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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...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

2016 - Phew!!!

Busy times here at Tumbledown...Recently finished the music for Ireland with Ardal O'Hanlon which began showing on 14th December at 9pm on more4. It was a great show to work on with director Christopher Bruce and editor Laurence Williamson. I've worked with both of them often before, but this is the first time we've all worked together. It's a three times one hour show..."Comic actor Ardal O’Hanlon, explores the Emerald Isle and Irish life as he goes off the beaten track around his beloved homeland." It's had some really nice reviews...

“Intelligent, witty” The Observer
“Ardal…. a cheerful and mischievous guide” THE TIMES
“What a treat…wryly amusing and perceptive” Radio Times 
“It’s engaging stuff, thanks in no small measure to the smart, drily laconic Ardal O’Hanlon.” The Guardian. 
“Ardal asks who the real Irish are….with surprising results” THE DAILY MAIL
“Top 6 watches this week” The Irish Times


Studio news...I've just updated to a new MacBook Pro. I thought I'd be a couple of weeks setting it up, but I had all my files, passwords and system settings transferred over in an hour and a half. Getting the computer to talk to to the desk was a bit trickier and there were a couple of things that would have saved me time if I knew. They are to do with updating the OS...If you use ethernet with Avid hardware, you'll have to download a new AX88179 USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet driver and then update Eucontrol to 3.5 and update the firmware in each unit. 

A nice side effect of the new computer is that the screen is much larger than the old one and is a usable extra monitor. So I've shuffled things around a bit and the computer now sits between the desk and the keyboards, so I can pop instrument plug-ins on it for easy auditioning of sounds and it frees up some space from the two main monitors!!! It's now all working just as the old one was, so it's time to update to Cubase 9 and get a few more nice sounds. I've been really pleased with the Spitfire sounds I've recently bought in, so I'll look at some more of those. Spectrasonics Keyscape looks very impressive too.

A quick look at the past year shows that it's been a busy one with lots of music...Some nice TV projects and nine albums for Artful, several albums and part albums for Mindfulness, Compendium, Gold Leaf and Apollo. Also, I began some exciting collaborations with Percy Jones (Brand X, MJ12, Brian Eno) and Monti (Curve, Jesus And Mary Chain, Ian Dury) which will continue next year. Here are a few album covers from the past 12 months...

I realised with a bit of a shock that I spent nearly a whole month in the USA this year and will probably do the same next year...Hopefully, I'll have a better idea of what's going on in Major League Baseball on my next visit which will be in April!!! I had a meal in a bar on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica whilewatching the Cubs vs Indians game and found myself really getting into it. The Cubs broke a 70 year plus drought of wins, so it was very exciting. Baseball is full of nerdy stats and is therefore right up my street.

Looking forward to next year, I'm already working on the next albums for Artful and Butiq as well as one for another new label which will go live next year...I'm really excited about that as it's a new imprint from a really cool record label with some fantastic well established and new artists.

And finally, here's a playlist of some music!!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Vintage radio and thatching...

I've been really enjoying BBC Radio4ex recently...It features vintage radio shows and series in various genres, my favourite being comedy and sci-fi. I turned on the radio the other day to hear the familiar voice of Irene Handl in a show called We're In Business also starring Harry Worth, Peter Jones and Dick Emery. It was a really good comedy...A bit surreal so I wasn't too surprised to hear that it was scripted by Barry Took, Marty Feldman and Peter Jones himself. It was followed by Meet The Huggets and I was struck by the fact that both had fantastic full orchestral themes and incidental music.

Sadly, I can't find out much about We're In Business, but Meet The Huggets was very popular and started out as a series of Gainsborough films with music by Anthony Hopkins...I can't find out who was at the helm during the radio years.

Radio music was fantastic back then, recorded by up to huge ensembles and composed by people like Wally Stott who was a brilliant composer.

Which brings me on to a new development I've been noticing recently, which I find completely baffling. There have been a few releases recently of software which claim to compose chord sequences, basslines and melodies and also to be some sort of aid in understanding music theory. Unfortunately, the ones I have heard seem to be programmed by someone who doesn't know much music theory as they produce a slew of wrong notes over an extremely rudimentary and uninteresting chord sequence. Quite apart from that, the basic assumption is that music theory is a black and white presentation of rules which must be adhered to. Like most things in life, music theory has many grey, or rather flexible  areas...After all, it's a way of understanding acoustics in a way as defined by western diatonic music which is a thing based on wind and wire. It therefore has to be a flexible and living thing, which in turn, is why so many beautiful things can be done with it. It's a force of nature, which is why it speaks to us all.

I reckon that the reason us composers write music is to communicate how we feel, so to get a machine to throw out a series of notes rather than to have an experience, process it yourself and then communicate something of worth seems pointless to me. Much better to listen to lots of different music, experiment and learn some sort of formal theory, if you ask me...Much more interesting too!!! Anyway, I'll stop there.

The TV show I'm writing the music for threw down a very interesting sound challenge which I'll write more about in a future blog. I'll just say that it involved a lot of editing in Melodyne. The show has been great to work on...An excellent and very experienced team and a terrific presenter and subject matter...Brilliant!!! I can't say any more until the show has been finished and scheduled, but I'll post more when I can.

I'm working on a new 'classical' piece. It's called "Three Illustrations in Colour" and is for quite a large orchestra, two harps and female chorus. Debussy used the same forces in his Nocturnes and the soundscape he conjured up with those forces has always fascinated me. I've nearly completed what will probably be the last piece which is Village FĂȘte and Thunderclouds. It is exactly the sort of piece that would fit in the Multiple Field Sketches, but it has (very unusually for me) lyrics, so it needed its own setting. I'm reworking Blood Moon and Monitor from the Field Sketches as a first movement and still thinking about what should go between them. You can even get apps to work this sort of thing out for you too, but one of the best things about composing I feel, is holding all these things in your head and mulling over how the ideas fit together and bounce off each other to make a greater whole.

We have the thatchers in here at Tumbledown and we're gradually learning the language of the craft. We're having a flush rather than a block ridge and we're not having pinnacles, despite their function of keeping witches away. The thatchers are here most days unless they're yelming the straw before bringing it here to put up on the roof (pic above).

There's a new Artful release coming soon as well as The Lost Lake, my second album for Mindfulness Music.

Monday, July 04, 2016

New gig...

Very busy time here...I've got the job of writing music for a show which is going to be presented by one of my favourite actor/comedians exploring one of my favourite places and will be working with one of my favourite directors and one of my favourite editors. To top it all, I got the job with my favourite agent...Thanks AJA!!! :-) I'll post full details when I'm able to and the press releases go out.

So, I've been getting a bit ahead with Artful releases which has meant a lot of mastering and editing, as well as writing about 30 tracks for other publishers and a meditation album...Phew.

I've also started a 'classical' piece called Village FĂȘte and Thunderclouds, which is my take on current times and Brexit etc... It's for large orchestra and female chorus and I might make it part of a three movement piece.

I've put some sheet music up at http://garryjudd.musicaneo.com as some people have asked to see the scores of Field Sketches and The Green Man and there is some free stuff there too. The Piano arrangement of Elegies (and Energies) is also there...This was the last score which I finessed in Sibelius and I'm now totally writing notation with Staffpad.

Friday, May 27, 2016


I've recently become a power Dropbox user and a big fan since my return from the USA.

Since then (and thanks to the meetings I had over there) I've been writing music for several different publishers and I've found that Dropbox is a fantastic tool to distribute the music to them. So, I now have Dropbox folders for each of my publishers and clients, so I can simply just drop a finished piece into the right folder and it'll find its way to London, LA or Copenhagen etc..., almost like having a network of wormholes from one place to the other. :-)

I also use it to sync files between The Artful Corporation computers and, on a more micro level, to sync files between my Mac and my laptop PC, which I use for music metadata.

Dropbox also comes in handy for sending music to directors/editors...The other day I was contacted by an editor who wanted to use one of my pieces on a TV show. I opened up and shared a folder with him, dropped the piece of music in the folder and it was on his timeline within seconds. Better still, the folder is still active, so I now have a solid method of transfer now set up for the next time he needs something.

A couple of other things I've found is that if you want to send a set of pieces to someone all in one go, you can upload them as they are finished one by one to the main directory of Dropbox and then move them en masse to the destination folder...They'll then show up together instantly at the remote end as they're already present on the Dropbox servers and don't need to be uploaded to be moved. It's also fun to export finished demos or masters directly into the destination Dropbox folder...You can't get hotter off the press than that!!!

One final use I've been trying out is as a collaboration tool. I have a folder shared with a fellow composer so we can work on the same files directly...Great stuff!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Back in the UK

Just returned from the USA...Had lots of very promising meetings about future work and I'll be returning in mid-October. I started with a week in LA, followed by a train trip to San Diego to visit family and then ended up in Las Vegas for NAB to meet a lot of my international sub-publishers.

My timing was good, as I'd just missed a week of rain. The locals were very pleased to have had the rain, but having just left a wet and windy London, I was very pleased to enjoy the Sun!!! My second day of meetings was in mostly in Venice and I had a wonderful stroll up the boardwalk. I'll be going again in October and will be based mostly in Santa Monica which I'm really looking forward to. This time I was mostly in Beverly Hills (which is well positioned for meetings) and a couple of days Downtown, before heading off to San Diego via Union Station. That station is really quite something and I really enjoy sitting in those comfy leather sofas and watching the world go by.

So I could carry on working, I took my basic portable set up which is...

Macbook Air running Cubase and various other audio plug-ins/programs.
M-Audio Keystation Mini.

When space isn't at a premium, I can also take...

Lacie 500Gig SSD containing more sound libraries.

...and if space is even less at a premium...

Focusrite Scarlett Studio interface, and the Hohner Steinberger guitar and bass...And a mic and other instruments, if needed.

I've had a lot of music released recently...Firstly, my orchestral album Field Sketches is at...

The rerecorded and remastered On Vacation is here...

...and a couple of compilations containing only my music are On The Orient Express...

...and Sands Of Meditation...

I also have music on new releases from Gold Leaf and Artful and wrote the theme and incidental music for as TV programme called Take Two, which features interview with British screen legends...People I've admired for ages, so it was a thrill to do!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

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 purpose of the software which is intended really for inputting via handwriting recognition, but because I need to produce scores and parts quickly, I thought I’d try a quicker workflow to see how things went. I’d already slipped a couple of scores and sets of parts from StaffPad alongside the usual Sibelius finished ones into an earlier and smaller session and I had no complaints from the conductor or musicians, so I had great confidence that it’d work OK!!! The music project was one of my own for Compendium Recordings, so there were no deadline problems to encounter, but I could use any experience for future work where deadlines will be important.

The workflow was this…

Write score in StaffPad.
‘Print’ score and parts to .pdf.
Proof parts on Mac, make changes to Staffpad score on Surface.
Print A4 score for me.
‘Print’ A3 and A4 score and parts to .pdf.
Zip up and send to orchestra.

I printed the first score on paper for the proofing session, but I thought I’d save a tree and proof on two screens for future scores.

I’ve sent a couple of suggestions of things that would make things easier to StaffPad and look forward to those appearing soon, but generally speaking, the experience was incredibly easy and efficient.

Mixing is now well underway and there'll not be great amount of editing as the orchestra were fantastic. I've had a dry run at mastering some music and the results are great (though I say so myself!!!), even at this early stage...Here is a link...

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Green Men, Kingfishers and arranging with StaffPad

The Green Man orchestral suite is now available on iTunes by clicking on this link...

The album also includes a piano arrangement of Elegies (and Energies) from Book 2 of Multiple Field Sketches for small orchestra. When I decided to make this piano reduction, it occurred to me that I could do this in situ alongside the original orchestral arrangement in StaffPad. This would mean that I could refer to the score as I proceeded into the piece and even copy and paste parts into the piano arrangement. So, I copied the StaffPad orchestral version, opened it and subtitled it 'piano arrangement' so I had two new identical versions. There may be an easier way of doing this...Maybe the StaffPad people could enlighten me, but I wanted to preserve the orchestral version as it was and this was the best way I could figure out to do that.

I then added a piano part to the new version and found that it was a delight to work on this while referring to the original version alongside it. Copying and pasting worked a treat...In 'Elegies' there are some pretty complex cross rhythmic hemiolas which would have been a bit of a task to replicate and I found the new lasso to select function very useful. Pasting selections into different voices is, necessarily, a bit fiddly as you have to keep selecting the right voices to copy and then paste into, but StaffPad intelligently sorted the beam directions (even in interweaving parts) and made the job easy.

Before very long, I had a complete piano arrangement and I then deleted all the other instruments...Fantastic!!! If you do this from a fully notated (with directions and dynamics), these can be copied and pasted in with the actual music.

I'm currently working on some arrangements for large orchestra and am working in a similar way, except I added the new instruments to the orchestral score resulting in a sort of semi-filled template.

Of course, like all music where there is a possibility of copying and pasting, you have to guard against being lazy and think about whether the voicing and timbres will work when one part is transferred to another instrument, but that's what being a composer is all about, isn't it???

We had a huge thrill recently when we spotted a kingfisher diving for beetles in the pond. It's a couple of years since we removed the Koi carp that we inherited (they were not doing well as the water was not properly filtered for them, so we found them a lovely new home) and removed the leaky liner to make it into a natural wildlife pond. It took a couple of weeks, during which we smelled permanently of silt, but we've ben really pleased to see all sorts of wildlife make their home in there...Great diving beetles, water boatmen, greater crested newts, dragonfly larva are all in there and there are often ducks and moorhen on it. The kingfisher was a real surprise...We're not sure where it comes from, but there are larger areas of running water nearby where it must make its home.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Keeping in touch with nature...

Writing and recording music can be a very esoteric enterprise and it's easy to lose touch with the natural world. Living in a thatched cottage in a tiny hamlet is a lovely way to keep 'grounded'. For example: This is the time of year when it's good to have a tidy up in the garden and have a bonfire to get rid of any branches and twigs that have fallen and been collected with any other garden rubbish. It's also the time I tend to get rid of any royalty sheets/accountancy stuff that we're no longer required to keep, so I literally 'cook the books' on the bonfire. This is where nature stuff like the wind direction comes in. We normally have a southerly wind here, which would blow any smoke back towards us and our neighbours, So, when the wind turns round to the north (usually bringing colder weather) conditions are ideal for a good burn up.

This happened yesterday and I soon had a good blaze going with the smoke giving our neighbour across the field a wide berth and continuing into the open countryside beyond. I took the opportunity to get some of the cut logs that have been seasoning down the end of the garden beyond the summer house and split them ready for the cold snap that the wind was bringing. 

Log splitting with a heavy maul is a very satisfying thing, especially when all goes well and the log splits in half first time with a lovely crack...A bit like hitting a six in cricket, or I suppose a home run in baseball. There is a sort of 'Murphy's Law' with logs which states that the smaller and flimsier a log looks, the harder it is to split. The only thing more welcome than a clean 'six' is the first proper cracking noise a stubborn log makes after a sustained battering!!!

All this is a nice contrast to wiring up the legacy rack and the second monitor in the studio. The rear speakers are in their permanent home on their new brackets made by a local metalwork/blacksmithing friend. On the musical side, Artful released a new disk last week which is now available worldwide and I'm at the final stages of mastering my first classical release for Compendium Recordings.

Snow followed the northerly wind overnight...It didn't settle for long despite cold temperatures and ice on the pond. This is also the time of year that our thoughts turn to warmer climes and we begin to plan the annual trip to LA and Vegas. I'll be in LA from 11th for five days before heading off to Vegas via San Diego. I'll probably be back in LA in October.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Meet Edgar...

I'm all for things which can make more time for composing and Edgar has proved to be very useful in that regard.

It's a way of posting to social media from a library of posts which you can add to when you have time, and then schedule those posts to a timetable, rather than have to think them up and post them on the fly.

It's incredibly easy to use...The way of adding to the library of posts has been particularly well thought out and makes the process very straightforward. This makes it easier to come up with posts that will really interest your followers. Posts can be grouped into types...ie. 'promotional' and 'funny/inspirational' and then scheduled by type and social media accounts via a grid. Accounts can be with Facebook (including pages), Twitter and LinkedIn.

All in all, great stuff!!!