The Lifeshare Choir

Get behind this great project!

John Blaylock and Jote Osahn are setting up a choir in Manchester for those affected by homelessness.  The Lifeshare Choir is open to anyone, rehearsing once a week at Lifeshare, (Charter Street Ragged School 142 Dantzic Street Manchester, M4 4DN) to perform at various venues and events this Christmas.



John and Jote are Manchester musicians, involved in loads of good stuff, including the community music projects of Brighter Sound, based at Band On The Wall.


John says:

“….One of the root causes of homelessness in Manchester is addiction. The body produces endorphins when we sing and these natural highs can encourage participants to feel more positive about themselves, re-connect them to other people and help them gain confidence and self-esteem. Our performances will also demonstrate to participants and audiences how some hard work and commitment can lead to a great sense of achievement and self worth.”

Music and a bit of social compassion?  What could be better.

I’m getting behind this project with some money from Realstrings and we already have the support of a high profile media composer, which gets the pot to £1000.  But we need to raise another £1000 to cover the costs of materials, facilities and the core hours of John and Jote.

Can you get behind it with a donation?  Message me and I’ll fill you in!

pete [ at ] realstrings [ dot ] com.

Show reel

Blimey!  I’ve been at it 25 years, how did that happen?

I’ve been meaning to do a show reel for most of that time. Done it now, some stuff old and new, not everything I wanted to include, gave myself a 5 mins max rule.

Loads of different artists and styles, endless fun.  It beats working.

Midnight by Un-cut
Father by The Christians
Wrapped Up by Olly Murs
Army of Two by Olly Murs
Cada Vez by Guy Robyn
Ghost of a Chance by Fran Smith
Criminal by Lower Than Atlantis
Gerua by Dilwale
Holding onto Heaven by Foxes
Never Enough by Visage.

Tap Time Tempo

Like it or not,  most music is recorded to a click.  It’s a blessing and a curse.
The click locks us together but at times, can squeeze the very life out of music.

How about we get the click to follow the music for a change? That’s not a daft suggestion.  In most sequencers, you can make a tap-time tempo map.  Here’s how I do it in Logic.

I recorded a few bars of piano without a click, just trying to feel it and phrase it musically.  The timing is free, often called ‘rubato’.
If I want to sequence with this or play along, a click that matches the music would be really useful.

Step 1. Put the first beat of music on beat 1 bar 1, and roughly find the tempo for the first bar.
Step 2. Set up a midi track to tap along with the music from a midi keyboard. A percussion sound is best. (Turn the sequencer click off.)
Step 3. Choices; tap on every beat, or half bar or bar.  For this music, I tap on every half bar.
Step 4. In Logic, the tool you need now is well hidden.
Go to ‘view’ , ‘configure global tracks’ and tick ‘beat mapping’.
Step 5. In global tracks you now have a beat mapping option.  Select your tapped midi track, choose ’beats from region’, I tapped every half bar, go.

And that makes you a tempo map that follows the music, changing tempo on beats 1 and 3 in every bar of 4.  Most likely you will want to play around with some tempo changes to get the click feeling comfortable with the music, you might need some tempo changes on beats 2 and 4.  But now you can play along with your oh-so-natural feeling piano part, with a click and all the features of midi timing.

Music of our time: GoGo Penguin

GoGo Penguin is a Manchester band, signed to the greatest jazz label in the world, Bluenote. They have just released their 3rd album, Man Made Object.

This is All Res.  Why does it sound, and feel, so good?

It’s not jazz.  It’s contemporary music.  Music of our time.  The soundtrack of our lives.  That’s more of a problem with our collective hang-ups about tagging genres than a comment about what Blue Note is best known for.

I imagine being a fly on the wall of the rehearsal room as they put together a new tune;  plenty of spontaneity, busking ideas, interplay, but the tunes are structured and arranged, I’m not hearing much space for improv in the finished article. And please, don’t tell me it’s all written in a sequencer, like the kids do now!

As with all new, original, unique music, it is a development of everything that has gone before.  They have ingested the music they love, and spat it out as the next step forward.  The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and that applies to the sound the trio make as well as their influences

So what can we hear in GoGo Penguin?

Jazz.  I’ll let you have that.  The drumming styles, the raw energy, complex grooves.  Compare GoGo Penguin with the Esbjörn Svensson Trio.  EST was jazz, GoGo Penguin has that breeding, plus social mobility.

Classical.  The thundering pianists – Rachmaninov, Listz, Beethoven – and the delicate piano composers too – Chopin, Debussy and his French mates.  And then hints of all the C20th classical heroes – Stravinsky,  Shostakovich, and the Brits, like Britten, Walton and Vaughan Williams.  The dynamics are ppp to fff.  Minimal to distortion, gradual rises and falls, sudden jumps and drops.  Listen to Unspeakable World or, frankly, any of the tunes.

Pop. Hooks.  Listen to the start of Quiet Mind.

Electronica. Surprising, for an acoustic trio, yet the sound they make (especially live) has the overpowering energry, the experimental edge of electronica.

Dance music.  Mad, drum’n’bass and trip hop stuff, looping grooves, building textures, short repeating riffs, breakdowns and build-ups.  Harmony is at times remarkly simple, they breaks free of chord sequences, playing loosely around a key.

English folk music. Simple, song like melodies, modal harmony, bitter-sweet moods, an organic sound. Listen to the piano melody in Initiate  and the bass at the start of Weird Cat.

Film music. (Cheap catch all, I know). Instantly appealing melodies that float over more complex accompaniment, musical language on many levels, juxtapositions of unlikely bed fellows all over the place.  Pick out any of the high piano melodies, often just a few notes, over a load of busy-ness.  And music in the movies is the one place where we don’t have hang-ups about genres, we accept eclecticism.

Experimental.  It’s not all grooving 4/4 you know, we’re teased with moments of free tempo and time signatures you’d struggle to transcribe, like the opening of All Res.

And despite finding this stuff to try and analyse, I just love how the music makes me feel good in a way I can’t explain.

If you like your music to absorb and inspire you, to lift you up, buy the album, and better still, go to a gig, where they turn it up loud and take you away.


Please read the Wall Street Journal review of this album by Jim Fusilli.

New online audio mixer

In the summer of 2009, my friend Chris Savage made an online audio mixer for me.  I used it to show how I deliver separate stems of my string stuff, and many other musicians have subsequently used it for their own needs.

At the time my wife (who has since left me, hey-ho) was having treatment for cancer, and to get the server files for the mixer I asked for a small donation to Macmillan, the cancer care charity.  We raised over 700 GB pounds.

A couple of years ago I talked to Chris about updating the mixer to html5, to be compatible with more devices.  Shortly after, Chris, who was still a young man, died suddenly.

Now, my friend and colleague Julian Cole has completed the job.  This new mixer will also be a fund-raiser, for suicide prevention charity  Samaritans.  Read into that what you will!


To receive the files and installation instructions, I ask you to make a small donation. donate

If you already donated for the original mixer, let me know if you want the new one and I’ll send you the files without any further cost to you.

The mixer works in recent browsers – Chrome, Firefox and Safari.  You will need to have a basic understanding of html to get the mixer working on your own server.  I managed it, and my html level is very basic.

Hit me with any questions and please share!


Free stuff

Over the years, I’ve made some string files available for free or in exchange for a donation to charity.  Here’s the full list.

These are all copyright free, do anything you like with them.

  • 8 bar phrases.  There are a few files in this zip, recorded back in 2000 at the legendary Cutting Rooms in Manchester.
  • Zadok Just for fun, we recorded the opening section of Handel’s Zadok The Priest. Help yourself to the stems.
  • Mad rise It slides up, in a mad kind of stringy way.
  • Disco pull-downs. Or falls, whatever you want to call them.
  • Held notes string notes, that are held for a few seconds.
  • Lifeshare loops buy these from Loopmasters, with all proceeds going to homeless charity Lifeshare.


The return of Disco Strings

It’s taken me a few years, but finally, a 2nd instalment of Disco Strings, a loops pack of cheeky disco lines, is up on Loopmasters.


The first pack featured on hits by Skrillex and Bakermat and many other productions, I’m sure this 2nd pack is even more useful.

The pack includes 60 phrases, with full mixes and individual stems, plus the usual midi and scores.  And now, you can have a Kontakt version as well.

Here’s a demo track featuring some of the loops.