These are a few of our Favourite Things

OCT 2016: 6 essential tools for any serious composer or musician


Each week, Making Waves Co-Curators Lisa & Peggy meet and talk music on Skype for hours! One of our greatest pleasures is to start our chats comparing notes on the latest news, discoveries and must-have composition tools.  Here we’re delighted to share with you six of our favourite things! Unsure of what to buy your musician or composer partner, friend, child or parent this festive season? Then look no further as any one of these items would surprise, delight and inspire us to get to work!

We’re thrilled to be working with our wonderful and industrious friends at CutCommon and Rehearsal Magazine to offer the Making Waves community special pricing on their staple resources.  We’ve also scoured giants Amazon and eBay to deliver some top picks via affiliate links, saving you the hard work.  And last but not least, we’re debuting some Making Waves merchandise, the fabulous MW tote bag in several designs!

A disclosure, just so we’re clear: a small portion of every sale via links or coupon codes on this page will directly support the activities of Making Waves in shining the spotlight on Australian composers, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for supporting us in this way!

1. Making Waves Tote Bags

Matthew says

“In which bag shall I carry my election night wine and cheeses? This plush Making Waves tote of course! May the votes for parties with progressive (or indeed any) arts policies be as numerous as the thread count of this bag.” – Matthew Lorenzon

What does it do?
It’s a tote bag! It holds fun things like scores and wine (42cm x 42cm). Plus, it supports new music and it’s a bit of a fashion statement! (just saying)

Why we love it?
Well for one, it holds A3 scores and that’s no small feat! It’s also makes us feel rather indulgent with its reinforced shoulder straps, 320 GSM and 100% cotton canvas. Not to mention that we enjoyed developing all the beautiful designs (and are particularly proud of the one with all of the names of composers featured in 2015 & 2016!) and the fact that it’s printed by a small local business in Melbourne, Australia.

How can I get one?
Which design will you choose? Once you’ve decided, it’s simple, visit the Making Waves Shop to place your order.

Price: $35 each, including postage within Australia. No GST charged.
Email us if you want to order one to be posted overseas.

2. Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation, by Elaine Gould

Lisa says

“I have two copies! Is that greedy? I don’t care. Elaine Gould is a genius and I can’t tell you how many times this guide has saved my sanity in the midst of a deadline.” – Lisa Cheney

What is it?
It’s THE musical notation Bible. This is the book (or e-book) we all turn to for guidance in creating perfectly formatted, industry standard scores! It’s not just for composers either, conductor Sir Simon Rattle described Behind Bars as

“…an extraordinary achievement…I would pray that it becomes a kind of Holy Writ for notation in the coming century…”

Why do we love it?
It’s a cornucopia of wisdom that no legitimate composer should be without. From choosing the right staff size for your instrumentation to confirming the correct way to beam irregular rhythms, guidance on harp pedals or recommendations on notating extended techniques, Behind Bars deals with it all. There’s rarely a commission that gets completed by either of us without referencing at least one of the 704 pages. Logically presented, this work includes 1,500 music examples ranging from Bach to Xenakis.  If this is the first time you’re hearing about this, you can thank us later.

How can I get it?
We recommend grabbing a hard copy of Behind Bars via Amazon here:  Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation (Faber Edition). We’re also excited to announce that Faber have recently released a highly anticipated e-book copy of Behind Bars on Kindle. Check it out here: Behind Bars The Definitive Guide to Music Notation Kindle Edition

Price: Approximately $108 AUD for Hardcover and $45 AUD for the Kindle edition. Prices up to date at the time of publishing.

 3. Cut Common Manuscript Books

Marlene's desk looks incredibly inspiring with this groovy Cut Common manuscript design!

The CutCommon manuscript book is in good company on Making Waves intern Marelene Radice’s very respectable desk!

What is it?
Cut Common offer environmentally friendly A5, 60pp manuscript booklets with funky designs. Use them for jotting down your next stroke of musical genius.

Why do we love it?
We love that this is manuscript for the environmentally conscious musician. The paper is Australian made, FSC® certified, Carbon Neutral, and supports Landcare. Pages are 100% recycled on the inside, covers 70% recycled, and their toner uses raw materials including plant-based, organic, and renewable Biomass. We also love the incredibly cute designs and the fact that they fit in our handbags [female composers rejoice!]. Finally, we’re proud to supporting the wonderful work of our friends at Cut Common and thank them for their generous discount to Making Waves readers.

How can I get it?
Browse and select your favourite design from the standard range in Cut Common’s online store here. Once at the checkout, enter the promo code MAKENEWMUSIC for a 15% discount!

 Price: Individual manuscript books are RRP $15 AUD or $12.75 with the 15% off promo code: MAKENEWMUSIC

4. Music Business Basics E-Book, by Rehearsal Magazine

Rehearsal Magazine: 'Music Business Basics'

“This is an invaluable business reference even for those of us who have been freelancing for a few years.  I wish it had been around in 2003!” – Peggy Polias

What is it?
An Australian Music Business Basics e-book written by Re:hearsal Magazine  for young musicians and developing artists! The content was put together in collaboration with the accounting firm Colville Williams & Co Pty Ltd. and arts accountant Dianne Steller.

Why do we love it?
We think this guide is a wonderfully helpful and affordable must-read for classical composers and musicians just starting out in the industry. We especially love the spreadsheets and worksheets on subjects as diverse as doing tax, and sending out invoices, reading contracts, copyright, to negotiating payments and reading contracts. We’ve lamented more than once that something like this wasn’t available to us earlier in our careers!

How can I get it?
Follow this link to the Re:hearsal Magazine store to purchase and download your copy of the e-book. Make sure you enter the promo code MAKENEWMUSIC to save $5 [aren’t they so nice?]!

 Price: RRP $30 AUD or $25 AUD with our $5 off promo code: MAKENEWMUSIC.

5. Palomino Blackwing Pencils, Trio

Version 2

“These legendary pencils dance across the page, if only I could just choose which one to use today!” – Peggy Polias

What is it?
The Palomino Blackwing is one of the most iconic and celebrated pencils for writers, composers and analogue-creative types. Given the seal of approval by some of the biggest names in writing and music, it’s the highest quality tool.

Why do we love it?
It’s just a pencil? Um, no! All those odes to writing with velvet, melted butter, gliding, that you might have read online – it is true! This pencil will share the journey of your next masterpiece, and give you a reason to join your fellow music nerds in posting with their hardcore composer tools for some ‘serious’ street cred on Instagram.

How can I get it? The three-pack will allow you to trial different versions: Palomino Blackwing Pencils, Trio. If you’re committed to the original, you can grab a dozen: Palomino Blackwing Pencils – 12 Count There’s even a dedicated pencil sharpener: Blackwing Long Point Sharpener

Price: $19 AUD for the trio, $53 AUD for the dozen, and $28 AUD for the sharpener.  Prices up-to-date at the time of publishing.

6. Noligraph 5-line Staff Liner Pen

What is it?image-from-http-item-rakuten-co-jpnakazen10004702
On the run when an idea strikes? Run out of manuscript? Never fear, the Noligraph is here! It’s a pen that draws a 5-line stave (aka manuscript).

Why do we love it?
‘Why wouldn’t we love it?’ is probably the better question. It’s cute, it’s quirky, it’s practical, fun and handy. What composer, musician or theory student hasn’t wanted to jot down a few notes on the train only to realise they didn’t bring any staff paper with them? Need to make an edit in a rehearsal? No problem. Want to write down your own cadenza ideas on a straight stave? Too easy. What about drawing arty and circular graphic scores [the kind Finale and Sibelius make you feel like it’s laughing at you for even considering]? With this fun-sized pen you can get creating.

How can I get it?
The Noligraph ships from Japan and can be bought via Ebay here: Noligraph 5-line Staff Liner Pen (Pickboy; Japan Import).

 Price: Approximately $26 AUD for the Noligraph. Prices up to date at the time of publishing.

Dec 2017: 5 Must-haves for composing and music-making in the digital age

After a busy year producing the Making Conversation podcast, getting our hands dirty with audio editing software and equipment, not to mention getting to know much new acoustic and electronic music from familiar and new composers around Australia and beyond, we’re delighted to expand the Making Waves Favourite Things collection with these new objects to covet if you enjoy incorporating portable or studio recording or electronics into your practice.

7. Zoom H4N Portable Hand-held Recorder

What is it?
A compact and rugged battery operated recording device with on-board stereo microphones.

Why do we love it?
As it turns out, most of the Making Conversation: Australian Composers’ Podcast team already had their own Zoom recorder, or very similar, and these were used to capture the majority of the episode recordings.  Also very handy in rehearsals, for capturing improvisations, live performances for your archives or Soundcloud, and sampling sounds out in the field.  The Zoom H4N is packed with powerful features and customisable settings; whether you want to record straight to mp3 format, add basic effects, or capture some multi-tracking on the go.  It can also be used as an audio interface for your computer.

How can I get it?
The Zoom H4N is available on-shore in Australia via Ebay: Zoom H4N Recorder.  You might also like to check out the whole family of recorders from the more compact Zoom H1 and Zoom H2N through to the more recent Zoom H6 model with interchangeable microphones.

Price: The Zoom H4N is listed at $359 AUD, while the H1, H2N and H6 range from AUD $158 to $518, all from Australian sellers.  Prices up to date at the time of publishing.

8. Audio Technica ATH-M50x studio monitoring Headphones

What is it? Cushioned over the ear studio monitoring headphones giving accurate audio for your listening only.

Why do we love it? As monitor headphones these are useful on the go for recording as well as for mixing.  Pair them with a Zoom H4N for a practical and portable set-up.

How can I get it?
The headphones can be purchased via Ebay here: Audio Technica ATH-M50x (black).  There are also several colour options if that is your style.

Price: AUD $229 from an Australian seller.  Price up to date at the time of publishing.


What is it?
A small portable USB midi controller with buttons, knobs and faders.

Why do we love it?
Can be used for generic DAW setup or for midi triggering in lots of other programs. Quite an affordable price point.

How can I get it?
The nanoKONTROL2 can be purchased from Ebay here: Korg nanoKONTROL2 (black) there is also a model in white.

Price: Listed at AUD $79.  Price up to date at the time of publishing.

10. Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound, by Tara Rodgers

What is it?
It’s a recent (2010) book by Tara Rodgers on women working in electronic music and sound. It features twenty-four interviews with women working in diverse cultures including club and radio DJs, remixers, composers, improvisers, instrument builders, installations and performance artists.

Why do we love it?
It’s a powerful and feminist mix of interviews, essays, links and reviews that we highly recommend reading. It leaves us feeling empowered and enlightened! In the words of a reviewer named Flavorpill, it “Acknowledges women’s space in the world of electronic music and celebrates it with information, education, and innovation.”

How can I get it?
You can purchase online via Amazon here: Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound

Price: Approx. AUD $33. Price up to date at the time of publishing.

11. Composing Electronic Music, by Curtis Roads

Published by Oxford University Press, this looks like a comprehensive and current approach to creativity and aesthetics in electronically-generated sound.  There’s a Kindle edition from Amazon for approx. AUD $23 or the paperback edition for approx. AUD $40.  Meanwhile, the hardcover is closer to AUD $140.  Click below for all options.
Prices up to date at the time of publishing.

We hope you found something on this list of Favourite Things that caught your attention and imagination. We’ll be back again to update this selection with more of our must-have tools, so we recommend bookmarking this page to return to later. Would you like to share your favourite things with us? Has one of the items changed the way you work? Comment below. We would love to know!

Lastly, we thank you for your ongoing support. Making Waves does not receive any funding and our team (Peggy, Lisa, Mark and Interns) volunteer our time to raise the profile of Australian composers online. Our goal is to ensure our running costs can be met and you can help us do that by purchasing one the items above or sharing with your friends. We thank you for your support!

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