Inspiring Kids and Workshopping a Rock Band

The PEI Jazz and Blues Festival School Tour, headed by Andrew Waite and The Firm, was a huge success at Montague Consolidated School.  We have never hosted the tour before and I am incredibly happy that we did. The band members were great with the audience and included the kids as much as possible. They even offered to do a short workshop with our school rock group that same day. More on this later.

THE SHOW

These guys are becoming “PEI famous” and are really making a name for themselves. They began the show with some of their best tunes, like this one called “Someone to Hold Me:”

They began this  with a demonstration about how a song is put together. They broke it down to the basics and added each instrument in, one by one. We sometimes take for granted that kids can hone in on a particular part within a song but many times this is not the case. Our younger students, especially, benefit most from this type of demonstration.

Later on, they invited some kids up to play with them. They started by inviting one of my electric guitar students and one of my drummers from the “Rockin’ Rebels,” to just jam it out with them on stage. They showed the guitar player what to do, she picked it up, and the drummer just started playing when he was supposed to without any knowledge of what song he was about to play. They handled it like pros. I was so proud! Also, I just happened to have my trombone with me that day too and they asked me to come up and play. It is good for kids to see their music teacher perform too!

A couple of songs later, they asked more students to come up. I had given many of my classes a heads up about this. We had been learning guitar, so many of them knew the chords G, Em, C, and D. Perfect for jamming along with most songs! I had mentioned to the band members that many of my kids know those 4 chords so they picked Stand by Me, which has those 4 chords. Then, 10 enthusiastic guitarists came up to play with the band. 

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When that was over, it was time to party:

Every kid loved it and the boys in Andrew Waite and The Firm were busy signing autographs at the end.

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THE WORKSHOP

Andrew Waite (lead vocals and acoustic guitar) and Evan McCosham (bass and back-up vocals) came to the rehearsal for “The Rockin’ Rebels” that afternoon to workshop our young rockers. As many of you know, I have a ton of experience teaching rock bands but we can all use a workshop to help give us a different perspective. Wind band directors do it all the time. This is no different because as much as we try, we aren’t perfect, unfortunately!

Many times it is the simple things that can make the biggest difference with workshops like this. Andrew has very good microphone technique and is great at making sure his vocals always sound good even when he is really belting it. Here are 3 things about microphone technique that Andrew pointed out to the kids:

  1. Most vocal microphones, especially Shure SM58s, are not overly sensitive. They need to be very close to your mouth. 2 finger widths away is a good place to start.

  2. Aim it down your throat! That doesn’t mean put it in your mouth, it just means you need to have it perpendicular to your mouth. Think about how a microphone stand holds a mic in front of you. It should be high enough so that it isn’t on an angle.

  3. Imagine there is an elastic band connected to your lips from your microphone. When the volume of your voice gets more intense or loud, move it away from your face slightly, but no more than a hand’s width away.

Proper microphone technique is something I have little experience with but am aware of and is something that I usually only talk about near the beginning of the year or when it is concert time with professional sound. My general rule 2 finger’s width from your face but I never really get into any more than that. Just working on these 3 aspects of vocal microphone technique changed the sound of the singers voices for the better. So simple, yet so effective!

KRYPTONITE

Before the workshop began, “The Rockin’ Rebels” decided that they wanted to play Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down for Andrew and Evan. We had learned it in its original key of Bm and soon after we all learned all our parts realized it was too low for the singers, so we had to transpose it up to C#m. Now, for rock bands, transposing is easy in most cases. For the guitarists, this just meant doing the exact same thing up 2 frets. So we capoed the second fret and played everything exactly the same – it just sounded up a step. Most electronic pianos have a transpose functionality. The keyboard player used the transpose function so that she didn’t have to relearn the entire song. Transpose buttons come in handy in this situation. Bass just had to play it up 2 frets from where they were. For drums, this meant…nothing. Occasionally, songs will have to be transposed for the sake of the singers. This is OK as long as you are not straying too far from the original key and it is easy to transpose. What I mean is, if the guitar players are suddenly playing all barre chords after transposing where they weren’t before, it might not be a good choice to transpose.

Here is a video of the “Rockin’ Rebels” performing Kryptonite, during their workshop with Andrew Waite and Evan McCosham:

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