Band in a Box 2010 for Macintosh

It has been really hard keeping the cat in the bag (I was a beta tester for the last 2 weeks or so), but tonight PG Music finally released Band in a Box 2010 for the Macintosh. As was the case in the previous version, this version is Intel only. So, you people with G5s or other PowerPC chipped computers….you are out of luck. Though the speed increases in this version (more on that in a sec) probably would have made Band in a Box 2010 tolerable for G5 Macintoshes.

There are quite a few new features, and I’ll list the ones that I think are the best.
1. “No more long waits for RealTracks to generate! RealTracks generate much faster, 4X faster on average. A typical song with RealTracks that took 20 seconds to generate will generate now in about 5 seconds. And if you freeze some or all tracks in the song (see below), playback of RealTracks is almost instantaneous.” In Band in a Box 2009.5, generating Real Tracks took FOREVER. Even on a MacPro, it took a while. On an iMac…..it could take nearly a minute in some cases. NOT ANYMORE. On my iMac from 2006 (a lowly 2 Gigahertz Core 2 Duo iMac), it was fast in generating real tracks. Most took maybe 5 seconds to do. I think the longest (like 10 choruses with 4 real tracks and a real soloist) took maybe 10 seconds. Ok, 12. But that was still totally fine. They are NOT kidding about the speed. It is way faster. Useable fast.

2. “Time for generation of MIDI arrangement is much faster – now ‘instantaneous (less than 1 second)!” Yup. Midi arrangements are nearly you press play and it goes. Even if you do 20 choruses with 5+ instruments.

3. “There is now a “Plug-in” mode for your favorite sequencer (GarageBand, ProTools, Logic, Nuendo, Reaper and more). With the new plug-in mode, BB is open as a small always-on-top window, and acts as a plug-in for your favorite DAW/sequencer, so that you can Drag-n-Drop MIDI and audio (AIFF) tracks from BB to your favorite sequencer. Work in your favorite sequencer, type a progression in Band-in-a-Box, and then simply drag the track from Band-in-a-Box to your sequencer’s track at the desired track and bar location.” This is actually really cool, though how it works is a little strange initially. You can, say, load up Garage Band, and say you have been working on a tune that is in 3/4 and is in the key of A and you need a guitar line. Or solo. You can fire up Band in a Box, type in some chords, select a style or soloist or real track, or real soloist (or whatever they call it), and switch Band in a Box into DAW mode, tell it you want to generate AIFF or m4a audio tracks or Midi tracks, and drag the track right into Garageband. Boom. (I did leave out one step, but I feel you need to SEE it to understand it)

4. “Freezing (locking) MIDI or Real tracks/RealDrums. Any track can now be frozen (MIDI or Real track). When frozen, it won’t get changed or re-generated. This saves time when replaying previous songs, and allows you to freeze an arrangement that you like. If you freeze the whole song, you don’t have to wait at all for the song to regenerate. Next time you play, it is ready to go. (Note: this new freeze feature is different than the previous limited freeze feature that renders the whole arrangement to the audio track)” Kinda cool, but since it is so much faster overall in generating tracks I didn’t really use it much. Though if you FREEZE all the RealTracks, it plays back the song instantly.

There are some other things like it will Normalize a rendered Audio file, Endings of songs work better, you can resize the window, things are saved with the song. All good stuff. But the 4 listed above I think are the bread and butter. Ok, so, there are still some things that are in the Windows version of Band in a Box that are not present in the Macintosh version. Most notable is the Ear Training part (which is really nice). It doesn’t detract from the overall amazingness that this program has. If you do music, you NEED to have this program on your computer. If you are a Jazz student, or someone who plays jazz, this program is something you need to have for working out that new chord progression at whatever tempo, for 30 choruses, in a Polka style. Or whatever.

Upgrade price from Band in a Box 2009 is $159. First time purchasers $399. You get something like nearly 70 gigs of stuff. Amazing sounds. Totally worth it. 10/10 (and I can’t remember the last time I gave something a 10 out of 10)

So You Wanna Record A Big Band — Redux

Back in October 2008 I did a post that estimated the cost of getting all the gear to have a recording rig for your big band. Now, lets take a look at if things have changed.

The original post I went with an Alesis HD24 which was $1600 then. Its the same price now. For preamps, I went with the PreSonus’s DigiMax D8 which were going for $450. Now they go for about $400. We need three of these to give us 24 tracks. For mics, I had two options. Option one was 13 Shure 57s with stands and cables. Then they were $124 each. Now they are $109. Lets keep it simple and stick with that option.

Case for the PreSonus preamps and the Alesis. Its still about the same, $200. And we will keep the same snakes, which are still the same price. We need three of them. $200 each.

Running total now is $5017. Before it was $5412. The only real price difference was the DigiMax D8s and the Shure Mics. We still need to add in drum set mics which haven’t changed in price ($400), and two Rode NT4s, one for the drum overhead and one for acoustic piano. They haven’t changed in price. $530 each. And two SKB mic cases, which haven’t changed in price either. $150 each. And you need a vocalist mic, a Shure 58, which is $99, was $109.

Final total…..$6876. A year and a half ago, it was $7277. The single biggest cost are the microphones. I went the Shure 57 route due to cost and their reliability, but there are alternatives out there that are cheaper. And there are alternatives that are more expensive. If money was NO OPTION, I would probably replace the 13 mics used for the horns with Sennheiser 421s. However, at $299 not including stand and cable, replacing the Shure 57s with these would about $3887 and that is NOT including cables and stands. However, the microphones are really THE thing to spend money on.

So, it is slightly cheaper to get the gear. This is for all new stuff too. If you are internet savvy, you could probably score most all of the gear off Ebay or Craigslist or you could get the scratch and dent deals or open boxed ones. This could lower the costs by hundreds of dollars.

Rico Saxophone Strap

A few months ago, RicoReeds.com had a survey or something (honestly don’t remember) on their website that, if you took the time to fill it out, they’d send you a neck strap. Well, lo and behold months later, I received said strap.

(it looks sorta like the one on the right, sorta. The patterns different.) If I was buying this strap for $10, I would. The hook is great, and it adjusts in a snap. That is what I love. My favorite neckstrap to take on gigs, especially if I have to switch saxophones a lot or use a bass clarinet, is a Ray Hyman strap.

Why you say? It adjusts instantly, and easily. But it has no padding?!? True enough, but generally in Orchestra Pit work and gigs, one wears a shirt with a collar. However, since I am down to ONE of these Ray Hyman straps (from 3 :-/), this Rico Strap will probably be the strap of choice. It is more comfy than the Hyman, but still has its adjustability. Oh, and they also make the same strap but padded.

I like this strap. Even though it says Tenor/Baritone, it works fine on Tenor/Alto. Thanks Rico/D’Addario for finally sending it out!