Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Classical Piano Favorites Vol. 2 - and why it's so great!


Classical Piano Favorites Vol. 2 (2016)

Dear customers, visitors, passers-by and everyone who might stumble across our site today..

Today at Shockwave-Sound.com we released our new album Classical Piano Favorites, Vol. 2. I just wanted to take a moment to write a few words about this album because I feel that this is not "just another classical piano album". These days, with all the technology we have available and all of the amazing sounding samples and virtual instruments, it's pretty easy for anybody to obtain sheet music of classical piano masterpieces, enter them into the computer, and export this as a pretty decent sounding recording of the piece in question.

However, we feel that this isn't really the way to go, and especially so with calm and soothing classical piano works, because we feel that it's vital to have the pieces performed by a human with some insight, some experience, some touch and sensibility as to what this beautiful music really is about and what it means to us.

This is why, for both of our Classical Piano Favorites Vol. 1, and Vol. 2, we decided to seek out the services of Vadim Chaimovich, a renowned and accomplished concert pianist. Vadim is a prize winning musician, originally from Lithuania, who studied the piano from the age of 5 and is today a popular concert pianist, traveling the world and playing to audiences' great delight.

We were lucky enough to get Vadim on board with us, and for these projects he hired an amazing grand piano and had it tuned up especially for the recording sessions. He rehearsed for weeks and then recorded the album over a period of a few days, with top-of-the-line recording equipment in a pro studio. 

Because, well, if you're going to do something, why not do it right?! We feel that these amazing compositions by Satie, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Bach, Chopin and many others deserve this kind of treatment from a true connoisseur of classical music.

Listen to the beautiful, unique and touching performances of our "Classical Piano Favorites" albums and we think that you'll be amazed. Honestly, it's quite unheard of, that performances and recordings of this quality is made available for "anyone" to license for such low license fees. (Starting from around $30 for a track or $100 for the whole album).


Classical Piano Favorites Vol. 1 (2015)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Where can I find royalty-free rap music with vocals / lyrics?

We received this question through our support contact form yesterday. A customer was looking for stock music / production music library of vocal rap music. Whilst we do have some music in this category for royalty-free licensing and immediate download, it may not be obvious exactly where to find it, as in our "Urban Styles: Hip Hop" genre, you will find mostly instrumental hip-hop / rap music.

To license music with rapping / hip-hop with vocals/lyrics, do this:

  1. Go to our site www.Shockwave-Sound.com
  2. On the left hand side of the website, click "Music Genres"
  3. Click the genre "Music with vocals/lyrics" (at the time of writing this, it is the very first choice on the Music Genres panel).
  4. Another panel with sub-genres will be shown. From this panel, click "Vocal Hip-Hop / Rap".

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

From the Mind to the Page: A Composer’s Tips for Optimizing your Creative Process: Part 2


By Lukas Stanley

If you haven’t already read Part One of this article, I would recommend reading that first. It can be found here: http://blog.shockwave-sound.com/2015/07/from-mind-to-page-composers-tips-for.html

In Part One, I discussed how to make the most of your creativity by effectively setting a writing schedule that coincides with your creative peaks during the day, having a plan when you sit down to compose, and how to go about setting up some of the fundamentals in a new piece of music. But there are more ways to enhance your creative output both in quality and quantity than just having a schedule and picking what key to write a piece in.






In this article, Part 2, I will discuss a topic that plagues composers, young and experienced alike, without effective strategies to combat them: The pre-compositional process. I will also give a disclaimer here that I a primarily create art music, although many of these strategies could easily be applied to commercial music or any other genre.

Pre-Composition

Let’s get down to it. I have some bad habits as a composer, habits that make it difficult sometimes to write music. Hopefully this article is a place where you can learn from my mistakes, because I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to write better quality music more efficiently. I have found myself resorting, in the past, to sitting down with pencil (or computer mouse) in hand, blank staves in front of me, waiting expectantly for a good idea to jump out of my head onto the page. As if I’m going to start writing notes in measure one, write them in order until the piece is over, and have a satisfactory piece of music sitting in front of me. If you have ever tried this you will probably agree that it is a difficult way to get the creative juices flowing. What you need to start is a concept, an overarching idea, of what the project looks like. The more ideas you can get down in this stage, called the “pre-compositional process,” the less work you have to do when actually writing the music out and getting to that final product. Below are seven strategies that I have collected from professors, friends, and my own experiences on how to pre-compose. I have tried all of these to varying degrees of success, but not every process works for every composer, or even for every piece of music, so I’m sharing all of them with you in hopes that at least one might make you a better creator of sound.



1. Graphic Overview

Have you ever found yourself with a really great idea for a piece of music, but by the time you start writing it the initial idea starts to lose focus? If I were a music doctor, I would probably diagnose you with a forethought deficiency. One method of pre-composition that I have found to be particularly effective at combating this is a graphical overview. This is a really good way to get down a large quantity of general ideas, without becoming bogged down by the specificity of melodic or harmonic plans. You can use lines and other symbols to indicate instruments, register, textures, and essentially any other musical components that you think of, over a linear timeline. This way you can see the shape of a whole piece from the start, and then gradually fill in specific notes, and work gradually towards a final piece of music. This is also a common technique used in the analysis of 20th century art music, because textures and large formal ideas are often easily represented by chronological graphical representation. An example of such that I found useful in the past can be seen in this visual analysis of Stockhausen’s Gesang der J√ľnglinge (1956), uploaded to YouTube by user carlintuitive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7HD-95knVQ

2. Word Sketch

A word sketch is something that works well for people who organize their thoughts better in writing than in images, although this method can easily be combined with a graphic sketch. This method involves creating a written outline of a piece, identifying key sections of the piece and subsequent detail in as much depth as you need. For example, you might indicate under a section titled “Development” that the strings enter with an ominous diminished chord while the trumpet plays a blaring melody in the upper register. This particular syntax does not indicate specific notes or harmonies, but it does evoke a clear musical image and mood that will be easily recalled when you are filling in all the details later.

3. Sample Mock-up

This method of precomposition is different than the others listed in this article because it relies on using pre-existing music to create new musical forms. Essentially what this method accomplishes is the creation of a temp track for your music. Begin by thinking of what kind of mood or style of music you would like to evoke with your own piece. Then find a piece of music that already accomplishes this. Cut an excerpt that represents the duration you want for your own piece from this one into your favorite digital audio workstation (DAW).




Continue in this manner for each section of your piece and splice them together with crossfades or other appropriate transitions, and in no time you can have an overview of the shape of the piece you want to create. This is a very fast way to work, and to draw clear inspiration from existing music that you enjoy and wish to emulate. The risk of this method is the same as working with any temp track: it is easy to become limited by the pre-existing musical materials. If you use this method, use it only as a quick, initial step into something that involves more of your original content.

4. Emotive overview

Similar to a word sketch, an emotive overview is something that I have used specifically for collaborative projects. For example, if I were writing a five minute cue in conjunction with a visual media (film or TV), how the music makes the listener feel is going to be very important. If they should feel at ease, stressed out, pumped up, etc., these are all emotive cues that are vital to take into account during the pre-compositional process. Create a sequential map of how the audience should feel over the given duration and make some decisions on how you are going to get there, particularly if the changes in mood are abrupt or there are a lot of them. This also holds true for concert music. In the absence of a multimedia presentation (i.e. traditional concert music), the emotive content almost needs to be more blatant because there aren’t visuals enforcing extra-musical ideas on the observers.

5. Motivic Outline

Jumping right into writing some music down is great if you just came up with a great melody or musical fragment. How you take that motive and manipulate it over time though, is what separates amateur music from professional music. Even a short motive of four notes, when properly placed temporally and masterfully manipulated can drive an entire piece of music. If you don’t believe me, listen to the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. So what you can do is take your motive, and make a list of all the possible ways to manipulate it: transpositions, reordering of notes, retrograde, inversions, rhythmic expansions and contractions, etc. Decide on what versions of the motive you like and how you want to present them over time. Whether you are writing EDM, indie-rock, or neo-classical art music, melody is going to be a driving factor and having a clear picture of how to treat it over time is something to think about up front. This will save you many headaches as you set out to write.




6. Meet with Performers

If you are writing concert music, as I primarily do, meet with performers that play the instruments you are writing for, particularly if you are not familiar with the instruments. This is a good opportunity to build connections and learn what different performers are capable of, because in the rapidly expanding world of extended techniques there are an infinite number of sonic possibilities for instrumentalists. Not only will you be able to test some preliminary compositional ideas with them, but the collaborative nature of such a meeting might also provide you with further inspiration and direction on a piece of music. I have found this method to be particularly useful in my own experience, having recently written a piece for solo bassoon this way. It was severely lacking in direction, but then I met with a bassoonist, talked over some ideas I had for the piece, and within 24 hours the entire thing had been written.




7. Brainstorming

A lot of what has already been said in this article about the pre-compositional process could be categorized as “brainstorming.” However, going beyond strategies for starting to write a piece, actually brain-storming should not be overlooked. Give yourself enough time without distraction to just think about music. Let your mind wander and have liberty to stumble upon interesting inspirations and ideas. In a world that moves very fast technologically, we are often too overwhelmed by notifications, emails, and deadlines to just stop and think for a few minutes. In part one of this article, I talked about how Tchaikovsky would go on a walk every morning, feeding the birds and enjoying nature as he gathered compositional inspiration. It was an integral step in his pre-compositional process. I would highly recommend doing something of similar effect – it will clear the mind in a way that more easily permits creativity. I can almost guarantee that you will find yourself writing more effective music if you do this.

A Few Tips

Don’t spend too much time on this part of the process. If you can, get it all out in one sitting. Breaking up a pre-compositional session might result in losing a train of thought that could take days or weeks to get back, if at all.

Pre-writing is also a great anti-writer’s block strategy. If the piece is well-laid out ahead of time, it’s going to be a lot less likely that you will hit a wall and not know what to do. 

Don’t be afraid of trial and error. One of the best parts about living in the digital age is the flexibility we have when it comes to creativity. If you want to hear what two melodic ideas sound like when they are overlapped, just drag them on top of each other in your DAW or engraving software and play it back. It takes virtually no time at all, and simply experimenting with positioning, layering, and effects can sometimes lead to really interesting and unexpected results. Chances are, no one else is watching you compose. If you end up with something that sounds like garbage, just Ctrl+Z and try something else, no harm done. 

I hope that you have found some new strategies here to begin writing your own music and I wish you the best of luck in your compositional endeavors!



About the Author: Lukas Stanley is a composer, violist, and music educator in Michigan. As an active composer since 2006, his works are written primarily for local concert performances. However, he is also passionate about creating new music for film, video games, and other collaborative projects. To find out more or to contact Lukas, visit his website at www.lukasstanley.com

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mechanical Rights administration and stock music / production music

As I'm writing this article, my target audience is composers / musicians who would like to get into the business of writing music for stock music / production music, and who does not yet fully understand the way in which the administration of your Mechanical Rights through an organization such as GEMA, MCPS, STEMRA etc. basically prevents you from being able to sell / license your music as stock music.

To manufacture a disc that contains music, you need to obtain the Mechanical Rights.

First of all, what are Mechanical Rights administration organizations?


Many composers, at one time or another, decides to join one or more societies or organizations that help them to police and administer their rights as a composer. Such organizations include ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, PRS, MCPS, GEMA, SIAE, BUMA/STEMRA, TONO, APRA and many others.

Some of these organizations administer Performing Rights (meaning your right to some income when your music is performed in public or broadcast on TV/Radio), whilst other organizations administer Mechanical Rights (meaning your right to some income when your music is duplicated on physical media such as DVD, Blu-Ray, CD).

Then there are some organizations that administer both Performing Rights and Mechanical Rights.

Mechanical Rights is where the conflict with stock music / production music happens.Why? Because the license sold by the stock music website / production music library overlaps with the exclusive administration that you have assigned to the Mechanical Rights organization when you joined them as a member.

When a stock music site / production music library sells a track to a customer, they sell a license which allows the customer to put the music in a film/game, and then to go ahead and make physical copies of this film/game. For example, at Shockwave-Sound.com when you buy the Standard License for a track, you may put the music to a film/game and then manufacture up to 5,000 copies of that product. For more than 5,000 copies, you need the Extended License. Most other stock music sites operate with something similar, although perhaps slightly different license configurations. The stock music site sells a license to the customer, which includes mechanical reproduction rights.

The issue here is that, if you are a member of an organization that administers your Mechanical Rights, then that organization has the exclusive administration of your Mechanical Rights, and that organization is the only one that can issue such a license.

With Performing rights this problem doesn't come up, because the stock music site doesn't get involved with the performing license. The License that the stock music site sells is a Sync License (the right to put your music to film or other media) and a Mechanical License (the right to reproduce physical copies of that film or other media).

If that film should end up being broadcast on TV or in a cinema, your Performing Rights organization should collect performing royalties for you and you will get these royalties from your Performing Rights organization -- but this doesn't really affect the stock music customer / user in any way, because these royalties come from annually paid blanket license fees that broadcasters pay to the Performing Rights organization in their own country.

To sum up, if you are a member of an organization that administers your Mechanical Rights, you cannot have your music sold as stock music / production music from Shockwave-Sound.com or from other stock music sites. Any company that sells your track to a customer and thereby allows that customer to manufacture physical copies of your music, is doing so in violation of the exclusive Mechnical Rights administration that you have assigned to the Mechanical Rights organization when you signed the contract with them.

When I first started out in the stock music business, I was both the composer and also the stock music business owner. I was a member of PRS (Performing Rights Society) and MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) which are the UK organization for Performing Rights and Mechanical Rights respectively.

One day I got a telephone call from an Italian customer. She had licensed my music track from my website, used it in a film, had the film put to DVD, manufactured 10,000 copies of that film in a professional DVD pressing plant, and a few weeks later she received a huge invoice from SIAE, the Italian organization who looks after both Performing Rights and Mechanical Rights in Italy. The bill she got was for Mechanical Reproduction Rights for 10,000 copies of my music, and the bill was many times larger than the amount that she had paid me to license the music from my stock music site.

It was this episode that really made me sit up and force myself to learn about these different rights and organizations, and how they affected my ability to license my music as stock music. After a bit of to and from, I believe I managed to talk MCPS into letting the client off the hook so she didn't have to pay after I explained the whole thing as a misunderstanding to MCPS and SIAE, the Italian rights collections society.

I ended up quitting my MCPS membership but remaining a member PRS. Since then, I've had no problem. Since terminating my contract with MCPS, there is no longer any organization that has the exclusive administration of my Mechanical Rights.

  • In USA, I believe all three societies: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are all Performing Rights based and do not administer Mechanical Rights (somebody correct me if I'm wrong?)
  • In the UK, the organization for Performing Rights is called PRS For Music and the organization for Mechanical Rights is called MCPS. If you are a member of PRS, you may want to check if you also joined MCPS at the same time.
  • In Italy you're dealing with SIAE and in Germany you have GEMA, and I believe both of these are organizations that take care of both Performing Rights and Mechanical Rights, so really if you are member of SIAE or GEMA, you can't have your music sold as stock music -- although you may be able to sign a special addendum to the Agreement that you have with them, which would make them administer only your Performing Rights, and not your Mechanical Rights - you need to contact GEMA/SIAE to inquire about this.
  • In the Netherlands, I believe BUMA is for the Performing Rights and STEMRA is for Mechanical Rights, so you may want to make sure that you have signed a contract only with BUMA, and not with STEMRA.
  • Sweden, Denmark and Norway each have their own organizations for Performing Rights (STIM, KODA and TONO respectively), but they share one Mechanical Rights organization called Ncb (Nordic Copyright Bureau) which administers Mechanical Rights. So if you want to try to sell your music as stock music, make sure you're not in Ncb.

If you have specific and confirmed information about similar situations with the organizations in other countries than the ones I have mentioned above, please feel free to comment below. If it's good info, I will include it here in the main article too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Using the "Advanced Browse" music search at Shockwave-Sound.com

Here at Shockwave-Sound.com we are proud to unveil what we believe is the most powerful, most flexible and most useful royalty free music search engine anywhere.

You can find the Advanced Browse by clicking the orange link in the left-hand menu of Shockwave-Sound.com, just below "Artists".

The Advanced Browse page allows you to combine multiple search / browse criteria such as Music Genre, Moods/Emotions, Prominent Instruments, Classical or Non-Classical, Tempo Feel, BPM Tempo Range, Length (in seconds) and more, to find tracks specifically matching your needs.

The Advanced Browse page is also interconnected with the "Find Similar Tracks" function on our site. By clicking on "Find Similar Tracks" below any Track description, you are taken to the Advanced Browse page, which is then pre-filled for you, with multiple values from the track you were just listening to.

Multiple operators are combined with either AND or OR values, and note that you can Click on any AND / OR button to swap it between working as AND or OR.

Let's look at a few examples of how to use the Advanced Browse page:



Above, I have used the form to find Country/Bluegrass tracks that have either a Sad / Sorrowful  / Mournful, or a "Gloomy / Dark / Sinister" mood. This gave me a result of 7 tracks, all are kind of sparse country track with a doom laden feel, highly suitable for things like historical drama, westerns / modern westerns and more. Note that if I wish, I could click on the OR button between the two Moods settings, to change it to an AND operator instead.


In the above example I've quite simply found that my favorite artist is Dan Gautreau and I would like to browse all the Happy / Joyful / Positive tracks he has produced. This search result gave me 112 tracks, so I've got plenty of stuff to listen to.


Since I felt that the 112 tracks I got from my previous browse results was "too much", above I have added another criteria. This time I've gone for tracks by the artist Dan Gautreau, which are Happy / Joyful / Positive, and which features prominent use of Acoustic Piano. Now we're getting more precise, and this browse gave me a result of 26 tracks.



Above, I have decided to browse Vocal Pop tracks, which are either "Laidback / Easy-going / Chilled" OR "Happy / Joyful / Positive", and are sung by a Male vocalist. This gave me a result of 128 tracks.

If I wanted to, I could go back to the form and click on the OR button between the mood settings, and this would narrow the results to tracks that are both Laid back AND Happy - whilst still being in the Vocal Pop genre and being sung by a male vocalist. This would then give me 17 tracks.

Let's look at one more fun example. I wish to find jazz tracks performed by a traditional 3-piece jazz trio of Piano, Drums and Acoustic Bass. Here's how I would do it:


I've set the Music Genre setting to "Jazz: General & faster jazz" (I could change it to "Smooth jazz" if that's what I wanted), and I've selected Piano (Acoustic) AND Drums (Drum kit) AND Bass (Upright/Acoustic). Hit "Search" and I find 119 tracks. Nice result!

Let's just take one more example:


In the above case, I've decided to browse tracks in the Rock -> General Rock genre, which are between 8 and 15 seconds long. I needed this for a short on-screen presentation / intro screen.

Not many tracks are created to be only between 8 and 15 seconds long, but many of our composers create "Stinger" versions of their tracks, which often happen to be between 8 and 15 seconds, so in this case I get a result of 358 tracks. In this case, the resulting track listing doesn't show me the full length tracks - it shows me only the stinger versions that are between 8 and 15 seconds.


My friends, these are only a few examples of how you can use our Advanced Browse page to experiment with our catalog of stock music / royalty-free music and find exactly the tracks you need, with an amazing degree of flexibility and power in your searches. Experiment with it. Have fun with it. You can't break anything -- we hope! :-) You may find some combinations give you zero results, and you may find some combinations that give you too many results to make sense of it. If that happens, go back to the form and think of ways to tweak your settings to make your search more open, or more precise. In particular, keep track of those AND / OR buttons and click on them to change their functionality.

Have fun!