• Between Song Patter

    This is a note from my friend Roland Vineyard. He has been singing and performing for quite a while.  He also has been involved with booking folks for a variety of concert series, including a house concerrt series in his home.


    I think folks like Ron Thomason or Roy Book Binder have extremely well-rehearsed patter, that they have taken great pains to first get the  stories, then they hone them again and again to deliver them effectively. If you are not familiar with them, pick up a copy of a live show.

    Here's something. One of the things I do that you may not know about is adventure photography (I have a local show all January, in fact – a first for me) but mostly the pictures are shown to audiences as a slide show. 15-20 years ago, I did this quite a lot. Now, shooting digital, I make DVDs, add music and subtitles so they can be shown without me. Here's where it begins to relate: if the sub-title is too long, it obscures a vital part of the image. And part of it will show on the computer but not on the 7X7' screen. So, there is pressure to be succinct, to eliminate what does not really have to be said. I go through each show multiple times trying to shorten things and still keep them relevant.

    They say the best novels are not written, but re-written.  Same for patter. Plan for short attention spans; that's why sound-bites work in politics  Regular patter should not ramble on. Music on Mainstreet (summer concert series in Canajoharie, NY)  has taught me that. I enjoy much patter, if it's funny or I learn something I want to remember. But many folks out there just want us to get on with the music. Members on the committee were surprised that some folks attended the concerts by Ron (Dry Branch Fire Squad) and Roy just to hear their patter.  They are the exception, I'm afraid. And there was a friend of mine, and an outstanding performer.  She had a new band and we employed them. She obviously did not have enough music ready and she just rambled on and on, almost incoherently. It was the worst concert we have had, at least that I can remember. Folks even complained to us! That never happens. Then there was the only Rosalie Sorrels concert I ever went to. She talked and talked about the meaning of each song. I thought I'd die before she would start singing. But the audience seemed to expect it from her and took it better than I did.

    Maybe a good way to handle this would be to time your patter. I haven't gone that far. Last night we got in 14 songs in an hour, including patter. None were as long as 4 minutes. So maybe 10 minutes of that hour were devoted to patter. I'll tell something about an unusual instrument, a short story about the song or the original singer, or mention how diverse a group those that recorded it were. Since we sing few that we wrote (rarely more than 2 in a night), there's not much time devoted to the same things a songwriter might be saying. And sometimes we won't say more than a word or two about the song. I keep it mixed up and lively as much as we can. I do that with the slides, having each one shown for it's own interval.

    Look at the audience and when eyes start to glaze or they start reading the menu or whatever, it's time to wind it up! I've also seen that happen when on stage. If they are listening eagerly, then you can include more details.

    Roland Vinyard (www.thebardrocks.com)

  • Traditional Folk Song Circle (TFSC) August 2012 Update

    Although our President Rick Hill and Song Circle leader Tomy Wright, actually held a trial song circle in January, it's been 7 months since we advertised in the Frederick News-Post that our first official Traditional Folk Song Circle, using the Sing Out! Rise Up Singing (RUS) group singing songbook occurred, and the participation and enthusiasm have been heartening. 


    Held every second Saturday of the month at Dublin Roasters Coffee on 1780 N. Market Street, Frederick, our initial turn out had 25 persons show up, several of which had their own copy of RUS.  It seemed like the awakening of the Frederick environs Folk sleeper cell.  And we are averaging 10 to 12 participants monthly.
    All of this effort is to meet F.A.M.E.'s first goal "to nurture, promote and preserve acoustic original and acoustic music of all genres in Frederick and Frederick County through live music, education and community outreach." Baby Boomers, their parents, and grandchildren have attended and even casual passersby stopped long enough to sing a chorus of two on many of the popular songs housed in the 1200 song compendium. 
     As song leader, Tomy has casually amassed the follow non-scientific statistics:
    ·      We have sung 29 of the 35 Song Categories
    o  We'll get to the other 6 before the end of the year!
    ·We have played 99 of the 1200 songs, 16 of which have been played more than once with the top three songs being:
    o  This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie, page 5 (America)
    o  The Cat Came Back, Harry S. Miller & Ethel Raim, page 70 (Funny Songs)
    o  Paradise, John Prine, page 149 (Mountain Voices)
    ·      We now have more singers than instrumentalists, many of whom are very talented and produce some wonderful harmonies
    ·      We've signed up at least five new members and sold 4 RUS thus far
    ·   We now have an opening song, You are My Sunshine, page 83 (Golden Oldies) along with a closing song, Goodnight Irene, Huddie Ledbetter, page 132 (Lullaby)
    In April, we purchased the teaching set of 20 RUS CDs, so theoretically there's no song we can't learn.  F.A.M.E. members may borrow a CD for 30 days, if they wish to lead a new song or two the following month. 
    Of the instruments we've had guitars, upright bass, harp, harmonica, bongos and all manner of shakers.  Some old pros* and some beginners.  However, this event has evolved into a great opportunity for those shy at public performing, to sing with or without an instrument.  It has also served a golden opportunity to learn about some song origins, share reminiscences and stories of family, summer camp and brief glimpses into college life in the 60's.  (*Many of the older F.A.M.E. members already play some of these songs.  We're challenging them to learn a new one this year, announce, and perform it at a F.A.M.E.-endorsed Open Mic!)
    As Wammie Award winner and WAMU radio personality Mary Cliff said, she'd join us, but her radio show is on air 3 to 6 Saturday afternoon, part of the Roots & Branches block on BluegrassCountry.org -- streaming, AND on FM 105.5 AND newly on a repeater in Frederick, MD! -- "93.5 FM, W228 AM Frederick." 
    We say, "Support live acoustic Traditional Folk music when you can, where you can."  If not us, support Mary. She's on Saturday evenings from 11pm to 1am on 88.5 FM also.
    We're looking forward to you to come, bring your friends and family, start your own tradition and share some great locally-produced, acoustic music.  We will tackle at least one song from the last six RUS categories: Freedom, Peace, Rounds, Sacred Rounds and Chants, Spirituals, and Women this year along with other songs folks want to play from the book.  You could even lead it!
    Traditionally yours,
  • “They also serve who only stand and [applaud].”

    F.A.M.E. Benefits for Members Who Are Not Musicians

    If a musician plays notes on a guitar and nobody hears it, is it music?  It’s practice, certainly, which is important, but for me, “live music” implies a listener.  The process of making music is all about the emotional connection between the performer and the individual audience member.  As a person who appreciates music, the F.A.M.E. Member who is not himself a musician knows that he is an integral part of the process.  He uses his experience and preferences to critique material, whether verbally or not, and provides feedback and encouragement in the form of enthusiasm.  His enjoyment is a major goal of the exercise.

    On a more practical level, F.A.M.E. membership entitles the member to discounts for F.A.M.E. events, such as workshops or concerts.  A person volunteering at a function often will receive free admission to the activity, as well as personalized attention from the activity leader. 

    All members receive the monthly newsletter, which includes advance notice of upcoming events and reports on past events, along with informative articles on a variety of acoustic music-related topics.  By keeping up with current F.A.M.E. activities and participating in meetings, surveys and events, the member takes part in helping to shape and carry out the efforts of the organization.  The level of involvement is strictly a matter of choice and may change to accommodate other commitments.  Opportunities for involvement abound for those wishing to further the F.A.M.E. goals.

    Ultimately, membership provides a venue to interact with people with similar interests for a good purpose.  It may even be (gasp) a stepping stone to becoming a musician for those members that are “closet” or “shower” musicians now!  If you feel that acoustic music enhances the quality of life in our community and want to see it grow and flourish in Frederick, F.A.M.E. has a place for you and a way to put that conviction into action.

    Fran Tucker

    Events Coordinator

    June 2012

  • Call to Action!!

    Do you know a young musician that needs a mentor or a place to “play out”?  Do you have a great idea for a F.A.M.E.-endorsed activity, a suggestion for a new performance venue to cultivate or a fund-raising plan?  Bring it!  Here are the steps to follow to make your idea a reality:

    1)      Conceive a great idea.  For example, is there an acoustic performer that you would like to see F.A.M.E. feature in concert for the community or a venue that is centrally-located that would be just the right size for a showcase of F.A.M.E. performers?

    2)      Investigate the possibilities.  Get dates when the performer you like is available.  Find out how much he charges and whether he’s going to be in the region any time soon.  For the venue, check availability and price, as well as amenities provided and get contact information.

    3)      Outline your plan and email it to the Board (rickhill@ricksfolk.com) for consideration at the next meeting.  This can be short and informal, no special format, just providing the facts.  Advise if you will be available to discuss.

    4)      Take ownership of your plan.  State if you would be willing to see the idea through to completion.  If it’s a concert, for instance, are you willing to be the contact person and organizer?  If it’s a new open mic, can you host or co-host?

    The Board is here to support your endeavor if you need assistance or are not sure how to proceed with an activity.  There are currently eight Board Members and ten times that many members.  How effective could we be if even half our members take an active part in furthering our goals?! 

    F.A.M.E. is as useful and relevant to the community as we make it today.  I urge you to consider getting involved.  We are all F.A.M.E. together – let’s make a difference!


    Fran Tucker

    Events Coordinator

    June 2012

  • Tips for CDs

    Hi folks!  A bit of conversation between a couple of Board members (Karen Fetters and Ron Goad) regarding Loralyn Coles  and evolving into some helpful suggestions about CD artwork and such.

    In a message dated 6/11/2012 12:48:47 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
    > boatdrinks@comcast.net writes:

     I could tell  she is a real sweetheart.  I sat with her while we were putting mailing  labels on the MASC brochure.I explained  that I was a newbie to F.A.M.E. and wanted to learn all I could about the  music world.  She was so gracious and willing to share with me valuable  tips that she has learned over the years.  For instance,  I didn't know that you need to  take the shrink wrap off a CD before you send it to a DJ.
     She also gave  me some websites to check out for more information.  Her background and  experience she shared with me overwhelmed me, and I hope she becomes my friend  also.  What a sweet person and valuable resource.

    On Mon, June 11, 2012 10:00 am, MisterGoad@aol.com wrote:
    > That's a great helpful hint Loralyn gave you about the shrink  wrap.
    > We've attended seminars where we've spent money to learn such tidbits.....radio people have made it clear that little things...pet  peeves, I suppose, such as that can impede them at the moment when they  are, for instance, driving along and have a minute to listen to a  CD.
    > It's ironic, considering that it's so cool to have your  own CD with a bar code, shrink wrap...very professional.
    > Similarly, another mentor of mine, the great Mary  Cliff and others got me onto my crusade about CD covers.  She likes to see the name and face of the musicians. So do I.  I didn't get it before.
    > As I went through my collection some years ago, it hit me that  a lot of people who spend thousands on a CD will blow it bigtime by putting something ambiguous (or downright misleading) on the cover. It may be modest and artsy, but it's not going to work as well in terms of networking if it's not informative.
    > I have DOZENS of CD's with TREES on the cover---INSTEAD of the  name and/or face of the recording artist.... not even great trees...just a  "friend with a camera"  who took a picture of trees....Most of you have  already heard my thoughts about that...not that there's anything wrong with  Druids. Look through your CD's and I'll bet you'll find some too...then try to remember who and what's inside the cover.
    > Ron

  • How to Write a Good Press Release for your new album

    From “Music Promotion 101: Album Press Release Guide” on TrackHustle.com

    A well written press release is the first step in getting some attention for your new album. Use this template to help you organize your information. Note that this template was written with bands and indie labels in mind as the writers and the media in mind as the readers. PR folks and radio pluggers will want to take a slightly different approach with their press releases, and one sheets for distributors and stores should also be slightly different.

    The Header: Centered at the top of your page should be the band's name and the album name. To make sure this information draws attention, make sure you use a larger text size than the rest of your release, and also use bold and/or italics. You can also set this information apart by putting it in a box. If the album is on a label, include the label name and/or catalog number here as well.

    A few optional inclusions for the header are:

    - A scanned photo of the album cover
    - Contact information for the person handling press for the release in the band or at the label
    (labels consider having your logo along the top of the page - ideally in the top right or left corner)
    - A quote from a good review of the band.
    - The band and/or label's website/MySpace page

    Paragraph One: This is where you want to announce the new album. Go for a strong lead sentence, and if this is a follow-up album, make reference to previous work by the band that the reader may know about. If this is a debut album, say so, and give a few clues about the sounds of the album. This is also the place to mention any "big ticket" selling points for the album or band, such as:

    - Praise from well known artist, producer, DJ, etc
    - A well known guest star on the album
    - A song that has received a lot of radio play
    - The album was recorded in a well known studio or with a well known producer

    Paragraph Two: In this paragraph, briefly expand a little bit about the band and the music on the album. This paragraph is very important for a new band with a debut album. Don't mistake this for a band bio - which should be separate - but include some info about where the band comes from, influences, and again, any "big ticket" selling points. Keep this paragraph brief.

    Paragraph Three: This paragraph is for giving your reader clear reasons why they should write about your band and review your album (and just saying because it's a great album won't cut it). Use this paragraph to mention things like:

    - Tour dates planned in support of the new album
    (if your shows planned but not confirmed, something like "shows planned for June 2010" will do)
    - Reviews that you know are forthcoming in well known publications/on respected websites
    - Any radio play the album has received (or that you know it will be receiving)

    The Closing: At the bottom of your press release should be the contact info for the person fielding press queries for the album, even if this information is also at the top of your page. Set this information apart from the body of your press release in the same manner as you did the header - again, a box around the text works great, as does a larger type size or bolding/italicizing the text. Be sure to make clear what this information is for by saying "for more information, promo requests or to set up an interview, please contact (so and so)." Also include the band and/or label's website/MySpace page here.

    Release Guide” on TrackHustle.com


  • Courtesy & Consideration- Ron Goad

    Manners are in the ear of the beholder, and quite subjective.
    During the routines of regularly scheduled open mics, showcases, and other events, there are many opportunities to demonstrate good character and practice courtesy. The effects are not only professional, they are enriching.
    It's good to let the audience know a little about yourself, including accomplishments. As a courtesy when I emcee a showcase set, I sometimes make it a point to conduct a little interview so that the audience may get to know the performer. This enables me to convey to audience some of the songwriter's accomplishments, such as songwriting awards, sparing performers from boasting! Thus, they don't have to "toot their own horn." Whether or not awards are involved, I can find something interesting to discuss onstage during my brief conversation with both the performer and the audience. 
    During subsequent songs, I listen with more warm familiarity and respect for the performers.
    Sophisticated performers can take care of this without an interviewer.
    Here are things I personally like to hear (or otherwsie sense) at shows:
    "Let me get my guitar case out of the way." Sometimes musicians get swept up and leave their cases on top of a table where patrons should be allowed to sit, or they otherwise inconsiderately create a dangerous obstacle course.
    "I hope these songs leave you with a good feeling." Songwriters sometimes forget that their music can strongly affect listeners. That's a goal, and the effects should be good. A saying is (paraphrased), "It's the job of the folk singer to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable," but that's only up to a point, perhaps to describe a need for social reform. Audiences don't come to show to be made miserable. Levity helps, as opposed to being too serious throughout the show. Make some eye contact and smile--build empathy.
    "Please tip the waitstaff, whose names are ______."
    When I learn who's serving, I write down their names. It just takes a minute. A friend told me that his courteous acknowledgment of the waiters and waitresses at The Bluebird in Nashville netted him coveted weekend shows there as importantly as the songs he played. The staff gets to vote.
    "That song was written by ____." Sometimes I've seen musicians cover a song in such a way that they imply that they wrote it. Of course that is unethical. Conversely, some shy musicians are afraid to admit what they wrote!
    I love to hear "I practiced these songs," as opposed to, "Gee, I wonder what I should play?" which makes me uneasy and feel disrespected. I'd like to think we won't end up hearing some random, unrehearsed songs that will not be done competently.
    "Can you hear all of the lyrics?" Articulation and mike technique are important, because every syllable must be heard. Don't mumble or mutter, and find the right distance from the microphone. Back off for high, loud notes!
    "Let me know if my guitar is loud." The best guitarists start with their volume off and work their way up to a pleasant, audible level, and there they stop. When I hear a guitar turned on at a high decibel level, I expect the blend to be nonexistent.
    Vary the tempos and rhythms of your songs. As a drummer, I'm sensitive to rhythms and tempos. "Those first two songs were fast ones. Here's a slow one for a little variety" is music to my ears.
    "I made sure the next song is only three or four minutes long so you don't get weary of it." Too much length can turn a good song into a disaster, past the point of diminishing returns  Violators who extend a song that "goes nowhere" are said to "beat a dead cow (or horse)." It's not a good feeling when I'm listening and I think,"This song should end right about HERE," but then, it keeps grinding along. It's a bad moment comes when I realize, "Oh no, here we go again" with another dreaded verse or chorus after ear fatigue has set in. Time the songs--you want the ride to be a good trip, not an endurance marathon with listeners looking for the exit.
    "I'll stop a few minutes early so the next performer can have a little extra time." People who say this should be nominated for sainthood.
    "Sure you may borrow my guitar," or pick or tuner or capo, etc.
    "I've taught my friend here to accompany me, so the show will be more interesting." As an accompanist, what can I say?
    "Thanks for listening; you've been a lovely audience."
  • Defining "Acoustic" Music? - Todd C. Walker

    F.A.M.E. Blog Post

    Todd C Walker


    The definition of acoustic music has changed.  At one time, acoustic simply meant ‘un-amplified’.  It now also means, in a performance sense, music that is generated by acoustic instruments that have had their sound enhanced by some sort of amplification device (mics, PA and/or pickups).

    That generates the following question.  If a pickup is installed in an acoustic instrument, does it change the definition of that instrument to ‘electric’?  How about the use of a microphone to enhance the sound of the instrument ?   Is a hollow-body electric guitar a hybrid acoustic, or a hybrid electric ?  See the definition problem ?

    What do you think ? 

    If I may, I present the idea that any instrument that can organically generate enough sound to be heard in a small or medium-sized room, without artificial amplification, is an acoustic instrument, and can produce acoustic music. 

    Or how about this, a solid body guitar will produce a faint sound if play un-amplified.  It can be heard in a subdued way if played in a small quiet room.  But add additional noise (a television, radio or vocal conversation) and it’ll soon just become what we describe as faint ‘white noise’.  It now needs electric amplification to make enough sound to be heard.  An acoustic guitar however, is built around a hollow box of thin wood which projects sound out of its sound hole into the space around it, thus organically amplifying the sound, only needing artificial amplification to increase its sound level to reach a larger crowd.   Thus one is classified as an ‘acoustic guitar’ and the other, an ‘electric guitar’.  The electric guitar doesn’t function as a musical instrument without adding electricity to power its pickups.

    Slap or knock a solid board, then do the same to a hollow wooden box.  Both produce a sound, but one is basically a dull ‘thunk’ while the other is a much louder ‘bonk’ or ‘boom’, the sound a drum might make.  Does that make the hollow wooden box an acoustic instrument, and the solid board not ?  Well, if you’ve answered yes, then what would you call two wooden dowels used as percussion ?  Aren’t they a version of an acoustic instrument ?

    It makes me think of the age old question of “which came first, the chicken, or the egg”.  Who really cares ?  I contend that acoustic music is music that is generated by the following:

    1)      The human voice

    2)      Any stringed instrument that produces a sound that can be heard audibly

    3)      Two pieces of anything that can produce an audible sound when slapped or rubbed together

    4)      Even a piece of string strung taut between two objects, and then plucked, that can be heard audibly

    5)      Any combination of the above (and much more)

    Does any of this matter ?  Maybe ‘acoustic’ just means ‘not too loud’.   Does James Taylor make acoustic music ?  How about Eric Clapton ?  Would you define the Beatles as making acoustic music ?  Gets kind of complicated, doesn’t it ?  How about a bluegrass group that performs with microphones ?  Are they still making acoustic music ?

    I contend that acoustic music is mellower in its sound level, and usually performed with acoustic instruments (instruments that can produce sound without artificial enhancement).  What say you ?  


  • Song Circle at Dublin Roasters - Tomy Wright

    F.A.M.E Starts Monthly Traditional Folk Song Circle at Dublin Roasters, February 2012
    The Frederick Acoustic Music Enterprise (F.A.M.E.), in partnership with Dublin Roasters, announces its monthly Traditional Folk Song Circle
    Saturday, February 11th  2-4 pm,
    1780 N. Market St., Frederick, MD, (240) 575-9929
    The public is welcome to sing, play, share, learn, or just listen.
    The F.A.M.E.-led song circle uses the Rise Up Singing songbook or individual lead sheets for participants to accompany accapella or on acoustics instruments. A leader will manage the event and provide a historic song context and opportunity for participants share their personal experience with Tradition Folk music.
    The popular Rise Up Singing song book, which has 1200 songs to choose from, is F.A.M.E.'s point of departure focusing on Stephen Foster, Huddie Ledbetter, Weavers, Kingston Trio standards to start.
    As regional Folk personality and Washington Area Music Association Wammie winner Mary Cliff says, "Traditional Folk music...and things you can see from there" is the SC's focus. 

  • Importance of Good Live Sound - Todd C. Walker

    For many acoustic performers, it can be difficult enough to afford a good quality instrument (a must), but equally important is the ability to perform your music (live) so that it sounds good.  Thus it is imperative to have quality sound reinforcement. 

    Many venues have ‘house systems’, but since many acoustic venues work on a shoe-string budget (live music being almost an afterthought), the quality of the ‘house system’ may be low-cost and/or over-used, at best.  This can be a major problem when one arrives for a gig only to find that the house-owned mics don’t work, the cables are missing-in-action, or the PA amp has a blown fuse.  I’ve heard many a horror story about how a performer ended up doing a purely acoustic gig in a noisy room because the house PA didn’t work.

    Reproducing your music live should be well-planned out.  Make sure you have extra strings, extra batteries, a replacement cable, a tuner, etc.  Invest in a good quality instrument if you don’t already own one.  And, invest in a good quality PA, and most importantly, learn how to use it.

    Live sound isn’t difficult if you aren’t fussy.  Turn on the PA, raise the volume and you’ve got noise.  But just remember, you don’t want to just ‘make noise’, you want to ‘make music’.  

    Research information on how to amplify acoustic music (Google, books, magazine articles, etc), then put that information into practice.  Note the word ‘practice’.  Just like practicing your music, you’ll need to practice sound reinforcement.  Set the PA up in your house and learn what the knobs do.  Every new PA comes with a set of directions to explain the function of each knob.  Learn them.  Try them.  Once you’re comfortable with the sound you’re trying to get, put it into use at your next gig.  Remember that room noises (Barista machines, audience noise, room echo, etc) may require some tweaking, but with practice you’ll get a good sound.

    Invest in a decent PA system.  If you have a day job (hopefully), save until you can purchase your own system.  If you are a full-time musician you should already own a PA.  If not, shame on you.  Never rely on the venue, or a friend of a friend.  Getting paid for making music means you’re a professional.  You need to look, act and sound like a professional.  

    Todd C Walker

    Wispy Mop Music

    F.A.M.E. Board of Directors

    SAW Board of Directors



  • F.A.M.E. Board of Directors Top Ten Tips for Maximizing Your Open Mic (OM) Experience (and the audience's)

    From our perspective everyone should approach the OM like an audition/musical job interview.  You never know who is in the audience listening.  Just ask International touring, performing songwriter and F.A.M.E. workshop presenter Amy Speace! www.amyspeace.com/

    1.  Be present.  Stick around after signing up, don't have to be chased down. Be near the stage when the performer before you goes up. (Think "on deck," like in baseball.)  Additionally, stick around for the other performers, too, for as long as you are able to; don't just come and play your set and leave! (Bad karma!)

      Be prepared!  Before going on stage, be in tune/have a tuner; make sure your guitar pick-up battery is charged (bring a spare!)

      Be equipped.  Have accessories you need on stage, e.g., pick, guitar strap, capo

      Be microphone savvy.  Maximize the mic regardless if you don't sing, i.e., speak clearly even if it's just your name and the name of the song / instrumental.  Don't sing too closely or too far away from the mic: about 4" to 6" is usually good.  Lips touching the mic muffles words!  If someone is running sound, set your guitar tone controls to a neutral position and the volume to about 3/4 high, then let the sound person adjust volume and tone.  Only adjust controls yourself if the sound person is not there -- what sounds good to you on stage may not sound good to the audience.
    a.  Make stealth microphone stand adjustments without causing terminal damage:
    1) always loosen knob first
    2) adjust mike stand to desired height, angle, then
    3) tighten knob.
    To yank on a tightened mike stand to adjust it ever-so-slightly contributes to the slow death of that mike stand.
    b.  Microphone technique finesse:
    Plosive words beginning with "p," sometimes cause an annoying, distracting popping noise. On those occasions, do not sing directly into the front and center of that mike (as you usually would); instead, place your mouth slightly off to one side of the microphone or the other and aim accordingly.  Works like a charm.

    5.  Be known, immediately  Introduce yourself: where you're from and your song (give credit if a cover song).

    6.  Be accessible  Make eye contact with audience, smile if and when possible (remember you are entertaining).

    7.  Be respectful  Observe house rules if this is a "Family Friendly" establishment, be respectful of audience.

    8.  Be your own Agent  Self promote (CD, website, FaceBook, Twitter), but don't promote playing somewhere else by name unless you specifically have permission from the host and the venue (we sometimes promote other F.A.M.E. events, for example, or other events that are not in conflict with the venue).

    9.  Be a patron  Support the venue: BUY SOMETHING!  Tip your waitperson where appropriate!

    Be Thankful  Thank the audience and host

  • Live Performing

    So you want to perform your music in public - terrific !   It really doesn’t matter whether it’s your first time at a local open mic, a pre-scheduled gig at the local coffee shop, at your Sunday church service, or at a major venue.  It’s a ‘live performance’.

     First and most importantly, be well-rehearsed.  Know your material well enough that audience chatter or barista machine noise, and even blank faces staring at you, won’t keep you from remembering your songs.  Distractions can quickly throw your memory banks into a chaotic mess if the material isn’t ingrained into your gray matter.  At home, rehearse both sitting down and standing up.  Rehearse in front a mirror.  Video tape yourself, then watch the video and critique yourself so that you can make corrections if needed. 

     Memorize your material.  Don’t rely on sheet music or cheat sheets.  Both are distracting to the audience and keep you focused on the page in front of you, rather than the audience you’re supposed to be connecting with.  Using a large music stand is like putting a fence in front of you that says ‘Keep Out’, so try not to use one.  If you have to, keep it off to the side for occasional reference.

     Look at your audience, not at the ceiling or your feet.  Show some enthusiasm, even if you’re scared to death.  If you look or sound bored, your audience will be also and they will tune you out. 

     Don’t let small mistakes interrupt the flow of your music.  Try to continue through the mistake.  If the mistake quickly turns into a train wreck, stop and try to make light of the situation, then begin again, or move on to another song.  Audiences are forgiving and aren’t turned off by the occasional blunder.  I’ve seen performers turn a major oops into a humorous situation, endearing themselves to the audience, and in many cases gaining the attention of people who, prior to the mistake, weren’t paying attention.

     Dress appropriately.  I cannot stress this enough.  Don’t show up in shorts and a wrinkled t-shirt, looking like you’re on your way to mow the lawn.   Guys, jeans or khaki pants, if pressed and clean, are acceptable in a casual setting, especially paired with a nice shirt.  Girls, don’t wear a skirt, especially a short one, if you’re planning on sitting down to perform, especially if you use a stool.  If you wear a skirt, perform standing up.   If the gig is outside and it’s hot, wear comfortable cotton clothing (well-ironed).   Take a second set of clothes if you think you might need them, especially at all-day festivals.

     And here is the most important item of all.  Perform using a quality instrument.  A guitar that has poor intonation and doesn’t tune well will distract you and your audience.  And please purchase a tuner if you’re playing a stringed instrument.  Learn how to use it, and use it often, especially before your first song.  If you like to perform at open mics, remember that the venue is trying to allow as many folks a chance at performing as time allows.  Tune your instrument before you get on stage.  Be ready to play. 

    Now go have some fun. 

  • How Much Do You Charge for a Private Gig?

    Tomy asked:

    Hi gang, Professional question: How do you calculate a fair price for private parties?  I'm sure wedding singers/DJs have got this all figured out. Performance is only part of it: Members of the group, Load up, Travel, Set up, Performance, breakdown, Load out, Travel all play into it as well.

    From Rod Deacy:

    I wouldn't be happy playing a private party for less than $100 -- more if for longer than an hour. The last party I played (2010), I made $200 plus some excellent food. I played a St Patrick's Day party in 2009 and made about the same plus tips, but child care (and medical stuff) has cramped my style recently...

    People who book musicians fall into two categories; those that know something about music, know what they want and try to pay musicians fairly, and those that just want music because they need noise at the end of the room and have no particular preference after that. The latter category respond better to material they've heard before, preferably many times... Even after that, though, they often consider paying more than $50 -- $100 to be unacceptable -- they know that there are a ton of people out there who will play for little or nothing -- they may be crappy, but so what? There are a lot of people putting on private parties who think they should be able to get live music for nothing... Never mind the years spent learning to play an instrument, or instruments...

    From Todd:

    In my opinion, it all depends upon whether solo or group. And if group, how many. What time of day, how long of a set, etc.

    One musician I know always charges a higher fee for weddings because they tend to be on Saturday's, so he has to take time off from work (commissioned piano salesperson) and potentially lose vacation time and income. Thus, his solo fee is $500.  Professional, polished wedding bands can charge from $2,000-$8,000, but they have 5-7 members, mega equipment, and they are usually top shelf.  It really all comes down to what will make it worth your while to take time away from doing something else.

    I don't think how much the booking entity (person, business, etc) can pay should enter into the equation.   Any fee(s) a performer charges should be well thought out, taking into consideration their (the performers) time, energy, drive time, equipment set up time, etc.  In other words, what is your time worth.  I know that I have different fees for different types of shows.  Coffee houses I'll perform in for tips, $50, $75, or what they offer.  I always ask the venue what they usually pay, before I give them my rate (their rate might be higher than mine).  House concert is $100 - $200, depending on whether my show is one, or two hours.  Weddings ?  Well, it's been many years since someone asked me to play one, but I used to charge $100 back in the 1970's.  Today's charge (solo) would be $200 ($100 additional for each additional member I'd bring in to accompany me).

    If I'm trying to get 'into' a venue and they seem stand-off'ish, I'll offer to play for tips only so they can get a feel for my music.  I've booked many good follow-up gigs this way.

    Truth be told, I love to perform.  Although at one time I didn't need my music income, it has now become part of my way to pay bills.  Just the same, I'll play for free or very little just to play if no money is on the table.


    From Ron Goad:

    Music and Money?

    It's often an expensive hobby. Or vocation.

    It's often hard for excellent, award-winning performers to be taken seriously. Supply outweighs demand. Sometimes a cheap, lousy musician cleans up.

    Fairness and showbiz....not a common mix, but that's always something to weigh.

    For a transaction to take place, both sides give something.

    Musicians who stand firmly on a dollar figure tend to spend a lot of nights at home. Do they watch TV with dignity and honor and pride?

    Flexible excellent musicians sometimes enjoy poetic justice when they take a freebie gig that leads to a lucrative one elsewhere. Of course good musicians deserve good pay. But that's not often reality.

    I got my first paying gig in 1956, singing "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" and a few other tunes. I rubbed and rattled those quarters together and liked the sound!

    When my wedding band Nightmusic plays, I tend to be paid at least $250. I charge one dollar to perform and $249 to wear a tux. Sometimes each member makes up to $400. Sometimes we spend money to do a benefit. Since '83 I've probably done 700 tux gigs with that band alone, and I'm still the new guy in the quintet. It's a great band, and all five of us have superior subs. That's why this band works.

    Any time a restaurateur shells out a Ben Franklin, that venue must sell a lot of food and drinks.

    Management and labor have to have a symbiotic relationship.

    I feel good sometimes about being underpaid. I am not a practical man.

    Ideally we find some venues that are our homes away from home, and we don't wear out our welcome...easier said than done.

    A heck of a lot of people are swamping the wineries now....that seems to be a good new source of gigs, but the conditions vary like the weather. Wineries, like the other venues, sometimes can't tell a good musician from a bad one, but they can tell a cheap one from an expensive one. If the listeners don't complain, the mediocre musicians do the gig, locking out the topnotch ones who sometimes cut off their own noses.....It's a beast.

    From Rick:

    One of the tricky questions to ask is "what are they able to pay?" For close friends and relatives you may have an idea of their level of income and what they might be able to afford. I always try to take this into consideration.

    The second aspect is from my own business plan point of view. How much am I trying to make this year from music? That gives me an idea of what I need to make each month, each week, each gig.  Balancing those two pieces is often difficult. So the third piece I consider is how many gigs I might get from doing this one. If I see this as an opportunity to expand my business, then I can charge less. If this is a one shot deal, then I need to charge more, even risking not doing the gig.

    Unfortunately, no hard and fast formula for figuring it out. Mostly a gut feeling and a lot of discussion.


  • How Much Do You Charge a Public Venue?

    Then we also got some responses more applicable to a public venue:

    From Rod Deacy:

    Kinda depends what you want to do, doesn't it? If you want to sing cover songs and play bars, then you can make a lot more than singing your own songs in coffee houses.

    People who book musicians fall into two categories; those that know something about music, know what they want and try to pay musicians fairly, and those that just want music because they need noise at the end of the room and have no particular preference after that. The latter category respond better to material they've heard before, preferably many times... Even after that, though, they often consider paying more than $50 -- $100 to be unacceptable -- they know that there are a ton of people out there who will play for little or nothing -- they may be crappy, but so what? There are a lot of people putting on private parties who think they should be able to get live music for nothing... Never mind the years spent learning to play an instrument, or instruments...

    I played the college circuit (and other places) with my rock band for about 7 years and have run into almost every variant on getting paid nothing to lucking into a way profitable gig. Apart from street singing in Europe (mostly Paris and the south of France), which is the single most consistently profitable singing I've ever done, I've played on expensive yachts on the Mediterranean, villas in France and Spain and made substantial sums doing it, but these days I'm happy playing for tips... However, I think Todd's last breakdown was to the point -- $50 -- $100 for coffee shops, plus tips, and $100+ for bars (they make more money -- plus they used to be smoky  :>)  ).

    From Todd:

    As a follow-up to my previous response, I don't think how much the booking entity (person, business, etc) can pay should enter into the equation.   Any fee(s) a performer charges should be well thought out, taking into consideration their (the performers) time, energy, drive time, equipment set up time, etc.  In other words, what is your time worth.  I know that I have different fees for different types of shows.  Coffee houses I'll perform in for tips, $50, $75, or what they offer.  I always ask the venue what they usually pay, before I give them my rate (their rate might be higher than mine).  House concert is $100 - $200, depending on whether my show is one, or two hours.  Weddings ?  Well, it's been many years since someone asked me to play one, but I used to charge $100 back in the 1970's.  Today's charge (solo) would be $200 ($100 additional for each additional member I'd bring in to accompany me).

    If I'm trying to get 'into' a venue and they seem stand-off'ish, I'll offer to play for tips only so they can get a feel for my music.  I've booked many good follow-up gigs this way.

    Truth be told, I love to perform.  Although at one time I didn't need my music income, it has now become part of my way to pay bills.  Just the same, I'll play for free or very little just to play if no money is on the table.


  • Songwriting Contest Judging Criteria---Songwriting Tips from Ron Goad

    In order to help SAW.org to improve its annual and revered Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, I researched judging criteria of many other songwriting contests.

    Many contests have criteria that seem most viable to me, not only for judges, but also for writers to consider during the process of composing.

    Some songs I enjoy for no reason I care to put my finger on--that's overall effect.

    Songs we enjoy tend to have strengths in several of the elements below:

    1. Structure-song's components/segments are the right length
    2. Melody-fresh, creative, pleasing to the ear
    3. Dynamics-song builds nicely; "goes somewhere."
    4. Contrast-distinguishable contrast between sections of the song
    5. Hook-catchy, memorable lyrical/melodic phrase (usually the chorus) -sometimes known as hummability
    6. Lyrical Creativity-readily understandable, cohesive, original, fresh lyrics
    7. Poetics-Literary devices such as rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, simile and alliteration create vivid imagery
    8. Prosody-The mood of the melody matches the mood of the lyrics
    9. Resolution-The song is resolved musically/lyrically in a satisfying way
    10. Overall Effect-The song is effective for enjoyable, repeated listenings.

    There is no formula for songwriting. Each good song has its own magic.

    I heard someone on NPR say, "A song should end while the audience is still paying attention."

    Author George Kittredge wrote a book entitled
    There's a Fine Line Between a Groove and a Rut that is worth considering.

    Even more specifically, multi-award winning recording wizard Derek Wille posts in his studio "Beware of the 4-minute kiss of death."

  • Reflections on the Non-Profit Summit

    I attended the Non-Profit Summit presented by the Ausherman Foundation.  If any of you reading this are involved with non-profit organizations, I would highly recommend attending next year’s event.  The day was packed with very worthwhile information presented by very knowledgeable speakers. 

    Two of the workshops I attended were led by Michael Daigneault.  His goal was to envision boards that had a waiting list of people wanting to be on the Board.  Can you imagine?  He said that a Board’s primary roles are not simply to steer and control the organization but to influence and persuade.   This is the distinction between governance and management.   Boards have three roles: fiduciary or the day to day oversight of activities and staff; Strategic or the ability and authority to interpret why we do what we do and Generative or the ability to constantly respond to new situations.  It is this final responsibility that many boards lack and that also truly defines great leadership.

    I thought it interesting how well Daigneault meshed with other material I have been reading from Tom Suddes who talks about the ability to see things from a 30,000 foot level, a 15,000 foot level and a three foot level.  Boards need to be able to not only see the big picture (Generative/ 30,000ft) but to talk about it and determine the future of the Board.  Daigneault suggested that the best way to do this is to establish a culture of inquiry on the Board.  The best discussions might not come from statements but from questions. 

    A significant portion of any Board meeting needs to be focused on these Generative questions.  I have found that many Board have a tendency to get so involved in the management of the organization that they lose sight of why they are there in the first place.  People get burned out dealing with the day to day details if they are not constantly reminded of the larger purpose of the organization.  This is why I think it is so important for an organization to have a clear and compelling vision.  This is not just a piece of paper, but it is a dynamic statement held before the Board at every meeting that gives purpose to what we do.  It rejuvenates us when we are weary, it focuses us when we are overwhelmed, it guides us when we are lost.

    Several books were suggested:  “Governance As Leadership” by Richard Chait; “Fundraising in Times of Crisis” by Kim Klein;

    An article:  “The Networked Non-Profit” by Jane Wei-Skillern and Sonia Marciano in Stanford Social Innovation Review

    A website Blog:  Blue Avocados by Jan Masoka

    A resource:  www.BoardSource.org

  • Encouraging musicians to expand and explore...

    Howdy Folks. I’m honored to share my thoughts on F.A.M.E. Goal #2. Education, specifically c. “Encourage musicians to expand and explore beyond their one genre or instrument.”

    I was fortunate to have parents who listened to all kinds of music and tolerated my listening to rock ‘n’ roll and later, the blues, in the comfort of my home growing up. I was formally trained on the violin and later picked up the drums on my own. I borrowed a guitar for two years from a neighbor while I was still at home, and I bought my first guitar when I left and joined the Army. (I return the borrowed guitar) I was exposed to the British Music Invasion, with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Dave Clark Five just to name a few. My folks also gave me a Country and Western (C&W) music greatest hits album in the mid sixties. On my own I started listening to folk music in the late 60’s along with what we now call Classic Rock.

    What I found most interesting in listening to all this “new” music was a lot of it was “covered”--someone else’s song. And when I went to hear the original versions of rock ’n ’roll, Rockabilly, Blues, Rhythm and Blues (R&B), and Soul, I realized the interconnection of all of this music. In the 70’s, I listened to Folk, Progressive, Southern, Heavy Metal Rock; Fusion Jazz; along with the singer/song writers and later Funk, R&B and Soul. In the 80’s, it was New Wave, some Punk, and played electric guitar, sang pop, C&W and in the 90’s, Contemporary Christian and Gospel. All of these influences are part of what I write and perform now and are incorporated in my latest collaboration Celtic Faerie: A Contemporary Folk Musical.

    I used to religiously listen to “A Prairie Home Companion,” who would have all manner of Americana music, from Bluegrass to Broadway, A cappella to Zydeco. On the radio now, when I listen to music, I Iisten to Contemporary Folk on WAMU 88.5 FM, Jazz on WPFW 89.3FM, and Classical music on WETA 90.9FM. I’ve been listening to the complete Jimi Hendrix catalog for the past year and in his short life I hear rock, heavy metal, fusion, funk, country, “freakish blues” and folk & progressive rock and he sang and played electric and acoustic 12 string guitars, drums, bass, comb, and harpsichord.

    I have renewed my passion for percussion playing at the bi-weekly Jazz Jam here in Frederick and play along with all kinds of musicians from folk, rock, blues, country, and Bluegrass at our F.A.M.E showcases and Open Mics. I encourage you all to take the time and listen to something different than what you are accustomed to as a life-long students of music. Go to places in your community that play live jazz, blues, folk, R&B, country, bluegrass, Celtic, funk rap, Hip Hop world music or whatever. Talk to your fellow musicians about what it is they do and how they do it. I guarantee you’ll find a connection, expand your musical horizons and gain a greater appreciation for their musicianship regardless of genre.

    Tomy, One “M” Wright Man on the Line Music, BMI F.A.M.E & SAW Boards of Directors