Category Archives: string_arranging

All in one place

It’s long been a problem for us folks dabbling with social media and publishing online – where the hell do you do it!  I’ve resisted using any sort of aggregator that puts the same post on all the platforms.  I know it can be frustrating opening up Twitter for a fix, only to open up Instagram and getting exactly the same fix, as 1 post is sent to both platforms.

So I’m going with Facebook for now – my (not so weighty) blog posts will now be here >


I’m a musician and a punter.  With my musician head on, I’m concerned about income from streaming services, with my punter head on, I like streaming! I tried Apple Music for a while, found the interface a bit clunky and then it stopped working on my desktop machine (I think I needed to do an OS updated or something I resented at that moment). So I moved to Spotify and it does what I want; I can listen to music easily at any time and the interface doesn’t piss me off.

We all hope we can leave some sort of legacy – personally and professionally – and with the recent death of a close friend who was a mastering engineer who created a playlist of tracks he’d worked on, I decided to do the same.

Music copyright and broadcasting

Being a musician. It’s not a proper job, obviously.  It’s something you do for fun isn’t it?  But, amazingly, musicians actually expect to get paid when their music is broadcast on TV or radio.  Here’s how it works, roughly speaking, for a commercially released song.

You compose a piece of music, a bunch of musicians record it, a record label releases it so TV and radio stations will broadcast it.  That short, innocuous sentence is laden with legal rights.  And, frankly, mind boggling complexity.

The people  who composed the music own the copyright in the notes and lyrics.  They usually share that copyright with a publisher (who rarely actually publishes anything like sheet music). The publisher earns his money by making sure the music gets broadcast on tv and radio and does the stuff related to that.  Hopefully.

The musicians who play the music own rights as performers.

The record label who paid the studio to record it owns rights in the recording.  Often the music publisher and the record label are different parts of the same music company.

In order to keep it simple (ha ha) all these people expecting dosh when music is broadcast use 2 main companies to do the admin – PRS (Performing Rights Society) and PPL (Phonographic Performance Limited).

So, show me the money.  If a broadcaster had to negotiate payments with everyone separately the world would spontaneously combust, so they do the deal with the 2 companies that represent all those music types – PRS and PPL.  A broadcaster pays for a blanket licence from PRS and PPL, in other words an agreed annual fee based on all sorts of things, like how many people they broadcast to and how many hours of music they play.

PRS represents composers and publishers.  PPL represents performers and record labels.  That’s (more or less) it.  Can you improve on this, whilst keeping it succinct?  Tell me!

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.  


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!