exams require a lot of focus so definitely read Schooled #1 for an in depth look at the topic.

One way to create a practice incentive is to encourage your child to form a band with other friends that play and sing. It’s amazing how hard a student will work when they have a band practice or gig coming up. Even having a jam session with another guitarist will fuel the fire as guitarists are strangely competitive.

Some parents will be reading this section thinking I can’t keep them off the guitar. Many students will practice unprompted and most often when lessons are allowed to pursue their personal interests and goals. In these cases just be a cheerleader and resist banging the broom on the ceiling.

Progression

There are a lot of factors that will effect a students progression. Even the greatest guitar instructor is limited to demonstrating and explaining the best musical practice. It is then down to the student to take this information and employ it when practicing. Certain elements of playing are difficult and may take several weeks or months to become part of a students knowledge base, be patient.

Younger students tend to struggle with the physical size of instrument and the understanding of advanced musical concepts. Older students will be more sensitive to the way the instrument should sound and this makes an inability to perform a technique correctly very frustrating.

As a paying client, parents would like to see a steady upward progression. As an educator I can confidently say that every student plateaus regularly. Breaking out of these plateaus requires perseverance and self-discipline, both skills parents want to see develop as a person. In these periods be a cheerleader for your child, help them abolish any self-doubt by reminding them of the previous challenges they have overcome. Once they break out of a plateau you will often see huge progression in a short period of time.

There are no short cuts to excellent musicianship. I’ve taught every age group (6-70 years old) and I’ve seen every student progress at different rates. It often takes time, patience and a healthy dose of stubbornness.

Final Thoughts

 Learning a musical instrument has a wide range of benefits but it requires a lot of time, self discipline and a genuine want to learn. Whilst parents often shudder at the thought of their child becoming an artist, a good musical education is something they will enjoy for a lifetime. It’s a wonderful thing to see a student go from strength to strength and seeing a student form their own bands and study music at higher education is a genuine pleasure. And remember when they go multi-platinum  you will be the first person they buy a mansion as a thank you for all the years of patronage.

Thanks for reading, anything else you think I should have included? Leave a comment below and hit the like button. If you like to read some more articles I’ve written for parents check out the ones below.