Category Archives: music

How I went VIRAL on TikTok

By Michael Neufeld

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3½ minute read]

A little while back, I went viral on TikTok. At the time of writing this (October 2020), I have thirty-one thousand followers and over half a million likes collectively on my posts. While this isn’t necessarily equivalent to the amount of recognition creators, influencers, and the like have gotten on TikTok, but it’s certainly more recognition than I ever expected to see on the app.

A screenshot of Michael’s viral Tiktok video where he plays the Star Wars theme in a parking garage-almost a quarter million likes!

Since quarantine started, I have been creating short, seven-second to one-minute long videos and posting them on TikTok. Most of them involve me playing trombone in some sort of creative way, whether that is playing along to a popular song, “duetting” someone else’s popular video, or just finding different shenanigans to engage in with my primary instrument. I found a variety of topics on the app, such as musical humor, anime discussion, or other interests of mine, and used those to creatively approach the way I made content. Soon, I found a community of people with similar interests. I connected with jazz musicians across America, who studied at reputable music schools that I knew of. They were all on TikTok for the same reason as me: we had nothing better to do in quarantine.

Over the first few months of COVID-19 lockdown, I had a few successful videos. At first, the bland videos would average around 500 views, while the more popular ones would score a few thousand. The response wasn’t massive, but it was entertaining for me to see which videos gained more of a response than others. I then started a consistent posting schedule which set me up to gain traction. I started one video off by saying “Alright here’s Day 1 of me Rick Rolling your feed until I go viral,” and proceeded to play Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” For those of you unfamiliar with “Rick Rolling,” it is a prank that was popular around ten years ago, where one person would send a YouTube link to someone else, saying it was a link to something interesting. For example, one might have sent the link over a text accompanied by an explanation, “Hey, check out this video I worked hard on making!” The twist comes when the recipient opens the link and is sent to the music video for Rick Astley’s hit song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. After I played day one, I played a harmony to the first track and synced it up, so it sounded like I was playing a duet with myself. The audio at the beginning sounded, “Alright here’s Day 2 of me Rick Rolling your feed until I go viral.” This harmonization process went on for a little over a month, and each video netted me more and more views. I broke 500 followers, which at the time felt like a big achievement.

Michael’s early attempts to go viral

I kept making videos and nothing of note happened for a couple months, aside from a couple hits that broke thirty thousand views. Then I got an idea: “I need to practice, but I don’t have a practice room available because of COVID restrictions. Because I make too much noise in my apartment, I need to go to a parking structure to get some privacy and not disturb anyone. Maybe I’ll film myself in that resonant, echoey space and see what happens on TikTok.” Within the first five videos of me playing in a high-reverb parking garage, I jumped fifteen thousand followers over the course of two days. The culprit was a video of me playing the force theme from Star Wars (or “Binary Sunset” by it’s official name). That video currently is close to hitting one million views, with almost a quarter million likes.

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Bored During Quarantine? Here’s How to Get Started Learning a Musical Instrument!

by Michael Neufeld

Note from the Editor: We understand that buying new instruments might not be financially possible right now. There are cheaper alternatives out there, but this is what the author recommends as an option.

By now, you’re probably sick of avoiding the sick. What is left to do when you’ve already exhausted your favorite TV shows, read all your books, and grown tired of your arsenal of video games or other hobbies? A great idea would be to learn a new musical instrument! As a music student at Thornton, I already know a few instruments, but I’m taking this opportunity to improve my skills and even to learn a new one. Here’s a brief guide detailing some things to consider when starting out.

Photo from PXHere

The starting place for learning a new instrument is first acquiring an instrument to learn. There are many places to start for something like this, so normally it’s best to go into a physical store and talk to someone who can help you figure out what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, with coronavirus so pressing, it may be a little difficult to go somewhere like Guitar Center to get that help, and you may have to resort to ordering online. Here are a few options to help you get an idea!

For acoustic guitar: There are three examples I have for you as far as price and quality of instrument go. First, the guitar I currently play on is an older Takamine guitar, so it isn’t listed on Amazon; however a similar model is this Takamine Acoustic-Electric for $700. The professional features of a model like this include a beautifully resonant body and a dependable neck for being in tune. The biggest contributor to the cost is the “plug-in” part, with a tuner and some other fancy options on it. However, that’s an example of a very high-end instrument. The average beginner guitar that I started on when I was ten years old is the Baby Taylor for about $350. What you’re getting with this is a smaller guitar with an open body that provides nice resonance for a good sound, and still smaller distances between frets to make it easier for people with smaller hands, or just newcomers to playing guitar. And a cheap case (a necessity) is included if it is bought on Amazon! Still a little outside of your price range? Perfectly understandable if you aren’t ready to commit to a pricier instrument. The cheapest I found at first glance on Amazon is this basic beginner’s guitar set at $44.99. Included is everything you need to get started: a case, a tuner, a pick, a strap, and even extra strings! The tradeoff, though, is you may sacrifice some of its ability to keep in tune, and it might not be quite as resonant. Whatever you choose will be good for if you are just starting off!

Photo from UIHere
Continue reading Bored During Quarantine? Here’s How to Get Started Learning a Musical Instrument!

5 of the Best Music Venues in Los Angeles

By Michael Neufeld

Did you know that there is an opportunity all over the Los Angeles area to see great musical performances?

Los Angeles is home to the largest music scene on America’s west coast. In fact, many people argue it is the best place to see musical performances in the nation. Many clubs and bars are open late into the night with a host of musical groups performing. Many theaters exist in Downtown LA, Hollywood, and across the rest of the Los Angeles area. With so many venues, there is never a lack of live music to go see. Here are five of the best places to go see music:

1. Greek Theatre

Photo from Wikipedia

The Greek Theatre is one of the more well known music venues in Los Angeles. This outdoor theater is only open during certain months, typically closed during the colder parts of the year. It’s a great place to go see not only musical groups, but comedians and other forms of live entertainment. With its outdoor atmosphere, one can be in a natural setting amongst greenery under the stars at late night performances. The theatre is located in Griffith Park and seats 5,900 people.

2. El Rey

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

El Rey Theatre literally translates to “The King Theatre,” which makes sense when you see its regal interior. This all-ages venue has been home to both world-famous musicians and local, upcoming newbies. Interestingly, the theatre has committed itself to reducing the environmental impact it has. Although El Rey is a standing-only venue, it is a great place to go see shows.

3. Hollywood Bowl

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

You may have heard of this one before. In one episode of the cartoon “Tom and Jerry,” the cat and mouse duo hilariously go back and forth attempting to conduct a symphonic orchestra performing in a cartoon version of this theatre. The Hollywood Bowl is recognizable by its half-dome-shaped interior, though it is an outdoor theatre. Seating 17,500 people, the venue boasts a wide variety of music, from classics like Mozart to newer music masters like Herbie Hancock.

4. The Wiltern

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

This indoor venue features some of the most ground-breaking performances of music in Los Angeles. The Wiltern is recognizable from a distance by its height compared to surrounding buildings. The theatre seats between 1,850 to 2,300 people, depending on if the ground floor is a standing room or not.

5. Walt Disney Concert Hall

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, this concert hall is easily recognized by its distinct architecture. Like the Hollywood Bowl, the Walt Disney Concert Hall presents varied music, from the LA Phil to Herbie Hancock. This concert hall features an enormous pipe organ and a gorgeous interior. With over 2,000 seats on all sides of the orchestra, you’ll never have enough to look at, or even listen to. 

Tickets and a calendar for performances for the Greek Theatre, El Rey, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Wiltern can be found on their websites. Tickets and a calendar for the Walt Disney Concert Hall can be found on the LA Phil website.

Featured image by Floyd B. Bariscale on Flickr

Michael is a junior majoring in Jazz Studies at the Thornton School of Music. He lived in Fresno, California until moving to L.A. for college. In his free time, he can be found practicing the trombone, or playing video games. Michael has traveled all around North America, and he loves getting to know new people, listening to stories, and being a friend to others.