The Sound Boutique Presents...DownTime
Here's a story of weird coincidence and what transpired.
Earlier this year I wrote an album called 'Strange Emotions' for a new library. When I was close to finishing it I met with Ethan at the library to say hello and discuss potential follow up writing. Later that day I met up with 50 or so other composers for dinner (yes, it happens!), and I randomly sat next to a guy called Mike Holt who, it transpired, had been at the same library half an hour later, having much the same meeting. How weird is that? Wait, it gets weirder, it turns out we had both told Ethan exactly the same thing, that the tracks that seem to perform best are happy clappy, ukulele-filled whistle fests. So we decided to make an album together, and now it's been published.
Now available for licensing (just click on the album cover), this album was 'simply uplifting' to make, and hopefully I'll get to collaborate more with Mike in the future.
I'm delighted to announce a new album, 'Drama Underscores' is now live. Written exclusively for fabulous production music library No Sheet Music, it will hopefully show a more dramatic side to my music.
Click on the album cover to hear tracks at the No Sheet Music website.
Well, a curse and a blessing really. I realised the other day that my mood is directly tied to the amount of creativity I'm consuming. I previously thought it was tied to stress levels, general contentment etc. It wasn't until I was flicking through Twitter (oh, the irony) and seeing new things being released or created that I noticed my mood physically changing.
I saw some new animation transitions for the next Android OS (see, the curse of the creative brain). I saw the band Lo Moon tweeting and made me think of their debut album I discovered this week. I saw Paddington 2 has been released, really looking forward to seeing that. The Last Jedi deleted scenes? I'll put the kettle on! Oh, and the look and feel of that Blue Zoo animated short 'Via'...it all came out of the brain of concept artist Izzy Burton. How cool is that?
I then saw that Will Belcher of Aardman is nominated for an animation award for Shaun the Sheep. I saw that composer and sound designer Matt Bowdler invited female composers to make an album using his soundsets and sample libraries to celebrate International Women's Day and raise money for Women's Aid.
On top of that I'm busy creating. Two library albums are at the mixing stage and I'm gearing up to release my first Real World Sounds sound pack next week.
So if you need to add a spring to your step today, look around at all the new things being created. You won't have to look very far.
It's important to celebrate the small victories.
Today the last episode of Scream Street series 1 was signed off. I'm incredibly proud to have worked on this amazing stop-motion series, and thankful to be given the opportunity. Fingers crossed for series 2!
There will now be a short break followed by more relentless music-making - watch this space for more details in the near future.
I've started writing this at 10am in a local coffee shop. On a week day. Ooh, you might think, isn't he lucky to be swanning around drinking coffee while the rest of us are working?
The reality is very, very different. I've worked in a few different industries in my adult working life, some office-based, one classroom-based, all - apart from the current one as a media composer - have been dictated by the hours given to me.
Nowadays I'm driven by a different parameter:
How can I be the most creative I can be?
Here are a few (not all) of the things I've learned along the four+ years I've been composing music professionally.
1. It's not about the 9 to 5.
This was a difficult one for me after so many years of routine. Getting up at a certain time and being in a certain place used to = productivity. It took me a while to realise that sitting at the computer and waiting for the ideas to form wasn't the best way to use my time. If I was given a deadline two weeks away there had to be a better way than that. I quickly realised that time away is a brilliant way of generating ideas. Next time you're stuck, just go for a walk. I promise you by the time you get back to your desk you'll have the beginning of something.
2. Think about the tools you need, not about the tools you have.
Once I found my new way of working, I naturally started veering towards routine again, this time in the tools I was using. Now, for something like a TV series it's important for me to use the same instruments and musical motifs for each episode and character, but it shouldn't necessarily be the case for everything I do. So I've started to approach anything new with the attitude that I don't have any tools. How can I realise this? What do I need to get it done? A much better starting point.
3. Personalise your space.
Another factor that didn't hit me until it happened (why would it?) is to consider my environment. Since turning pro I've worked from home, and for a few years this meant in a rented property where I couldn't hang anything on the walls, I couldn't decorate etc, so while I had a space for work it wasn't a particularly inspiring space. Now I have album art and other personal things surrounding me. It makes a difference.
4. Work at your craft.
Finally, and possibly the most important, is to work at your craft. For me that one piece of advice at the start of 'keep composing, even if you don't have a deadline', may be the best single piece of advice I've received regarding creativity. You can network 'til you're blue in the face, but if you don't retain the passion for what you do by losing yourself in it and trying to get better at it, what's the point?
So, as I sit here sipping my coffee, I know that I'll get the job done, by going back to the studio refreshed and feeling creative. Who knows, maybe I'll knock off early.
Be more creative. My single new year resolution. In this day and age it's so easy to rely on instrument samples to get a good sound that we often forget to listen to what's around us. The possibilities are endless, and while I don't have the time to spend my days recording everything around me I recently found an unusual opportunity.
At home, we have been waiting to carpet the stairs (it's a long story, ask me about it sometime). One day it struck me that the wooden stairs make a pretty nice sound, and I wondered that if I recorded them in a variety of ways, maybe I could produce some samples to use in my music.
What I used:
Next, I experimented with different ways of 'playing' the stairs, keeping in mind I wanted to basically replicate a drum kit. I found that thumping the corner stair created a deep, boomy bang that could be used as a bass drum, a regular drum stick could provide a rim shot (usually when you hit the metal edge of a snare drum with a drum stick), and the hi-hat and tom-tom work could be replicated using the brushes. I concentrated on the top two steps for their vicinity to the microphone.
Now, I have a particular piece of music that I wanted these samples for, so I set the click up on the DAW for that tempo. If I'd had more time I would have used the brushes to create more tempos, but certainly the bass hits and the rim shots can be used in any tempo at a basic level. I'll tweak more and work with the EQs and reverbs to get it sounding the way I want, but here's a basic beat:
Finally I started recording some upright piano and double bass as part of the song I'm writing. I think the stairs will sit in the mix really well. Simplicity is key here, so I'm looking forward to getting the song finished and recorded in order to put my producer hat on to decide what the song requires and how to record the rest of it. So here's a little taster I threw together (again, I'll take more time but this gives you an idea):
So, January is turning out to be pretty creative. If you are writing or composing, don't forget the sounds around you. They can be inspiring and motivating, and to use the sound around us in music is the most natural thing in the world and can give your music a truly unique feel. Good luck, and let me know how you get on!
The day has finally arrived. After months of secretly beavering away in the music cave, I can now share the news that I'm composing all the incidental music for a brand new animated series called 'Scream Street', now airing on CBBC.
It's a frighteningly funny gross out comedy, with the theme tune and some songs credited to the talented Joseph Rowe, a stellar voice cast and, most importantly for us behind-the-scenes people, a super friendly, uber talented production team. I'm so pleased to be a part of it and excited to hear what you all think!
So for those of you who don't know, me and the good lady wife have upped and moved from Kingston to Shepperton after buying our house. That means a new studio space that I can actually treat, which is a novelty after living in a rented property for four years.
It's now painted ('cosy grey', goes nicely with the sofa), and the acoustic treatment has arrived. It's a small room so soundproofing is impossible, but I'm hoping the acoustic treatment will stop the sound travelling too far. All I need now is the velcro tape to put it up, and to sort out fitting a carpet.
I tend not to worry too much about the minutiae of acoustics science. As long as I have a room that is fairly sensibly set up, I won't obsess about how the sound is coming out of the speakers (I will know very quickly if it sounds wrong). Sure, if I had the cash, I'd build a sound-proof brick studio at the end of the garden, but for now that's not possible. Instead, I'll let common sense prevail and restrict speaker use to the day time to avoid complaints! And right now it's all about the music, so I can't wait to get stuck into another episode of the TV project I'm working on next week.
Have yourselves a very Happy Friday.
Posts by Gareth Davies.