Archive for the 'Music' Category

Note: I've reorganized this site to use tags; the category archive remains to support old links. Only posts prior to April, 2006 are categorized. Tag Archive »

Still Standing

So it appears that despite weeks of neglect, the old blog is still standing. Guess I should post something before the tumbleweeds start to clog up the server.

One of the reasons for the dearth of posts lately is the new toy I received for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. The M-Audio Keystation Pro 88 is a MIDI controller with a full-sized, hammer weighted keyboard. I cleaned some junk out of my office so I could set it up (on its stand) next to my computer desk. When seated in from of the iMac, the keyboard is on my left.

A little over a year ago, when Garageband was released, I immediately ordered a copy. I picked up an M-Audio KeyStation 61 from eBay. At first I played with it alot, and even posted a song. But eventually, I used it less and less.

There were a couple of contributing factors. The primary reason was that my only Mac at the time was a laptop without a permanent location, and my keyboard also had no place to live. Everytime I wanted to make some music, I had to clear everything off the family room coffee table and drag out the keyboard, laptop, cables, headphones, etc. The other factor was the keyboard itsself. I’m no virtuoso pianist (quite far from it), but I’ve played a real piano since I was a kid, and I just couldn’t get used to the plastic, spring loaded keys on that keyboard.

The new setup has fixed all of these problems. With the iMac on my desk and the keyboard to the left, everything is always setup when I want to sit down and play. And the size and feel of the keyboard have made a huge difference.

I haven’t composed/recorded much so far. I started out working on a few melodies I had in my head, but quickly found that both my piano muscles and my music theory muscles had long atrophied from lack of use. Mostly I’ve been practicing various piano music I had on hand and working through various “How to play” books that focus on fake-book style playing, refreshing my knowledge of chords, progressions, etc. The important thing is, I’m having alot of fun doing it. The composing/recording will come in its own time.

In the near future, I hope to post a review of the keyboard, Garageband 2, JamPack 4, etc. For those of you who don’t care about such things, I’ll try to get back to posting other things as well. The one down side of my new setup is that when I come sit down to catch up on my blog reading and maybe post something, it’s very easy to flip on the keyboard and make some music instead.

Rediscovery

Having recieved an iPod for Christmas (thanks Sherri!), tonight I began updating my music library. For a number of reasons, many of my CDs are not loaded into iTunes, and so not available to my iPod. In addition, my CDs were scattered – some at work, some in my car, some here in my home office. Today I gatherered everything up at work and brought it all home.

Many are still missing. Among those that are not, I’ve found several things I haven’t seen (or listened to) for a long time. Rediscovering them has been great. I’m particularly pleased to have found my copy of the Police boxed set. Some of these songs I haven’t heard in years- like “So Lonely” from Outlandos d’Amour or “Invisible Sun” from Ghost in the Machine or so many others… Man, there’s a lot of good music in there.

Once I get the whole library up-to-date (as much as I can… I think a sizable part of my CD collection from high school/college is still back in Virginia somewhere), I need to start rating everything. Eventually I want to create smart playlists that play things I haven’t listened to in a while… more frequently for higher-rated stuff, less often for lower rated stuff. Put it all on shuffle and see what shows up.

Something else I rediscovered… I find it interesting how slow it feels to rip a stack of CDs. Even though the average import speed is north of 10x, which means 5 or 6 minute imports, I’ve been spoiled by broadband, fast processors and plentiful memory. Waiting just seems so old fashioned.

Magnatune

“We’re not evil.” If ever there was a great slogan, that one’s gotta be in the running. It’s the slogan of Magnatune, the open record label.

Magnatune is a record label which sells downloadable music in a number of formats, including actual CDs. All of their music is Create Commons licensed (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike ). You can listen to everything online- every song in its entirety. You can purchase the music by the album, and decide what to pay- from $5 to $18 US, add $4.97 to your chosen price for a physical CD. Choose your price wisely, as the artists recieve 50% of every sale. $8 is the recommended price. Pricing is also available in Euros and Sterling. You can even license the music for commercial use, directly online. Choose your use type, duration, etc., and the price is calculated instantly.

Of course, the music is what really matters. I’ve listened to a number of items from the Classical and Jazz/Blues genres, and I’m very impressed. Other genres include New Age, Metal/Punk, Rock/Pop, and Electronica.

My favorite so far is the album The Depths of a Year by pianist Ehren Starks, with Kate Gurba on cello. I’m always on the lookout for good instrumental music to listen to at work while writing code. The album is described as “piano and cello jazzy new age.” The first track, “The Tale of Room 620”, is just indescribably good. Give it a listen, and look around. You’re bound to find something great. If you do, leave me a comment below with your recommendations. I’ve already got three or four albums I plan to purchase, once I’ve given them a full listen and decided on the purchase price.

Musical Chairs

Recently I wanted to move some MP3s from my work PC to my Powerbook. My Powerbook was not on the network, and I didn’t really want to connect it. I did have a 128M USB thumb drive handy, and decided to move the files in batches. But how best to collect them? I use iTunes on both machines, but iTunes organizes the files into per-artist and per-album directories. Since I was going to making a few trips (multiple batches), I didn’t want to try and copy the directories; once you run out of space, it’s a pain figuring out what was copied and what wasn’t.

Playing a hunch, I fired up iTunes on the Windows PC, and opened the thumb drive in Explorer. All of the songs I wanted to copy were in one playlist, so finding them was easy. I then selected a bunch, and dragged them from iTunes and dropped them in Explorer. iTunes Did The Right Thing and copied files onto the drive. When the drive was full, I pulled it out and plugged it into the Powerbook. I opened the mounted drive in Finder, selected all the MP3s, and dragged them onto the Library icon in iTunes. Again, iTunes copied the files… this time, into the iTunes directory tree.

A few more round-trips, and all my music was moved. With a bigger device, I could have made it in one trip. And everything Just Worked the way you would expect (and want). Very Nice.

Jamming with RSS

In the days following the announcement of GarageBand, a number of websites have popped up devoted to the new product. There has already been some convergence; garagebanduser.com has joined forces with gbusers.com. Now the combined site has been rechristened MacJams.com, and will focus on mac-based music making of all types. Although they don’t seem to be linking to it yet, they do provide an RSS Feed.

The other GarageBand site I’m currently subscribed to is SonicCat, which provides an RSS feed as well. If you know of any others active sites, especially that provide feeds, please leave a comment.