A while ago I started a side project to turn some ideas I had for songs from the world of science into musical form. This saw the light of day as Professor Karmadillo, and resulted in the album Giant Leaps. I have now decided to turn this into a more full time project, which sees the light of day as Singing Science, together with its first fully fledged show Genomics! The Musical!
This takes on board some of the feedback from audiences (videos for all songs when performing live, a theme to the show rather than just disparate science songs) and performance spaces (sadly one of these being that to perform in academic institutions it is easier to do with backing tracks rather than bring real instruments into play).
This is my first gig of 2021, and my first gig on Twitch! Aidy from The British IBM has been entertaining with his Friday night gigs throughout this lockdown period. And he has kindily invited me along to do a Karmadillo set. The gig will be split across two URLs.
This is my guide – partly for myself so I don’t forget how to do things – to getting a Facebook Live performance setup. I’m doing a handful of gigs in this virtual world, and must admit that I am quite enjoying the hassle free nature of it!
First of all, you’ll need a Facebook account. The Live item works on your stream, you band page or an event page. This post isn’t going to detail the how to set these up.
Google Chrome browser – Facebook Live seems to prompt for Google Chrome and this is the only way I’ve successfully had it working. My norm is to use Vivaldi, Opera, or Edge, browsers (which share the same engine as Google Chrome) but that’s the one I had to install on my system. This may change over time.
Video – a webcam in the PC should suffice, or an external webcam will give better.
Audio will vary according to your musical setup. This will vary from using an in-built microphone to capture room acoustics, external microphone capturing room acoustics, or the more complicated way of having several channels mixed through an external soundcard.
At time of writing I have tried the in-built webcam and microphone and tested out an external webcam with it’s microphone. Both had reasonable success (video much improved by the webcam), but want to give the other techniques a go as well. For this post I want to use an external webcam and it’s in-built microphone.
For reference, my own hardware here is a Surface Pro 7 with Windows 10. I have had good success with the in-built webcam here and an external Logitech Web Cam.
Basic Facebook Live
Should become redundant over 2020: At time of writing (2020-05) there is an olde way of doing the Live performance, or a new way. I’m only detailing the new way. You should be prompted to try the new way when you hit Connect. If you are on the new way there will be a ‘Switch to previous version’ option in the top left corner.
If you want to test your setup there is a column on the left that is independently scrollable. There is a test option at the bottom. Click this first if required, as your options will all be reset if you do it later! Testing is recommended, and some masking tape can also be worthwhile to record where things are placed, where you are standing etc.
Get started offers a range of options for connecting.
I currently haven’t tried out (OK, I don’t understand) the ‘Use stream key’ and ‘Use Paired encoder’ options, so I am going for the ‘Use camera’ option which then lets you set your microphone and video sources.
There are settings in the main window and the left hand column for audience participation and behaviour which is useful to have a look through.
Use the preview window to check things are visually as desired and give it a go! If testing it’s a good idea to move around and see how sound/mix works out as you do this. Once you are comfortable stop the feed and have a watch and listen back. I’ve found the following when singing with an acoustic guitar type instrument using the web cam microphone: the voice always sounds good, but there is sometimes an attempt at noise cancellation going on with the instrument.
Then comes the tricky bit – plan to play live! I’ve found having a phone or tablet etc with you on silent mode can help read comments which gives a nice interaction with the audience.
Once again, congratulations to Rosey REPEAT for another superbly organised Love Music/Hate Racism stage at this years Strawberry Fair! Kudos to you for all the work you do for the cause in Cambridge. It is always an honour to play to support the work.
It was also great to see so a stage given to so many young performers, and watching Saltfen (who I had supported the week before) in action left me awestruck once again. These guys are really amazing. As featured on the You Flexi Thing Volume 2 by Repeat Records. And a shoutout the to Baby Seals for a great headline set.
The Oxjam Cambridge 2016 gig happened on Saturday. A mass takeover of 10 Cambridge venues, to raise money for Oxfam.
I played two sets – one at 2468 and other other at The Snug Bar in Cambridge. The former I’d last been into when it was the vaults, the latter I’d not been into since trying to catch up with Paul Richards after a CB2 gig. Though pre-gig I was trying to reminisce with Aidy about the dimensions of when the venue was the old Boat Race. I must have been playing on where the old stage was – it was by the entrance to the toilets! – but I couldn’t quite place the location of the door and the sound desk. And then when I put the bar in place it mentally seemed smaller than it used to be, though maybe it was larger in my memory than in reality.
I did get soaked going between the two venues – a rain storm just fell between the two sets. When I checked the weather in the morning I had been promised dryness. I left the Portland (where I went after performing) early because of this and had a migraine the next day. But nothing compared to what the people for whom these funds were intended go through. Still, got to see The Abstracts perform a really cool set, and bumped into the checkout lady at Waitrose who’d recognised me as Karmadillo the day before when shopping. Fame!
Lots of acts contributed, but special mention must go to the organising crew – especially Sandy Mills – and the sound people for the efforts they put in to making this happen.
The song I was most nervous about showing my fellow band members was Rent Boy, a song about house prices in the UK. It has a lot of changing sections, and the outro was a parody of a song I first heard performed in the early 80s by a chap called Shakin’ Stevens. He was served up as a 60s rocker (I believe the phrase was Teddy Boy) and the song – This Ole House – it turns out was a cover version.
The song being a cover version is something I’d been aware of for a while. What I hadn’t been aware of, until reading this interview on the BBC website, was that this song was actually a clever metaphor for death, and inspired by the songwriter (“singing cowboy” Stuart Hamblen) finding a dead body lying in a deserted shack! The lyrics play with the gospel concept of the mortal body being a “house” for your soul, that gets left behind when you go to “meet the saints”. Not something I’d ever appreciated before.
Ironically I am writing this at 5.30am as the house I am currently renting is next to the A14 and I find myself being awoken by passing heavy goods traffic going along at 60mph every day. Come on guys – if only 300,000 of you purchase Karmadillo albums I’ll be able to buy a decent place of my own!