Plenty of music for Music Month

LBCConcertBandCAMP Well it's the last day of NZ Music Month, so that's a good excuse to post about a few projects I've been working on lately. I've been a bit quiet online in recent months so here's a good chance to make up for that.

Picture This! is a new work I've written for the Long Bay College Concert Band. They won gold at the KBB Music Festival last year so a new work had to take shape! I spent last weekend with them at their rehearsal camp and had loads of fun. Look out for Picture This! at this year's festival.

My friends at Diocesan School for Girls have commissioned two new works for their groups:

I ask of you no poetry is for their award-winning elite choir, St Cecelia Singers, and is written for SSA choir, handbells and organ (with text by Madeleine Ballard). Kiwi in Appalachia is for their chamber ensemble consisting of flute, Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, 2 violins, viola and piano (cello part also available). It's a standalone piece but for this group was written to be used in conjunction with my arrangement of Copland's Appalachian Spring. I'm hoping to get along to see some rehearsals soon and will post some performance dates when available.

SMCOUnwrapped1

I have also just written Unwrapped for the St Matthew's Chamber Orchestra which was premiered last Sunday. I've written about it here, check it out.

Back in April was the 48Hour Film Festival and although we didn't get far this year with our film, On The Rocks, it was great to work with the guys from Sideways Productions once again. The music turned out nicely (finally, I got to use almost all strings!) and I later arranged it into a one movement work - listen here:

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/146068564" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true&show_comments=false&show_user=true&show_reposts=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Another film by these guys that I did the music for, Sounds Perfect, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival during May - I posted about it here, check it out.

ASO PromsIn conducting news I had a great weekend down at the Bay of Plenty Music School working with the concert band. I was so happy with the standard they reached - read about my weekend here. I'm also currently working with the Auckland Symphony Chorus - preparing them for the Auckland Symphony Orchestra's hugely popular "Night of the Proms" concerts at the end of June. Great to have "Song of the Lonely Mountain" as part of the programme - a song I did the preparation of for "The Hobbit" movie two years ago.

That's all for now. A few other projects on the go, but I'll save those for a future post!

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.

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!

More iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional

This is a follow up to my previous post iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional. In that post I looked at several apps that I found were essential in my work between music rehearsals, conducting, composing and teaching. As I mentioned in that last post, I've used all of these on an iPhone but most are all available (or will be very soon) on the iPad. Since that post, others have mentioned some further apps to me, and I have discovered some others myself that I think are well worth sharing.

NumPad - Using a laptop or on an Apple wireless keyboard? Do you miss your extra keypad and are slowed down because of it? Then this app is for you. It wirelessly connects to your computer and away you go. There are various layouts you can choose from, from a standard number keypad to the Sibelius layout shown below. You can also choose the colour/key type to match your current keyboard. Genius.

Audio Tool - There are lots of dinky apps to do the odd music job. There are some though that are appearing that combine all these little features and make a more weighty app, like this one from www.performanceaudio.com. There are currently four tools on the app but more are coming. You have a decibel meter, microphone to hook up to your sound system, a bit calculator to calculate drive space needed for a recording and also a handy audio atlas - hundreds of audio/electrical definitions you may come across while working in the studio or on the stage. Never be embarrassed again by not knowing a term, as it covers everything from absorption and attenuation, to scrubbing and SMPTE, to vocoder and VST.

SoundCloud - More and more people are signing up to this wonderful website. I now host all my website audio through SoundCloud and it is mindblowingly good (see a previous post about SoundCloud here). In this app you can view all of your music, that of your friends, your favourites and of course once you're with a track you have all functionality you would have online.

Pitch Primer - This app analyses your pitch in real time, you can record and afterwards have a detailed analysis (visually or by listening as well), you can retune your recorded audio to a desired temperament and replay it at the correct pitch, or it can just be used as a tuner. You can choose from six different temperaments, different scales and calibrate it. If it sounds a little heavy going, it's actually quite informative, interesting and dare I say it ... fun.

Air Display - This app gives you an extra wireless display. Beautiful. So it is not a music app as such, but one that is hugely beneficial to musicians, particularly those using an iPad. Most iPads or iPhones sit beside a computer doing nothing anyway, so this is a great way to make the most of them. If you're using Sibelius, Pro Tools or Logic you can have many windows open at one time. With Air Display you can easily drag windows in and have full functionality using the touch screen. Don't count the iPhone out for its size either, even just drag the playback window to the iPhone screen, go back and sit on your couch and have full control. I quite like the idea of avoiding apps like the massively priced ProRemote (which I talked about in my previous post), which really is another program connecting with Logic or Pro Tools. Where Air Display is you actually you, on your computer.

Cowbell Plus - I think we are all guilty of trying out some percussion instruments, cringing at their sound quality and then deleting them minutes later. Cowbell Plus, however, is quite above these other apps. The 22 instruments not only sound really authentic, but on each you can play at different volumes and the actual sound will change. For example, hitting a gong gently sounds completely different to hitting it hard. This app makes that change depending on how you tap it. It is very clever and although it is not yet going to replace your array of real percussion instruments, it is nice to have.

MTF Native InstrumentsMTF Pro ToolsMTF Reason, MTF Synthesis, MTF Mastering V1 - The Music Tech Magazine is of course a hugely popular magazine around the world and in these apps it brings focused features, concepts, interviews, techniques, tutorials and reviews of these (and other) softwares. Perfect for reading if you're on the go, or even just if you are mighty serious about this software.

Enjoy checking out these apps and let me know your comments below.

SoundCloud, move your music

soundcloud_logoRecently I signed up to SoundCloud, interested to see exactly what it was all about. I really, really like it. It describes itself as the following:

SoundCloud lets you move music fast & easy. The platform takes the daily hassle out of receiving, sending & distributing music for artists, record labels & other music professionals.

I am still only new, but have been uploading some tracks and am using it to power my music player, and soon will use its' smallest widget to place short samples in my catalogue. It's also easy to embed single samples in emails, pages and blog posts, like here:

Wild Daisies by ryanyouens

The receiving and sending of music is a service I have yet to require but with a beautiful drop box which you can embed on your own site, I can see this will be an easy process, just like using every other service.

There are various plans including of course a free account, and they are limited by duration, not by file size. Hallelujah! So you don't have to think twice about uploading your beautiful high quality recording.

What I really like is that it is set up for music professionals and there really is no attraction for others. It has great social features so there is the ability to upload a track, mark it as a work in progress, share it only between your friends and get feedback. When commenting on a track, you can select at any duration and comment there. For example, at 1:39 you may wish to say "Ryan, what's the chord here? It's crazy!".

There is a nice mix of genres, everything from DJ's to real music - classical, film and contemporary. Also an increasing amount of New Zealander's on there which is good to see.

So many beautiful features so take a tour here or sign in and follow my music here.