Community Music

I’d never really heard of Community Music until 2005, when I was passed on some information about a training course in Essex. Even the leaflet I was given didn’t really explain much- Just that it was run by Youth Music and they were looking for musicians to take part. As it was a free/subsidised course, I decided to give it a whirl, auditioned and got a space. Luckily for me, the tutor for the programme was Phil Mullen- an amazing and inspirational guy at the leading edge of music in the community, Goldsmith Lecturer and Chair of International Community Music. Probably one of the best people you want teaching you about this field as his knowledge and experience was so incredibly vast. One thing that will always stick in my mind though, is how inspirational he was to me and my fellow trainees, hence, here I am almost 7 years later, more involved with this sector than ever before.

So…what is Community Music? First of all, this isn’t going to be an epic-long blog, just an intro if you like. There are many different areas to this sector but I am going to point out some different areas worth looking into, for anyone who’s interested. There is a lot of evidence and research out there that show the importance of creative arts and the impact it has on different communities as well as individuals. Participation, Engagement, Inclusion and Increased Wellbeing are some of the first words you may come across, in a variety of settings. An example of the kind of groups you could work with could be:

-Baby/Toddler (ages 0-5)

-Children (ages 5-12)

-Young People (ages 13-19)

-SEN/D (Special Educational Needs/Disabilities )

-Health

-Offenders and Prisoners

-Travelling Communities

-Senior Citizens

Although 1 to 1 based work is highly successful, there are many arguments that working as a Group, as part of a team or community increases productivity, self esteem, moral, enjoyment, fun, social inclusion and sense of belonging. It is also clear, that peer learning is invaluable in this setting as well as participants feeling like they have ownership of the group and they are not just caught up in a school outside of school! In my music sessions, I allow the group to determine what direction our musical journey takes us on and what genres we will look at. I have session plans, which are a priority when delivering this type of work, but would rather encourage the group to think creatively, set goals and achieve them with my assistance, rather than pushing them in a direction I have pre-determined. This is catering for the clients needs and not my own, which I come across a lot in this sector.

I have experienced most of the above groups, in many different settings, but my main focus in the recent years has been working with Young Offenders and Young People who are ‘hard to engage’ in and out of mainstream education. I have had some great success, using music as a ‘tool for engagement,’ whether it be through live performances, music production or song writing. In a recent Case Study I wrote for Essex Youth Offending Service, we managed to evidence Hard and Soft outcomes (the changes we see in behaviour and thinking deficits) of Young Offenders after they had taken part in a creative programme. Some of these Young People are marginalised, from troubled backgrounds, in care, dealing with bereavement , NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) and have sometimes fallen off the radar of social care completely. Quite frankly, a lot of Young People out there have to deal with things that you and I couldn’t possibly imagine having to go through as well as trying to grow into an adult. By no means an excuse for offending, just factors that need to be recognised by people who don’t understand the relevance to what I do. I am NOT a teacher, I facilitate and mentor, using my experience of music as a writer, performer, musician and so on.

Computer Music is ‘in.’ It has been for quite some time now. Computers are accessible by most and Young People can operate them at vast speeds now days, even in comparison to me and I’m ONLY 30- not that old! Add the fact that you can download Music Software and Samples for free, legally (mentioned in my previous blogs), all a client needs is someone patient to show them how to access what they need and how to use it. Any music makers out there know how it feels to make your first tune or mix-tape… the satisfaction, the buzz, enjoyment and feeling of achieving something- well, think about passing that knowledge on to somebody. Click on the links below for a wealth of information.

www.musicleader.net

www.youthmusic.org

www.mfy.org

www.artswork.org

www.cmsounds.com

www.artscouncil.org.uk

www.soundexchange.org.uk

Get on the MusicRadar.com

The internet is full of treasures when it comes to music making and I thought I would take a little bit more time to just point you in the direction of MusicRadar.com. Many of you may be aware of this highly useful site and of course there are more out there, but I would highly recommend any budding musicians, producers and DJ’s to check it out. Not only does this site cater for guitarists, bassist and drummers extremely well, with quality reviews, tutorials and regularly updated features, but it also supplies producers and DJ’s with the same content. Some of the tech video tutorials are really worth checking out- whether you want to learn how to programme Dub Step bass lines or how to sample in Reason, they cover so much across all DAWs. The REAL highlight for me though, are the thousands of free samples available to download and use in your music. Hits, loops and multis ¬†from all genres in high quality sample formats- for absolute FREE! You will also find extensive lists of more free software/VST’s available from some of the best developers out there, including the Glitch VST mentioned in the previous blog, which they have listed as one of the top free VSTs. Theres so much to explore on this site, check it out…

 

My Favourite VST Plug-in… (and its a free one)

Here we go, something to write about already… and its inspired by a good friend of mine Andy Nathan aka Tang. Recently, Andy featured one of my newest tunes (‘Trump’ feat G.R.E.Ed.S) on his podcast (www.soundcloud.com/tangmusic) as one of his favourite tracks from 2011. I really was honoured to be on this list and feature alongside such artists as Ali Jamieson, Cara Winter and Mikill Pain, to name a few. Andy recently asked me how I made the ‘stuttery’ synths throughout the track and I didn’t really give him the correct answer- for some odd reason (mainly the bubbles in the Cava I was drinking at the time), I gave an almost non-related answer. I am going to correct myself now and briefly explain how I achieved that effect, with ease, using a really cool plug-in… and it’s free.

Glitch VST can be found and downloaded for free at www.illformed.org , and does exactly what it says on the tin- its a glitch plug-in! It processes the audio you send through it and allows you to insert various FX rhythmically, allowing you to create some fantastic and unique sounds. I have used this VST Plug-in on synth parts for years, but as my computer isn’t very powerful, I tend to export the midi parts out of Cubase as audio, once I am happy with the overall synth sound. This free’s up my CPU for further audio processing. When programming the main chord progression for ‘Trump,’ I was using a soft textured pad from the A1 VST Synth found on Cubase. Once the part was exported and re-intergrated into the arrangement as an audio WAV, I added reverb and a bit-crusher initially to give the pad a grittier sound. After I was happy with the grit, I added Glitch VST and mainly used the Gate and Tape Stop effect (as sparsely as I could over a 2 bar loop) along with a little modulation, which instantly created the ‘stutter.’ It was at this point that I started ‘chopping’ small segments out of the WAV to create any gaps and breaks in the music.

Anyone out there that makes music but doesn’t yet have this Plug-in, should get themselves over to www.illformed.org and get it now. Even if you are not into your Glitch type IDM tunes, you will get much use out of this little puppy, I am sure.

Please check out the Tang Podcast (www.soundcloud.com/tangmusic) to hear all of the artists mentioned in this podcast, and more!

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Big Things for 2012?

So, 2012 is here an I promised myself that I would start a blog… So here it is.
My aim is to update this regularly with entries reflecting on my musical journey, as an artist and music facilitator- Sharing some of my experiences, with the hope that this year will be even more exciting and interesting than the last. 2012 is looking exciting for my music and my work opportunities. I will be blogging about exciting community and youth projects that i work on and come across/useful links and music making tools/fellow musicians/friends/facilitators/artists and of course my own music journey as a writer and artist. Let’s see how this pans out…