Tag Archives: Opinion

Best Recorded Big Band Albums

As frequent readers of Jazz-Sax.Com will know, I won a pretty awesome M-Audio package. I really did not have the “horse power” to use it until my G4 PowerMac decided to die. Followed by my G4 Cube (though that was probably more me messing around with it than it just dying on it’s own accord. IE: It was apart and being messed with). Anyhow, I invested in a new MacPro 2.88 Dual QuadCore computer. Whoa. Fast!

Anyhow, a big band I play in is in the process of recording a demo. We’ve had two concert recordings. The first, according to the engineer, didn’t come out so clean, and would require a lot of work. The second came out way better. I was able to obtain the ProTools session from the first recordings, and have been using ProTools M-Powered to clean it up and what not.

Now, the question is actually two questions. What is the best studio recording of a Big Band, and what is the best live recording of a big band? For the former, I’d have to say Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Albums are amazingly well done. For the latter, I think the one that sticks out in my mind is Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra at the Sands.

Opinions?

Steinberg – Classroom Resource Pack

Not sure what happened to the Music Education Alliance, but Steinberg announced their Classroom Resource Pack.

“Computer technology is increasingly being used for teaching music in schools world-wide,” comments Mark Porter, Steinberg’s International Sales Manager. “But often the task of providing classroom resources is left to the individual teacher, even if their personal experience using modern music technology products has been somewhat limited. So the huge quantity of structured, high-quality resources provided by the Steinberg Classroom Resource Pack will be invaluable to music teachers everywhere, whether they are experienced Cubase users or are completely new to using computers – because it gives them more time for applying their teaching rather than preparing for it,” he continues.

Blah, blah, blah. Look, kids don’t want stupid worksheets to do. They want to play. The want to learn music, not do some generated worksheet. Technology. CMEA just discovered Band in a Box. Maybe in 10 years they will discover this? Maybe? Perhaps?
UPDATE: 02/16/08 by E: The latest issue of Time Magazine has an article about “How To Make Better Teachers”. Funny thing is that technology is not mentioned in the article. Hmmm….

Auto-Tune Abuse

I came across this article from Hometracked.com.

Pitch correction software has applications from restoration and mix-rescue to outright distortion of a voice or instrument. I’ll discuss some of the more tasteful uses of these auto-tune tools (whether the original from Antares, or a variant like the free GSnap) below. But first I thought I’d highlight their misuse to illustrate the effects we usually try to avoid.

I think the second example on the page is more of a vocoder thing, ala Gorillaz or Peter Gabriel. However, there is a band I play in where we are trying to do a CD, so, we hired someone to record us live. After 3 months, he had two songs done, and I’d say they are not anything to write home about. He even put in clapping which makes it sound even more fake.
When I record, I try NOT to do much to it. Balance it, sure, but pitch correction…..not really, unless there is something that totally sticks out like a sore thumb. I had a two or three songs that students did before Christmas that I had to do some pitch correction with, but it was not the whole song. Just a couple of notes here and there.

Teaching “Alternate” Fingerings

So, there is this guy who goes into local schools. He’s a “sax expert” or whatever. He also seems to be talking up a bunch of smack as well (directed towards your’s truly). Anyhow, he is telling all the kids to play middle D with the side palm D open. Huh? The reason, “The tone is better.” Ok, that is good and all, but shouldn’t they just get the basic fingering down first? Plus, it makes it even more of a technique problem for them. PLUS, it really does not sound good. I recorded a student playing a song where he was sometimes using this supposed “sax expert” fingering, and it sounds bad. It is out of tune, and the tone……is not good.

Keep it simple. Basics. Teaching them all three alternatives (or perhaps all four) for fingering Bb would be higher on my list than to require them to play all their middle D’s with the side D open. BTW, he seems totally against 1 and 1 Bb. And he plays flute too…….strange….

I use the Middle D Fingering with the side D open...

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Finale Users Defecting To Sibelius

There has been a LOT of discussion on the Finale List (which is NOT managed by the company) about the disappointment with Finale 2008. I decided to pass on 2008. To stir things up, Sibelius is offering a 50% off trade-up program.

It is sad to see so many veterans of Finale, people who have contributed tips, insights, short cuts, and what nots, finally get fed up with MakeMusic’s total lack of attention to detail. Their main complaints are the bugs that are never fixed from previous versions, and the company’s failure to finish new features, namely the Parts feature from Finale 2007. Nothing got fixed, or changed.

Two things keep me from switching to Sibelius. One, is the ability to easily convert the thousands of Finale files into Sibelius. I want to be able to just open them in Sibelius, not MusicXML crap. Just open, and it’s in Sibelius. The second thing, is being able to use Bill Duncan’s elegant engraver articulations. Honestly, the Sibelius jazz font thing just looks silly. Real silly. I absolutely love the professional look that I get using Bill’s fonts.

I suppose the third thing is SmartMusic. I couldn’t make Smartmusic exercises. That would be a problem as well.

Ok, THREE things. If they can get TWO of those working, I’ll switch.

UPDATE: 10/13/07 After some thought, the $100 price was too tempting. I ordered a copy. We’ll see if I actually use it.

Beechler vs Larsen

Saxcessful writes “I have been playing a Berg 100/0 on my tenor with various reeds, depending on the mood. Recently I have been offered (on the net) a Beechler Bellite 8 which is about the same lay but I have no idea about what sort of sound they produce. I am familiar with a Lawton 6 (a friends) and also play a modified Otto 7. I like all the sounds that I can get out of these mouthpieces but “the” sound alludes me. I would appreciate comments about the Beechler as they are not too common here in NZ and they are rather expensive. Thanks….”

Yes. “the sound”. We all know what you mean. You can’t describe it, but you know what it is. I haven’t used a Beechler since………..um……..Clinton was in the White House. Beechlers, as I remember them, were really punchy mouthpieces. I would describe them as similar to a metal Berg Larsen, but without the body (or tone). I would really suggest trying one before buying it, otherwise you might be stuck with something you don’t use. I mean, I think we all have that mouthpiece box (or boxes) of various pieces you liked for a week or two, then discarded.

Passing on Finale 2008

MakeMusic came out with a new version of Finale. 2008. Looking at the lackluster feature list, I’m am passing on the update. Basically, the only items that sound remotely interesting are the Cut/Copy/Paste Improvements, and ScoreMerger (taking a bunch of files and putting them together). All the other stuff, the Record/Import Audio, More Garritan Sounds, New Selection Tool, Vista Compatible, Integrated Sound Libraries, Enhanced Setup Wizard, Document Styles, Colored Noteheads and Boomwhackers® Sounds, Improved Scanning, Expanded MusicXML Support, Expanded Human Playback Support, More Powerful Templates, New & Expanded, Documentation, Improved HyperScribe are not enough to warrant the price of the update. From the various discussion groups, it seems a lot of bugs still exist, and features that have problems or issues, such as 2007’s Parts, have not been addressed.

Plus, I have a suspicion that the new version saves Smartmusic files in a format that SmartMusic 10 cannot read (2007 did that from August of last year up to when when finally came out with Smartmusic 10 in April).

SmartMusic 10 Updated…….sorta

Since it was released in April, SmartMusic 10 has not been updated. That changed last Tuesday, when the program informed me that updates were available. The proceeding 30 minutes of downloads yielded some new things, and some not so new things………

First, the new things……..

Additional play-alongs. 60 titles like they promised? Maybe. There is no list of new things, and Smartmusic.com has no information on the release. I see a lot of Concert Band things, and TWO new Jazz Band ones. And not all that great of Jazz Band songs either. Oh well.

That is it for the new stuff.

Not so new. Bugs. User Created Continue reading SmartMusic 10 Updated…….sorta

Pimped Out Studio

The idea, which I have had for years, was to have a digital studio where I didn’t go through reams of paper every year. I finally did it. Using an iMac, and it’s video spanning capabilities, I made a digital music stand. While the technology has been there, the costs were way too high. The costs for this was around $650+/-. $70 for the VESA Mount, $100 for the Conga stand, $300 for the monitor, $25 for the iMac video adapter, $120 for the USB foot pedal, and $6 for the plastic cover and connectors (Tap Plastics rocks). A year or two ago, this would have been a lot more. A year from now, it will be less. That’s technology for ya.

Pictures and more inside……

I have a lot of songs that I have done on Finale and on PDF, enough to fill a 3 inch binder. In fact, I have 5 such binders that I have tried to store copies of the songs so I wouldn’t need to print them out if I wanted to play them with a student. One problem with this system is finding songs. An Index? Well, I suppose, but it is a pain keeping it up to date, and flipping though a huge 3 inch binder is not fun. Plus, the Manhassette stand won’t keep raised with a full 3 inch binder on it. Then there are page turns. It was just a hassle.

Now, with the all digital setup, I can load a song up, display it on the other screen. Simple. No printing. If it is multiple pages, no problem, the 22″ monitor handles it with no problems. Three pages? That is where the foot peddle comes in. I have the X-Keys programmed (using iKey) to advance to the next page if I stomp on the right of the peddle, back a page if I stomp left, and in the center, it toggles one or two page mode. I can also do the same stuff using PDF files. So, anything I’ve scanned in I can view in the same way. It works very well so far.

The other thing is SmartMusic. It’s easier to use, though SmartMusic does not do two pages. Though it does seem to work alright if you flip the monitor around and put it into portrait mode.

Continue reading Pimped Out Studio

BMG “Jazz” Music Club

I am part of the BMG “Jazz” Music club. I very rarely buy things from them as they charge you up the *#?@#^& in shipping, and it ends up being not all that cheap. I tend to get most of my stuff off Amazon.com used.

Today, I received the BMG Early Spring 2007 Catalog. Not a SINGLE mention of Michael Brecker on it. Nada. They do have, on page 18, Michael’s “Wide Angles” Album. No promo box about him. Nothing. Instead, they are peddling yet another Coltrane album called Gold on page 19. On page 3 they have a big box with Mindi Abair. On page 9 they have Richard Elliot. On page 13 they have Marion Meadows. No Brecker. Not even an insert about it. One would think they could, in addition to Checks Unlimited insert, the Build the Ultimate DVD Collection insert, and the BMG Music store insert, they could have put in a Michael Brecker special or something. I might have actually have bought something from them then. It makes one wonder what they will do when Sonny Rollins or some other titan dies. Are they going to ignore the event and feature the likes of Mindi Abair instead?

I am disgusted with BMG now. I am writing them a nasty letter and canceling my account with them.

Update: 05/04 16:11 GMT by E :I got another BMG thing in the mail. They are featuring KENNY G? What the Hell? Amazing. The “Jazz” club featuring Kenny F@#*$*% G……

The 50 Worst Artists In Music History

Blender.com, a great music music site, published a great list in 2003 of “The 50 Worst Artists In Music History“. While I don’t agree about #16, Oingo Boingo, I do agree with #4, Kenny G.

"Hated equally by jazz and rock fans, Kenny Gorelick's limpid instrumentals and obsequious cameos helped turn the soprano sax solo into pop music's most feared cliche. He started his career with fusion hack Jeff Lorber, and his 1986 album, Duotones, established a steady market for anodyne, minimal background music, an aesthetic that reached its zenith in 1997 when "The G" set a world record by holding a single note for 45 minutes.
Appalling fact He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Washington with a degree in accounting.
Worst CD Classics in the Key of G (Arista, 1999)"

They also have some interesting comments about Jazz Fusion

"It's a rule of thumb that any music that uses jazz as a prefix will make you want to saw your head off in boredom (see also: jazz-funk, jazz rap, jazz house). But none is as wearying as the genre that thought what rock really needed was month-long bass solos and time signatures Stephen Hawking wouldn't understand.

Cut them some slack, they did publish a fairly good jazz list a while ago. They did nail the Kenny G thing though, I’d have put him as #2. And a newer list would have Paris Hilton and Ashlee Simpson I’m sure….

Finale 2007

MakeMusic released Finale 2007 a while ago. August I believe. I’ve been using it since then, and I think I can finally review it properly.

There are not a lot great new features in Finale 2007 compared to 2006. The big feature, in fact, really the only feature that is huge, is the linked parts. Though, on MakeMusic’s preview page they harp “features” such as “Authorization Improvements“, and “Improved pickups, vertical collision remover“. There are a couple of other new things I get to. Let’s dismiss the authorization thing. That is as lame as the Copyright symbol they billed as a feature in 2006. The vertical collision remover sorta works, but not really. I can’t really see any difference in the pickups as I really didn’t do much with complex pickup measure.

So, lets dive into the reasons why you’d want to upgrade to 2007…..

Continue reading Finale 2007

Windcontroller Group (Group Think)

Over this weekend, I got into this heated argument on a Yahoo group about Wind Controllers. I was interested in perhaps getting a new EWI 4000 to supplement my practicing. I said in one post that I thought a lot of the people using the controller as a sax made it sound cheesy. And, honestly, the sounds do sound cheesy. And I stated that you should try to be a sax, or a flute at all because it just doesn’t sound right. Wow. The little people on that list blew up, calling my statements “stupid”, calling me “bipolar” when I said that the Garritan Jazz Band sounds sound good (but not good enough) and slandering me about everything under the moon. The moderator, Matt at Patchman Music decided to just remove me from the list without any explanation. Nice moderating there guy.

I thought it was really interesting that these guys have deluded themselves into thinking that playing a flute patch, or sax patch sounds as good as the real thing. One gem, was posted by this german guy “We emulators must have come very close to the “real thing” otherwise they wouldn’t feel to threatened and be so passionate about preventing emulation”. I totally don’t agree. You are doing a disservice to the music community. Whatever happened to tone? Isn’t tone the most important part of someone’s playing? If you are proficient on wind controller, why not just play the real instrument then? There is not much of a leap from EWI to clarinet. Why not just play it as it’s own instrument with it’s own unique sound?

Group Think

Ah, anyhow, the little group there seems to think not. Thus I got bounced, though people who slandered me seem to have been allowed to continue to post. I think the wind controller players are limiting themselves if they do emulation, or even think it sounds a “believable” substitute for a real instrument. Steps Ahead would not be on my iPod if Brecker was using a flute patch to play all those songs.

But what do you all think? EWI as a substitute for a real instrument? As it’s own entity (ala Brecker)? I am totally for the latter, and opposed to the former.

Future Of MP3 and Surround Sound

Wired magazine is running a story pondering the MP3 format, how long it will last, and where surround sound is going to fit in. Basically, it looks like it will be around for a while even though better formats, like AAC or MP3Pro, are out. AAC is part of the MPEG4 standard, but a lot of people, like the geeks on Slashdot have issues with Fairplay encoded AACs (or Digital Rights Management (DRM) AACs. Stuff you buy off iTunes Store for example).

For myself, I gave up encoding to MP3 years ago. Most everything I encode now is 160 or 192 (due to cymbals in some jazz recordings getting “washed out” at 160) bit AACs. They sound great on my iPod (and new iPod video), and on both my stereo systems (studio and home).

I see AAC and MPEG4 winning out over other formats, though we will probably have to put up with WMA (Microsoft) formats for a while longer.