Day 1 of Online Guitar Lessons

straight outta compton meme

It’s iconoclastic day 1 of my online guitar lessons and high time to choose the right teacher/instructor/mentor to help me establish my basics. I’ll be uploading a video in a few hours with my selection and lesson plan, plus a first look at the beginning of the new song I’m producing.

A journey of a thousand beats per minute begins with a single drum hit.

Oh yeah, and might wanna actually tune my guitar first. Here’s a great free online guitar tuner I use.

Getting Started & Making Progress with Guitar Basics

Click Here to Check Out JamPlay

Choosing Your Online Guitar Instructor

I started and completed Phase 1 which is the basic course today, split into half days. My instructor’s name was David Walliman, a guitarist from France. I chose his course because it was the shortest with the fewest lessons and I didn’t want to spend too much time on basics as I feel like I have most of it down intuitively already.

***Important things I learned in Phase 1 (beginner’s section) I needed to know badly***

*Minor Pentatonic and Blues Scale in A Minor

*How to bend the strings to get a purposefully less exact sound and how to slide

*How to mute the strings you don’t want to hear to clean up my sound

*How to read and write tablature and guitar tabs

*How to play G minor chord, and how to properly play other chords I thought I knew already

tags: how to read tabs for guitar, tablature for guitar, how to hold the guitar, frets and strings on guitar, barre chords, how to play chords on guitar, play with a guitar pick, how to play F major chord, how to play b major chord

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Make Music Forever- for All the Right Reasons

hip hop guitar guyI’m not a major label artist. I’m unsigned. Independent. You’ve probably never heard my songs. You’ve probably never heard of me.

Most people in my shoes would have quit a long time ago, or officially designated their music as a hobby. Mainly because they don’t make a lot of money with their music.

I don’t make very much money from music. I’ve thought of quitting several times. I have quit several times. The only thing that’s kept me from not quitting is that I love making music, and magical little things always seem to happen to me right when I think I’ve quit making music.

Like the time I performed at an open mic in Houston that led to a couple guys buying some beats I made. I pocketed $500 from that and I needed money bad at the time.

Or the time a music publishing agent in Los Angeles paid me $500 for one of my beats and got a placement for it with an MTV show, which unfortunately did not air and was cancelled. The show was called “I Used to Be Fat” and had the show aired I could have been looking at $5,000 – $10,000 in royalties.

bmi music royaltiesThen there was the time when I was flat broke working a part time job in a restaurant in LA and taking nearly a full college schedule of music courses online, and I got a mysterious check in the mail for $350 made out to my name from BMI, the music publishing company. Turns out they were paying me for someone else with my name, and they paid me up to $1250 before they figured out the error and stopped.

The funny thing is they have not asked me to repay much of the money back even with me offering, just requesting a few hundred dollars, but there’s no one I can even contact at the company to actually pay it back, which I have already tried and offered to do. Turns out they made the most money out of any music publishing company last year too.

Then there was the time when I became voluntarily homeless because I was fed up with a lot of things happening in my life at the time. I just went camping for a while. At the time I was making about $36,000.00 a year and from a laptop computer (I have an internet business).

Regardless of making that amount of money, if you have no official home and are camping a lot, people will get suspicious and believe me, the longer you are homeless the more marginalized by society you start to feel and become.

lifted line fashionsSomehow during my stint of homelessness I managed to secure a clothing line sponsorship which resulted in me getting a new song opportunity, half the beat paid for, and a lot of awesome free clothes.

I was also offered the opportunity to feature some major label artists on upcoming songs (I had to buy the rights and the tracks) which is interesting to say the least and never hurts to have an album with some big names on it.

I’ve had more than a couple downloads of my songs on iTunes in Australia and Europe, and some of my beats have appeared on World Champion martial artists’ instructional and highlight videos. Currently one of my newest songs is being reviewed and shopped around by for potential placements, so I’m hoping this time I will get some real airplay or TV play.

I bring this all up to say that I have had some success and gained satisfaction from this interesting journey along the way. I’ve become a far better artist than when I started out, and I’ve had some interesting things happen to me that have convinced me on a cosmic level that I’ll never get away from songwriting and producing music, period.

magic music fairyIt seems like every time I was ready to quit music, a strange new opportunity or unexpected victory would come my way.

Music is a good thing to make. Music is a truly interesting and uniquely magnificent thing to create and experience. On many levels it’s far more complex than the most sophisticated machinery and software we have today. It hits the human listener on so many levels, even down to a cellular one.

So making music should be a guilt-free thing for you, if you’re going to make it.

Music becomes a guilty activity when you feel like you’re wasting time on something that will never pay off for you. You realize that bills don’t get paid by themselves and relationships tend to work better when you’re not completely broke. People want to have kids and move up in the world and do all that normal human life stuff, and music tends to get in the way (at least in our minds).

Music then starts to seem optional, but let me tell you why it’s not optional for me.

jack blackBy consistently producing music throughout the years, I have exercised and cultivated a hidden ability in myself that makes me way better at everything else I do. It’s an X factor that gives me a creative perception and awareness in every aspect of my life.

This is helpful for me because I make most of my money from various internet sites or helping companies market themselves online. I need to see the big picture, and the details. I need to come up with solutions based on what’s happening, and what I think will happen a few years from now.

Making music has taught me that there are some things in this life you do because you love to do them and that alone makes it worthwhile. The person you become eventually having made it is usually a unique and authentic person. The people who were experienced performers I met at open mics were often the coolest people around. They were full time musicians who loved to smoke cannabis, drink, and just have a genuinely positive and good time.

Producing art and music especially has given me an awesome approach with how I run my online business, how I get the graphics done, how people respond to what you write and show them. After all, getting someone to like your music can be tough. In the ears of the listener it’s “who are you and why should I care?”.

here have some moneyBut make a website for a product or service that people already need and want, and put up a few nice pictures and say some fun things that are educational and help them solve their problem, and people will throw money at you all day like a stripper who works at a club which blows up on Tuesday.

I realized really fast waiting tables that it was killing me as an artist and a person. I saw it as a dead-end creativity-killing job with no real future. I quit my job and got serious about making more money on my own, away from the traditional 9 to 5 (or waiting tables working part time at a restaurant).

I realized that in order to make the music I wanted, I’d have to reach a place financially to secure the time and money for resources. Essentially you realize that working a regular job means a bad trade of all your time and energy for a little bit of money.

4 hr workweekHowever if you create a product, a brand, a website, service, information product that helps people in a niche, you can stand to make some real money, like the job-murdering kind I make now.

It feels great to be able to go to sleep and wake up whenever I want to. It’s nice to be able to say “If I lost my apartment tomorrow, I could just drive across the country until I felt like stopping, because my income is from the internet”.

Now I have lots of time to make music, and I feel obligated to do so and I enjoy it. I look forward to making many more songs, and hopefully some of them will be hits.

Now I have time (and money) to practice guitar. I have time to build a song and a beat piece by piece from scratch, no hurries, and no worries. I don’t have to worry about whether anyone likes my songs any more, because my income is presently quite secure and I do very little work in reality on a daily basis except for clicking a few buttons to ship a product from a warehouse in Chicago.

I don’t have to worry about writing songs that are popular or fit some kind of preconceived mold for a record label executive. I can focus on just making a great song and doing it for fun, for all the right reasons, to make art and express myself in a genuine and artistic way.

I don’t have to worry “will my music ever make me another dime?” because again, money is not a problem.

millionaire fastlaneSo really then I have no job and I’m not broke right now. This means I can make music from a place of freedom and liberation, and celebration. I can share my unique experience. I can come from a place of abundance, power, and hope when I write songs.

I can focus on the finer aspects of existence and get past the soul crushing poverty and adversity of a menial job in a crappy economy.

And honestly, the economy, the country, and consumers need new solutions from people like me and you. They don’t need more of the same. This is where the money is to be made, in innovating and helping people. Most traditional jobs will scoff at and punish you for your creativity, not reward you.

No politician or college counselor will tell you that, but I’m telling you.

I’m grateful to finally be able to make music with my time and energy now without having to make ends meet at some high stress low paying job. It took a lot of hard work, sacrifice, confusion, defeat, adulation, excitement, and persistence, but I can finally produce art and make music forever…

for all the right reasons 🙂

Need a concrete idea of how to kill your day job? Watch this guy talk about how he turned his YouTube channel into a full-time job. (For a while there my YouTube channel made enough revenue per month to pay for a car payment for a used BMW)

Return to | Read How to Write a Great Song- Songwriting Formula and Tips

tags: how to become a music producer, how to make money with music, advice for recording artists, advice for musicians, how to get paid to make music

How to Write a Great Song- Songwriting Formula & Tips

great songwriters john lennonSome people can sit down and write a great song without trying.

When making a song I think the most important thing is to let the music flow through you. Start writing stuff down, you can always scratch it off later or edit it.

Sometimes it takes me 15 minutes of nothingness and horrible attempts to get a song started but eventually the artistic muscle kicks in and then it gets a lot easier.

Make the Song Meaningful

This doesn’t mean you have to make it complex or it must be about solving world hunger, it just means that the song should have an impact. Lyrics are secondary to the melody, which is the most important aspect of your song. It’s what the ear remembers most, if it remembers anything at all.

Impact. Melody. Simple. Not Easy.

Think of a time when you bit into a cheeseburger at a new restaurant and all the sauce and the meat and the cheese and the bun hit your taste buds all at once and you’re like “damn that’s good”. Sure there’s a billion cheeseburgers on this Earth being eaten during any given month but still the one you bit had a real impact on your senses for a couple of minutes there.

Stevie_Wonder_great_songwritersSome of the most popular and impactful songs in history are love songs. This is because lots of people can relate to being in love with someone and the complexities of relationships and desires.

Also, kind of like in acting, when the artist focuses on their external world or another human being and not just how they’re feeling inside or what they think of themselves, that’s when their own character comes out of its separated world and becomes part of the shared experiential universe (where your listener is).

You’ll notice that this is a completely simple approach but it works time and again. It has the benefit of artist self-expression and often times the person listening in the audience can relate to the positive aspects of what you’re saying even though you’re saying it about someone else, but they can still feel like you’re saying it to them. It makes people feel and connect to the emotions they deeply want and need to feel.

Here’s the kind of emotional cycle a good song sets off in the listener:

Love. Connection. Meaning. Self discovery. Appreciation. Feeling. Liberation. Closure.

Love doesn’t necessarily have to mean romance, or sexing somebody down either. It can just be focusing on the details of something, which is often how many people begin meditation.

Some people have even sung songs about skies of blue and clouds of white and it was a massive hit song, so don’t think we need to read the Twilight novel series to bring out the love in the ears and hearts of our listeners.

Change it Up

When a song drags along or it seems like one giant repetitive beat then it won’t even matter what you’re saying in the lyrics. That goes the same for how your voice sounds, what the instruments are playing, and how the song sounds from verse to chorus, to the bridge and any other song elements.


importance of melodyThis is the most important part of any song. It’s what drives a song and makes a song interesting. No one remembers a chord progression. No one remembers the type of instruments used on a song. They remember the overall melody of the song.

Great Hooks

The hook (aka the chorus) is the climax of the entire song, and what the listener remembers unconsciously without even knowing the words (ever sang a song incorrectly for 15 years before realizing what they lyrics really were?).

A hook should drive the song concept home and complete the verse’s basic message in a powerful way, and in a short period  of time. Therefore it will likely be the most dramatic section of the song, maybe the loudest, the fastest and most excited, etc.

Effective Use of a PreChorus

There are great ways to make a hook stand out even more and that’s by leading into the hook with a pre-chorus. This is usually a memorable motif or musical phrase, it could be a refrain from the verse progression that slows the song down or creates a temporary instability that will resolve to the chorus, making the chorus (hook) that much better.

Pre-choruses also provide
additional catchy elements in a song for the listener that will have them remembering and expecting them to come again.

examples of great songwritersthe Bridge

The bridge of the song (not all songs have a bridge) in my opinion is what the song would look like if you took the same message and meaning, and then somehow cast it entirely in a just-slightly different light. Think of the bridge as a passage from the song’s message to an even newer place, a slight deviation from the verse/hook that leads perfectly back into the hook.

This is a great chance to add some conflict/confusion that makes the natural conclusion of the bridge into the hook the ultimate resolution of the song’s problem/message.

The Bridge usually occurs after the 2nd verse and hook and leads into the 3rd verse, or leads back to the hook.


A good verse builds. Verses build in excitement, and great verses build upon themselves the closer they get to the hook. The 2nd verse in many ways builds on the first verse, and can show a passage of time, provide additional clarity into the first verse or show what things look like now after the first verse and the hook, i.e. coming to a new place (and keeping the momentum going).

importance of the melody in songwritingIf you’re singing the verses and not rapping them, a very common and effective technique is to write a few lines that progress lyrically, but at the end of the 4th or 8th bar add some harmony backup singing on the words to drive home the mini-climaxes within the verse itself.

Study Songwriting – Take a class, or listen to a wide range of music genres

You can learn a lot about a successful song by scanning your radio and going through the various stations. I do this once or twice a month to hear what’s popular on the radio.

I believe studying every genre of music can enhance your songwriting/producing ability.

An Exercise in Creativity

Next time you’re going to write a song, first listen to a bunch of different songs from genres you don’t even like, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Identify the song elements that work for the song. Imagine “what made this song a hit” and identify the song vibes that are hitting and registering with your music mind.

how to write a great hit songBy acknowledging the good in other music you don’t even like, you’ll have more space to create your own masterpiece.

How to Write a Song… some quick tips

  • Don’t do what everyone else is doing, or try to write something that you think others want to hear (it will come out sounding like a cheap knock-off).
  • Don’t think that it’s the best or worst thing you’ve ever written, even if it is.
  • Don’t expect sophisticated feedback from listeners, often they don’t even know why they like a song- it’s up to you to figure out a recipe that works.
  • Do focus on exalting the human experience. I remember a song where the singers say “I took a walk” which is the most basic mundane human activity, but the way they said it was powerful and catchy. Create catch elements in your song like that without worrying if they have enough complex meaning behind them.
  • Study the greats, the hits, and incorporate your life and the world around you into your music. People will relate way more than you might expect. The special and memorable details of your verse will force people to visualize and connect with your song.
  • Make non-word sounds here and there like oohs, ahhhs, or “yeah!” here and there, or something like that… it can be a never-before-heard sound too, just make it a good one.

This is Jason Blume in the video, an accomplished platinum hit songwriter and a absolutely amazing songwriting teacher. I attended one of his songwriting classes at a music conference in LA and it definitely helped me better understand the successful songwriting formula.

Return to Home | Read How to Sell Your Music Online

tags: how to write a song, songwriting tips, how to write a great song, how to write a hit song, how to make a hit song, how to be a better songwriter, songwriting basics

How to Sell Your Music Online

get your music on and iTunesYou’ll likely want your music to be available for purchase online on and iTunes.

You may also want it on Spotify or Pandora too, but streaming services don’t pay much per listen.

Spotify pays artists about .002 cents per stream. That means you’ll need 5 listens to make a whole penny. Now you know why Taylor Swift is such a biaaatch about streaming services, choosing to pull her music instead from the major online streaming programs and make it unavailable.

taylor swift hates spotify and pandora streaming servicesAnd to be fair, Taylor Swift is smart. And she’s right (about that).

Bare minimum iTunes or or direct sale from your website through and using a “buy now” button if you sign up with PayPal to receive payments which I’ll get to in a second.

One of the best ways to get your music on all the popular channels like iTunes,, Pandora, Spotify, etc. is to pick a service like or

cdbaby for artists to sell music onlineThey’ll take your songs and album info and for a nominal fee put it across all the channels for you, saving you massive time and headaches.

Tunecore will pay you all the royalties from your sales, but you’ll have to pay them a yearly fee to keep your album live. charges $50 for a full album (only 10 bucks for a single), but once it’s up there, it’s not coming down.

They do take a larger cut per download like 30% but in my opinion it’s less of a headache, and they also will store physical inventory for you and ship it too.

Direct Sale from your website, or through a link

Let’s say you don’t want to split any money with iTunes or, or
dropbox reviewThis means you could do it all yourself:

  1. upload your music to
  2. sign up with to accept payments, then create a “buy” button where after the person purchases they are taken to the link to where your album is for download.

paypal reviewThis approach might be for you. This also means you can offer your entire album collection or all of your songs for $20.99 or $2.99, or any other price you’d want to get people to pull the trigger.

The downside is making sure no one pirates your music and shares the dropbox link. Starting out, you might not need to worry about it that much, because haters aren’t likely to spend a dime to purchase something unknown to steal and mass share, they usually only want to pirate already widely known and accepted popular music.

shipwire reviewShipping units yourself

You could also accept payment through Paypal easily and ship your CD to the customer yourself. Services like offer an automated warehouse so for all you entrepreneurs who want to create your own products and ship them without having to go to the post office, you might want to check it out too. I use it for my business.

The thing is with today’s emerging digital landscape, you’ll notice that CD use is going way down. Now people stream or download their music. But I thought Shipwire is so awesome that I wanted to mention it, whether you use it for music or something else.

Return to | Read Distribute Your Music Yourself with Live Shows and Facebook

tags: how to get your music on iTunes, how to get your music on, how to sell your music on itunes, how to sell your music online, review, review, cdbaby review, tunecore review, shipwire review, dropbox review, review

Distributing Your Music Yourself with Live Shows & Facebook

like a boss facebook

The Best Way to Get Your Music Out There

What I’m going to talk about here is really a model that you can and should apply to your music endeavors. If you remember nothing else after this, just get a basic understanding of the general model of what I’m about to share with you here 🙂 Keep this basic model in mind and you’ll expand your reach quickly.

The best way to get your music out there is by performing live and building a die-hard fan group. This could be 10 to 20 people you earn over time by strongly influencing 1 or 2 audience members a show and forming a bond during and after your set. They should have religious zeal for your music and your act, and especially you, and they come to your performance sets and shows.

Performing to a completely unknown crowd is often a death sentence, so having familiar faces there will do wonders for you.

With your group of music disciples consistently showing up to see you perform, having a dedicated bunch of people that like you and vibe to your music will cause it to spillover to the rest of the crowd that’s there too. (People like something that’s already safe, popular, and successful.)

After you perform your set, you can hand out some free CD’s with a few songs on them (only to the people you don’t already know who express an interest or you saw enjoying your set) and get the person’s phone number and email to let them know about future shows and CDs (if you can without being creepy). Then you can contact them with a message before the next time you perform.

What you write in the message is up to you but having their email address/phone number is important for a few reasons, many of which the only way you’d know is through experience and learning things from experimenting with social media like I’ve done.

If you’re able to communicate with a new potential fan at all and/or they later visit your website, chances are when you do a boosted facebook post at a future point in time your posts will show up in their news feeds. Call it Facebook magic.

If you’re on their radar like this they’ll be likely to like your facebook page too, and then you’ll have a way to communicate with them for the long term. This means that you’ll essentially have a fan of your music which is then a matter of activating for some type of action later (attend your show, buy a shirt, buy a CD, contact you for romance).

Moreover when you boost a post on Facebook it says “sponsored” which looks pretty official. But don’t think this is optional. You will NEED to sponsor your posts to reach a maximum audience (and your current audience) because of the way the facebook news feed algorithm works now after becoming a publicly traded company on the stock exchange.

In essence, regular folks’ and pages’ posts don’t automatically get seen by more than 5% of your actual following at any given time any more. This is because Facebook now has shareholders and investors who expect a return for putting money into the company.

Here’s the results of a recent facebook promotion I ran. You can see that it cost me a measly $3.00 but I got to present myself as a star.

facebook for musicians

You can see I got 26 likes, a few comments and a couple of shares for just 3 bucks. I can add budget if I want and increase the likes. The more likes it gets, the bigger a star I appear. I can keep this ad and just add a few bucks whenever I want and it will just keep adding points to the board.

Now imagine you did this for a few of your songs or shows and added a cool picture like Yo Gotti above or of you performing live somewhere and people recording it on their phones and raising their drinks. Holy shit do you think people who are bored on a Thursday – Saturday night might want to go to whatever bar/club you’re at just to have a drink and listen to some new music?

People demand entertainment. They won’t demand accountability from their elected officials, they won’t demand responsibility or reform from criminal offenders, and they won’t even demand the best from themselves.

But goddammit they will demand entertainment from the world around them, and that means you. This means if you’re clever enough you can fill their need for entertainment in the most powerfully attractive way possible. By showing (humbly and not egotistically) that you’re doing cool shit, and everyone else is welcome to join in.

Here’s another one of my facebook posts. Notice in my posts I don’t say obnoxious things like “OMG Sooooooo EXCITED to be doing a song with Ne-Yo!!!!” because that’s like shooting my ego off to build up my own penis size.

Everyone can reasonably infer excitement to be featuring Ne-Yo on a track. Sharing it (and other news) without all the “YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED TOO” type messaging is only going to make you seem like a professional and a star.

facebook ads for rap artists and hip hop

This got 138 likes but most importantly, it got 7 page likes. This means 7 new fans who in actuality were fans of Ne-Yo before, and now they’re my fans. This means if they live in my town and I do a boost of my upcoming show, they’ll likely see that bulletin and be further impressed at how active I am on the music scene and maybe come check it out.

And because they liked the post, their friends will also see in their activity and news feed on facebook that they liked it, and social reinforcement will demand that they like it too. After all, you don’t want your friends liking all the new music you’ve never heard of and feeling like you aren’t in tune with what’s hot.

reverbnation stats for artists

It’s kind of hard to see after I highlighted it but basically every like and share from the sponsored post on facebook also shows up and counts as points on the board on my artist page as well. This in turn makes me appear more popular and a legit artist that’s getting likes and shares. This can look good to A&R or someone trying to work with you, or make someone more comfortable in buying one of your downloads.

I got contacted once by someone selling beats who contacted me through my reverbnation page and it turned into a clothing line sponsorship from Lifted Line fashions in Los Angeles- I got half of a beat paid for by them and I got a bunch of really cool shirts and hats free too.

Having a account is super handy and essentially eliminates the need to have an artist website of your own, saving you lots of time wasted on learning programming or buying websites that aren’t great. It automatically shares things on Twitter and Facebook and collects your stats from social media to show your progress and ranking, but it gives you extra control of your own image and brand, and most importantly helps you share your music for people to hear.

You will notice that I never said one time about hard-selling your music. The focus is on building excitement and interest in your ultimate product, and presenting yourself as a real deal music act (who doesn’t even need other people’s money). Yes, in reverbnation you can share your music on Facebook and add a link to your iTunes for people to download and buy as they’re listening to it on Facebook. I just didn’t want to say that until the very end because you don’t want to focus directly on selling downloads.

Don’t become a salesman.

You want people to want to buy from you without asking. And once you release a full length CD or download on iTunes, you’ll use the same strategy to boost and promote like I’ve shown above.

After having built up an audience where all you’ve done is share cool news and music about you and your act, letting people know about your upcoming album release, again, only serves the fans and consumers by giving them just one more way of connecting with and appreciating you and your art, and the response will be organic and internally driven by your audience, not externally directed by you.

You can do this same basic model on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. Just always be sharing actual things of value without pressuring people into thinking you’re important or that you need attention, and don’t tweet every 2 hours. Think new tweets/posts every 2 or 3 days.

Developing a Social Media Post Regimen, Regardless of which Social Media it’s On

You should post on social media like this imaginary example schedule, on separate days, with a few days in between each post.

  1. Share a song of yours from your reverbnation
  2. Share a picture of something funny you saw today out in town (limit the selfies, please)
  3. Share news about an upcoming music event of yours (a new song or show)
  4. Share a song from someone else you like
  5. Share a news article/story/video about something cool
  6. Share a link to your last album
  7. Share a personal thought/feeling about something that means a lot to you, with a nice picture that might inspire someone to be awesomer themselves
  8. Share a picture of your dog wearing sunglasses (or something silly)

Do something like that in about that frequency/rotation once every 2 or 3 days to appear to be an active artist but also a well rounded, real person. People can’t help but like that.

Activate. Fans. Now!


And as always, here’s a second opinion.

Return to | Read: Mastering the Live Performance

tags: facebook ads for musicians, facebook boost for music promotion, getting more fans for your music, how to get more likes on facebook, facebook for rappers, facebook for rock, promote your music live, promote your music with facebook, facebook boost, how to promote on facebook

Mastering the Live Performance- for Rappers & Guitarists

how to perform music live better

First of all I am by no means a master of the live performance. Hence the title, mastering, as in a constant dynamic state of succeeding, and failing.

My intention is to share with you my experience and observations performing at 35+ open mics/rap showcases in my current music career, what I’ve learned and what I’ve gained.

Live performing has its advantages- greater exposure and more opportunities, a fast way to get more die-hard fans, a venue to sell merchandise, and a chance to have immediate feedback about your music and music act- good or bad.

As a solo performer for the most part doing hip hop without an instrument, it’s not always easy performing on a stage in front of a bunch of people who don’t know you. Plenty of times the crowd may be hostile towards you (especially if it’s rap), or some crowds may not care to pay much attention either way.

I wish I could say don’t take it personally but I’m still working on that part 🙂

The best thing to do is to start out somewhere, and keep doing it and who knows where it might take you.

In 2013 I performed at the Dragonfly Night Club in Hollywood at a rap showcase (that’s the picture of me from that event in the upper left hand of this website) with some former major label and producers at the judge’s panel of the event.

I was later contacted by a guy codename Flossy, the President of Mack 10’s record label and former publisher for Universal Music.

featuring yo gotti
Memphis TN rapper Yo Gotti

Through Flossy I was given access to secure the opportunity and rights to produce the Snoop Dogg and Ne-Yo material, and an upcoming song featuring material from Memphis rapper Yo Gotti this Fall.

So it didn’t even matter that I bombed my next 2 live performances in the following year. I had already hit my target, in one area at least and that’s to keep the ball moving down the field to score, one way or another.

To perform live, I started with open mics like most people do.

How to Find the Best Open Mics

Doing a simple Google or Yelp search for open mics in your city name will bring back interesting results. You may be astounded to find so few open mics, or unreliable information. You may arrive to the open mic and their equipment is too basic or too complex for what you have going.

For the most part it’s best to find 1 or 2 open mics to go to once or twice a month to get your stage chops up in front of others who are probably artists too and other people with nothing to do but drink on a weekday. For the most part people are supportive, then of course sometimes they’re hostile (especially if it’s rap).

Don’t be surprised by strange things like the DJ scratching your name off the list, or the Master/Mistress of Ceremonies skipping you in the order or not getting your sound levels right, on purpose. There are a world of sociopaths and psychopaths out there, and chances are if you’re a dedicated musician you’ll encounter your fair share too.

This video offers some really concrete advice to succeeding at live performing.

Stage Presence

As a doorman at the club known as Fitzgerald’s in Houston one summer I saw my fair share of rock acts. It was a good supplemental study to my own music endeavors.

The best performances and the best vibes all involved the band and the crowd being synchronized with the music and everything the band did was in natural anticipation of both the song progression and the current emotion of the crowd.

In other words, a group effort or the proper synchronization with the crowd that built emotion and excitement made for the best overall product.

Of course, not a single act that succeeded in making the house shake had bad sounding music, and it’s important when any genre of music doesn’t sound bad to your ear.

Another thing. The stage is the natural extension of the floor of the night club. It is not an island unto itself. Do not just stand in one place all the time or if you’re a band, don’t just pay attention to yourselves or each other, but mix it up. Vary what you’re showing the audience at any given moment. Don’t get stuck in a loop yourself!

macklemore performing live

Connecting with the Crowd

I think the best way to do this is to start of by saying something fun or funny (or you can just start out by walking on them like in the pic there), but it can’t be a joke you make trying to get a reaction (which indicates approval-seeking behavior), but rather an observation that’s witty, or fun, or edgy, or something that you think a bunch of potential drunks would want to hear to make their night more entertaining.

Then maybe you get into your songs. Feel free to introduce the song if you want, but don’t make it “official” or pretentious. You’re sharing your music, and the music experience, with the audience. Remember, the audience is both a separate animal collectively, made up of individuals with whom you’ll want to connect.

Another alternate way to do your set is just to start playing, like the music is an airplane taking off so why wait on the runway? You’re the pilot and you’re taking yourself for a ride, and the crowd is lucky to be on board.

fighter plane lifting off

All people have different needs, but not surprisingly our needs are largely all about the same, just with major or minor details, but we just want to feel free and happy, in love and in control. We want excitement when we go out drinking with our friends or love interests. We crave the party and the adventures of the night to let off steam from our jobs and our troubles.

The live performer understands this and uses this to their advantage to set the crowd free and unleash their emotional power to further drive your performance to new heights, to become more than just music, but an actual <your band/act name here> experience.

I remember going to a Green Day concert on someone else’s tickets. I wasn’t expecting a lot because I never was big on attending concerts. But I have to say it was pretty amazing, and this was in 2009 when those guys were 37 years old and still performing hard core straight through no breaks for 2 or 3 hours at full energy level.

Your Act is the Sum of your Music and You, and the Night Too

bass guitar player liveJust remember when starting out, with open mics then to showcases and nights where you sell tickets to your fans and they watch you perform at clubs, that you’re one part of the night.

It both is all about you and your music and not about your music or you at all.

Having confidence, and cultivating compassion through meditation can help you understand and read the crowd.

Practicing your act in your garage, or in your car, or using visualization, are only going to make your performance come easy, and help the crowd trust in your abilities as a musician/performer/public speaker.

Return to | Read: How to Find Backup Singers and Instrumentalists for Your Track

tags: how to perform music live, how to perform live, how to perform live for rappers, how to perform live for guitarists, how to perform rock music live, stage presence, live music performance tips

How to Get Backup Singers and Instrumentalists for your Track

badass guitarists

As a guitarist, you may be tempted to just want to focus on being the most awesome guitarist you can be.

However, gone are the days of easy music money from the major labels. Nowadays the artist must really be an entrepreneur and a producer at the same time. This doesn’t mean that you need to be completely business savvy, it just means that like most successful people in any business, you will need learn to leverage other people’s expertise as well as your own success to create your masterpiece.

And to top it all off, you’ll still need to be a jack of all trades and wear many hats in your endeavors to see a project to its successful completion, without losing your mind completely in the process, like in this video.

As an artist, you should always be working on your masterpiece. For me that’s my current song, and when it’s done, it’s my next song. If I’m working on 2 songs at once, then I don’t even think about a masterpiece, I just focus on the songs themselves and let go of the pressure. But I leave the door open to any one of them becoming a masterpiece and strive for that outcome.

Learning to share the creation of the song will free up your time, multiply the creativity and talent factor by bringing in others on the project, and take away the stress and incorrect assumption that you have to do everything and that only you can do everything yourself. I wish I would have learned this sooner, but with technology available today (which I’ll be revealing here) that wasn’t only 7 years ago, now it’s easier than ever to make big sounding pro songs without ever leaving your living room, or even interfacing with another human, in person.

For this you will still have to overcome your own ego and determine your true strengths and weaknesses, while battling insecurities that hold you back. This means finding other artists to fill in for your weaknesses. It’s great and essential that you believe in yourself and you should, but most bands have at least 4 people. That’s 4x the ability of one person. Maybe a truly exceptional artist is worth 1.75 regular artists, but even Tom Brady can’t win the Super Bowl all by himself.

Of course that also means 4x the problems and attitudes, egos and bullshit (and profit share). That goes for rock bands as well as hip hop artists where there’s multiple rappers on a song, singers, beat makers, and engineers involved.

What this means is learning a bit of leadership and personnel management, and understanding what drives people.


To simplify this, here’s my own personal recipe and today’s production tip.

Production tip:

Understand that other people can’t read your mind. Try to communicate positively and briefly, describing what you’d like to hear, go into a few details of the song’s vision which you have in mind while expressing a desire to hear original ideas as well, then send off with a happy and uplifting no-pressure goodbye and encouragement.

Realize that people are busy and preoccupied with their own lives (like you and me), that they have both complex and simple emotions and feelings, and that they may come back with great work or something that needs adjusting, or terrible work.

Now that you have my basic recipe for 1) creating your masterpiece by multiplying the talent/creativity factor and 2) communicating to the other artists in a way that sets them free to be their best, now we can finally get into the technology of it all, which is really quite exciting.

How I Make Music with for music production

This site is basically a gig site. This means that you can go here and find people that will play a bass line on your song, play the drums, sing something, write and/or sing, mix, edit, engineer, master- you name it- they’ll do it for your music.

(You can also sell your services on here too if you want. I never have wanted to do that but it’s supplemental income for anyone. Just don’t lose sight of your ultimate goal, whatever that is.)

Just scroll down the page and select from the options to find what you need. Look at the reviews of the sellers to see what kind of feedback they’re getting. Check to see how many other jobs they’re currently working on (to avoid a cancellation or hurried work). musician reviews

Using has greatly expanded my own music toolbox, even though sometimes it is smooth sailing and other times you have to make the best of whatever the artists send back to you, or just cancel and request a refund.

I have gotten some great and unique work from the site, and it’s been much easier getting people who want to make music and produce actual music for money to work than getting people in Los Angeles who want to be famous and have some talent to lift a freaking finger and show up somewhere to actually do something.

Examples of my work using

pat riot reverbnation

For my track that I produced featuring Ne-Yo, all from, I got a drummer straight outta Berklee College of Music in Boston to back up my basic electronic drum track I produced, a guy in Croatia to play few guitar riffs and electronic key sounds, and a female vocalist to sing oohs and ahhs. I didn’t have a good idea of the bass line so the bass parts I had requested came back not so great, so I just cancelled and made my own electronic bass line which worked out well. I did the bass line, the guitar, and the electronic piano as well as basic drum track for this track.

For my Snoop Dogg track I had the beat produced from a guy selling his beats online that provided a singer and hook (not from, a violinist off living in France who plays live at Elton John concerts, and an audio engineer off in Florida, USA.

The violinist came back with what I felt was complete crap, at first. It turned out I just hadn’t communicated well enough, and plus a little failed effort up front helps you envision more exactly what you need as a producer (because even you don’t always know what you or the song needs until it becomes clear).

In my most autistic and Dewey Cox way of communicating (like the video above) I was able to finally say what I wanted to hear on the song, and the next time the violinist came back, it was absolutely stunning.

The engineer did a pretty good job but not perfect by any means, then rushed the job at the end. I left a negative review of the transaction and won’t be working with that engineer again.

Power of the consumer and that’s how you keep people who are shady in business accountable- you hit them in their bottom line.

Keep Making Music, with or without

dr. dre's production techniquesThe first time I learned about using session musicians or creating by collaboration was from reading an article about Dr. Dre. He used to line up a recording studio with 5 – 10 MPC’s (the hardware equivalent of a software sampler/sequencer) for his beats, then bring in instrumentalists and together they’d produce a hit song.

I’ve recorded others songs with session musicians that I met by going to and performing at open mics or people who worked at the same restaurant as me who also played music, but recording in person with people in your studio is a whole ‘nother animal in itself. It can be good, and it can also be bad. It can make everyone be their best, and it can also bring out people’s destructive side and darkly competitive side.

In the end, you’ll want to make the best song possible, whatever that means for you and your style. Maybe you’re better at managing people than me and don’t have to try to get the other members of the band or session musicians to show up when they’re supposed to and happily be their best…

But if not there’s always Fiverr 🙂

Watch this to understand session musicians and technology

Return to Hip Hop Guitarist | Read: the Essential Gear I have in my Home Music Studio

tags: get a vocalist, get a guitarist, find session musicians, session musicians, find instrumentalists, find a producer, find an audio engineer, find a male vocalist, find a guitarist, find a female vocalist

The Essential Gear that’s in my Home Studio

avid eleven rack with pro tools and presonus studio one artistI recently bought an AVID Eleven Rack that comes with Pro Tools 11 (w/free upgrade to 12) and I wanted to do a quick review. Then I figured I should probably just review all my gear since I don’t have that much of it anyway to be honest, but each piece of gear does serve a distinct purpose in my home studio.

Producer’s Tip:

As a guitarist or a producer, the last thing you want to do is become a “gear head”. These are people who buy the latest musical instruments and recording hardware/software to be trendy and because they are materialistic and like collecting toys, not because it makes an unsurpassed impact on their music.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my toys and my studio. But I won’t be checking Musician’s Friend catalog for hours on end to see the latest studio monitors or guitar pedals, home workstations or Fruity Loops 18 (I don’t know if that’s even a version but likely will be someday soon).

Use your gear. Don’t get attached to it. With that said, let’s get into it.

And yes it’s 100% okay to turn all your gear on and then turn the lights out in the room to feel like you’re on a submarine.

eleven rack with pro tools reviewsAVID Eleven Rack with Pro Tools 11

This piece is a beast. For the price tag of $550 I scooped this up and was a little apprehensive at the potential learning curve I was going to face.

To my surprise (and relief) I immediately plugged this thing into the power outlet and started jamming right out of the box.

It’s perfect for seasoned producers and beginner/intermediate guitarists, which meant it was just right for me.

The instrument pre-sets are the $hit. It takes a basic well priced guitar (My Fender bullet strat which I’ll get to in a sec that only ran me $130) and turns it into 100 different guitars, each one sounding amazingly professional with no need to toggle the pre-sets, but if you wanted to it’s incredibly easy as well to make fine adjustments.

It features all types of amps, bells and whistles and just about every guitar preset you’ve ever heard in a hit song. It also works fairly well with my ASUS laptop computer, though I admit I need to upgrade my computer soon to more power.

studio one artist review

To make the Eleven Rack even more valuable, it comes with Pro Tools 11, and when I bought it, they upgraded me to Pro Tools 12 off the bat, for free. Having Pro Tools in your arsenal can be game changing for recording/mixing/editing/mastering your song. It can easily become the only DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) you’ll ever need, and if you can become proficient with it, you’ll be able to do some great things with your recordings.

m-audio 49es reviews

M-Audio 49es Midi Controller

I also have the M-Audio 49es midi controller which I got on sale at Guitar Center. After having bought a 61 key keyboard before and deciding it just wasn’t necessary, this midi controller fits my kitchen counter top perfectly and at the price, I can break it (hopefully I won’t) and just replace the equipment, rather than have to get a keyboard repair on say a Triton or a Yamaha Motif. This M-Audio 49es gets the job done and that’s all I care about. It’s extremely simple but it gets notes in the can ready to quantize and edit without great pains.

Blue Series Spark Condenser Mic and Fender Bullet Strat Guitar

fender bullet strat and blue spark condenser mic reviews

For a microphone I have the Blue series Spark condenser mic retail price $200 but I got one on sale at Guitar Center for $129.99 and it’s been a very reliable, solid condenser mic perfect for hip hop vocals and it looks stylish, even matching my guitar and adding to the decorum.

The best part is not only does it look cool and sound great with an overwhelming amount of positive reviews, it has a built-in pop screen. I always hated having to buy and adjust a separate pop screen for mics and now I don’t have to any more.

My Fender Bullet Strat guitar was well priced on sale like the microphone from $200 down to $129.99 at so guys and gals, just shop around for deals.

Don’t forget to pick up a mic stand too. I have found those to be very helpful.

Audiobox USB Black Box w/Studio One Artist

audiobox usb black box with studio one artistFor my backup recording interface/DAW (why ever would you need a backup you might ask?) I have the Audiobox USB  (sitting atop the Eleven Rack in the first pic on this page) which has a few simple inputs and outputs, phantom power 48V (necessary for recording with a condenser microphone) and also comes with its own DAW.

To answer why you’d want a backup DAW/interface, really this one was my primary DAW when I was travelling and I could use it to capture some great vocals on the go (recorded one of my recent songs in a hotel room at the Declan Suites in San Diego).

studio one artist reviewIt became my backup DAW/interface because it comes with Studio One Artist which is a great bare bones DAW and recording interface that gets the job done, and was recommended to me by Guitar Center as well.

This didn’t cost much either, the Audiobox USB/Studio One Artist bundle costs around a hundred bucks but for what it does, it shines. It doesn’t export to mp3, but that’s what the free WinLame file converter is for once you do a final bounce to .wav for CD listening of your project. Mastering your song will require outside software or handing off to an engineer, but that’s super easy to do/get done.

Also the best part about Studio One Artist? Easy to use and practically zero latency. I wish my Pro Tools had zero latency like this program, but then maybe it’s time again for me to upgrade my computer 🙁

I also have an acoustic guitar which cost me about a hundred bucks on sale at Guitar Center, but that’s an easy one to find just about anywhere.

I don’t currently use studio monitors which I need to get eventually, but for now I use some really good headphones which have lasted me for 7 years to date to record and mix.

And don’t forget to buy some guitar holders (usually under 10 bucks) to hang your guitars on your wall to impress your friends like the budding rock star that you are 🙂

Want a 2nd opinion for building your home studio? Check out this video.

Return to | Read: Great Apps for Guitarists and Music Producers

tags: AVID eleven rack review, eleven rack with pro tools review, m-audio 49es review, m-audio 49es keyboard reviews, blue microphone review, blue condenser mic reviews, blue series spark condenser mic, fender bullet strat reviews, presonus audiobox usb reviews, home music studio, how to build a home music studio

The Best Apps for Musicians- Guitar Tuner, Tabs, & Metronome App

ultimate guitar app has a metronome and tuner

Musicians and especially guitarists in the modern age need apps.

An app to tune your guitar. An app to determine the tempo of a song or some tracks you picked up for your masterpiece composition. An app that gives you easy and quick access to your favorite songs to practice to hone your skills.

Fortunately, they have all those things in one handy app which you can download from Google Play known to us immortals as The Ultimate Guitar Tabs & Chords app, voted by Google as one of the best apps of 2014, and once you download it, you’ll quickly understand why.

ultimate guitar tabs reviews

This is a great free app for guitarists, but to get the most use out of it you’re going to want to upgrade from the free version. It costs about 5 bucks to upgrade to the regular version and it will greatly simplify your life as a guitarist or even someone who just started learning how to play guitar. It’s also probably not bad for piano players who play and sing lots of songs by chords and arpeggios now that I think of it too.

My favorite feature of the app is the auto-scroll, which allows you to set your smartphone on the window sill, music stand, on top of the piano or other flat eye-level surface and keep both hands on the guitar/instrument at all times without a need to adjust the tabs you’re playing (and the lyrics you’re singing).

Another great feature of the app is to favorite the songs you want to learn to play for later. This is helpful because let’s say you’re going camping in the mountains this weekend and your phone may not get a signal. Having your favorites already in the app means not needing the internet to practice or sing and play your current song around the campfire or in your cabin.

Here’s a great overview of the app in this video:

The Ultimate Guitar Tabs App comes with the essentials you need: a chromatic tuner and a metronome.

The chromatic tuner looks like a dial in your car. You play the E string and the E lights up on the dial and lets you know how much over or under the frequency of the note you are, thus helping you adjust to bring each string on your guitar into perfect tune and pitch. Very simple, and pinpoint accuracy to boot.

The metronome feature is another easy-to-use function of the app that comes in handy for a variety of reasons. With an option for you to manually adjust and lock in the tempo setting or to tap the tempo to match the material you’re working with, this app function could save you tons of headaches and expand your artistry at the same time.

One reason is if you’re like me and you’re a hip hop producer, and you get access to a major artist’s vocals or commission a singer/vocalist to feature on one of your songs, and all you get is the acapella verses or you get both the acapellas for import into your DAW, and maybe a reference track too. Determining the tracks’ tempo will be helpful in building up a song and instrument tracks around it. This will make the acapella vocals line up with the beat more easily than just complete guesswork.

Another benefit of the metronome is to determine if the original songs you’re producing are a little too fast, or just too slow, compared to major artist releases or just the artists you look up to most. Sometimes your songs might be a couple beats off some of the more successful songs and you may want to adjust things to see how it sounds.

Quick production tip:

As a guitarist, instrumentalist, arranger or producer, you’ll find varying the song tempo within the song from section to section will often breathe new life into parts that might otherwise seem to drag the song on monotonously with no clear direction. Reducing the tempo on refrains/bridges/pre-choruses and slightly increasing the song tempo during the hook/chorus can often add a little extra energy and gusto to keep the mind’s ear from getting bored.

Overall this is a great app (gets 4.8 stars out of 5) and really simplifies your life as an artist so you can focus on producing music and becoming a better guitar player and singer without losing precious hours of creativity to software/phone/internet/sheet music malfunctions. Initially I was hesitant to upgrade the app to the paid version because I hate it when apps prompt you for a paid upgrade, but in the end it’s worth it and their coders should probably get to eat tonight too 🙂

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tags: best apps for musicians, best apps for guitarists, musician apps, musician app, guitar apps, metronome apps, metronome app, guitar tuner app, guitar player app, guitar app