Under the Hat: Mixing Music is Like Mixing a Cake

Under the Hat: Mixing it Up

Have you ever stopped to think about how music was recorded?  Or what decisions were made along to way to create the music you listen to?

Mister G takes us into his recording studio this month for a behind the scenes tutorial on how to mix music. It turns out that mixing music is a lot like mixing a cake; you have to start with good ingredients and then blend them together carefully.

Focusing on his bilingual song “ABC Fiesta,” we hear how the individual instruments (drums, bass, keyboards, guitars, vocals) sound by themselves, prior to Mister G mixing the various tracks.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

Under the Hat: Learning About Songwriting with Rhymes

Under the Hat: Rhymes

Have you ever wondered why the words to some songs get stuck in your head? In this episode of Under the Hat, Mister G reveals one of his big secrets; songwriters love to use rhymes.

Using examples from his songs “Pizza for Breakfast” and “Colores,” Mister G explains how good rhymes fit together like puzzle pieces to create catchy, memorable rhythms. We learn how songwriters search for the perfect rhymes to help to tell the story of the song.

As always, Mister G encourages kids to write their own songs whether they choose to use rhyming words or not. Featuring a cameo from Silas the Cat.

Next time in Under the Hat: Mixing it up in the studio. It’s a late night session, so you may have to stay up past bedtime for this episode as Mister G takes us into his studio where he’s recording a new CD. You’ll never listen to music the same way after you learn how songs are recorded and mixed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

Under the Hat: Exploring Tempo in Music

Under the Hat: Tempo

The instant we hear music our bodies start responding to the sounds.

Why is it that some music makes us want to dance and other music makes us want to take a nap? Using examples from his songs “Grilled Cheese” and “Sueños,” Mister G illustrates the role tempo plays in creating mood in music. It’s really not that complicated: fast tempos tend to make the listener want to move fast and slow tempos make the listener want to move more slowly.

He explains how songwriters use tempo as a tool to create different emotions in the listener and encourages listeners to notice the way the speed of music affects their emotions.

As a songwriter, Mister G takes into account the subject for his songs before deciding on a tempo. So, with an exciting topic like “Grilled Cheese,” a fast tempo is in order. And with a gentle lullaby  like “Suenos,” a slow tempo makes sense.

Next month in Under the Hat: What role does rhyme play in songwriting? Playing examples from his songs “Pizza for Breakfast” and “Cocodrilo,” Mister G explains how rhymes are the fundamental building blocks of lyric writing for popular songs.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

Discovering Clave: Afro-Cuban Rhythm

Following the Butterflies through Words and Rhythm

While on tour in Mexico, Mister G talks about how his bilingual song, “Señorita Mariposa” was inspired by the famous migration of the Monarch Butterfly to the state of Michoacan. He emphasizes how close observation of nature can become the jumping off point for new songs. Before performing “Señorita Mariposa,” Mister G demonstrates the traditional Afro-Cuban rhythm known as clave.

Mister G’s song “Senorita Mariposa” was inspired by the famous migration of the Monarch butterflies each winter to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. Like Mister G, the butterflies can’t stand freezing weather and so they fly south to a warmer climate. The butterflies return to the exact same tree every year, but they are increasingly in danger as developers cut down the forest in order for human development. To help protect the Monarch butterfly habitat, visit www.michoacanmonarchs.org.

“Senorita Mariposa” is a bilingual song, meaning that some of the lyrics are in Spanish and some are in English.  Mister G uses rhyming words throughout the song, such as “mariposa” and “hermosa.” Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly. Hermosa means beautiful, which makes good sense as the song is about a beautiful little butterfly. Curious to learn more Spanish words? Go to www.spanishdict.com and type in any English word and the program will instantly translate.

The steady rhythm that plays throughout “Senorita Mariposa” is called clave. The clave rhythm is found in much traditional Afro-Cuban and Latin music and is played on two small pieces of wood called claves. Musicians from around the world have used clave, including the Beatles on their song, “And I Love Her.”

What to look forward to next month:

Next month in Under the Hat: How do tempo and dynamics affect mood in music? More than you might imagine! Playing examples from his songs, “Grilled Cheese” and “Mono en mis Manos” Mister G illustrates how tempo and dynamics are powerful tools used by songwriters to create different moods for the audience.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

Under the Hat: Songwriting Detectives

Under the Hat: Songwriting Detectives

Reporting while on tour from Mexico City, Mister G talks about how songwriters are like detectives who are always on the lookout for clues as to what would make and interesting song. This month’s episode of Under the Hat includes footage from a variety of school concerts from Mexico as Mister G shares a story about how he came to write “Chocolalala,” the title track off of his award-winning bilingual (Spanish/English) CD:

What clues can you start to look for to write your own songs? Here are a few ideas:

  • Draw inspiration in your family. Think about what your brother’s favorite food is, what makes your mother laugh, or something your Uncle collects.
  • Think about something you enjoy, like your favorite dessert, sports you like to play, or your favorite animal.
  • Use your imagination and create a character you’d like to meet or a destination you’d like to visit.

And remember, whether you’re writing songs about banana splits, your Aunt’s collection of ceramic frogs or flying robots, it’s the details that matter the most! Spend time thinking about what makes your subject interesting and special. Then hum or strum a tune to pair with your lyrics and presto….you’re a songwriter!

What to look forward to next month:

While on tour in Mexico, Mister G talks about how his bilingual song, “Señorita Mariposa” was inspired by the famous migration of the Monarch Butterfly to the state of Michoacan. He emphasizes how close observation of nature can become the jumping off point for new songs. Before performing “Señorita Mariposa,” Mister G demonstrates the traditional Afro-Cuban rhythm known as clave.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

Under the Hat: All About Guitars

Under the Hat: Independent Music Education with Mister G

Under the Hat: All About Guitars

In this debut episode of “Under the Hat: Independent Music Education,” Mister G takes us into his recording studio in Western MA for a music lesson about the guitar. Using a variety of instruments from his collection, he discusses the differences (and similarities) between acoustic, electric, classical and steel guitars. — Grab the kids for a fun tutorial on four guitars as Mister G demonstrates their sounds and styles:

  • STEEL GUITAR: With its gleaming metal body, the steel guitar is a striking instrument visually and sonically. An iconic blues instrument, the steel guitar originally came to prominence in the 1920’s. Want to hear an example of the steel guitar being used in music for children? Mister G plays his National Steel Guitar on “Shark in my Bathtub” off of the BUGS CD.
  • CLASSICAL GUITAR: Originally from Spain, the classical guitar is used to perform many styles of music including bossa nova, folk, jazz and, of course, classical. Mister G plays an excerpt from his bossa nova inspired song “Suenos” to demonstrate the warmth and beauty of this iconic instrument. — Want to learn about the history of the classical guitar?  Check out Acoustic Guitar Guru.
  • ELECTRIC GUITAR: First built in 1954, the Fender Stratocaster is arguably the most famous electric guitar ever made. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and countless others have chosen the strat due to its remarkable versatility. Mister G plays examples of funk, jazz, rock and blues; all musical styles that have influenced his playing and songwriting.
  • STEEL STRING ACOUSTIC GUITAR The steel string acoustic guitar came to prominence early in the 20th century. Originally embraced by country, blues and folk guitarists, the steel string acoustic is a remarkably versatile instrument. Mister G plays his Martin D-18, his primary touring guitar, and explains why the acoustic the instrument is a great choice for solo performing.

What to look forward to next month:

Reporting on tour from Mexico, Mister G describes how various songs on his new bilingual Spanish/English CD came to be. He discusses how songwriters are like detectives; always on the lookout for clues that could lead to a great new song. The episode ends with Mister G playing the delicious title track of his new album, CHOCOLALALA.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

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