Some Final Thoughts On Sweetwater’s Gearfest ’11

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Sweetwater was a great experience with a lot of great clinics and workshops, performances, and sales.  Though I do think there are a couple of things they could do to improve upon it to make next year better event and so help me God if this voice of mine on the internet is good for anything then it’s gotta be this.

Songwriting workshops:
There was a workshop divided into two parts based around songwriting.  On day one it was presented by Mike Cawley who did a perfectly fine job, but the primary focus of his discussion was the lyrical aspect of the show.  The second part was entitled “Songwriting Critique” and was presented on day two by a few guys (a songwriter, a producer, a record label rep, and the owner of CD baby) and the primary discussion was the process of getting music on the radio.  There was very little actual critique or discussing of song writing to be found and I was a bit lamented because of that.

What I suggest:
More people talking about writing music.  A bit expected of a conclusion, I know.  I have no idea how many people will agree with me on this, but I’m far more interested in putting notes together to hear sounds than I am with trying to get on the radio.  I have a song I wrote about decapitating Mrs. Butterworth.  I’m not worried about being on the radio.  I clearly wasn’t part of the demographic that was for and I couldn’t really take anything home with me because of that.  Mike Cawley and the guy from CD Baby were cool, though.

Hands-on demos:
There were several hands-on demonstrations of a few things running the course of their own schedule alongside everything else throughout the days.  There were three different demonstrations.  Intro to Logic, Intro to Pro Tools 9, and Songwriting 101 (which was in Garage Band).  They were about an hour long and walked you through some basic functions of the given software they had at the time and in the end felt like they were mostly filler for people waiting on something bigger to happen elsewhere.

What I suggest:
I’m a big fan of hands on demonstrations as I feel it makes me more a part of what’s going on.  Naturally I think that Sweetwater has a real gem on their hands with these things, they just need to be developed more.  Of course that looks good on paper, but when your time slot competes with Alan Parsons most people probably aren’t going to show up, so I can certainly understand why people might argue against bothering.

Hell.  I’m kinda curious as to how hard it’d be to get a battle of the bands type thing running there. They already encourage people to bring their basses and guitars for string changes.  Maybe encourage drummers to bring their kit too or supply a kit and some of the equipment to perform.  That sounds good on paper too and approximately 100% (rounding down because I like to add a margin for error) of the things I say that sound good on paper work out better when put into motion, so go nuts.

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Kyle Smitchens

Kyle Smitchens is the Guitar-Muse Managing Editor, super hero extraordinaire, and all around great guy. He has been playing guitar since his late teens and writing personal biographies almost as long. An appreciator of all music, his biggest influences include Tchaikovsky, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Vai, Therion, and Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy.

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Chuck Surack
11 years ago

Great points guys! I’ll be sure to pass your comments on to our planning team. Believe it or not, we are already starting to work on next year’s GearFest.

I am not sure about a battle of the bands…there is so much going on already. 🙂

I am glad you enjoyed GearFest and thank you for coming.

Bob Gallagher
Bob Gallagher
11 years ago

I, too, enjoyed the Gear Fest and I really enjoyed the Friday AM songwriting workshop. My hotel alarm clock didnt go off Sat. AM so I missed the Saturday session. However, I came away with a ton of GREAT notes from the Mike Cawley session. I agree that having more Songwriting related workshops would have been nice, however, in the same breath I recognize that this event was entitled “Gear Fest”. With that in mind and having worked a number of years in Music Retail, I can see why there was more emphasis on recording, production, hardware and sound. However…., from one perspective and being a Cubase guy, I can see where someone might have jokingly called it the “Sweetwater Apple Fest” 😉 One of the highlights of my time there was being able to spend some quality time chatting and joking around with Johhny Hiland and Ron Luttrick, They are truly 2 down to earth and friendly musicians. Being able to buy an SM-58 for $58 was nice too! As far as a suggestion for future Gear Fests? I would really like it if most of the amps and some electric guitars were in one tent and then in another tent have most of the electric guitars going into clean pre-amps with headphones to hear the “real” sound of the guitars. That same tent could also have some Eleven Racks, Line 6 Pod HDs and similar devices available for use to the hear the guitars with effects and distortions but ALSO via headphones. FYI! Thanks for having the Line 6 POD HD Giveaway! That is so awesome of you to do. In fact, I am heading to that contest as soon as I finish this. BG

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