London Viola Player, Violinist & Arranger For Hire

Can I fix it? Yes, I can …

… if it’s a musician you’re after, anyway, almost certainly.

Part of my ‘offer’ applying for freelance work almost as long as I’ve been working in music has been, when the ad makes it seem relevant, ‘and I should be able to get you some others if you still need more people’. More recently, this has enabled me to pull together groups where I’ve been hired as a musical director, or string sections if I’m writing string parts for overdubbing, and so on.

The logical next step, now running rather nicely with some ongoing clients, is to take a finder’s fee for connecting organisers with musicians I know will be suitable for projects I’m not involved with at all. So it seemed the right time to open this up as a service offered for hire by adding it to my website.

Now you (and your creative friends / contacts) don’t need a contact list as extensive as mine – you can commission me to do it instead!

Return of the Streamer

There was a pause in streaming activity for a while. Partly caused by ill health (it turned out to be shingles, with the worst of it on the left side of my neck; not ideal for holding a violin, viola or even a mandolin on a neckstrap!); partly by needing to think again about marketing and come up with an ongoing plan for making livestreams pay adequately to the amount of work involved. If you wonder how much that is, imagine being the sole performer, the venue and the promoter for a one-hour gig every week, with an audience who would be likely to reasonably complain if there was more than slow and occasional repetition of repertoire …

However, I’m very pleased to say that I’m restarting regular streams from this coming week. If you enjoy my music-making, please get Thursdays, 8-9pm (UK time) into your diaries, and take your pick of these locations:

(Or you could try all three on successive weeks and see which you find most congenial!) And ready your (presumably virtual) wallets to show your appreciation for the entertainment – I’ll be plugging paypal.me/martinashmusic but any method of transferring currency to me that you have will be very welcome.

If you have requests, now or at any time in future, please do send them in in advance or comment on a stream (for the following week – I’m afraid I’m unlikely to do real-time requests, sorry!).

Barring requests over the next few days, the bill of fare for this Thursday (2 July) will include some Telemann and Hoffmeister (solo viola music from opposite ends of the 18th century), traditional songs and dance tunes with mandolin, and of course foot-tapping British fiddle tunes similar to, but not including, these:

The Irish traditional jigs ‘Roaring Jelly’ (!) and ‘Morrison’s Jig’, from my third livestream.

See you there, or at least you’ll see me and I’ll see your comments!

For Folk’s Sake, Try Happy

Back in mid-February, when this seemed a perfectly normal thing to do and we didn’t know the world as we knew it was ending in weeks, I got up rather punctually in relation to when I’d got to bed after the previous night’s wedding gig and headed to a warehouse conversion near Stratford.

There to moonlight with Fraser Parry’s alt-indie-folk pocket orchestra Try Happy – Fraser being a pianist-singer-songwriter in this context, but also the cellist in the string section recording I had done for The Amazing Devil 6 months earlier. (The third member of that section, double bassist Jack Judd, both had recommended me for that session and is a Try Happy regular. Musical networking works sometimes.)

I don’t think I was actually asleep when this was taken, but I hadn’t got much sleep …

I was going to write an allusive, partly slightly ironic, purple paragraph seeking to capture Try Happy’s sound. But I don’t know why I’d bother, as the purpose of this day’s session was to record and film three live lounge-style tracks for the extensive video series produced and curated by the For Folk’s Sake brand. So you can listen, and indeed watch, for yourselves:

I believe the other two tracks will be posted in fullness of time, so do keep checking the For Folk’s Sake and Try Happy web presences for more material!

In the meantime, here’s to it being safe (and legal, but safe might well take longer) to get together in the same room and do things like this again soon – ideally even with a live audience …

Twists in the road

I was musically and audiovisually rather pleased with my third livestream, which went out on Tuesday but is still available to catch up:

The main change technically was a new, external camera (thanks again Dad!) which seems to deliver better resolution / picture quality and better automatic exposure control (meaning lighting is less of a worry) than using the one built into my laptop – and also meant I could have the computer screen where I could actually read, and so respond to, people’s comments during the gig!

Performance-wise, I think I had just got better into a groove of streamed performances and overcome some of the initial nerves. As well as doing a certain amount of honing the ordering of music over successive gigs (including believing in myself that I could swap straight from violin to viola and play in tune!).

All of this has been borne out by positive comments from the audience faithful who watched live and tipped. Unfortunately, they were few in number … rather fewer than they had been for the second stream a fortnight earlier … which was a lot fewer than the numbers for the first one a week before that.

This would put my livestreaming activity at a crossroads anyway. As it is, it’s on an enforced pause for entirely different reasons. What I mention in the broadcast as having just enough symptoms of covid-19 to take precautions, but more likely being an allergic reaction and a pulled muscle, hasn’t turned out to be any of those things. (Well, it’s still possible I strained a muscle in my neck 10 days ago.) The coronavirus test came back negative, and it was viral not an allergy; I actually have shingles. Which, at time of writing, is chiefly sufficiently painful and itchy, especially on the left side of my neck, for me not to contemplate another solo show and the practice necessary for one for a little while.

I’m not being entirely musically idle even in rest and recovery (if you include promotional work as musical), and I do intend to try streaming again when I can hold my instruments comfortably. But given the effort and stress involved (and I live in a houseshare remember, it does take a certain amount of negotiation and suppressed guilt to make noise and monopolise the internet upload bandwidth for purely self-imposed ‘work’), live streaming will definitely be ‘on notice’ to produce worthwhile income when I resume. So encourage your contacts to keep an eye on this blog and on my Facebook page, and when I resume broadcasting, to vote with their (e)wallets!

MeTube

Big thank you to everyone* who tuned in to Martin Ash Music Lockdown Livestream 2 on Tuesday. I believe you can watch it back at https://www.twitch.tv/martinashmusic/ until 2 weeks after it was ‘broadcast’.

(*except for someone using the username ‘arekkusuwow’ who was only interested as long as s/he could (implausibly) argue the stream was pre-recorded. I didn’t know livestream trolls were a thing … )

So here’s the next in the series!

This one will be on my YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgi190Hw0K7Yd_F9ZEZ-fwQ

This week’s programme includes jigs and reels, polkas, an old-time waltz, Bach and Telemann and an Americana folk-club singalong finale, so get it in your diaries, ready your PayPal accounts and see you there!

Plus advance notice: the plan for the Zoom and ReAttendance streams on 16 & 23 June, if I go ahead with doing them, is to give the passwords and also one request for the programme – can be anything you want to hear me do! – to everyone who sends £5 in advance with a covering message with their contact detail and request. You’ve got two more ‘virtual coins in the virtual violin case’ streams to gather inspiration, so get your thinking caps on!

Compose yourselves …

… because next week will give you not one, but two chances to experience my music-making (in very different forms) live online.

I’m thrilled and honoured that concert soloist Maria Marchant will be premiering my solo piano miniature ‘Andalusian Sheep Bells’ in her series 7 Notes in 7 Days at 7pm.

I could offer an explanation of the piece, but as I’ve just recorded an introductory video doing the same, I will make that an incentive for you to visit her Facebook page as linked above to save me repeating myself! The video should go live any minute now.

This is all the more exciting for me as I think it might be the first time any of my pieces has been played in public without me being one of the performers and indeed the organiser. I definitely feel like I’m joining the ‘real composers’ club!

The stream performance will take place at 7pm British Summer Time, this Monday (1 June), at https://www.facebook.com/maria.marchantpf/live – please do join us!

Meanwhile in more familiar territory, I will be carrying on from this week’s Twitch livestream as a solo performer to one on YouTube on Tuesday night. More about that in another post …

Sale now on

You remember me posting about being available for remote recording work (paid)? And you notice I haven’t said much about it since?

I have a really interesting remote recording project getting under way at the moment actually, but I’ve also followed up a recommendation from fellow violinist Lucia la Rezza, who is making quite a success of this line of work. It means yet another platform to manage, maintain and try to build a portfolio or at least momentum on, but that seems to be par for the course for any new skill entering the online marketplace at least.

So you can now buy my remote recording services on freelancing platform Fiverr – by the track, with or without me coming up with my own parts or layering multiple overdubs on top of each other, plus bespoke deals can definitely be negotiated for multi-track ‘packages’ or other specific situations.

In addition, I realised Fiverr’s reputational / accreditation systems are almost entirely geared to work successfully carried out within Fiverr, which expects people to take quite a lot of trust in my abilities based on very limited media sample space. So I’ve added a ‘very cheap sample‘ option, allowing people to buy a bespoke 30 seconds to see what I can do rather than paying up something like Fiverr market price for a full track with commercial rights signed over, for the cheapest price you can set on the platform ($5US).

Of course, I’m still very much open to negotiation from scratch through any of my usual contact methods. But this may be a handy package to save or send to any of your recording artist / producer contacts that might just need some string / mandolin overdubs on a project. Go on. Martin Ash multitracking now on sale. Pass it on.

Twitchers, keep a lookout

I’m still slightly unable to believe the scale of response to my first livestream on Tuesday night, both in terms of appreciation and tipping. (If you haven’t seen it yet, by the way, you can still catch up with it as a Facebook video.)

But I have another five planned, so I’m definitely in this for the medium haul at least!

The next one is going to be on dedicated streaming platform Twitch, and I’m hoping it will deliver similarly good results in terms of quality to what some of my musician friends have been getting out of it. Twitch is free, and you don’t need an account to watch, but you might want to set one up so you can join in the chat box and otherwise interact during the gig!

I did discover through the first livestream you do need a PayPal account to tip me via the link on the flyer, but I haven’t yet found a web payment channel that doesn’t require the person paying to either have PayPal or set up an account with their card details; so for now I’ll keep pointing you to paypal.me/martinashmusic, though if you already have any other means of subsidising my music-making you are of course welcome to use them too!

Besides getting 8-9pm (British ‘Summer’ Time!) this Tuesday at https://www.twitch.tv/martinashmusic/ in your diaries, I wanted to give you a heads-up about the last two dates confirmed for now: 16 June on Zoom and 23 June on ReAttendance. These will be different to the previous ones, as I’m doing them on a ‘ticketed request’ model. So you’ll need to send me a minimum of £5 (of course you can choose to pay me!) and an email address or other contact detail to get a password for each event; and with access to the livestream you automatically get to request one number (yes, it can be anything! I’ll do my best … ) for the performance. I haven’t specified finish times for those yet in case I get so many requests I need longer than an hour to do them all …

So get your thinking caps on about requests and consider making an early purchase in the ticketed gigs; and for the moment see you on Twitch on Tuesday!

Coming on line

It’s now been over two months since I last played for a live audience (if you’re interested, the last before self-isolation overlapping into lockdown were both ‘early St Patrick’s’ gigs – 13 March with Pogue Traders and 14 March with Kindred Spirit Duo). In that time I’ve done quite a lot of recuperating (from chronic fatigue syndrome as well as Covid-19), a heck of a lot of practice directly or indirectly aimed towards taking an LTCL viola recital diploma (which would finally give me an equivalent to the conservatoire degree certain orchestral fixers believe separates professionals from amateurs) and one paid plus a few unpaid wanted-the-experience remote recordings.

But, that’s not really giving me an income (especially since my other sometime career line, editorial freelancing, has if possible dried up more comprehensively than music work); or a sense of purpose any more immediate than end of lockdown, which is the earliest Trinity are going to consider restarting performance exams or for that matter that it will be at all responsible for me to consider rehearsing my LTCL programme with a pianist.

So, after some consideration, some research and a fair bit of feeling that there is no ideal way to do this, I’m jumping on the livestream performance bandwagon with a trial ‘tour’ of online platforms, mostly as remote busking:

As you’ll see, the first one is coming up as soon as this Tuesday (19 May) at 8pm British ‘Summer’ Time, and I’m going to play a mix of genres, styles and indeed instruments covering most of my musical spectrum (no baroque viola or overdriven electric violin this week, sorry). It should be very easy to find:

  • Go to https://www.facebook.com/martinashmusic (my Facebook page as a musician, as opposed to profile as an individual)
  • By eight o’clock, you should see an item at the top of the news feed saying something like ‘Martin Ash is live’. If you can’t see it, refresh the page and it should show up. Click on it and the video and audio will start streaming in real time!
  • (Preferably in a separate tab or window, or afterwards – we don’t want you to miss anything) Go to paypal.me/martinashmusic where you’ll be able to tip me for my labours to entertain you

That should be it! I don’t think you even need to have a Facebook account, let alone to have ‘liked’ the page, though I may be wrong about those. And if you miss it you should be able to come back a little while after the live stream finishes (aiming for 9pm) and watch the whole thing on demand, though that won’t apply to some future weeks on other platforms.

I’ve seen a range of quality of these performances – hopefully, using a laptop webcam not a phone, a pro-quality audio interface and good microphones, I will avoid audio optimisation for speech, deliver decent sound quality and not broadcast a mirrored image of myself (watching ‘left-handed’ violinists is so confusing, though less so than reversed pianists … ). As to the actual music, well, you’ll have to tune in to find out won’t you?

One future heads-up – the first few weeks will be free to access and for donations. However, the 16th June livestream, on Zoom, will be a ‘ticketed’ requests performance. So you’ll need to transfer £5 to the paypal.me link in advance for me to send you the Zoom meeting ID and password – and contact me to say that’s what you’ve done, what contact details I should send the Zoom access details to, and what you want to request in the performance. Please get your requests in early in case preparing them turns out to be interesting!

Please tune in on Tuesday, and I’ll update you with how the first one went and more information on following streams!