The best of 2012

2012 was a year full of great things, cool things, intriguing things, wonderful things and things to completely knock your socks off. Here's my list of the best (musical and digital) things of 2012. MUSIC BLOGS

Sibelius 7One of the first things I do each day is read all of the blog posts that are waiting eagerly for me in Google Reader. There are three feeds that, without fail, I will read and learn something from every time.

  • Of Note - a Sibelius and Finale blog by the legendary Robert Puff.
  • Sibelius Blog - hints, tricks and interesting stories about Sibelius by Philip Rothman (originally Daniel Spreadbury).
  • Technology in Music Education - if you're a music teacher of some description you'll love hearing about how the latest technologies can be used in music education.

MUSIC BOOKS

behindbarscover I'm usually not a big reader of actual books but there are some that sit pride of place on my shelf, actually, only when they're not sitting open on my desk.

  • Behind Bars by Elaine Gould - my bible of music notation. I'd really love a digital version too!
  • How to Write for Percussion by Samuel Z Solomon - the title sounds very underwhelming, but is a wonderfully comprehensive guide to writing for percussion.
  • Essential Dictionary of Orchestration - mine is looking old and tatty - a good sign! It's an essential reference for instrument ranges, general characteristics, tone quality descriptions, technical pitfalls and more.

MUSIC RESOURCES

SpotifyThe internet is just one big overwhelming resource! There are four in particular that I have used a lot this year and deserve a mention.

  • Spotify - gone are my days of wasting money buying music only for a specific occasion or to only listen to a few times. Now I can access everything, anywhere, for only a small fee.
  • MusicNotes - I've been buying a fair bit of sheet music lately and you can't go past MusicNotes for the best range, quality and easiest website.
  • MacProVideo - a massive range of resources for users of pro audio (and other) software.
  • MusicPrep.com - has wonderful resources for Sibelius and Finale and even links to books on scoring, notation and orchestration.

MUSIC INSPIRATION

YouTubeYou're procrastinating and you find yourself mindlessly surfing the internet - these are probably the places where I would end up.

  • Scoring Sessions - for any orchestral film soundtrack fan this is a wonderful site of photos, news and videos from scoring sessions in Hollywood, London and more.
  • YouTube - most of the world's pro audio software and hardware companies have channels on YouTube. A recent great watch was the Vienna Symphonic Library Artist Videos.
  • TED - amazing talks from amazing people.

MUSIC SOFTWARE

Pro Tools 10Most of my job would be a nightmare, or quite simply not possible, without the help of some wonderful computer software so a much deserved shoutout goes to them.

  • Sibelius 7 - they've had a rough year but a big salute goes to the number one notation software.
  • Logic 9 - the stalwart DAW in my studio, always impressing.
  • Pro Tools 10 - a new acquisition and some great projects done already, clearly some big steps forward since I last used it a few years back.

MUSIC APPS

FiReI rely on my mobile device rather a lot, here's my top three "I could not live without" music apps. I did a full post on musical iOS apps earlier in the year, click here to visit it.

  • FiRe - a professional field recorder wonderfully adequate to do a great recording when out and about.
  • Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music - dealing with music notation and teaching students all the time means I'm always checking this great app.
  • Dr Betotte - a metronome like no other. 5 volume sliders and mute buttons to, tap tempo, halftime feel, adjustable swing feel functions, multi beat mode...

CLOUD SERVICES

EvernoteThe "cloud" is a hot word at the moment and rightly so - there are some fantastic ways how you can have your data anywhere, anytime and on any device.

  • Evernote - probably my most opened app. Most databases, documents, lists and resources are all on Evernote and thanks to the cloud they are all universally accessible.
  • Dropbox - constant backup of my system and access to it anywhere via the iOS app. Also great to email large attachments to clients for download.
  • Xero - my in-the-cloud accounting software. I can write and send invoices, amongst other things, on my iPhone and have access to it at all times.

WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT

mailchimp-logoEvery musician needs an online home and maintaining mine, learning about the finer details and marketing it is a real hobby - three things make it an absolute joy.

  • Wordpress - always makes developing the website a breeze. Special mention goes to Automattic who has produced many of my most loved plugins this year including the breathtakingly-good VaultPress.
  • MailChimp - I have a newsletter, which evidently you can sign up to here(!), and they always impress me with the service they provide.
  • SoundCloud - could easily fit into several categories mentioned in this post, but I'll add it here. I remember the days when it was such a huge deal (and sometimes expense) to embed audio on your website, but now SoundCloud makes it quick and easy and it looks beeeeautiful.

I hope you enjoy checking out some of these. Got any to add? Leave a comment below.

2011 through the eyes of a blog

And just like that, another year is gone! Here is a look at my posts for the year. thinking web picThe blogging year started in March with my favourite book arriving, "Behind Bars", which I preordered in 2010. It is definitely the most used book on my shelf! I then talked about two approaching projects:

In April I introduced my new work, "blimp", and reviewed two projects - a song I helped a friend create and my work at the BOP music school:

May was a busy month, so in June I talked about what I had been up to - writing 31 microscores and the premiere of "blimp":

In July I posted the video I worked on with Sideways Productions:

In August and September I covered my involvement in the KBB Music Festival and some composition tutorials that I held in Kerikeri:

October was the kick off of the Rugby World Cup here in New Zealand, I talked about my involvement in the opening ceremony and also made a post about what exactly I do when "preparing music" and why you would need someone like me to do it:

December means Christmas and I posted some Christmas carols that I prepared for my students. I also composed a new "holiday" piece for my Christmas post:

Happy New Year everyone, bring on 2012!

An exploration "Behind Bars"

A few days ago, "Behind Bars", the new book by Elaine Gould, arrived in the post. Have I ever been so happy for a book to arrive? Probably not. Have I had a spring in my step ever since? Possibly. Have I taken it to bed to read most nights? Unashamedly yes! Did my heart warm when I read a few lines of the index? Indeed. Is my excitement justified? Absolutely.

"... an extraordinary achievement... I would pray that it becomes a kind of Holy Writ for notation in the coming century..." - Sir Simon Rattle

Behind Bars

It is subtitled as the definitive guide to music notation and is already regarded as the most comprehensive authority on the subject. The brochure (see PDF link below) sets the scene well:

"Behind Bars is the indispensable reference book for composers, arrangers, teachers and students of composition, editors, and music processors. In the most thorough and painstakingly researched book to be published since the 1980s ... it has never been more important for musicians to have ready access to principles of best practice in this dynamic field, and this timely book will support the endeavours of software users and devotees of hand-copying alike ... Supported by 1,500 music examples of published scores from Bach to Xenakis, this seminal and all-encompassing guide encourages new standards of excellence and accuracy."

It has been thirty years since the last major book on music notation. Practices have changed hugely since then and so the need for such a book is well overdue. Elaine talks about the development of the book, which started in 1990, in this great interview on the Sibelius Blog.

behindbarscoverThe book is divided in to three sections 1) general conventions, 2) idiomatic notation, and 3) layout and presentation. My favourite parts are probably some of the insights in the idiomatic writing sections, such as writing for the classical guitar. Also, the sections on notating electroacoustic music and on freedom and choice - cadenzas, ad lib. passages, independent repetition and so on - as until now there has been no authority on these areas. The cross-referencing is super effective and seamlessly done, and because it is so concise I know it will be the go-to book for everything I do for many years to come.

"With the explosion of music publishing software in recent years, the need for authoritative guides on music notation has never been more pressing. ... Elaine Gould's book is bound to be a hallmark of best notation practice. I fully imagine it will become the bible of music creators everywhere." - Matthew Hindson (Australia)

When typesetting and preparing music there are hundreds, often thousands, of decisions that are made. Taking time to think about each one and not having a definitive answer from today's music prep standards can be very time consuming. The confidence that each of the 704 pages will provide is priceless.

"We have all been eagerly awaiting Elaine's monumental study. Those who have had as many years of her editorial guidance as I have will concur that she is clearly the one person with the requisite breadth and length of experience to render a balanced and penetrating view of the chaotic world of notation as it currently exists." - Jonathan Harvey (UK)

If you are interested in reading further, see the promotional brochure here (PDF), the website here or the article I mentioned above here. Or, just order your copy!