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5 Crazy (and true) Stories From Music History

Music history is littered with some of the best and brightest minds in the history of the world – and some of the craziest stories to boot. From Berlioz to Schumann, here are five crazy (and true!) stories from music history. 

The Premiere of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring"

“The Rite of Spring” is one of the most famous ballets of all time – but when it first premiered, it was not at all well-received. The musicality of the ballet was incredibly different from the usual sounds of the day, and it made the audience so incredibly angry that they very nearly rioted. The audience eventually calmed itself and the ballet went on, but some of the critiques that followed the premiere mocked the avant-garde style of the music of the ballet and the unusual choreography that Nijinsky, the premier ballet choreographer of the day, had designed.

Schumann's Finger Stretching Device

Schumann was one of the most famous composers of the Romantic era, and his performance career was one of the most celebrated in Europe. Schumann, who was unhappy with the level of dexterity of his fingers, invented a strange finger stretching device that he used daily while practicing. Eventually, the device inflicted permanent injury on two of the fingers of his right hand, completely destroying his career in performance. Schumann continued to compose, but he never again played piano in public.

Mozart's “Don Giovanni”

Still one of today's most celebrated composers, Mozart was an immensely skillful composer that could dash off an overture in a single morning – literally. His opera, “Don Giovanni,” had its overture composed by a completely hung-over Mozart the very morning of its premiere. Most fortunately, the musicians made it through the overture at that evening's premiere without incident – no mean feat, as the score to the overture was extremely messy due to Mozart's hangover.

Berlioz's Threat

Some of the great Romantic composers were not only contemporaries, but friends. One day, Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn and Schumann – among several others – were gathered in a Parisian eatery discussing their craft among other subjects. Abruptly, Berlioz stomped through the door, announced that he was sick of life, and intended to kill himself immediately thereafter. He ran out the door before anyone could stop him, prompting a frantic search by both the composers and the city's police for Berlioz. Eventually, he was found in a haystack on the outskirts of Paris – and still very much alive. 

The Faulty Memory of Scriabin

Scriabin, another brilliant Romantic era composer, wrote a work entitled “Fantasie in B,” which to date is still considered one of his most beautiful works of music. One day, while visiting friends, he overheard another musician playing the work on the piano in the other room. When he asked his host what the music was – remarking that the piece sounded very familiar – his host informed him that it was his fantasy for the piano. Scriabin had been so unthrilled with the work that he had entirely forgotten that he'd written it!

These are just a few of the bizarre – and sometimes hilarious – tales of composers throughout history. A huge variety of books on the lives of composers exist, so if you're keen for more crazy stories about some of the most brilliant minds in music, visit the library – and prepare to giggle.

Music Therapy: A Rapidly Expanding Field

Music therapy is becoming by far one of the most popular career choices for musicians who also have an interest in psychology or sociology. Combining practical musicianship with deep understanding of social sciences, music therapy has become one of the highest-paying careers in the realm of music.

While all music therapists must complete at least a master's degree in the field, the roads to get there are varied. Many universities have designed and adopted curriculums for undergraduate degrees in music therapy, but music majors with minors in psychology, sociology, or criminology may also apply for master's studies in music therapy, particularly if they took available music therapy classes during their undergrad degree studies.

Music therapists have many roles. Many music therapists work in hospitals, where they assist in the recovery of patients who are suffering from mental illness, emotional crises, or even stroke or heart attack. Music therapy can help to address the symptoms of a wide range of physical, neurological and cognitive disorders, including depression, anxiety, autism, hypertension, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder.

While formerly music therapists were mostly find in mental institutions, the study of music therapy's effect on a broad range of health problems has resulted in a tremendous expansion of the profession. Music therapists may also be found in regular state and private hospitals, outpatient clinics, and even in prisons.

For musicians who are interested in music therapy, the acquisition of a master's degree represents an investment rather than a risk – which is the case for many practicing musicians, as music is still not yet a lucrative profession in the United States in particular and the west in general. Qualified music therapists will generally receive a generous compensation package even from their first year of practice. Music therapy combines heavy use of musical skill with knowledge of the social sciences, making it a well-paid profession that still permits the musician to actually make music all through their working hours.

The field of music therapy is expected to continue to grow over the next decade, and scholastic programs in the discipline with it. Sometimes, music therapy can be adapted as a part-time or secondary career option to composition, performance, or teaching, depending on the candidate's specialization; and sometimes music therapy can be adapted to a dual master's degree program in another musical discipline. Regardless of how the musician chooses to pursue work in music therapy, it is one of the most lucrative – and for many, one of the most fulfilling – work options available to musicians in the twenty-first century.

The Death of the Record Company: Music in the 21st Century

The twenty-first century has ushered in a tremendous variety of technological and social tools for musicians to utilize to create music – and to promote and manage their careers. The end result? The standard record company label – still booming just a decade and a half ago – is dying.

Increasingly musicians are turning to the digital realm to create and market their work. Previously, many marketing platforms and digital tools were only accessible by record companies on merit of financial ability to purchase or pay for them. Now, marketing music has become dramatically more simplistic. While musicians must still develop skills in marketing and advertisement, social media outlets and social media management tools have become available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection – and significantly reducing the need for record companies to market musicians' work for them. 

In addition to increased access to marketing platforms, digital recording and mastering tools, like Acid Pro, Logic, Cubase and ProTools, have become more affordable in recent years. With increased access to these and other freeware audio production tools like Giada and Rosegarden, musicians are building home studios and purchasing or downloading cheap and free audio production platforms and doing all their recording at home. While previously record labels might have fronted the money for bands and solo acts to pay for studio hours, this has become – with some exceptions – almost entirely unnecessary. More often than not, musicians will record their material at home and digitally send it over to a studio for mastering, saving themselves a ton of cash in the process.

Finally, musicians are opting to create their own record labels – often collaborative efforts in which musicians on the label work together to market and promote each other's work. This new approach creates a much more artist-centered platform that is less about simply making money off the work of musicians and creating new opportunities and lucrativity for the musicians themselves. 

Will the record company die off entirely? Probably not – but the old model is almost completely out the door, and record companies must adapt to provide musicians with what they are unable to do themselves, and with the rising reign of technology, that has become comparatively rare. The next decade or two may witness the death of the record company entirely and give way to an entirely new generation of musicians that does everything digitally – and keeps the returns for themselves.

We Do It For the Lulz: 5 Acts That Will Make You Laugh

Music and laughter go hand in hand, and a great many musicians in the world have made their way by making millions cackle with glee the world over. From slapstick to sarcasm, check out these five musical acts that are sure to make you giggle.

Weird Al

Easily one of the most famous comedic musicians of all time, Weird Al Yankovic has made his living through hilarious parodies of mostly Top 40 pop hits, like Michael Jackson's “Beat It” (“Just Eat It”) and Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone's “Ridin” (“White and Nerdy”). Drawing from quintessential American and Jewish humor, Weird Al has toured worldwide and is one of the most successful musicians of the twenty-first century.

The Gothsicles

From poking fun at gothic industrial culture and clubbing to epically hilarious tunes about video games, The Gothsicles – the brainchild of Chicago's Brian Graupner – will make anyone giggle, especially those entrenched in the rich culture of video games or are goth scene participants and contributors. The Gothsicles are touring to support its latest release, “I Feel Sicle,” and will be touring in Europe throughout autumn 2017.

Nice Peter

The highly creative – and hugely hilarious – progenitor of Epic Rap Battles of History, Nice Peter has contributed a wealth of material to the comedic music range. Although he's come under fire a time or two for some insensitivity in his material, the pop artist has responded to his critics with grace – and improvement. Famous for his “photo songs,” on YouTube, where he strings a series of images together and improvs lyrics based on the images, Nice Peter plays live regularly and continues to record music and videos. 

The Lonely Island

Anyone who's ever heard “Threw It On the Ground” or “Motherlover” has heard The Lonely Island, a comic trio comprised of actors Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. They've worked with some of the biggest names in pop and hip hop, including Justin Timberlake and T-Pain. With a large body of work consisting of gloriously inappropriate humor, The Lonely Island's latest album, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” was released in 2016. They've been featured regularly on Saturday Night Live, and have dipped their toes into filmmaking as well. 

Tom Lehrer

The definition of dark humor applied to music, Tom Lehrer's catchy and yet gruesomely morbid tunes are more than adequate to elicit a creepy Uncle Fester cackle from even the most straitlaced of folks. One of his most famous ditties, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park,” has become a standby of those who love darkly sarcastic humor. Now in his late eighties, Lehrer has since retired – but his discography is still well worth the listen. 

Opera Versus Broadway

Opera and Broadway style are dramatically different from one another in many ways – and yet many people still confuse the two for being rooted in the same art. If you've ever heard someone describe Phantom of the Opera as an opera, you'll have heard a classic example of this confusion. Here are three ways in which Opera and Broadway are significantly different from one another.

Vocal Technique 

While many Broadway stars study classical and operatic technique, the vocal styles used in each are hugely different from one another. Operatic technique often features more of what one may think of as an antique or classic style, very elegant, strong, and emotive; Broadway style features belting more often than gradual dynamic shift, vibrato is not often heard or even encouraged, and emotionality is expressed more with movement than with the voice (with some exceptions).

Broadway style, regrettably, tends to induce “vocal fry” in many singers if not rooted in classical singing technique, reducing the vocal careers of Broadway singers significantly when compared with opera or classical singers.

Opera versus Musical Theatre

One of the major differences between operas and musicals is that in opera, everything is sung – even dialogue between characters; there is no spoken dialogue whatsoever. In musicals, arias, duets, and chorals are interspersed with actual spoken dialogue. Additionally, what people have come to expect in terms of artistic discipline is different – in opera, the singing is expected to be superb, but the acting does not have to be, whereas in musicals, excellent acting is expected alongside more mediocre singing. 

Part of what accounts for the difference in discipline acumen is the training that opera singers and musical thespians receive if they pursue degree study. In musical theater degree programs, much more emphasis is placed on stagecraft and acting, and the study of singing is fairly minimal; in opera and classical music programs, the main emphasis is on musicianship and performance, and acting and stagecraft classes are secondary to the musical studies. 

Musicality

In addition to the aforementioned, the ways in which operas and musicals are composed are quite different. Operas tend to be musically complex, and this is a hallmark of the craft itself; musicals, having popularly sprung to light during the twentieth century, has its roots much more in pop and rock style, making it musically far more simplistic (with exceptions such as Phantom of the Opera). Operas also rarely boast modern instrumentation, whereas musicals frequently do. 

While certainly opera and musical theatre have certain similarities, the study and execution of them are wildly different – and as for enthusiasts for either craft, it simply comes down to personal taste in musical style.

Vocal Recording The Perfect Microphone For Under $300

The professional recording studios spend thousands of dollars on vocal microphones. The good news is, you can get the same outstanding results for under $300 in your home recording studio. Here are 3 of the best vocal microphones for under $300.

Sure SM58

This microphone is the king of vocal microphones. It would be hard to find one live venue or one recording studio in the world that does not have a box of SM58s. This microphone is the perfect all-rounder. It sounds great with vocals, it will make any guitar cab sound good and they work fantastic on snare drums. If you ever need a good all-around studio microphone, this should always be the first choice.

The SM58 is primarily a microphone for live performances, but they do have a place in the studio. You will get an even, balanced vocal track. If you add some subtle effects, such as compression and a noise gate, you will get a crisp, live sounding vocal track. The best thing about the SM58 is you can use it for anything and they cost under $100!

Sure SM78

Everybody wants to a be a rock-star. This microphone has been the go-to microphone for studio rock vocals since the early 1970s. The frequency response is a lot wider than the SM58. The frequency is also flat and will primarily pickup the mid-frequency ahead of anything else. The SM58 was developed to be the perfect all-rounder. The SM78 has been built for vocals.

You will find the SM78 in radio stations and vocal booths all over the world. The SM78 has gone through some serious development since the first models in the 1970s. The basic elements of the microphone remain the same. However, the shielding has been vastly improved to reduce any interference from other electrical sources such as your PC monitor or broadband router. The SM78 costs just under $400.

SE Electronics SE2200a II

This is not a name you will remember, but this is a serious microphone considering it costs under $300. The large diaphragm, multi-pattern condenser microphone is a bit of a beast. If you have never played with the different wave patterns, you can switch between on a quality condenser microphone. You will hear the difference in your vocals before you add any studio effects.

A good quality vocal microphone makes all the difference to your vocals, so all of them are a wise investment. The microphones listed all sell for under $300 new. You will also find many available secondhand, allowing you to save even more money.

5 Benefits of Collaboration

Collaboration is a key skill of musicians. The benefits of collaboration are numerous – and collaboration with other musicians can help to push your career in music to new heights. Here are five benefits of musical collaboration. 

Greater Recognition 

By collaborating with other artists, you can effectively link your fanbases together, creating greater recognition for both you and the artists you choose to work with. Collaboration has often launched lesser-known musicians into the public eye, generating accolades and sometimes dramatic fanbase expansion – so for this reason alone, collaboration is well worth your time!

A More Complete Vision

Sometimes a musical vision can only be completed by working with other artists or bands. If you're writing a track that you think would be perfected by a certain instrument or voice, seeking out other artists to work with can help you perfect your vision and produce better work.

Better Musicianship 

Very often, collaboration presents opportunities to learn as well as to create. Maybe your bowing isn't as good as you'd like; maybe you've encountered certain limitations with singing that you want to address. Perfecting a collaboration can drive musicians to address their own unique limitations and stretch the boundaries of what they are capable of musically – and challenging those limitations makes for better musicianship under any circumstance. 

Networking Opportunities 

Through collaboration, you may find that the artists you're working with can introduce you to yet other artists – even ones you might already know and admire. Networking is vital to career in expansion in every professional field, and music is no exception – and by forming working relationships with other artists, you will forge new connections with every collaboration.

More Sales

Collaborations can drive sales of your music, in no small part due to fanbase linking and greater recognition. Some musicians generate income almost exclusively through collaborations with other musicians, such as Ayreon or Mark Ronson. If you're a money-minded musician – and most are – collaborations are an excellent way to enhance your income potential.

From better playing to higher income, collaborations benefit musicians in many ways – and collaborating can help you create and sustain a high-profile (and high-paying) career in the performing arts.

“But I Don't Wanna Tour” - What to Do Instead

Touring is one of the best ways for musicians to get their music heard by lots of fans, and in some cases, to help fund their next album. But touring isn't for everyone – the long hours, the extensive travel, and the late nights aren't suited to every individual musician. If you don't want to tour (or if you want to add some oomph to your promotional efforts), here are a few suggestions for what you can do to continue expanding your fan base.

Submit to Radio Stations

Make a list of local radio stations that play what you produce (even if it's just a weekly special) and send them your music. Make sure to include radio college stations, as most of them will play almost anything that's submitted, and many have regular themes throughout the week. Don't overlook online radio stations either – check out a few national or international radio stations that you can submit online to.

Expand Your Social Media

While you shouldn't have more outlets than you can manage, make sure you're keeping up to date on your current social media outlets and consider expanding to a couple more platforms. Consider which platforms are best suited to what you do, and create a hashtag list to make it easier for fans to find you. You should have a solid presence on all of the largest platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr – and check out a few niche ones, like Ello or G+.

Do Giveaways

Doing giveways of anything related to what you produce – especially if you market those giveaways on social media – is a great way to get people to share what you do. Offer giveaways of everything from single-serve mp3s to signed lyric sheets, and in return, just ask people to subscribe to your social media channels and music platforms like Bandcamp or SoundCloud. People love free stuff, so offering it to them is a fantastic way to promote your work.

Play Local and Regional Shows

Even if you don't want to travel terribly far away, play as many local shows as you can in your hometown and surrounding cities. Consider playing regional shows as well – shows you can get to in a couple of hours or less – to expand your fan base and connect with other musicians and promoters. If you can get to the show and get home afterwards in a reasonable amount of time, don't rule it out just because it's more than twenty minutes' drive.

Play Conventions

A fantastic substitute for touring is playing conventions – it's like a mini-tour unto itself, because you only have to be away for a few days. Look for conventions that host live musical acts as a matter of course, especially ones that pay – or at least offer accommodation. Conventions are a wonderful way to get your music in front of lots and lots of people at once – whole musical careers have been made during a single convention weekend.

Touring isn't for everyone – for those with serious day jobs, children, or chronic illnesses, touring can be flatly out of the question. But these five tips will help you make a living from your music in the long term, and with diligence and dedication, your fan base will continue to expand.

Stage Tech: Five Tips For Stage Performance

You've spent hours in the rehearsal room honing every song to perfection. Your lyrics are nailed, your chords are golden, and your playing is brilliance. And now it's time to bring it all to the stage – to thrill old fans and make new ones alike. But stagecraft is a lot different from the rehearsal room, and at times, a little harder to navigate. Here are five tips for stage performance.

Familiarize Yourself

Before you play a show, familiarize yourself with the space and its particulars. If you're part of a group that does dress rehearsals pre-show, ask the venue if you can do yours in its halls – this way, you can identify any potential problems or issues that need to be addressed at the performance, such as sound amplification or group arrangement. At the very least, show up in enough advance prior to the gig that you can check things out.

Use Space Wisely

If you have a lot of instruments, a lot of band members, or it's a big bill, make sure you're utilizing the space wisely. Work with the other bands present to load the stage appropriately so you can have room to move around and get equipment off the stage easily once your set is finished. Don't compete for space with other bands – a cooperative effort will make for a better show. Amongst the members of your act, get on the stage and decide where everyone will stand – and make sure no one's going to be tripping over each other or whacking each other with their instruments!

Balance Your Sound

Make sure your sound tech is well-versed with balancing different areas of sound and monitor it carefully – otherwise, it will sound like a wall of mud. If you're a classical act, ensure that the quieter instruments are amplified appropriately so that they're not drowned out by louder instruments – for example, flutes and guitars may need to be amplified, while brass and piano very likely won't need it. Use amplification sparingly but wisely to ensure a well-balanced sound.

Clean It Up

Before you get on stage, make things look nice – it should be inviting to those who will be playing on it and exciting to those who are viewing the performance. Pick up any trash or detritus that might be lurking around, and make sure any tripping hazards are moved off the stage or well out of the way. As they say, looking good is half the battle – and that's just as true of the stage as of the musicians themselves.

Speak Up

During a performance, don't hesitate to speak up to the sound tech if something doesn't sound right to your ear, and ask them to adjust. It's also totally okay to ask the audience if everything sounds good to them – they might give you some good feedback, like the vocalist being too quiet or the guitars being too loud, and in turn the tech can use that feedback to adjust the sound accordingly.

Whether this is your first gig or your hundredth, all of these tips will help you ensure that your show goes smoothly – cutting down on stress and leaving you with more energy to keep wowing your fans.

5 Folk Metal Bands You Should Know

Folk metal – that curious mix of heavy metal and global folk music – has taken the world by storm to such a degree that whole music festivals are dedicated to it. Originating in Scandinavia, most of the best-known folk metal bands are from that area of the world, combining traditional music and even drinking songs with the driving rhythms of metal and rock. Here are five folk metal bands you should know.

Wintersun

Founded in Finland by Jari Mäenpää in 2003, Wintersun combines harsh and melodic male vocals with driven folk metal sound, often exploring themes relating to Finnish mythology, culture, and the human perspective on the universe. Utilizing not only the classic instruments of heavy metal such as guitar, operatic vocals, and drums, Wintersun also uses traditional and electronic elements in its work, creating a harmonious balance of grit and beauty.

Korpiklaani

Easily one of the most fun-sounding bands in the folk metal scene, Korpiklaani also hails from Finland and combines heavy metal style with lyrics in both English and Finnish about drinking, partying, and other such drolleries. Korpiklaani – whose name means “Forest Clan - also uses accordion in its music, making one feel as though they're listening to heavy metal on a pirate ship sailing the waters of the Baltic.

Blackguard

Hailing from Canada, Blackguard is a melodic death and folk metal band that has made waves as a strong opener for other metal acts like Epica, Kamelot, and Finntroll. With a flawless and energetic fusion of power, death, melodic, and folk metal, Blackguard has become one of the most respected names in folk metal.

Gåte

Gåtehails from Norway, and represents one of the truest examples of folk metal to this day. The band combines traditional songs and stories of Norway and the surrounding Scandinavian region with heavy metal and electronic elements, enriched by the angelic voice of its singer, Gunnhild Sundli. Its name translates to “riddle,” and after a lengthy hiatus, the act has returned to touring and production.

Orphaned Land

Founded in Israel, Orphaned Land combines the eastern influences of Arabic and Asian music with the western influences of metal and rock to promote messages of peace, unity, and hope. In particular, Orphaned Land focuses on the dichotomy of the universe, the nature of religion (especially the Abrahamic faiths), and frequently utilizes stories of the Abrahamic traditions and traditional songs of the Middle East. The band has toured with some of the biggest names in metal, and has played some of the largest metal festivals, including Wacken Open Air and Gods of Metal.

With varying styles and regional influences, each of these folk metal bands offers a different message and style – all worth the listen.

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