The PDF - a musician's best friend?

In this digital age of computers, devices and the internet, this wonderful thing called a PDF is becoming an asset that we really can't live without. We make them, receive them, explore them and store them - but as musicians, what are the ways in which we can use them and enhance our working environment? adobe_reader_logoThe acronym stands for "portable document format" and that describes them well - no matter what software application you are using, what sort of operating system you are on, or even what device, the PDF will look as it should as a fixed format. Also, it can't be edited, which is great for a whole raft of reasons. They have been around since 1993, but it's only in the last 10 years or so that they have really come to fruition, as we are sharing documents like never before and are using the internet to distribute our material. And because of all this, software is now also making it increasingly easy to export, save and share in this most wonderful format.

When I mention "devices" I am referring to things like the iPhone and iPad, which are of course wonderful standalone, but I often am referring to them an extensions of the computer. PDFs can be seamlessly synced between devices using services like Evernote.com and Dropbox.com, and so access to them out on the road opens up so many more possibilities.

I've categorised some thoughts about how PDFs will benefit three areas of the industry: writing musicians, performing and teaching musicians, and music consumers.

THE WRITING MUSICIAN

As a composer or arranger your ability to distribute your music, and the ease of doing so, is incredibly important. It doesn't matter whether you are on the other side of town or world you can quickly email PDF documents to your performers. All they need is a computer and printer and you know your music will be presented exactly as you wish.

I recently sent music off for a recording sessions in London - I finished and emailed it to them a few hours before it began and had complete confidence it was sitting on the orchestra's music stands exactly how I wanted it.

Professional orchestras have their own preferences when it comes to physical preparation of the music and so they often only accept a PDF master set - with the volume of music that goes across the music librarians desk, it's very efficient to just have the PDFs.

On your website or in your promotional material you might like to present samples and examples of your work, in which case you can easily add watermarks to keep it safe or add extra information.

Very handily, programs like PhotoScore (www.neuratron.com) can scan previously printed music and import it into the Sibelius, the notation software. I do this a lot - where someone may want an arrangement of a certain piece, or a piece needs to be transposed - I don't have to begin with hours of entering the original note by note.

THE PERFORMING AND TEACHING MUSICIAN

As a performer or teacher you generally need to carry large amounts of music around with you. Aside from potentially putting your shoulder out, the ability to call up music quickly in certain environments is very important. Having your music as PDFs on a digital device can mean huge amounts of space saved and the ability to bring up any chart in a matter of seconds.

For music not already existing as PDFs you can of course scan in music and keep all of your current collections. There are wonderful online music databases such as IMSLP.org which contain predominantly scanned royalty-free music.

The use of digital music stands is becoming very common (this is where you view the music on a screen rather than a printed copy), either by the use of dedicated systems or with devices like the iPad. Their use in band and orchestra environments is also becoming more common - they are not just restricted to the high-budget stages of American Idol!

I have written several posts on the topic of digital music stands and using iPads for performing on my website so check those out if you are interested.

THE MUSIC CONSUMER

I don't know about you, but when I purchase sheet music I want it right then and there. So the option to pay less and choose the "download as PDF" button always gets my click. As a person selling that music it is also my preference, as the transaction is completed automatically and there is no need for any packaging and posting - it's just money in the bank.

With this, however, there are potentially problems where your music could be easily distributed further once someone else owns the PDFs, but the argument is that you could always do this via a photocopier anyway - it just takes a few extra steps and may not be quite so pretty.

Even though with choral music is it common to charge per copy required, that really doesn't translate to other music and I don't see that working well for choral music for much longer - it is a little too trusting to ask someone to buy two copies of something rather than just buying it once and printing it twice. Generally now PDF music is licensed to the purchaser and they can do multiple copies as they wish. MusicNotes.com has nice way of indicating this by marking each page with a "Authorised for use by Ryan Youens".

So are PDFs a musician's best friend? Absolutely. With the internet, websites, email and various devices being such an important part of our work, distributing and receiving music is essential and it's essential for it to be done safe and efficiently - with a PDF.

This post was originally published on 17th March 2013 at www.flutefocus.com.

I survived 2012. This is how it was!

The New Year means it's time to have a look back over the past year and see, through my blog posts, what has taken shape and what I have to say for myself! January started with a very well deserved "Shout-out to VaultPress" after they marvellously got my website back up and running after a meltdown!

3100508059_5c99a0f9e1_zFebruary is the start of the school term and I posted about the preparation work I do for schools.

My typing fingers must have been tired at the end of March - it started with two popular posts, iOS apps for music professionals and Digital music stands vs iPads, following on from, again, two very popular posts I did in 2010.

2012-05-15 APO Open Days 236

Following that were four posts on current projects - "Working on workshops" looked at some teaching workshops I was involved with, "An opportunity to make the floor rumble" talked about my upcoming new work for the Auckland Philharmonia and the Auckland Town Hall Organ. I conducted at the Bay Of Plenty Music School once again and my post, "Bay Of Plenty music school hit Rotorua!", pre-empted my visit there, and finally "Opening up an orchestra" reviewed the first two Auckland Philharmonia Open Days were I ran the "meet the composer" area.

In April I reviewed my time at the Bay Of Plenty Music School in "Making music in Rotorua" and posted photos in "Checking out the pipes" after an inspiring tour of the Auckland Town Hall Organ.

My Confession image May is music month and "A month of New Zealand music" checked out the events me or my music was involved with. It's also 48 Hour Film Festival time and our film this year was "My Confession…".

In June I talked about my involvement with Auckland Symphony's "Night Of The Proms" concerts in "Promenading in the colony" and I posted "Questions for a composer" after answering questions for a student's school assignment.

In July I posted my one word review of each piece from the "Nelson Composers Workshop 2012" where I was very happy to go this year as a mentor.

APO "Tiraki" workshopAugust is KBB Music Festival time and I also posted on the ongoing saga regarding the future of Sibelius in "What the heck is happening with Sibelius!". My piece, Tiraki, started to take shape after another workshop with the Auckland Philharmonia.

September was rather dormant on the blog front but in October I reviewed “What Lurks Among Saints” after being invited by a student I met earlier in the year.

The-Hobbit1In November I had the privilege of "Playing my role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", and I posted about the experience.

December was busy with a number of projects. In "Little pieces of Christmas" I talked about a bunch of Christmas arrangements I did for the Auckland Philharmonia and Auckland Symphony orchestras. I also talked about a film I was involved with, called "Sounds Perfect" and its selection into the Tropfest final in “Sounds Perfect” to be in a final". I then prepared music for some very fine New Zealand singers and talked about it in "Preparing for some legends!".

christmas-musicFinally, no year is complete without a "Merry Christmas" post thanking you for all of your support during the year and the compliments of the season.

Another year ticked off the list, another year doing my absolute dream job - let's get ready for an even better 2013!

iOS apps for music professionals

iOS (iPad and iPhone) apps. They are often enough to quite simply blow your socks off! There is one for pretty much anything, especially with music. In June and September 2010 I wrote two posts titled "iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional" - be sure to check out those posts here and here. Eighteen months on I think we should see what apps have stood the test of time and what the new ones are on the block. As with the two posts from 2010, these are apps that (I hope) are genuinely useful to musicians, music teachers and other music professionals. Buckle yourself in, here we go!

RECORDING

FiRe 2 - the industry-leading field recorder was fantastic first time around, and now it is even better. It is not waiting for you to record your first album, but for basically everything else it has you sorted. It now has super easy editing tools, EQ, dynamic effects, dropbox integration and much more. I use it to record ideas, music lessons, workshops with performers, performances - a very fine app.

GarageBand - covers two bases. Firstly, you can record music either by playing on the device or recording from an external source, then even take it to GarageBand or Logic Pro to continue work if you wish. Secondly, you can perform on a variety of instruments (including strings now!) and even jam with your friends via bluetooth. Gone are the days when you would need an app for every instrument.

GENERAL TOOLS

Dr. Betotte TC - one of the few metronomes powered up for the music professional. Packed with features, including rhythmic divisions that have their own volume sliders, one click halftime feel, options for swing tempo, you can import your own audio samples and it can gradually step up and down. This is one of my absolute favourites.

Stay In Tune - is a wonderfully clean and versatile tuner - fantastic for all general tuning. It has a good range of instrument presets for noisy environments or unfamiliar instruments. I should also mention Cleartune which is incredibly precise - ideal for string or other orchestral instruments.

NumPad - if you only have a laptop or bluetooth keyboard, with this app you can add the keypad on to it. It took me a while to start using it, but it is actually really helpful. There are several keypad view options (to match your main keyboard) and there is no delay when in use. A lifesaver for those who usually use the keypad in Sibelius but then find themselves without it.

REFERENCE

Backline Calc - is a musical calculator and in my original post I said it was "perhaps the last app you would think about looking for, but once you have it you’ll realise how handy it is". Perhaps I use it more for fascination rather than actual need but a very clever and interesting app.

Oxford Dictionary of Music - this well respected resource is a very nice app, essential for those who regularly reference terms and definitions. You may also be interested in the Oxford Companion to Music.

Guitar Toolkit - a very popular app for guitarists with some great tools. I want to specifically mention its incredible library of chords, scales and arpeggios (and with alternate tunings) for not just the guitar but also the 7-string and 12-string guitar, 4-string, 5-string and 6-string bass, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele. For someone who is far from being a natural guitarist but who has one, plus a mandolin and ukelele, it's a very well used app.

TEACHING

Karajan® - a very helpful music and ear trainer from beginner to advanced levels. You can learn, practice and test intervals, chords, scales, pitch, tempo (bpm) and key signatures. Audio can be piano, guitar (nylon and steel string), bass and organ, so users can be in their comfort zone. Great for students developing their ear, and I am even partial to an exercise now and then!

Nota for iPhone (Nota for iPad) - where Karajan is for developing the ear, Nota is for developing the mind (theory, musical knowledge...). Explore notes, chords and scales on the piano or the extensive reference library covering articulation, accidentals, breaks, chords, clefs, dynamics, key signatures, lines, notes, note relationships, note durations and rests, repetition and codas and time signatures. I often set the quiz up for students if they are early for a lesson!

MSO Learn - many young musicians are curious about orchestras - what instruments play in them, how they work... MSO (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) Learn is a beautiful app which lets you explore the orchestra - the different instruments, where everybody sits and the specific music each section and instrument plays. For example, it plays a full orchestral piece and shows the full orchestra, click on the woodwind section and you'll get a layout of woodwind instruments and just they will continue playing, then click on a specific instrument and just hear that instrument and an explanation of it. Such a wonderful resource.

BONUS

Avid Scorch (iPad only) - no longer do you need to take huge amounts of music around with you, store and read it all on your iPad. Even transpose it or view the score or different parts if you wish. If you're interested in this, check out my recent blog on this topic.

SoundCloud - of course SoundCloud is a dream come true for many of us musicians, with the ability to safely store and share your music online. The latest version of their iOS app is quite special - with excellent functionality and beautiful interface. Have all of your music available for sharing while on the road or use it to push your music out elsewhere on the web.

There we have it - some of my most used and most helpful iOS music apps. Who knows what is coming next!

2010 through the eyes of a blog

monkey-thinkingIt is December 31 and I just wondered "what exactly has happened this year?" So through the eyes of this blog, let's have a look. We'll start with January and the tail end of our South America trip, along with the workshopping and recording of my music in Brazil.

January 4th Leg Four – Argentina to Paraguay to Brazil January 11th Leg Five – Rio de Janeiro to Paraty to Auckland January 12th A day with Sphaera

After spending too many hours hunting down good repertoire for my school orchestras, in February I explored the efforts of conducting. I also set up my newsletter with MailChimp.

February 20th Conducting – 90% perspiration, 10% exhilaration February 26th Automating the monthly issue

It was a plentiful month of posts in March, many on great discoveries I recently made but also highlighted a new piece, Picture for Emily, for my niece.

March 14th Sibelius First – if you’re so inclined March 15th Moana Ataahua programme launched March 16th Picture for Emily – aiming for the small market March 16th Scoring Avatar March 18th My indispensables March 19th If Lake Taupo was a piece of music, what would it sound like?

In April it was all about preparing Moana Ataahua for its massive premiere at the ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival.

April 24th Moana Ataahua set to ERUPT in May (article from SOUNZ) April 28th Moana Ataahua, the rehearsals begin

I explored digital music stands in May, how they compare and how I wanted one. Do I still want one now? That is another post!

May 15th Digital music stands, hook me up – Music Pad, Music Reader, eStand

I summed up the Moana Ataahua premiere in June and did a very popular post on music apps for your iOS devices.

June 1st Moana Ataahua, the premiere June 2nd iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional

It was great to see plenty of music getting performed through July.

July 12th Wild Daisies premiere July 18th Breathe In, Breathe Out – a concert of overtures and finales July 27th SoundCloud, move your music July 29th Three pieces performed by Brazil’s Sphaera Ensemble

The Auckland schools orchestra festival happened in August, so did some pondering on music theory.

August 27th Sounds great! I want it, I want it now August 30th KBB Music Festival 2010, thumbs up August 31st Music theory, do we need it or not?

Spent a fantastic few days in Wellington in September recording Rakaia with the NZSO. Also, Rhian Sheehan's amazing score for The Cult, which I helped out with, won best score!

September 9th More iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional September 20th The Cult wins at Qantas Film and Television Awards September 23rd NZSO/SOUNZ Readings 2010

In November I did a three part post looking at music printing, engravers, copyists and how things are changing. I also hooked up Sibelius users with some great resources!

November 29th So, you’re a Sibelius user? November 30th Music printing, a journey for engravers (part 1 of 3) November 30th Music copying and confusion (part 2 of 3) November 30th Changing times for music preparers (part 3 of 3)

As you would expect, I got festive in December but also looked at a new feature for sounz.org.nz.

December 7th A Christmas wish list for composer-musicians December 24th SOUNZ moves forward, again December 24th Merry Christmas and very best wishes for the New Year

Happy New Year everyone!!

A Christmas wish list for composer-musicians

It is that time of the year again and your family and friends are most probably asking for ideas of what to get you for Christmas.

Here are my top ideas for all composer-musicians:

SoundCloud gift voucher - SoundCloud is one of the most valuable online resources for composers and musicians. To really unleash its power you need to go premium and even better, get someone to gift you a subscription.

"How to Write for Percussion: a comprehensive guide to percussion composition" - Percussion is always a challenging group of instruments to write for properly - this book in absolutely incredible and an essential resource. It was given to me by EJ Dobson, get it on Amazon here.

Mollard conducting batons - Most composer-musicians will conduct their music, many twilight in conducting further. Mollard batons are absolutely supreme, I have several - they will even engrave your name on it.

Evernote subscription - Every composer-musician has so many ideas to remember and projects to oversee, with Evernote you can now remember everything!! Gift a subscription here.

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra subscription (or your local orchestra) - Every composer-musician needs a regular dose of the finest music in the land. Buy them a subscription or tickets to just one great night (PDF).

iTunes voucher - Not only necessary to top up your stock of Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Mahler and Ligeti, you can purchase all of the incredible iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch apps that are made for professional musicians. In fact, check out my two posts on the best pro music apps to get: the first post here and the second post here.

A gift of time - If you don't want to spend money why not give a voucher to say you will do all of their jobs and chores for a weekend (or heck, a week) so they can hibernate and write some very fine music. That is priceless!

I hope there is something there to add to your Christmas list. Let me know your best ideas!

iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional

Musician? Got your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad? Well, what are you going to put on it? As a musician, sharing my time between rehearsals, conducting, composing and teaching, I have fine tuned a collection of amazing apps for my iPhone that I find are absolutely essential and I hope will help you save you a lot of money and give you some great tools. Just a note, I've used all of these on an iPhone but they are all available (if not now, will be very soon) on the iPad. Field Recorder - This is an outstanding digital recorder for the iPhone. One review of it says "Audiofile Engineering's FiRe application is by far the most advanced stereo audio recording application we've seen for the iPhone and iPod Touch, going far beyond the limitations of previous go-to apps...". It is a professional quality recorder and the list of features is huge so check out the link. It has a beautiful interface, the quality of recording is amazing, you can edit in the app and can export as WAVE, AIFF, CAF, AAC, Apple Lossless, AAC, Podcast, Ogg Vorbis and FLAC. So handy for capturing a rehearsal or auditions, taking field recordings and pretty much endless possibilities.

Dr. Betotte TC - There are many metronomes but few powered up for the music professional. Dr. Betotte TC has all the normal features of a normal metronome such as playing any time signature, beat divisions, the ability to save your tempos and settings to a playlist, tap in a tempo - but it has got so much more. For a start all of the rhythmic divisions have their own volume sliders, one click halftime feel, options for swing tempo, you can import your own audio samples and the playlist can auto advance. Some nice other features (which are so easy to access) include an alarm timer that syncs with the metronome and customisable gradual up/down, step up/down and quiet count buttons. These step up/down buttons are so handy for students learning a passage, as it gradually gets faster over time (or however you set it up). What I do like about this metronome is its visual capabilities - it's often really unhelpful just having a "beep, beep" metronome. For learning scores or for reference in rehearsals it is so handy to just have a ticking needle, or a huge "1, 2, 3, 4, ..." being counted on screen. This is by far my metronome of choice.

Stay In Tune - There are a lot of tuners available, a lot of good ones and generally they all have the same features. It's how they deliver the features which makes the difference. Stay In Tune is my favourite - it has a wonderful, clear interface, you can also easily produce tones, calibrate and select specific tunings for different instruments. It is also one of the most accurate and gorgeous I've found.

Backline Calc - It's a musical calculator and perhaps the last app you would think about looking for, but once you have it you'll realise how handy it is. There are six categories and some examples include: Length (sum times, compare tempos, song length, beats to tempo, time to samples), Pitch (MIDI note, frequency and wavelength conversion), Timecode (frames to timecode, convert timecode), Electric (power, voltages), Acoustics (distance to time, sound pressure level, panning) and Files (file size). These are only a few examples - a very handy little app.

Chordmaster by Planet Waves - The most advanced and intelligent guitar chord reference. You can make chords easily with sliders, you can strum them and the overall interface is beautiful. It's also nice to see a popular and well known music accessory company delving into apps.

SoundHound - We all hear a song on TV and want to know what it is and there are several apps who help you out with this, the most popular being Shazam - but these don't go much past the novelty factor of holding the device to a speaker and finding out the song. I like SoundHound as it provides a few more features such as effectively picking up you singing personally, or you can just type the title, album, artist or lyric. Also, in the results, it provides iTunes links, all the lyrics, YouTube videos and the ability to easily share.

Karajan® - Music & Ear Trainer - Karajan is by far the finest ear trainer. It is powerful and very customisable in each of the categories - intervals, chords, scales, pitch and tempo (bpm). It has detailed statistics so is great for students using in lessons or for your own interest. Personally, I use the tempo recognition all the time (great for conducting) and the pitch recognition is handy too. The pro version is entirely worth the money. (iPad screenshot below)

Oxford Dictionary of Music - Yes, your dream has come true. The entire Oxford Dictionary of Music is available on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. It has a wonderful interface, easy search and is regarded as the most up-to-date music dictionary out there. Also good to note that no internet connection is required to use the app. These guys only do dictionary apps so they know what they're doing. This is a must.

Circle Theory - Based around the Circle Of Fifths, this is a handy reference tool. I use it mainly with students using the more straight forward functions like seeing the relationships between notes, key relationships, key signatures, intervals and triads. But I've also used it myself for transposing between keys, checking notes of transposed instruments and as a reference for modes. A great little app.

Virtuoso Piano - Well we have to touch on some instrument apps. I'm sure the first app any musician gets is a piano but many are very basic. My favourite is Virtuoso Piano Pro as you can have multiple keyboards, easily flick between octaves, calibration and record/play features. Another really great app.

Guitar: Play and Share - Without question this is the finest acoustic guitar app. I've been playing around with it a lot lately and it is wonderful. Very clever, very easy to use and the sound quality is fantastic. Loads of features and ways to customise, different guitars - who needs a real one?

I won't mention any more instruments as there are so many good ones (and far more that are rubbish). But if you're interested in these, the video below is a great watch. It is from the Rend Collective Experiment featuring David Crowder and they produce the whole song from iPhone instruments. Awesome.

ProRemote - This is the only app I don't own due to the whopping price tag (NZ$124.99, US$99.99), but it gets my attention and admiration. It is a remote control for ProTools, Ableton Live, Apple Logic or Soundtrack Pro. They say it "is like having four Mackie Control Universal Pro's but better because it is wireless and much less expensive. You get almost $5000 of hardware for the price of ProRemote." Very impressive. (iPad screenshot below)

Well it is an amazing series of products that I hope you will all enjoy checking out and using. I have found them all to be essential with my day to day work, saving so much time and hassle. Please let me know any other feedback, any great apps I have missed or your comments.

My indispensables

There are a few things that, honestly, if I didn't have to help me out day-to-day, I would completely fall apart. Sounds drastic, but the amount of things to be done, managed, scheduled and announced each day is crazy. Things

Things is mind-blowingly clever - it's my to do list and task management. It's made for the mac so runs seamlessly and of course looks beautiful. You have all of your tasks and projects lined up in the Next list, then each day you can manually filter them through into the Today list, or if you have set a due date or recurring task, it will automatically appear. All tasks are categorised into projects or areas of your business. You can even tag each task to have even more control.

The scheduling of tasks is great. Say you submit a weekly timesheet, have it pop up in your to do list on the day so you don't forget. Do a thorough computer backup once a month? Be reminded. You can select that it reminds you on the day it's due or however many days beforehand. Got your tax return due? Have it remind you two weeks prior so it's done well before due date.

There is also an Inbox, which I love. It's where you throw all your ideas in so you don't forget any, then later you can filter them into where they should be. For example, at the end of a rehearsal I have so many things in my head - music to be copied, extra players needed, absentees and so on. I fire all these into my Inbox, then later that day I will tag these with "conductor", put a due date if necessary and file it away.

How do I efficiently list all these things I need to remember at the rehearsal? Well, Things has an iPhone version. By the time I get home from the rehearsal, all these tasks are sitting on my desktop waiting for action. Likewise, if I'm at home I can list all the jobs I need to do out, and while I'm out, I'll be checking all the tasks off and of course when I arrive home again it's all checked off there too.

When you complete a task it doesn't just disappear either - it goes in to your logbook, so if you ever need to check back for anything, it is there waiting.

These guys have won many Apple and product design awards, it's brilliant. It is rather expensive if you want both versions, Things Mac is NZ$79 and Things iPhone is NZ$13.99 - but worth every cent.

iCal and iCal Duration

Okay, yes yes, iCal is a nice calendar and every Mac has it. But there are a few nice ways to use it and to "pimp it out" for some serious usage.

I work for myself and I like to keep track of all the time I spend on what. Not just each project, but what areas of my work eg: how many hours of conducting I did last month, or how many hours of composing I have scheduled next week. Of course you could do this manually and count up all the hours, but having the ability at a few clicks is very handy.

To ensure it is set up right, I make sure the title of each event is the same eg: "Kristin orchestra rehearsal" or the title of the piece I am writing - each time it is entered. Then in the "notes" field of each task I enter what area of work it is eg: "teacher", "composer".

Then you use the Search feature and put in "composer" or "Kristin orchestra rehearsal", or whatever, and you are given all of those entries. This is where a neat little tool comes in.

iCal Duration is a great piece of Apple Script that is so simple. Once you have done the previous step, select all of the entries you wish to and click the iCal Duration button. In seconds you will have the total hours and minutes of your selection.

This is so handy, and say I was orchestrating a job, I'll just work, work, work and keep good track of the time in iCal, then when it comes to invoicing I just put the job name in to Search and there is the total. Brilliant. Of course, iCal syncs seamlessly to iPhone also.

TweekDeck

There is so much to keep on top of these days and it really can be time consuming, far too time consuming, but there are some great tools which allow you to do a lot in very little time and effort.

For Twitter, I was a diehard addict of Tweetie, and I still think they have the most gorgeous iPhone app, but recently I just needed a few more features. I debated between HootSuite and TweetDeck for some time and settled on the latter. HootSuite does have scheduled tweets and inbuilt stats, but has an appalling iPhone app which straight away puts them at the bottom of my pile.

TweetDeck lets you manage twitter, facebook, myspace and linkedin in the one place. You can send updates to all, some or just one place. You can do everything you'd ever need to do on Twitter, your friend feed comes through from facebook and you can "like" or comment, and for myspace and linkedin you have the status updates. You can have columns for almost anything from latest friends so you don't forget any of those follow backs, to keyword searches to keep on top on trends and the area(s) you are working in.

TweetDeck can't feed your blog RSS into tweets or doesn't have the inbuilt stats like HootSuite, but for me who has used twitterfeed (feeds blog to tweets) and bit.ly (shortening and stats) for quite some time, I was quite happy to be able to keep using these services.

TweetDeck also syncs between your iPhone version and desktop version, so all your columns and settings are always up to date. TweetDeck saves me hours of time each day as in a few seconds I can do what I need to do without the hassle.

What are your indispensables?

What are the sites and software that help make your life easier every day? Let me know.

Blogs - read, write, sing, play

I have a routine: every morning I wake up, lean over and pick up my iPhone, I check the news, then I read all of the latest feeds from my favourite blogs. The blogs are music ones of course, and for years I have been filtering through them and the ones I like are the ones that stay. I use the term of "blog" rather loosely - some of these are actual blogs, some are more updates and news, but all just as interesting and worthwhile. Just a note, the links are to the actual RSS feed, not to the website, so they will open in your RSS reader.

  • Sibelius Blog: A must if you're a Sibelius user. News, interviews, the latest movies to be scored on Sibelius, tips and more. Run by Daniel Spreadbury, Sibelius’s Senior Product Manager.
  • The Electric Semiquaver: All about writing with music notation software. The first line of his latest blog sums it up very well: "How music notation software can both assist, and completely destroy, musical texture."
  • CompositionToday: Nice updates, news and resources about and for classical composers.
  • Musical Perceptions: "Perceptions about music, perceptions that affect music, perceptions colored by music, perceptions expressed by music".
  • Echoes: They are disc manufacturers for independent artists but it's a really nice blog of "insights for independent artists".
  • New Music Strategies: Self explanatory.
  • Professional Orchestration: Nice feed on all topics related to orchestration.
  • Scoring Sessions: The feed from what I think you all know is one of my favourite websites.
  • Soundtrack.net: Feed of reviews and news of film soundtracks by Dan Goldwasser.
  • Sequenza21/: Great feed of news and reviews from this contemporary classical music community.
  • The Naxos Blog: Sounds a bit heavy - it's not. Got great blogs and news articles.
  • Apple Creative Professionals: If you're a mac lover you'll have to have this one.
  • ryanyouens.com | blog: Am I allowed to put this on here?

While you're at it, these are two well updated and completely essential news feeds:

Well, enjoy. If you have your own favourites, or any in particular that you can't live without ... let me know.