Review - Strix Instruments - Pripyat Pianos

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Those of you who follow my music will know I am a big fan of using sampled pianos in my compositions. While I use a range of piano libraries I am always on the lookout for new and interesting sounds and Pripyat Pianos from Strix Instruments really caught my attention.

Pripyat Pianos is a playable piano instrument created using sounds recorded from 20 different pianos that were left behind in various locations around Pripyat. Pripyat is a ghost city, evacuated in 1986 in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the area remains in the Chernobyl exclusion zone to this day.

As well as sampling the sounds of the instruments, the team have captured a number of impulse responses from various spaces in Pripyat. To give context, the GUI includes photos of these locations along with the radiation level reading taken on the day of visit. It is easy and fun to manipulate the sounds within the instrument with controls including an age slider to vary the degradation, the distance to the instrument, the starting point of the samples, the opening of the lid of the piano, parameters for the reverb, and 5 detail controls; overtones, key strokes, sustain pedal, dampers and resonance.

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Pripyat Pianos is perfect for darker TV and film scores and its incredibly effective when accompanied by atmospheres and soundscapes to create desolate and bleak pieces of music. The aged and detuned characteristic of the recordings also hints at uses in the horror genre with the instrument capable of creepy and sinister tones.

It is incredible to think that many of the pianos used in this project have not been played for over 30 years. With over 25 trips to the city over a 7 year time span it is a testament to the developers commitment the lengths undertaken and health risks posed to produce this product. When you play the instrument you are transported into the world Pripyat and you can really feel and hear the history and context of the instrument. This product is an excellent addition to my sonic library and one which will certainly feature on my upcoming releases.

For a detailed insight into the scale of the process and risks undertaken by the libraries creator Vlad I highly recommend the interview he gave over on the Woody Piano Shack YouTube channel:

You can find out more and purchase the product from the Strix Instruments website: Read More…

Review - Output - Portal Granular FX - First Impressions


Since launching in 2013, music software company Output have rapidly become industry standard with their products featuring on a diverse range of recordings from global superstars Kendrick Lamar and Justin Timberlake to soundtracks for hit shows including Stranger Things and Game of Thrones.

Following on from a range of highly successful VSTs including Exhale, Movement and my personal favourite REV, Output have continued their development with ’Arcade’, a loop synthesiser with an ever evolving collection of samples and ‘Portal’, a granular synthesis FX plugin.

Portal Launch Video:

I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time working with Portal and here are my first impressions:

  • Portal comes with a wide range of highly usable presets. These are well categorised meaning you can jump straight in to find new inspiring sounds.
  • The XY pad allows you to quickly alter the presets to your taste before you take a deeper dive and personalise these further by exploring the plugins advanced features.
  • The audio outcome when using Portal is very musical and can integrate well into existing ideas helping to develop and enhance your productions and keep you inspired.
  • While an obvious strength of Portal is its musicality, it can be dialled up with more extreme processing for abstract and random results offering sound designers a powerful tool for audio manipulation. Portal will appeal to film, TV, media, game and theatre audio enthusiasts.
  • Portal is effective when applied to a range of sources from live input and audio recordings to samples, loops and VSTs.
  • The GUI is impressive, engaging and simple to navigate allowing you to easily manipulate presets and create your own while adding a number of built in effects to your sound.

For a more detailed overview and a look at some of the manipulation options available in Portal check out the short videos from Output below:

Portal Overview:

Grain Control Tutorial:

Portal Modulation, Effects, and Macros Tutorial:

Portal is available now priced at £130/$149. For more information visit

If you enjoyed this article you might like to check out my review of
Output- Analog Brass & Winds based around my cover of Feeder - Children of the Sun featuring multiple instances of the instrument. Read More…

Christian Henson - Sound Design Competition - 2nd Place

A few weeks ago I entered a sound design competition on Christian Henson's YouTube Channel to make a sample instrument using 2 sounds recorded by Christian, a rusty gate and a strange electronic screech in Birmingham New Street Station. I created 3 patches for EXS24 with my entry 'Birmingham New Synth' being chosen as one of 5 finalists. You can watch the video and download the finalists sample instruments, voting is now closed:

You can hear me explain how my entry was made at 2:50, Christian discussing my submission at 19:00, and a demo of all the finalists can be found starting at 20:25 with my submission at 22:52.

There are some amazing entries on display throughout the video, really pleased to have been selected and well done to the other finalists and everyone who entered.
Read More…

Sound on Sound Article - Why I Love...

I have written an article for the April 2019 issue of Sound on Sound Magazine titled Why I Love...The Album. You can pick up this months magazine now or read the article online here: Michael Denny - Why I Love…The Album

Sound-On-Sound-Logo Read More…

New Years Resolutions - How To Plan for a Successful 2019

The first of January is here, the season of New Years resolutions has begun, and many of us are setting goals for lifestyle and professional improvements. The start of a New Year is the perfect time to define your targets and aims for the next 12 months, however, even with the best intentions most resolutions are broken before we even reach the end of January.

To help avoid this pitfall, why not look at your aims for the year in detail, and consider using more defined targets and plans to increase your chances of success. This article aims to suggest a couple of approaches you could use to stay on track and make 2019 your most successful, productive and fulfilling year to date.

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Top Tracks of 2018

In no particular order, here are my top ten tracks of 2018:

Olafur Arnalds - inconsist

This year saw Olafur Arnalds return with his latest album following on from his hugely successful soundtrack for Broadchurch. The singles ‘re:member’ and ‘saman’ set the tone for the record but it is on ‘inconsist’ where all the elements of Olafur trademark sound combine with his newer approaches.

She Makes War - Undone
I discovered this album when browsing records in Fopp and heard the album playing instore. I was hooked by the catchy, grungey lo-fi indie vibe. ‘Undone’ along with ‘London Bites’ being the standout tracks.

Mogwai - Flee
I saw Mogwai on the ‘Every Country’s Sun’ album tour early this year and the gig was one of the best I have ever been to. Alongside conventional albums Mogwai have continued to work on soundtracks, the latest for Kin, ‘Flee’ being my pick from this album.
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Review - Spitfire Audio - Eric Whitacre Choir - Special Event

Over the last couple of years Spitfire Audio have become one of the most prominent music technology companies producing a series of outstanding sample instruments ranging from the epic Symphonic Orchestra and Hans Zimmer Percussion to the fragile and intimate Olafur Arnalds collections and the Albion Tundra Orchestra. Read More…

Guide to Field Recording

Capturing your own field recordings can be a fun and exciting way to add unique sonic characteristics to you music, create your own sampled instruments and support video projects. You can capture audio using a range of equipment from your smart phone to competitively priced handheld sound recorders; here are my top ten tips for capturing quality recordings: Read More…

Hidden Features of Logic X

Last week saw the release of the latest Logic X update, and while the programme hasn’t seen a full version launch since 2013, the incremental updates since have seen the addition of significant features including the outstanding Alchemy synth, the ChromaVerb effects plugin and the Studio Strings instrument. With this in mind, what better time to delve into some of the hidden features of Logic X. Read More…

The Art of the Album

A few months back I wrote a short essay titled ‘The Joy of Record Shopping’ in which I eluded to my love of the album format. In this article I’m going to take a deeper look into the ‘album’, considering its importance in popular culture from different perspectives. Read More…

Creative - 5 Music Ideas for the Weekend

Bank Holiday weekend is here meaning everyone gets an extended 3 day weekend. Trouble is, the weather is set to be typically ‘British’ with the first signs of Autumn on the horizon. This got me thinking, why not use the extra time this weekend to immerse yourself in music. Here are a few ideas to consider: Read More…

Professional Development - Podcasts

With so many resources available for professional and personal development it is often difficult to know where to start and how to find the best material. There are lots of excellent resources available including video tutorials, podcasts, self help books and blogs but personally I have found great value in listening podcasts. Read More…

Recommendation - Contemporary Film and TV Soundtracks

Something a bit different this week, here are 5 of my favourite pieces of contemporary film and TV music: Read More…

Professional Development - Quick Productivity Tips

Following on from the last article which featured an in depth look at Productivity, here are some practical tips for you to try: Read More…

Professional Development - Productivity

In this essay I am going to discuss productivity and I will cover areas including what productivity means to me, how I manage my projects and the art of reflective practice. Read More…

Interview - Leeds College of Music - Alumni

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:

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Essay - The Joy of Record Shopping

This weeks article is something a little different; a personal reflection titled ‘The Joy of Record Shopping’. 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
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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
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Creative - Red Dog Blog - Songwriting Techniques Summary

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I have been working with Red Dog Music Blog to create a summary article about the series, both parts are online now:

Part 1:

Part 2: 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. Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 9: Technology

Advances in technology have had a huge effect on the music industry and there are lots of resources available to assist and develop your songwriting. For the penultimate article of the Songwriting Techniques series the theme is ‘Technology’. Read More…

Interview - Red Dog Blog


was recently interview by Red Dog Music about my creative process, the gear I'm using and whats on my pedalboard, you can read the full interview here:

Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 8: Lyrics

In part 8 of the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Lyrics'. This week I have 10 ideas for you to get you started on your next lyrical masterpiece. Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 7: Instrumentation and Orchestration

In the latest article from the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Instrumentation and Orchestration’. Before we move on to this weeks 5 points to consider lets clarify the difference between instrumentation and orchestration.

Instrumentation is the term used to describe which instruments are used in a track. This could be a list of the instruments used, or they may be grouped into common ensembles such as ‘string quartet’ and ‘rock band’.

Orchestration is the term used to describe where each instrument or group of instruments is used in a track. For example, the piano may be played throughout the duration of the track, with strings and guitar only added during the chorus sections. Varying the orchestration throughout a piece gives the music a shape, keeping it interesting for the listener.
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Recommendation - Piano Day - Thursday 29th March 2018

As its Piano Day I thought I'd share one of my favourite piano led tracks, enjoy!

Radiohead - Videotape

Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 6: Structure and Arrangement

In the latest article from the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Structure and Arrangement’. It is important to understand the function of the different sections of a song and how they can be built up and combined to create a finished song structure. Below is a list of common sections: Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 5: Rhythm

In the latest article from the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Rhythm’. The bass and drum parts form the foundation of the track and a strong rhythm section can make all the difference to your track. In this post we will be looking at how these sound sources can used when composing in various genres, here are this weeks 5 ideas of how to get your bass and drums parts working effectively together: Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 4: Harmony

In the latest article from the Songwriting Techniques series we will be looking at ‘Harmony’. Harmony is the term used to describe the chordal elements of a song, and a harmony is created when 2 or more notes are played simultaneously. Here are this weeks 5 points for you to consider: Read More…

Review - Spitfire Audio - Hans Zimmer Strings - Special Event

Spitfire Audio - Special Event
Air Studios, Hampstead
Wed 28th February 2017


In the world of film, TV and media composition Spitfire Audio have established themselves as one of the market leaders producing exceptional and inspiration sample libraries. Alongside their products the company have an outstanding online presence with tutorials, interviews and Christian Henson’s vlog channel which have all contributed to an ‘Apple-esque’ hysteria surrounding the company. With this in mind, it was no surprise that when Spitfire announced that they were holding a ‘special event’ at Air Studios in London that tickets sold out almost immediately despite no one really knowing what they had purchased tickets for!

Spitfire Audio - Special Event Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 3: Melody

For the third instalment of the Songwriting Techniques series the topic is ‘Melody'. In many genres of music the melody is arguably the most important element of a track, its 'the tune', and the part we often remember, sing and hum back to ourselves. There are lots of approaches to writing melody and some key points to bear in mind when composing, here are this weeks 5 points for you to consider: Read More…

Review - Output - Analog Brass & Winds

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In this article I will be reviewing Analog Brass & Winds, the latest virtual instrument from the groundbreaking music production company Output. I will also be showcasing how I have utilised the instrument into the latest release from the Becquerel project.
Read More…

Interview - The Making of Sample Magic - Ambient Textural Toolkit

TAT Banner

I was recently interview by Sample Magic about the making of my Ambient Textural Toolkit sample pack, you can read the full interview here:

You can hear the demo and buy the Ambient Textural Toolkit pack here:
Read More…

Songwriting Techniques 2: Songwriting and Composition Challenges

For the second article in this series the theme is ‘Songwriting and Composition Challenges’. Sometimes its hard to know where to start, particularly when embarking on a new project, but one way to get started on a new project is to set yourself a brief and guidelines. Referring back to these can help you stay on track and keep you focussed on the end goal. With that in mind here are 5 challenges for you to try:
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Songwriting Techniques 1: Getting Started

Songwriting Techniques is a new 10 part series on The Audio Tapes where I will be sharing songwriting and composition tips, techniques and ideas for you to try. Each week will have a different theme and will include ideas for you to consider.

For the first article in this series the theme is ‘Getting Started’. We all have a tendency to procrastinate and often the hardest part of a task is actually getting to work; with that in mind here are this weeks 5 tips:
Read More…

Recommendation - Top Tracks of 2017

Every day in December 2017 I posted a track recommendation on my Twitter account, here is the list of all the tracks and the summary from Twitter for each. I hope you enjoy the selection and let me know what you think. Read More…