Q&A #4: Scott Brahniuk

 

 

“LOL along with Scott as he talks about his journey as a pianist, the decision to use VST to augment his sound, and looking forward to the Moto 360.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Scott, thanks for giving your time to do a Q&A. Are your videos a mix of requests and ones you like?

 

Scott Brahniuk: Never been asked to do one before so it should be fun!

Almost all of the songs I play are ones I like but some of my personal friends have requested a few that I’ve played. I’m definitely up for song requests just never get any lol If the song is challenging to learn I’m up for that as well unless it’s something way too difficult for me.

I spend so many hours looking for good songs so receiving requests from people would be a nice break from the hours of searching I do sometimes lol

 

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

 

SB: I’ve never had lessons on playing piano, all self taught. Right away I started learning songs and making my own songs as well, I never learned scales or chord names. Luckily when I first started it felt pretty natural playing and I have such a huge passion for it so I was very determined to learn how to play.

Back then I was also only working part time so I was probably playing 3-4 hours every day so after a short amount of time I was learning songs in a few hours when people who have been playing for a few years would still be struggling to play it after practicing it for over a week.

 

LL: How did you go about doing that? Learning without learning chord names. Were you going by ear? Or was it more memorisation? And you just eventually understood what sounded good, then…was able to work from that and do your own songs?

SB: Pretty much learned a lot by ear to begin with, I feel like watching lots of people play on YouTube helped. So when I finally got my first digital piano I had a general idea of where to start.

Also memorisation is probably a big part as well since I don’t read sheet music I heavily rely on my memory. I played bass for about 8-9 years and after awhile I just got really bored and that’s when I decided to start to learn piano.

 

LL: Any chance you’ll be doing a bass-piano video in the future? (with the right song and inspiration)

 

SB: Absolutely! Lately I’ve been thinking about dusting off my bass and maybe doing some videos.

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

SB: For warm ups usually I’ll play some of my favorite songs or I’ll just play and maybe come up with something that sounds good, and if it is good I’ll turn it into a song! lol

 

LL: What’s next for your playing? Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?

SB: Sometimes I like to use other instruments to spice things up. I have a ton of VST programs so I can make my digital piano sound like drums/guitar/cello/violins, pretty much any instrument so if I feel like doing something different I have so many different sounds to really changed things up.

Right now I think I’m happy with where I am now but in the future I’ll probably try to learn how to read sheet music/scales and all that but for now I’m getting by just fine without that knowledge.

 

LL: Can you expand more about the VST programs you have? What’s the set-up like?

SB: So when I play piano you’re not actually hearing the sound built into the digital piano, I use a VST host program called Cubase and use programs that work with it. For piano I use Synthogy Ivory II and Synthogy Ivory II American Concert D.

Pretty expensive programs but I use them because they sound amazing and you can really create any type of piano tone/sound that you want which is great because some songs I want a softer tone or maybe something with more of a punch. I also use L.A scoring strings for cello/violins. My digital piano has a midi in/out which is how I connect it to my computer to get these sounds.

 

LL: How did you hear about each software? (Cubase, Synthogy, LA Scoring Strings – LASS) Were they used by the people you watched on YouTube?

SB: I heard about Cubase by searching on Google for different music production programs. For LASS/Synthogy Ivory II I found them on YouTube, usually I search for things like ‘best piano vst’ or ‘best cello vst’ and try to find ones that sound the best.

I’ve spent countless hours looking for new programs and sounds to use [and] always looking for something better. It takes a lot of time as there [are] sooo many different programs [but worth] it when you find the perfect ones that you need.

 

LL: What would you recommend to someone who’s interested in getting into VST and making the most out of it?

 

SB: For someone who is getting just getting into it I would recommend starting out small, there are lots of free VSTs that you can use and you can get a feel for how you can customize them. I also recommend Cubase, very easy program to use, never had any issues with it. Also if you don’t have a high end PC download Asio4all and it will help if you have latency issues.

 

LL: What’s your recording process?

SB: For software I pretty much covered it just above but for video editing I use Sony Vegas 11. My digital keyboard is a Yamaha Arius, I can’t remember the exact model number but it was one of the entry level ones I would say, it costs about 1,200. After my wedding in August I’ll be able to afford something better lol but for now it’s great. The camera I used is a Canon EOS T3 Rebel bought it a few months ago and before that I was using a pretty basic video camera. I don’t do much mixing, usually I find a piano tone that I think will be good for the song then I record it and that’s it.

Something maybe I should look into more maybe, adjusting audio levels etc..could be fun lol the one annoying thing about when I record is because the audio that I used get’s recorded into the computer so I’m not using the audio track from the camera which means I have to manually sync the audio to the video track which doesn’t take too long but it’s extra work lol

 

LL: Do you use the Canon EOS T3 Rebel for photographs as well?

SB: I bought the Canon mainly for videos but every now and then I’ll take some photos, usually of my cats lol.

 

LL: Taking pictures of your cats?

SB: Pretty much, my cats are always there and are pretty cute so it’s easy to take pics of them lol

 

LL: Some of your videos have maybe 30-40% less volume than the others…for example: Winter Night compared to Into The Fire. Was that intentional?

SB: Ah yes! the audio issues lol I recently found out why some are much more quiet then others. During the intros for my videos some time the audio for the intro is too loud and what happens is the program actually lowers the audio for the entire video by quite a bit. Now I realize that all I have to do is lower the audio for that one loud track that way once it’s rendered it’s not going to be 30-40% lower

LL: Is that a Cubase quirk?

SB: So the audio quirk is from Sony Vegas, when I render it from Cubase the audio volume is still good. I need to start paying more attention to when I render them from Sony Vegas, usually I just upload them right after I finish with Vegas without checking them lol.

 

LL: Piano Maintenance and Storage?

SB: For me piano maintenance is pretty easy as I use digital pianos so I don’t have to worry about tuning them. Storage wise I have a “Man den” lol as I call it, that’s where I keep all of my equipment.

 

 

LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

SB: Ludovico Einaudi and Helen Jane long are my favs for piano. I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t know Giovanni Allevi who which I really enjoy as well, he’s not quite as known as the others but his music is amazing!

Outside of piano music, lately I listen to Rage Against The Machine, Killswitch Engage, The Black Keys, Explosions In The Sky.

 

LL: Are there songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? (or ones that you listened to multiple times)

SB: Absolutely! some songs I can just listen to over and over again. ‘Your Hand In Mine’ by Explosions In The Sky, it’s such a beautiful song and never gets old to me. ‘Aria’ by Giovanni Allevi another great piano tune that I really enjoy. ‘Welcome Home’ by Coheed and Cambria. I could go on for a very long time but I won’t haha Music to me is very important so I [have a] massive list of songs I love.

 

LL: Does that mean you have a massive music library as well? (A mix of digital and physical libraries)

SB: Yeah I got a decent music collection, I try to mainly keep the music that I really like so it’s not too cluttered. Mainly all digital files, I’ve got no room for piles and piles of cd’s lol.

LL: Were there “piles and piles” of CDs at one point?

SB: Never really had too many cd’s. All of my bookshelf space is dedicated for video games :p

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new music?

SB: I definitely go out of my way to discover new music. When I’m looking for new songs I grab my tablet, headphones, and search for new songs on YouTube. Usually I type in stuff like ‘top ten favorite piano songs’ or ‘sad pianos songs’ — stuff like that. Sometimes, I spend over an hour listening to different songs trying to find ones I really like.

 

LL: Do you have a go-to site for new music?

SB: Go to site is YouTube, just do lots of searches to find new songs.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration? What do you do when you need to come up with a musical idea?

SB: For me inspiration comes from a few different places. Sometimes listening to my favorite songs will light the fire or sometimes depending on my mood will give me lots of inspiration as well.

Sometimes after watching a movie like Transformers, I get in the mood where I want to make something that sounds really epic and powerful or other times if I’ve had a bad day and am feeling down I’ll sit down and write a sad piano song.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

SB: I remember when my sis first asked [me] if I had a Facebook account and my response was “What the hell is Facebook?” lol Definitely was reluctant to join, I enjoy social media and don’t have much against. I’ve tried to get into using Twitter but I never end up using it lol

 

LL: Really!? When was this (When you asked your sister about Facebook)? Do you think the reason you aren’t hooked (or at least a regular user) compared to others, is you haven’t found the upside of spending time either on Facebook or Twitter?

SB: My sis first told me about Facebook when it first came out, because it was something new I think I was hesitant about it. I think if I got more into joining groups and posting more I would probably get into it more. For Twitter yeah just never really seen the upside to it, but then again I never used it long enough to find a upside lol

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

SB: Favorite sites at the moment are N4G.com good site for keeping track of gaming news/IGN.com another favorite gaming site of mine (I play a lot of video games lol) Aside from those the only other sites I use are Facebook and YouTube

 

LL: Are there times when you find gaming competes with music for your attention and time?

SB: Gaming definitely competes with music, I have a Xbox One, PS4 and Wii U so that takes up a lot of time lol. Yup! even when I first started learning piano I was big into gaming, I’ve been into it since I was pretty young. Usually I try to create or learn a new song on my days off from work.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

 

SB: Hmmm can’t think of any sites that I like from design, usually I’m more looking at the content of the site.

 

LL: Website that you would go to when you need cheering up/inspiration?

 

SB: If I need cheering up I’ll go to YouTube and listen to papa’s got a brand new bag, can’t be sad when listening to that song lol Listening to songs on YouTube is probably the only website I go to for Inspiration.

 

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

SB: I’m always up for collaborations, I’ve done a couple with some fellow YouTubers but not many. Definitely looking to do more in the future.

 

 

LL: Other than VST, Are you interested in technology?

 

SB: I’m very interested in technology, I try to keep up with what’s new in the tech world. Lately Smart watches have my attention, Can’t wait to get my hands on the Moto 360.

 

LL: Your Channel Intro Clip — is that one of your creations?

SB: For my channel intros I find templates online and customize them, definitely do not have the time to make my own from scratch lol

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

SB: Right now my videos will probably stay the same style for now but I’m sure that will change in the future.

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

SB: My favorite video would be For Samantha just because it’s one that’s very important to me.

 

 

 

* Scott Brahniuk is a pianist based in (Nanaimo, BC). You can find his videos here and can reach him through the form below.

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May-July 2014) between Scott and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee before being posted.

 

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

 

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Scott that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). I’ll aim to get Scott to post the answer to your question here!
  • Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

 

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #3: Liina Vokk

Liina shares her journey as a guitarist/composer, her initial (and current!) preference for PRS Guitars, love for Olafur Arnalds’ compositions, and how useful tempo can be during a first-aid course.”

 

Leigh Lim: Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself Liina. Looking at the videos you have on YouTube, at the moment it is geared towards music. What are your plans for the next videos you’re going to upload?

Liina Vokk: You’re very welcome! Thank you for your interest! I really appreciate that. 

As I’m focusing on writing new music, I think it will be some of my own compositions and I really would like to make music videos for them as well. But I will definitely take requests on songs, that would be a great challenge.

 

 

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

LV: I started out by playing some Pop and Latin songs to accompany my singing. I did it all by listening and playing what I heard. In the beginning I didn’t have any kind of system – every song I learned was a whole new universe. Later I learned about the chords and scales which make up a system and it made songs much easier to remember.

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

 

LV: Hm… it’s quite hard to put together some universal plan, because everyone is different and what works for some, might not work for others. Therefore I’d really suggest a good teacher, but first and most importantly – listen, listen, listen! There’s no better learning material than the music itself.

Listen and try to produce the same sound. If one’s really interested in becoming to know the guitar, then I’d suggest this book “A Modern Method for Guitar” by Willliam Leavitt. It really covers a LOT, from the very beginning to advanced level of guitar playing.

 

As for the whole journey, I’d just say if you feel that it’s your path, then go for it and be willing to sacrifice. There’s hell of a lot work, but every second you put in, pays off when you’re finally able to play the music and share it with the world.

 

LL: What’s part of your guitar arsenal at the moment?

 

LV: I play PRS Custom 22 Semi-Hollow and all the details on the guitar are original. For a long time I used D’Addario Chromes but recently switched to D’Addario EXP 9s. The picks I use are self-made, usually from plastic cards but also from wood (Juniper).

 

LL: Was there a specific reason you switched from Chromes to EXP 9s?

LV: Yes, I wanted to try a bit brighter tone and also more flexibility in melodies (bending for example). I am happy with the sound they produce.

 

LL: And why Juniper?

LV: Besides the fact that Juniper wood does not break easily and has very strong and nice aroma, it’s a bit spiritual thing too I guess. The island where I grew up is mostly covered with junipers and a lot of souvenirs are made from it. I thought why not make guitar picks too.

 

LL: Is there something specific about PRS guitars and the specific one you have (PRS Custom 22 Semi-Hollow) that drew you to it?

LV: At first sight, the looks of PRS Guitars were the thing that got my attention 😀 It made me [look] deeper into what’s beyond the hot design and curious how they would sound like and they sound even better than they look! I was looking for warm tone and a bit acoustic-like, airy sound and I think the semi-hollow model was the best option to suit my needs. Another criteria I had was that the guitar must be light weight, because I myself am pretty light weight as well 😀

 

LL: Interesting point about guitar weight! Would you say your guitar weighs as much as an acoustic?

LV: I wish someone made electrics that light! It’s a bit heavier though, but somewhere about 3 kg.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind that you like?  

LV: Not really. I trust my intuition about these things, it hasn’t let me down yet 🙂 It’s important to have an idea of how one wants their instrument to sound like. Otherwise you could try different gear forever and still be unsatisfied.

LL: What sound did you have in mind? (you mentioned that “It’s important to have an idea of how one wants their instrument to sound like”) And does your PRS tick all those boxes?

LV: As mentioned above, I think my PRS together with my effects has all I look for in a guitar sound – a lot of air, rather warm sound, little delayed. I’m pretty much of a nature-person and coming form a small island, surrounded by the sea and the winds, I just feel it’s my sound 🙂

 

LL: What effects are you using at the moment?

LV: At the moment I use Hardwire Delay DL-8 and Boss Equalizer GE-7 when playing live gigs.

 

LL: How about adjustments (headstock/bridge/nut), did you have anything done? Or did the PRS feel great as soon as you picked it up?

LV: PRS original parts feel just right, I have only adjusted the height of the bridge and strings.

 

LL: Did you have help (a guitar tech)? Or did you do the adjustments yourself?

LV: I am very grateful for my guitar teachers and fellow guitarists who have explained how to do these adjustments, so I was able to do those myself.

 

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

LV: It depends. I always prefer to play without any notes whenever possible. The most important thing during a gig is to be very relaxed. I know that the music is all there – in my head and in my fingers – I just need to keep my muscles relaxed to let them be guided by the music in my head.

 

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

LV: I always start my day playing the acoustic – some chord Arpeggios, Etudes (I love Bach) and then some Standards or Latin tunes. On the electric I do some Chromatic exercises, different rhythm patterns and end up my warm-up with improvisation on a scale I’m currently working on. That’s the basic routine, about an hour long, that I try to pull off every day. After that I rehearse for any on-going project as long as it takes.

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

LV: I like to keep it very simple, even minimalistic. To me, most of the music happens between two notes. I also love to use delay and reverb effects for the same reason – it creates some kind of space or environment where all separate notes become one idea.

 

Photo: Liina Vokk (Self-Portrait) Editing: Leigh Lim

Photo: Liina Vokk (Self-Portrait) Editing: Leigh Lim

LL: What’s next for your playing? Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?

LV: I’m working on my own compositions at the moment, trying to find the right sounds and energies to them. As for spicing up my playing, I’ve been listening to a lot of Santana’s music lately – such strong melodies and the clarity of sound. That’s the idea where I strive for.

LL: What would your advice be for a guitarist confused about the array of choices?

LV: I’d say the first thing to do is to define your perfect sound, whether you want to sound like some of your guitar heroes or something abstract like “I want to sound like the wind”. Then make yourself familiar with as many choices as possible (find information, try, explore). And when it feels good, it’s good. There should be no effort in playing your instrument, it should come as natural as singing.

 

 

LL: Would you say you have a long reach with your fingers? (With guitar, usually what stops other people from attempting to learn — or improve, is the struggle with complicated chords. Would you say you have a bit of an advantage? or did you struggle with getting past it too?)

LV: Luckily, God has gifted me with rather long fingers, but it doesn’t mean I can take complicated chords with no practice. Actually, it’s not your fingers that play the chord, it’s the whole hand, starting from elbow, and one should pay serious attention to overall playing posture and especially to the position of the wrist.

I’d say start with simple chords and get some guidance from a teacher to avoid health problems with hands. In the end it’s really all about how you play it, not what you play. Sometimes less is more.

 

 

LL: Do you have a Guitar Maintenance and Storage routine?

LV: I don’t have a specific maintenance routine for my gear. I clean my guitar when it’s dirty and get stuff fixed when needed but it’s really very random. I like to keep my things compact so it will be easy and fast to just grab my guitar when I want to play.

 

 

LL: Is there something specific that you wanted to learn (a song or technique) that you struggled with?

LV: In the beginning I struggled quite a lot with getting my rhythms tight. I really worked hard with 16ths and all the funky stuff and at some point it seemed impossible. But I kept (and still keep) going because I don’t want any barriers to my playing – I just took things slowly and tried not to beat myself up about it much.

Now I can say I’m pretty confident about rhythmic stuff. Sometimes you need to look at things from a new perspective. Most of the struggles come from the way of thinking, not from the technique.

 

 

LL: Your Guitar Lick video  — is that from a gig? (Did you upload it because it’s your favorite lick?)

 

LV: I was just jamming one day and came up with this one that I liked. I didn’t want it to get lost in the depths of my computer’s hard drive, so I decided to upload it. Hopefully it’ll become a full song one day 🙂

 

LL: Can you share more about the creation of the video of “It’s Going To Be Alright“?

LV: This video is made with a small Canon camera and it was shot on a ferry going from Muhu island in Estonia (where I live) to [the] mainland.

The music has a funny story actually. It was made for a first aid training course to practice doing heart massage in rhythm, so it had to be in this specific tempo. Later I found this video I had shot earlier and thought they’d work well together. I used Logic Pro X for the composition.

 

LL: What an apt title for music in a first aid training course. Has the song been used in a first aid related video as well?

LV: Haha, yeah, that would be interesting to see 😀 I wish they had filmed the course, but I’m afraid they didn’t. At least I haven’t seen it.

 

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?

LV: When recording at home, I use M-audio Fast Track Pro where I can just plug in the guitar and play. In the studio I like to use additional microphones near strings for more acoustic sound, but the main signal is going through DI-box to the preamp.

 

LL: How important is it to have a DI-box in your set-up?

LV: It is very useful when recording in a studio, as you can play through it instead of amp and therefore have more cleaner signal to modify later in a program. Of course, one can use it together with amp too, it’s just my own preference at the moment.

 

LL: Before putting your original music up on YouTube, what things did you do first?

LV: With those songs that I’ve uploaded I haven’t done anything complicated, just write some tags and a brief description.

 

 

LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

LV: From guitar players I really dig Baden Powell who I discovered this year, that’s a shame I haven’t heard of him earlier. My absolute favorite composer at the moment is Olafur Arnalds who, besides his own albums, has also written great music for films. I often wonder that many people haven’t heard about him. He has very unique style and the music he writes is absolutely beautiful.

 

LL: Did you first come across Olafur Arnalds because of a film that you like (Olafur did the score)?

 

LV: Actually, I think I found [Undan Hulu (The Cello Song)] first which wasn’t even from a film. I even played it at live with a pianist and myself playing cello part with e-bow. Unfortunately there’s no video of it.

* Leigh’s Note: You can watch a performance of ‘Undan Hulu (The Cello Song)’ by Ólafur Arnalds and Paul Grennan here.

 

LL: Any plans of playing the song live again? (and maybe recording it)

LV: I haven’t had a chance for a gig like that again (together with pianist), but when something comes up, then that’s definitely an option 🙂 Such a beautiful song.

LL: Are there songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? (or ones that you listened to multiple times)

LV: As mentioned above, Olafur Arnalds’ – Living Room Songs is one of these albums I could listen to forever. And Joao Gilberto of course, his albums have the most hits on my playlist.

 

LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

LV: I recently started to use more twitter, so it’s my favorite at the moment 🙂

 

LL: Would you be willing to share your Twitter handle? (What do you think of Twitter so far?)

LV: Sure! Everybody can follow me at @liinavokk.

Twitter is great! I have found so many talented people over there who share their music and art.

LL: How about SoundCloud, do you still go on it much? (There is a link on your YouTube Page)

LV: Yes, I use SoundCloud too. Mostly for more chaotic things, like when I get an idea and then record it with most nearby recording device. I like to get my ideas online as soon as possible to minimize the gap between me as a musician and the listener.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

LV: I like Richard Branson’s blog a lot for its design. Nice and vivid.

LL: Website that you would go to when you need cheering up?

LV: 9gag.

 

LL: 9gag! Really!? Would you also go to the site when you are stuck with a musical idea? (Maybe check out something like: ‘Cute cat just wants a kiss‘?)

 

LV: Pictures of cute cats always work 😀 When I’m stuck on a musical idea, I like to take a walk in the nature. It opens up the mind.

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists? Specific people you wouldn’t mind reaching out and getting in touch with you either over the web or invite you to play a gig or two?

 

 

LV: I’d be very interested in collaborating with other artists whether over the web or live. I’m opened to all kinds of new connections over the world.

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology? (Like internet security, tech linked to your artistic medium)

LV: As an electric guitar player and composer I do have interest in sound technology, from guitar effects to music production. The technology in general is getting more and more into being a natural part of our lives, no matter what area of life.

I take it as it is, not worrying about internet security and similar stuff, I just acknowledge the fact that everything we do these days is public to some degree. Just be the person that you are, no hiding, no faking. Being honest to yourself and to others is important.

 

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

LV: I plan to continue with uploading my favorite licks to Youtube. I’d definitely do things like Pat Metheny’s Map Of The World on requests and there will also be something from live gigs in the future.

* Liina Vokk is a guitarist based in Tallinn. You can find her videos here and can reach her through the form below.

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May & June 2014) between Liina and Leigh. Subsequent additions and corrections will be added when available. Content has been edited for length, and the posting of the draft version of the Q&A has been approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Liina that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). I’ll aim to get Liina to post the answer to your question here!
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #2: Andrew Angell

Andrew shares his journey as a guitarist/singer, covering Dave Matthews, as well as e-commerce tips.”

 

 

Leigh Lim: Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself Andrew. Looking at the videos on YouTube does give a bit of insight (you have a number of interests and passions). Do you think you are the sort of person who leans toward multiple things, and just doing ‘one thing’ wouldn’t work that well for you?

Andrew Angell: I definitely have lots of interests / hobbies, so I guess I would say that, yeah, I like to have lots of stuff going on. Too much of any one thing tends to burn me out. “Resting” from one thing involves doing another in most cases.

 

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your guitar playing?

AA: My learning flow was a little different than what I think most do. I learned how to read tablature and then just tried to pick up songs.

I didn’t really understand chords, though, and seeing them on tabs confused me. As such, I started with anything that sounded like one single note at a time. For example, the intro lick to Collective Soul, December, was one of the first things I ever learned to play. Actually sort of a complicated lick, but it just sounded easier to me since it was one note at a time.

I really never have gotten into scales or actual music theory much at all. I’ve always just played stuff I like.

 

LL: With tabs, did you study the available material for DMB songs?

AA: I studied original tabs pretty closely, but the thing about Dave Matthews Band (and Dave in particular) is that the songs are played and sung in lots of different ways. They really evolve over the years and different versions of the same songs can vary quite drastically sometimes.

What I wind up doing with my covers is looking at the tabs to learn how it’s actually played, and then my version usually tends to be some sort of a mixture of all the different versions I’ve heard them play over the years. Each time I perform one of those songs, too, it comes out different. Melody is sometimes different, guitar parts are sometimes slightly different. Just sort of depends on the current mood I guess.

 

LL: Do you find that once you learn a song, you had it committed to memory? Or did you have to have a guide (either tabs or notes), when you play a song again?

AA: Once it’s learned it’s in there, but if you don’t play something for awhile it can be tough to remember. If that happens I can grab the tab or watch a quick video to refresh my memory and pick it up again pretty quickly.

 

LL: How has your voice evolved through the years?

 

AA: Ever since I was little I always enjoyed singing along with music. Never have done any actual vocal lessons or anything like that, but I’ve just done a lot of singing in general over the years.

It often takes me awhile to “find” a song vocally. There are some things I can hit pretty easily, but other things I’m way off key with my voice until I keep working at it to find it. Often that’s a matter of singing from the gut and belting out the notes instead of trying to do it in my throat. The general practice I’ve had with that over the years has allowed me to pick songs up more quickly, but it still happens quite a bit where I learn a new song and have to practice the vocals quite a bit.

I don’t know guitar and music theory well enough to move the guitar part into a key that fits my voice better, so I just have to work with my voice to get it to work with whatever key the original tabs are giving me.

I’ve been told that I’m sometimes singing the harmony, and I think that’s why. It “fits” so it allows me to perform the song, but some people seem to love that and some seem to hate it.

 

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?

AA: Many of my earlier videos were done with the built in MacBook mic. It was an old MacBook and had a decent mic in it. Then I got a new MacBook at one point and the mics ever since have sucked.

That’s when I went out and bought an Audiobox USB input and a Shure vocal mic. Now I plug my guitar and mic into that, and I use GarageBand on the MacBook. Pretty basic stuff.

I often fight with the settings, and you’ll notice some of my videos have nice, full audio, and others simply don’t. I’ve never been able to find and stick to a solid setting, and I’ve never taken the time to really learn how to produce the audio.

 

LL: Which vocal mic is it? Did you go with it based on a recommendation or did you just shop around and decide?

AA: The vocal mic is just a basic Shure mic that the guy at the music shop recommended.

LL: Is it the SM58? (I checked out your videos and that would be my approximation from a distance)

 AA: It’s Shure BETA 58A

 

LL: Do you mix the audio for your videos?

AA: I do “mix” but just barely. I play with the channels a little bit to try and make it sound good, but I actually struggle with that anyway because I have Tinnitus and that tends to interfere sometimes when listening to regular speakers. I’ve been meaning to go get a real nice set of headphones, but I just never have.

 

LL: What’s part of your guitar arsenal at the moment?

AA: Currently I have a Taylor 910ce and a Taylor 914ce Dave Matthews Signature Model.

I use D’Addario XPP17 Medium strings. I like a medium thickness pick with some grip on it.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the gear that you like?

AA: I pretty much learned how to play guitar by learning Dave Matthews Band tabs and playing those songs. I wanted the same sound, so that’s what I went with, and I’ve loved it all along for all types of music.

I’ve played Martins and some other nice acoustics, but the Taylor’s really do it for me.

 

LL: What are the key things people should know before signing up to Paypal? (or deciding if they should keep their Paypal account or go with another payment processing platform)

AA: Educate yourself about seller protection, disputes/chargebacks before you start selling a bunch of stuff.

I def. recommend including PayPal as an option on your website (or wherever you’re taking payments) because conversion rates have been proven to raise drastically when you do so. There are lots of other things I could say about that, but it would go on forever. heh.

 

LL: conversion rates? In terms of benefitting the seller rather than Paypal?

AA: Conversion rates as in completed checkouts on a site instead of an abandoned shopping cart. eCommerce sites always have lots of abandoned carts, but adding PayPal can greatly reduce that, so it’s good for the seller, but also good for PayPal because they make their money on the fees, and good for the buyer because it’s more secure and quicker for them to checkout.

 

LL: Is there anything that frustrates you about Paypal?

AA: Frustrations with PayPal (or any merchant account provider) come from ignorance. If you educate yourself about the standard procedures to follow when selling online you will avoid frustration.

So, I have been frustrated with PayPal, yes. That was in 2000 when I sold my very first thing and it turned out to be a stolen credit card so I lost the money and had already shipped the product. Then I learned that it wasn’t PayPal’s fault, I educated myself on how to avoid it in the future, and I’ve been happy ever since.

 

LL: Buyers seem to have little knowledge on what goes on when a seller unknowingly processes a stolen credit card. Does that mean that the seller actually shoulders the financial burden?

AA: Sellers do shoulder financial burden if they don’t follow standard procedures for selling online. For example, if you sell something for $1k to somebody with a billing address in Ohio, but then you ship the item to an address in New Jersey, and that transaction winds up being on a stolen credit card, you’re not going to have any luck when the credit card company comes asking for that money.

If you ship to the billing address the odds of fraud happening are much lower, and then credit card companies will at least make people return merchandise before honoring a dispute/chargeback.

 

LL: This is when business insurance would probably come in handy?

AA: Yes, but too many people don’t have that sort of thing.

 

LL: What would be your advice to sellers who want to avoid the headache you experienced in 2000? Does it come down to purchasing additional software?

AA: No extra software. Just a matter of ensuring you follow standard procedures like ensuring the AVS (address verification system) comes back as a match, the security code matches, ship with signature required on items $200 or more, pay attention to feedback buyer history (on platforms like eBay), etc.

 

LL: Do you think there would be another site that could overtake Ebay’s popularity?

AA: For an auction platform it’s going to be tough to compete with eBay. They’re a big boy now, and they can squash competition if they need/want to. There are def. market places that can compete, though. Amazon being the biggest. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more in the future.

 

LL: angelleye.com does have a clean feel to it, not overloaded with banners. Was this a conscious choice? Or did the site go though different versions until you found out what worked?

AA: Yes, [there was a conscious] choice to keep the site relatively clean. Really, these days it’s pretty simple to setup a WordPress site and find a nice theme that makes that pretty easy for you.

 

LL: Did you create the logo of the site as well?

AA: I had a designer make the logo years ago.

 

LL: What advice would you give to artists who are overwhelmed with number of options (hosting, site layout, tools) to get their website up and running?

AA: Advice for people needing a site would be to go with HostGator for the hosting and setup WordPress with WooCommerce and responsive design theme. I typically sell such packages to people for $1k.

 

LL: Seems like the more simplistic approach to take payment is to just have a link to paypal on your site. Rather than go for a credit card processing facility?

AA: I like to have direct credit card options as well as the PayPal Express Checkout option on my sites to increase conversion rates as much as possible.

LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

AA: My “smart favorites” in Chrome currently include YouTube, StackOverflow, PayPal’s Developer Site, Experts Exchange, Facebook, and ChiefsPlanet

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

AA: Not really, no. I visit sites for content.

LL: Website that you would go to when you need to be cheered up?

AA: I’m pretty lucky in that I really don’t often need any cheering up. I tend to live a pretty simple, happy life. If I ever need a laugh, though, jumping on YouTube and browsing around can certainly do it.

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists? Specific people you wouldn’t mind reaching out and getting in touch with you?

AA: Sure, I’d be open to collaboration if anybody wanted to give something a try.

 

LL: I’d like to link to one of your videos. Which one would you say is either your favorite, or the one you’d regularly send if you were asked for a video?

AA: My most popular video is [Tool 46 and 2 Forty Six and Two Acoustic Solo Cover] so we might as well go with that one.

 

* Andrew Angell is a guitarist and consulting web developer based in Kansas City, MO. You can find his videos here and can reach him through the form directly below. If you’d like to learn more about payment processing on the web, Andrew was previously interviewed by Nerd Enterprises — you can view the interview here.

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May 2014) between Andrew and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee before being posted.

 

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Andrew that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). I’ll aim to get Andrew to post the answer to your question here!
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

 

Interested in reading more?

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #1: Clarke Robinson

 

Clarke talks about his journey as a guitarist and his liking of the POD interface.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Clarke, thanks for giving your time to do a Q&A. After having a quick look at your YouTube feed, I noticed you checked out a couple of Paul Gilbert videos. Have you been keeping track of him since his days with ‘Mr. Big’?

 

Clarke Robinson: Good question. I’ve been into Paul’s playing since hearing “To Be With You”. His guitar work on “Lean Into It” became a lifetime goal to aspire to. The intro to the song “Alive N’ Kickin’” still makes me smile. It’s actually one of my YouTube videos.

 

In the last few years I’ve discovered through the internet & YouTube just how good a teacher Paul is as well as a player, so much so that last year I signed up to his online Guitar School at Artistworks.com. I’ve learned lots since then plus I get to interact directly with one of my guitar heroes!

 

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

 

CR: I started playing at 16. My brother got a guitar and went to lessons and used to bring home little scraps of paper with chords written on or whatever he had been shown that day. I used to try to learn a little from those.

I was also big into Elvis so once I had figured out a few chords, I watched the Elvis 68′ special on video (Black Leather suit show) and tried to copy the chords from that. I also remember watching an old BB King concert from Africa and studying from that. Then I graduated onto tab books for my favourite bands and it grew from there.

 

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?

 

CR: To keep it simple for youtube, I tend to plug my guitar into the computer and use software called “Pod Farm” which can produce realistic sounds without the need for a real amp. So I tend to use that for all my recording purposes at home. I also have a POD HD which I’ve used. It’s similar to Pod Farm.

 

LL: What would you say to POD users who struggle with the Accompanying software for the POD?

 

CR: Hard one for me to answer. I haven’t struggled with it but if I did I’d probably turn to google or YouTube for answers

 

LL: How’d you end up going with a POD? What was your rig like before incorporating it in your playing/recording?

CR: I always liked the idea of a POD as I’d like to get the variety of sounds that different amplifiers without needing the space or money to own all those amps. A pod is an effective way of being able to capture the sounds of certain classic amplifiers in the studio without breaking the bank or having to own a warehouse full of gear.

 

Having said that, A POD is just part of the gear I use. Lately I’m using just some of the effects (like overdrive etc) from the pod and bypassing the amp simulator stuff as I’m using a real tube amp. I’ve always had a Marshall of some sort, starting with a valvestate from the 90s. So, often it’s a stomp box into the front of a Marshall.

 

LL: Do you mix the audio for your videos?

 

CR: Yes. I record the audio separately from the videos. So far the video has been done through a digital camera, whilst at the same time recording the guitar audio straight into the computer. Then I sync the two back together by replacing the camera audio with the guitar audio.

 

LL: What software do you use to mix the audio and finalise the video?

 

 

CR: I use Camtasia at the moment. I’ve just downloaded the latest free Movie Maker for windows 7 so might try that in future if it’s easy to use.

 

LL: Do you have a specific picking style?

 

CR: Hmm, I think it’s a combination of different styles. I use what’s called Hybrid Picking quite a bit. So for certain notes, rather than use the pick, i’ll use the middle finger on my picking hand.

People like Zakk Wylde do this a lot, and that’s who inspired me to try this technique a few years ago. More and more these days I play quite a bit with just my fingers, which is a little smoother sound than a pick.

LL: not planning to keep the nails on your right hand a bit longer for more sound flexibility?

 

 

CR: Nope. It feels funny to me to use the actual nail for picking as opposed to the flesh on my finger. Granted, at first, the nail won’t give you pain, but I’ve now built up some calluses on my middle finger on my picking hand so that’s not a problem.

It just feels more natural for me to use the finger rather than the nail. If I grew the nails on my right hand I’d have to worry about protecting them day to day. Not for me.

 

LL: Are you working on something specific at the moment to expand your technical ability? (or musical exercises that you tend to do)

 

CR: Always! My theory and chord knowledge has always been lacking, so I’m learning more chords at the moment, and beginning to figure out what notes go well with certain chords when soloing. Lately I’ve also been trying to learn vocal melodies on guitar too. It’s challenging!

I’m also constantly also playing little scale patterns. I want to be able to play really fast runs (shred type runs), but have never been that good at it. So in the background, I practice that stuff a lot as I want to be able to play faster than I can sometimes!

I find there aren’t enough hours in the day to practice, but I really love it so much, it never feels like practice, just fun.

 

 

LL: What’s part of your guitar arsenal at the moment?

 

CR: I use D’Addario strings, Dunlop Gator Grip picks (0.59mm i think), a few guitars, whatever ones you see in the videos, a Tele, Strat and Les Paul mainly.

 

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind that you like?

 

COG: Strings, not really. I’ve used D’Addarios for as long as I remember. Always been great for me. I remember trying a couple of other brands many years ago, but always kept coming back to the D’Addarios.

Picks, I change those sometimes. 2 years ago I was using really heavy 2mm picks. Now, I’m using really light ones. The light ones are great for big rock slides!

 

LL: You mentioned earlier that your main guitars are a Tele, Strat and Les Paul. Were they purchased at the same time?

 

CR: I wish! I can’t afford to rush out and buy 3 good guitars at once lol. I’ve bought those 3 over the years. I owned a Les Paul for many years, then the Strat came next, and the Tele is a relatively new addition (3-4 years).

 

LL: with your consumables, particularly the strings. How long do they last?

 

CR: I’m not gigging at all right now, so all my playing is done at home. I don’t change my strings often at all. If they feel good and sound good, I’ll keep ’em on there until they break (which is rare anyway). If they begin to feel rough on my fingers, then I’ll change them.

It’s more tricky in the summer months as my fingers sweat that little bit more so the strings might need changing more often. But for sure, I only change strings when I really have to. If I were gigging, I’d probably need to change them every gig or two. I should really change them more often, as I love new strings on a guitar. Makes the guitar feel new every time.

 

LL: Any specific schedule for guitar maintenance?

CR: I’m quite lazy about cleaning. Some of that dirt might be adding something to my tone (ha!). I normally give the guitar a real good clean when changing strings, and rarely after playing. Occasionally I’ll wipe the strings down, but honestly not much.

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

 

CR: I haven’t gigged for many years, but as a band, we had a setlist written so we wouldn’t forget what to play next!

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

 

CR: It varies. Perhaps learning a song, some 3 note per string picking patterns, jamming with backing tracks, it really just depends on the mood of the day. I don’t have a strict schedule to adhere to.

 

LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

 

CR: Loads of them. Guitarwise, my big inspirations growing up were the likes of Slash, Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Paul Kossoff. Those Gibson blues based rockers! I had to have a Les Paul because it was what Slash played. I also love Paul Gilbert’s playing these days.

Another big influence would be perhaps less well known, Audley Freed. He has played with the Black Crowes and had a band of his own in the 90’s called “Cry of Love”. Great Southern Blues-based rock music. Audley uses hybrid picking too, and inspired that style of picking in me.

 

 

LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

 

CR: YouTube! Other than that, I don’t have particular favorite sites. I like to shop so Amazon is good! Ebay for strings.

 

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

 

CR: No, not really. I’m more interested in content, style helps, but I’ll put up with bad style if the content I want is good.

LL: Also, I’d like to link to one of your videos. Which one would you say is either your favorite, or the one you’d regularly send if you were asked for a video?

 

CR: Hmm, not sure. For some reason, the first video I put up, the Floyd Blues one, seems by far the most popular video. So I guess if that’s the one people most watch, then that one. In all honesty, I’d say my favourite will always be the next one I’m working on!

 

Clarke Robinson is a guitarist based in London. You can find his YouTube videos here, and can reach him through his YouTube channel, either via messages or comments. If in any case he is blessed to receive an offer to jam with Paul Gilbert or Angus Young, YES will be the next word out of his mouth.

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May 2014) between Clarke and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

 

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Clarke that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). I’ll aim to get Clarke to post the answer to your question here!
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

 

Interested in reading more?

 

 

 

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.