Happy New Year!
Although it's the start of a new year, my part in series 1 of Scream Street will soon come to a close. I've enjoyed my time on the show...well, I have a couple of months yet so I'll save it until then. Needless to say it's already busy!
By the way, you are reading this blog post on my website. I tend to post here every so often, and my new year resolution is to post here every more often. However, I use social media for everyday posts; so if you want to know the Norwegian for 'Scream Street', or find out where my music is being used around the world, then please do join me on Facebook and / or Twitter. And if you already do, tell your friends! I tend to keep posts music-related, so you won't find any political rantings (there's enough of that around already).
I hope you're having a good start to the year too, and hopefully see you on TwitFace.
Things to inspire
Last year I published a blog post about what inspires us composers to write and record. One of the things I suggested was to make your studio a personal space, with personal items around you that will inspire. Here are some of mine...
PRODUCTION GEEK POST!
Here's my favourite new bit of kit. The NanoKontrol2 from Korg. Only £40, and a great set of transport controls and 8 channel faders. I'm still getting used to it, but already feels good and more intuitive than the keyboard shortcuts / on screen controls.
What's your favourite bit of studio kit at the moment and why? Feel free to post photos on the Facebook thread..
I added some hand claps to this. Fast forward a couple of instruments, I recorded a percussive sounding bass in order to offset the rhythm. The result was a laid back rhythm that gave a rhythmic back bone to the song:
Just as an extra sneak peak, here's what it sounds like with guitar, piano and 'cello parts:
New Studio Monitors
So yesterday my studio monitors decided to give up the ghost (to be fair they've gone full pelt for around four and a half years).
Being on deadlines for Scream Street, it wasn't an option to wait for new ones. I needed to fix or replace them quickly, as working with headphones for extended periods isn't a particularly good idea.
After a consultation with technical guru Rhod I'd ordered these little guys from Andertons in Guildford who offer next day delivery.
So, thanks to Rhod for the tip, and thanks to Andertons for their great service.
Be more creative: record the stairs.
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!
I'm very aware I haven't posted much in a while. Since the Scream Street series started the process has been so slick there hasn't been much that I'm allowed to report ahead of episodes being aired. Needless to say the production team comprising Coolabi, Factory and the BBC is one lovely bunch of people, and I feel really lucky and privileged to be a part of such an amazing project. My Christmas wish is that this time next year I'm still working with them!
2015 has been a musically rewarding year for me. As well as Scream Street, I released the Band of One debut album 'Being Ghosts' in May. I've recently been working on a new song for Band of One which I'm hoping will turn into an EP by the Spring. I've also done bits and pieces with the wonderful creative agency eatsleepthink including composing a superhero theme for the Friends of Alec Syphas, a super heroic little man battling DMD.
On the fun side, I've helped out songwriter and old pal Rhod Williams by playing on his recordings for years now, and this year saw a couple of gigs with his band King & Queen of Sorry, one in a record shop in Birmingham in January and the other at the Birmingham Institute supporting Eric Martin (lead singer of Mr Big). Both were great fun, with the band made up of old friends. That community feeling of playing music together is always a real buzz.
Finally, in September my wife Dani and I moved into our house in Shepperton, which meant I could finally have a creative space that I could treat acoustically and hang some pictures (no such luck in rented property). It's exciting to consider just how much music will be produced in that room over the next few years and I can't wait to get started. I'm always up for conversations about possible collaborations...I'd really like to score a short film in 2016 if time allows, so get in touch if you know of any being planned.
So all that remains is to wish you a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. This afternoon Christmas kicks off for us with the annual viewing of 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' and tomorrow we're going to see the film that everyone's talking about at the moment (no spoilers please!).
Bye for now, and see you on the other side.
So the acoustic treatment is up and carpet is bought. I also bought some little picture frames for album and EP covers to go up - there are a lot of studio hours on that there wall! Once the underlay arrives it should be a fairly painless task (famous last words) to fit the carpet.
It seems like a faff, but after four years of not personalising my studio space, it's reaffirming to do it. I think it's important in a creative area like this to have things around you that will encourage creativity. And once the work on the TV series I'm currently composing for is done, that will be up there too! Well, maybe on another wall (I do have others).
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.