Category Archives: Composers

Our 14th window and out pops an unusual Bob Dylan song

If you’ve ever wondered what Christmas Eve at Bob Dylan’s house might be like, the video for his rollicking Christmas polka song “Must Be Santa” offers a window into what happens when Dylan and his guests have a little too much eggnog.

Day 7 of our Advent Calendar is the astonishing Jacob Collier

Ten Jacob Colliers come together to arrange and perform one of the most legendary Christmas carols of all time: Harold Darke’s ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’; a poem by Christina Rossetti.

5 Colloquial Hazards for Creative People

Go to the profile of Nicolas Cole

One of my favorite quotes comes from Mozart:

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

Too often, we try to cram creativity into a box the same way we would a deliverable.

In our project plans and our timelines and spreadsheets, we have given it its own box — “Here is when you’ll be creative.”

But we all know that’s not really how creativity works.

After all, the truly creative would never do any of the following:

1. Say Something Is “Done”

A deadline implies the project is done. Complete. Finished.

Stored away and never touched again.

If you have a creative bone in your body, you know deep down a project is never “done.”

A project or a piece of work is an extension of you, and is constantly a work in progress — just like you, as an individual, are constantly a work in progress.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t checkpoints or milestones along the way where you may declare a project as “complete for now,” but being creative means always looking for ways to improve your craft.

Whether that means starting something new or going back and revising something old, it’s all about leaving the door open for adjustment.

That’s where the magic happens.

2. Think You’re “Original”

Nas said it best — “No Idea’s Original.”

Being creative is all about pulling from people who came before you, learning from their strides (and stumbles), and then evolving.

Too often, people “try” to be creative and make something in a vacuum — a dark room with zero inspiration and no outside influences.

While that can be an effective exercise from time to time, what’s much more effective is to study and pull from others’ work. Chances are, someone has already tried what you’re creating, and you can save yourself a lot of unnecessary time by studying their process as you continue to explore your own.

As the cliché goes:

“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

3. Stay Comfortable

Doing meaningful, creative work, is not easy.

In fact, most people would rather say, “Oh, I’m not very creative,” because they know creativity is hard.


The majority of the time, creativity is the result of leaping and exploring what hides outside your comfort zone.

Whether you are a starving artist or a (true) Creative Director in the corner office, the mindset is the same: push the boundaries, go where others aren’t willing, and embrace the unknown.

Quoting a mentor of mine and Creative Director himself, Ron Gibori always said, “Great ideas don’t happen behind a desk. They happen out in the world.”

Get out of your comfort zone.

4. Accept The Word “No”

Do you know why most people don’t try to be creative?

Because that would mean waking up every single morning and standing in the face of “No.”

When you do go outside your comfort zone and begin to embrace the unknown, the rest of the world, those nuzzled safely in their comfort zones will hold their hands up in the air and tell you not to go that way.

“You’re wrong! You don’t know what’s out there!”

It’s as if they are shouting at a friend on the outskirts of a black forest, just before he or she decides to turn and enter.

To be creative, you have to be willing to give yourself permission before anyone else does.

You have to move forward despite the rest of the world telling you “No.”

You have to not be afraid.

5. Compromise Yourself

Ah, the hardest one of them all.

At some point along the journey, someone will try to tell you how it’s done.He or she might offer you nice rewards for your cooperation, may even plump up your ego and tell you how amazing you could be — if only you changed your vision to be more in line with theirs.

And it will tempt you.

But in the end, you have to decide what is most important to you.

The truly creative are willing to risk it all.

Reputation. Money. Ego.

These come second to the vision, and that’s the difference.

Brilliance doesn’t come from a calculated business plan.

Brilliance doesn’t appear in the form of a perfectly formulated excel spreadsheet, or wake in the morning to a stadium of applause from stakeholders.

Brilliance has to break down wall after wall after wall before anyone takes notice, and what feeds that brilliance in a creative mind is heart.

Compromise yourself and you compromise your heart.

And if you compromise your heart, you have nothing that will truly make a difference.

Introducing Our New Feature – Spotlight on a Music Student

At FFM, we want to highlight new and aspiring musical talent wherever we find it and where better than the many Music Colleges, Universities and Schools around the world. Our new feature ‘Spotlight on a Music Student’ is an opportunity for you or someone you know to step into the spotlight and share your talent, dreams and ambitions with the musical world.

All you have to do is send us your information, pictures, videos, sound clips and links  and we will compile your feature.

email direct to

Much love and happy music making,

The FFM team

Check out the latest from FFM Featured Artist Deena Ade

‘The One for You’ by Deena Ade featuring Idris King

“My first song recorded and released since moving to Lagos featuring the sweetest @idriskingvibes.

Something short and sweet, like me.


Deena Ade is currently releasing a song a month for a year which will be followed up by an LP project, set to be released in November titled “THE FEMINIST”. As her talents and fan base continues to grow, she emphasises on people not to over look as her, as she is the future of the African Music Industry. As she says ” It doesn’t matter what people say, as long as they like my music’. 

Red Bull’s favorite music startup lets you lay down a beat with a rainbow and a ring

If you’ve ever been in a band, you know the sharp pain of pinching your fingers trying to carry a giant kick drum through a door frame. You thought drummers had ripped arms from whipping wooden sticks around in the air? Think again. When they move their equipment from show to show, they’re essentially Olympic crossfitters.

But now, thanks to Specdrums, a Boulder-based music hardware startup, percussionists are about to get flabbier. Well — hopefully not, but seriously: Specdrums created rings for the finger-tappers of the world to play drums wherever there’s color.

That’s right. Wear a Specdrums ring like Frodo Baggins and tap the color “blue” and you could hear the crash of a cymbal or the rap of a snare. It all depends on the sounds you assign to each color in the app.

Who came up with this zany idea?

Steven Dourmashkin, a Cornell graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, who sat at his first drum set in sixth grade. He wasn’t a famous drummer. He didn’t tour across the country on the big stages. He was just an average player in the high school concert band.

Steven Dourmashkin, founder of Specdrums

“I was more of a casual drummer,” said Dourmashkin, recalling how he’d practice his double strokes on a pillow to improve his chops. Dourmashkin is tall and built like an indie metalhead but thoughtful and professional like an Apple Store salesperson.

While working on his masters at Cornell, he wrestled with the question that plagued so many drummers: How do I make drums more portable and affordable?

“The goal was to create a lower barrier to entry for new drummers, since drums can be a very large investment and parents may not want to buy a full set for thousands of dollars just to have their child lose interest a month later,” he said.

The lightbulb moment

The early prototype of Specdrums was a kind of “air drums” where a sensor would measure the movement of a stick and trigger a corresponding sound. But the technology always had trouble with absolute position: where did one drum start and another end? It was very unintuitive and unreliable, said the founder.

He tried attaching a black and white photo sensor to a finger ring. But there’s not much you can do with two options: Back, black, white, black, black, white — gets old really quick.

One day, “When we were giving a demo, a ‘lightbulb’ went off when we realized you could just use the colors around you,” said Dourmashkin. He immediately began prototyping a bluetooth ring that detects colors and an app that links a sound to each color. For example, the Specdrums logo — four colored circles in quadrants — can double as a four-piece drum set. Blue can be a bass drum, green a snare drum, and so on. Basically, if it has color, it can make a sound using Specdrums’ technology.

Nothing like this existed. Drumpants let users strap pads anywhere on their bodies to trigger sounds (i.e., your thighs become drum pads) and Freedrumsmade something to clip to a drumstick for a real-life air drums experience. However, nothing used colors, like an assortment of Red Bull cans, to create a digital drumset.

With a dinky prototype, Dourmashkin knew he needed to make his operation official in February 2016. “We knew it was time to incorporate when we started showing more people and preparing for a Kickstarter. We incorporated to have a bank account and file the utility patent under the company.”

Would you rather pursue a PhD or a startup?

The 24-year-old moved out to Boulder, CO to get his PhD in engineering. A year later he found himself divided.

“I was doing both half and half,” said Dourmashkin. “It wasn’t working and finally got to the point where I needed to choose one and focus.”

I had interviewed another ambitious 24-year-old founder who chose to finish his education first before jumping full-force into a startup. But Dourmashkin had different thoughts.

“A PhD is different from a bachelor’s degree in that if [the startup] fails, I still had a degree. You can come back and get a PhD anytime in life, but you can’t really come back to a startup. This is time sensitive and the momentum may never return. It’s like we have one chance.”

With mind made up, Dourmashkin tabled his doctorate program and focused on making a Kickstarter campaign for Specdrums as successful as possible.

The key to Kickstarter success

In August 2017, he and his four teammates launched on Kickstarter with the goal of raising $15,000.

Less than two months later, the campaign ended with a whopping $188,944.

Why did it work?

The engineer said the key to a successful Kickstarter is patience and bloggers. “We wanted to launch a year ago but instead started building an email list,” he said. During that time, they contacted other Kickstarter champions and asked for advice.

The advice: prove the product beforehand. Many Kickstarters fail because they’re unproven ideas.

Dourmashkin hired a Kickstarter consultant from New York and worked out a profit-sharing deal. They built out a beautiful and detailed campaign page and set up social channels. As the launch date approached, the email list was 500 people — not too shabby but not significant. The tour de force that powered their campaign was a list of 100 bloggers.

“We looked at similar Kickstarter projects and contacted the bloggers that covered them,” said Dourmashkin. “Especially right before we launched. Blogs like AppAudio started writing about us and our consultant got us into NowThis. The video received six million views. It was a snowballing effect from there.”

How a young founder finds a reliable manufacturer

With money raised, the next big obstacle was manufacturing. How does a young person go about manufacturing thousands of products? Until now, Dourmashkin had soldered every ring by hand. “It was tedious,” he said.

Dourmashkin found MacroFab, a small batch manufacturer out of Houston, by sifting through blogs and asked them to make 10 prototypes. When he received the first shipment, the young CEO couldn’t have been happier.

“Other manufacturers usually have a 100 unit minimum and expensive set up fees. MacroFab specializes in orders of less than 10,000 and they help with packaging and fulfillment, too.”

Besides, overseas manufacturing sounded scary to Dourmashkin. “I’ve heard stories of companies that’ve gone to China too quickly and have found out the factory next door started making an exact copy of their product.”

Yikes. Thank you, MacroFab.

Press coverage explodes

Funding and manufacturing in place, a hurricane of press picked up the colorful music tech startup and plastered it all over the web, including Mashable, The Verge, Business Insider, and Nickelodeon.

Word was getting out rapidly. Then the clincher happened: Specdrums wonRed Bull’s Launchpad 2017 competition, a program designed to “give wings” to collegiate entrepreneurs. Part of the winnings included flying out to global tech conference TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, a promise land flowing with tech startups and investors.

The Specdrums team at TechCrunch Disrupt SF

A big conference for an early-stage startup like Specdrums is a mixed bag. It’s great for marketing and networking, but there are also risks of having the idea stolen. “It’s a little concerning,” said Dourmashkin about Disrupt. He said the patent helps, but the exposure also means risk of copycatters. “That’s why speed is key.”

To raise money or not to raise money

Nothing oils the gears of a growing startup better than a few million bucks in the bank, right? But Dourmashkin wasn’t feeling the fundraising route at the moment.

“I decided in terms of scaling at a rate we can handle the best thing to do is to continue bootstrapping. The Kickstarter gave us enough to manufacture. We’re profitable. So right now, we’re focused on hiring a developer and working with consultants to get the app and the hardware to be the best they can be.”

Today, Dourmashkin and his team opened up pre-orders on their own website and are busy prepping to ship the first big order to backers in mid-December.

The future holds a number of new features, including new instruments as in-app purchases, importing and sharing your own sounds, and partnerships with companies like Harmonics, the creators of digital music game Rockband.

“It’s pretty open-ended right now and that’s the point,” said Dourmashkin. Probably not a bad idea when their audience is so diverse, ranging from parents of young kids, to teachers, and live performers.

In the meantime, Dourmashkin has his eye on another accelerator in Los Angeles, a place where the music performance industry is hot. He’s also hoping to find a mentor.

What is your “I made it” moment?

I always like to end interviews by asking founders what the moment would look like when they realize they’ve found true success. Dourmashkin said retail expansion.

“But what store?” I asked.

“Apple,” he replied immediately and I could tell he’d already thought about it. “The intuitive design, no-buttons, and accessibility seem to match our brand.”

“Do you consider yourself an ambitious person?” I asked.


That was it. In typical “mechie” fashion, he didn’t elaborate any further. He didn’t need to. It’s this kind of matter-of-fact, uninflated self-awareness that undergirds entrepreneurs to burn the midnight oil (or crush the 2 a.m. Red Bull, in Specdrums’ case).

I suppose one would have to be somewhat ambitious to get into an Apple Store… as far as I know there’s only one way to get your product on the same shelves as the iPhone X: acquisition. Who knows what’ll happen.

Free Blank Sheet Music!

When I was a kid, I loved buying expensive pads of manuscript paper. Trouble was, I didn’t quite know what to do with them!

Now, thirty-something years on, I’m always reaching for some manuscript paper to demonstrate to my students, scribble down an idea or to give to my pupils so that they can transcribe their latest creation.

A website that I’ve been using for some years now is Great features include being very easy to use, available on all electronic devices, quick and best of all, free!

When you load the page you will notice a green “ribbon” at the top which quickly allows you to customize the paper before you. It is worth knowing that there are multiple functions to each button, so keep toggling through the options until you find the setting for you. You can easily increase or decrease the stave size according to the project and experience level of the student who will be using it. And when you are ready to print, click on the orange printer icon in the bottom right of the page. It really couldn’t be easier. That’s a promise!

Uses include:

• Treble or bass clef vocal music with a single line to write the lyrics underneath

• Four or six-lined TAB staves with option of a treble or bass clef attached to the system

• Grand stave for piano or harp

• Three stave organ notation

• Alto or tenor clef staves

• Single of five line percussion staves

As you can see, these options cover most bases. Anything more complicated will probably require a more traditional notation software package like Sibelius or Finale. If you need something more substantial, if may be worth checking out first the excellent, free, web-based software

Reuben Vincent

Reuben Vincent is a freelance musician working as a composer, producer and private music teacher, based from his purpose built recording studio in Bagillt, Flintshire, North Wales, UK. His main instrument is the piano although he is also known for a “mean” solo on the Kazoo!!!

Time to Open the first Advent Window – Kate Bush – Home for Christmas

Here we go with day 1 and a delightful little-known song from the legendary Kate Bush.

Today’s FFM Stage Belongs to Pianist Alice Thompson

I am a composer, making contemporary piano music (mostly; sometimes there is the odd experiment with electronica ’n’ stuff!). I am currently making the first full-length album I have made in five years, which will be called ‘Solo Piano 2’. It is my plan that Solo Piano 2 will be released in the Spring of 2018.

My intention is to use Bandcamp to share works in progress in fuller versions that I am able to do on social media, early recordings that can be enjoyed now and more of an in-depth insight in to the making of the album. As part of the subscription, you can also download any of my back-catalogue that is available on Bandcamp.

I am also aware that the people who are likely to subscribe to me on Bandcamp are the same people who have already purchased my music, both here and in other places. And this feels unfair. So to resolve this concern, I have set the price for the subscription at £7.95, which will be the cost of Solo Piano 2. So even if you already own my entire back catalogue, you are essentially just pre-ordering Solo Piano 2 on Bandcamp now.

Please do subscribe to be part of the journey!

Much love,

Alice xx

When you go to explore an old National Trust property…and there is a piano you can play!  Of course, I couldn’t resist giving one of the pieces from my forthcoming album Solo Piano 2 a go on the lovely old Broadwood piano at Leith Hill Place in Surrey…full length video on my youtube

Aria Elan – Hotter

Aria Elan’s peace, one love and social justice lyrics are delivered with her signature smooth vocals. Set to a head bopping beat, the music makes you jump up and dance. Please subscribe to Aria Elan’s YouTube channel. You will receive a FREE download of one of Aria’s song when you subscribe to

A graduate of College of Charleston and Southwestern University School of Law, she worked as an entertainment attorney, founded Isis Management, representing musicians, producers, and artists, including James Brown, Phred Mosbey, Musical Director for Earth, Wind, and Fire, musical group Bel Biv Devoe; the great South African singer, Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba, Salaelo Maredi, acclaimed South African director, actor & playwright, and many others.
Ms. Elan later founded Sisi Records, releasing a collection of works, including Motown Legend Sylvia Moy’s hit “Love’s Inside” on the “Universal Love” album. Moy wrote and produced Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amor.”

In 1990 she wrote musical “Amandla Ka Mandela,” which was staged at Henry Street Settlement Theatre in Manhattan, New York, which was followed by her historical fiction book “Missionary.”

Singer/Songwriter: Soul singer Aria Elan dropped debut album “Smile” November 1, 2013. Aria has entertained Veterans and active duty troops at various military bases.

She has spoken and performed for the US Navy, U.S. Air Force, women’s conferences, Veteran’s Organizations, and has received certificates of appreciation from the California Youth Authority, College of Charleston, County of Maui, NAACP, Ventura Self Help Clinic, Watts Legal Aid and numerous others.

As a motivational speaker, Aria Elan presents humorous, poignant and memorable stories about Aria’s ABCs of SUCCESS that resonate with people.  Aria performs her “ode to positive thinking” song “Smile” at all speaking engagements.