Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Artist feature: Pawel Blaszczak

Pawel Blaszczak is a composer who has been working with Shockwave-Sound.com and our internal music publishing company Lynne Publishing, for a good few years now. He has been responsible for producing some of the best selling tracks at Shockwave-Sound.com, including the track "Day After Day" which until recently held the position of the most often licensed track here in our music library. We decided to catch up with Pawel in his home city of Wroclaw, Poland, for an interview about composing music for a stock music library and about sound and music in general.

Click here to listen to some of Pawel's music while you are reading this interview:



Pawel, can you tell me a little bit about your background story as a composer and producer?
I started composing back when I was 15. I was really impressed by a good friend of mine who could play the piano. I genuinely liked it so I decided to give it a go too. My first compositions were done on a piano and Commodore 64. I’m basically a self-taught though I did take private lessons in composition. Later on I bought my first synthesizer and composed on Commodore Amiga. One of my concerts was held at the students festival in the old square in Poznan. In 1998 I received my first order to compose music for a video game developed by Techland, “Crime Cities”. I’ve been bound with the company ever since and I work at Techland not only as a composer but also the Audio Director. I’ve worked on almost all games developed by Techland with "Chrome", "Xpand Rally", Call of Juarez", "Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood", but also children game series "Pet Racer" and "Pet Soccer" among others. I’ve often been cooperating with Adam Skorupa with whom I worked „The Witcher” video game and various other projects. Since 2005 I’ve been bound with Shockwave-Sound.com. I’m currently working on a horror game “Dead Island”.
I’ve heard before that you played different instruments including guitar, but I’ve noticed in your latest tracks that you seem to concentrate a lot on the sound of the piano. Can you tell us a bit about which instruments you prefer, and how you feel that the different instruments work in different types of music?
The piano is my primary instrument. I love that sound and the possibilities it gives me. Currently I compose most of my tracks on the piano and it is my first choice. I used to compose a lot of music for synthesizers as well as electric-orchestral music. In the nineties I really enjoyed the sound of Limp Bizkit and Rammstein so I started to learn how to play the guitar. I’m doing best with the riffs on my 7-string Ibanez with the Mesa Boogie amplifier. Guitar, however, is my second favorite instrument.
I know that you have worked as a composer for several video games. In what way would you say that composing for a stock music library is different from composing music for a project like a video game?
Video games require composing the music in a certain specified style. For Call of Juarez, for instance, most of the compositions were guitar-based or orchestral in the styles of Ennio Morricone or Country, Blues or classical orchestra. For stock music I choose a specific overall style that suits me so, for example, light ambient and compose the entire track in this line. Or simply sit down on a given day and compose a track I’m in the mood for usually it’s in one of the styles of stock music. Such approach allows for a lot of freedom to compose a track that feels right for the inspiration and mood one has on that particular day. So if I’m in a good mood I will compose a light and pleasant track, if my mood is slightly off I’m inclined to compose a more dramatic and dark track. This is, of course, more in respect of the draft of a track. Afterwards the production process begins and that draft is polished to create a full-fledged work suitable for publication at shockwave-sound.com.
What is the latest piece of music production equipment, or instrument, that you bought yourself? And what is next on your wish-list?
One of my latest purchases is the sounds library, Audio Bro LASS Strings. Excellent sounding solo violin in the ensemble. Also, Evolve Mutations 2, an outstanding library of electronic sounds. My wish-list currently includes the tremendously interesting Korg SV1. At the moment I have Roland RD700SX for the main piano sound. However, I would like to add more variety to the piano sounds and Korg is significantly different from Roland in this respect. Moreover Korg has fantastically sounding electric pianos. It is very likely that I will also purchase the orchestra library, Symphobia 2, next year.
Which two of your tracks are the best-selling ones here at Shockwave-Sound.com and do you have a theory on why those tracks sell more than others?
Day After Day and Running for Freedom. Truth be told, I have no idea why these two are the best-selling tracks. They definitely count among my favorite ones. When composing tracks I always try to make them as good and original as possible. But it’s the listeners who make the final decision. I’m always glad when I create music that I enjoy myself. I always try to give the best effort and don’t cut corners in this respect. Often before the final track is composed there are several earlier versions of it. On some occasions I discarded track arrangements because I believed I could do a better job. I don’t consider stock music to be some kind of additional less valuable music. I would gladly see many of my tracks included in my album that may see the day of light sometime in the future. I keep pushing my own limits.
Do you sometimes play live concerts, with a band or by yourself? Have you done so in the past?
For quite a while now I’ve been toying with the idea of live concerts. I’m constantly short on time to do that. I used to play concerts and I love it. Maybe I will finally manage to make that happen. Recently I’ve been trying to discipline myself to arrange for it. I have a simple ensemble in mind: a piano, solo violin and cello. Maybe a female vocalist, single synthesizer and small drum set. As soon as I’ve managed to organize it, I’m convinced that the first concerts would be held in Wroclaw where I currently live.
Which piece of work / project have you done, that you are most proud of? What is “your finest work” in your opinion?
I’m proud of most of my music currently posted at Shockwave-Sound.Com. There’s a lot of my personal style in them, especially in the lighter tracks, such as Day After Day, Waiting for Tomorrow and Dance with the Wind. The music from other projects I consider successful include the soundtrack for the “Call of Juarez” series and the music I co-composed with Adam Skorupa for The Witcher. I also think highly of the score for “The Kinematograph” directed by Tomasz Baginski and “The Ark” directed by Grzegorz Jonkajtys.
What music / composers / artists / bands do you like to listen to when you’re not working?
I generally like to listen to good music regardless of the style or composer. It would make a long list but I mostly focus on the tracks that I enjoy rather than composers, performers or entire albums. I like Harry Gregson-Williams for the first part of Narnia and Michal Lorenc for the “Bandyta”. I like the Kronos Quartet for the score for “Heat” and Lisa Gerrard. I love BT for the “Monster” OST (Editor's note; OST = Original Sound Track).

What advice would you give to somebody who is a home / amateur composer and would like to take the step up, to have their music sold as royalty-free music and make a living on it?
First of all not to treat this type of music as the kind one doesn’t have to try or make their best effort. This music has its listeners and they choose it according to their preferences. They will mostly select what they like and has music artistic value. Therefore there’s no space here to make compromises. It needs to be a very well composed music.
And with that we thank Pawel for his time, and thank him for being such a great contributor to our music library. If you're interested in hearing more of Pawel's music, then this link will bring up a list of all his tracks, of course all available to license and download as royalty free music.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Enhancing creative workflow with Sonar, Part 1

By Johan Hynynen

Introduction


Making music with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) involves knowing both hardware and software very well -- you just can’t escape music technology. This can be a show stopper for our creativity when we need to write music. Many times we’re also working to match short deadlines, so with that in mind I will try to give you a few tips on how you easily can enhance your workflow and creative output working with Sonar. Even though this article is written with a regular song kind of project in mind, most ideas, tips or tricks can be implemented while working with voice talents making jingles and audio books, or even sound design for computer games. As other DAWs have similar functions as Sonar’s you might be able in applying some tips in other applications as well. The tips described in this article are straight forward to get around and can easily help you sorting things out so that you can spend more time making music and less time dabbling around your software.

Project Templates


Most of us come back to a certain frame work where we like to start making music. It could be a few channels loaded with guitar amp plug-ins or a sampler loaded with a good sounding grand piano. Instead of recreating all of these instances of soft synths, channels and effects you can make a template that will automatically recreate favorite your setup.




To create a project template, simply open up an empty project and start creating the channels, buses, effects and soft synths you want to include. Then go to the file menu and select "Save As" and then choose "Template" in the menu labeled "Save as type". In order for your templates to appear in the dialogue window at start up, you also need to save them down to the right folder. Which folder holds your templates can be set by going to the "Options" menu, then "Global" and finally, click the "Folders" tab. Your project templates are stored in the folder selected in the "Templates" menu.

Make a template for all the different kinds of music you usually record or produce. You may want to create one for rock band, another for ambient music and so on. Also create a template that uses smaller sample libraries and less CPU demanding soft synths. Depending on your computer’s specifications you could choose a setup that you can work with without freezing or bouncing tracks. While writing, an economy setup usually works well and you can always replace the temporary sounds with your best samples and soft synths during the mixdown of the song.

Track Templates


You may have been trying to figure out how you managed get that particular sound on a previous recording of yours? Of course, going back to that project and write down the settings and which plug-ins that where used does the trick, but with track templates you have access to all your favorite sounds in seconds. By saving a particular channel which includes, let’s say, a guitar amp plug-in, compressor, equalizer settings and sends as a track template, you can easily recall all the settings.




To save a track as a track template right click on any track in the track pane and choose "Save As Track Template". To load a template, simply right click in the tracks pane and choose "Insert From Track Template". Select your track template and it opens up all plug-ins together with parameters associated to the track including sends and all effects.

Of course, as you move along saving more and more of your golden settings you build quite a library of track templates. Listen back to your recordings and take notes on elements you find particularly appealing - then open up those projects and locate and save your channels as track templates. Your favorite sound is now only a couple of mouse clicks away.

Track Manager


When your track count gets high you might find it hard to navigate through them all. In most cases you aren’t working on all tracks at the same time and therefore, you can use the track manager to temporarily clean things up a little. What the track manager really does is to help you select the tracks you want to be visible and deselect the ones you want to hide. Once your selection has been made the track view in Sonar will only show the selected tracks.

If you arrange your tracks with the track manager you’ll want to check back to it time to time, otherwise you might start thinking there are tracks missing (which isn’t the case of course as they’ve only been hidden). Naming your tracks well is also crucial if you want to keep things tidy. Bring up the track manager by pressing "M".

Track Folders


Using track folders is a clever way in handling many tracks of the same sort. If, for example, the vocal arrangement of your song includes more than a few tracks (lead, harmonies, overdubs etc) then placing them in a track folder is an easy way in making them take up less screen space. Sometimes the vocals alone on a song can extend up to ten, and even more channels, and while you work on other elements of the same song you really don’t need to see the vocal tracks. To create a track folder, right click in the tracks pane to the right of the inspector field, and choose "Create Track Folder". Then drag the tracks you want to organize to the track folder. By clicking the plus sign you open the folder so that it reveals its contents, and by clicking the minus sign while the folder is open, it hides the tracks inside it.


Track folders that seem fairly obvious to create could be drum tracks, guitars or vocals but you can of course set up track folders as you like.

Markers


Use markers to point out certain sections in your arrangement that are particularly important. You may want to have a marker placed for each verse, chorus and bridge, but you can also use markers to point out a particular section you want to rework or change but have decided to do later. In order to add a marker, right click the time ruler and then choose "Insert Marker" (or press F11).


Colors


You can use colors to separate tracks and sections from each other. One idea is to give the choruses, let’s say, color blue and the verses color red. Or, you could make certain instrument groups have a specific color.

Last Words


Getting things sorted out in your DAW is means a lot for your workflow -- but not everything. Try to keep things organized on your physical desk as well. Don’t leave things in mess, make sure you have note pads and working pens so that you’re always ready to take some notes or write down ideas. Some people like to use regular sketch pads for keeping track of thoughts and to do lists, some use a Wordpad document or similar, some use a white board while some prefer to use a PDA. Other things such as a good armchair can definitely make you feel more comfortable while working.

Deadlines can be extremely pressing if we can’t organize are daily work. Make sure you plan your day well and that you get things done. Losing work due to a failing disk can be disastrous but also unnecessary. There are plenty of backup tools out there and extra storage is cheap, so there is little excuse for not doing backups frequently. I’m using Acronis True Image which is scheduled to do a backup every day. Deadlines must be met, and losing a client due to a failing disk would be quite awkward - not to mention all the love and effort put in each piece of work. Therefore do your backups well, you will feel much safer knowing that you can’t lose too many hours of work no matter what.

Some of the tips above might seem obvious, but they’re very often overlooked, so I thought that a little reminder could be well in use.


Monday, November 15, 2010

New music highlights at Shockwave-Sound.com

At Shockwave-Sound.com we keep adding new Royalty Free Music tracks every week, sometimes several times per week, so we aren't going to write about it here every time we post some new music, but we've added a few tracks recently that I think are a bit special, so I wanted to give them an extra mention.

The highly talented Polish composer Pawel Blaszczak has contributed a new, really beautiful track called Waiting For Tomorrow. It's a light but emotional, sincere, piano based, semi-orchestral "ambient pop" track, full of wonder, beauty and amazement. It's a "must hear" track, really!

American Jazz bassist Patrick Prouty has sent in this really nice Christmas track, O Little Town of Bethlehem. It's a folky, earthy, slightly country inspired, and actually a bit "old sounding" rendition of this Christmas classic. It made me think of the music from the film "O Brother, Where Art Thou" with it's charming, imperfect vocals and it's subdued live guitar and bass.

Those were only two of the many new tracks we added yesterday. On the main front page for Shockwave-Sound.com you can always hear the 30 latest tracks in a kind of "radio player" that plays one track after the other. We hope you'll like it.