In my quest to become better at composing music-to-picture (film music composition), I set out to find a short film clip to compose to. The exercise was two-fold in that I had small Logic X projects set aside as ideas that could be used as film cues or similar. In reviewing them a few weeks back, I came across one entitled “1st Encounter”, which I first composed, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was getting underway in April 2020.. The track, I thought, was reminiscent of something you may here during some sort of battle scene. Being only 28 seconds long, I began to work with various arrangements of it while thinking of different science fiction battle scenes and how this track could possibly fit.
After that exercise, I decided to search Youtube in hopes of finding some footage that was similar to what I’d been imagining. Searching on a combination of keywords such as “encounter”, “first encounter”, “battle scene” and similar, soon proved to be exhausting…until I came across videos about Dune 2021. It didn’t take me long afterwards to find a scene what would pretty much be perfect for the length of “1st Encounter”. The scene is the beginning of the Atreides vs Harkonnen & Sardaukar battle footage. I removed the initial music during the ships approach, then further worked with the tracks in “1st Encounter” by applying track automation where necessary and adding other elements to help describe the emotion of the scene. I call it a work in progress (WIP) because although the scene is short (34 seconds), I have additional, but minor, ideas that I could try to further flesh the composition out, however I think I’ll leave it as is. The result is below.
It turned out to be useful exercise in a number of ways but, most importantly, it’s further motivated me to continue with these rescore exercise to improve myself as I take this journey. I hope you enjoyed it. Comments are welcome.
Please feel free to subscribe to my YouTube page if you’re interested in more.
Greetings all. This year, I’ve decided to focus my efforts in one of two areas of music production:
1 – Composing music for film/TV/media
2 – Sync Licensing
The first item I have some experience with, coming from scoring the ten-episode web YouTube webseries entitled “At Risk – The Series”, back in 2017. The second is uncharted territory that I’ve been planning to explore and traverse for two years now, and is the topic for an entirely different group of blog posts. The following actually applies to both. I’m sharing advice and considerations from the current mental state I’m in and the approaches I plan to undertake to push beyond said state.
“Writing for film has its own set of rules and skills thatmust be mastered. Just because you can write apop song doesn’t mean you can write a score forfilm (and vice versa). I often hear musicians sayingthat they would like to be film composers. They write a song and say something like ‘that sounds like something that would be good in a film score’. Just kind of messing around and ending up with something that sounds ‘soundtracky’ and actually writing something that adds to a film and enhances a scene is something completely different; not to mention the overhanging loom of unrealistic deadlines.”
“The First Step
As you can see, we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning the craft of writing for film. Like any other endeavour, it starts with a single step. Take what you know so far and grow from there. If you’re an electronic musician, try writing to certain scenes with your current set up. With all of the videos online, there is no lack of sources to write to. Start with your instrument and grow from there. Try some of the ideas I’ve listed here (for example writing for certain instruments). If it’s all completely new to you, get some material and get started. Try writing something right away. As soon as you learn a new skill, use it in your writing and memorize it as quickly as possible.
(excerpt from “Writing Music for Film: First Steps by Robert Maddocks / January 18, 2010)
“More often that not when someone is stuck and can’t move forward it’s because the person don’t know what to move forward with. The potential of infinite choices leads them to make none. Think of the car salesman, who doesn’t ask “Do you want this car?” (infinite reasons yes and no), but instead asks “Do you want it in red or blue?” (a very simple choice and your brain will make one)
Don’t worry about doing things the right way, or the way you’ve seen someone else do it. Just focus on what works for you and allows you to actually output work instead of just thinking about outputting work.”
(excerpt from “How To Kill Writers Block and Start Composing Now” by Robin Leach/16 Aug 2013)
8. WRITER’S BLOCK (HOW TO UNBLOCK YOUR CREATIVE COLON)
Composing and computers are an uneasy marriage. Step away from your mac or PC and go for a walk. Motion and creativity are better bedfellows, if you’re sitting at your workstation you’re in the wrong bed! Don’t think of work as work if you don’t do any composition there… If the park is where your ideas come to you, that’s your work! Analysts feel that true creativity is when you’re in the moment. This will be when the desk of your mind is clear. Usually when there isn’t anything you need to think about other than what you’re doing. No one is about to turn up, the bills haven’t just hit your doormat, and there’s not someone bugging you on Facebook. Many people say early mornings are the most creative time as you’ll be free of disturbance or distraction. However I would argue, this is the most productive time. For many, creativity happens just at the moment that they’ve decided to leave the door. This is the moment when you’ve decided you’re finished… This is when you’re in the moment. Try to sit at your piano at this point and if anything comes, note it down somehow. For me a very rough charcoal sketch of a tune or cue will enable you to wake up and ponder it in the bath in the morning. Then by applying those magic productive early hours to a preconceived concept you will reap the biggest turnover of material.
(excerpt from “10 Rules of Media Composition – The Spitfire Labs Team/Spitfire Audio)
Louisa Rainbird: Definitely play to your strengths – it’s better to be known as a great composer in a few key areas than to try and cover all bases, particularly when the genres and styles covered by production libraries are so vast. Also, look at what is being used currently across film, advertising and different TV genres to give you an idea of what the trends in each area are – there’s no easier research to do, just turn on the TV!
Brian Bennett: Be original. Be brave. Take risks. Believe in yourself and your music. Don’t get complicated. It’s all about the picture. Make great demos. Don’t let a client guess what you mean. Keep the music in the same or relative key to make the music editor’s life easy. Be prepared to make changes. If a client doesn’t like your music, it doesn’t mean its crap, it means they’re looking for something else. Don’t get too precious about your notes.
Sophie Urquhart: I would advise composers to do their research on the libraries that will most suit their style of music. And listen to their advice, they are specialists in what broadcasters and sync people are looking for and can help mould their style accordingly to give it the best shot of being used, hopefully numerous times!
Also, I’d encourage them to focus on where their strengths lie, better to be an expert in their field rather than a jack of all trades. There’s more competition than ever before so it’s crucial that they have an identity which sets them apart from the rest.
(excerpt from “How to Get Into Composing Library Music – Anita Awbi/ 3 Jan 2019)
That said, permit me to reintroduce a re-scrore of a Mercedes Benz CLS promo I completed a little over a year ago. It’s the first of many reels I have planned to showcase my work, and progression of such, in the future.
Greetings all and Happy 2022. I hope this new year is starting out well for you and will continue in that fashion.
Back in November 2021, I posted an quick portrait about the main studio space I work out of, Studio A. Since then, I was saving up for a computer upgrade and found a nice sale price on an M1 Mac mini to replace the current (and still capable) mid-2011 Mac mini. Since that computer is already 11 years old, I decided to replace it with a newer Mac for (at least) future proofing in the years to come (the older one is now in Studio C, the subject of a future Quick Portrait post).
With the new Mac comes not only the expected advanced OS, but a new (as of 2020) Apple M1 Silicon chip architecture. The result of that is determining what software, most (if not all) of which is now 64-bit vs 32-bit architecture, along with current hardware that has to now run on the M1 architecture as well. The research (which is ongoing) involves continually watching a particular music production software developer website, Native Instruments, for updates on how they are coming along announcing how many of their products are compatible with the current Mac OS (Monterey), and the M1 architecture. The official compatibility comes via the completion of successful regression testing and the announcement of them now being able to support trouble tickets for user submitted issues. Of course, there are many Native Instruments products that do work with Monterey BUT are not officially supported.
Thus far, I seem to be fine on the software side for my needs, however, my current digital audio interface is an entirely different story. While my Mac came shipped with the prior OS, Big Sur, my MOTU 828Mk3 Firewire audio interface is no longer officially supported. Be that as it may, fervent web searches resulted in finding out that there are users that have gotten it to work not only with Big Sur, but Monterey. I’m halfway there in that I’ve successfully installed the unit’s audio driver, however the interface driver is showing as outdated, and cannot be installed (despite it working for others as of Sept 2021, though my initial thinking is there as been a dot upgrade to Big Sur since Sept 2021, which is what I have, and suspect this is the issue). I’ve replied to those who do have it working in hopes of realizing a similar solution on my end – now to play the waiting game. I’m saying all this to say it is my way of trying to avoid spending at least $400 on their lowest of the line audio interface that will be compatible with my OS. I broke down and purchased a newer, yet older, MOTU 828x digital audio interface that should be here by the weekend.
In the meantime, I’ve upgraded to a 34″ ultra wide monitor and incorporated a USB-C hub with M.2 NVME SSD and 2.5 SATA SSD support for additional memory and ports, (see the connection diagram below)
I also got a good deal on a new 8TB desktop SATA drive that will be used for Time Machine backups. So far, I’m happy with the upgrades, but just need to get started on and continue with projects on deck. I should be receiving the final upgrade piece, the 1TB NVME SSD drive mentioned above, in a few days from now, that’ll be installed in the hub for storing all audio libraries. Stay tuned for more.
Studio A on The Lab. This is where the heavy lifting happens. The central recording and music production tool is Logic 10.4.8, with Native Instruments Maschine and other NI products integrated into the music production workflow. The computer – a mid-2011 Mac mini running High Sierra is the center piece. Despite it’s age, it gets the job done but I’m currently saving up for the M1 Mac mini, 16GB and a newer MOTU digital audio interface (the 828 Mk3 Hybrid) for use with the M1. To the right and out of the picture is a 16-space rack of vintage synth modules. An Akai MPC 2500 sampling drum machine sits on top.
Been spending a lot time in hear during the last two weeks working on tracks for a collaboration project dropping in January 2022, as well as a sophomore project my recording partner and I have been working on for quite some time. We’ve got three singles that will drop prior to the entire project next spring.
Right now, this man is tired and the alarm will go off mighty earlier.
Transmitting from my iPhone 22 mini via the WordPress for iOS app. Goodnight, sleep well.
Greetings all. I’m back with another edition of Music Monday. This series was supposed to be weekly, however, habits only stick after consistent application of them over time – something which didn’t happen from the get on, BUT, I caught it today, so here I am. That’s said, I’m going to let the words fly as they may.
Yeah, we all have the same amount of time each day – 24 hours – so GTD always boils down to time management AND discipline (to me, motivation doesn’t count). Since the last post, I’ve been working on multiple music projects of varying kinds. One recurring one is creating instrumental backing tracks from live instrument recordings to accompany various church choirs, within the church I attend, for an overall streaming product, during service, on any given Sunday. What this also involves is creating a video product of my wife, a choir vocalist, singing against either the original music or the backing track I’ve created as stated above. This recurring project came about because our church, while streaming services over the internet, has not reassembled in public due to the pandemic. It is also an idea that came to fruition to get those vocalists and musicians to continue to participate, albeit remotely, during the pandemic. Needless to say, this is a first time activity for ALL involved, which is not without associated challenges of not only rehearsing alone and delivering vocal and musician audio/video to me for editing and assembly, but trying to solidify a process that all can follow that will result in the best product in the end. I won’t get into all the examples of said challenges here, but suffice to say, they are present.
Outside of that, I’ve been reassessing the amount if projects in various stages (including non-start) that I blogged about in the first edition of Music Monday. Some dissipated but were replaced by new, smaller ones. Nevertheless, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really need to assess where and how I’m trying to go with completing projects and, moreover, needing to assess whether I’m being to ambitious in some way or another. Why? The primary reason is I want to release more of my own projects more frequently, but balance that between getting on the road to music placement, and getting back into writing for film/TV/media, the latter two creating better opportunities for residual income over time. All three will require a systematic plan of development (SPD) and that SPD will require doing less of a bunch of other things. That “less doing” has been a constant planning exercise for the last two months, in preparing to hit the ground running in 2021. The failure of New Year resolutions (I just read a stat that about 67% of people fall off the wagon in the third week of January), is that a habit or habits are not developed ahead of time. I’m not trying to go out like that, but there are 31 days left to in 2020 before a new decade is started, so I need to focus big time to get those habits in gear. Nuff said.
Back in 2007, I registered this domain, vibesnscribes.com, to start a blog about two topics: (1) reviews about music I listen to and (2) general daily topics I felt compelled to blog about.
Back then blogging was all the rage. Twitter just got off the ground, as well as Facebook, but to me, one’s blog was always more personal and self-controlled. As my long time friend in tech and podcasting, DarrenKeith (http://myloveformusic.blogspot.com) says, it’s your OWN digital garden. Well, this is an attempt to begin a weekly series on my music production journey and all the paths that encompass it. Other days of the week will be left to the two topics above (where I’ve actually spent a fair amount of time over the last 13 years blogging about). I often miss blogging, with the draw of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter seemingly always taking over my online time with algorithms always attempting to show me and tell me what I should be looking at (which most times is inaccurate). While Medium is huge as a blogging platform, my own site is, well, my own. Blogging like this will, again, have to be a created habit so, we’ll see how that goes. Consider Music Mondays just a brain dump on what I’m involved with and what I hope to achieve.
I’ve always had a music production studio of some sort, one that has grown over the last 25 years to a space that has allowed me to release my own projects, work on projects of remote and global collaboration, land an opportunity to score a ten-episode webseries on YouTube and helped me sharpen my skills (although not as sharp as I believe they could be). I love composing/writing, producing, and releasing the music, though it’s the latter that seems to be most difficult for me on a regular, not because it IS difficult, but because the system(s) I desire to put into place sometimes just don’t really get off the paper (from a habitual standpoint). Last I checked, I have (in various states) twelve projects going on. The latest (personal) one is releasing a 10 track project on Bandcamp next year. The project will mostly be comprised of tracks I started back in 2012 or so (that have since been removed from my Soundcloud page) and involve me getting back to some older methods of how I was recording and producing tracks (hence the image of the Akai MPC 2500 above). It was fun getting back to re-learning that tech this weekend. It showed me that ,even though some of the processes are not as convenient as what I use today, it’s still as enjoyable using it to bring those older tracks into the present. Many times (as I heard mentioned on a YouTube video last night), often times, limitations can spark creativity and more simply put, everything involved in the “longer harder” way can also be enjoyable for many reasons I’ll save for another Music Monday. That will continue for sometime as I bridge the use of the MPC, Logic Pro X, and Native Instruments to get this project moving and done. I’m looking forward to releasing it, not only because it’s been two years since the last release, but listening back to these older tracks showed me that I was creating more music (even though WIPs) to share on Soundcloud. Some got some great comments, but they were essentially just sitting there. With the advent of distribution and music streaming platforms, there’s really no better time to get music into the ears of whatever audience one hopes to. I released a project under another alias that hit the streaming platforms. The purpose of it was tri-fold: (1) See how well my chosen distribution works, (2) see how well this new genre I am exploring does, for me as an artist, on major streaming platforms and how it is received by listeners where ever I expose it, and (3) allowed me to begin to learn the ins/outs of a new synthesizer I purchased. Surprisingly, with no marketing push, a few listeners in a Facebook group I belong to really liked it.
My new journey, one I hope to fully leverage (after getting the bug from composing that webseries) is two-fold: sync licensing and film scoring. I look around my home studio and grow tired of saying “you’re fully equipped”, so the old saying is ringing loud in my brain: “Don’t talk about it, be about it” (and that means passed brain dump blogging).
*Definition of a throwback*You really know the meaning of â€œthrowbackâ€ when your childhood friend, same guy who was the bass player in our neighborhood R&B band in the day, texts you a picture of the original lyric sheet of the very first original song the band played, co-written with him and the bandâ€™s trumpet player. â€œAll I Need Is Youâ€. Music composed, arranged, and recorded by five teens just starting to do gigs around town….mannn! ✨✨✨.
It started a few nights ago. Someone in a music production forum on Facebook posted a synthesizer advertisement from back in the day…a vintage synth. Before long, members of the forum were chiming in about what they remember about those days – things like they used that synth at one point, how it compared to others of its timeframe, etc. Even I pulled out a set of old music production user group magazines and posted a pic of them.
This got me reminiscent of the first computer I was every able to purchase. The backstory (some of you may know) is when I started my professional career out of college, I was a young systems engineer working in a Naval satellite system program office. This office, surprisingly, had a mix of Macs and PCs. It was then, in 1988, when the Mac was only four years old, that my love affair with the platform began. Our business affairs guy was the keeper of the Macs in the office and it was through his enthusiasm and love for the platform that got me interested, not to mention (as I found out shortly thereafter), the magic of Apple. For the next two years, I dreamed of owning a Mac.
In 1990, I was settled into my own apartment (no more roommates) and was making enough to finally afford a brand spanking new Macintosh Classic. I purchased that computer for a whopping $1200 from a small computer shop in Silver Spring, MD. Until then, I was recording the music I was composing to a Tascam 424 multitrack tape recorder. Getting the Mac was way more exciting then most of you could ever imagine – it opened up the world of music sequencing and facilitated greatly how I composed music. It was also the first time I was able to connect to BBSs online via a blazing fast 2400 bps modem (LOL).
Since that Mac, I’ve had many more, some of which I still have in storage, some not, but it was that all in one Mac, the 9-inch B&W, the tiny sequencer, MasterTracks Pro, and a lot of other things during my early journey into using a computer for music production, that leave me with fond memories.
Two nights ago, I pulled it out of storage, set it up, turned it on, and set it in my studio. A little, but well know screensaver called Darkside, was installed. I set it to fade to the “Kitten” screensaver, a little spunky kittne that ran around the screen chasing a ball of yarn. A lot of memories came flooding back, especially those of what I could do with so little hard drive space and processing speed compared to what I have today. Having to load programs via 3.5-in floppy disks, and all the other charming things that only Apple could make you experience.
Last night, when it was appearing everything was fine with it, I decided to move it. I went to shut it down via the shutdown menu, but the mouse froze on the screen, along with the kitten. All I could do them is manually shut the power switch off. When I turned it back on, the video screen essentially malfunctioned. An awful looking pattern was now frozen in place. I repeatedly turned it off and on, trying to see if that issue would fix itself. I followed my a short shake, then firm pounding on both sides, as if I was trying to resuscitate it. All of that…amounted to nothing. It was no more.
Interesting how attached we can become to inanimate objects. While it wasnt necessary the object itself, it was more the memories attached to using it, the things I was able to accomplish during the beginnings of a journey that I’m still on. I admit that I miss it, despite the fact it was sitting in storage for years, despite the fact that the Macs I use for music production now are vastly superior to it. I just miss it…call it tech nostagia.
Today, after some research, I’ve decided to purchase another for posterity. For an original price of $1200 I paid 27 years ago, I’ve seen that computer in flea markets and classified ads selling for as little as $20. On eBay, one in good condition is well over $250. I won’t spend that much, but I’ll continue to research, continue to look around and just maybe, a sort of resurrection of sorts will occur one day in the hopefully near future.
Greetings readers. Yeah, 11:30pm on a Monday night. I should have been zzzz an hour ago. In any event, just a quick post on the movement of this track. Finally got around to laying a guitar track on Day 2 of this officially documented journey. It may be the only guitar track, as I’m a few days behind schedule in getting the entire song mixed. At least I got a good, but minor idea, for the outro, which was also recorded tonight. Provided I don’t come up with any more “11th hour” ideas (LOL), I should be starting on the mix this week, since the arrangement is done. It’s push time. Speaking of which, I recently read a good article on the subject of “deep work” as it pertains to music production. As you may guess, it overall applies to focus in getting any task done. I’m going to post it, here and on FB, in a few days…Stay tuned.