5 ways to promote your music

5 Ways to Promote Your Music

In this blog post, I am going to provide you with 5 ways in which you can promote your music. This is not going to be a cookie-cutter blog post as each tip will require some work on your part. There are some obvious tips in this post but I would encourage you to read each one, as there may be something in there that you didn’t know.

1. Social Media

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. Whether you hate it or post absolutely everything about your life on it, social media is one of the best ways to get your music out there. However, as with most things, your followers and fellow musicians don’t want to see a “me, me, me” post every single day. So, although social media is a great tool to get music out there don’t over-promote your music.

To effectively use social media you will need to strike a balance between posting new original content curated from the internet, and your fellow musicians, alongside your own music. One way to achieve this is to promote other musicians on your channel that are similar in compositional style to you. When you come to post some of your own music you could reach out to them and see if they will reciprocate your post on their social media.

This is a good way of networking with other musicians and can lead to getting your music out in front of a wider audience that you may never have had access to previously. In short promote others alongside yourself then reach out to them.

2. Soundcloud

Uploading your track to Soundcloud provides you with an opportunity to get to get your music out there for free. Although not as good as it once was, Soundcloud still has its place for promotion. One of the plus points is that you can upload your track and then embed it into your website and create a personalised show-reel for potential clients.

If you upload to Soundcloud I would recommend checking out repost exchange. This is a site that connects directly to your Soundcloud profile and enables you to share your tracks with other musicians. On playing their tracks you are awarded tokens, which you can use to start a campaign of your own. It’s a bit of “pay for play” gimmick but it has resulted in me collaborating with some musicians.

3. Spotify

The big hitter in digital music streaming, Spotify is where it’s at if you want to get your music out in front of the masses and create a new audience. Granted, the pay per stream ratio is not in favour of the actual musician and you need a couple of thousand plays a month to see anything reasonable coming back to you.

How then can this be a valid way of promoting your music you may ask? The trick is in creating a playlist, not lots of them, just the one playlist. Select a theme for this playlist and add tracks that meet this theme. Whilst adding tracks from more well-known acts, insert a couple of your own. Then promote this playlist on your socials alongside your other daily posts (you are posting daily, aren’t you?).

4. Word of mouth

Quite an obvious one really. Most people have family and friends that will take an interest in what you create. Although they are never a good source to actively critique your music, they are a good way of getting your music to a wider audience.

I will use myself as an example of how this can work. Aside from making electronic music, I also play the church organ at the local parish church. On conversing by e-mail with the parish priest I included my music business signature purely by accident at the bottom of my e-mail. I got instant feedback on how much he liked the music and before I knew it a link to my website ended up on the parish bulletin. An instant new audience of over 100 potential listeners.

Think what organisations you are involved in or social circles that you move in and find ways of introducing your music to them.

5. Competitions

Lots of soft synth companies hold competitions from time to time and these are worth entering not only for the experience of completing tracks but also in getting your music to a wider audience. I accept it is daunting to put yourself out there in front of more experienced, and possibly accomplished, composers. However, you only learn by actually doing something repeatedly.

It can also open doors to new working partnerships. Who knows, the next product the company makes they may approach you to write a demo track. In return for the track, you are normally recompensed with the said piece of software/sound pack/patches for free. Quite a good deal when you are first starting out.

Conclusion

In this blog article, I have presented you with 5 different ways of getting your music out there. I know there are plenty of other ways, which this article has not explored. However, these are the most basic and readily available methods of increasing your audience that is open to all, no matter your ability. Engage in these 5 methods and your audience should increase substantially in a short period of time.

What methods have you tried that have been successful? What was not so successful? Share your thoughts below and we can all learn from each other. Whilst you are here I would be grateful if you showed your support by listening to some of my music and subscribing to my YouTube channel

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Studio Tour – 2020

Studio Tour – 2020

I like to keep a tidy studio space, it helps with the creativity by providing an inviting area to work. By the end of 2019, the back of my studio desk looked akin to the spaghetti junction. I was also getting a slight hum on the speakers whenever the fluorescent light was switched on in the living room or the kitchen. It was time to re-plan the wiring, fix the hum, take the opportunity to move a few racks and reintroduce some of my old gear.

Hmmm Hum

The problem I wanted to solve first was the very faint background hum that I could hear from time to time on my Neumann monitors. It was not there all the time, just when a fluorescent light was switched on or the blender in the kitchen. After much research I settled on a Furmann M-10x E power conditioner. This comes in a 19-inch rack and has 10 outlets, which are conveniently at the rear of the unit. This allows for some very tidy wiring options, especially if the desk you are putting it in has a cable tidy shelf.

The Furmann includes a circuit breaker and over-voltage protection. The reset button for the circuit breaker is on the rear, so it is a bit of a pita if you ever need to reset it. Thankfully I can access the rear panel easily due to the design of the desk that I am using.

Zaoring to Success

This brings us nicely to the main piece of my studio the Zaor Mira 88 desk. This arrives on your doorstep in a big crate in a flat pack. Let me tell you, it is one heavy item to put together and although you can do the main build on your own, you will need a second pair of hands for the very last part.

The desk has a nice retractable shelf, which is big enough for most 88 note keyboards. There is also space to fit up to two 4u high racks into the desk, which can either be just one rack or several as you will see later in this tour. There is also a handy central drawer for storing USB pens, cables etc. This helps keep the tidy feeling of the workspace.

I also purchased some Zaor Aperta stands that were made in collaboration with isoAcoustics. These decouple your speakers from the desk and minimise any vibrations that may occur through the desk and colour your monitoring environment.

Rack ’em up

We now come to the rack space in the desk and what I filled them with. On the right-hand side I inserted the Mannikin Schrittmacher Sequencer with a 1u blanking plate above it to hide the wiring. I will probably fill this at some point with another rack from my small collection further down the line.

On the right, from top to bottom, we have a Korg TR-Rack followed by a Roland M-VS1 and finally an RME Audio Fireface UFX II. The Korg TR-Rack provides some traditional sounds along with some truly inspirational synthesizer patches. The M-VS1 is a trip down Roland memory lane and is the hardware version of the SR-JV80-04 Vintage Synth expansion board. The Fireface UFX II speaks for itself and is the beating heart of the audio side in the studio.

We then move on to the rack structure that I keep to the side of my main desk. Working from the bottom up we have the ART Pro Audio P48 patch bay. It may be helpful if I explain that the 8 outputs on the rear of the Fireface are connected directly to the patch bay by way of an audio loom to keep the wiring tidy. I then use short audio leads to patch the audio outputs from the hardware synths/racks into the inputs of the Fireface.

Up from the patch bay, we have one of my favourite pieces of kit, the Korg Radias. This is a very versatile digital synth and uses the same technology found in the Korg Oasys flagship synthesizer. I won’t go into a full description of this synth, but if you want to find out more head on over to http://www.vintagesynth.com/korg/radias.php.

Korg-Radias
Dave Smith Prophet 12, Korg Radias & ART Pro Audio P48

On top of the angled rack unit, I have put a 6u rack space and attached a cable cradle to the bottom. This allows me to keep all the wiring off the floor for these rack units and tame those Gremlins that seem to come out at night to tangle up your wiring. Inside the 6u rack, we have a Dave Smith Prophet 12 module.

I have to confess, although my newest member in the studio I have not really explored the Prophet 12 and still in search of a good librarian utility that I can use to control it without using the front panel. If anyone has come across such a utility I would be grateful if you could leave a link in the comments below.

Finally, we come to the top of the rack where you will find an Access Virus TI Snow next to a Waldorf Blofeld. I think the Virus needs no introduction as it has appeared on countless electronic music tracks. The Waldorf Blofeld is a beautiful wavetable synthesizer that is capable of some very atmospheric sounds. It also provides some nice analogue modelling and analogue emulation.

The little black box tucked at the back is a UAD-2 Satellite USB, which as the name suggests, hosts my UAD plugins. It does get temperamental sometimes by dropping its connection now and again. All I need to do is switch it off for a few seconds and back on, it then maintains the connection for the rest of the session.

That’s the little tour of the studio almost over and we have two items left to mention. The first is my weighted keyboard, a Studiologic SL88 Grand. This has a very tactile feel and is the closest controller I have found to a piano keyboard. Well, it’s similar enough to feel like my acoustic upright that I have in the front room.

Monitoring the Output

The final items are my actual monitoring equipment. First up are the Neumann Kh 120A monitors, which have a beautiful neutral sound. Coupled with Sonarworks Reference 4 they make up for the limited acoustic treatment that I can put up in the work area I have. For checking the mix on headphones I use both open-backed and closed backed. I will explain the difference between these two varieties in a future blog post. All I will say for now is the open-backed are AKG 712-pro and the closed backed are Neumann.

Studio Tour - 2020 1
AKG 712-pro

Conclusion

That’s a brief tour of my studio and the equipment that I use to create my sonic landscapes. If you have any questions about my setup or would like to know more about the equipment I use, leave a comment below.

Musical Influences and Those Who Gave Me Inspiration

Musical Influences and Those Who Gave Me Inspiration

As a child, my parents were forever playing classical music alongside the classics from the 50s/60s and is probably why I never got into mainstream pop growing up. It wasn’t until around the early 80s that synthesizer music first crept into my psyche. This was due to the hype being created by Jean-Michel-Jarre and his huge outdoor concerts. I remember seeing the news reports from 1986 when he brought downtown Houston to an absolute standstill with his outdoor concert.

I also remember sitting at the back of my local church listening to the organist play. It was at this stage that I started to become very interested in learning to play a keyboard instrument. However, it was not until the age of 11 that I received my first Casio keyboard. It only had 6 instruments selected by a slide, coupled with about the same number of rhythm drum tracks. I still have this keyboard, stored in the loft, as a memory of how things all started.

“However, it was not until the age of 11 that I received my first Casio keyboard. It only had 6 instruments selected by a slide, coupled with about the same number of rhythm drum tracks.”

Sadly the organist never knew that he was the one who created that first spark inside a young boy to play. In August 1998 I got to live out one of my aspirations, to play the organ that I had once heard as a young boy. Some twenty years later I am still the organist at that church and I can put this one down to the fine gentleman, Mr Bill Caulfield, that created the spark as being my first true musical influence.

music-Adrian-Earnshaw

Interests in Synthesizers

This is a funny one really as aside from listening to Jean-Michel-Jarre I am not sure what made me want to listen to more of this style of music. I do, however, remember a friend of my brother who suggested I check out Tangerine Dream. I picked up a couple of records from the local store, Le Parc was one of them, and that was me set on a massive love affair with the synthesizer and electronic music.

This experience also sparked my interest in composing my own electronic music. For those of you who have heard any of Tangerine Dream’s tracks from the 70s and 80s will clearly hear the influence that they have had on my music. It was those driving bass line sequences and arpeggiated counter melodies that hooked me into the Berlin School of music.

This experience also sparked my interest in composing my own electronic music. For those of you who have heard any of Tangerine Dream’s tracks from the 70s and 80s will clearly hear the influence that they have had on my music. It was those driving bass line sequences and arpeggiated counter melodies that hooked me into the Berlin School of music.

Education

For many years I took no formal lessons and went down the self-teaching route to play the piano and latterly the pipe organ. It was not until the mid-2000’s that I took my first formal lessons on how to play the piano and learn theory up to post-graduate level. This was thanks to a retired army bandmaster John Gibson who opened my eyes on the art of composition, harmony and how to flesh out ideas when none seem to be around. I look back on those lessons quite fondly and they still continue to give me inspiration to this day.

Those theory lessons have been invaluable in allowing me to understand written sheet music and also compose pieces for the choir where I play the organ. They have also got me out of a few tight spots when deadlines have been looming and the sheet of music paper is still blankly back at me.

Summing up

Well, that’s a brief a tour of what first started the music journey for me and the main characters who influenced where I am today. If I didn’t cross paths with these people I very much doubt I would be where I am today musically speaking.

Who first influenced you musically and how did it impact on your journey?

Should I Bounce MIDI to Audio?

Should I Bounce MIDI to Audio?

This is something that I wish I had learned right at the beginning of my music-making career. Do you, or should you, bounce midi to audio? A project is not truly finished until you have bounced all the parts to audio, backed those audio files up and stored them in a safe place. You can read about my backup strategy here

The reason to bounce all those MIDI parts to audio is for the purposes of redundancy. What happens if you wish to revisit the project only to find that one of the synthesizers you used no longer works or the latest operating system update has made it unusable. Remember the latest Apple Catalina update that made many software synthesizers unusable for a period of time?

“A project is not truly finished until you have bounced all the parts to audio, backed those audio files up and stored them in a safe place.”

History Lesson

This post is a short lesson on reality and ensuring you have properly future-proofed your project. If we rewind back to the 90’s I had just created my first ever electronic music track. I called it ‘Vocal Strings of Mars’ and it was created using my Korg Triton Rack, which I still have to this day. I created the whole track in MIDI, mixed it and exported the completed track as an mp3 file.

The track was very basic but I was thrilled, as it was the first-ever electronic music track I had written.

Let us fast forward 20 years and I wanted to revisit the track and rework it into a more modern-day piece. The problem was, the piece of software I used to create it no longer existed, hadn’t been updated in years and would no longer load using modern-day operating systems.

As I had no audio stems, I could not edit the track without recording each part over again. Although the melody was simple enough to recreate, the actual vibe and sound were missing as I had tweaked some of the patches. If only I had bounced each track to audio and created stems (facepalm moment).

Light Bulb Moment

It was from this moment that I started to bounce all my projects to individual stems before mixing. My process is now to write the track, bounce any midi tracks to audio.

Only once I have committed my stems to audio do I start mixing and mastering and adding the fairy dust. I would recommend that you look at following a similar process if only to preserve your sanity when, in years to come, the software you used to create your track no longer works.

What was your light bulb moment, post in the comments below so we can learn from each other’s mistakes and discoveries?

5 Music Theory Books I Recommend You Should Study

5 Music Theory Books I Recommend You Should Study

I remember my younger days when I first started out playing the piano and keyboards. The last thing I wanted to do was learn music theory, the theory was boring and reminded you of stuffy professors pouring over their manuscript.

As time went on I got curious about why I was playing the exact notes in front of me, what held them together and more importantly, why did it all just work. This is when I turned to those once hated books and it opened my eyes. It helped me write music quicker and understand chord structures.

Fast forward a number of years and I was writing 4 part harmony (SATB) for my choir to perform. Hearing my first pieces performed gave a feeling of elation that is hard to describe.

The following are just a small selection of books that I used on my musical journey to get me to point I am at now.

1. Elementary Harmony by C.H.Kitson

kitson-elementary-harmony

If you only purchase one book on theory then this is it. It was the one book that I understood and gave me that lightbulb moment. Although it is of a dry academic tone the exercises this book provides takes you through the dos and don’ts of classical harmony.

There is an emphasis on ear practice and to get the most out of the book you will need access to a keyboard instrument or piano. Do not underestimate the slimness of this book compared to others as what it provides are the essentials to get you started on four-part harmony.

I always find myself returning to this tome from time to time just so that I can brush up my skills. 

2. The AB Guide to Music Theory by Eric Taylor

eric-taylor-ab-guide-music-theory

If you have taken any grade exams in the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music line then you may well be familiar with this series. It is split over two volumes and provides the basic building blocks of being able to read and write music. If you ever want to learn to read music then this series is for you.

The first volume of this series takes you through the basics that you will find in grade 1 – 5. Whereas the second volume of the series takes you all the way up to what you would find in a grade 8 music theory test.

Some may find it a dreary little book but I found it an essential volume to read in understanding the dots that I was reading, writing and performing.

3. The Musician’s Guide to Reading and Writing Music by Dave Stewart

dave-stewart-reading-and-writing-music

Some of you may recognise the name of the author of the keyboardist for Eurythmics. This book is written in a fun style and provides the basics to help you start putting things together musically. Interestingly Dave shows the differences between chord voicings on keyboards compared to guitars, so you get a two for one deal. It also shows what chords would have guitarists wanting to throw things at you due to their impossible nature of voicing.

The book provides a lot of encouraging quips along the way and helps break up what is technically a dry subject. Another thoroughly recommended book to add to your arsenal.

4. Music Composition 1 & 2 by Jonathan E. Peters

Music-composition-book

Being written in 2014, this is a more modern take on the compositional technique. You can also use the two books to follow along with the tutorial video series the author has made on Udemy. The books show how you can take a simple phrase of music and turn it into a full piece by twisting the notes every which way.

Following these books through coupled with what I have already learnt gave me another light bulb moment in my musical journey. The techniques provided in this series are not just helpful in writing for orchestras and choirs but translate to all styles of music.

5. The Study of Orchestration by Samuel Adler

samuel-adler-orchestration

Now for the big hitter in this short series of recommended books and, also,  by far the most expensive. This book is weighty, coming in at over 1000 pages, but the knowledge contained in these pages is priceless. The aim of the book is to teach the reader the basics of orchestration taking you through each instrument within a typical orchestra.

It provides information on how to combine the individual instruments, how to choose the most appropriate instruments for your pieces and provides a set of CDs to accompany the book with material to demonstrate the techniques presented.

If you are looking at getting into writing for strings, woodwinds, brass and orchestras in general then this is the book you need.

Conclusion

This is a small selection of music theory books that I have personally used to help me understand the art of music. In the coming New Year, I would recommend you give some of these a try, you will be amazed at the results.

What books have you read that influenced you in your music creating journey? Let’s share them in the comments below and make the coming New Year on for productivity and learning.

Wishing all my followers and friends the very best that this universe can offer you in 2020.

Omnisphere Stack Mode

Omnisphere Stack Mode

To demonstrate this powerful feature I put together a little video that takes you on a tour of the stack mode within Omnisphere. I explore what it is, the different modes available and finish off with a little sound design using CC messages.

This video demonstrates the hidden depth, and oft-overlooked area, of Omnisphere. Whether you want to stack patches in the way I set out in this article or as a method of sound design, it is all at your fingertips.

“I explore what it is, take you on a tour of the different modes and finish off with a little sound design using CC messages”

Stack Mode Setup

There are various performance parts in Omnisphere and to access these you just click on multi and you’ve got a choice of either live and stack mode. We will come to the live mode in another video post at a later stage.

Today we’re just going to look at the stack mode. To get stack mode up and running by going to the mixer page. We then need to load sounds into each of these little segments called channels. To keep it simple we’ll just look at using two channels, channel one and channel two.

We may go a bit further later on but first of all, we need to choose a pad sound. For the second channel, we go for a more of a synth lead. What I show in the video is a quick way of actually loading the patch into another part. Where it says part one, part two, that pertains to part, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, in the mixer page.

This method saves you having to go to the mix page menu every time. Once we’ve loaded a patch into channel one and two, let’s click on stack mode.

You are greeted with a display of four lines and each line represents the channel that the patch is loaded on. As we have nothing loaded into channel three and four, it’ll show us default settings. We currently have a pad sound on channel one and a lead sound on channel two. So to engage stack mode click the button to switch it on.

stack-mode-omnisphere

Blending the Sound

These two sounds will now play together as a stacked sound. If you want to split the keyboard, so you have the pad in the left hand and the lead in the right hand, all you need to do is click and hold a corner of the channel graph and drag it across. This is demonstrated better in the video rather than pictures.

What could have been helpful, and I don’t know if Spectrasonics will pick this up at some point, is to have a little indicator to see that you’ve actually got the corner of the channel. Once you have managed to get the corner of the slide, move it into middle C. Now select the second channel and move the slide so that it only the notes above middle C play. This is one way of splitting the sound across the keyboard.

This is a great way of a bit of difference to your sound palette, depending on how heavy you hit the keys.

More Control

One final way to control the stacked sounds is to use the CC mode. This allows the use of a Continuous Controller message to control how the stacked sound is blended.

gradient-omnisphere

Omnisphere defaults to using the mod-wheel as the CC message and I have got mine linked to a pedal. When I push the pedal forward, the mod-wheel goes forward and if I pull it back it goes back to zero. This is represented nicely on the little graph at the bottom of the stack view. It also gives you an indication of where the mod-wheel is sitting.

The thing is, sometimes the movement can be quite jerky on the transition from one sound to the other. What you can do is overlap the patches slightly by clicking and dragging at the bottom of each line. To make the patches overlap better you need to use a gradient by clicking and dragging from the top left-hand corners.

CC-omnisphere

This is a great way to design your sounds, whether you want to split them over the keyboard or just make a massive layered pad sound. Omnisphere stack mode is powerful and I urge you to spend some time experimenting with this feature. It is particularly useful for those that play live either through YouTube streaming or in an arena/club environment.

For more tips, tricks and music head on over to my YouTube channel by clicking this link