Category: Guest Post

Guest Post: 5 Great Tips (and one extra little one) for Haggling with Musicians

This is a guest post by Hariette Hale. A classically trained musician and graduate of City University and the Guildhall School of Music, Harriette can be found all over London at songwriters showcases, jazz clubs, recording studios, private functions and classrooms, tutoring the next generation of musicians. As a founding member of many functions band, including function band, FUNCNUT, and an active member of the musicians social network, Harriette runs Chocolate Box Music services. Find more about her here:

(Editor’s note: even though slightly different from the type of articles on this site, this is source of inspiration on how to approach clients for ‘function’ or ‘top forty’ gigs, with some sense of humour, making sure all the important things to make the gig successful-and the band happy-are taken in consideration)

1. Food and Drink.
Ladies, what’s the easiest way to a man’s heart? Be honest, it’s his stomach! Throw in a bit of grub and a few drinks for the band members and 9 times out of 10 you’ll be able to get a lower price. Plus, if you’re already providing nosh for your lovely guests then feeding a few more mouths is going to be much cheaper than forking out an extra £100 for your band. What’s more, a happy well fed band equals a happy well entertained audience!
2. Reduce the playing time.
If you have the time to faf around with your ipod or mp3 player before the big day then do it because a band are more likely to charge less for playing two 45minute sets than they are for three and you can just put your ipod on in the break. Win win all round!
3. Reduce set up and travel headache.
Reduce the stress for the band by scheduling the reception so that they don’t have to hang around for 2 hours before they start playing. Point out to them that they only need to be there 1 hour before they start playing to set up and can leave as soon as they’re finished and they will be much happier. Plus if you can guarantee a car parking space then that makes life much easier for them. A stressful gig is usually an expensive one. Muso’s like to be mollycoddled, bless em’ (they are mostly men), so do a little bit of extra work for them before hand and expect to pay much less.

4. Photos.
Planning to have a photographer at the wedding? Persuade him or her to get a few snaps of the band and throw it into
your payment package. We’re all vain, we love the spotlight and the more photos we have of us doing what we love the better! So far we have nosh, a beer, a few free photos and a stress-free gig. Not bad going!
5. Finally, pay cash.
If you can, pay the band in cash before they start playing. Cheeky little sods are always dodging the tax man so if you don’t mind helping them out in that respect then they won’t add on the roughly estimated 20% for tax reduction or VAT. Plus, paying beforehand means they’re much happier when they hit the first tune and they’re actually more likely to keep playing beyond the given time.
6. Oh whoops one more…
May sound obvious but say thank you. A lot of the time, musicians get ignored so when someone makes the effort to say thank you it really makes our day! The more you gush about how amazing we are, the more amazing we will be and by this point you’ve already paid! Use the break between sets to butter them up and expect to party through the night!

Tempo Memory – By Mike Outram

This is a guest post by Mike Outram.  Mike is a London based guitarist, professor at Trinity College of Music and The Royal Academy of Music with performing credits including Tony Levin, Gavin Harrison, Robert fripp and many more.  More about him at:

You’re in Gardonyi’s, looking over a piece of music that seems interesting and you want to get the gist of how it goes. Your sight-singing is impeccable so that holds no problems, but what’s that in the corner of the page? – ’120 bpm’.

Can you guess what the tempo of the piece is? One way to do it is to look at a clock and count the rate of the seconds – that’s obviously 60 bpm [beats per minute]. Double it if you need 120 bpm; half it if you want 30 bpm; triplets would move at a rate of 180 bpm. And then, is it a little faster or slower than one of those? Great, but what if there’s no clock?

Well, make a tempo map. Pick some very memorable songs that you can easily imagine and map their tempo. Start vague and get more detailed as you go on. Ideally, they’d be songs that everyone knows, definitive versions, for it to work. And you have to have a pretty accurate mental image of the song at roughly the right tempo.

I started out thinking I’d get a list of ‘the most popular songs of all time’ and work out the BPM. But I think what you really need is:

1. a really memorable song that you know very well and can easily imagine.

2. a way of linking the BPM to some content within the song. Or, any way of memorizing the tempo that’s quick and doesn’t involve rote memorization.

I found this great site, which is a list of thousands of songs and their tempos. On that site, you can look at all the songs at, say, 120 bpm and then just choose the song you know best at that speed and then come up with a way of memorising the tempo. For example, it’d be great if ‘When I’m 64′ was actually 64 BPM, or 128. But it isn’t, so forget that. But you get the idea, eh?

Ok, so now you have the problem of memorising which songs go with which tempo but maybe that’s where you can get all creative in service to the common good by somehow linking a tempo to a song, Tony Buzan-style 🙂

So, maybe you’re a massive Queen fan. Of course you are! If so, I’ll start you off. Here are some Queen tracks and their rough BPM. Can you think of a clever way to memorise the tempo?

40 bpm: Somebody to Love – 40 bpm is from ‘Find’ and ‘Body’ in this song. (I’m allowing this kind of fudging the rules). We Will Rock You and Save Me also work. Maybe you could think, 40 bpm is the first thing on the metronome and the first thing you need in life is Somebody to Love 🙂 That’s a terribly lame example but I am sure you are WAY better at this than I am.





90: Fat Bottomed Girls

100: Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy

110: Another One Bites the Dust

120: You’re My Best Friend

130: Now I’m Here




Use this site to test your tempo memory powers: Can you nail 90 bpm? Try it…

Other games to try if you’ve got no friends or are pathologically bored: Try and name any tempo and hit the bpm and nail it straight away. Or, try to keep the tempo the same for more than two beats.

So the question is: Are you geek enough to make a tempo map? Do you instantly know the tempo of a particular song? Why? How? Why aren’t you sharing your knowledge here? Or maybe it’s just me…

Jazz Camp Wraps Up, Good Teachers vs. Good Motivators – By James Danderfer

This is a guest post: by James Danderfer. “One of the best kept secrets in Canada, … a truly remarkable musician.” (- Bill King, Jazz Preview, Jazz FM91.1) James gained experience as both a band leader and sideman performing in Canadian jazz clubs, festivals and CBC radio programs, on cruise ships internationally, and in New York City. After his celebrated debut recording “Run With It” (Cellar Live, 2005), James’ curiosity for traveling and learning about other cultures lead him to Shanghai, China where he worked as a freelance jazz musician and music instructor at international schools. After his first year of living in China, James proposed a project to the Canada Council For The Arts to compose a musical imagery of modern-day Shanghai, a juggernaut of development in the forefront of a rapidly changing nation. This year long project resulted in a concert tour of China and a subsequent CD recording in Canada entitled “Accelerated Development” (Cellar Live, 2008). More about him at:

Two words,… jazz camp. That’s right, all week long I’ve been waking up at 7:30am, driving an hour across town, and teaching kids (age 12-17) how to swing. … Despite the fact that I, myself am not sure how to swing at 8:30 in the morning!

There were just enough kids for two 7-piece jazz combos and the format was well suited to my abilities as it was quick, focused, and goal oriented (a concert at the end of the week). I like to think I’m a pretty good teacher, perhaps “over-thinkers” are handy in this way because we really think through the processes of what it is we do.That said, I’m really only effective in certain situations.

Case in point; I’ve tried teaching kids private lessons over a longer period of time (6-12 months) and if they didn’t really want to be there (and most of them did not) then I found it damn hard to motivate them to practice. I’d play for them and find songs they wanted to play, or give them great recordings to check out, sometimes I’d offer incentives to practice (ie candy and/or stickers). As a last resort I even made one kid do push-ups as punishment for not practicing, which by the way, was fucking hilarious . (Hey! Don’t judge! The kid thought it was funny too.)

Alas, my methods failed with all but a few of my private students at which point I decided that I was not a good teacher. However, since that time I’ve realized that I am a good teacher, just not a good motivator. If a student comes to me wanting to learn, I can deliver. If they don’t care to learn, I’m useless. I know some professional musicians who are great with kids and know how to inspire them, and God bless those people, we need more of them.

Anyways, that’s a long way of saying that this year’s jazz camp had a lot of eager young musicians and was therefore a success!

On that note, I’m going to tap out of this SMNP. Thanks to the jazz camp students for an enjoyable week and to Mr. Holmberg for organizing the whole thing again this year!

Being a Freelance Guitar Player in NYC, 2010 by John Shannon

This is a guest post: by John Shannon. Modern guitarist, vocalist and song crafter John Shannon believes in the power of music to enlighten the mind. Having already toured the globe with some of the brightest rising stars of indie rock, folk and jazz including Sonya Kitchell, Haale and Hiromi, Shannon's solo work has taken him on a journey into his soul and beyond. More about him @

Flexibility and Minimalism

There are two things that come to mind as far as the lifestyle requirements of a freelance guitarist in New York City: Flexibility and Minimalism. Lets take a look at what it means to be a flexible musician. First off, what it means to be musically flexible. This is not meant to feed the age old idea that you have to master all styles to be a great player, which is pretty much an unattainable ideal anyway. This is to suggest that you can jump into any musical style and bring something appropriate to the table as a guitarist. Most times I find people are hiring me not to blow them off the stage, but to play a part in the alchemy of their music. Iʼd like to note here that the highest goal as a sideman should always be to make everyone around you sound great, always be a servant to the music and the musicians around you. To be flexible means to be able to play a few jazz standards, to pull out a Beatles song or two off the top of your head, to fake Jimmy Pageʼs solo on “Stairway to Heaven”, to know all current bands in case someone sais “can you make it sound more like Kings of Leon”, to play quiet, to play loud, to have a range of guitar effects that cover most scenarios, to know when to lay out and stop playing, to have a few classical pieces under your belt, to be able to conjure a decent intro to any given tune, and most of all to listen. You have to become a great listener. Not only constantly listening to new and old music, but to know that when someone sais they want something musically, to know what they really mean though they donʼt know how to express it in guitar terms. Such as “can you play it more like thereʼs a tumbleweed rolling by…” To which you either walk out the door (just kidding) or switch to your bridge pickup, put on a little tremolo and twang out a straight open D minor chord.
The other flexibility Iʼm talking about is with your schedule. You have to make things work as much as possible for the people who are hiring you so that itʼs easy for them and so theyʼll want to have you back on their gig. You have to be up for a rehearsal or two with or without pay to begin a new music relation. You have to be up for a hang at all times to keep meeting new people to play music with. Saying all this may make it all seem like a big old hustle, but if youʼre playing music because you love music then itʼs a joy to constantly meet new people who also love to play music. This is also not to say that you shouldnʼt turn gigs down. For the most part as a freelancer you should take all gigs that come your way, but if you really donʼt like a project, do yourself and the artist a favor and donʼt take it. If weʼre gonna play music for a living we should enjoy it. With that being said, part of flexibility is knowing how to enjoy all music. Get to know your limits on all fronts so that you donʼt burn out because free lancing anything in New York City is a very active lifestyle.
Next, a key factor, I think, in being a free lance guitarist in New York City is adopting the minimalist mindset. Hereʼs why: If you play guitar with the minimalistʼs mindset combined with aware listening, you will never get in the way on someoneʼs gig. That is the first unspoken rule for any artist when they are considering whether or not to continue working with you. It is much better for someone to ask you to turn up then to turn down. Be aware of the space you occupy in any given situation, and start small. Minimalism in music relates to appropriateness in music. Also in naming minimalism as a key factor in NYC freelancing, I mean that your lifestyle may require it. I donʼt really need to say this, but if your motivation for playing music as a guitarist is to get rich, you are better off practicing Guitar Hero until they enter it into the Olympics. Iʼm not saying it wonʼt or canʼt happen, Iʼm just saying it takes alot of standard $50 gigs to buy a penthouse apartment. For that matter the same goes for anyone who is in music to make money before making music: better to become a doctor instead and help people while earning alot of money because creating intentionless music governed by the latest music fad to dominate the radio, internet, and tv waves only serves to make society less intelligent as a whole. Stepping off my soap box now, you also need to figure out how to achieve a great sound with a minimal amount of gear. New York has an extensive subway system and you donʼt want to have to worry about finding a parking spot right before the gig. For me a small light solid state amp on a cart (bumpy sidewalks can ruin small tube amps), a small shoulder strap pedal board and a gig bag guitar case work just fine. You also want to spend time learning the range of your effects so you can make the most of just a few pedals.
You have to be willing to live minimally and enjoy it. Learn how to make the money you earn spread. Minimalism will take care of that. Itʼs important for me to say that you donʼt have to be a “starving artist”. With this mindset you can be a “surviving minimalist”, doing what you love.
In conclusion, the main thing is to learn how to let the music guide your life. If you love to play guitar, then make it your spiritual path and learn how to listen to it for guidance. Donʼt respond to vibrations of urgency or negativity from anyone. Stay in the zone and believe in your own guitar playing. The rest will take care of itself.