Subscribe: Music, Technology, Teaching, and Stuff
http://macmusicguy.blogspot.com/atom.xml
Preview: Music, Technology, Teaching, and Stuff

Music, Technology, Teaching, and Stuff: MacMusicGuy.com



Music, technology, teaching, performing, & life.



Updated: 2014-10-07T01:41:25.160-04:00

 



This blog has moved!

2012-10-09T11:30:44.370-04:00

I am slowly migrating all of my online activity to one central hub over at TomRule.info.


This particular blog has been migrated over to www.TomRule.info/pianoteaching/. As I type this I am still in the throes of the redesign process, which will take FAR longer than I want it to. However, I'm going ahead and changing my content creation location to my site.


So if you want to continue getting the latest news in the wacko world of Tom, go check out www.TomRule.info/pianoteaching/.


Eventually the look will change from the default thing I've got set there - I'm getting content placed first, and THEN will be messing the design. So please be patient, as this is indeed a one-man effort!


Eventually there will be sign-up-to-get-the-latest-updates form there as well, and it will NOT involve Feedburner, Google, or any third-party. Yup, there's a story there, but I won't bore you with the details. They are fairly boring!











Sheet Music: Crooked

2012-09-08T15:13:00.235-04:00

The sheet music for CROOKED is available HERE over at MacMusicGuy.com. We've also posted a VIDEO LINK "How To" video on the keyboard setup and programming - we're calling it the "MIXTURE How-To" series.

I know - real original name!
This would be good for any student who is learning how to create music from a lead sheet.
Check them out!

You can also keep up with what's being posted for each individual song over on the "All the Songs" page.



Sheet Music: Raining, from Joey Stuckey's MIXTURE album

2012-09-01T15:02:00.034-04:00

The sheet music for Raining is available HERE over at MacMusicGuy.com. 






Raining is a piece from MIXTURE, Joey Stuckey's jazz guitar album that I "co-everythinged" on with Joey. It's a simple little tune that on the record features an excellent recording of a thunderstorm. The guitar plays all three layers during the piece, but there are a ton of pads behind the lead lines.



The sheet music has all three lines notated, plus the chord progression. This would be good for a keyboard ensemble, for practice reading open score, or for improvising to based on a chord progression.



I've also posted a "How To" video on the keyboard setup and programming - I'm calling it the "MIXTURE How-To" series.

I know - real original name.

Check them out!

You can also keep up with
what's being posted
for each individual song over on the
"All the Songs" page
on the MIXTURE blog.



Sheet Music: Dot Dot Dot

2012-08-30T15:32:25.647-04:00

The sheet music for DOT DOT DOT is available HERE over at MacMusicGuy.com. DotDotDot is a vaguely bossa tune with a deceptively simple melody that really is fun to play!

We've also posted a series of "How To" videos on the keyboard setup and programming for the tunes from MIXTURE - we're calling it the "MIXTURE How-To" series.


I know - real original name!

Check them out!

You can also keep up with what's being posted for each individual song over on the "All the Songs" page.



Teaching......

2012-05-01T22:55:44.186-04:00

I swore I'd never teach.

Really!

After earning my undergrad degree [in Piano Performance] I was so burned out I swore I'd never teach. I couldn't see myself teaching in ANY capacity whatsoever. Ever.

This is exactly why I say the I am living proof God has a sense of humor.

At this stage of life I have taught at the collegiate level piano, music technology, music theory, sightsinging, music appreciation, and directed choirs and show choirs - as well as intro to computers. At the middle school and high school level I've taught keyboarding, web design and computer applications.

I currently teach at a college PLUS a local music store.....and have several computer clients that I am constantly teaching.

Yup, here I am - living proof God has a sense of humor!



What's a lesson like?

2012-02-10T07:44:33.537-05:00

I had one teacher in Grad school who would sit back and just listen to my playing. He'd sip on his coffee, make few comments, and then I'd play the next piece. This went on for 2 semesters, which is why I switched teachers in mid-degree. it caused quite a stir.

I switched because his teaching style did NOT mesh with my learning style - I MUCH prefer a conversational hands-on approach- and that is exactly how I teach.

For me a piano lesson is more of a "rehearsal" - the student and I will work through the issues with the piece they are trying to learn. During that conversation we'll discuss the music theory aspects of the piece - form, chords, melodic phrase construction, for example - as well as technical issues (fingering...) and musicical aspects (articulations, phrase shaping).

I ask a lot of questions - intending for the student to discover the answer (I really like those "Oh, Yeah" moments when the light bulb goes off). It could be something as significant as noticing that the composer re-used melodic material later in the piece to as simple as starting on the correct note.

That's what I think a lesson should be like. Your opinion?



Free sheet music? Is there a catch? Is this for real?

2012-02-02T23:23:28.322-05:00

Yes, there IS a free lunch, but there IS a catch! I've been astounded by the amount of free sheet music available - it's also called "open source" music. Heavens, I've even posgted some pieces for free over at www.MacMusicGuy.com.  So what are the advantages/disadvantages and parameters? I am NOT referring to the legitimate and semi-legitimate websites out there that are offering a few pieces of sheet music, but the bulk of the site is devoted to selling sheet music. While a valid selling strategy, those sites are not the scope of this article. There is an amazing amount of LEGAL sheet music available for download at sites that are dedicated to making the music available. These free sites seem to divide up into a few categories: Music that composers put out there for free Scans of public domain publications. In the US this is anything printed before 1923. Public domain music that someone has taken the time to typeset. Free samples that publishers put out.  Let's ignore #4 for this article. For the other three, what are the advantages / disadvantages? #1 - Music that composers put online for free Some of this music can be pretty good, while some is dreadful. You can find music for just about any combination of instruments, and by composers of all sorts of skill levels. It is a bit gratifying to see people creating music and put it "out there" who have never composed before. You'll see that situation quite a bit on the MuseScore website. #2 - Scans of public domain publications. This has been done by quite a few libraries, especially the US Library of Congress.  An advantage here is, again, breadth - you can find music by composers that Grove's Dictionary barely mentions. Often, however, the scans are of music that is not quite clean (some of the scans look like the sheet music was 200 years old or more) - so that can reduce legibility if you are trying to play from a printout. More often, though, the difficulty lies in decoding the old-style printing. Much of today's printed music is FAR easier to read, a result of decades of effort in the printing industry. #3 - Public domain music that someone has taken the time to typeset.   Again, an amazing breadth of material is available. Most of the scores I have seen have been of decent quality, but are variations in notation usability - i.e. some of the scores are easier to read because the submitter followed standard notation practices when setting the piece. All in all, though, this category is where I start when looking for a piece. So what advantage is there in BUYING music now? There are some SERIOUS advantages to buying sheet music produced using the traditional publication route. First is quality - the paper used, the printing, the ease of reading are all going to be superior to what you are likely to print on your inkjet or laser printer. The editing - assuming it's a quality edition - will also make it easier to play the music. Things like Finger numbers on piano music often gets left out of the public domain music because it is a royal pain to put in (though MUCH easier than it used to be!) Then there's the issue of supporting the music industry - especially your local music store. Let's face it - the music industry is basically a "Mom & Pop" operation. There's not a whole lot of depth - i.e. money in the bank! Where is this stuff located? Here are several sites I've been using: http://musescore.com/sheetmusic http://plato.acadiau.ca/courses/musi/callon/2233/scores2.htm The Mutopia Project Project Gutenberg - Sheet Music IMSLP.org Happy hunting! Enter your Email Powered by FeedBlitz[...]



Win a free dropbox account for life from AppSumo!

2011-10-06T12:20:40.877-04:00

AppSumo is running a contest through October 13th - the winner gets a free 50gig Dropbox account for life.

If you've never heard of Dropbox, it is a well-done way of storing files online. You can access them through a webpage, or if you install the software on your machine you can also access them on a local folder (which is kept synced up). Folders can be shared as well.

CLICK HERE to try to win this from AppSumo.



Class is in Session: The Music Biz

2010-08-30T08:57:10.625-04:00

From an origianl  post by Brian Corber  on Linkedin. Brian is a Music Lawyer, and has graciously granted permission for me to re-publish this. Check out his website - as he says, " The music business is tough. Talent isn't enough. You need a smart lawyer on your side." CLASS IS IN SESSION: THIS IS WHAT YOU DIDN'T LEARN BY BUYING GUITAR HERO OR GOING TO BERKLEE: 1. MUSICIANS ARE NOT HIGHER UP ON THE EVOLUTIONARY SCALE. THEY DON'T WALK ON WATER AND ARE NOT ENTITLED TO ANYTHING MORE THAN ANY OTHER HUMAN. 2. WHEN AN OPPORTUNITY COMES ALONG TO MAKE ANY MONEY AT ALL FROM YOUR MUSIC, YOU'D BETTER GRAB IT BECAUSE THEY DON'T DESCEND FROM HEAVEN. JUST BECAUSE YOU CREATED A MUSIC FILE, JUST BECAUSE MAYBE YOU REGISTERED ITS COPYRIGHT, JUST BECAUSE MAYBE YOU REGISTERED IT WITH ASCAP, BMI OR SESAC DOESN'T GUARANTEE THAT MONEY WILL DROP FROM HEAVEN ONTO YOU. 3. JUST BECAUSE YOU CREATE MUSIC DOESN'T MEAN YOU'RE IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS. AND NOT EVERY NOISE YOU CREATE SHOULD BE CONSIDERED MUSIC. A LOT OF IT IS NOISE POLLUTION. SO, IF SOMEONE POSTS A MESSAGE SAYING: WE WILL LICENSE YOUR MUSIC, WE WILL BUY IT, WE WILL USE IT AND YOU WILL MAKE MONEY FROM OUR EFFORTS, A SMART PERSON WOULD GRAB THAT OPPORTUNITY FAST. 4. NOT EVERYONE WHO SEEKS TO MAKE MONEY FROM USE OF YOUR MUSIC IS EVIL. YOU CAN TELL BY READING THE CONTRACT. IF YOU CAN'T TELL FROM DOING THAT, HIRE A LAWYER AND HE OR SHE WILL TELL YOU. 5. THIS IS THE BUSINESS YOU'VE CHOSEN. IT'S NOT A CAKEWALK, IT'S NOT ROMPER ROOM. IT IS A ROUGH COMPETITIVE BUSINESS AND MORE COMPLEX THAN FIGURING OUT HOW TO ORGANIZE THE CORN ON YOUR PLATE. IT IS A WORLD WIDE BUSINESS, IN MANY COUNTRIES, AND NOT ALWAYS ALIKE IN EACH OF THOSE COUNTRIES. YES, THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE SEEKING TO STEAL YOUR STUFF, AND A LOT OF THOSE PEOPLE ARE YOUR FELLOW MUSICIANS. 6. RECENTLY MUSIC DISH REPORTED ON A SMALL SURVEY THAT INDICATED THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF MUSICIANS AREN'T MAKING ENOUGH MONEY FOR THE SIMPLE NECESSITIES OF LIFE LET ALONE A MANSION AND A MERCEDES. SO, REALLY. GET OVER YOURSELVES AND SMARTEN UP. BEING IGNORANT AND OBLIVIOUS TO THE TRUTH ABOUT THE BUSINESS WILL DEFEAT YOU IN THE SHORT AND LONG RUN. 7. AND JUST BECAUSE ANOTHER MUSICIAN TOLD YOU SOMETHING DOESN'T MEAN IT'S TRUE. THEY PROBABLY HEARD IT FROM YET ANOTHER MUSICIAN WHO HEARD IT FROM ANOTHER MUSICIAN WHO HEARD IT FROM YET ANOTHER MUSICIAN. THIS IS HOW RUMORS ABOUT THINGS LIKE THE POOR MAN'S COPYRIGHT GET AROUND. 8. SMARTEN UP PEOPLE. ONLY THOSE WHO LEARN ACTUALLY LEARN HOW MUCH MORE THERE IS TO LEARN. THOSE WHO THINK THEY KNOW EVERYTHING DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW MUCH THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW. 0. AND STOP DRINKING THE ASCAP COOL-AID. AND THE BMI COOL-AID. AND THE SESAC COOL-AID. AND THE RIAA COOL-AID. 10. STROKING YOUR EGO WON'T HELP YOU BUY GROCERIES FOR YOUR FAMILY. YOUR LANDLORD WON'T ACCEPT "I GOT 10,000 HITS ON MY MYSPACE PAGE" IN PAYMENT OF THE RENT. AND ATTACKING THE MESSENGER WON'T CHANGE THE MESSAGE. IF YOU WANT TO BE A MUSIC BUSINESS YOU HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO. Enter your Email Powered by FeedBlitz[...]



Piano vs. Keyboards - what's the difference?

2009-08-20T10:53:13.632-04:00

What's the Difference - from teaching, learning, and Musician's perspective? Some semi-random thoughts.
  1. There's nothing like playing a well-maintained concert grand. NOTHING.
  2. But few people have access to a concert grand, much less a well-maintained one.
  3. The new Roland V-Piano is supposed to come close, though. At roughly $6,000 it's a lot cheaper than a quality grand, but you're going to have to invest in some amps and speakers.
  4. Keyboards/Synths give me capabilities that a piano doesn't - different sounds, etc.
  5. I play a Piano and a Keyboard differently - even when the keyboard has a great action (like my Roland RD-700 sx).
  6. I'd suggest learning the Piano, and integrating the "keyboard" part of it as a part of the process. To play keys you need to learn how to work your buttons, how to change what you play depending on the sound you're using, and how to improvise a part while looking at a chord chart.
  7. Best way to learn how to change your touch? CLASSICAL PIANO music! (especially Classical, Baroque, and Romantic eras).
  8. To Comp (i.e. accompany) you need to know your chords and scales. Those are the tools that let you combine bits and pieces into something interesting that fits the song.
  9. This is true regardless of the style - rock, jazz, pop, urban, country, world.......
  10. You still have to practice - every day is best.



Using technology to teach piano

2009-02-11T11:31:28.066-05:00

First, my setup:

1) I teach on a digital piano (not a great one, but it's what I have available in the music store where I teach)

2) I have a 10-year old Mac (Powermac Tower - 266 MHz PPC processor running MacOS 9.2.2) that has 2 midi interfaces.

3) I also have a small sound module (a very old Emu SOundEngine that sounds pretty cheesy, but works)

4) Software includes Band in a box, Finale (from 1994), Opcode EZVision, and Opcode's Studio Vision

What do I do with it, in lessons?

1) Record the student using MIDI into EZVision, which is faster to setup than Studio Vision. They can hear themselves. Sometimes I'll bring teh parents  in as well. I'll also transfer the midi file down to my "real" studio, convert the midi into audio, and email the resulting MP3 to the parents as a surprise.

2) Use iTunes (version 1!) to play some jazz or classical piano tracks. One of the students was learning a piece (titled something like Sugar Rag) - so I played a "real" ragtime for them - a recording of a Scott Joplin piano roll. IT started a conversation about what they were hearing, and what each hand was doing..... and how they could do that with enough practice.

3) I've also been using the setup to create new music for some of my other activities, when I have some downtime. This is the advantage of standard midi files - they can be exported on the old Mac, and pulled up into Traktion for further editing on my new Mac... or even a Windows machine.

4) I'll also create a quickie drum track, have EZVIsion loop it, and use that as a fancy metronome for the student to paly to. If we're feeling adentureous, I'll crank up Band-in-a-Box and have it do an even fancier drum track.

There are a few ideas. Got any others?




My, how technology has changed Music Appreciation

2008-12-03T14:09:10.120-05:00

At the risk of sounding like an old geezer...... this came to mind as I taught my last Music App class of the semester. My first Music App classes were taught using LPs - the CD had only just been introduced, and of course new tech takes FOREVER to weasel its way into educational settings. Finding particular passages was a royal pain, and seriously interrupted the flow of the class. Cassettes were more portable, but didn't sound nearly as good (we had a bad cassettee deck). Fast forward (ahem) several years. Today I used video from YouTube, video I'd stashed on a server, a CD that I'd collated myself froma variety of sources to use in teaching, and my iTunes library from the computer down the hall - audio streamed over the network - all to demonstrate jazz. This makes for much less downtime in class - but demands far more prep time outside of class.



A Music Career? This is a career?

2008-11-18T09:26:57.294-05:00

Thoughts on the morning before heading down to Georgia Southwestern to perform a recital with Rebecca Lanning: I've been playing piano for 40 years - professionally for over half that (Nope, I ain't as old as that makes me sound). I find it interesting that even though I have a Masters Degree in Piano Performance, I've been paid to play "Classical" less than a dozen times over that period. Rock-n-roll, jazz, country, wedding..... tons of times. Classical, not so much. This may indeed be a comment on my skillset or level of playing - I decided early on that I didn't want Classical to be my entire lifr, and that is required if you are going to make a living at it (I didn't want to live in NY or Chicago either). It also may be a comment on what I'm good at - being a musical chameleon. I've done Classical, yes - but also jazz, rock, country, misc. wedding stuff, pop - and performed on piano and multi-keyboards of various ilks - and been on about a dozen recordings (including one that was nominated for a Grammy). I've even produced two albums with my band at church (tom&co). And I teach - both privately and in a college. So I guess it is a career - at times seriously aggravating, at times seriously wonderful. Two weeks ago I was playing in Storm Lake, Iowa with the Joey Stuckey band playing pop/rock originals - tonight in Americus, Georgia accompanying a phenomenal Mezzo-Soprano in every style from Lieder to 20th C. to TinPanAlley. It ain't boring!



Putting music "out there"

2008-04-09T14:58:33.890-04:00

(embed)
This is my latest thing to try - putting my music "out there" in the marketplace. Now, I'm nowhere near "signing a label contract" - nor am I interested in that. For that matter, a label wouldn't be interested in what I do anyway, so it all works out! I've put tracks from the two tom&co albums into snocap - so anyone can purchase and download tracks from both albums. Seasons has been available since 2003 at cdbaby. I placed Brethren - our first album from 1999 - on cdbaby in the fall of 07, but didn't want to make it available digitally because two of the tunes are covers. The amount of paperwork to keep track of when selling covers online is more trouble than its worth fro may particular project. However, using Snocap means I can pick and choose which tracks are available, which is nice. So this is yet another experiment in using technology in music. It has the added benefit of being able to tell the tale to my music classes, and makes things interesting. You can never tell what I'll put up in my Snocap store. As of this writing it's only tom&co stuff, but there will be different things down the road.



Uses for a website

2008-01-25T17:27:08.605-05:00

This might sound like a stupid entry for a blog, but I had a conversation with a piano teacher who was wondering just what use a website is for a piano teacher. After all, the reasoning went, we're teaching PIANO - not technology. That type of thinking misses the point. Technology isn't a reason to exist, or a career, or a hobby (at least in this instance) - it is a tool. A tool primarily for communication. So here are some (admittedly quick and off-the-top-of-my-head) benefits of a website for a piano teacher:
  1. Marketing - use it as an online brochure. "Hey, I exist, and I teach piano in (your locale here)." You do have to do some search engine stuff - or you can pay an outfit to do that for you (I wouldn't).... or you can just put it on your business card. The card acts as an intro, and then the site gives more detailed information.
  2. Studio policies - put your studio policies online (mine are here. They aren't very formal, but they are functional.)
  3. Take payments for piano lessons online - using Paypal. It's decently inexpensive, and CAN make it easier for your parents. Yes, there's a charge (the expense runs about 3% - but that's tax deductible if your are running your studio like a business.) See my payment page here for an example.
  4. Sniff out cool online music training sites and share them with your students - ear-training, music quizzes, etc. are ALL available online.
  5. Share music with your students. I have a version of Chopsticks I use that does NOT use standard notation. It's great for new kids who don't read yet.



Joey Stuckey Band slideshow

2008-01-22T08:20:35.304-05:00

Here is a slideshow featuring pix and music from the Joey Stuckey band trip to the Boston area to perform on Emerging Artist TV. It was a lot of fun to do - the EA guys are a good group./

I'm the keyboard player with the cool hat.




New video performance

2007-08-08T08:52:38.194-04:00

This is a performance of "I Surrender All" that I did at Vineville North in July, 2007. This was a jazz improv version - inspired by the thought that this traditional church tune sounds kinda mournful - but the idea of surrendering to Someone who is perfect is pretty cool, and should be cause for celebration!


(object) (embed)



Making a CD: Lessons learned

2007-04-06T16:37:44.165-04:00

Now that it has been a couple of months, what have I learned? What would I do differently?

1) This was definitely worth the time involved. not so much from a monetary viewpoint, but from a PR (the parents really appreciated it) and from a "cool" aspect (the kids thought it was cool I knew how to do this. Greater cool factor = greater opportunity to teach them)

2) It really brought home the fact that having equipment does no good by itself. You have to take the time to learn how to use it. I had all this stuff (that I use for other purposes), yet it took some thinking to figure out how to make the CD happen.

3) There are easier ways to accomplish this same thing. There are direct - to - CD recording decks out there (or even the Alesis Masterlink). In that case you can record the performance straight to a CD, and even hand the student the CD right there. It's the CD equivalent of sticking the cassette recorder in front of the piano and pressing "Record". You could even get a set of preprinted blank CDs (Diskmakers sells them) that have your studio's logo on them with room to write the student's name on them.

You lose the ability to edit, though.

I'd love to hear from other teachers who have attempted this same thing.




Making a CD: The Reactions

2007-03-16T13:35:03.531-04:00

So the MIDI got recorded, edited, transferred to audio, shipped over to the recording studio, printed, and mailed. What were the reactions?

Overwhelmingly positive! I had made the kids promise not to tell what was coming (and most kept the secret!), so the kids received a package in the mail from their piano teacher. I told them it was up to them whether to keep it a secret until Christmas, or to let their parents see what was in it.

I don't think any of them waited!

The parents came up to me over the next couple of weeks and gushed at how good their kids sounded. The kids (epecially the 5 eyar old twins) were just bustin' out with pride on how thye sounded.

The one exception was one of my adult students, who didn't know I had recorded her (she'd have gotten too nervous) - she wanted to sound better than that, and was very aware of her mistakes. This is common in adult students - we as adults are aware of where we are in the process (kids are just focused on the moment).

I suggested she treat it as a snapshot - and can play it in 6 months to compare how much better she is then.

Was it worth the effort? Oh, yes.

Lessons learned from my viewpoint? That's the next entry.




Making a CD: Send it to the studio

2007-03-06T12:17:46.674-05:00

Almost done with this series of entries on creating Christmas CDs for my piano students.

To this point I've detailed the equipment, recording process, editing, and graphics creation. The next step: transferring the data to a studio for actual creation of the physical cds.

At this point in the process, I had graphics files for each student's CDs, plus the assoaciated audio files. What I don't have is a way to print on CDs - it isn't something I need to do very often, so the best route for me was to outsource this part of the project. in other words, I hired a friend who has a recording studio - Joey Stuckey, of Shadowsound music in Macon.

Joey offers CD duplication and on-CD printing as a part of his studio services. After a couple of conversations, we figured the best way was for me to email the graphics files to the studio - they also use Microsoft Publisher, so all I had to do was send the original publisher file. I then used sendthisfile.com to transfer the audio files to them. They were MUCH too big to email them, and I've found sendthisfile.com to be reliable, even when using the free account.

Joey and the staff then took the audio and the Publisher files, ran them through their system, and produced the CDs for me. I brought down some pre-addressed CD mailers, assembled the packages (along with a little note from me regarding what this CD was - a low budget Chrismtas card, if you will), and mailed them out.

Next entry: Reactions and benefits




Making a CD: Graphics

2007-02-13T11:56:31.490-05:00

Another entry in a continuing series discussing a custom Christmas present I produced for my piano students - a CD with their performance, recorded in a lesson.

To this point I've detailed how the MIDI data got recorded, how I transferred the MIDI data to my studio machine, recorded the audio, and exported the audio in a CD-friendly format.

But the CDs needed to have SOMETHING printed on them! I googled (at Google images) a piano keyboard, and selected a shot that was a closeup of a piano keyboard (AND that wasn't covered by copyright).

I did a mockup of the CD cover using Microsoft Publisher (a program I do not particularly like - but it was available). I used Publisher primarily because the studio I was sending the audio to also uses it. This allowed me to create a template, and all they had to do was open up the template and change the text to reflect each student's information.

Each CD had the student's name, what date it was recorded, the phrase "Merry Christmas", and the pieces on the CD (along with the track number).

Again, the idea was for the CD to provide a snapshot of the performance - a memory, if you will.




Making a CD: Recording the Audio

2007-02-13T11:57:11.473-05:00

At this point I had good quality MIDI files ready, that sounded just like I wanted them to. They represented a fair picture of the student's performances, but were still listenable.

Getting the audio into the computer was actually fairly simple. Remember I have a G3 desktop for sequencing, and a Mac mini that I use for audio - but this can be done with a single computer running the appropriate software (anything that can do both MIDI and audio work, and there are tons of options out there for both Macs and Windows machines).

Essentially all I had to do was to start my audio software recording, switch to the Sequencer program, and hit play. It didn't take very long because all of the pieces were short (the longest was about 2 minutes, but the average was about 45 seconds. These ARE beginning piano students!)

Once the audio was captured, I made sure the audio was normalized (i.e. as loud as practical), and then exported it as an AIFF file.

Naming the resulting files was important, because I had over 2 dozen files to keep track. I used studentName_track number_songname.aif. For example, macmusicguy_1_twinkle.aif

Next time: Graphics. Coming soon: Using the 'net to transfer to a studio, and parent reactions.




Making a CD: Decisions - how much to edit?

2007-02-13T11:58:24.081-05:00

So at this point it the process I had recorded all of the students who were going to be recorded, and I had a floppy disk with several sequence files on it. Several of the pieces had duet parts as well.

Each student had a separate file. Each file - because of how the program works - can contain up to 25 separate sequences. I put each piece into a different sequence. indeed, I put separate takes into separate sequences, except for the 5 year olds.

I transferred the files to the PowerMac in the outhouse, called up the files into Musicshop (an old, defunct sequencer by Opcode), and had some serious decisions to make.

1. How much editing should I do? I could go through and edit every note, put in place just so, and make the performance sound perfect. However, the idea behind this project was to give a positive snapshot of the student's performance - a substitute for a live performance. I decided on minimal editing - after all, I did want the tracks to be listenable!

2. What sounds to use? Piano, yes, for the student - but what about the duet parts? I wanted something that was piano-like, but that allowed the student's performance to be very easy to hear. I decided on an electric piano/Rhodes type sound. The Rhodes proved ideal - you can hear it, but it doesn't cover the piano part in any way.

Most parts were left mostly alone. I trimmed off silence at the start and selected the best "take". One student, who had recorded a longer piece, required me to create a comp (i.e. "composite take"). She had gotten a bit confused entering the B section, but the A section was fine. Due to time constraints I had her re-record the B section, and her second attempt was much better.

In the next entry I'll continue discussing the process and decisions that had to be made.




Making a CD: Recording in the Lesson - Adventures galore!

2007-02-13T12:00:41.348-05:00

Looking back, it was interesting at the different approaches I had to take getting the recording done. All of my students had seen me use that old Mac Classic before, and they all knew it would "record" their performances - I use it fairly regularly to help them hear their mistakes. This took the novelty factor down a bit.

With 9 year olds and older I could treat the lesson as a regular recording session. I would start the recording, and they would start the take whenever they were ready (a serious advantage of using MIDI). If there was a false start, I just told them to try again, while letting the sequencer roll.

Duet parts I generally recorded right after their parts were recorded. This way I didn't have to try and recreate them later using music I didn't have. I didn't try for exact timing with their part - just tried to get the exact right notes, and get kinda close on timing. (I fixed the duet part timing later in the outhouse.)

My younger kids presented quite a challenge. In particular I have a pair of 5 year old twins who were real excited at recording, so getting them to focus and actually DO the recording took some doing. They finally did a good job, but the duet parts were real rushed, and took a bit of editing later to make functional.

With everyone recorded, it was time to put the files onto a floppy and transfer them down to the outhouse machine.....but that's a story for another entry.




Making a CD: Process Details

2007-02-13T12:01:17.723-05:00

So I have a teaching studio at the music store with a very old Mac and a digital keyboard, a small recording setup in the outhouse, and a friend with some professional studio equipment. How do you use that kind of setup to create student CDs? Step 1: Record the students Each student and I had obviously been working on several pieces for a couple of weeks. We had even done some "practice" recording, so the kids would realize that they often didn't hear their mistakes, so they needed to really focus when practicing, to quash the errors. Because I was using MIDI, I didn't have to do the standard practice of pushing record, and then cueing the student to start. I pressed record whenever, and then let the student start when they were ready. If there was a false start, I just let the sequencer keep rolling. The kids did NOT play to a metronome (or click) - there was no real need. When there was a teacher's accompaniment part to record, I played it on a second track, roughly trying to play in sync. I primarily was concerned with getting my timing close to theirs, and playing all the correct notes. Timing errors could be fixed later (again, becuase of using MIDI). I had to record the accompaniment right then because of time constraints, and because I didn't necessarily have access to that music later. Each student was placed in a separate file and saved to floppy (I did mention this was an old Mac, right?). Step 2: Editing I transported the files down to the MaconOutHouse, where I loaded them into EzVision on my powerMac G3. I decided early on not to do much editing. I wanted to strike a balance between letting the recording be a snapshot of the student's performance, and making it listenable. I did splice together one student's performance at a section break - i.e. I used Section A from Take 1, and Section B from Take 2, primarily because of time. (We didn't have time in the lesson for another take). The only other editing I did on the student's performacnes was to delete dead air at the beginning and ending of their performances. The "teacher accompaniments", however, underwent some serious editing. I tried to get the accompaniment to line up as closely as possible with the kid's performances. In the case of my rambunctious 5-year-old twins, this was quite a challenge! Step three: Drop the Audio! At this point, all the MIDI files were cleaned up, so it was time to get the audio onto a hard drive. The G3 was used to drive my Roland RD-700sx, which provided the piano sounds. It is hooked up to a Mackie Micro1202VLZ, and then into the audio interface to my Mac Mini. I recorded the audio using Soundtrack Pro (but could have just as easily used Garageband, or even the freeware Audacity. ) To make it easier to tell which was the student part and which the teacher's, I used the "Superior Grand" sound for the kid's part, and usually an electric piano sound for the teacher's. So basically: Start the audio recording. Play the midi file. Save the recording - making sure I named the file something appropriate. Step four: collect the parts I had previously worked up a graphic for the CD - just a picture of a piano keyboard. I forwarded this on to my friends down at ShadowSound studio. I also zipped up each student's files, and used sendthisfile.com to transfer the files to them. ShadowSound took the files and created the CDs using their CD burner/printer. They looked great! I mail[...]