I know, I know, it will be neither enormous or huge, but hey, it’s an election year so puffery is all the rage.
Here’s the Deal:
It’s a music video contest for High School and Junior High students. The lower the budget the better, it’s supposed to reward creativity, not access to great equipment and video editing skills. The instruments must have strings, and must be acoustic. Violin family instruments are the main focus here, but not the end of the road. Guitars, Banjos, mandolins are all fine and totally part of what makes a band with a full range of sound, so they can be part of what you do if you want. It’s up to you. Types of music? Doesn’t matter. Classical, Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gypsy Jazz; it’s all good. Read the hints below. I Really encourage that. REALLY encourage that.
That said, here are the basic rules of the road:
1: Contest deadline; October 31, 2016. That gives you all spring to come up with a plan and rehearse, and all summer to film. It also gives you a range of seasons and scenery if you’re recording outdoors. (hint, hint…) Entries must be received between October 1 and October 31, 2016.
2: Submissions must be in the form of a video readable on an Apple laptop or cellphone, or posted on Youtube. Submission of videos should be made through a dropbox link or, as said, Youtube. No videos will be looked at which are sent directly to the email address due to virus possibilities. Email links to Charlie Shafer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3: Keep them to around the 3:00 minute mark. Overly long videos usually put judges to sleep, so get to the point and show you know what you’re doing.
4: They must be low budget. Really low budget. The idea is that music is something that’s free if you play it yourself and friends. That’s what’s special. You get together, have a great time jamming away, come out invigorated and refreshed, and it didn’t cost you a penny. Cell-phone videos aren’t just accepted, they’re encouraged. We won’t care about vibration or weird focus or lousy jump-cuts. We care about the musicality, the story, the creativity. Any video that smacks of professionalism will be marked down. Any video that smacks of parental involvement will be mocked. Helicopter parents will be hunted down and forced to carry a Sousaphone for three weeks without interruption.
Things you will NOT be judged on:
A: First and foremost, the pure technical quality of the video. This is not to be a video production contest, as that can get really expensive and rewards those with the most technical assets. We want to reward musical ability and story-telling. A really well-conceived and well-performed video that shows a lot of creativity but might be jiggly and somewhat out-of-focus will score better than a well-produced unoriginal thing.
B: Technical virtuosity. It’s great that someone can play really well, but as any true virtuoso knows, the technical skills serve the music, not the other way around. Technique allows you to play the music you may hear in your head. One more video of some kid shredding away on whatever instrument he or she may be playing, with no concept of what music actually is and I’ll barf. Seriously. All over your video.
What you win!!
In keeping with the low-budget mentality, prizes will stink. There might be a little cash, but I’d count on a gift card to some coffee place and a lame plastic trophy. The rewards are more spiritual, as you know you will be the best, and all others 2 or fewer. This video will give you some pretty good bragging rights on college applications, so all is not wasted. I’ll even write some sort of award letter to the colleges of your choice to help with admissions. I’d advise not taking me up on that if it’s one of the colleges I went to, but there are others, so no worries.
1: Self-indulgent solos which do nothing but show off technical skills will be yawned at. We see a lot of really gifted players, like conservatory teachers, PHD professor and Grammy winning-type players. Some will be judges in this competition. They’re probably better than you, so to get our attention, the best bet is to combine creativity with musical sensibilities. You don’t need to be technically gifted to be incredibly musical. It’s the groove, the sway, the story, the attitude, the tune, the visuals. We want to be sucked into your world. We’ve seen and heard a lot, so try to be original. Some of the most compelling musicians I’ve heard have not necessarily been the most technically sound. They have soul, and that goes for any style of music, classical to string funk.
2: Tell a story. Go outside. The story might be as simple as following a dog through the woods or down a street, and you and your band are playing along behind. Maybe it’s the band shopping in a thrift store. We’re not looking for “War and Peace” here, just something that shows you’re thinking and holds our attention. If there’s a a real narrative, so much the better.
3: Don’t try to go solo. Music is made up of different voices and colors (instrumentally speaking, that is). The more interesting and complex, the better. Trios are a good minimum, and more than five members can get too noisy, so somewhere in between works well.
4: Use a vocalist, if it works with your song. Clearly, a classical submission doesn’t work with one (unless it’s some ultra-modern experimental thing), but for any sort of stringboard, bluegrass, or pop music, a vocalist helps tell the story.
5: Take risks. Not like skydiving while playing, I mean creatively. Try mixing several genres, like classical and old-time. It might work, it might not. There’s always a delete button to push if you don’t like it. Taking risks might just show you exactly how much greatness you’re capable of. Expose you to things you didn’t know about previously.
6: Have fun, spend no money. The more your sense of fun on an extreme budget comes through, the more the judges will be smiling. Really. Trust me on this: feel-good, well-played, no-cost fun will always triumph over expensively-produced, self-indulgent, overly-serious gunk. That’s true pretty much anywhere in life. Deliver a product that’s on time, on budget, and makes your customer smile, and you will be a success.
I won’t link to anything specifically, as I don’t want you to get the idea that that’s the sort of thing that will win.