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Running a 66 piece orchestral session with StaffPad…

I recently had a 66 piece orchestral session and decided to produce all scores and parts with StaffPad alone. This is stretching the pu...

Thursday, August 21, 2014


The weather here has taken a bit of a chilly turn recently...It's some arctic air being pulled down over the UK according to the forecasters. This means that I've not been able to work in the garden for a while. Actually, that's been OK because I've been recording guitars and bass of late, so I wasn't tempted to set up outside.

I've also been mixing with iZotope's Alloy 2. In their words..."Far more than just a traditional channel strip, Alloy 2 is a modern twist on classic mixing. The basics have been re-imagined with forward-thinking features and time-saving flexibility. Innovative sound sculpting tools are ripe with potential for delivering your distinctive sound. And best of all, Alloy 2 allows you to focus on mixing without distraction, neatly packaging the mixing essentials in a self-contained and completely configurable plug-in that puts everything you need at your fingertips."...and I have to say that it certainly lives up to that!!! The presets are great and with a bit of tweaking, can really breathe extra life into any recording.

I'm looking at getting a more portable audio interface, so I can record real instruments and voices anywhere, as well as a micro DAW control surface to make mixing and transport control easier.

The Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP looks like a nice machine with the advantage of VRM which is Focusrite's Virtual Reference Monitoring. I'd really like to try this new technology as it promises to make mixing on headphones a possibility which would be useful when I'm away from the studio.

Above is the Korg nanoCONTROL 2 which looks like a great DAW controller and will fit in the Blue Flightcase very comfortably. It's buss powered too, so no need to carry another external PSU around.

I really need to get hands on with them to see how they sound and feel...A tricky thing to do with the closure of many of the hi tech music stores.

We've been on a few inspiring and enjoyable trips recently...The Edinburgh Festival (Saw Stewart Lee, Robert Newman, Barry Cryer & Colin Sell and Russell Grant)...Two beach days in North Norfolk...The Pajama Game at the Shaftesbury Theatre with Gary Wilmot...All fantastic!!!

Speaking of trips, I've been reminded of my two weeks in the USA in 2010, which was extended to a month when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallaj√∂kull erupted and closed European airspace for a fortnight. Thankfully, I'd flown with Virgin Atlantic which meant that I could live very comfortably while I waited for the dust to clear at no extra expense. I was lucky enough to be 'stranded' in Southern California, a particularly pleasant place to be with friends and family nearby, but I really missed my friends and family at home, a nice cup of tea and curry. I ate curry for three days on my return!!!
It looks like another Icelandic volcano is working up to an eruption...Here's a webcam which is keeping an eye on it...

The pic at the top of this post was taken in the Botanic Gardens at Edinburgh. It was taken at mid day and hasn't been altered at all...Those aren't stars...They're bits of fluff off a nearby poplar tree!!!

TX Dates...

Highland Emergency is on Channel 5 on Sundays at 10am.

Airline USA is on Sky (various channels) daily.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Solid state

At NAB in April, I visited the LaCie booth a couple of times. I was very taken with their range of Thunderbolt Solid State Drives. Earlier this year, I bought the EWQL orchestral library and found the loading times and disk streaming very slow. I'm not sure what it was that was causing the USB3 bottleneck, but a Thunderbolt SSD seemed to be the answer. I recently got a 1TB Little Big Disk and am very pleased with it. Instruments load very quickly and the stream off the disk is fast enough to cope with heavy use.  I now have the EWQL library as well as Morphestra and Rumble on it. The idea is that I can take the LaCie with me when I know I'll need those sounds, but I can also have a pretty impressive sound battery with BFD3, Omnisphere, Stylus and Garritan sounds if I just have the computer with me. When I'm in the studio, the Lacie will daisy chain into the Belkin hub and run the studio from the MBA.

I've also been experimenting with ways of getting notation into Sibelius, and have bought NotateMe by Neuratron for the Nexus 7. This is a music handwriting recognition app and translates handwritten notes into a score. I can then upload these to Google Drive as music .xml files and then open them in Sibelius on the MacBook. It all works very well, but I need to get a better stylus as the response on the screen of the Nexus 7 is a bit quirky. This reminded me that I have a copy of Neuratron's Photoscore, which can scan in scores and 'read' them to produce a score on the computer which can be imported into Sibelius. I had a quick go on it with limited success, but I now have a better scanner, so I'll give it a whirl.

The trouble is that I really like writing with pencil and paper and would love to be able to write like this and then get scores into Sibelius without having to transcribe them note by note into Sibelius. A bit more experimenting to do!!!

I don't think I've mentioned my new website on this blog...It's HERE ...Thanks to Timo at W2-S.

It's been a busy few weeks...I've written three albums for Artful, prepping scores for a future orchestral recording and coming up with ideas for my Danish publisher. The garden has really sprung into life and the lawn seems to need mowing once a week. Our first year of wild meadow looks good, if a bit scrappy. Not surprising as it needs to be cut a few times to get an even grass distribution. There are quite a few species of wildflower in there too. Some need to be weeded out (buttercups, mallow) as they're taking over from the grass. It'll soon be time to buy a scythe!!!

TX dates...

Highland Airline is showing on Sky 1 and 2 and TV3 in Ireland.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


I've recently returned from a quick visit to Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas. I stayed in downtown Los Angeles for a couple of nights, mainly in an attempt to get over the jet lag a bit...Last year we went straight into an NAB party after landing and were exhausted halfway through the evening. This way seemed to work much better and I was more or less back to normal by the time I got the train to San Diego, with a stopover to see family just north of the city.

It seemed a bit strange sipping Margaritas by the pool bar at the hotel watching the hummingbirds flit about, having just left a gloomy England, but it was a very pleasant evening stopover on my way to Las Vegas for NAB 2014.

As usual, I met many old friends, made some new and left with prospects of some new sub-publishers and some potential work writing for different territories too. I was also able to finish a new album using the portable set up and I edited the whole thing too...Some even on the plane. The trip over was especially interesting, as I found myself sitting next to Money Mark, ex of the Beastie Boys, who had been performing at the Barbican with Damon Albarn. We had a good chat about music and gear.

My new infatuation with Apple gear has continued...Just got an iPhone, an Apple Mouse, Time Capsule and another MacBook Air for the business side of things. I'm tending to compose in the garden or out of the studio and then taking it to the studio to mix...Very nice!!!

TX Dates...

Airline USA is still all over Sky1, Sky 2 and Sky LivingIt.

Monday, March 03, 2014

I've got a Mac...And a ThatchPatch!!!

The studio Synergy rack-mounted PC was beginning to creak a bit, so I'd been thinking about a replacement for some time. Eric James of Philosophers Barn Mastering had piqued my interest in a piece of organisational software called Curio which only runs on Mac, so I began to think about going Mac in the studio. Even better, I wondered if the MacBook Air 11 inch would be powerful enough to run the studio and also serve as a portable set up when I'm travelling.

So after bending the ears of several musician friends and the staff of the Apple Store, I am the proud new owner of a souped-up MBA (8GB RAM, 500 flash memory, 256 cache and 1.7 processor). It runs Sibelius with ease and I'm gradually getting a nice set up together for Cubase. Getting some of my favourite old instruments up and running has been a bit of a task as I've been leaning the new OS as I've been going along, but it all seems very stable. I was told that there's a fan inside the computer which comes on if things get a bit hectic, but it's not happened yet.

So, now I have a set up which I can pop in the bag I bought in the Apple Store in Santa Monica last year, before I had an inkling that I'd be using a Mac for music, which can also connect up to the studio with one Thunderbolt connector. This runs into a Belkin Express Dock and then into the DAW controller and Saffire Liquid 56 which takes care of audio duties in the studio.

In amongst all these changes, I finished the latest revamp of the theme music for Wales This Week...First episode of the season starts Monday 3rd March...More details and a video sample HERE

I'll be travelling to the US again in April, starting in Los Angeles for a couple of days and then to Las Vegas for NAB via San Diego to visit family. If you're going to NAB and we've not scheduled a meeting, please send me an email.

The picture above is of the back of the thatch...This is a temporary patch which will last us through to the full job in two years time. It was quite fascinating watching the thatcher go about his business.

Spring is happening here in the UK, but there are forecasts of colder weather before we're into Summer. We have a huge amount of bonfire material due to several trees coming down in the high winds. We're waiting for the wind to be in the right direction before we can spark it up.

TX dates...

Wales This Week begins a new season at 8pm on ITV on Monday, 3rd March.

Airline USA continues on Sky 1 and Sky LivingIt.

Giant Octopus is on at 2pm on Nat Geo Wild on Saturday 8th March.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Absent friends.

The New Year started with a horrible shock...We found out that Andy, who helped us so much with the garden had died suddenly at home. He was a proper countryman and farmer...He taught us loads and has left his mark on the garden in the three and a half years that we've been here. It's a very sad thought that we'll never walk into the garden and find him enjoying the fresh air and his lunch at the picnic bench. The funeral was in Much Hadham yesterday and was followed by the wake at the village pub...Both venues packed with people he'd known for many years.

Working on the garden seems more daunting without Andy's help, but we'll do our best. Bulbs are pushing their way upwards and there are already a few patches of snowdrops here and there. Mike, the tree surgeon has been round to reduce and remove the dead wood from our largest oak tree which was getting a bit out of hand. He made a terrific job of it (Picture above) and he's now working on our two big apple trees. The oak tree's haircut may seem a bit extreme, but it'll soon fill out and be a lovely shape.

Work has been very busy...I've just finished music for the latest Barclays campaign. It's one of a series of TV commercials, so there's a few more to do over this year. Nice!!!

The Age Of Steam and The Book Of Knowledge (two re-mastered and reworked albums) are now available on iTunes and via www.chillvillemusic.com along with a brand new EP, I Am Forecasting Sun by The Essence (me!!!).

There are some new Artful news items over at www.artfulproductionmusic.blogspot.com too.

TX dates...

The new Barclays TV commercial is showing on ITV1.

Highland Emergency continues on Channel 5.

Airline USA is showing on Sky1, Sky HD and Sky Living It

Friday, January 03, 2014

DAW controllers and chainsaws

Just found this post in drafts...

Recently added a chainsaw to our gardening equipment. We've got lots of log material in the garden and so we needed something to cut them to size. The safety equipment cost more than the actual saw, but I wasn't about to take any more risks than necessary. It works fantastically well and takes seconds to cut through something that would have taken ages and lots of effort to cut with a bow saw.

I'm keeping my eye out for new DAW controllers and was very taken with the Avid s6. It's modular and so can be configured exactly the way that you need it. It's Eucon enabled, so it'll work with Cubase. Very tempted!!! :-)

Just completing a new album for Artful and waiting for artwork to be finalised on two albums for Chillville as well as an EP by The Essence.

TX Dates...

New Home DIY has been spotted on Quest.

Airline USA is showing daily on Sky Livingit.

Happy 2014!!!

Well, we knew that 2013 was going to be a year of change and that's the way it turned out. Sadly, we said goodbye to some old friends (and one new) and we changed the way we work which has taken longer than we expected. However, it's been exciting...

On the business side of the music, we had great meetings in Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton and Dublin and have a new sub-publisher in the UK and Ireland and we'll soon be in Malaysia and Singapore...To be followed by some more south-east Asian countries in 2014.

2013 was very busy musically with a couple of TV series and a feature as well as two commercial albums and an EP for Chillville and three albums for Artful. I also almost completed book one of Multiple Field Sketches and began book two. Finally, I arranged a piece called Remembrance for male voice choir.

We gained two new cats, Erik and Hat and began logging in earnest with the new chainsaw and equipment. I tried living with a wifi tablet and a non-smart 'phone but finally gave up and bought a Nexus 5.

So, next year's resolutions...

  1. Take more time off and travel more.
  2. Write and record more music than ever.
  3. Have a good time all the time.
Have a great 2014!!!