Monthly Archives: May 2010

Expose Yourself!

You probably don’t even stop to think about it, but if you are a musician and you write online (blogs, forums, social networks), you are topping up the vast library of learning resources by exposing your methods.

Communities share knowledge, and by reading, discussing, analysing and mashing-up this knowledge, we learn.  Do you feel you give knowledge, or take it?  Don’t answer that, because the response is most likely both!

But if we are happy to take knowledge from the web, do we have a responsibility to give as well?  We know that technology has changed the way we work and learn and communicate, but maybe it’s changed society too, and with it, social responsibility –  a responsibility to contribute to knowledge, to share ideas that will in turn help others to learn.

What can you tell others about your professional practice?   Just informal stuff, personal to your way of working, perhaps to do with workflow, or creativity, or musical language, or technology; we all have specialisms or unique takes on the business of making music.  There are some great examples at SCOREcastonline, but sharing knowledge isn’t  restricted to seasoned professionals; whatever stage in your professional experience you may have reached, you will have something to share.  And equally, we all have something new to learn.

In the big world of formal education they are trying to understand how all this informal stuff fits in.  What is the role of teachers, now that we can manage our own learning on the web?  Why should we freely share our knowledge and skills online?

I put this last question to David Kernohan, a programme manager for the eLearning Team at JISC, the UK’s leading organisation promoting technology for learning.

“As well as exposing the quality of our own practice, we are offering a model of that practice to others just starting out in the field. Does this mean giving away the secrets of that one amazing guitar lick that means you always get booked? – well eventually someone is going to copy it anyway. And why not come up with something else? Licks don’t stay fresh forever. But your practice regime, how you approach auditions and interviews, how you *get* auditions and interviews – why not share this? Or a couple of short samples of your work. If someone uses a (cc-licensed) drum fill in a production then (1) you get a credit for work that you wouldn’t otherwise have got, which means (2) you get your name under the noses of people who wouldn’t otherwise see it.”

David is active in promoting the work of the OER (Open Educational Resources) community and this quote is published under a CC-BY license.

So go on, expose yourself.  You’ll get something from the experience and you’ll be fulfilling a little C21 social responsibility.  Here are some  music blogs that expose professional practice:

Ken Lewis (music producer, NY NY)

Tim Prebble (sound designer and editor, Wellington, New Zealand)

James Semple (composer, London, England)

Ian Shepherd (mastering engineer and producer, London, England)

Abbey Road

Over the years, the chance to work at Abbey Road has come up a few times but for one reason and another, I’d never managed to make it happen, until yesterday, 17th May 2010.

The session was for Ian Livingstone and the music was for the 2010 Formula 1 video game being developed by Codemasters.  My role was to prepare the score and parts from Ian’s midi and audio and help to make sure they were well executed on the session.

No great surprise that the musical and engineering team were excellent and everything ran without a hitch, with a phenomenal result.    We were in studio 2 and word was that Sting was in studio 1 and Eric Clapton in 3.

Arranging strings for Letter by Rhymefest

The creative and technical process of making music is fascinating and I wish more musicians would expose their own professional practice.

Here’s my short contribution – a video that explores how I came to put strings on Rhymefest’s song ‘Letter’ and some suggestions about how to approach arranging strings.

I am an entirely amateur video maker who believes video is such a great communicator! I’m using Snapz Pro to make screen shots and Final Cut Express to edit.

The picture of a song

What does a song look like?  If you could represent the shape, character and feel of a song graphically, how would it look?

I’ve played around with this concept for a while; it’s something that helps me, as an arranger, to get inside music and understand how it works.   I’m interested in getting a clear vision of musical form because as we listen to music, we hear only the moment, and while we are aware of what has gone before and we anticipate what is to come, we can’t easily grasp the sensation (and especially the detail) of the whole thing.

I’m no graphic designer!  I played around with some basic graphics programmes and for my 1st attempt I’m using Comic Life!

Does this give you an overall picture of a song?

The choruses are warm, smooth, rounded.
The verses are dark, heavy and jagged.
The middle 8 is a complete contrast that drops in intensity and builds towards another chorus.
The 4th chorus starts to thin out.
The outro is a chorus that fades.