Orchestral, cinematic, and instrumental¶
Music challenges and contests¶
A great way to improve as a musician and music producer is to join music challenges and contests. This gives you a specific goal to work towards to, and sometimes provides limitations, which can in turn spur creativity.
Splice Beat Battles¶
Splice periodically hosts what they call Beat Battles to promote their sample packs. Here are my submissions to those that I joined.
Splice X Chromeo Beat Battle¶
The goal for this challenge was to create a 45-60 second track using these five samples. I came across videos on music production made by the band behind this challenge not too long ago before it was announced, so I decided to use bits and pieces of their tutorial.
Spitfire Audio is a London-based company creating sample libraries and various virtual instruments for music composers.
Hans Zimmer Month challenge¶
Spitfire run a music scoring challenge to promote their Hans Zimmer libraries of sounds and instruments.
Most of the early submissions posted on Twitter went for a more dramatic sound, so I thought I’d go the opposite direction, using a quote from an American naturalist and nature essayist John Burroughs as an inspiration.
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.John Burroughs
Music Weeklies Challenge¶
The team behind musicweeklieschallenge.com runs themed weekly music challenges.
I was trying to approach the theme “happiness” in a more nuanced way, aiming to evoke the feeling of happiness that comes from overcoming a struggle; a sense of calmness and inner fulfillment.
Inspiration for the song’s title comes from an American journalist Sydney J. Harris’ quote.
Happiness is a direction, not a place.Sydney J. Harris
Deep End Community Challenges¶
Deep End is a community run by the musician and sound designer Venus Theory.
Oblique Strategies: Twist the spine¶
A short ambient track based on the “Twist the spine” oblique strategy.
Gear and sounds¶
My current setup primarily consists of:
- Ableton Live as my main working environment.
- I don’t have a dedicated studio, and often compose at night, so I use a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones.
- Akai MPK Mini mk3: A gift from my wife for my 33rd birthday that kicked off my music production journey. This is a nice, compact MIDI keyboard, great for writing melodies and making beats.
- M-Audio Keystation 49: My space for playing is a bit limited, so I wanted something with a wider range than the MPK Mini that’s still small enough to fit on a desk.
- Akai MIDImix: A MIDI control surface with a good amount of knobs and sliders. Typically you’d use this to control your DAW, but I wanted a way to make it easier to adjust parameters of virtual synths.
- Arturia’s V Collection: You’d have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get all of the original synths, if you could get your hands on them at all. I have some cheaper and free synths as well, but I like that Arturia recreates the original circuits instead of just using samples, and in some cases they even get the original creators involved. I also recommend watching these detailed overviews of some of Arturia’s instruments.
- Instruments and effects from Output.
- Unique and free instruments from Pianobook.
- And Splice is my go-to place for samples and loops.