whit fineberg

The Top 5 Things I Have Learned From More Experienced Musicians

***

NewsWhistle is proud to feature “The Top 5 Things I Have Learned From More Experienced Musicians” by Whit Fineberg of Fallow Land. 

After enjoying the fun feature, please check out Fallow Land’s new EP “Pinscher,” which debuts this Friday. 

***

The Top 5 Things I Have Learned From More Experienced Musicians

by Whit Fineberg

whit fineberg 2

I have been fortunate to grow up in a musical environment full of mentorship. My brother is seven years older than I and started playing in bands as a young teen. From a young age I learned about music from listening to him talk about his experiences and by talking to his bandmates.  Additionally, I became immersed in the Ann Arbor music scene via the Neutral Zone (a teen center) in my early teens. Over the years, several older musicians have taken me under their wings and helped me develop as an artist.  I am still learning every day from the people who shop at the music store that I work at, many of whom have rubbed elbows with fantastic artists. I have learned countless lessons about music from the people around me. Here are five of the most profound.

***

1. No one in the audience wants you to fail. 

When I first started playing music I was scared to perform in front of people. I don’t remember exactly where I was performing, but before one show I was especially freaking out. My brother came up to me and said, “Hey, no one in the audience wants you to fail. Everyone came here to watch you succeed and have a good time. No one goes to a show and hopes the band doesn’t play well.” This really calmed me down. It’s nice to think of the audience as a crowd of supporters rather than a crowd of critics.

***

2. Don’t expect people to understand your art the same way you do.

I was playing a show with a friend in Grand Rapids, before his set he said, “I’m going to go pour out my soul for an hour and a half and some people will love it and some people will hate it, but almost no one will actually get it.”  He is significantly further along in his career than I, so hearing that he felt that way was enlightening. On the surface level, it seemed kind of depressing. It’s frustrating to feel like you are trying to communicate something that isn’t being heard. Ultimately, however, I ended up finding it more freeing than depressing. Here is this person that I really look up to that feels the same way that I often feel about my music. Maybe I need to stop worrying so much about how people understand my music and instead just focus on creating something that is real to me. Maybe people do get it; perhaps they just get something different from it than what I intended. Art can be created for many reasons, but for me the main draw to create is catharsis. If my art makes people feel something then that’s great even if it’s not the same feeling I get out of it. Even if they don’t get anything out of it, it’s still cathartic to me.

***

3. Play to your environment. 

A band called KROM did a master class while I was in music school in Chicago.  They were all well trained jazz musicians, who also loved rock music. They didn’t feel as though KROM was playing jazz music per se. They made the point that it was important to be able to play to whatever environment you were in. When they were playing in intimate dining halls, they would bring out the jazzier elements of their set and play more quietly. On these occasions, they would market themselves as a jazz combo. When they would play bars, they would bring out the more raucous moments in their songs, and the drummer would play a bit more heavy handedly. Fallow Land is also hard to classify. We frequently play with bands that are quite different from us. For each show, we try to maximize the impact of the qualities of our songs that will most appeal to the audience. We base this on the sound of the bands we are playing with and the environment we are in.

***

4. Find your sonic space.

One of the most important things anyone has ever said to me is, “Where do you sit in the mix?” It is essential to think about the relationship between your part and everyone else’s in a song. Is your guitar part getting in the way of the bass-line? How can you EQ your bass to give the click of the kick space to come through? Does your amp put out too much low-end and volume for the rest of your bandmates to keep up with? Oftentimes, what sounds good in a band situation is different than what sounds good by itself. For example, sometimes guitar works best in a band setting when it’s relatively thin sounding and arranged sparsely. Sometimes bass sounds best with the high frequencies rolled off. Sound is completely situational. Unless you learn how to shape your sound around the people you are playing with, you will only sound good when you are playing by yourself.

***

5. Find the most important moment in each song.

During the process of recording Pinscher, our producer challenged me to find the most important moment in several of my songs. This was a fairly challenging task. When you put all of this time and emotional energy into creating something, it’s difficult to distill it down to one pivotal moment. If you want the song to have a coherent trajectory, however, it is essential to do so. Finding the apex of a song allows you to shape the rest of the song to bring out profundity of that climax. It allows you release the tension that has been steadily building over the course of the song. Where you choose to place this climax drastically affects the shape of the song. For instance, you could create a song that builds for 10 minutes and then has an incredibly satisfying payoff, or a song that builds really quickly, reaches the apex, then takes a long time settling back down. Most songs are somewhere in between.

***

***

About Whit Fineberg and Fallow Land

fallow land

From Noisy Ghost PR: “When life strips away what we know and hold dear, we are left with a sense of emptiness. After a move to a new city, the death of a friend, the end of a band, and the close of a relationship, Whit Fineberg found himself standing on fallow land. He felt directionless, but also more inspired than he had been in years.

“Fineberg began spending every free second recording song ideas in his Chicago apartment. Even though he lived in Chicago, he still felt deeply rooted in the Ann Arbor music scene where he grew up. He frequently returned home to play music with friends and visit family. On one of those visits, he crossed paths with Evan Veasey (above right), a musician he had heard about, but never played with. Fineberg was impressed with Veasey’s understanding of the guitar and ability to intuit his own musical inclinations.

“Several months later, Fallow Land recorded their first single, joined by Armand Terrell and Caelin Amin, who also accompanied them on their first tour, playing shows in Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, and several other midwestern cities.

“During this period, the band started arranging songs for their debut EP, Pinscher, and spending a lot of time trying to decide who would they would bring on for production. One day, Chris Bathgate walked into the music store where Veasey and Fineberg both worked and mentioned some projects he was producing. Fineberg’s other band, Bad Television, had joined him years ago for a benefit concert and seeing Bathgate’s keen understanding of each song he crafted changed the way Fineberg thought about his own art. It was an easy decision to work with Bathgate, who spent several days listening to the band play their songs and making comments. He asked interesting, difficult questions like ‘What does this song mean to the world?’ and ‘What’s the most important part of this song?’

“Fallow Land recorded Pinscher at High Bias Studios with the help of audio engineer Chris Koltay. The EP was mixed by Matt Bayles and mastered by Ed Brooks (Cursive, Death Cab for Cutie).”

***

FallowLand_Pinscher_coverCover Art for Fallow Land’s Pinscher EP

***

Images Courtesy of Fallow Land and Noisy Ghost PR; Portrait Photographs Courtesy of Photographer Heather Nash