My First Soundtrack Release!

Whilst you can’t yet watch the film, I wanted to celebrate my first short film score with a free downloadable soundtrack.

Friend Request is a 20 minute short film that I wrote 15 minutes of music for, in just 2 weeks. This is technically my second film score, as I actually started working on a feature film before this. However, that’s still in post production, hence I’m posting this one first. For the feature, I was writing an average of 5 minutes of music a week, so I was really pushing myself with Friend Request. Professional film composers write on average, 2 to 3 minutes of music a day, which is what I always try and aim for now. Although working a full time job obviously means I can’t quite produce as much per week as they would.

It was just 18 months ago that I actually started learning how to write music, so the completion of this film has been a big milestone for me. And I was lucky enough to watch the film at the O2 Cineworld in London a couple of weeks ago, where hearing my score on the big screen was such a wonderful experience and a great way to mark this achievement in my composing career.

We’ll soon be submitting the short to film festivals, when I’ll hopefully be able to share the film with you. But until then, I hope you enjoy the music, and please do share it with your friends 🙂

Review: Zoë Keating

One of my goals along the road to composing is to be able to write really good string music, so the other day I thought I’d tip toe in the string world for a bit and ended up getting the latest issue of Strad Magazine (Essential Reading For The String Music World Since 1890) where I read an interview with Zoë Keating.

Zoë Keating

“Live-looping cellist Zoë Keating tells Peter Somerford how technology and the internet have helped her home-grown music flourish outside the industry mainstream.” – Strad Magazine (January 2014)

I had no idea who this Zoë Keating was but as I read the interview I knew that I needed to find out and I’m so glad that I did. I bought her new album pretty much straight away and have edited together this little suite so you can have a listen and better understand what I’m talking about when I say how amazing she is.

From the beginning of the suite you can instantly recognise the use of the loop pedal, which enables her to add layer upon layer of cello. Obviously lots of thought goes into creating these tracks, but as the suite goes on you’ll notice that the layering becomes more and more intricate, and it becomes hard to believe that she can actually perform these tracks live, by herself. To me the album sounds more like a movie soundtrack than a classical album, as it excites images in my mind that I would love to watch on screen. It’s also given me a great insight to the different sounds of the cello, something I’m not sure you can really get from playing around with cello synths on a MIDI keyboard. So knowing the sound of the instrument outside of an orchestra or string quartet has really inspired me and it’s given me some ideas I’ll definitely be calling upon again in the future.

Zoe Keating Into The Trees

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Learn To Play Piano with GarageBand

Check out my soundtrack for the short film Friend Request and download your free copy – Friend Request (Original Short Film Soundtrack)

I’ve been getting on pretty well with teaching myself piano using the series of books/cassettes that I have. But whilst I was waiting for my cassette player to arrive from the 80s, I had ago at the Learn To Play function that comes with the new GarageBand.

If you own a Mac then you’ll also have GarageBand pre-installed on it. GarageBand now comes with Learn To Play. Learn To Play will teach you the basics of how to play the Piano or the Guitar. Both come with one lesson instantly accessible, but the other lessons are easy to download and also free. Basic Piano has 9 lessons in total. Each one has two parts: Learn and Play. In the Learn part you are taken through different steps for that lesson with your teacher, Tim. It’s fun and easy to understand even for a complete beginner, so I’d definitely recommend giving it a try.

GarageBand Review 1

The second part is Play, here you are given the opportunity to play what you learnt in the lesson and you even have a full band backing you up to make you sound even better. You play along and practice a few times before hitting the record button where GarageBand will track your playing and tell you how well you did at the end and even where you can improve. If you find the piece too fast then that’s no problem as you can easily slow it down and have another go. Each lesson only takes about 10-15 minutes so it’s really not very time consuming. The last two lessons could take up a bit more of your time as the pieces of music you play at the end of the lessons are a bit more complex, but just keep practicing and you’ll be well on your way to becoming the next Lang Lang.

Once you’ve done the Basic Piano lessons then GarageBand has 6 Pop Piano lessons, 4 Classical Piano lessons and 8 Artist Lessons, the latter being where famous Artists will teach you to play one of their hit songs. The Pop Piano and Classical Piano lessons are all free, but you will have to pay £2.95 for each Artist lesson that you download. All in all it’s a great little addition to GarageBand that is well worth taking advantage of, so get learning and get creating.

Getting To Know The Basics

I recently started on online course called “Write Like Mozart: An Introduction to Classical Music”, but after watching the introduction video realised that my theory knowledge was severely lacking. So I spent a couple of days blitzing my way through the book Basic Music Theory by Joe Procopio. And now I know all about major and minor scales, the different types of intervals and chords, and lots of other useful things that will allow me to progress with the course.

It’s all way too much to summarise but I did want to share one thing, the Major scale. If someone where to say play the C Major scale on a piano I’m pretty sure most people could do so even if they don’t know what the C Major scale is. You play from left to right and press only the white keys. If someone where to ask me to do the same but with the D Major scale, I’m not sure I could have done the same. I’d would have had to work out by ear which of the black keys to include. However, the book Basic Music Theory shows you the formula for the major (and the minor) scales so I thought I’d share what I learnt.

C Major Scale

So this is the C Major Scale as it looks on the treble clef and the numbers underneath show the formula for all major scales. 1 represents a tone and 1/2 represents a semitone. When including both the black and the white keys on the piano, a semitone is the distance between any note on the piano and the next note above or below it. A tone is two semitones. Therefore the formula above reads “tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone”.

Now each major scale is named after the starting note, so remembering that, plus the formula “tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone” we can now work out any and all major scales. So let’s put this into practice.

Here we have the D Major Scale:

D Major Scale

And here it is represented on the piano, where the grey keys are the ones you play:

D Major Piano

And here is the same for the G Major Scale:

G Major Scale G Major Piano

Basic Music Theory is packed full of useful music theory and explains it all very clearly in a simple and easy to understand way. And the best thing about it is it only costs £1.49 on the iBook Store.

Basic Music Theory

Purchase from the iBook Store

Downton Abbey (Soundtrack)

Check out my soundtrack for the short film Friend Request and download your free copy – Friend Request (Original Short Film Soundtrack)

If you’ve watched the series then you’ll know that the soundtrack is amazing, and if you’ve not then you should because the series is amazing as well. It’s was one of the most viewed period dramas there is and has been commissioned for a second series later this year, so if you’ve not seen it then check it out.

Now soundtrack releases are a really common thing when it comes to feature films, they practically all have them, but television is another thing. There are a few composers that have done very well in TV when it comes to soundtrack releases with american composer Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, A Town Called Eureka, Human Target, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) having practically all of his music released via LaLaLand Records, who seem to want to release everything he has written. Which is great because he really is a talented composer and he’s one of my favourites which is why I’ve got all 15 of his releases, and a few additional tracks as well. Didn’t know he’d done so much actually! There are a few others like Michael Giacchino but he’s an established feature film composer as well thanks to J.J. Abrams and Pixar so it’s not quite as impressive.

Daniel Pemberton (Upstairs Downstairs, Desperate Romantics, Heroes And Villains, Prehistoric Park, Monster Moves) is about the only other TV composer who has done so well. Which is more unusual in his case because he is a british composer and british TV shows don’t often get soundtrack releases. It is becoming a bit more common now with the likes of iTunes, as some soundtracks are getting digital releases which is obviously much more cost efficient when we are talking about a genre of music that isn’t quite as popular as perhaps people like me hope it would be, as then there would be even more soundtrack releases. But thankfully they are still getting releases.

So back to Downton Abbey. The music is composed by John Lunn, who’s only other previous soundtrack release was Hotel Babylon which was co-composed by Jim Williams. I’m not sure why this soundtrack has got a release, but I’m so very thankful that it has because it is some of the best and most beautiful music I’ve heard. Every time I watched the show I got goosebumps from listening to the main title and end title music. Now I can listen to the whole score, and it is all just as exciting.

The melody’s are so elegant and beautiful with the slow and fast moving strings swooping around and the fast piano movements underneath. The main theme from the main title is brought back in about four different tracks but all are different versions and I could listen to that theme again and again anyway with just how beautiful it is. But the soundtrack also has it’s darker moments, and yet some how the melody’s remain beautiful although still with that darker feel.

I now hope that John Lunn’s music to Little Dorrit that was on the BBC in 2008 gets a soundtrack release, because the music from that was just as beautiful and is what made me realise what a talented composer he is. He’s definitely on my dream list of composers I want to write music for my films.