Jul 222014

It’s been a fairly busy couple of weeks so this is my first post in a little while. To cut a long story short, I’ve moved out of one place and into another. I’ll still be based in Cheltenham and will still be offering all the same services I was before, but it has definitely set me back on the blogs! This week will be a bit of a short one, and then there will be a couple of weeks without one, but then I’ll be back to my normal blogging routine.

Today, I’ve recorded a hugely famous piece of music probably made most famous by Louis Armstrong. I was flicking through my music deciding what to play and thought that with the backdrop of the sun shining, not a cloud in the sky (well, ok, maybe one or two…) this was a great choice. It’s my own little arrangement of a piece that has become a standard for many musicians.

So, this afternoon, wherever you might be I encourage you to take a break from what your doing and take just 5 minutes to sit back, relax and have a listen to this recording of ‘What a Wonderful World’.



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Jul 032014

Toy Story…who doesn’t love it? I’m a pretty big fan of all three films and have had a nostalgic re-viewing of each of them over the last couple of weeks. I promise I won’t get too sentimental today, but these films (mostly the first two) really bring me back to my childhood. Take away the reminiscing factor and they are still three great films! For me, one of the things that I love most about them is the soundtrack. Randy Newman is the man behind the scoring, which has always seemed an unusual choice but somehow right to me as I’ve often thought of Randy Newman as a quirky musical cocktail where the recipe might look something like this:

A splash of Billy Joel’s ability to write a frighteningly catchy tune
A dash of Elton John’s percussive pianistic skills
A smattering of say, Tim Minchin or Bill Bailey’s musical comedy chucked in for good measure

Everyone know’s the classic ‘You Got a Friend in Me’ which certainly applies to the first part of our cocktail recipe – it’s just a great melody. For the second part, I’d point you in the direction of ‘My Life is Good’. Finally, the musical comedy side of his music is present in a lot of his work, but prominently in the likes of ‘Political Science’ (which also may be less offensive to some than the infamous ‘Short People’…).

There’s something missing from the recipe… it needs a little something to sweeten the flavour. Well, how about a lashing of his unique ability to pull at your heartstrings.

Toy Story is a film about talking pieces of plastic. Ok, I’m being a bit simplistic… the story makes us care for the pieces of plastic as do the voice actors and the characters, but it’s moments like Jessie’s heartbreaking back story where Newman pulls out the big guns on creating something that resonates so strongly with so many people. My version of ‘When She Loved Me’ has been on my soundcloud page for a while, but I’ve posted it below if you’d like another listen.

I’m not copping out this week and only bringing up old material though so I’ve done another new recording for you. I’ve put together a version of ‘I Will Go Sailing No More’ as I think it falls into the shadow of ‘When She Loved Me’ despite being (in my opinion) just as much of a powerful song. Enjoy!

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Jun 192014

First and foremost today I’d like to start by saying sorry for taking so long with this blog post. It’s been a few weeks since my last one purely because the first of these two tracks has taken a while to get recorded. To make up for it, I’m going for a double whammy today – two for the price of one! That’s right, I’ve got two new tracks for you today, so without any further ado….

Part 1

Once in a while I’m aiming to put up a video on my YouTube channel and this is actually only the second one on this channel so far. As you will probably have seen by now, I have two different categories for all of the blogs I write based on what kind of track I’m including – a Piano Track or a Keyboard track. It appears just below the title and in a drop down menu from the ‘Blog’ section of my main menu. The point of this is that I’m really keen on playing my keyboard, and I’m also really keen on playing my piano. Both are the same aren’t they? Well no, not really….

For the piano tracks, I’m aiming to have them as almost entirely just piano. Nothing else. Maybe a string section from time to time but that’s it. On the keyboard side of things it’s a little more complicated. For each keyboard track I’m layering up several different parts on my keyboard so that it (hopefully) sounds like a whole band of some variety playing. In this case, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon and recorded a version of ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen. Today I’m going to take you behind the scenes for what this has involved…

Every time I create a keyboard track I start with a metronome. That’s little clicking noise that tells me where the beat is. That click goes on in my ear for the whole recording session, start to finish. Click.    Click.    Click.    Click.    Click.    Click.    Click.    Click.

It gets a little maddening if you start focusing on it and can send you into a bit of a trance but it is something you get used to. This is where my obsessive tendencies rear their ugly head again. I record each different part as a guide track – chances are it will take a few goes to get right but it’s nice to have something that is going to sound reasonably similar to the finished article to help me get the feel for the music. For this recording I’ve included around 12 different parts, which were all recorded first as a guide track; piano, bass, electric piano, 3 types of string sounds playing different parts, general percussion, 2 drum sections, a glockenspiel, timpani and a horn section. After this, I play them all in again, starting with the least important (or the one that is most in the background, e.g. the timpani) working up to the piano part, which 9 times out of 10 I will use for the main melody. If I’m doing something for YouTube then the video camera only comes out for the final piano recording and maybe one or two other parts as well (take a look at ‘There’s a Fine, Fine Line’ for some exciting split screen work!).

I wouldn’t say I’m camera shy really, but for some strange reason as soon as I press record on the video camera all my knowledge about music and my ability to play an instrument crumble into a heap of nothingness on the floor leaving me stranded gormlessly with 25 black keys and 36 white ones staring back at me expectantly while the Tyros’ buttons gleam, sparkle and blink like something straight from the International Space Station…

But then there’s the obsessiveness….

No, I won’t let myself be beaten by my Canon leering over my should at my now poor, useless hands. So I give it a shot anyway. I start the camera recording and the keyboard starts recording and I stride on towards victory and smash down the barriers and reach for the highest heights of my keyboard playing ability and…

…I make it 8 bars before hitting a true clunker of a note. Let’s try again, from the top! I start the camera recording (again) and the keyboard starts recording (again) and I stride on towards victory (again) and smash down those ever-growing barriers (again) and this time I really do reach for the highest heights of my keyboard playing ability and….

….I make it 12 bars before hitting the mother of all clunkers. This process goes on for as long as it needs to until I get something that I am fairly pleased with. After this odd torture ritual, I breath a colossal sigh of relief and record all of the tracks into my PC direct from the keyboard, mix them to make them sound a bit more like a professional recording and sync them up with the video.

And that’s all there is to it!

Part 2

As I mentioned earlier, I’m doing a ‘double-post’ to help make up for my poor effort recently, and actually this part is probably one of the more important posts (and shortest) that I’ve written. It has been a really busy time lately. There has been loads going on and I would confess to having been fairly self-absorbed. Despite this, I’ve known all along that I can count on my family to help me through it. They have quite literally been the ground beneath my feet.

I do struggle to voice my feelings and opinions so what better way to do it than over a world-wide document to be engraved in cyber-space for all eternity?! As cliché as it may sound, music has always been a translator for me to get across what I want to say but can’t.

So with that, this recording is a massive thank-you to my family for all their continued support.

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May 222014

While we are still at the very beginning of this blogging journey and as Creative Notation sets sail for an exciting future, I feel I need to confess something. Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you all the gory details of the sins I may or may not have committed but for music lovers this is a potentially dividing subject I’m about to broach. But I’m going to go for it anyway….

I love musicals.       There, I said it.    I think they are absolutely brilliant and there is nothing you can say to change my mind. Granted there are definitely some I don’t have much time for but I’ve recently noticed after being somewhat converted on Little Shop of Horrors (which I genuinely found horrific before for all the wrong reasons; I could never get past the ‘bop-shoo-wops’ in the opening number) that they tend to be few and far between. Although I don’t profess to be an avid musical-goer, I have seen a fair few over the years. There’s something about the atmosphere and buzz of the theatre, the spectacle of it all.

Then there’s the actual music, the singers, the live band. The music has always been at the core of what I love about going to see a show. From the angry Geordie mining songs in Billy Elliot to the sweeping strings in Les Mis. From the huge, stabbing organ chords in Phantom of the Opera to the tender finale of Wicked. And while I’m on the subject of Wicked, I love the pure unadulterated ‘cheese’ in musicals; those songs that really epitomize the genre. I can’t stomach cheesey pop songs but dress it up under the guise of a West-End London theatre and I’m there.

Some of you will have no doubt ran for the hills by now, and those of you still reading have probably formulated a frightening image of me by this point, but I promise you that my taste in music doesn’t end with Broadway. My record collection houses Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Creedance Clearwater Revival if that helps at all?! Probably not…

Anyway, the reason I’ve brought up the topic is all thanks to this week’s recording (and no doubt others in the future also). I’ve dived into my collection of musicals only to resurface with a song which I think is a real gem. Les Misérables tends to be remembered for On My Own, I Dreamed a Dream or At the End of the Day but less so for this one… enjoy!

novel focus