Tag Archives: Technology

Michael Brecker’s Logic Environment

iBrecker has a new article up about Michael Brecker’s last EWI/Computer setup. Basically, the advance of software allowed Michael to replace 2, five foot racks of tone modules with a Logic and Reason. Amazing stuff. Michael’s EWI/Computer setup is going to be profiled in an upcoming issue of Virtual Instruments magazine. Look for it.

Update: 04/23 00:06 GMT by E :Oops, forgot to put the link to the iBrecker article. Fixed.

Virtual Instruments Magazine has a link to the diagram of the Logic Environment.

Brother HL-5250DN & HL5240 Printers

Way back in the day, like 1996, I bought a kick ass laser printer. A networkable (10BaseT), 16ppm, 1200dpi, postscript Lexmark Optra R+. I love the printer. It weighed as much as a VW Bug, and would cause the lights to dim when I turned it on. It printed nice, fast, clean music and text. Over the years, it had developed some issues, which I fixed (the boot that grabs the paper wore away, and I replaced it with some cork. Worked fine). However, the toner for the printer is over $200. I have no clue how many toners I have went through. One or two a year. But, you can get a new printer nowadays for that much, and they do so much more. And the toner cartridges are around $70.

So, with a little sadness, I decided to toss the Optra R+ and get a new, $199 Brother HL-5250DN and a HL-5240 for the studio to replace my previous Brother 1440. Wow. That is all I have to say….

First, they are small. They turn themselves off when not in use. Second, they both have Postscript. Which means nice slurs on music and whatnot. You have to look for it to see it. Both printers look identical. But, the DN version has a built in Ethernet port, and duplex (prints on both sides of the page). On a PC, it’s kind of hidden in the print settings (Advanced, and like 2 tabs in or something). On a mac, you have to make sure you run a Java application to set the duplexing on or off. The print driver totally lacks that feature. Shame on Brother for this!

Not much more to say about these printers. A great value. Print quality is amazing. Flawless, and the consumables (IE: toner) is cheap (around $70). If you are looking for a laser to do 8 1/2×11 sheets for music or whatever, either of these would be excellent!

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.

iPod “Video”

After nearly 3 years of faithful service, my 3rd generation iPod died. It wasn’t the battery. It was the hard drive. The hard drive finally decided to check out. I was sad.

For the last 2 or 3 weeks, I’ve been going through iPod withdrawal. Shuttling my music files between home and the studio is a pain. I’ve been using a “portable HD” that I usually use to backup my stuff. Plus, those nights when you want to listen to music before going to bed? Or in the car?

So, it was a choice between an iPod Nano or an iPod (with video). The Nano is very nice. A number of my students have them. However, 4 gigs is just too small. My finale files I transfer back and forth take up nearly 500megs, plus if I wanted to put all my Aebersold play-alongs on there, I couldn’t. So, I decided to go with the iPod. Wow…..

(Update: 02/21 21:00 GMT by E :The Aebersold AACs/MP3s take up about 10 gigs. I don’t have all the playalongs, but I have 85-90% of them)

First off, it “looks bigger”. But it is not. In fact, it is the same width, and the depth is almost half that of my 15 gig iPod. It looks bigger due to the screen. And the screen is absolutely incredible. Clear, color, crisp. Man, in 3 years they have done wonders. I haven’t watched any videos on it, but I imagine they look great.

Sound quality is great. I plugged in the standard headphone and it sounds great. I plugged in my Shure headphones, and it sounds “greater”.

Two bad things. First is the case. It’s really flimsy. I am planning on getting a better case ASAP. I don’t want any scratches. Second bad thing, no dock. My previous iPod came with a nice little dock, this one comes with nothing. They will sell you one for like $40. Um. No. Not right now, thanks.

Rating. 8 out of 10. No dock and a poor case are the two points taken off. They could have at least done a clip case like what came with the 3rd generation iPod. And no dock, that’s just cheap Apple.

Update: 02/28 08:50 GMT by E :Found another interesting thing. When you unplug the headphones while playing, the iPod will put what it was playing on Pause for you. That is a very nice little thing to have.

James Newton Howard On Scoring For King Kong

KongisKing.net has a couple of interesting videos about the post production of the new King Kong movie. Of interest are the post production movies of weeks 4 and 5.

Amazing that he does about 2 minutes of music a day, and then the copyists come in at like 4am to write out parts for the orchestra to play in the morning. Also amazing the amount of Macintoshes used 😉 Also of note is that it appears that Finale is used, by the look of a couple of the pieces of music in the videos, specifically in the Week 4 video, about 4:21 into it. Looks like Finale using Bill Duncan’s Finale Fonts

Sax Amplifiers??

Pimsoul writes “I play in a band, on alto sax. The think is, because the drums are loud the bass and guitar is loud, so i have to play loud too. But I can’t always keep up with loudness, so we thought about amplifieing my sax. Because it isn’t good for a normal guitar amplifier to use it for saxophone i’m looking for an alternative. I thinking about an amplifier for sax, but do they even exist? So yes, are these things expensive (when you compare it with the quality)? If they don’t exist, what are the other alternatives?
I would appreciate replies very much, thank you!
Kind regards, Pim
(excuse me for my bad English)”

There is not a “sax amplifier” per say. What you can use is pretty much any type of amp you want. Or a self powered speaker. Keyboard amps work great, something like Rolands KC350. Really depends on how much money you want to spend. And you would need a microphone as well, something like a Sennheiser 421.

But you might consider asking the other guys to play down at 11 rather than 13. If you can’t hear yourself play in a band, you have to wonder what the long term effects on your hearing (not to mention sanity). Is it worth losing your hearing to play really, really, really loud?

Xmas Guide 2005

Yes, it is only November. But there is no time like the present to start thinking of presents for people (woohoo, good play on words there E).

To start things off, iLounge has a very good, free, Holiday buyers’ guide available. Of course the guide is for people who own an iPod. And if they don’t own an iPod, that would be the #1 thing to get people. An iPod nano is only $199. Amongst the things they recommend are AKG’s new K 701 headphones. I own a pair of AKG 271 headphones, and they rock. The 701s are around $399.

Other things to consider getting a musician are:

This is just a start…..I’m sure there are other potential presents out there.

EM Reviews Field Recorders

Electronic Musician reviewed a bunch of field recorders, including the the Marantz 671, Marantz 660 and the Edirol R1 among others.

Basically, they panned the Marantz 671 (successor to the 670, which I love) for having firmware issues causing the mic preamps to be noisy. The Edirol R1 came out on top of the two Marantz units. Though I would really call the article a “introduction” to field recording. They do not list exactly what they tried to record, and with what. We all know that the microphone is key to getting a good recording.

I would totally recommend the Marantz 670. I used it this weekend and got some great recordings putting it about 6 feet infront and 7 feet above the band. Of course using my Rode NT4 mic (awesome piece that it is).

I imagine the issues with the 671 have been fixed. I would take the EM article with some grains of salt. The reviewer used these units to record a snare drum (why??), the “ambience in a suburban neighborhood” (um, ok), and dialog. Ok, great tests there. NOT.

Oh, and EM was reporting, like it was news, that Sony introduced a new format called MiHD. Um, guys, these things have been out for OVER A YEAR. Get with the program!

Valgon Rings

The latest issue of Flute Talk had an Ad on page 37 for Valgon Rings. No no, this is not a strange Star Trek device, nor is it related to the Vogon’s, whom destroyed Earth in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. These rings seem to be a serious thing. To quote the ad:

"The Valgon Rings control and stabilize the oscillating air column on the outside of your instrument, resulting in significant improvement in your instruments response."

The website has a mere two endorsements, one from a Doctor at the University of Florida (flute), and some saxophonist named Colleen Allen who, they say, plays with Molly Johnson (?).

Anyhow, the saxophone version seems to be two “rings”, one that goes around the bell, and one that goes around the neck. Not sure the physics of this. Could it be that these rings are converting a saxophone’s sound to be more direct, and hence a “better” sound?

I think if you wanted to do it right, someone should invent some sort of scoup that runs the length of the saxophone. Something that would take the reflected soundwaves from the pads, and focus them forward. But hey, the easiest solution is to put on a reed and/or a mouthpiece that has more bite to it 😉

Keeping Track Of Your Stuff

Being a musician, one tends to gather a lot of “things”. CDs, books, magazine articles, posters, pictures, autographs, etc, etc, etc. How do you keep track of all them?

If you decided to “rip” all your CDs to a program like iTunes, then you have a nice, easy to use list of what you have. But what if you DO NOT or CAN NOT rip all your CDs. Like you don’t have the space, nor really want to have all your stuff on the computer? And what about books?

One answer on the Macintosh is Delicious Library. Using UPC codes found on most everything, it can easily catalog your “stuff”. However, there are some problems……

First, Delicious Library is not the only product out there that can look up and catalog items. Bookpedia, Media Collector, and probably a myriad of other programs on both the Mac and PC. Most all these use some sort of Database to look up the UPC or ISBN numbers off the book. Delicious Library uses Amazon.com to look them up. Some of the other programs can use other databases to look stuff up. Is it necessary? Perhaps…..

Delicious Library can use a bluetooth (ie: wireless) scanner to scan in UPC codes. This works GREAT. It’s very cool. And a HUGE time saver if you have a lot of “stuff” like I do. To scan 200 DVDs, it took about 15 minutes. To scan a couple hundred CDs (451), about 30 minutes. All wirelessly, all right to the computer. However….

Not everything has a UPC code. And not everything has a UPC code that can be found off Amazon.com. If you are part of BMG Jazz club you get CDs that don’t have a standard UPC code. It has some sort of BMG code on it. Resulting in a failed lookup on Amazon. But if it does have a UPC code, it works very very well. CDs I bought in the 90s work. Delicious Library finds it, adds the album art, and info to your collection. Easy.

Books are a mess. 9 times out of 10 the UPC code failed to find the book. However, ISBN numbers 9 times out of 10 WORKED. But you have to enter the ISBN number manually. That is a pain. But it works usually.

Hal Leonard sucks. Just 90% of the books I have from them, have their own custom UPC or they fail to be looked up properly. Shame on you Hal Leonard. If the book has an ISBN, it seems to work mostly. Oh…..and Warner Brothers. You guys are in the same boat. Get the UPCs happening.

Aebersold. Aebersold does not seem to have UPC codes at all. None of the books I own have a UPC. Books like “Around The Horn”, “The Augmented Jazz Scale”, etc have NOTHING. No ISBN, nada. I do think my latest purchase from Aebersold, Vol. 112 – Cole Porter has a UPC on it. It was not found on Amazon.

I’m not going to mention all the other pieces of Music I have that have nothing on it. All those classical Sonatas for Flute/Clarinet/Sax, etc. These are all manual entry things. Not fun.

For people with a lot of stuff that can be bar code read, programs like Delicious Library rock. However, if you have stuff that is NOT bar-coded nor have ISBN numbers, this program is pretty much useless for you. I think if this program could create a printable bar code and increment it, that would make the program 50 times more useable. Or even if it printed a UPC for items (like Books) where the UPC isn’t found. Then this program would be an elegant, functional organizer.

M.I.P.A. Winners

mipa Musikmesse International Press Award 2005 posted its winners. Some of the highlights:

  • Best Innovative Product – Apple GarageBand
  • Best E-Drums – Roland TD-12 V-Drums
  • Sound Libraries – Apple Jam Pack (though I’ve heard Garritan Personal Orchestra, and it’s amazing)
  • Mixing Desk (Project Studio) – Yamaha DM-2000 (beat the Mackie Onyx 1640…interesting, though the Yamaha’s list price is $20K compared to about $1800 for the Onyx 1640)
  • Studio Microphone – AKG-C414 B-XLII
  • Recording Software – Cakewalk Sonar 4 (beating out Logic 7 and Ableton Live 4)
  • Recording I/O Devices – MOTU 828 MkII
  • Recording Hardware – Digidesign Protools HD (no surprise)