As someone who is familiar with a range of Bugera amps, Behringer Soundsystems, and TC-Helion live-performance equipment, I am quite interested to see the implications of this acquisition.
TC-Helion makes what I believe are hands down the highest quality, industry standard Harmonizer and Auto-Tune pedals for live performance. However, their brand is known as anything BUT cost effective for those of us with non-corporate budgets. The amazing, unparalleled vocal effects (which are computed to harmonize diatonically all voices to instruments, which are in turn all run through the system) are aspirational purchases for most bands and musicians without national followings or lucrative record deals.
However, I am QUITE familiar with Behringer live sound systems. I can tell from experience that this brand IS known for being cost-effective (any of their P.A. packages will inevitably be cheaper to any similar-spec competitor). However, with being known as cost-effective comes the risk of being perceived as “cheap” by consumers, and the fact that many of their mixing board components are known to just burn out or frequently clip validates this preconception for many consumers. Behringer puts a lot of bells as whistles on their mixers with low price points to entice small-time musicians and DJs. I do personally feel that those augmentations only add so much legitimate value to the product if it isn’t of the highest quality.
This acquisition is really interesting to me because the inevitable result, in my mind, is going to be PA systems with auto-tune and harmonizers. Interestingly, I really don’t know what to expect in terms of quality. On the one hand, TC-Helion makes extremely useful and valuable digital effects processors that I think no musician would dare to call “cheap.” On the other hand, Behringer seems to often under-deliver on the digital effects that come with their sound systems (a disappointment coming from the same company that apparently makes the sexy sounding Bugera amplifier brand). Hopefully, they companies can streamline their technologies effectively.
Try Googling my name. In fact, I’ll save you a second or 120 (depending on the speed of your computing device) by simply asking you to click this link.
Turns out, the search results are dominated by a dude who shares my first name, my last name, and pretty much my main life’s interests and passions. I get the little added bonus nugget with the fact that he is super successful already, and I’m hanging out in this bush for my profile picture looking like some kind of lumberjack garden gnome. Funny how life works out sometimes.
At least we look pretty different.
Needless to say, when creating this blog, I would need to establish a more niche identity. Sure, both us Tyler Bryants play guitar, sing, write music, and pose majestically with our axes.
What is unique about the fella writing this post is not just his ability to intermittently write about himself in the third-person perspective, but also the depth of different genres he writes. Whereas the more famous Tyler mainly plays blues-driven rock, the other has experience writing/producing hip-hop, electronica, hXc/hardcore/screamo, and acoustic pop (his main staple).
The point here is that I consider myself more of a song builder than a guitarist. I love playing guitar and including it as a fundamental piece of my creative outlet, but I like to explore completely different musical visions every couple of years. Like Madonna, Domino’s, and the wheel, I like to reinvent myself. Hence the “song architect” part.
Now for the neurotic part. Most of my life, but particularly starting in high school, my anxieties shaped not only what I did or did not pursue in life, but they shaped my personality tremendously. On the one hand, it was handy that I was as constantly anxious about school and class as I was – since the dread I would feel having to come in to class unprepared in the slightest way kept me from maintaining any regular sleep pattern and caused me to eventually regularly get physically ill before school in the morning, I made sure to always be prepared. I did all of my homework ardently by the end of high school.
For most subjects, I figured that while I was spending time doing homework anyways, I may as well do high-quality work. So, I started getting creative in how to do my assignments. I would write songs for book reports, I would write skits for science presentations, and I came up with alternative layouts for written work. Usually, this paid off (except in Calculus… woops).
Anyways, my anxieties also have benefits related to my passions. When I listen to music, almost regardless of genre, I get excited about using whatever I am hearing as an influence in my future work. When people are talking to me in the car, I am often zoned in to the harmonies the singers are singing on the radio, or to the drum syncopations in the dubstep song that my friend plays from his iPhone. I listen to music neurotically so that I can use it to influence my own work, like this song from my first year at UNC.
This semester, I have enjoyed the privilege of taking Gary Kayye‘s class, “The Branding of Me,” in the J-school (a.k.a SMJ) at UNC. I want to thank my professor for many things – like for showing up to class with cookies after a tough night on campus, and for introducing us to influential business figures from all over, and especially for coming in to every class with an unceasing enthusiasm for teaching and learning with our class regardless of how busy he may be otherwise.
However, rather than format this whole post as a thank-you letter, I would like to summarize a few important lessons I’ve learned through my time having class with Professor Kayye.
Maintaining a blog can be one of the easiest and most fulfilling ways to make your passions and interests tangible, which is handy for the job hunt.
Take a look at this site – nothing too fancy here. However, I’ve written twice a week for several weeks now. I have over 30 posts (I think). I have pages of pages of hard, readable information that shows my interests and values at length. I have reviewed tons of musicians, and my site has become somewhat of a hub for the circle of people that I have written about and for.
Get on LinkedIn and stay there while you’re at it. The more info, the better.
Our guest speaker from LinkedIn showed me the importance of adding a summary and utilizing the connections tools to network with professionals who share your interests.
Successful brands start by serving a niche really, really well.
While higher education, training seminars, and personal studies can be fantastic for amassing semantic intelligence, emotional intelligence can only be gathered by certain, skilled people from dealing with many people and emotions.
DISCLAIMER: All of this is, of course, based on my own opinions as a gigging guitarist for most of the last decade. Among the guitarist community, I would say some of my brand allegiances for strings are atypical. Of course, take my testimonials with a grain of salt. I will try to rank each contender out of 5 stars.
3.5/5 – While these strings maintain their tone for a much longer amount of time than most competitors, the same poly-nylon technology that gives them such a long life span also has deleterious effects on the sound. At times, I’ve felt like these strings play and sound like dental floss on a guitar. Sure, it’ll take a lot longer for them to rust – but the compromise in sound quality and non-fluid bending don’t make them preferable to me. (This is probably my most controversial opinion – most guitarists I know really love Elixirs).
4/5 – For electric guitars, I would go as far as saying D’addario strings have pathologically fantastic tone. Regardless of if your sound is heavy or light on the treble (or gain for that matter), these strings deliver a consistent warmth that sounds ideal every time. My only real criticism is that the strings do go bad relatively quickly; whereas the Elixirs will at least last forever, D’addarios go dead pretty quickly. Once you start accumulating that layer of black grease on your D’addarios, your going to want to change strings ASAP before performing in front of non-deaf humans (even the deaf ones will notice the gunk on your strings though, so you might as well change them no matter what). What I will say about this brand is that many big name music stores will have frequent sales promotions to try to get rid of as many as possible. For guitarists, I could not think of more of a win-win scenario.
3/5 – Oh god, I’m being generous here too. So, believe it or not, I once was a high school guitar no0b who thought, “wouldn’t it be rad to have colorful guitar strings? Then everybody would love me, and my parents may finally let me sleep indoors if that happens.” Okay, while that last part may have been to optimistic to be realistic, it definitely seemed like a good idea at the time.
And I must testify, the strings really did look pretty badass. I bought several packs and mixed up the colors. My guitar strings were alternative light blue and bubblegum pink for a little while. And I mean, for a little while. These strings died faster than a fruitfly in vinegar, and they sounded pretty crappy after playing them for a week. Perhaps the worst part though, was that the wicked-awesome paint job on the strings chipped off completely in a matter of a couple of days. So much for that…
4/5 – Although I am keenly aware that some guitarists would give me flack for giving this brand such a comparatively high rating, I do stick by my decision on the basis of tone alone. Sure, these strings don’t last particularly long (although, in my experience, they tend to last just about as long as anything else). However, the pure warmth of tone in combination with how well they stay in tune (not to mention they sound the best with distortion) renders this brand of strings to be one of my favorites.
4.5/5 – So I recognize that this is already darn-near a perfect rating already, and this is for a plethora of reasons. Martin is a brand name with a HUGE reputation for making very high quality, American-crafted acoustic guitars. The first acoustic guitar I ever played (which I stuck with for years and years) was a Martin D-1 (which has since been discontinued). I have never been disappointed in the slightest by Martin acoustic strings. Not only is the tone consistently warm and vibrant, but these strings sound great well past the point where they should technically be changed. These strings seem to accumulate less rust and gunk than other acoustic strings, but even they do start going old, they will definitely get you through any gig at least sounding decent.
Plus, not to pile on, but these strings are tough. It really takes a lot to snap one.
4/5 – Being yet another great acoustic brand, Dunlops, in my opinion, are vastly underrated. I know a few guitarists who have had negative experiences with the brand’s electric strings. They tend to scoff when I tell them I like Dunlop acoustic strings. However, they are remarkably consistent in tone, and they last a REALLY long time without going dead (arguably longer than Martins). In comparing these to Martins, though, it is important to consider that when they do go bad, they don’t maintain their tone quite like the previous brand. However, if you ever need acoustic strings, and the store carries Dunlops and not Martins (a boat which I’ve been in), I would definitely give this brand a shot!
This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of seeing many of my good friends perform at Fitzgerald’s. One friend in particular, Sarah Chilton, has been to the last few of my own shows. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to see her play at other venues (specifically Zog’s) and during our ENGL 490 songwriting class. Not only is she incredibly adept and fluid on piano (both in terms of playing difficult/clever progressions as well as coming up with catchy theme riffs), but as a songwriter overall, she possesses an impressive prowess and ability for coming up with songs that have multiple movements, key changes, tempo changes, and other progressive dynamic approaches that render her work often as theatrical, but always as intensely thought-out and well-crafted.
One of the songs that she performed at Fitz was written with our classes’ very own Jack Denton. While I never had the pleasure of hearing him play guitar along with Sarah’s piano for this song during our class, his acoustic accompaniment at Fitzgerald’s was spot-on in terms of rhythm and overall fluidity (which was really cool to watch considering I have yet to see him play guitar much at all during our class). The lyrics he wrote are really intense – they reference the NCAA, chattel slavery, and paper classes (all too relevant for us as UNC students). Check out Jack’s lyrics here!
Also performing with Sarah on Wednesday was our mutual friend and classmate, Gloria Yoo. Earlier this year, Gloria wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music for a song we collaborated on called “Standard Hero.” Feel free to give it a listen below.
Her raps and harmonies are pretty fly, right? I’ve always been a huge fan of her harmonies. The song that I am attaching below is the same from the video at the beginning of my post. She wrote this song with Sarah for our class. I can honestly say that I’ve been singing this song to myself all day long. The pure catchiness is quite impressive, so definitely give this a listen. It reminds me of Good Old War.
Attached is a song that I wrote for my ENGL 490 class with my talented lyricist partner, Jessica McAfee. It took me a while to put it together. I would definitely say that this is one of the catchier songs that I’ve done for my class. Since my partner doesn’t play any instruments, I had full liberty to take her witty lyrics and craft a listenable tune that lets me shred on guitar too. Here is a vid of an earlier version:
Last night, I had the pleasure of playing Fitzgerald’s (for the second time) with two extremely talented musicians. The first of which was a fellow/dude/man/bro Colin Iwanski, who played an incredibly soulful, tight set. Not only is his singing voice the aesthetic equivalent to audio chocolate (a term that has been emblazoned in my memory since I made it up a minute ago), but his guitar playing has virtuosity unrivaled by most professional musicians that I know. He did a version of Radiohead’s “Creep” that shook my spine.
The second performer whom I enjoyed listening to, hanging out with, and generally being around was Gabriel Reynolds. His songwriting is always poignant – whether he’s making social commentary or reflecting on his past, his creations are consistently dynamic in tone and rhetoric, which is a feat that I aspire to as a builder of the music songs myself. His piano playing is varied in technique and influenced by a potluck of some of my favorite influences around (like Frank Ocean, DMB, and the R.Kelly classic “Ignition (Remix)”). Furthermore, the songs that he plays on guitar capture a whole different level of his musical dynamicism – the chord voicings he uses are unique (many pianists tend to structure chords differently when adapting skills to guitar), but never cliched, and his impeccable sensibilities for timing and melody never cease to astound me. I hope to play many more shows with him – I have met several other really cool musicians through him as well when we play open mic nights at the station.
This is my favorite original song of his, which I crudely attempted to capture on my phone (the vids on my phone seem to consistently get cut off). As he’ll often share onstage, he did not intend this song to be funny at all – rather, he was taking a rather somber look at the white patriarchal culture of contemporary American society. I must admit, I fell into this trap when I first heard the song. However, every time I think about the song (usually not even the same day I hear it live), I find that I do become upset.
I don’t feel good about living in a society that systematically marginalizes pretty much anyone who doesn’t identify as a white man. As a white man, the legitimacy of my own accomplishments comes into scrutiny, perhaps to a point of insecurity, when the perception arises that I inherited my life success. I think the insecurity comes from that fact that, as a white man, I really have inherited many, if not most, of all the life-defining experiences I’ve endured. The fruits of these benefits comes largely from the fact that I was born into a position of agency. I never have to face any kind of prejudice or discrimination that severely impedes my abilities to achieve whatever goals I strive for. For people in my position, I can imagine the insecurities from using terms “white privilege.” I think Gabe’s song does an excellent job of humanizing this insecure perspective while shedding light on issues of social marginalization my focusing on the daily life powers and rights of angry white men.