Prior to lockdown I was performing with a multitude of bands, covering all styles of music. I am a member of Glasgow based funk band Tom McGuire & The Brassholes as well as jazz fusion band Mezcla. Both bands perform original music regularly across the country, with festival and tour dates booked throughout the busy summer/spring time.
Upon the announcement of lockdown I had to make a decision where to base myself throughout the period. Me and my flatmate who is also a musician (piano player) decided to stay put in our Glasgow flat, allowing us to take this time to improve our collaborative music and experiment with new styles and types of performing & recording. Towards the early period of lockdown, I had the idea to put a big band video together featuring 17 musicians who would record their parts remotely. I had been saving up some money to record a big band EP around April-time, however instead I used this period as an opportunity to coordinate a group of talented musicians as well as provide them with some semblance of performing. My approach to recording this was to start from the bottom and build it up: the first step was to send the music over to the drummer Stephen Henderson, who got back to me very promptly with his track and video. I then sent this on to the bassist David Bowden, and then onto the piano player and guitarist, thus completing the rhythm section. I pieced the tracks together and spent some time linking up the recordings with a software programme called Logic. From this I created a bounce which I then sent out to the lead players of each section, they then recorded their parts so that the rest of the section could hear how they were phrasing and articulating the lines. After putting all the lead players parts into the mix I bounced again and sent this mix out to everyone barring the solist to record with, also regularly updating it and providing new bounce throughout as individuals sent me their stuff through. Lastly, having everyone’s part all lined up I sent the audio over to Matthew Carmichael to solo over. With all the audio together as a rough mix and all the videos, I enlisted my friends Liam Shortall and Dan Brown to assist with the mixing and video editing, adding their own professional touch. What initially was intended as a bit of fun turned into a wonderfully received project that got air time on BBC Radio Scotland and landed us a little feature in The Herald. Due to this, we decided to do a couple more with the aim of releasing a lockdown EP, the second and third times proving a lot easier to organise having already done the process once. Putting the big band videos naturally took quite a bit of time to get coordiante and make sound the way desired but also being a musician in lockdown and wanting to evade boredom I spent time making other videos ranging from me singing acapella arrangements with friends to recording myself playing the full brass section parts of big band charts, as well as writing and recording original hip hop beats with my flatmate – Dan Brown.
For a recently graduated musician, it can be difficult to regulate practise when moving between regular performances night after night and then getting some time off. Due to this, when the lockdown started I relished this opportunity to improve areas of my playing which I’d been wishing to have the time to do. For example, I sat and mapped the key areas of focus and developed a 3 hour a day routine covering all the bases. Personally, I think the lockdown has been an amazing opportunity to create and develop as a musician, but also as a chance to switch off and recuperate – which is equally as important as any practice to ensure you can stay creative. I have spent a lot of my spare time cycling and exploring the campsies which proved inspiring.
My advice for someone starting their musical career during this time would be to utilize the facilities you have available, whether that’s just a phone with a camera or a microphone as you can do a lot with a little. Upon finishing university it is essential that a young musician gets him/herself onto the scene as much as possible, attending jam sessions and playing with other musicians. I believe it is key to success to maintain this approach in this period, make videos of yourself if you can, get involved and connect with other musicians, be open to trying new things you would not normally try. Having had to adapt my way of work through this time I will most certainly continue to carry the things I have learnt forward. The management of a big band has been an incredible experience for me and everyone involved in it and I am sure this will lead on to many new opportunities in the future.
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