Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A video for Isha Erskine Project - Falling Down

One of our regular writers / musicians Isha Erskine submitted a new track for licensing this week, a really great vocal ballad, with a certain Enya / Clannad / Moya Brennan kind of vibe and with a superb female vocal performed by Michelle Lockey.

We put together a music video of sorts to mark the release of this great new track. Here it is:


The music track was composed by Isha Erskine (real full name Elisha D Erskine) along with Michelle Lockey and the track is available to license as stock music / production music for your own media projects, be it film, video, stage event, commercial etc.

For me, listening to this track makes me think of serious drama, crime drama, perhaps something melancholic and eerily mystical, perhaps Nordic, wintery or damp. It really gets my imagination going. I could easily see this track be used as the theme music, for example, for a BBC Crime Drama series. I hope you'll like it too.

The track, Falling Down, is also available in an Instrumental version, as well as an Underscore version (a version with all "lead instruments" removed) and various shorter versions, loops etc. You can listen to all the different versions and buy a license, by following this link.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Recording orchestral music for Massive Impact Vol. 14

At Shockwave-Sound.com we recently had the pleasure and honor of releasing the latest volume in our "Massive Impact" series of big, epic music. This album, and some of our others, feature recordings of actual live philharmonic orchestras, playing along with samples and electronics, for a grand, soaring, rich sound.

We thought it would be interesting to set up a talk with composer and arranger Iouri Sazonov (aka Yuri Sazonoff) to find out a little bit about what it takes to carry out a project like that. We spoke with Iouri about working with live orchestras and about the Massive Impact Vol. 14 project in particular.

Iouri Sazonov (aka Yuri Sazonoff) at the studio recording desk

Said Iouri, "I've been lucky enough to do a substantial amount of work with orchestras in the past, as well as contracting orchestras for various productions, from film and big symphonic productions, to instrumental albums, recording for artists ranging from jazz, crossover, to pop music."

"Recording music with a real orchestra is such a treat... and at the same time, such hard work. Despite the growing number of high quality sampling libraries available to composers these days, the actual sound of a real orchestra is still superior to just using sampled sounds. The articulations coming from a group of real players are so much better pronounced, and even imperfections such as slight tuning problems, very slight timing inaccuracies and such, just make the overall sound more full, interesting and alive."

So for a project like this, where do you start? 

"The process begins with composing the music, and that is something that goes on over weeks or months. I play with ideas using only MIDI / simulated orchestra sounds at this point, and I will usually come back to an idea or a piece a couple of days later, to see if it's still good, if it's worth continuing the work on this piece. When I have a rough concept for a track in place, I will send it to Bjorn (Editor's note: that's Bjorn Lynne, manager at Shockwave-Sound.com and executive producer for the project) for approval.

Ok, so a few months later you have a collection of tracks, all done just with MIDI and samples, you then start to think about recording with an orchestra. Can you describe the process from there?

"When I've got 10 ready to go MIDI tracks, I will start to talk to a couple of studios I regularly work with, to try to find an available time slot to accommodate my needs.

Careful planning is the key. You can never be too well prepared for an orchestra recording session. Without the utmost care and attention to every little detail in the planning stage, you are risking wasting precious time and money during the recording sessions.

I will usually block-book the studio for whole period of time I need. It’s not very smart to let some other studio clients in for an evening session, just to find out in the morning that your engineer has to do the whole setup of 48, 56 or even more microphones again basically from scratch. Been there, done that!"



How do you make the printed sheets of written music that the players read from?

"As part of the preparation stage, I do score and parts preparations in Sibelius, do few basic stereo stems, click tracks and MIDI files to be imported in ProTools into ready-to-go orchestral setup prepared for the sessions by my engineer. It all takes a considerable amount of time, but needs to be done, and needs to be done well.

I always quantize each part to be recorded live. (Editor's note: "Quantizing" is the process of "correcting" each musical note to the exact musical time where it should be, rather than just before or just after, as a human would play it). Otherwise, the scoring program of your choice, usually Finale or Sibelius, is not going to recognize all that nonsense from the MIDI file you just imported, and it’s going to look like “mission impossible” for the musicians.

It’s easier to quantize notes in your DAW (Editor's note: DAW = Digital Audio Workstation) than trying to figure out all the crazy notes produced by un-quantized MIDI files. People who are more inexperienced with notations will sometimes drop unreadable and unplayable scores in front of players, and this will definitely give you a big problem.

Playability, by the way, is another thing to consider. You want your score to be recorded quickly, and to sound good. For that you have to present parts that are playable by musicians. Mistakes in the score will always happen - bit it's better when they don't! So I double check, triple check and proof the read full score for any accidental mistakes that can happen just from the slightest wrong move you make with your computer mouse. Mistakes cost time, lots of time, and you can easily get behind schedule.

What would a typical "mistake" be in this setting?

"Let's say the principle viola player says to the conductor: "There is something funny in bar 27”. You start checking the score and figuring  it out, but by the time you sort it out with the violas, the second violins have also got a question. And just when you've fixed everything relating to that problem, you find that the orchestra goes on their hourly union break, and after 15-20 minutes you are still there, losing precious time. I’ve heard a few times that film composers who record with orchestra on regular basis talk about time on the floor as hundreds or thousands dollars per minute. These people are usually very experienced and well prepared for the sessions."


I've seen the players wear headphones that they have over one ear - what do they hear in there?

"When I produce my MIDI tracks at the preparation / composing stage, I usually separate the main groups, so that my engineer can create comfortable sub-mixes for the players to hear in their headphones. Different instrument groups often ask for different sub-mixes. I usually send them along with click tracks (Editors note: "Click track" is a simple audio track with just the ticking rhythm, helping the players to stay on time during the recording) and MIDI files with tempo and bar structure to my engineer. Hopefully he’s got some time to prepare the Pro Tools sessions before the actual recording. This will save us time while recording, and will let us have breaks when the orchestra players have their break."


We've been talking quite generally, but can you tell us a bit about the actual recording sessions for our "Massive Impact Vol. 14" album?

"For this projected I decided to do the recording by instrumental groups - first strings and then on separate session I do the brasses. It's quicker this way and makes everything more efficient. My engineer and his assistants usually give me a little break and build the setup the night before, if possible of course.

We’ve been experimenting lately with different sitting positions of groups within strings orchestra and positioning of the Decca Tree (Editor's note: A "Decca Tree" is a group of microphones positioned in a particular way, often used with orchestra recordings) along with multiple room mics. Since I knew that prior to the sessions, I adjusted my writing accordingly -- again, it's back to how important the preparation is!"


"The string sessions went very smoothly this time, and I had enough time to do all the tracks and then go back to fix/improve couple of things I’d made notes of, something I try to do if time permits. I make notes on my paper copy of full score, the good old way with a pencil. You circle the problem instrument at the problem bar, write T2- or T3+ for take number, and so on. This way you are able to do it as you go along with the performance. I’ve seen lately many guys trying to make notes on the fly with their iPad, but the thing is that even if you are really fast at typing, the music goes faster and you're missing lots of things to make note of.

Anyway, for my brass session, this time I hired 3 French Horns, a Tenor Trombone and a Trumpet. Even though it’s just 5 persons on the floor, we record them on all close and all ambient microphones (19 in totals) to capture the room ambiance. The brass recording went smoothly, and again because time permits it, I asked them to overdub (Editors note: "Overdub" is the process of making another recording of the same thing and mixing/overlaying that with the first recording) a few times, to do the higher range of the lower parts, and so on. After it was all done, we stayed at the studio for some time to transfer all sessions to a hard drive which I then take home with me."




At this point you've let the players go home?

"Yes, now it's just me in the studio, tidying up, organizing files and copying things to take home with me, to my home studio where I edit the live recording, stack up the strings and brass takes, and make it all nice and polished. These are the "Basic mixes" that I send to Bjorn for his final approval."

What about the singing? In these tracks we can hear both huge choirs and a soaring soprano voice?

"Some time before I went to do the orchestra recording, I sent demo tracks to a great soprano vocalist I know - to sweeten up the sampled choirs and to do some solos on several tracks. It makes a big difference, again bringing out the articulations and making it sound more believable. I take some time to do all edits including soprano takes, and after it’s all done there is one final step to do, which is the final mixes, including the various "alternative mixes" such as No Choir version, No Percussion version, and so on."


- - -

Thanks for talking to us Yuri, I think everybody will agree that the result is really great and you can hear more of Yuri's work for Shockwave-Sound.com by following this link to all of Yuri's tracks here on our site.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Massive Impact Vol. 14 released, with real live orchestra

Here at Shockwave-Sound.com we are proud to be able to announce a new major release this week: Massive Impact, Vol. 14 - a collection of 10 epic, soaring, cinematic tracks, recorded with actual live philharmonic orchestra.



It's not every day that we are able to release an album of real orchestra recorded music, because recording music with a live orchestra is complicated, difficult, time consuming and expensive. To be honest, you won't find real orchestra pieces out there as stock music / production music at all. Not only because there usually isn't enough money in the licensing opportunities, to justify paying for the recording sessions. But also because the people with the skills to pull off a real live orchestra session -- preparing it, arranging it, recording and mixing it, just do not tend to be working on production music / library music.

So it's not without reason that we are pretty proud to be able to release some exclusive, real orchestra music now and then. We do this maybe once a year, and this time we've arrived at Massive Impact Vol. 14. The 10 tracks featured on this album were composed by Iouri Sazonov (aka Yuri Sazonoff) and also feature a live human vocalist (a beautiful soprano voice) singing along with sampled choirs. We hope you enjoy these tracks. By the way, each track is also available to license individually, not necessary as the full album.

Over the next couple of days we'll be publishing an article with a bit of an interview with Yuri, some insight into the orchestra recording preparation, and some photos from the recording sessions. Keep your eyes on this blog for more on that, coming up soon.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Game music composer Allister Brimble joins composer team at Shockwave-Sound.com

We are happy to announce that we've signed up a new composer to our little "stock music team" here at Shockwave-Sound.com and that is none other than video game music composer extraordinaire, Allister Brimble.

Probably beaten only by American video game composer Tommy Tallarico, Allister has composed the music for a larger number of published video games than anybody else. He started out writing music in the early 1990's for some of the most famous and most loved Amiga games from Team17 Software, including Superfrog, Full Contact, Alien Breed and many more. He has since gone on to compose for hundreds of video games, so he knows what it takes to make music that sounds great in a game setting!

Bjorn Lynne (left), Allister Brimble (right), 2015

Shockwave-Sound.com owner/manager Bjorn Lynne met up with Allister at a recent industry event in Peterborough UK where they were able to discuss music and life over some food and drink, and a few weeks later, we are happy to have the first batch of 4 tracks composed by Allister exclusively for the Shockwave-Sound.com music catalogue. Here they are:

We welcome Allister to our team and look forward to having more of his music up for licensing over the coming months and years.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Keeping track of music copyrights - the difference between Sound Recording ownership and Composition ownership


We received a question by email today which I set about answering in the shortest and clearest way I could. I think it could be a useful piece of information for anybody looking to "use" music in any way, be it for school, for your company, in a public place, and so on.

So the question was something along the lines of:

"I'm going teach music in an online course, it's a school project. I'll be playing the music myself. Do I need  to buy license? Or can I just go ahead and do that, without paying anybody anything?"

And the answer is:

Whenever you want to use music for anything other than just personal listening, there are two copyrights to think about: (1) the composition, (2) the sound recording.

Let's start with looking at the sound recording. I understand that you just wish to play the music yourself, and not use existing sound recordings. So the sound recordings will be of you yourself playing your instrument(s), which means that you in fact will own the sound recording.

Then there is the composition. Any composer who has composed a piece of music automatically owns the copyright to that composition. If you want to distribute, play in public or in any other way exploit a piece of music that another person has composed, you need to get permission/license from that person or his representative.

However, when a composer dies, 70 years* pass and then the composition turns into Public Domain. The copyright in the composition "goes away" 70 years* after the death of the composer. So if you are dealing with traditional folk songs or classical music that was composed hundreds of years ago, there are no copyrights in the compositions.

(* The period of 70 years is correct for USA. For other countries, the period may be longer or shorter. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries%27_copyright_length for a list of how long it takes, in different countries, from a composer dies until his compositions turns into Public Domain.)

The composition in the sound recording never expires in the same way as the composition does. There is no period of time after which the sound recording turns to Public Domain. It never does. It continues to be owned by the sound recording copyright owner in perpetuity.

If you are not using existing/copyrighted sound recordings, and you are not using compositions that are under copyright, then you don't need a license of any sort. You can just go ahead and play, record and distribute the music as you wish.

However, if you are going to use a sound recording that already exists, or use a composition that is still under copyright, then you need to obtain a license for that.