Beating Musician’s Block: Top Tips For Finding Inspiration

Even the most talented songwriters and composers sometimes hit a dry spell. This can be due to several factors; stress, boredom, and fatigue can all contribute to ‘musician’s block’, making it difficult to summon the energy or inspiration to come up with something new and original.

Your ability to write music may also be hindered by events in your musical career, such as low self-esteem following a poor critique, or working on an album that you simply don’t enjoy.

Fortunately, we are blessed to live in a world which is full of inspiration, just waiting to be uncovered. Here are a few top techniques for overcoming musician’s block.

Stimulating With Self Care

If you’re not taking care of your body and mind, your brain will have a more difficult time coming up with innovative ideas. Fatigue, hunger, and stress can have the effect of creating a ‘brain fog’ that makes it harder to focus.

Taking some time away from your instrument or computer can give your brain time to relax, which helps you to come back to your work with a fresh pair of eyes.


  • Have you eaten a healthy balanced diet today?
  • Have you drunk enough water?
  • Have you had between 8 and 10 hours of sleep?
  • Have you washed and dressed yourself today?
  • Is your environment a relaxing and clean place to work?
  • Have you taken regular breaks?

Spending Time In Nature

Nature is a great source of inspiration for many musicians and artists, and the natural world has inspired many of the greatest hits of all time, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Bob Thiele’s What A Wonderful World.

Taking the time to go outside and engage with nature also has many benefits for mental health, such as improved concentration and attention, lower stress levels, and increased endorphin and dopamine levels – all of which result in feelings of happiness and calmness.

You may also find inspiration from the sounds found in the natural world: Pink Floyd famously sampled a range of animal noises on their album Animals, while the Doors’ Riders On The Storm uses storm and rain samples to create a moody atmosphere. In modern pop, Lana Del Rey is also known for her use of ocean sounds in many of her tracks.

When you’re out for your next walk, why not record any sounds that spark your imagination? You can then use these samples in electronic tracks, or attempt to replicate them using instruments.

Play A Word Game

If you prefer to write your lyrics before the music, playing a word game such as Scrabble can be a great way to get over writer’s block. These kinds of games stimulate your brain and can help you to identify catchy words or phrases to use in your lyrics.

Investing in a set of word fridge magnets can be a great way to experiment with different words and phrases for your songs. Every time you go to your fridge throughout the day, take a look at your magnet set. Which words go well together and why? How can you use these phrases to make an impression on your audience?

Use Your Experience

Experience is a powerful tool for creating emotional songs that your listeners can connect to. Many classic songs have been inspired by powerful events – both good and bad – that affected the artists or their loved ones.

You have likely had many experiences in your life that have made an impact on you; these experiences can be something that has happened to you directly, stories you have heard from others, or a combination of the two.

What experiences in your life stand out to you? How did you feel back then? And do you feel differently about them now?

Exercise: Identify one positive experience and one negative experience from your life that have made an impression on you. How can you communicate the feelings attached to these events through music and lyrics?

Do you want the music to match the lyrics in tone? Or is it more effective to communicate feelings of confusion by using contrast, such as happy lyrics with sad music, or vice versa?

Read A Book

Books are an excellent resource for musicians and can help artists to build a creative persona. Many popular songs have been based on books, including Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, and Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, which was inspired by Alice In Wonderland.

And if classical literature isn’t your cup of tea, A Perfect Circle wrote So Long And Thanks For All The Fish inspired by Douglas Adams’ successful sci-fi comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

When writing about your favourite novel consider:

  • Which character(s) do you relate most to? How can you communicate their personality through music and lyrics?
  • What is the overarching storyline or theme of the book?
  • Are there any thematic elements you can use from the book to enhance your music, such as sounds or well-known quotes?

Whatever your writing style, there are countless sources of inspiration to draw on. So why not kick back and enjoy your favourite works of literature? You may find they inspire your own masterpiece.

Our Top R&B And Soul Hits For Summer 2022

Summer is nearly here! And what better way to get the warm vibes flowing than with some supremely soulful sounds?

With this in mind, here are our picks for the best R&B rhythms and slices of soul this summer.

1. Solange – Cranes In The Sky

Solange’s 2016 hit is a cool, refreshing take on the R&B genre.

Blissfully minimalist, yet beautifully deep, Cranes In The Sky is pure poetry, the restless feeling of being away from a loved one echoed in the ways she tries to fill the empty space in her life (‘I try to drink it away’, ‘I tried to dance it away’).

The imagery of solitary birds swooping over calm waters, suppressed by heavy steel clouds, is evocative of the feeling of loneliness. But this is quickly soothed by the gentle, mellow tones of Solange’s vocals and the reassurance of the backing vocalists (‘Don’t you cry, baby!’). The minimalism of the strings and bass gives the sensation of spaciousness, further asserted by the expansive landscapes depicted in her music video.

This quiet exploration of Solange’s inner world evokes a sense of healing through music: her vocals take centre stage in a way that is powerful, but simultaneously delicate and subtle – allowing herself the space to be fragile.

The music video is a creative exploration of themes of struggle and empowerment; Solange’s solitary scenes are contrasted against group shots of herself with other black women, artistically shot, bodies draped over each other in a manner that echoes classical art.

There is a sense of intimacy in her group shots, the women touching each other’s skin in a way that suggests connection and familiarity.

The use of colour in the clothing and backgrounds, and the way that Solange positions herself appears almost saintly, the slight movement of her hands and eyes bringing life to what would otherwise be a freeze-frame, while keeping the sense of being in a living painting.

Cranes In The Sky is a deceptively subtle exploration of inner feelings of loneliness, and the healing power of belonging in a community.

Listen here.

2. Erykah Badu – Didn’t Cha Know

Listening to Didn’t Cha Know feels like an aeroplane flight in clear blue skies.

The bass riff is fluid and melodic, complimented perfectly by the soaring melodic tune of the keyboard and Badu’s light, airy vocals, and grounded by earthy drum beats. Badu takes her cue from old school R&B and soul to create a track that is modern, minimalist and unquestionably unique.

There is a roaming air to the track which contributes to the sensation of travelling through life experiences; in her music video, Badu is a nomad roving through the desert, the ground dry and cracked beneath her boots.

Her dress is white against the scorched sienna earth, unquestionably futuristic which contrasts with the retro feel of the melody and the naturalistic way that she connects with the insects and reptiles in her environment.

Her train drags behind her in a manner that is almost bridal, as she searches for her lover in the wilderness, yet she is alone, curling up in her dress to go to sleep as the night falls.

When she finally arrives at the oasis, she and her lover reunite, their thirst for each other quenched in the still waters.

Badu is an artist who weaves together the threads of freedom and imprisonment, opulence, and hardship, to form an expansive desert tapestry. Didn’t Cha Know is a warm, sun-filled delight of a track, and the perfect accompaniment to the blistering summer rays.

Listen here.

3. Sade – Smooth Operator

This 1984 soul hit by Sade is a timelessly cool masterpiece, which has continued to feel fresh almost 30 years on.

While the track wasn’t as successful in the UK, Smooth Operator was a breakthrough track in the US, and it conjures up images of simultaneously slick and sleazy jazz bars, frequented by playboys and conmen out to deceive unwary women out of their money.

The saxophone is as suave and sophisticated as the swindler depicted in the video, adding a nostalgic atmosphere to the 80s classic. Smokey and sultry, Sade is a Smooth Operator herself, a talented bar singer bathed in red lighting as the hustlers bustle around her, taking advantage of her affections.

Listen here.

4. Daniel Caesar and H. E. R. – Best Part, A Visual

Opening with the crashing sounds of waves on the shore, Best Part, A Visual is an intimate inside glimpse of the bliss between lovers.

Caesar’s smooth vocals are complimented by dreamy guitar and elegantly simple percussion, the female vocals of H. E. R. adding an ethereal echo to his earthy tones.

The melody is warm, sweet, and feels like bathing in sunlight. This is a euphoric, tender track that captures the essence of new love.

Listen here.

5. Dylan Sinclair – Home

Dylan Sinclair captures the essence of soul in Home, with melancholic vocals against the backing of swaying electric guitar sounds. Despite the mournful lyrics, the melody has a soothing air; the video features his lover in bed in a sun-bathed field against clear blue skies as he walks from his car across the dusty soil to join her.

He pictures her as he drives away in his car, later sitting alone in that same field, as she takes his place in the car alone. He appears lost as he wanders the field, watching the sun set over the horizon.

Dylan’s vocals capture the essence of love on the rocks; sweeping skilfully through highs and lows as he narrates the story of separation and longing.

Listen here.

The Top 5 Trip-Hop Albums Of All Time

Slow, chilled-out beats, haunting vocals, and eclectic samples are all hallmarks of the funk, reggae, and hip-hop influenced brand of electronic music that came to be known as trip-hop.

Originating in Bristol, a city located in the South West of England, trip-hop quickly captured worldwide attention, spawned some global superstars, and influenced generations of artists to come.

But which trip-hop albums are regarded as the best of the bunch? Let’s take a look at 5 commonly cited classics and give you the chance to check them out for yourself.

1. Massive Attack – Blue Lines

Massive Attack’s Blue Lines (1991) is one of the most prominent – and one of the first – albums of the trip-hop genre.

Unlike many of the subsequent trip-hop albums released, Massive Attack’s tracks captured the darker edge of electronic music, permeated by scratchy sampling and haunting electro elements that give the album a sense of disquiet against the chilled out backing.

Blue Lines was an unquestionably influential album, fusing a wide breadth of Black genres including rap, hip hop, reggae, and soul with a dark electro twist.

The intro track Safe From Harm is a jarring opening to the album, with an agitated baseline riff and edgy rap verses that complement Nelson’s haunting vocals of ‘If you hurt what’s mine, I’ll sure as hell retaliate’. There is a sense of suspense throughout the song, amplified by the twitchy electric guitar that sets this track apart from the typical trip-hop feel.

This disconcerting feel is amplified by the bluesy melancholia of One Love, which combines catchy repetition with the soulful male vocals of reggae roots singer Horace Andy. Its minimalist approach effectively creates a melodic ambience that is darkly atmospheric.

Be Thankful For What You’ve Got lifts the album to a chill-out vibe with a touch of soul and a bouncy bassline that harmonises perfectly with the vocals. There are electronic elements throughout the track, but this is a complement more than a feature, not detracting from the heart of the melody. This track is classic, memorable, and adds a touch of lightness to the album which adds yet another layer to the complexity of Massive Attack’s music.

Blue Lines is a fundamental foundation of the trip-hop category, and a complex and skilful approach to combining genres.

2. Smoke City – Flying Away

This 1997 classic by Smoke City is an addictive fusion of trip-hop and acid jazz, expertly combining hypnotic Latin American beats with the seductively smoky female vocals of singer Nina Miranda and a modern electro twist.

The most notable track of the album is, of course, the classic Underwater Love, which features the exotic percussive rhythms of Brazilian samba, and dreamy electric guitar. The electro elements are mellow and rounded, giving the bubbling sensation of being underwater, while the included samples of rainforest sounds transport the listener to a tropical paradise. Miranda’s vocals are instrumental in grounding the experience and providing the focus for the eclectic mix of trip-hop and jazz elements.

This deliciously sensuous first song is perfectly juxtaposed against the next track, Devil Mood, which is dark and delicious, the deep, booming drums sending deep roots into the soul of the melody. Whereas the electronic elements of Underwater Love are fluidly melodic, in Devil Mood they adopt a new persona: glitchy and hard, bringing a sense of dark futurism that brings the classically Latin beats into the modern age.

This is then lifted by the light and breezy With You, in which Miranda’s versatile voice becomes gently lilting – the strings creating a sense of soaring through blue skies, the just-there rhythms leaving you wanting more.

This rollercoaster of an album guides you through an addictive concoction of blue skies and the deepest depths of ocean and earth, floating and tumbling through the elements. Their style is eclectic and unmistakable: creating a classic trip-hop album that has lasted throughout the decades.

This is a dreamy, sultry album that is a perfect complement for balmy summer nights!

3. Nightmares On Wax – Smokers Delight

The aptly-named Smokers Delight has been a stoner classic since its release in 1995, and is a playful take on the trip-hop genre, with heady reggae, funk, and Latin beats lifted to a light and airy buzz by echoey sample tracks and techno elements.

Their use of vocals is a light touch, placing most emphasis on their creative use of percussion, funky bass, and electronic components.

Smokers Delight is a delightfully chilled genre mash-up that comprises multiple layers which play together harmoniously and in a deceptively simple manner. It is the perfect go-to for a chill-out album – there’s just enough interest to keep the listener hooked, while the sounds do not require involved listening.

This laid-back, sunny set is a lasting classic of the trip-hop genre; a smooth, sweet delight of an album, leaving the listener with a taste of pina colada on the beach in their mouth and the feeling of sunlight on their skin.

4. Kid Loco – A Grand Love Story

Kid Loco’s sumptuously mellow album brings a fun and unique approach to the trip-hop genre, hitting a sweet spot with a heady blend of chill out and psychedelia. The near-namesake track A Grand Love Theme is smooth and nostalgic, and it glides like a plane on a stream of airy strings. This soothing soundscape is perfectly complemented by the audio samples, which break up the repetition and ground the track. Deep male vocals then add a richness to the airy backing.

The breathy vocals of Katrina Mitchell are featured on Love Me Sweet, which is a sweet dream of a song, carrying you away on a cloud of twanging sitar and playful xylophone. The rhythms are consistently chilled but intriguingly varied and almost trance-like, sinking the listener into a deep state of relaxation.

Sister Curare adds a darker and deeper feel to the album, with an opening audio sample narrating a spate of bank robberies in 1979. The clashing piano keys, experimental guitar and sax, and interspersed audio samples create an eclectic feel, which is streamlined by the consistent drum loops. This chaotic track seems at first to be at odds with the rest of the album, but in fact, it provides variety, keeping you on your toes from the beginning to the end.

A Grand Love Story is a mesmeric daydream of an album, delving into trance-like psychedelic baselines and airy melodies that are always unique, never predictable.

5. Portishead – Dummy

Listening to Portishead is like drinking a cup of good coffee. It is dark and bittersweet, and the flavour lingers on your tongue long after you have tasted it.

Beth Gibbons’ vocals are haunting and sit in perfect balance with the instrumentation and electro elements. Despite the scratching techno elements, Portishead achieve a sense of harmony and sophistication that is smooth to the taste and draws you in in a manner that is at once complex and seemingly effortless.

Each of the tracks is a perfect complement to each other: this is an album that should be listened to in its entirety. Could it be called chill out? Perhaps not: there is a dark mystique that permeates their songs, in a way that is not typical of the genre. But it is a coolly thrilling approach to easy- listening that makes for an intriguing listen.

Dummy is a haunting album, and a fascinating contribution to electronic music that will remain relevant for many decades to come.

Article by Superlocrian and New Frontiers Marketing

Three Modern Woodwind Classics That’ll Take Your Breath Away

Woodwind instruments have some of the most intense depths of sound and tone of any type of instrument. There is a certain, haunting soul that you can capture on a saxophone or clarinet that is more difficult to get on a piano.

Despite this, woodwinds are criminally underused in many types of music, and very often, are confined to ‘traditional’ classical music. But just listening to classical music can get boring after a while, and many woodwind musicians prefer to play a wide variety of musical styles and genres.

As such, we’ve compiled a list of three modern woodwind classics, featuring our favourite hits from jazz, rock, and pop.

1. John Coltrane – Blue Train (1958: Saxophone)

It’s impossible to compile a list of the greatest wind musicians without John Coltrane being somewhere near the top.

Blue Train is one of the most talked about jazz albums of the past century, and deservedly so. It offers a glimpse into another era and another life: equal parts busy and minimal, chaotic, yet structured. Joyful, but with a hint of melancholy. A nostalgic trip into the past, but one which is so completely timeless that it will never get old or stale.

Perhaps it is no surprise that this particular album was written during Coltrane’s recovery from heroin addiction, just four months after getting clean.

There is an air of freshness and wondrous observation about the piece; as if you can just imagine Coltrane composing the melody in a cafe while watching people emerge from the railway station. There is a bustling rhythm to the music that is just so very human, as if you are seeing the life in front of you in a different way. The way you might see it when starting a new life, as Coltrane himself did.

Coltrane’s saxophone is cool, understated, and minimal. Even when he plays the runs and trills, the simplicity of the backing makes the instrument shine. In several parts of the recording, you can hear the breathy, dull sound of the saxophone reed which helps to ground the piece and bring it back to earth.

2. Sidney Bechet – Petite Fleur/Stranger On The Shore (1952: Saxophone)

‘Bechet to me, was the very epitome of jazz.’ – Duke Ellington

Although a little more traditional in its style than Coltrane’s jazz, Bechet’s songwriting is classic and memorable, and offset by touches of Latin American flair across the piece. Despite its subtlety, there is an inherent passion in Bechet’s playing, which can be heard throughout.

The classic melody, in keeping with popular musical values of memorability and simplicity, is offset by more complex beats and jazz elements, which makes the piece fascinating to listen to while retaining its approachability.

This, along with the audible attitude and suaveness of the voice of the saxophone, creates a sense of wistfulness – with a hint of romantic and sexual longing, and the lonely simplicity of the instrument against a minimal background.

Bechet was a groundbreaking musician: in an era where racial (and therefore musical) segregation was the norm, he became the first important jazz artist on record, just a few months before Louis Armstrong rose to fame.

Bechet came from New Orleans, but found the jazz scene in the United States limited and decided to continue his career in France, where he joined La Revue Negre, a show starring popular Black music and talent of the time, including the singer and stage performer Josephine Baker.

It was here, in his new home of France that Bechet wrote Petite Fleur.

3. Benny Goodman – In The Mood (Clarinet)

Known as The King Of Swing, Benny Goodman’s In The Mood was immediately popular among white Americans who may not have listened to jazz otherwise. Goodman’s concert at Carnegie Hall in NYC was described by critic Bruce Eder as “jazz’s coming out party to the world of respectable music”.

While this attitude towards Black music is a clear reflection of racial prejudices of the time, Eder does identify the unifying spirit of Goodman’s music. Goodman’s groups were some of the first truly racially integrated bands of the era, and he showed the same values in his personal life at the time, being vocally against any kind of racism throughout his musical career.

Benny Goodman’s orchestra went on to become one of the most popular bands of the Swing era, and their concert at Carnegie Hall was hailed as the ‘single most important concert in history’ for its influence on popular music at the time.

What do you think of our pick of modern woodwind classics? Let us know in the comments!

The Times When Music Changed The World

‘Music can change the world because it can change people’
– Bono

In an era where public demand is increasingly driven by consumerism and materialist values, and people are kept apart, it can be easy to forget that music has not just been a form of entertainment, but an agent of social change across history.

In fact, in the form of operas, classical symphonies, musical theatre and folk songs, music has been used as a commentary on social and political life for hundreds – if not thousands – of years.

Some of the greatest literary, as well as musical, personalities, were even known to include music in their works. For example, Shakespeare, as well as many of the Ancient Greek and Roman playwrights, such as Euripides.

In more modern times, music has played a large part in many political and human rights movements, from the Civil Rights movement to the Arab Spring. Music has been used to stop wars, and to encourage them. Music can cause an uprising or subdue a nation. The power is in the hands of the musician.

Let’s take a look at some times that music has changed our world and shaped our societies.

‘March Of The Women’ – Ethel Smyth, 1911 (The Suffragettes)

Dame Ethel Smyth is one of (if not the most) well-known female composers in history. She composed a series of operas between 1893 to 1910, which were moderately successful across Europe and America, which was a significant achievement for a woman composer of the time.

But she was also a suffragette. Ethel Smyth was jailed for throwing a rock through the window of Britain’s Secretary of State for The Colonies who was an opponent of the women’s rights movement. She spent two months in Holloway Prison and was known to orchestrate rousing musical performances with the other female inmates.

Her composition ‘March of The Women’ was made the anthem to the Women’s Social and Political Union. In her later years, her services to music were recognised officially, and she was finally made a Dame in 1922, as well as becoming the first female recipient of an honorary doctorate in music from Oxford University in 1926. She also received honorary degrees from St Andrews and Manchester universities in 1930.

Jazz And The Civil Rights Movement

‘Jazz predicted the civil rights movement more than any other art in America’
– Stanley Crouch, poet and music & culture critic

Jazz has been linked to the civil rights movement since its inception, through its links to the blues, which were derived from songs that were sung by slaves.

Although earlier jazz songs were prevented from airing anti-racist views due to restrictions from record producers (such as Charles Mingus’ Fables of Faubus), as the movement began to pick up speed and followers, jazz musicians became more confident in challenging the issues of structural racism.

But the fight to play and record music freely did not come easily. When jazz first began to emerge in the 1920s, most bars and restaurants were still racially segregated. As such, jazz and blues performers, who were usually black, could only attend black establishments. Despite being one of the greatest jazz and blues singers of all time, white bars may not have even hired Ella Fitzgerald if Marilyn Monroe hadn’t pressured high flying club Mocambo to put her on stage.

Meanwhile, Billy Holiday’s famously chilling song, Strange Fruit, which centred around lynchings in the US Southern States caused enough outrage among members of the white structures of power that she received personal threats from the FBI. She was harassed by the FBI for her heroin addiction, which she had developed due to childhood sexual trauma, and was framed by them and her husband.

Despite everything, Billie continued to sing ‘Strange Fruit’ in the face of racial oppression, domestic violence, and her addiction problems. Her heroin addiction eventually led to her collapse in 1959, where she was arrested from her hospital bed and died shortly after the methadone was cut off on the instruction of Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger.

She died handcuffed to her hospital bed.

Harry Anslinger had been pursuing Holliday for decades and was known for being openly and dangerously racist even by the standards of the 1920s. Although the arrest warrant was for her heroin addiction, Anslinger had been significantly more lenient with white drug users; for example, telling Judy Garland to simply ‘take longer vacations’.

Billie’s suffering was tragic and unnecessary, and perpetuated by the figures in power that should have protected her from abuse. But despite the hatred and the violence, she became one of the greatest jazz vocalists in history and inspired a new generation of young black men and women to fight for their civil rights.

John Coltrane was another greatly influential musician in the jazz world. He played in the memory of the four girls who were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in a church bombing, with the concert being attended by Martin Luther King. This event led to his 1963 elegy and hit recording ‘Alabama’. Coltrane had been deeply involved with King and the civil rights movement, and it continued to affect his music for the rest of his career.

His wife Alice also went on to become a very successful jazz musician in her own right, whose originality and spiritual dimension to her music provides a lighter counterpoint to John’s smooth, and occasionally darker, jazz. Together, they compile two of the greatest creative minds in jazz history.

War (What Is It Good For?) – Edwin Starr, 1970

Edwin Starr’s classic 1970 Motown hit against the Vietnam war was originally written by The Temptations, but they were worried about the reception that it might receive, so they allowed him the rights to record it.

The song was a great success among objectors of the Vietnam War, and especially with the black troops who were tired of fighting for ‘freedoms’ that black communities could not enjoy in their own country, and who could see through much of the (often racist) propaganda that perpetuated the war.

Starr’s War was often used in protest marches against the Vietnam War, and has continued to be a timeless popular classic, being re-recorded by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Bruce Springsteen, and Black Stone Cherry, among others.


The Loudest Bands In History: 10 Ear-Splitting Acts Who’ll Batter Your Brain With Sound

For decades, musicians have turned their amplifiers up to 11 in a quest to blow audiences away with their walls of sound.

From old-school heavy metallers to cutting-edge electronica artists, bands across a range of genres have shredded eardrums, damaged buildings, and even caused earthquakes from the sonic booms they’ve produced.

In this article, we’ve outlined 10 of the loudest bands in history, described the impact their audio assaults have had on their audiences and arenas, and detailed how each of them earned their reputation as ear-ringing soldiers of sound!


Lemmy Kilmister and his crew started out with the goal of being the loudest, dirtiest, fastest, harshest band in the world, and many will say they succeeded.

Their live gigs could reach a mighty 130 decibels, and venues around the world suffered the consequences.

At the Cleveland Variety Theatre in 1984 they caused the plaster on the ceiling to crack and fall onto the audience below, while in the UK they broke the roof of Newcastle City Hall, shattered the windows in Wolverhampton Polytechnic, and set the speakers on fire at Port Vale FC.

It’s no surprise then that they titled one of their live albums ‘Everything Louder Than Everyone Else’.


This electronic duo proved they could match any heavy metal band for sheer destructive noisiness when performing at the Brixton Academy in June 1996.

Their concert was measured at 137 decibels and the brutally loud beats tore chunks off the building. Having covered their audience with lumps of plaster and dust blasted from the walls and ceilings, the group weren’t invited back to perform at the venue for another four years – and only then on the condition that they turned the volume down.

My Bloody Valentine

This alternative rock band practically reinvented how guitars could sound on their 1991 album Loveless, immersing the songs in layer after layer of feedback and distortion. When performed live, the combined force of all the levels of sound became frighteningly, notoriously noisy.

While touring to promote the album, the band set out to test their audiences’ ability to bear the extreme volume for sustained periods of time, which led to one journalist describing the shows as ‘more like torture than entertainment’.

Fans attending gigs were often handed earplugs before entering, and despite the band spending over 20 years either on hiatus, broken up entirely, or unsuccessfully trying to record the follow-up to Loveless, the early days left their mark in the form of chronic tinnitus.

‘I regard it as a friend,’ singer/guitarist Kevin Shields has said.

The Who

On May 31, 1976, 75,000 people packed into Charlton Athletic’s football ground in London to see a line-up headlined by The Who. Their performance that evening was measured at 126 decibels… 100 feet away from the speakers.

However, being among the loudest bands in history came at a price for the members, with Roger Daltrey telling reporters in 2018, ‘I advise all you rock-and-roll fans – take your f***ing ear plugs to the gigs. If only we had known when we were young… we are lip-reading.’

Blue Cheer

American psychedelic rockers Blue Cheer are considered a pioneer of extreme loudness, being the first band ever listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as loudest band in the world.

In the late 1960s their volume levels were well beyond what people were accustomed to, with fans at their gigs commonly having to abandon the first few rows as they couldn’t withstand the noise.

Blue Cheer were so loud that they had to record outdoors, with part of their second album being recorded on a San Francisco pier.


These power metal troublemakers often write songs influenced by tales of swords, sorcery, fantasy, and mythology, being well known for their epic, crushing sound. It seems appropriate then, that Manowar have seemingly been on a quest to hit levels of loudness that no other band can possibly compete with.

In 1984, the group were named by the Guinness Book of World Records for delivering the loudest performance ever, and they have since broken their own record on two further occasions.

Their current personal best decibel count was achieved during a sound check at the Magic Circle Fest in 2008, when they reached a mighty 139 decibels.

Deep Purple

Another band recognised as the loudest in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records, Deep Purple are among the originators of inflicting supreme noise punishment upon their all too eager audiences.

A whole generation grew up with Deep Purple pummelling their eardrums and earning their place in rock folklore, while some fans ended up taking harder hits than they ever expected, as three audience members attending a 1972 gig at the London Rainbow Theatre were knocked unconscious by the force of the sonic assault they were subjected to.


Gene Simmons’ latex-clad showmen had their heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, so it is perhaps surprising that their loudest moment came in December 2009.

During a performance in Ottawa, Canada the band hit an extraordinary 136 decibels. Apparently the concert was so loud that the noise complaints from the city’s residents forced the band to turn down the volume mid-show.

Foo Fighters

During a show in Auckland, New Zealand on December 13th  2011, Dave Grohl and his crew literally made the earth shake. Over the course of their 3-hour set, the band caused ground movement similar to a volcanic tremor which was felt up to a mile away.

Clearly though that wasn’t enough, as the following year they played a gig in Belfast to 32,000 fans which could be heard up to 12 miles away – resulting in 140 noise complaints being made.

Led Zeppelin

These rock gods have long been regarded as one of the best, loudest, and most influential bands ever. Known as one of the founders of heavy metal, Led Zeppelin’s concussive crunch hit harder than almost every band who’d come before.

Anecdotally, many music journalists believe the group’s performances during the 1970s were the noisiest of that decade, but their legacy of loudness gained official recognition when The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) measured a performance of Heartbreaker at an astonishing 130 decibels.


Article by Superlocrian and New Frontiers Marketing

Devon Youth Chamber Brass Launched To Support Young Musicians

Musical Group Devon Youth Chamber Brass Founded To Support Young Musicians In The South-West

A new musical group, Devon Youth Chamber Brass, has been founded to support young musicians in the Devon area.

This new and exciting musical organisation was created by British composer and brass educator, Sam Massey. He is also the musical director of leading crossover chamber ensemble, Superlocrian.

Devon Youth Chamber Brass provides a range of brass ensemble performance opportunities, educational workshops, and more, for young performers in the area. The organisation is especially keen to provide opportunities for musicians to keep connecting, collaborating, and performing, during what remains a very uncertain time.

At a time when performers may be unable to enjoy the support of audiences, organisations like the Devon Youth Chamber Brass aim to plug the gap and help young musicians gain experience of performing.

The group’s innovative Remote Recording Project allowed the musicians to remain in their own homes, then later blended their individual recordings to create a powerful group performance! The original piece, entitled New Beginnings, was specifically composed for this project by Sam Massey.

Several brass players who began their education in Devon are now highly successful professional musicians, and proud Devon brass alumni. They plan to return regularly to assist the organisation and support its newest members with workshops, advice, and exclusive performances.

Devon brass alumni include Tom White, formerly of Okehampton, who is now a leading session musician, recording with the likes of Olly Murs and Emeli Sandé; Ryan Jacob, formerly of Braunton Academy, whose performance credits including Bonobo and Chronixx as a leading session trumpet player.

Additionally, the Repiano Cornet player, Hannah Plumridge — previously of Churston Grammar School — now performs in the world’s number one brass band, The Cory Band.

Other notable alumni include Katy Woolley (formerly of The Maynard School) who is now Principal Horn of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam; Sub-Principal Trombone at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow, Jonathan Hollick of Plymouth; and Ed Hilton (formerly Braunton Academy) now tours with the dazzling UK production of Les Misérables as a bass trombonist.

There are currently over thirty musicians involved in the recording project — and twenty-three students from all over Devon, Bristol, and Wells are involved.

And now the Devon Youth Chamber Brass group is seeking more members! All brass instrumentalists are welcome to get in touch and get involved, but students should be competent sheet music readers (working at approximately ABRSM/Trinity Grade 4 or above). Anyone interested in joining Devon Youth Chamber Brass can contact the team through this page.

Devon Youth Chamber Brass is excited to provide ongoing performance and recording opportunities, workshops, and musical education for brass instrumentalists all across the region.

About Devon Youth Chamber Brass: Devon Youth Chamber Brass was founded by British composer and musical director, Sam Massey. The organisation supports young musicians in the Devon area with workshops and education.

Adapting To Survive During Lockdown

At the beginning of March, like most freelance musicians, I was looking forward to a busy few months of teaching music one-to-one and running ensembles, followed by an increasingly full schedule of exciting and fulfilling performances – including a special night lined up at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on April 29th.

However, as March progressed, it became ever clearer that the year ahead was going to be very different to the one we had planned.

Like many in the arts world, our work dried up almost overnight (as it did for those in many other industries too), with phone calls, texts, and emails all flooding in, each of them bringing new cancellations.

Not only that, but with the closure of schools and a full lockdown imposed towards the end of March, it was clear that face-to-face teaching was going to be out of the question for the next few months.

As creative people in a tough industry, we are used to adversity, but this certainly looked like it was going to be the most challenging period I had ever experienced in my career.

Fortunately, there has been one enormous blessing that has saved countless numbers of people during this period – technology!

During my school days, face-to-face online trumpet lessons, split-screen lockdown videos on YouTube, and live-streamed socially distanced workshops from a car park, would have been unthinkable. Yet in 2020, all this has saved many a worker over the last few months – including me.

Here is a selection of the ways freelance musicians like me have had to adapt swiftly and decisively since lockdown. I hope some of the adjustments I’ve made may be of use to you, whatever your industry!

1.   One-to-One Zoom Lessons

Using the videoconferencing software Zoom (although others such as FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, and Teams work just as well), I was able to quickly adapt my teaching program, and within a couple of weeks, I was up and running.

All you’ll need to benefit from this strategy is a laptop, tablet, or phone – although you must be sure to stay within the appropriate safeguarding regulations.

For music teachers, there are a number of negatives to this format (such as not being able to play together with your student, and not hearing their sound with perfect clarity), but there are some significant positives too, which include being able to share screens and sounds from your computer.

This means that individual tuition via Zoom will certainly be a viable alternative for me going forward, in circumstances where travel is prohibitive (such as being snowed in!)

2.   Zoom Workshops With Larger Groups

I’ve also managed to deliver workshops on Zoom with up to 20 people, who each participate individually. This is far more limited in some ways, as the group is unable to play together – they all have to mute themselves, and play along with the workshop leader.

It also requires more preparation time, with backing tracks needing to be prepared well in advance, and music distributed with plenty of notice.

However, the use of backing tracks, and being able to share sound and screen, has great benefits too, like allowing the workshop attendees to experience playing along with professional backings, or to easily incorporate listening as part of the session.

3.   Live-Streamed Workshops/Performances

I’ve also been part of a live-streamed performance using StreamYard. It went surprisingly well – there was no ‘live’ audience, but many joined in with us from their homes, and the feedback was good.

It is very strange performing with no audience, and this was one of the most difficult things to adapt to during the lockdown period. But again, this is something I would consider doing again, when travel or distance is a barrier.

4.   Lockdown Composing & Video Production

One positive of lockdown has been the lack of travelling (my car has barely moved since March). This has meant there’s been more time for writing and arranging music, which has been very welcome indeed!

Lockdown has also created a new genre of music – the Lockdown YouTube Video. I for one jumped on the bandwagon, and although it’s been hard work to do, with lots of new skills to learn (such as video and audio editing), it’s also been a great experience, and our resulting videos have turned out rather well.

Here’s a link to one I made with several very talented friends:

These are just a few of the ways in which our industry has adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic, and resulting lockdown.

It’s not been an easy ride, and we all miss playing together an awful lot, but I hope these strategies we’ve used to survive lockdown have been helpful to you, and have given you ideas on how you and your business can adapt and survive through difficult times.

Sam Massey Music

Composer | Arranger | Trumpet & Flugelhorn | Educator

Managing Time As A Freelancer

As a freelance musician, one of the biggest challenges I face is managing time.

As all self-employed people will recognise, and particularly in the creative industries, it is much harder to work set ‘9-5’ hours or shift patterns – the arts world doesn’t tend to work like that, unfortunately!

With some hectic periods and tight deadlines often followed by calmer periods, I can often find myself struggling to keep the work-life balance right, especially with so many exciting projects to work on!

I am still refining this balance, but over the years I have come up with a few things I remind myself of when trying to manage my schedule, and I hope this might be useful to others in the same boat.

Here are my three favourite freelancer diary management tips.

Try To Have At Least One Day Off A Week

This is one I particularly struggle with! I always find myself more productive when I have at least one day without structured work or appointments in a given week.

This allows you to recharge your batteries and reenergise. It also allows you to have time to do the things outside of work that often pass us by, such as hobbies, meeting with friends or family or just relaxing!

I always think about this when being asked to schedule in work – it’s ok to have the occasional hectic week or two without a day off, but try not to make it a habit every week!

Use Technology To Your Advantage

Time management is very important as a freelancer, particularly as a musician where you tend to be out of the office most of the day, but have occasional downtime between schools, lessons or after a soundcheck.

Make sure you use technology to your full advantage! I couldn’t live without a synchronised diary (such as Google Calendar), files (such as Google Drive), and emails that can be managed on your phone, which is very important to maintain regular communication channels with parents, promotors and customers, but without eating into your precious time off.

Value Your Time Highly

Time in the modern world is arguably one of your most valuable commodities – and it should be treated as such, by you and your clients.

Particularly as a creative, there are so many time-intensive activities to be done, such as personal practice, administration, finances, and travelling, which are not paid. As such, these must be factored in when taking on work. Ask yourself before you say yes – is this activity, with all the associated unpaid work generated around it, worthy of all the time needed, not just the time taken physically working?

You may go through this process and say, ‘Yes! It is worth it!’ – in which case, go ahead and do it. But I always find it useful to think about the bigger picture when taking on more work.

Also, make sure your regular clients value your time too.

I hope these tips help save you some time – I wish I’d had them five years ago!

Sam Massey

Composer | Arranger | Trumpet & Flugelhorn | Educator

Top Tips for Getting Your Music ‘Out There’

As a composer, musician and bandleader, I’ve spent the last few years trying to get my music and the bands I run ‘out there’ into the wider world.

The ultimate goal of course is to get gigs! But, particularly as a composer, we also want our music/performance/band to be heard as widely as possible, and fortunately we have an amazing resource on tap to help with this – the Internet!

Through my own experience, here are my top tips to getting your music heard; whether it’s online, on the radio, or even better, live!

1.   Be Persistent!

This would be my number one tip for any musician. Whether it’s practicing and honing your repertoire, diligently perfecting your latest masterpiece, or just being super-persistent in chasing that all-important gig – if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!

It’s well known that a high proportion of people don’t open the first email they receive – so don’t be afraid to leave it a few days before sending a polite chase – and then another one a few days later. After all – what harm can it do?

2.   Create a Website

In 2019, a website is so important. All too often, you aren’t even asked for your details, as people will assume that they can ‘Google’ you, go to your site, and see your online CV within a few clicks!

Fortunately, there are not only many free or cheap tools to help you with this (e.g. WordPress, Wix or Weebly), but also lots of web designers (or even friends) who can help – don’t be afraid to ask!

3.   Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!

If I could go back and give a piece of advice to my 20-year-old self, this would be it. The number of times I was afraid to ask for help, or too afraid to ask a great musician to play with me or my music, is too numerous to list!

My advice would be – what do you have to lose by asking? The worst that can happen is that someone says ‘no’ (unlikely – normally people say ‘sorry no, BUT this person could help’ or ‘YES!’) – and if ‘no’ does happen, you are no worse off than you were if you didn’t ask!

Some of my best musical experiences have come from asking someone to join in with something I expected them to say ‘no’ too, only to be pleasantly surprised!

4.   Online Presence

Going on from a website, as a musician, you need a strong online presence.

If you are lucky enough to be featured at a gig, on the radio or TV: when people search for you, they need to be able to find you, find out all about you and hear your music straightaway! This means you need:

  1. Online Recordings (rough demos or live recordings are fine – I’d recommend Soundcloud to host these) – get these uploaded onto BBC Introducing – they are great at playing tracks from emerging artists, and you may end up being played to thousands across the world!
  • (Ideally) Videos of your work – high-resolution if possible, but if not, just a video from a gig you’ve done or an upload of a Sibelius mock-up is much better than nothing!
  • Photos – and with most smartphones having excellent cameras nowadays, a snap on your phone is good for now!
  • Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube – all very important to create your online presence. If you don’t have time or the inclination, there are really affordable social media marketing people who can help!
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – again, very important to make sure people can find you on your search engine of choice. There are online tutorials on this if you are tech-savvy, and if not, your local friendly online marketing & SEO guru will be able to help with this too.

These are just a few things I’ve picked up over the years – there are loads of articles, podcasts, blogs and vlogs on the internet by very successful musicians who are all out there to help you – remember, don’t be afraid to ask!

Sam Massey

Composer | Arranger | Trumpet & Flugelhorn | Educator