Writing Your Very Own Songs: The Basics

People write songs using many different methods. Some writers compose the music first, while others write the lyrics. For some, the lyrics and the tune come to them simultaneously, while others compose the tune first and lyrics last. No matter what order you are comfortable with, you will at some point need to choose exactly what the tune is about. There are a range of various types of tracks varying from tracks that inform fictional stories to songs that produce deep individual sensations.

An excellent first exercise is to create around an story or something you’ve checked out in the newspaper if you make a decision to write a “story” song. This way you could use your initial track to sharpen your word-selecting skills without the stress of thinking of your very own tale. If you currently have a suggestion for a story to tell, you could create it out in rhyme form as well as attempt to make suitable rhymes and structures that help to communicate exactly what happens in the track.

Writing the real music for a song can be done in many various ways depending on your musical expertise and also your emphasis. Instrumental virtuosos will have a very different approach to songwriting than that of novices. Frequently, songwriters will construct entire songs, tune and all, without also knowing exactly what they will be about. Check out the video below for some basic tips on how to get started.

Once you have put your words and songs together, you may really feel the need to perform your brand-new track. When you feel comfortable playing your song, you should take into consideration visiting an open mic evening at a local coffee shop or bar.

Due to the fact that songs are so expressive, many songwriters utilize their make-ups to reveal just how they really feel, whether it has to do with an individual or a scenario or even a specific place. Creating the music might be very personal, so everyone does it differently. Write it down in a notebook and come back to it later when you have strong emotions concerning something. You might think about a great line that shares a feeling pretty well, and if you remember it, you may be able to build a whole song around it. Having peaceful time to think is always helpful when you are trying to compose a track.

If you are interested selling your songs, however, you should be conscious that it is a hard road and also that not many songwriters accomplish great fame or make tons of money quickly. If you have sensible expectations, you will certainly realize that composing songs is a beneficial experience, whether it is a pastime or it becomes a career.

Is Boxed Wine Worth Your Time?

It’s wine in bulk… how could it not be worth your time? Well, yes, there are lots of reasons for a wino to love in love boxed wine. Okay, two reason really…. it’s wine and there is lots of it! However, not all boxed wines are created equal and though your pockets may take less of a hit your palate could get wrecked! I am hoping that this post will guide another wino towards the promised land of drinking copious amounts of wine at a great value.

Since the news came out about Californian wines containing Monsanto’s glyphosate I have made it a point to stay clear from drinking them. So, when I saw that Trader Joe’s offers a boxed Shiraz from Australia I was all in on that parcel. The box contains about 4 bottles of wine and stays good for up to 45 days after you open it. It is almost half the price of Black Box boxed wine and way more drinkable. It has become my go to wine purchase for these reasons plus there are more benefits to drinking boxed wine over bottled wine as well.

Beyond the benefit your pockets will feel by purchasing boxed wine it is also beneficial from an ecological stand point. If that isn’t enough reason to make the switch to boxed wine consider the convenience aspect. Say it’s just you and you want a glass of wine, with a bottle you have to open it up and if you do not finish it in two days the bottle will go bad. With boxed wine you can pour as little or as much as you want and you don’t have to worry about the wine going bad because it stays good for up to 45 days.

So yes, boxed wine is well worth your time and one reason for that is it preserves well over time. The freedom to pour as much as you would like is very liberating. You are able to pour a half glass if you just want a little bit or if you need some for cooking it is readily available on tap. So far, in my experience the Trader Joe’s Block Red Shiraz is the best tasting boxed wine for around $12. What are your thoughts on boxed wine? Do you have a recommendation for boxed wine that you think is better? Let me know in the comment section!

Water Bottle That Filters Fluoride?

People are starting to wake up to the fact that fluoride is a dangerous toxin and added more of it to water or putting in toothpaste is not a very smart thing to do. The people who do not realize this are obviously getting a healthy dose of fluoride daily and one effect of the toxic chemical is that it lowers IQ. When looking at your container of toothpaste it should clear as there is warning to contact poison control if you end up swallowing your toothpaste. But doesn’t it help prevent cavities? Sure, so I guess your teeth will look nice and shiny for your wake when you die from cancer.

Anyone who is unaware of the dangers of fluoride or on the fence can check out the documentary, “Hard to Swallow.” For those you have woken up to the dangers of this toxic chemical but not sure what to do with that information continue reading. There are a variety of filters on the market that will filter out 90% of fluoride removing most but not all because fluoride does occur naturally in water. The amount of fluoride that occurs naturally in water is 10 times less than what is added to water with fluoridation programs. These filtration systems range from whole house systems to straws, containers you can keep on your kitchen counter or a water bottle you can take on the go.

My family and I use the water bottle method as it is the easiest for when you are on the go. It is super convenient when you can fill up your water bottle anywhere and drink clean, refreshing and non fluoridated water. In addition to filtering out 90% of fluoride the bottle also filters out 99.9% of bacteria, e-coli, salmonella, and chlorine. You could literally dip your bottle in a river or lake and drink it and though I have never tried this it is nice to know that in the event of a total economic collapse one thing we wouldn’t have to worry about is finding clean, drinkable water. A simple Google search for “fluoride filters” will get you started so you can do your research and find one that is right for you. Happy hunting!

5 Ways to Unclog a Toilet

This post is a bit unorthodox for us. So far, we’ve mostly talked about music and things related to that, so this probably seems weird, but there’s a good reason for it. One of our readers actually wrote in and asked about ways to unclog a stubborn toilet, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect due to a recurring toilet situation we’ve been having for a while now…

We share a unisex bathroom at our music studio, and the toilet has been clogging a lot lately. At first, we figured it was one of the guys. There are some big, tall guys in our crew and they eat a lot of fast food. Imagine our surprise, when we discovered it was one of the girls in our group.

I promise she gave me permission to write this post … but only because I swore I wouldn’t disclose her name or any other information about her.

This girl is petite, so it was very surprising to learn the cause of the clogs…

Too much toilet paper? Nope. She uses the standard 3 sheets, and the TP we buy isn’t particularly thick.

Tampons? Wrong again. She hasn’t had a period in a while due to the birth of multiple kids back to back.

Flushing drugs down the toilet? Nah… despite our musician lifestyles, we’re not into that sorta thing.

The constant toilet clogging has been due to nothing more than her having really large, dense stools. Her boyfriend has affectionately nicknamed her “little big poops.” She didn’t think it was nearly as funny as he did…

Given the fact that none of our guys have ever manage to clog the toilet, ever, we knew it wasn’t a result of poor plumbing. We’ve tried many different methods of unclogging and learned a lot along the way. I wanted to write this post for anyone who shares a bathroom in a small music studio (or a similar setting where there’s only one toilet that a lot of people use) – mainly because I know that #thestruggleisreal and I’m hoping it will be of use to you, should happen to come across it. Here are the 5 methods we’ve used to unclog our music studio toilet:

Method #1: Use a plunger. I know what you’re thinking. “Well, duh…” But I figured I’d include it in this list, just in case it’s not a method you’ve tried. (You never know, right?) If a plunger doesn’t work, or if you don’t have one handy, methods 2 and 3 have worked wonders for us in a crappy situation. (Ha. See what I did there?)

Method #2: Use Dawn dish soap. Not only is this method really effective; it makes your whole bathroom smell like clean dishes. Simply squirt a good amount of the stuff into the toilet bowl, pour in some boiling hot water, and let it sit for a few minutes. The soap will help dissolve some of the fats in the clog (assuming it was caused by a dense stool.)

Check out this video to see the above method in action:

Method #3: Use baking soda & vinegar. Similar to the dish soap method, these ingredients will help to break up deposits that might be clogging your toilet. I’ve used this method multiple times after a plunger and a snake didn’t help, and it made the toilet flush like new again. Use equal parts baking soda and vinegar (approximately half a cup should do). Pour the baking soda in first, followed by the vinegar, and then top it off with a cup of boiling hot water. Note: be sure to pour the vinegar in slowly, as it will cause the baking soda to fizzle and foam, and you don’t want the water to run over the rim of the bowl.

Method #4: Snake it. You can get a good snake from Home Depot or Lowes for pretty cheap. Make sure it’s one of the ones that won’t scratch your toilet bowl. (Here’s the one we use.)

Method #5: Hire a plumber. Only as a last resort, if none of the above works. If method #4 fails, then you either have a really bad clog, or something’s up with your plumbing system, in which case, a plumber can save you tons of time and money in the long run. Thankfully, we haven’t had to go here yet…

Soundproofing Your Music Practice Room

foam insulation

When I was in a cover band, we used to pay a monthly fee to rent a practice room uptown. It was an awful experience, mainly because we didn’t just practice there. We also attempted to create many of our recordings, and we’d have to make sure and show up on a day when the building was virtually empty, because the rooms weren’t soundproof. If we showed up when other bands were practicing, it was pretty much pointless. Especially since I happen to live in a city that’s obsessed with heavy metal.

Since those days, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of practicing and recording in a soundproof room or studio. We ended up moving from that uptown space into our drummer’s soundproof loft, and I couldn’t have been happier with the decision. (Our band mates weren’t thrilled, because it was a 45-minute drive to the spot, but I remedied that problem by agreeing to transport them there every time we wanted to practice, so it all worked out… until the band broke up. But that’s another story for another post.)

Anyway, my buddy who let us practice at his house had spent a lot of time and money soundproofing the room to make it work. He also hired a professional electrician in Greenville, SC to wire his sound system, which made a huge difference. It sounded amazing in that room every time we practiced. He was a pretty dedicated musician and had the time and resources to build a better-than-average practice room right in the comfort of his upstairs loft.

Recently, someone wrote in and asked us about soundproofing music rooms, and I thought I’d let him weigh in on this question since he’s more of an expert than I am. Here are some things to consider when it comes to soundproofing your band’s practice space.

Reasons to Soundproof Your Practice Space

This may seem like common sense, but it’s worth covering anyway, especially if you don’t feel this is an important topic. Soundproofing your music practice space can have a number of positive effects, including:

Better sound quality. This frees you up to focus on making excellent music, rather than worrying about the environment’s acoustics.

Fewer recording takes. No sound interference from the heavy metal band in the room across the hall means less time spent doing multiple takes just to get one section of a song recorded.

Privacy. Your neighbors across the hall (assuming you share a multi-room building) won’t have to worry about you either.

Fewer distractions. Sans outside noises, your creative juices will flow better, allowing you to create more high-quality music.

Soundproofing Products

There are 2 main types of products to consider when setting up your practice space to reduce unwanted noise. First off, there’s a difference between soundproofing and sound absorption. Sound absorption improves the sound quality of your environment, whereas soundproofing reduces outside noise. If your space already has great acoustics (and we’ll assume for the purposes of this post that it does), then you’ll need to focus on soundproofing. You’ll need to renovate your walls, floors, and ceilings for best results, and how you do it depends on how your space is currently constructed.

Soundproofing walls: Mass-loaded vinyl barriers or insulation help to isolate the sound so that it stays within your space and doesn’t leak to the outside. You can also install new drywall over your existing wall with a hollow air gap in between. High-grade foam can also improve your sound quality by absorbing sound waves and cutting down on reverb and echo.

Soundproofing floors:  If you have hardwood floors, you’ll simply need isolators to create separation so that no part of the original flooring touches the new flooring. We recommend carpet underlay for solid concrete floors.

Soundproofing ceilings: My buddy’s loft already had dropped ceilings which worked in our favor. All he had to do was pack them with soundproofing materials to isolate the sound and prevent outside noise from leaking in. He also had an infant at home, so soundproofing was definitely a necessity, especially since the little guy napped upstairs!

There you have it! An introduction to soundproofing your practice space. I know this is pretty basic stuff so if you’re looking for an in-depth tutorial, you may want to visit your local music or hardware store and talk to a professional. Or, if you’re not into DIY, you can always hire a soundproofing expert to upfit your space for music practice. Either way, I think we can all agree that a soundproof band practice space is the optimal solution if you’re serious about making great music.

It’s Been a While…

Hi friends… I know it’s been a while since we last updated this site, so I just wanted to throw up a quick little post to let you know what’s been happening on our end. (Actually, one of our website visitors wrote in to ask what was up, so we figured we’d answer their question here.)

The answer is: Our crew has been busy recording a new album! I was sought out by a new hip-hop artist to collaborate on some background vocals, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I enlisted the rest of our crew here at AYF to help. The experience has been amazing so far…

You may not have known this, but we are all very passionate about music here. (As if you couldn’t tell by the blog posts we’ve written so far.) However, this site is not limited to just music, so if you have a question about anything at all please don’t hesitate to ask it. We want to familiarize all of our readers with the answers to their most pressing questions on any topic. And with the election around the corner, there are many topics available so ask away! But I digress…

All of our writers and editors here at Are You Familiar are either musicians or have worked in the industry in some capacity, either as marketers, sound experts, studio builders – you name it. Music is our passion, and we’re excited to be able to work together on this album. The reason I was sought out is because this particular artist happened to come across one of my tweets where I was promoting a YouTube video I had recorded, and he thought I had the perfect voice to track some vocals on one of his records. Well, one song turned into 12, and he’s decided to feature my vocals on his entire album!

I’ve always been told I had the perfect voice for doing R&B-style music. Actually, I’ve gotten a lot of my inspiration from Lupe Fiasco’s artist, Sarah Green. (Doesn’t hurt that we have the same name!) Check her out in this YouTube video:

We are all super stoked for this album to come out, and everyone here at AYF has been super busy playing some sort of role in making it all happen. We’re very close to its release and will let you know as the date approaches.

The music is in post-production right now, which has freed us all up to write more, so we’re back at it, updating the site. And we have a backlog of unanswered questions to address here in the coming months, so stay tuned!

How To Use YouTube To Build Your Online Presence

YouTube is a necessary evil. Whether you’re a business owner, a blogger or and independent musician looking to strike it rich, the platform is a crucial part of your online marketing strategy.

Why? Well, for a few reasons:

1. Video is the wave of the future for online marketing. YouTube provides you with a free place to host your videos. You can upload them to your channel within seconds and embed the links on your blog or website easily. It’s much easier to use YouTube than it is to host your videos on your own website, and it uses much less space.

2. YouTube videos are easy to find. Type in a search for just about anything in Google, and if a YouTube video exists for it, you’ll likely find it on the first or second page of the search results. If you’re marketing yourself and not using YouTube, you’re missing out on tons of potential traffic.

3. YouTube is how many people listen to music these days. As much as it sucks, the reality is that most people don’t want to pay for music anymore, unless they really, really like your work and want to support you financially. So, the first thing you should concentrate on as an independent musician is creating avenues for your work to be found. Once you’re known, then you can start demanding funds for your art. But until people know who you are, they’re not very likely to want to support you.

If you’re an independent artist looking to make it big in the music industry, you should integrate YouTube into your online marketing strategy as quickly as possible. Here are a few tips to help you get noticed on this popular video-hosting platform:

1. Start by doing cover songs to build a following. I know it sucks. Trust me, I’m an independent musician myself, and I hate doing cover songs. Especially popular ones. But covering popular music is the fastest way to get noticed on YouTube. Pick a few that you can stomach and crank out your own original version. Doing an original take will almost always make it better, at least to the types of fans you want to attract.

2. Next, throw a few original songs into the mix. Doing cover songs will get your channel noticed by lots of people, and once those people have subscribed to your videos, you can start cranking out some original tunes. If you put your own spin on the cover songs, it’s likely the people who decided to follow you like your style, so they’re liable to enjoy your original music as well.

3. Share, share, share! Share your YouTube videos on all of your social networks, including Facebook and twitter, and if you have a blog, embed the videos there as well and use the blogging platform to write additional keyword-rich content. This will increase the chances of your videos, blog and social media pages being found when people search Google for the keywords related to your content.

4. Be relevant. Connect with your audience. If you do a video of an original song, write a few paragraphs on what the song means and why it’s important to you. Or talk for a few seconds before your video performance to provide context around your lyrics. The more effort you make to engage with your audience, the more they’ll enjoy watching your videos.

5. Publish videos regularly. This isn’t a one-and-done deal. If you want to be found and continue to get noticed, especially by your followers, then don’t disappoint them. Keep publishing videos. Even if it’s once a month, that’s better than nothing. Plus, the more often you publish, the more content will be indexed by search engines, and the more likely it is that you’ll get found by more people. As the saying goes, “Content is King.”

It might seem like common sense, but you’ll be surprised as how few independent artists, bloggers and business owners actually implement these tips. If YouTube is not yet a part of your digital marketing efforts, then I suggest you head over there now, create an account, and upload your first video. You’ll be glad you did!

FYI: I pulled most of these tips from my digital marketing friends over at LukeHot Leads. For help with your SEO and online strategy, visit their website.

R.I.P Music Industry

Word around the block is that the music industry is dead and if it is so I say… good riddance! The day of going into your local music store to cop the new release from your favorite artist is now over. When music went digital, access to it became very easy. All you had to do was hit some buttons, download some software and enjoy free music. I personally am not really for illegally downloading music but I do believe it was necessary to change the state of the music industry.

Growing up as a teen in the late 90’s and early 2000’s I remember hearing stories of famous artists, who I envisioned to be living in the lap of luxury, suing their record companies, because though these artists were selling millions of albums, they were still broke. It is no secret that record companies take advantage of artists and seek to control their art to make sure that it doesn’t push the status quo too much. These record companies do a great job of manipulating young artists who want to be able to make a living sharing their art with the world. They fail to tell these artists that once they sign that contract they are now owned by the label. Sure, they will wine and dine you, spend money to revamp your image and make you feel like an A list celebrity but the truth is, that money is really more like a loan.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ song “Jimmy Iovine” comes to mind when Macklemore speaks of being in the co-founder of Interscope Records office being pitched a record deal. The song ends with Macklemore telling Jimmy Iovine, “I appreciate the offer, thought that this is what I wanted. Rather be a starving artist than succeed at getting fucked.”

So, here we are in the digital age which makes sharing your music with the world as fast as a click of a button. New artists hitting the scene are more than willing to release their music for free or even do the ‘pay what you want’ method. While this is understandable for new artists to do this, it can also be dangerous to the cause. Since the release of iTunes, Spotify or any other streaming service, we can now see the devaluing of music. With this current atmosphere, which reduces a song’s value to 99 cents, you really have to appreciate the efforts of Wu-Tang Clan who released a 128-minute, 31-song album entitled “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” and only produced one copy. The plan was to take that single copy to art galleries across the globe and charge visitors a price to listen to the album in its entirety. The Wu-Tang Clan stated that the idea behind this is to restore value to the art of music. Apparently it is working, as they claim they have been offered 5 million dollars for the very rare record.

So, where do we go from here? I’m not sure what direction it is going or where we want it to be, but I do know the old model failed and the present model is no good. I’ve heard ideas of subscription-based platforms that would allow the artists to keep the majority of their earnings and make a residual income and these ideas give me hope. But can value in music be re-instilled into the minds of a generation that has been filled to the top with radio’s flavor-of-the-month style that trances you with songs that contain empty lyrics and hypnotic beats that leave the listener always wanting more? Well, one thing that is for certain is that the music industry as we knew it is dead and hopefully we are headed towards something better — something that puts more value on music as an art and more cash in the creator’s pocket. So raise a glass and join with me in saying R.I.P. music industry!

How To Experience Live Music in the Queen City

Concerts

As mentioned in our first post, this blog was developed out of a desire to boost the local talent in Charlotte, NC. So we’re going to kick things off with our own review of the queen city’s music scene.

Quite frankly, it sucks.

Not the talent. Just the show of support for the talent. There are a ton of gifted musicians here, and most of my favorites either fizzle out and give up or move to a bigger, more music-friendly city like L.A. or New York.

There are some great venues here, but trying to get booked is like pulling teeth. I should know, I’ve been there.

But this post is not about my struggle as an aspiring musician in Charlotte. It’s more about how to get the best out of the live music scene as an audience member. If you’re planning to attend a live show, whether you’re going to a small, intimate venue like The Evening Muse to see one of our talented locals, or you’re heading to the Time Warner Cable Arena to see your favorite indie rock band perform, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your experience.

1. Treat yourself to the VIP experience. If you’re attending a concert in the queen city, there’s no reason to feel like anything less than royalty.

Invest in awesome seats. Go out to eat beforehand. Arrive early enough to tailgate. And make sure you have plenty of cash on hand for drinks.

2. Know the music you’re going to hear.

Let’s face it: concerts are way more fun when you can sing along.

Yes, you’re probably going to hear some music you don’t recognize. (Independent artists are notorious for releasing new material at live shows.) But you’ll have a better time if you’re familiar with most of the music.

If you get invited to go to see a band you’ve never heard before, take some time to listen to their records as much as possible before the show.

3. Don’t drink and drive! Well, duh… but still, we thought this was worth mentioning… and repeating. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and have a few too many while you’re listening to your favorite band or singer-songwriter. But if you end up consuming alcohol, it’s best to arrange a ride home.

If you rent a Charlotte party bus or limo to take you there and back, you’ll be set. Not to mention, it’s the perfect place for a little pregame before the show starts. And if you’re not into the opening band, you can spend a little extra time enjoying a few beverages in the comfort of a luxury vehicle.

4. If you like the artist, buy their music! Again, duh. But seriously. Support independent musicians. The more money you spend on tickets and merch, the bigger their cut. And since most independent musicians are “starving artists” these days, they need all the support they can get.

A concert in the queen city should be nothing short of amazing. And the more we invest in our local music scene, the better it will be. Next time you go to a live show, make the most of your experience!

Welcome To Our New Blog

Welcome, and thanks for visiting.

This site is for musicians and music lovers who are into discovering new and independent music. If unfamiliar records are your thing, then you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll be updating this blog on the regular with bands, singer-songwriters and original musicians that we dig. The only criteria — it’s gotta be unfamiliar.

We use that word pretty loosely around here though, since what’s familiar to one person might not be familiar to another. Please don’t get all bent out of shape if we reference a band or musician you’ve already heard about or who’s popular on your side of the tracks. We love music, so if it sounds good and it’s on an independent label, it’s likely to get featured here at some point.

If there’s a band or musician that you’d like us to review, please leave a comment below with a name and link to their website or Facebook page. We’ll check it out, and if we dig it, there’s a good chance we’ll review it here. But don’t get your panties in a wad if we decide not to… ;)

Located in Charlotte, NC, we started this blog out of a desire to boost our local music scene. So you’ll see a lot of local bands reviewed on here, but don’t worry — we like music that comes from anywhere — so you’ll see plenty of non-local musicians here too.

In addition to music reviews, we’ll also post content related to live shows, songwriting, the music biz, how to get discovered on YouTube, and the like. Pretty much, if it has anything to do with music, you’re likely to see it here.

Thanks for listening!

Signed — Are You Familiar?