Productivity

In the next 2 articles I will be looking at the subject of productivity. A quick Google search defines productivity as ‘the state of being productive’ and ‘the effectiveness of productive effort, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input’.

When thinking about my own professional practice, to me ‘productivity’ means:

  • Making the most of my time
  • Getting the best out of my equipment and resources
  • Maximising the effectiveness of my output
  • Prioritising tasks, projects and goals
  • Learning from each project I undertake

The Importance of Planning and Preparation


Planning and preparation are key to staying productive and focussed, particularly when you are self employed. In an ideal world we would all be productive all of the time, but that is simply not possible so having techniques to get past this mindset can be invaluable. Here are a few approaches to planning and preparation that I have found useful. I set targets with appropriate timescales to stay on track, this means defined short term targets on a daily, weekly or fortnightly basis and holistic aims for the mid and longer term. I also like to keep my studio environment clean, tidy and clutter free, and where possible have my equipment setup ready to go when inspiration strikes.

Project Management and Tracking

When self employed it is essential to manage all aspects of a project properly from administration of contracts, invoices and emails through to creative tasks including composing, mixing and mastering. I use a number of tools to track my projects and manage to-do lists, here are my go-tos:

OmniFocus - I use OmniFocus to keep an overview of all my projects, tasks and their current status. OmniFocus can be as simple or as complex as you like and how you manage your projects in the software is very flexible. Key features of OmniFocus include the scheduling of repeated tasks (such as hard drive backups or weekly website checks), the review function which allows you to evaluate each project on a pre-set timescale, and the inbox function which allows you to ‘dump’ tasks that you can return to and schedule at a more suitable time.

Apple Notes - I love the simplicity of Apple Notes for saving ideas, drafting articles and making project notes and the synchronisation between the iPhone and MacBook means I always have my information available.

Microsoft Excel - when working on projects such as library music albums that require a large number of tracks with different edits and stems I create a grid so I can see a quick overview of what I still need to complete. I can also keep basis notes here such as the progress of the track (demo, submitted, approved, changes required etc).

Notepads - sometimes nothing beats scribbling down ideas in a notepad or crossing completed tasks off a to-do list with an actual real life pen! Notepads are also a great way to start off the creative process when generating ideas for blog articles, song titles, album concepts and sample packs while also making notes for changes during playbacks of my tracks.

Getting Stuff Done - Deadlines

Setting targets is a powerful motivator, but working with deadlines can be a surefire way of getting a project over the line. This may be a client set deadline or one which you have self-imposed. It is important when setting self imposed deadlines to challenge yourself while remaining realistic. The reality of self-imposed deadlines is that they can be easy to dismiss, but for royalty based income such as sample packs and library music this means that the sooner the work is completed, the sooner it can be released and potentially making you money.

Reflective Practice

Reflective practice is a concept that has been present throughout my education, from evaluating science experiments at school to writing composition project reports at University. It wasn’t however until I studied critical reflection in further depth at Masters level that I truly embraced the value of reflection and how to make the most of this skill. For me, reflection in relation to productivity and my music career involves asking myself questions such as:

  • Could I have communicated with the client differently to improve the workflow and better understand the project requirements?
  • Did I track and manage the project as smoothly as I could?
  • Are there any new skills I could learn to help with similar projects moving forward?
  • Are there any sounds in this project I’d like to save as presets to use again?

I hope this article gives you some ideas to consider with regards to your own career, and if you liked this article please check back next week when I will be featuring a number of quick productivity tips for you to try. If you would like to get in touch either visit the contact page or email info@theaudiotapes.com. You can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or visit my website at www.michaeldennymusic.com. Read More…

Leeds College of Music - Alumni Interview

Recently I returned to Leeds College of Music 10 years after graduating…to find out more about what I do you can read the interview with the alumni team here:

https://www.lcm.ac.uk/about-us/alumni/alumni-profiles/michael-denny/

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The Joy of Record Shopping

This weeks article is something a little different; a personal reflection titled ‘The Joy of Record Shopping’.

In many ways I think I have always been a collector. From an early age I remember queuing at a ’swap shop’ to complete my 1995 Premier League sticker album, and aiming to read all of the R.L. Stine ‘Goosebumps’ books.

As I got a little older this transferred into collecting records. I remember receiving ‘Oasis - Be Here Now’ for Christmas and saving pocket money for the subsequent album ‘The Masterplan’. Once I had my first Saturday job I would visit the local record shop ‘Circa Records’ every Monday to browse the latest releases to add to my collection having read about them in the previous weeks NME magazine.

While music is much more accessible now with streaming services offering huge catalogues of music, I still believe there is a place for physical releases. On recent trips to London and Manchester I spent time browsing independent record shops searching for hidden gems, artists recommended to me by friends and albums by seminal artists.

I know that I can find most of this music on streaming services, but I find the process of obtaining and listening to a physical record a much more immersive and rewarding process. It evokes memories of when I discovered the artist, who recommended it to me, where I bought the record and moments in my life associated with listening to a particular record. For me this deeper connection and experience of owning the physical item combines to enhance and enrich the listening experience.

If you would like to get in touch
either visit the contact page or email info@theaudiotapes.com. You can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or visit my website at www.michaeldennymusic.com. Read More…

Music Production Toolkit 4: Sample Magic, Music Radar and Original Drum Hits

Welcome to the final part of the Music Production Toolkit series where I am looking at some of my favourite and most frequently used plugins, virtual instruments and samples libraries.

This week we are looking at drum hits, and when I am starting a new project one of the first things I consider is the drums and percussion needed. I begin this process by auditioning individual sounds and building my own palette of individual hits as a kit in Battery, Native Instruments drum sampler. Choosing the right sounds is important to me, particularly when working in ambient genres as the percussive elements are often exposed and pla
y a vital role in establishing the overall texture and aesthetic. While I utilise samples from a wide range of sources, lets take a look at 3 of my frequently used approaches.

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Music Production Toolkit 3: Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate

Welcome to the part 3 of the Music Production Toolkit series where I am looking at some of my favourite and most frequently used plugins, virtual instruments and samples libraries.

This week I am looking at Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate, a huge collection of 87 Native Instruments products including soft synths, effects, and sample libraries. While the contents of this pack can be overwhelming, there are a number of key tools within this collection which have become essential to my composition and production workflow. Here is an overview of 3 of my favourites, Kontakt, Battery and Massive.

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Music Production Toolkit 2: Spitfire Audio - Olafur Arnalds Felt Piano / LABS

Welcome to the part 2 of the Music Production Toolkit series where I am looking at some of my favourite and most frequently used plugins, virtual instruments and samples libraries.

The main focus this week in the centrepiece of the Spitfire Audio - Olafur Arnalds Composer Toolkit, the Felt Grand Piano. Over the last 10 years Spitfire Audio have become a huge name in the world of media composition and music production and have produced some beautiful libraries, my favourites being Chamber Strings Professional, Albion V Tundra and the LABS range (more on that later).

OA Felt SS Read More…

Music Production Toolkit 1: Logic Step FX

Welcome to the first part in a new series called Music Production Toolkit where I will be looking at some of my favourite and most frequently used plugins, virtual instruments and samples libraries.

First up is Step FX, a plugin added to Logic X version 10.4 earlier this year. Despite it being around 5 years since there was a full version update, Logic X still presents incredible value for money and alongside Step FX recent free incremental updates also include the powerful Alchemy synth, the exciting ChromaVerb plugin and updates to legacy features in the software including the user interface of popular instruments and effects.

Step FX Logic Read More…

Coming soon on The Audio Tapes…

The Audio Tapes is now 5 months old and highlights so far include the Songwriting and Composition Techniques series which went on to feature on the Red Dog Music Blog, the review of Output Sounds - Analog Brass and Winds, and attending the Spitfire Audio launch of Hans Zimmer Strings at Air Studios.

As we move into the Summer months we will be expanding and delivering more content on a regular basis, this includes at least one new article each week for the rest of the year along with some added extras along the way including interview and reviews. Planned articles range from multiple part series including Music Production Tips and Creative Challenges to shorter topics investigating areas including Record Shopping, The Art of Listening and Productivity.

Thanks for your support and interest so far, I will also be continuing my collaboration with Red Dog Music blog writing some guest articles so keep your eye out for those too. In the meantime, if you would like to get in touch
either visit the contact page or email info@theaudiotapes.com. You can also find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or visit my website at www.michaeldennymusic.com. Finally, don't forget to check back for the first part of a new series called Music Production Toolkit on Friday 1st June. Read More…

Red Dog Blog - Songwriting Techniques Summary

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As I mentioned in the final blog of the Songwriting Techniques series, I have been working with Red Dog Music Blog to create a summary article about the series, both parts are online now:

Part 1: http://blog.reddogmusic.co.uk/2018/05/08/part-1-songwriting-and-composition-techniques/

Part 2:
http://blog.reddogmusic.co.uk/2018/05/17/part-2-songwriting-and-composition-techniques/

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch,
you can find me on Twitter @MDennyMusic or email info@theaudiotapes.com Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 10: Collaboration

For the final post of the Songwriting Techniques series we are going to look at different approaches to collaboration. If you enjoyed this series of articles then make sure you keep an eye out for a summary article which I am working on in collaboration with the Red Dog Music Blog. Read More…