I own several books by Bobby Owsinski and since I've been putting a live show back together I bought his new book and DVD: How To Make Your Band Sound Great.
I wasn't sure what to expect. The new live show's sounding pretty good I think and I've got a fair amount of experience on stage now but figured it'd be worth checking out.
The most useful sections in the book for me were his technical descriptions of dynamics and playing "in the pocket". Bobby talks a lot about playing "bigger" rather than louder or faster which has been an issue I've struggled with. For instance I liked this observation about why a lot of musicians feel like the life's been sucked out of their performance if they aren't playing really loud:
The internal dynamics of each individual usually go out the window. Instead of playing crisp yet quiet, with the same attacks and releases the band had at the higher volume level, the attacks and releases get relaxed so the playing becomes less precise. The real trick is learning to actually play with the same intensity at lower levels.
Makes a lot of sense. He suggests plotting out song (and set) dynamics on a 1-10 scale and to make sure the band members agree on what the levels on the scale sound like.
But besides a handful of useful tips, the book is geared towards the beginner. Repeated admonitions to tune your instrument, turn off your cell phone, take vocal lessons and be a professional might be useful to some readers but they seemed obvious to me.
The included 60-minute DVD of Bobby coaching a band rehearsing a song is interesting, but could easily have been edited down to around 15 minutes, which would have made it more effective and reduced my exposure to ska considerably. Cuts back and forth between the earlier and later (improved) performances of the song would have been a helpful demonstration.
It's not a bad book, I'd recommend it for a complete beginner. But it made me more aware of questions I had going in that it didn't answer. I'd love to see another book that dealt with situations that are more geared towards laptoppy Internet recording artists who are branching out into live performance like:
- How to deal with a laptop on stage - my first few times out I had issues with only having unbalanced outputs.
- Backing tracks. How many outputs to give the house, how to treat them, how much backing stuff to include.
- How to simulate band dynamics with drum backing tracks or a drum machine.
- Vocal treatment & effects. Especially in small venues I've found running my vocals through a compressor/limiter helps my vocals sound more like the records.
- How to handle crappy sound guys. (Constructing an alibi, body disposal, etc.)
I'm sure it would be a huge, huge money-making hit.