“When I have had to work remotely, my basics are a laptop/computer. You can look into anything like Ableton, Logic, Cubase, and Pro Tools is good to know but not great for creation, more for audio recording.”
- Midi Keyboard – doesn’t matter what size. A 25 key will do.
- Interface – if you’re doing more than midi stuff, and want to record voice or acoustic guitar. Two-channel interface you can buy for about $100-120.
- Microphone - standard SM-58 for experimenting. For a nicer one you’ll need a condenser microphone and that’s where you’re more likely to spend the most money.
- Cables for the mic and a mic stand
- For proper listening back, you’ll want studio monitors, but headphones are a good starting point.
- Acoustic padding – if you want to do DIY recording, get acoustic paneling. You can get materials from Bunnings or suppliers of fiberglass batts. Blankets are hugely helpful to deadening a room.
TIP: Stay connected (but not too connected)
- Stay connected, try not go too deep into your bubble
- Avoid Facebook during the day
- Put the phone facedown, it will keep pulling you out of the creative flow
“If you’ve been fixating on something for a really long time, everyone else has finished work for the day, and you’re finding your progress slowing down enough to it becoming a slog, you’re no longer working in a way that’s conducive to efficient, productive outcomes - you’re not putting your best creative ideas out there at this time.”
This is when a phone call is good. Ask for feedback or someone’s professional opinion.
“It’s a huge thing to reach out to someone else. Reach out when you’re stuck musically. Make it less about a really isolating experience, and more about ‘I really need your help on this’ – and you’ll get into conversations about other projects and work.”
Anna uses a self-imposed deadline.
“During this pandemic I have made myself tell some friends/collaborators that I was sending something over the next day before I had even started the song, so I knew I had that pressure to get something down.
“I don’t ever let people down or miss a deadline, so by the next morning I always have something to send.”
Creative thought starters?
Anna: “If I’m really struggling to come up with a vibe to start with I will imagine I’m someone else - someone in a movie, painting, story and write about how I think they would be feeling, usually leads me down a path and I find some common ground with myself.”
TIP: How to upskill (if you feel so compelled)
Have you been wanting to try making music for the screen or games?
As someone who has made a move from being a singer-songwriter, Chris suggests it’s a smoother transition to move to screen composing than games if you’re looking to learn remotely or teach yourself for the most part.
While films move in a linear fashion, games don’t.
“Get started on your own with screen music by taking a trailer or some footage and then replace the whole thing. It’s a good way to see how the process works and using your critical listening.”
To get into games and the fundamental understanding of scoring for them, there’s lots of online training like Udemy or different game engines like Unity and Unreal. Unity and Unreal come with different templates that can be used for ready-made games – you can tinker with them and replace the sound and music.
“If you want to skill up into either of these areas the capacity to do is mostly for free with online training resources and then it’s about putting it into practice,” says Chris, who also recommends the Masterclass courses.
If you want to start recording and producing, Anna comes back to the DAW.
“There’s lots of different styles of production and certain DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) are better than others at different things but I find if you stick to one DAW and learn it inside out you will be able to get where you want to go eventually.
“Mic technique, mixing, technical stuff is learnt gradually, by doing it over and over again and encountering different scenarios...so don’t worry too much about getting it perfect every time. Rule #1: if it sounds good it sounds good!”
Anna's suggested resources:
Music Production for Women YouTube Channel
Help running your small business [VMDO]
Help with stress, mindfulness and mental health [HeadSpace]
Go easy on yourself (or keep going if you’re in the zone)
As a screen composer, often working to a brief and a deadline, Chris says, “My approach to this is from a ‘marathon’ approach. It’s about pacing yourself to meet whatever expectations you have, and if working to a brief, whatever the client has as well.
"Most of my day is condensed into short sprints for a 40 hour weekly marathon, which depending on the project, might end up being a small component of a 6 month ultramarathon, if you will.”
If you find yourself working on a song and you’re 12 hours in and loving it, that doesn’t mean you have to stop, just remember that switching off has its merits.
“…also, creativity is a bit of a weird beast,” says Chris.