Thursday, 25 June 2020

Myopia and All Things Will Be Well

The voice of the artist must tell its truth. For all light and darkness comes from within; and the conflicts of the external world mirror those wrestled with internally. All an artist does is grapple with life, love and death.

When the moment comes to make again, with skill and knowledge, the artist learns to forget. Practice and forget. Study and forget. Remember and forget. Repeat. Forget.

Myopia (2019) album cover art by Gerreth Oddie

This is the myopic flash; short-lived and evaporating. Through considered brushstrokes, an impression is made.

Now the artist observes and steps back. What does it all mean? Life, love and death. Who will hear my call? This was made from nothing. Will it mean something to someone else?

Romance (anonymously accredited guitar piece) and Lines Written in Early Spring (poem by William Wordsworth) - performed by Dan Sandman
Wordsworth sits relaxed. He has time to reflect on human nature. The brushstrokes are commited to his subject. He applies technique, employs style, draws on knowledge of past masters. Now he becomes the poem. His brushstrokes are made for all to see.

There are 7 billion ways of seeing; there are as many ways of making. Sometimes there are no words or images. The instrumental piece leaves a space for listeners to think and to feel.

All Things Will Be Well by Dan Sandman
All Things Will Be Well (2020) album cover art by Dan Sandman

Instrumentalists have an awareness of how sound can be harnessed to make a particular point. A guitarist may choose a particular plectrum, work with just the fingers or use a combination of the two methods.

But all the skill and knowledge in the world is nothing unless the art tells its truth. The final artwork must have something true to say about life, love and death: a mirror in a bottle sent to cross historical, social and cultural boundaries.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Three Ways to Get a Better Sound Online

There are three basic ways to set up your sound for an online open mic:

  1. Use the microphone that came with your device.
  2. Connect a USB microphone to your laptop.
  3. Install an Audio Interface.

Each method has it's pros and cons.

The first method is the cheapest and most straightforward to setup. It is also very good for picking up the human voice in a variety of positions. I have successfully used this method for teaching, where the emphasis is less on sound quality and more on ease of use. If you are using your device's mic, make sure you sing and play directly in front of your laptop, tablet or smartphone. This will make sure that we can hear you. Singing away from the microphone will result in a loss of sound.

The second option is a good compromise between sound quality, usability and affordability. There are a number of affordable microphones on the market that plug directly into your laptop. For an online open mic, search USB Microphone for Laptop and choose a condenser microphone. Check that it does not require an external 48V phantom power source. 

For the professional or semi-professional musician, I would recommend installing an audio interface. I use the TASCAM US – 1 x 2, a beautiful engineered box which converts an analogue input into a digital output. This enables me to sing through my SURE SM58 vocal microphone, and play guitar into my FISHMAN Rare Earth guitar pick-up, whilst simultaneously monitoring the signal.

Finally, a note of caution. Be careful to research any product before you buy it. Make sure to check what software drivers you will need, and whether the microphone or interface is compatible with your operating system. It's always worth reading the reviews, as potential problems are often flagged up by previous customers. If you are not tech savvy, then send me an email and I might be able to help.

Otherwise, have fun and see you at our next online open mic.

The Belsize Online Open Mic is running every Friday from 6.30 pm to 9.00 pm GMT on Zoom.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

The Value of Open Mics

Pubs are important community hubs and have always been part of my life. Open mics in public houses are invaluable, both to the professional and to the amateur.

I was first asked to host an open mic in summer 2015, and have been connecting artists ever since. London in 2020 has a wealth of creative talent, in all artistic medians, ranging across its multicultural heritage. An open mic, in a busy London pub, might include a singer from Iran, a guitarist from Slovenia and a poet from Croydon. It may also give rise to the next Adele or Ed Sheeran.

Open mics are inclusive events, set within a simple rule system, where anything beautiful or entertaining is praised. They nurture new talent and give wissened old-timers a voice; are places of humour, learning and community. In London, they represent the city's diverse cultural identity.

As a teenager, I begun performing at open mics to reach an audience with my songs but also to be a part of something. In a healthy culture, one that reflects the hopes and fears of the human heart, mirroring all that is light and all that is dark, communal gatherings are a social necessity. Open mics teach us to listen, as we face the mirror peering into our vagrant souls.

Belsize Open Mic Live at The George has ceased until further notice.