DIVE INTO THE WORLD OF COLLABORATION
Music Collaboration. Where to start?
Collaborations have a huge history in music from the jam sessions of the 1920’s where jazz musicians would come together and play after their gigs improvising upon each other giving rise to bebop and other forms of jazz, to the hit song “Walk This Way” by a collaboration through RUN DMC and Aerosmith which saw the introduction of a new genre called rap rock, to recent music collaboration “All the stars” by SZA and Kendrick Lamar which was the main song for the blockbuster top grossing film Black Panther and nominated for best original song at the Oscars. Collaborations are truly a driving force in music enabling new artists to break through and already well-established musicians to stay at the top of the charts and keep bringing fresh sounds. However, as a start-up musician approaching the process of collaboration can seem like a mountain to climb.
Music collaborations are an area that start-up musicians tend not to consider as it often seems like an unfamiliar, long, very technical process that only established musicians are able to maneuver through. But this is definitely not the case, and it is definitely not as scary as it seems. Music collaboration is when two or more artists, musicians or producers come together to work on a single music project. It is centered around all the musicians who are involved, being able to contribute musically to the project. The musicians don’t all have to be in the same field musically such as being all singers, collaborations can happen between writers, instrumentalists, producers, and videographers as well. Everyone has a certain skill so by collaborating together you are able to achieve more.
But, where do you start? It is first important to identify the kind of musician you want to collaborate with. In many ways, it even makes a lot more sense to look for artists who do not share your musical style. In fact, the best collaborations are often the ones that fuse contrasting styles together, such as “Walk this way” which I have previously mentioned and “Lost In The World” by Kanye West and Bon Iver. Stepping out of your comfort zone and working with artists from different sides of the artistic coin gives you the best chance of building that creative friction and with the growth of social media, it is easier than ever to reach musicians in all parts of the world and collaborate without even ever meeting each other face to face. Although when working with a musician in another location via certain online platforms it is first important to get to know the other musician and their work. Before you start to share your work I would recommend that you do a background check or check out their website, listen to the music they make and if they have done collaborations before.
However, it may be easier to collaborate with a musician in the same city or around the same area. This would require you to get involved with your local creative community. Some great ways to get involved would be by going to local shows and jam sessions and making connections, performing at local shows and venues as people would be more interested in asking to collaborate if they have heard you play, joining a local online music forums and social media groups, and lastly you can even ask your local university and music colleges if you can put ads around the music department. So do not be hesitant about being socially active, showcasing your talent and work on social media and to reach out to other musicians.
Social media is now one of the most key aspects of music promotion and promotion of artists. Through collaboration you are now exposed to another musicians fan base as well, contributing to growing your own fan base.
In recent times there has also been the development of multiple websites and apps designed for the purpose of finding other artists also looking to collaborate. Some of my preferred websites would be PROCOLLABS, KOMPOZ, SPINNUP, and SPLICE as they all have artists from many different places in the world.
But once you have found an artist to collaborate with, how do you ensure a successful collaboration. A music collaboration can turn sour and become very difficult in the early stages of the process if the artists are not on the same page. It is important to first establish clear goals, what is expected of each other and what each other’s roles are. To do this you have to know what one another’s strengths are and allow them to utilize their strengths as you should yours. When you compliment one another’s strengths it creates a strong base for a successful collaboration. Throughout the process continue to not just communicate but overcommunicate. You must be willing to have hard conversations and build an honest relationship as you will be spending a lot of time with each other and sharing a lot of criticism. When sharing and receiving criticism it is key to balance how you discuss ideas, let them know what you like as well don’t just always offer negative criticism and remain open, flexible and respectful.
Before diving into the process I would recommend you ensure that you have all the right tools and equipment necessary for you to carry out the process and for the artists involved to collaborate. If you are unsure about which equipment would be necessary to buy I have written an article on top essential music equipment to buy when starting up which you may find helpful.
Collaborating with other musicians is a fun and creative experience but it also requires time and work, so let the other collaborators know that you appreciate their work and their time. Now is a great time to be involved in music, and, collaboration is in the mix of it, so get involved and remember to enjoy yourself.
FOR THE RECORD......
Top 5 pieces of equipment to buy as a start up musician hoping to make their own music and record.
As a musician recording and releasing new music is important for getting your name out there and growing your fan base, the more songs you have out there the better it is for you. A question I often asked myself when starting my music career is, when is a song or song concept ready to be recorded? However, I was asking myself the wrong question. As a musician, you should be able to record as often as possible as soon as you have an idea, be it a melody, a chorus or an instrumental as it would still be fresh, and you can now continue to build on it. Therefore, it is a question of accessibility. Where can I record? And this is the question that haunts most start-up artists as you find yourself met with hefty hourly studio fees and uninspiring responses from record labels. But the answer lies even closer to home than you think, in fact, it is at home. In our day and age, you don’t even need a full studio to record and you can even build your own home studio. Musical production equipment has become much more accessible and affordable, with multiple brands and companies, some which specialize in specific equipment all offering different ranges quality and price. In the past, to record you would need to go to an official studio, often owned by major record labels and companies which would charge an arm and leg just for a limited amount of time and as equipment was complicated, in order to effectively to use some of the equipment, you would have needed to have taken a course or be an apprentice to someone working at a studio.
The production equipment today also sees pieces of equipment being able to do more and there are smaller more simplified options available and we are now even able to record on most of our electronic devices. This hand in hand with countless number of tutorials on music production equipment means that anybody who is interested in recording and producing music can start their journey anytime and all you need to start are a few basic essentials and it actually is preferable to start off with a simple home studio of a few materials because what usually happens is that by attempting too much too soon you get overwhelmed, you get discouraged, and you eventually quit and you would have wasted a lot of money and time. However, it also means that there are a lot more people in the world now trying to make music
But with so many pieces of equipment available and so many brands how cheap is too cheap and what equipment do you buy first? Even if it technically is possible to build a working studio for as little as 5800 Rand, it will however have boundaries to what you can achieve with it and the quality at which you can produce, and as a start-up recording musician you want to be picking up traction and putting good work out there as remember, there are now way more people in the world now attempting to make music. When it comes to what equipment you should buy first the top 5 pieces of equipment I would recommend buying as a start-up musician would be:
Often in comparison to what you will spend during the process of setting up your home studio, a computer will most likely be your biggest expense. And as audio software commonly takes up significant space on a computer and requires a good level of processing power, one would ideally want to purchase the faster computer they can afford. Although, these days, almost everyone already has a computer of some sort. And virtually all computers are fast enough to at least get you started. So, if you do have a computer or a laptop already, I would suggest you start with that, but if you are looking to start by buying a new one this link may help.
: The Best Computers/Laptops for Music Production Classic Example: MacBook Pro
2. A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
If still unsure a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is the software used to record, edit, and mix music on your computer. More and more DAWs are popping up each year also varying in price depending on what the DAW offers some reliable DAW I would suggest for starting of are Ableton and FLstudio. However, if your focus is mainly around recording vocals I would recommend you buy a DAW/Audio interface combo. An audio interface is the hardware that connects your computer with the rest of your equipment. Two companies which offer these combos Presonus and Avid. Where Presonus offers a free copy of their Studio One Artist DAW with some of their interphases insert PreSonus. Avid offers a free copy of Pro Tools 12 DAW with some of their interfaces: link.
3. Microphone/Interphase combo
There are loads of different microphones out there all which specialize on certain sonic aspects and I am sure in time you will acquire multiple, so, for now, you will probably just need one. The one you decide on comes down to what you want to record specifically such as instruments or vocals. As most people start out just recording vocals I would recommend a large diaphragm condenser microphone such as the Rode NT1A and for those looking to record high-frequency instruments I would recommend a small diaphragm condenser microphone such as the AKG P170. When purchasing your microphone I would highly recommend you get it as a combo with an audio interface. This combo is offered by scarlet
Certain listening components are able to pick up on different ranges of frequencies. It is indeed possible to use standard earphones for the process however it may prove to be harder to pick up details which may affect the final quality of your music. When it comes to headphones there are two specific standard designs. These include Closed-back headphones which are preferable for tracking and Open back headphones which are preferable for mixing.
When listening to your final recording most producers and engineers would say that you need to hear it on as many different audio systems as possible to see how the balance is, so that when you release the track it sounds good on all systems. In order to get this right balance, the track has to be mixed and as speakers commonly have a flatter frequency response. This enables the producer to hear a rawer sound and makes it easier for them to identify where it needs to be mixed.
When it comes to recording and producing music, it’s something you can definitely do, you just have to…..do, take the leap and get going
HOPE YOU LIKE JAMMIN’ TOO
Jam sessions, although it would be understood if you had a picture of a group of people getting together to make marmalade, I am referring more specifically to the generally informal eventful musical get together, where a spread of instrumentalists play improvised solos and mix and match tunes, songs, and chord progressions. Jam sessions which is a phrase that began to be popularly used in the 1920s when white and black musicians would get together after their regular paying gigs, to play the jazz they could not play in their regular performing public bands, has gone hand in hand with the progress of jazz music and its most pivotal innovations such as the Bebop and the emergence of top musicians.
But what is it that makes Jam Sessions so key to not only Jazz but the artists themselves? Arguably, a big factor that jazz is based on, is interaction and community, from the call and response, the accompaniments and the soloists, to taking turns to solo. Jazz is undoubtedly communal, that is why some say Jazz is a language, as when you play you are using your instrument and means of your musical knowledge to convey moods and say things.
Jam sessions were where young eager musicians would go and startle at the master musicians play and get a chance to play and imitate what they had just heard, but in our day and age where one can simply go to YouTube and search a wide array of the top musicians playing, and hear and attempt to play along with them, are Jam sessions still as important?
To get further insight into the matter I spoke with Ryan Stopforth an aspiring musician, primarily guitarist in Cape Town that studies Jazz at The University of Cape Town. Ryan who is originally from Johannesburg hasn’t always had Jazz as his main area of study and interest, and in fact first came to play an instrument through the intrigue of the instrument which was firstly piano rather than the influence of a specific artist or song type. But by drawing early inspiration and motivation from figures such as his first organ teacher who heightened Ryan’s classical knowledge and his guitar teacher as well, both who pushed him in the right direction and “Saw the flame and kind of blew on it,” this in hand with how he would always manage to distract himself with playing music whenever he was bored of matric work, saw that by around the tenth grade he was already confident that music was the path he wanted to go down. It was an important “Anchor” in his life.
When discussing the topic of Jam Sessions it brought us to Ryan’s experience of his first Jam Session, which could be seen as peculiar in comparison to most people’s first Jam Sessions. Ryan and his friend Luke both primarily played and were into rock and punk, although the Jam Session was predominantly Jazz. They were both very nervous go up which is something that almost all musicians would feel the first time, however, bold are the youth, so Ryan and Luke stepped up and “played some loud shit to the crowd,” some rock solos here and some metal solos there. So they were playing out of place, but they “didn’t really give a fuck” and the feeling and buzz Ryan had when getting off stage was very lifting and has stayed with him. It was at the same Jam Session that Ryan met one of his biggest influences that drove him to further pursue Jazz and Jazz guitar. Jazz musician Carlo Mombelli got up on stage and played a solo that intrigued Ryan and blew him away as he was hearing lines he had never heard before and had him thinking that “this is some really dank ass music,” Dank in this case referring to out of this world. Jam sessions provide a place where the youth can look up to the more advanced artists and start to visualize where they want to be in the future.
“As a Jazz musician you should be out there almost every night, gigging, performing and jamming in front of people live” and jam sessions are a huge part of this. Ryan sees jam sessions as extremely key as it is the best way to develop as a musician “getting put on the spot and doing what you’re actually meant to be doing, which is performing in front of people rather than just jamming for yourself.” It also enables a musician to see what other musicians are doing and how they are progressing, and along the way pick up ideas of what they are doing through their solos. Therefore when you hear something you like, it gets you thinking “that’s nice let me try that when I have a chance.”
Picking a path in music is often received with criticisms to do with whether one will be able to find regular work, will the work pay enough and the risks of not making it. However, like a true musician, you often find that it really is the only thing you can be. Coming into University Ryan was very aware of what he was getting into studying music and that he may very well be a “broke ass motherfucker one day” but his passion was way too big as I am sure some of yours are. As Jam sessions are as much social gatherings Interaction is one of the most important agents in terms of shaping musical experience. This is where Ryan states that it is key to develop healthy interactions and connections as, as it enables you to develop a sense of mentorship, where the more advanced musicians can help guide you and enable you to follow in their footsteps, something which has been key to the development of many top Jazz musicians such as Miles Davis, and also get links for more Jam sessions and more people to play with and potentially more gigs. So if you are feeling stuck in your progress as a musician, don’t be afraid to Jam a little.
9th March, 2019
Following the release of “When I Get Home” Solange’s fourth Studio Album on March 1st, the Album continues to top charts. Solange had long kept her fans anticipating a follow-up album to her previous album “A Seat at the Table” but refused to say when it would drop and that she wanted it to be a surprise. Having given a teaser on the black community site BlackPlanet two days before the drop, when the Album did drop on the carefully thought out date which marked the end of Black History Month and the beginning of Women’s History Month being released on all major music platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon worldwide, accompanied by a 33-minute music video, with personalized visuals for nearly every song, her fans quickly took to it and the album shot up the charts going to number four on the UK music album chart on its debut.
A week later and the album is still growing in success. The 19 track Album sees a combination of jazz, hip hop, and RnB. In an interview, she described how “There is a lot of jazz at the core... But with electronic and hip-hop drum and bass because I want it to bang and make your trunk rattle”. Knowles produced the album alongside a number of well-known collaborators, such as John Key, John Carrol Kirby, Standing on the Corner, Chassol, Jamire Williams and Pharrell. The album also features contributions from several high-profile musicians, including Sampha, Playboi Carti, Gucci Mane, Panda Bear, Tyler, the Creator, Metro Boomin, The-Dream, Dev Hynes, Steve Lacy, Earl Sweatshirt and Scarface. However, despite the inclusion of the above high profile musical names, Knowles herself wrote all lyrics and all melodies, which is uncommon to find with modern charting artists who often have a team of writers to support them. This is further testament to her musical brilliance.
The Album takes a more experimental, chop and changing turn from her last album “A Seat at the Table” as she was motivated to create something unique, in an interview she highlighted that wanted “to make work to be discovered 50 years from now” and still enjoyed. While her previous album was more focused on what she had to "say", this album is more focused on what she had to "feel," specifically to do with the influences of her hometown Houston in Texas, her roots and the strength of black identity.
Knowles continues to not only be a front-runner in pushing musical boundaries but has also become a prominent figure of advocacy for the Black community and Women. With the release of this self-confident, carefully crafted Album it is no doubt she has once again hit it out of the park musically.
Whats you're favorite track in the Album?