Free Training

My Recommendations

One question I get asked quite frequently is are there any books, scores, equipment, libraries etc. you would recommend.
I include one every fortnight in my newsletter but I thought I would put together a page where you can gain access to my personal recommendations on all things composing.

Free Software Recommendations

08.07.23

This week I have been using Spitfire Labs Autograph Grand Piano quite a bit. A sampled Yamaha C6 Grand, to me it sounds as good as a lot of the paid piano libraries I have. Plus it has the bonus of having a light resource footprint, so no waiting for the patch to load.

In the last couple of days, Project Sam has released The Free Orchestra 2. They are releasing a new instrument for the library on the last Thursday of every month. The first instrument which is now available is the Sul Tasto strings (taken from Symphobia 1), which sound amazing and are completely free!

31.10.23

There are two new instalments/instruments from Project Sam's Free Orchestra 2 - 'Bold Legato Brass' and 'Accenting Woodwinds' that have just been released and I would highly recommend.

15.11.23

I am always on the hunt for inspiring free Virtual Instrument/Sample libraries. This week I've discovered Foundations Piano from Heavyocity. It has a lovely soft and mellow tone, similar to that of a felt piano. Perfect for adding some atmospheric piano colours on top of a calm and serene string arrangement! Highly recommended!

09.02.24

This past week has seen the latest update to Project Sam's The Free Orchestra 2 (which is updated with a new free instrument each month).

This latest addition is a set of percussion from their latest flagship Lineage Percussion range (which is designed to replace the industry standard True Strike. The instrument features 14 individual percussion instruments, ranging from Grand Cassas, Snare drums to Piatti.

Project Sam claim each key has the same 'Full Sampling Depth' as the instruments in their £400+ new library.

24.02.24

Spitfire Audio have, this week, relaunched their flagship symphonic orchestra. A staple library among Hollywood's A list composers including Lorne Balfe and John Powell, the library features full Symphonic String, Brass and Woodwind sections, including solo instruments, plus Harp, Piano and Percussion.

Buying each of the sections separately used to cost over £2000, but they are now all available in one package for the amazing price of £399! You can check out the library by clicking the image. 

02.06.24 This week a couple of free libraries from the developer Fracture Sounds caught my eye - 'Short Strings' and 'Gentle Strings'.

Short Strings is a chamber sized string ensemble, with a single staccato patch. I've found that by layering them with short string patches from other libraries, due to their intimate sound, they help to add an extra layer of detail to the sound.

I have also been playing around with Gentle Strings - again a chamber sized ensemble, this time with a long string patch, playing con sordino (with mutes) for a soft and well, gentle, sound. I particularly liked the upper strings, which you could use for layering with say long woodwind patches extremely easily.

Both libraries are Kontakt based and once you've received download codes from Fracture Sounds, can be downloaded using the Native Access downloader program.

Book Recommendations 

Perhaps the book that I have used most in my composer journey is 'The Study of Orchestration by Samuel Adler'.

The book is divided into 'Instrumentation' and 'Orchestration'. 'Instrumentation' covers, in great detail, every instrument in the orchestra, with instrument ranges, timbral characteristics and individual playing techniques. The 'Orchestration' section is then devoted to looking at the orchestra as a whole - how to orchestrate melodies and accompaniments with various examples. It's an absolute treasure trove for any composer and orchestrator and is never far from my writing desk. I would thoroughly recommend!

 'Torn Music : Rejected Film Scores' which explores the fascinating stories behind rejected film scores. There is a saying within the film composer community that you are not a true Hollywood Composer until you've been fired from a movie! This engaging read features stories of some 300 rejected and replaced film scores, including how the score to the first Pirates of the Caribbean came to be.

My recommended book this week is actually a series of around 20 books of 'Film Score Guides'. Each book concentrates on a particular soundtrack, with an extremely in depth analysis of the musical characteristics of each score. The series explores a wide range of composers, such as Korngold up to Zimmer/Newton Howard. While I don't have all 20 books in the collection, the ones I do have, 'Signs' and 'The Dark Knight' have both been addictive reads, which I haven't been able to put down!

This week's recommendation is actually a free book - 'Modulation' by Max Reger.

Published in 1904 and so available to view for free in the National Archives, the book is a treasure trove of Modulations, with detailed examples of how to move between various keys.

31.10.23

My featured book this week is 'On The Track' by Fred Karlin. This is one of the books which I have used the most in my composing career. Although it is not cheap, this hefty book offers a comprehensive 'manual' for scoring to video, including technical considerations such as working out tempos and spotting sessions, along with melody, harmony and orchestration techniques.

As John Williams himself quotes '.....I wish this book had been available when I started in the film industry in the 1950's'.

26.01.24

I am currently working my way through Scoring The Screen By Andy Hill which takes a deep dive into the technique of film scoring through extensive analysis (including music notation) of scores such as How To Train Your Dragon (John Powell) and The Matrix (Don Davis). I haven't finished it yet, but what I have been through so far, I am loving!

24.02.24

My book recommendation this week is 'An Introduction to Writing Music For Television', by Michael Kruk. It's the perfect resource for composers that are looking to start exploring the basics of writing music to picture.

The book explores practical techniques including how to begin and end cues, along with how to write music that won't distract the audience. It's a fairly short book (at 110 pages), but crams a lot in!

23.04.24

As a musician, I am always looking to improve my knowledge. I recently saw the book¬†‚ÄėHarmony Through Melody‚Äô¬†by Charles Horton recommended on the VI Control forum and decided to purchase it. It takes a deep dive into Melody, Counterpoint and Harmony in Western Music. I was surprised when the delivery arrived in a large-ish box - I didn‚Äôt realise the book was over 700 pages!

I am just getting started with it, but so far it looks extremely comprehensive!

Gear Recommendations

09.03.24

This week I had to say goodbye to my favourite headphones, the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros after many years of wear. I went ahead and bought the exact same ones again because I really do not think you can get better (in my opinion)!

I have had a pair (a few actually) of these over the past 20 years and they are ones I highly recommend to anyone who asks me for the best headphones to buy.

If you were looking for headphones yourself, I could not recommend these enough. Click the image to buy if interested (affiliate).