Milner targets songs for advertisement markets

Paul Watson, Lamp Staff

Many college degrees are gateways to careers after they are awarded. This is not the case with Jeff Milner, a Lincoln Land student studying music, who is using the concepts and skills he learned in the classroom to create and produce his own music and help produce other musicians.

Last summer, music professor Jason Waddell contacted Milner to participate in a music project for Phrygian Frog, Waddell’s music publishing company and recording label. The goal was to write, record and produce ten songs for submission to a music library. 

Milner was responsible for three instrumental songs. Waddell contributed three songsNigel Tiller, a former LLCC music student, did three, too. Kahlil Johnson, a current LLCC music student, was responsible for one song. Milner wrote and performed three songs in the rock or hip-hop genre that were two to three minutes in length. 

A music library is a resource for commercial music. Companies search their library of songs for background music for advertisementsCompanies pay royalties for whatever songs are selected. If Milner’s song was selected, he would be paid the writer’s share of the royalty and Waddell would be paid the publisher’s share. It is also possible for a company to request customizations, which would be a special deal. 

Waddell has submitted five of the planned ten songs to a music library, including two of Milner’s songs. Milner said all recording has been finished, mixing and mastering are in process, and promotion needs to be planned.

Milner said songs destined for a music library had to be planned and designed in such a way so that a human voice or voices could be clearly heard against the musical background. 

The instrumentation used in Milner’s songs consists of a drum set, electric bass, electric guitar, MIDI keyboard, and unique sounds.  Waddell performed the guitar parts. Milner played the other instruments. Both men participated in mixing and mastering Milner’s songs.

Milner used audio design techniques he learned from digital audio design classes he took as part of the audio production certificate. For one song, he designed a unique sounding siren from a sine wave, generated in digital audio software, which he processed through a digital flanger. The flanging effect is created by mixing a signal with a delayed version of itself.

Milner designed another unique sound by bending a single note on a guitar string and processing it through digital amplifier software and pedals to distort the sound.

Besides recording, mixing and mastering music, Milner can also play music. In fact, he is practically an entire band. Milner can play the drum set, vibraphone, xylophone, timpani, acoustic and electric guitar, and bass. Since attending LLCC, he has added piano to his acoustic arsenal. 

Milner believes his music studies have helped improve his songwriting. “I can use more complex chord progressions and more complex melodic lines and harmonies because of my music theory training and now that I am practicing more on my guitar and piano. I know where I want the song to go and I know what I want it to do. It’s only improving my songwriting.”

Like homework, music projects can be concurrent with overlapping assignments competing for free time. Concurrent with finishing the music library project, Milner performs other mixing duties, consults on other song projects, is editing a seven-minute song down to three minutes, and is in discussions to play drums on nine tracks for another musician.

Milner also makes time for practicing guitar and piano, since these are the newest instruments he has added to his skillset. He considers himself at the beginner to intermediate level of play. 

Because of his drumming experience, rhythm does not pose any issues for Milner, he concentrates on melody and muscle memory. 

“The rhythm element comes easier to me than the melodic or harmonic elements, but with piano I have previous experience with mallet instruments, like xylophone or marimba, so I understand the layout of the piano because it is exactly the same,” Milner said. “It’s just getting my fingers to work together that’s the hardest part for me. I feel like it’s the hard part for a lot of other people, as well.”

He records all his practice sessions because impromptu playing or jamming may provide chord progressions, melodic lines or riffs that he could use in later songwriting projects. He enjoys playing rock and country music because he grew up listening to those genres. He also likes to try different genres such as jazz or hip hop in his practice sessions to broaden his skills.

Milner is currently completing general education requirements. At the end of the summer semester, he plans to earn an associate degree in fine arts and a certificate in audio production from LLCC. Also, during the summer, Milner plans to complete the audition requirement for admission into Western Illinois University this fall. For his audition, Milner will be playing percussion.

According to its online catalog, “Western Illinois University is committed to facilitating the best transfer experience possible.” WIU has a 2 + 2 Articulation Agreement with LLCC that creates a “2-year degree plan for an Associate degree and a subsequent 2-year plan to complete a [Bachelor of Music in Music Business degree].”

During 2018, Milner spent part of his LLCC summer break providing audio recording expertise for a friend who was directing a short film while attending the University of Missouri.

When he is not attending class, completing homework, or working on music projects, Milner writes songs and plays drums for the worship band for his church, when the drummer is unavailable.