My new favourite band

Just so you know, it is easy to tell when I have a lot of work. Basically, the giveaway is when I start lecturing you about all the new bands I have just discovered and started listening to.

I will do anything to avoid actually working, so instead, I spend my time browsing for new, weird bands.

I have just found a great new group and am really excited about sharing them with everyone I know. They are called Deerhoof and I don’t really know how to describe the odd music they make.

The band is made up of two scratchy guitarists, a crazy drummer and a bass player/singer. Her vocal style is really odd; she sounds like she is singing nursery rhymes over the top of the intense, crashing noise they produce.

I must admit, I was not convinced on first listen. The key was to watch a couple of their live videos, however and suddenly everything clicked into place. They look like a band having a great time playing together and enjoying doing something a bit different.

They have got loads of albums out and I have really sunk my teeth into their back catalogue over the last couple of days.

Whenever I discover a new band, I always get the urge to start playing music with other people. I really want to join a band, but realistically, I don’t have time and am nowhere near good enough.

I am not sure I would be able to handle the pressure, either. I have this weird psychological thing when I am playing my guitar, which makes me mess songs up.

I can’t help thinking I am going to make a mistake soon, no doubt when I’m mid song. As soon as that thought enters my head it is only a matter of time before a bum note occurs.

Maybe I will be able to form a band in a couple of years or so. In the meantime I am going to listen to more Deerhoof.

Musical procrastination

I’ve written a few blogs recently about my desire to start playing and making music. Since those posts went live, I’ve really been putting in the hard work and focussing on improving my skills.

My guitar playing is gradually getting better, and I’m slowly learning how to control the complicated software I’ve installed on my computer.

I love finding new and inventive ways to procrastinate from my uni work. Music is undoubtedly one of the best. I’ll start writing an assignment in the morning with the best intentions in the world. Before I know it, the guitar will be on my lap and I’ll be putting my assignment off until the next day.

This wasn’t too much of an issue at first, as I’d only be able to physically play my guitar for a short period of time due to the strings digging into my fingers. My fingertips have toughened up now, however, meaning I can easily play for hours.

This is all good news for my musical development, but not quite so positive for my studies.

One day last week I realised that things were going too far and I really needed to buckle down and actually do some work. To help me with this aim, I locked my guitar in a friend’s bedroom and made him promise not to let me have it back until I could prove that I’d completed some work.

Ever resourceful, I simply wasted the day aimlessly browsing the internet instead. I spent a great deal of time meticulously planning my dream garden music studio, which I would use as my creative hub.

At this point in my life, I can’t think of anything I’d like more than a little place where I could escape from the world and make as much noise as I like without the neighbours complaining. Extensive soundproofing would, of course, be necessary.

You may be surprised to hear this but as soon as I’d finished designing my perfect studio, I actually stopped messing around and got on with my work. I used it as a motivator, because I’ll never be able to afford something as exciting as this if I fail my degree!

Kids with headphones

MusicI think I have a sixth sense. Sometimes I can just feel the opportunity for a good rant arising before it happens.

Walking down the street a few minutes ago, my special sense started to tingle. I saw a kid walking towards me wearing a pair of huge, ludicrous headphones. He was waiting to cross the road when a little old lady wandered over.

I was walking past and I heard her ask him if he could help her across the road.

No reply…

I stopped, and she asked him again. He still didn’t reply. I ended up going back and helping the poor dear myself. I was amazed as the kid strode off completely absorbed in his own little world, with his massive headphones polluting the air with tinny pop music.

It just seems stupid to me to wear headphones in public if you can’t hear what’s going on around you. Is walking so boring that you need to isolate yourself so much from the world?

I don’t have a problem if you have your tunes playing quietly enough to hear people talking around you, but what he was doing was just rude and ignorant.

People seem to go out of their way to ignore each other, which is quite a depressing thought.

The old woman was incredibly grateful when I offered to help, and to be honest it made my day. I’d hate to miss out on this kind of little pleasure just for the chance to deafen myself with some terrible music.

Returning to Spotify

A couple of years ago I was convinced that Spotify was the future of music. I gradually drifted away from the service over time, until one day I made the tough decision to completely desert it.

I left because they changed the rules to dramatically limit the amount of music free listeners could enjoy. I was also sick to death of the irritating adverts they play on a regular basis. I went straight over to a different service called Grooveshark, entered my details, and was soon enjoying my music distraction-free.

Grooveshark is a similar package, offering free access to an enormous library of music.  The legality of the website is disputed by some, but it’s a great tool. I found it a little difficult to navigate, however.

Yesterday I decided it was time to try Spotify again. I realised I may have written the service off too quickly. The free listening experience is undoubtedly inferior to Grooveshark’s, but the paid subscription is a different story.

I’ve quickly realised what I’ve been missing. Signing up for the Premium package means I can enjoy my music on the go and even download tracks for offline listening. The interface is superb and makes it easy to discover new music and find all my favourite tracks.

Unlike the free version, there are no limitations to how much you can listen to, and tracks are available in high quality. It’s perfect for listening to music when I’m working, as I can always find something new to feed to my ears.

Despite the benefits of Spotify Premium, I’m not sure I’m going to stick with it. The monthly fee is just slightly too much for me at £10, considering that any downloaded tracks disappear when the subscription is cancelled.

I’m going to consider the Unlimited Package, which is cheaper. It won’t let me play music on my phone though, which is a bit of a deal breaker for me.

I’m going to keep using my subscription for the remainder of the month, at which point I’ll reassess. I suspect I may be addicted by then, so will probably end up letting my subscription renew after all.

Making music for free

As a student, I can’t resist a freebie. I recently started playing the guitar, and it wasn’t long before I was desperate to start making some recordings. I didn’t want them to be professional quality and was hoping to be able to do it for free – or at least on a budget.

I could have used the microphone on my laptop to capture guitar and vocals, but it would have sounded dreadful. Instead, I decided to buy a cheap microphone and external sound card to plug into my laptop. It cost me around £30 in total.

Now all I needed was some software to create my masterpieces. The first program I found was pretty impressive. After looking at some vomit-inducingly expensive programs with more features than anyone could ever possibly need, I found something called Audacity.

Audacity is a piece of free software that allows you to record and edit multiple layers of music. I wouldn’t have felt ripped off if I’d paid £50 for it, considering how good it is.

The final thing I needed to finish my makeshift home studio set up was some software to make beats and drum loops on. I tried the demo of Fruity Loops and it seemed good. The professionals use it, but the full version is quite expensive.

In the end, I paid for one of the cheaper versions of the software. Some of the features are disabled, but it lets you save the loops you’ve made and easily export them to Audacity.

Unfortunately, I don’t yet have any songs to record. I should probably stop wasting time writing on here and actually try making some music instead!

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