Professional and Personal Development - Podcasts

With so many resources available for professional and personal development it is often difficult to know where to start and how to find the best material. There are lots of excellent resources available including video tutorials, podcasts, self help books and blogs but personally I have found great value in listening podcasts. I listen to podcasts covering lifestyle, creative and music topics and interviews with professionals across the arts and media spectrum. Listening can be done while travelling, making food or doing chores and is a positive way to make the most of our time while undertaking mundane tasks. Here is a small selection of my favourite podcasts and episodes, I hope you find them interesting and inspiring. If you have any recommendations of your own visit the contact page or email info@theaudiotapes.com. You can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or visit my website at www.michaeldennymusic.com.

The Minimalists:
This podcast with Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus sees discussion surrounding the minimalist lifestyle, and each episode looks at how a minimalist approach can be applied to different aspects of our lives.
Favourite Episodes: 42: Creating / 127: Sivers

The Stage Left Podcast:
This podcast features fascinating and educational interviews with musicians who have worked with some of the biggest artists in the world.
Favourite Episodes: 27: Sam Herhily - Hope of the States / 38: Gem Archer - Oasis

Tap Tempo with Matt Lange:
Hosted by composer and music producer Matt Lange, this podcast features interviews and informal discussion with a selection of musicians working in all aspects of the film, tv, game and music industry.
Favourite Episodes: 18: Sharooz Raoofi / 08: Sarah Schchner

The Ground Up Show:
A podcast with filmmaker Matt D’Avella which aims to inspire creativity through interviews and discussion with a range of successful creatives from a range of industries.
Favourite Episodes: 53: Freelance / 61: Simple Advice Read More…

Contemporary Film and TV Soundtracks

Something a bit different this week, here are 5 of my favourite pieces of contemporary film and TV music:

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Productivity - Quick Tips

Following on from the last article which featured an in depth look at Productivity, here are some practical tips for you to try:

  • Break your day down into sections considering what tasks and projects you will work on and when.
  • Experiment with different task management and productivity software - putting time into finding a system that works for you can help to save you time in the long run.
  • If you don’t like software and prefer physical lists try journaling techniques such as bullet journals or template journals.
  • Remove obvious distraction such as your phone, tablet, email or internet access.
  • Remove less obvious distractions such as equipment you don’t need for a given project.
  • Start your day with exercise.
  • Consider mindfulness practices including meditation, affirmations and gratitude.
  • Setting yourself incentives can be a great way to self motivate.

I also spoke to 3D artist Tarik Ali from
ArtBeatAway and he shared a few of his productivity tips:

  • I listen to music on Spotify, it is a fantastic source of music to match the mood you are in and it helps concentration when working at home on your own.
  • In between tasks, even it is just for 5-10mins, I undertake quick tasks including making sure all my accounts are up-to-date so I don’t have a mad rush at the end of the tax year. 
  • I find that getting out of your work room for lunch and small breaks can be a great help.  When I am busy I sometimes find it hard to make time for small breaks, but when I do I find myself much more productive and refreshed when I return.
  • Be critical of your work but don’t put yourself down, if you are not happy with it and you have done your best, take some time to learn some new techniques to utilise and move forward.

If you would like to get in touch either visit the contact page or email info@theaudiotapes.com. You can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or visit my website at www.michaeldennymusic.com. Read More…

Productivity

A quick Google search defines productivity as ‘the state of being productive’ and ‘the effectiveness of productive effort, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input’.

When thinking about my own professional practice, to me ‘productivity’ means:

  • Making the most of my time
  • Getting the best out of my equipment and resources
  • Maximising the effectiveness of my output
  • Prioritising tasks, projects and goals
  • Learning from each project I undertake

The Importance of Planning and Preparation


Planning and preparation are key to staying productive and focussed, particularly when you are self employed. In an ideal world we would all be productive all of the time, but that is simply not possible so having techniques to get past this mindset can be invaluable. Here are a few approaches to planning and preparation that I have found useful. I set targets with appropriate timescales to stay on track, this means defined short term targets on a daily, weekly or fortnightly basis and holistic aims for the mid and longer term. I also like to keep my studio environment clean, tidy and clutter free, and where possible have my equipment setup ready to go when inspiration strikes.

Project Management and Tracking

When self employed it is essential to manage all aspects of a project properly from administration of contracts, invoices and emails through to creative tasks including composing, mixing and mastering. I use a number of tools to track my projects and manage to-do lists, here are my go-tos:

OmniFocus - I use OmniFocus to keep an overview of all my projects, tasks and their current status. OmniFocus can be as simple or as complex as you like and how you manage your projects in the software is very flexible. Key features of OmniFocus include the scheduling of repeated tasks (such as hard drive backups or weekly website checks), the review function which allows you to evaluate each project on a pre-set timescale, and the inbox function which allows you to ‘dump’ tasks that you can return to and schedule at a more suitable time.

Apple Notes - I love the simplicity of Apple Notes for saving ideas, drafting articles and making project notes and the synchronisation between the iPhone and MacBook means I always have my information available.

Microsoft Excel - when working on projects such as library music albums that require a large number of tracks with different edits and stems I create a grid so I can see a quick overview of what I still need to complete. I can also keep basis notes here such as the progress of the track (demo, submitted, approved, changes required etc).

Notepads - sometimes nothing beats scribbling down ideas in a notepad or crossing completed tasks off a to-do list with an actual real life pen! Notepads are also a great way to start off the creative process when generating ideas for blog articles, song titles, album concepts and sample packs while also making notes for changes during playbacks of my tracks.

Getting Stuff Done - Deadlines

Setting targets is a powerful motivator, but working with deadlines can be a surefire way of getting a project over the line. This may be a client set deadline or one which you have self-imposed. It is important when setting self imposed deadlines to challenge yourself while remaining realistic. The reality of self-imposed deadlines is that they can be easy to dismiss, but for royalty based income such as sample packs and library music this means that the sooner the work is completed, the sooner it can be released and potentially making you money.

Reflective Practice

Reflective practice is a concept that has been present throughout my education, from evaluating science experiments at school to writing composition project reports at University. It wasn’t however until I studied critical reflection in further depth at Masters level that I truly embraced the value of reflection and how to make the most of this skill. For me, reflection in relation to productivity and my music career involves asking myself questions such as:

  • Could I have communicated with the client differently to improve the workflow and better understand the project requirements?
  • Did I track and manage the project as smoothly as I could?
  • Are there any new skills I could learn to help with similar projects moving forward?
  • Are there any sounds in this project I’d like to save as presets to use again?

I hope this article gives you some ideas to consider with regards to your own career, and if you liked this article please check back next week when I will be featuring a number of quick productivity tips for you to try. If you would like to get in touch either visit the contact page or email info@theaudiotapes.com. You can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or visit my website at www.michaeldennymusic.com. Read More…

Leeds College of Music - Alumni Interview

Recently I returned to Leeds College of Music 10 years after graduating…to find out more about what I do you can read the interview with the alumni team here:

https://www.lcm.ac.uk/about-us/alumni/alumni-profiles/michael-denny/

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The Joy of Record Shopping

This weeks article is something a little different; a personal reflection titled ‘The Joy of Record Shopping’.

In many ways I think I have always been a collector. From an early age I remember queuing at a ’swap shop’ to complete my 1995 Premier League sticker album, and aiming to read all of the R.L. Stine ‘Goosebumps’ books.

As I got a little older this transferred into collecting records. I remember receiving ‘Oasis - Be Here Now’ for Christmas and saving pocket money for the subsequent album ‘The Masterplan’. Once I had my first Saturday job I would visit the local record shop ‘Circa Records’ every Monday to browse the latest releases to add to my collection having read about them in the previous weeks NME magazine.

While music is much more accessible now with streaming services offering huge catalogues of music, I still believe there is a place for physical releases. On recent trips to London and Manchester I spent time browsing independent record shops searching for hidden gems, artists recommended to me by friends and albums by seminal artists.

I know that I can find most of this music on streaming services, but I find the process of obtaining and listening to a physical record a much more immersive and rewarding process. It evokes memories of when I discovered the artist, who recommended it to me, where I bought the record and moments in my life associated with listening to a particular record. For me this deeper connection and experience of owning the physical item combines to enhance and enrich the listening experience.

If you would like to get in touch
either visit the contact page or email info@theaudiotapes.com. You can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or visit my website at www.michaeldennymusic.com. Read More…

Music Production Toolkit 4: Sample Magic, Music Radar and Original Drum Hits

Welcome to the final part of the Music Production Toolkit series where I am looking at some of my favourite and most frequently used plugins, virtual instruments and samples libraries.

This week we are looking at drum hits, and when I am starting a new project one of the first things I consider is the drums and percussion needed. I begin this process by auditioning individual sounds and building my own palette of individual hits as a kit in Battery, Native Instruments drum sampler. Choosing the right sounds is important to me, particularly when working in ambient genres as the percussive elements are often exposed and pla
y a vital role in establishing the overall texture and aesthetic. While I utilise samples from a wide range of sources, lets take a look at 3 of my frequently used approaches.

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Music Production Toolkit 3: Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate

Welcome to the part 3 of the Music Production Toolkit series where I am looking at some of my favourite and most frequently used plugins, virtual instruments and samples libraries.

This week I am looking at Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate, a huge collection of 87 Native Instruments products including soft synths, effects, and sample libraries. While the contents of this pack can be overwhelming, there are a number of key tools within this collection which have become essential to my composition and production workflow. Here is an overview of 3 of my favourites, Kontakt, Battery and Massive.

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Music Production Toolkit 2: Spitfire Audio - Olafur Arnalds Felt Piano / LABS

Welcome to the part 2 of the Music Production Toolkit series where I am looking at some of my favourite and most frequently used plugins, virtual instruments and samples libraries.

The main focus this week in the centrepiece of the Spitfire Audio - Olafur Arnalds Composer Toolkit, the Felt Grand Piano. Over the last 10 years Spitfire Audio have become a huge name in the world of media composition and music production and have produced some beautiful libraries, my favourites being Chamber Strings Professional, Albion V Tundra and the LABS range (more on that later).

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Music Production Toolkit 1: Logic Step FX

Welcome to the first part in a new series called Music Production Toolkit where I will be looking at some of my favourite and most frequently used plugins, virtual instruments and samples libraries.

First up is Step FX, a plugin added to Logic X version 10.4 earlier this year. Despite it being around 5 years since there was a full version update, Logic X still presents incredible value for money and alongside Step FX recent free incremental updates also include the powerful Alchemy synth, the exciting ChromaVerb plugin and updates to legacy features in the software including the user interface of popular instruments and effects.

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Coming soon on The Audio Tapes…

The Audio Tapes is now 5 months old and highlights so far include the Songwriting and Composition Techniques series which went on to feature on the Red Dog Music Blog, the review of Output Sounds - Analog Brass and Winds, and attending the Spitfire Audio launch of Hans Zimmer Strings at Air Studios.

As we move into the Summer months we will be expanding and delivering more content on a regular basis, this includes at least one new article each week for the rest of the year along with some added extras along the way including interview and reviews. Planned articles range from multiple part series including Music Production Tips and Creative Challenges to shorter topics investigating areas including Record Shopping, The Art of Listening and Productivity.

Thanks for your support and interest so far, I will also be continuing my collaboration with Red Dog Music blog writing some guest articles so keep your eye out for those too. In the meantime, if you would like to get in touch
either visit the contact page or email info@theaudiotapes.com. You can also find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or visit my website at www.michaeldennymusic.com. Finally, don't forget to check back for the first part of a new series called Music Production Toolkit on Friday 1st June. Read More…

Red Dog Blog - Songwriting Techniques Summary

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As I mentioned in the final blog of the Songwriting Techniques series, I have been working with Red Dog Music Blog to create a summary article about the series, both parts are online now:

Part 1: http://blog.reddogmusic.co.uk/2018/05/08/part-1-songwriting-and-composition-techniques/

Part 2:
http://blog.reddogmusic.co.uk/2018/05/17/part-2-songwriting-and-composition-techniques/

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch,
you can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or email info@theaudiotapes.com Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 10: Collaboration

For the final post of the Songwriting Techniques series we are going to look at different approaches to collaboration. If you enjoyed this series of articles then make sure you keep an eye out for a summary article which I am working on in collaboration with the Red Dog Music Blog. Read More…

MDM Remixes - Chvrches, Maximo Park, Nick Hodgson and more...

So my latest remixes of Get Out by Chvrches and The Hero by Maximo Park are now streaming on Soundcloud - perfect summer vibes! Enjoy, feel free to share and let me know your thoughts - you can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or email info@theaudiotapes.com

To hear these remixes and more check out the Soundcloud playlist below:


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Songwriting Techniques 9: Technology

Advances in technology have had a huge effect on the music industry and there are lots of resources available to assist and develop your songwriting. For the penultimate article of the Songwriting Techniques series the theme is ‘Technology’. Read More…

Interview: Red Dog Blog

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I was recently interview by Red Dog Music about my creative process, the gear I'm using and whats on my pedalboard, you can read the full interview here:

http://blog.reddogmusic.co.uk/2018/04/10/sunday-spotlight-michael-denny/

If you have any questions
you can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or email info@theaudiotapes.com Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 8: Lyrics

In part 8 of the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Lyrics'. This week is a bonus week with 10 ideas for you to try instead of the usual 5.

1. Rhyming can often be a key part of lyric writing, to help you find more interesting rhymes try using an online rhyming dictionary.

2. Once you have decided on a topic that you would like to write about, make a mind map featuring all the words that you think of that relate to the topic. You can then use these words to start writing your lyrics.

3. Pick up a newspaper and scan the articles for the headlines. Headlines make great song titles and can kick start your lyric writing. To push this idea further you can then read the story and use this as inspiration for your lyrics. There is a very famous Beatles song that uses this technique - see if you can work out which one it is!

4. It may be cliche, but try writing a love song. Love is a universal topic that everyone can relate to, that's why there are so many songs about love.

5. Remember that lyrics don't always have to make sense; artistic license allows you to write whatever you like, if it sounds catchy, go for it!

6. Try writing lyrics for a track out of completely made up words. This technique will enable you to focus on the sounds of the words you create and how they link together and with the song as a whole.

7. Take time to sit and read the lyrics from a range of songs, particularly those by songwriters who are considered ‘classics’. Why not set yourself the aim to read one set of lyrics each day or week.

8. Why not try write sad lyrics to an uplifting song or happy lyrics to a sad song. This juxtaposition adds intrigue for the listen to establish what they feel the song means or reflects.

9. If you have an idea for a melody but are struggling with lyrics, why not try singing it will random words that you feel fit with the melody. This will give you an idea of the vocal sounds and word structures that work with your idea. You can then go back over what you have recorded and replace the words.

10. Reading poetry can be a really useful way of exposing yourself to new lyric writing ideas. Pay particular attention to the word structures used and the way that words can be used to ‘paint a picture’ or images in your imagination.

Songwriting Techniques is a weekly article on The Audio Tapes where I share songwriting and composition tips, techniques and ideas for you to try. Each week will have a different theme and will include ideas for you to consider. If you would like to get in touch and share any tips of your own you can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or email info@theaudiotapes.com Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 7: Instrumentation and Orchestration

In the latest article from the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Instrumentation and Orchestration’. Before we move on to this weeks 5 points to consider lets clarify the difference between instrumentation and orchestration.

Instrumentation is the term used to describe which instruments are used in a track. This could be a list of the instruments used, or they may be grouped into common ensembles such as ‘string quartet’ and ‘rock band’.

Orchestration is the term used to describe where each instrument or group of instruments is used in a track. For example, the piano may be played throughout the duration of the track, with strings and guitar only added during the chorus sections. Varying the orchestration throughout a piece gives the music a shape, keeping it interesting for the listener.
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Piano Day - Thursday 29th March 2018

As its Piano Day I thought I'd share 3 of my favourite piano led tracks, enjoy!

Radiohead - Videotape



Olafur Arnalds - 3055



Mogwai - I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead

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Songwriting Techniques 6: Structure and Arrangement

In the latest article from the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Structure and Arrangement’. It is important to understand the function of the different sections of a song and how they can be built up and combined to create a finished song structure. Below is a list of common sections: Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 5: Rhythm

In the latest article from the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Rhythm’. The bass and drum parts form the foundation of the track and a strong rhythm section can make all the difference to your track. In this post we will be looking at how these sound sources can used when composing in various genres, here are this weeks 5 ideas of how to get your bass and drums parts working effectively together: Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 4: Harmony

In the latest article from the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Harmony’. Harmony is the term used to describe the chordal elements of a song, and a harmony is created when 2 or more notes are played simultaneously. Here are this weeks 5 points for you to consider: Read More…

Spitfire Audio - Special Event

Spitfire Audio - Special Event
Air Studios, Hampstead
Wed 28th February 2017

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In the world of film, TV and media composition Spitfire Audio have established themselves as one of the market leaders producing exceptional and inspiration sample libraries. Alongside their products the company have an outstanding online presence with tutorials, interviews and Christian Henson’s vlog channel which have all contributed to an ‘Apple-esque’ hysteria surrounding the company. With this in mind, it was no surprise that when Spitfire announced that they were holding a ‘special event’ at Air Studios in London that tickets sold out almost immediately despite no one really knowing what they had purchased tickets for!

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Spitfire Audio - Special Event Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 3: Melody

For the third instalment of the Songwriting Techniques series the topic is ‘Melody'. In many genres of music the melody is arguably the most important element of a track, its 'the tune', and the part we often remember, sing and hum back to ourselves. There are lots of approaches to writing melody and some key points to bear in mind when composing, here are this weeks 5 points for you to consider: Read More…

Review: Output - Analog Brass & Winds

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In this article I will be reviewing Analog Brass & Winds, the latest virtual instrument from the groundbreaking music production company Output. I will also be showcasing how I have utilised the instrument into the latest release from the Becquerel project.

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The Making of Sample Magic - Ambient Textural Toolkit

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I was recently interview by Sample Magic about the making of my Ambient Textural Toolkit sample pack, you can read the full interview here:

https://www.samplemagic.com/journal/2018/02/making-ambient-textural-toolkit/

You can hear the demo and buy the Ambient Textural Toolkit pack here:

https://www.samplemagic.com/details/2009/ambient-textural-toolkit

If you have any questions about the pack
you can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or email info@theaudiotapes.com
Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 2: Songwriting and Composition Challenges

For the second article in this series the theme is ‘Songwriting and Composition Challenges’. Sometimes its hard to know where to start, particularly when embarking on a new project, but one way to get started on a new project is to set yourself a brief and guidelines. Referring back to these can help you stay on track and keep you focussed on the end goal. With that in mind here are 5 challenges for you to try:
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Songwriting Techniques 1: Getting Started

Songwriting Techniques is a new 10 part series on The Audio Tapes where I will be sharing songwriting and composition tips, techniques and ideas for you to try. Each week will have a different theme and will include ideas for you to consider. If you would like to get in touch and share any tips of your own you can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or email info@theaudiotapes.com

For the first article in this series the theme is ‘Getting Started’. We all have a tendency to procrastinate and often the hardest part of a task is actually getting to work; with that in mind here are this weeks 5 tips:
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Recommended: Free Online Music Resources

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For both new and experienced musicians, composers and producers the Internet can be a minefield when it comes to finding useful, high-quality and professional resources. In this article I will be sharing three of my favourite free resources that continue to be part of my creative process. Read More…

Review: Top Tracks of 2017

Every day in December 2017 I posted a track recommendation on my Twitter account, here is the list of all the tracks and the summary from Twitter for each. I hope you enjoy the selection and let me know what you think - you can find me on Twitter: @MDennyMusic Read More…

Welcome to The Audio Tapes

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Welcome to The Audio Tapes, a new music and creative industry blog launched in 2018 by composer and music producer Michael Denny. I will be posting a wide variety of content on the site including: Read More…