Tag Archives: music

Tickling the Ivories

Haven’t exactly been keeping up to date with LJ, even if I do read my friends page several times a day. It’s easy to get out of the habit of things. However one thing I’m getting back into is music. When I was about 3-4ish my parents got a cheap upright piano (mostly wooden frame) which I learned to play. I kept up with things going through various bits of education, joining the recorder club at junior school, taking GCSE music at high school and AS Performing Arts at 6th form college. For my 18th birthday (in 1996) I finally got a MIDI keyboard and played about with some extremely limited DOS based sequencing software. At university I even had a go at writing a MIDI sequencer for my degree project. After graduating I did a couple of evening classes at the Leeds College of Music in music production and sequencing between 2004 – 6. I kept hold of my coursework and thanks to Soundcloud I can embed the first bit of music I wrote under tuition from LCM:

Transitions 2 by mhoulden

I did another course the following year (final coursework on Soundcloud here) but with getting into Thai boxing and lots of business travel I didn’t spend as much time as I could have done on music. However, back in March this year I thought I’d dig out my mini Evolution MK 7 controller keyboard and see what I could do. It was the same weekend that John Prescott read the Shipping Forecast so I thought it might be fun to have a go at remixing it and adding a few drum loops. The end result was this:

2 Jags at Sea – the Gale Force 8 Mix by mhoulden

John Prescott himself found out about it via Twitter, retweeted it, and now the work-in-progress, final, and music video versions have a total of about 2000 plays between them.

What I found from that there is an audience for the type of music I write. It’s not the type of music I’m generally known for listening to, but I do like bits of Prodigy and some of the techno-style Fear Factory remixes as well as hardcore and thrash metal. Having a background in classical music theory helps me to understand how things fit together (last week I was digging out one of the Associated Board theory books to try to remember what chord forms a perfect cadence in D minor). Composing music by putting together drum and instrument loops (some from loop libraries and some recorded manually) is very different to the "classic" way of doing so I picked up from GCSE music, but it still takes time and skill to come up with something you’d want to listen to. Selling an old mobile phone meant I had some cash to buy a new controller keyboard, and now my setup looks something like this:
Double Keyboard
(I also have a full size Casio WK-3200 off camera)

My Soundcloud account is mostly works in progress and trying out ideas, but what I’d like to do is maybe write 4 – 5 decent quality tracks of about 4 minutes each and see what I can do with them. Selling music through something like iTunes probably wouldn’t make a lot of money but it would be good to do more than just noodling around on the keyboard at home.