Tune A Day Fail

My jungle-garden has taken over

I was planning to do Tune A Day again this year, but the album release date ended up being later than I had originally thought it would be, and pretty close to the start of June. No chance for proper time off afterwards. Work was really intense getting the album completed and I was completely burned out afterwards. But I wanted to stick to the plan, because that was what I’d decided I was going to do in June.

I start the 30 day challenge, still feeling really tired. First day is a drag. Second day goes pretty well. Phew! I can still do this. The third day is a drag and I barely write a half tune. Fourth day – doesn’t even happen. I think I’ll catch up on the fifth day. Nope!

I thought it all through and realised the reason for my lack of motivation (and stress about the challenge) was that I already have quite a large backlog of material that hasn’t been released and that I know will take time to get ready. There are also other important things that I haven’t attended to in a long time, like all those jobs around the house and garden that I have been neglecting. I also want to collaborate more with other artists and make some changes to my website which will need a substantial amount of time, too.  (You can’t really see how bad the garden is from the photo, because the buddleia at the front of the picture has taken over! This photo was taken after I’d already started on it, too…).

I realised I needed to stop trying to be superwoman – at least for a while, there was only so much I could do, and it’s better to do fewer things well. So, this year, Tune A Day June has not happened, although I want to do another 30 day challenge because I got so much out of it the last few years.

Singing The Post-Album Blues

I don’t think I should really be surprised by how I’ve been feeling this last week or so – I worked extremely hard over a sustained period of several weeks in order to reach my self-imposed deadline to finish the Survival album and finally be able to move on to working on other projects. (It turns out I do need real deadlines even if I am not going to be 100% rigid about applying them – the release date for Survival was moved back by a week after I’d committed to it. Deadlines are motivating for me and oddly quite liberating – they force you to focus on the immediate priorities.).

After weeks of being full of adrenaline, by the time the album hit the online shelves, I was cream-crackered. Putting all my energies into finishing the music, I’d been neglecting my diet and my sleep routines – if you can call them that – had flipped over to Aussie time.  Again!  A week ago, I looked like a ghost in the mirror, and was having trouble staying awake. Zero motivation to get stuck into the to-do list that I’d been saving for after the album release.

Rather than have a big fight with myself and a major guilt trip about how much I wasn’t getting done, I’ve had to be sensible and accept a certain level of defeat, recognising that I had been burning more energy than was in the bank for a few weeks there and that I needed a bit of time off for my body to recover.  Out with the vitamins! I’ve still done some productive things the last week, but have also slept a lot, letting my body call the shots apart from the couple of days when I had to be somewhere – a hospital appointment with Dad and a carboot sale with a friend. I’ve now got some colour back and am feeling motivated to do some song-writing collaborations with other artists. That wasn’t strictly part of the do-list, and has appeared somewhat out of the blue, but it is a nice treat to work with other musicians after months of being quite isolated. Plus, if it gets me fired up again about making music, I’m in.


High Time for A Dad Update

As I write this, I’m at my parents’ house, waiting for a delivery. It’s to replace a mobility aid which was already delivered for Dad, but my sister tried to demonstrate how it would fold down to fit in the car and one of the plastic levers broke off in her hand. Dad’s still in hospital but could be home by the time you read this, it’s that close.

The last week or so has been chaotic, including Dad having an operation and then a false alarm late last week when the hospital staff briefly forgot that they hadn’t finished the job off. Dad was looking too well to still be in hospital a couple of days after going under the knife and they were so pleased with his recovery they told him he could go home later that day. I got a somewhat jumbled message which sounded like Dad might be taking French leave and trying to make his own way home (with no money or house key), and had to make an unexpected hospital dash to track him down because his phone was going straight through to voicemail every time. By the time I got there, he’d been told it was an error and everything looked normal apart from the bed looking like it had been made up already for the next patient.

There are still a few loose ends to tie up, but moves are now underway to sort out the final details after Dad escapes. I’m half expecting him to do a little dance when he gets here; he has had his bags packed and ready to go for several days already after last week’s near-miss.

The plan earlier this afternoon was that when the replacement kit arrived, I would phone someone from the hospital, and that would be the trigger to finally allow Dad’s escape from the hospital. I’m still waiting, but the goalposts have moved and they are going to allow Dad to go home this evening, as soon as his meds have been dispensed. Sensible decision: it’s only a lever for folding the mobility aid down that broke off.

It seems like every time Dad has been moved to a new place during the 4 months+ that he’s been in hospital, it has snowed this winter.  So it’s fitting that today we’ve had a few blasts of heavy snow – interspersed with bright sunny weather.

What alternatives are there to Soundcloud? (Part 2: Drooble)

There were various articles last summer predicting doom and gloom for Soundcloud before they were rescued. This prompted a little research into what alternatives there are to Soundcloud – this is the second of a series of posts into what I found out.


Stoneygate's Drooble Profile

Drooble’s website states, “We want to create a community that unites musicians. A place where you can connect with others to exchange ideas, share knowledge and start bands. A place where you can get your music appreciated and receive feedback from other musicians.”

The look and feel of this site is very much like Facebook, but with a musical twist. Like Soundcloud, this site is geared specifically for the music community, and there seems to be a mixture of musicians present, from keen amateurs to professionals, plus some music fans.  You can advertise and search for new band members and arrange jam sessions online.

Drooble is not a blockchain based site, but if listeners comment on or ‘applaud’ your music, you earn ‘karma points’. You also earn ‘karma points’ for being a good Drooble citizen: using it regularly, recommending friends and helping other musicians out. You can spend the points on promotional tools – it costs 400-700 points to get most of these, but additional airplay is just 100 points.

Songs uploaded to Drooble for hosting get automatic airtime on the site’s ‘radio’ station, which you might not want for work in progress. For getting feedback on unfinished material, it could be better to use host work in progress on a site like Clyp,  and only reference it from your Drooble feed.

The site is beginning to incorporate apps – so far there is a chromatic tuner and a metronome. They plan to include a built-in DAW further down the line, but I suspect that may be a while. I wouldn’t expect the Drooble DAW to have as much functionality as the DAW on your computer – unless the site’s creators work with one of the commercially available DAWs – but it could eventually be a useful tool for collaborating on co-writes with other Drooble musicians.

-You can post your music to the Drooble ‘radio station’, the built-in music player which allows commenting and likes.
-There is scope for being promoted as eg Artist of the Week or Video of the Week by spending your ‘karma points’.
-Built-in electronic press kit (EPK) as one of the promotional tools options.

-The genre communities are quite vaguely defined.
-Currently there are over 30,000 accounts* on the site, so the potential audience for your work is still quite small.
-All your instruments and genres are grouped together, so if you only play folk-style guitar but play rock keyboards and orchestral flute, this won’t be immediately clear to someone reading your page. That said, the level of detail you provide is way better than you can give on many sites.

This site is well designed, easy to use and has a lot of potential, especially if you collaborate with other musicians, and it is good for music discovery. It is probably geared up too much towards musicians rather than fans at present to draw in huge numbers of fans who aren’t musicians themselves. I would hope that this will be addressed as the site develops, though.

(This article was updated to state more than 30k accounts, on further information supplied by Drooble, as the number had increased since the article was written. It previously stated around 27k accounts existed).

Everything Came Crashing Down

This is not the easiest post to write. Yesterday marked four weeks since my Dad was taken into hospital as an emergency, with an unidentified illness and a fever spiking at 40 deg.  That’s why I haven’t posted for ages.

The trouble started at the beginning of October, but it took a while for it to become clear that something more serious than a stomach upset or mild food poisoning was going on and to persuade Dad to get seen. There had actually been a few signs Dad wasn’t well over the summer, but we’d put it down to him overdoing it, and he had seemed to get better.  Dad’s age seemed to accelerate – he seemed about 25 years older than his real age on the day we called the ambulance.

After a pretty thorough round of testing in A&E* and an ‘acute’ medical ward, we were initially told that Dad had cancer in multiple organs and ‘months’ to live, even though he was miles better than a few hours earlier. Then suddenly just over a week after that, the diagnosis was changed to ‘not cancer’ but ‘abscesses’ of an unknown cause.  The medical team were more surprised than we were – they said they’d not seen anything like it, and that a turnaround like this was very rare.  It started to feel like we were in the plot of an episode of House, MD, just without Hugh Laurie or his glamorous team of assistants.

Dad’s now been moved to a different ward in a different hospital in a different city and been prodded and poked and tested and scanned a whole lot more. Visiting hours are shorter and travel times are longer, but this hospital has the particular specialists Dad needs, if he is going to get better. We don’t know if he will fully recover, or if there will be long term damage, but there’s a lot of prayer and we’re hopeful. Dad hasn’t lost his sense of humour, although he’s seemed close a few times, and he says he’s ‘got more tubes than the Northern Line**’. He wants to be out before Christmas, but I’m not sure that’s going to be possible.

Because of what’s going on, my life is completely on hold just now, and the album release is going to be delayed until next year. Dad’s been talking about getting ill as ‘when everything came crashing down’, which seems pretty apt for what’s happened. I’m hoping for the rebuild to go well, though, even if it takes a while.


* That’s E.R. for my friends in the US

**London Underground pun-based Dad-joke. Not bad for someone in Dad’s current state of health.



First Game: Way of the Bubble

The Way of the Bubble, Menu Screen

The Way of the Bubble (Beta), Menu Screen

The last few weeks have been a bit intense at times. I signed up for a game music composition course on Udemy in June – maybe not the sanest thing to do during a 30-day composition challenge, but I doubled up and used the homework as Tune-A-Day June tunes, which helped me crack on with it.

It’s the first Udemy course I’ve studied and it is going well. I wanted to write about what I’m learning for Code Like a Girl, because it involves Unity, a very popular game development ‘engine’*.  With the games industry being so buoyant it would be good to encourage more girls to get involved. But I needed to write a long-overdue article first to complete the story about making video using Processing 3 to write basic animations, so I ended up writing two articles quite close together.  The first article is about making the music visualiser used in the Silver Bird video; the second is about what I’ve been up to on the game music course, which teaches you to make your music adapt to what is happening inside a game and trigger music cues based on events occuring. It’s been really interesting so far and I feel like I’m much better prepared for making more music for games.

I’ve also spent some time trying to learn a little more than is covered on Unity by the game music course by looking at Unity tutorials and just playing around with it. (If you read the second recent article for Code Like A Girl, you’ll see I had some fun body-modding the player character and giving his glasses a makeover). I definitely want to learn more about using Unity, as I’d like to create a simple game that I can use for making video footage from.  This will involve learning to code in C#, however, so that will stretch the old grey matter more than a little when I get to grips with it properly. I’ve only really scratched the surface so far.  (Unity can also take Java scripts, but the tutorials look like they concentrate on C#, so I’ll just follow those – the two languages seem very similar from my perspective, anyway).

Unity gives you a fantastic platform to work with for making animations, from what I can see, and you can almost treat it like a filmset once you’re proficient, setting up camera angles, getting the camera to follow a character’s movements, or to zoom in to the action, etc. I’m not sure how I’m going to fit in all this learning though. It may be quite a long time before I can make something really decent – if I get that far.

New Game – Way of the Bubble

Meanwhile, I’ve had my first glimpse of the Way of the Bubble game, the first game in the TrickJazz chillout mobile games series, which I already mentioned a few times.  The game I was originally scheduled to be in, Dreamwalker, has been delayed, so they’ve included my tune Sunset Landscape as one of the tunes in Way of the Bubble. The game is now in beta testing, and I’ve had a go at playing it already, which I’m naturally quite excited about.


*I’m not sure how they started calling these things engines – Unity is a development environment where you pull together and organise all the different elements that go into making a game and test it. It has built in elements, like a ‘physics engine’ so you can apply gravity to your objects and make them bounce back from walls, etc. You can also buy additional items to extend the possibilities, particularly of the graphics elements available.