Category Archives: Articles

General Saxophone related articles, opinions, questions, etc, etc

Finale Productivity

When the author of the Finale Productivity package died last year, it was a shock. Bill was a great guy to email back and forth with, and I’m sorry I didn’t save every email we exchanged. He was very insightful about how things should look, and how to be clear on with music notation. Bill developed templates, fonts, and processes for Finale and sold them to people who wanted to make their music “engraver quality”. One of the last projects he completed was a Articulations font which addressed the LACK of articulations available in a traditional (ie: Finale’s Maestro) font. Bill’s articulations font looks great with Maestro, and has a complete set of articulations that one would need for any modern music notation (scoops, bends, falls). It looks great.

Then Bill left us, and it seemed his invaluable package of fonts, templates, insights, and processes would be lost.

Luckily, the rights to sell it were bought by NPC Imaging and is available here. I think Bill would be very happy to see that his efforts are living on. And I hope there will be continued work on the package in the future.

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).

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

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.

SmartMusic 10 M.I.A.

For months, MakeMusic has been saying SmartMusic 10 is coming. The amount of hype they have been making is akin to Microsoft and it’s “new” Vista operating system. MakeMusic hasn’t even updated the current version of SmartMusic to handle files generated by Finale 2007 which was released way back in August. To create files, you need to have 2006 still installed on your computer.

The other day, I received a packet from MakeMusic. I was shocked. It looked like SmartMusic 10 had been release. Alas, it was not. Instead of spending money getting the stupid program out, they chose to spend quite a bit of money to continue the “hype” of the vaporware SmartMusic 10. This packet probably cost $10 to put together. Perhaps more.

Let us examine the contents of this “hype” package….

First Continue reading SmartMusic 10 M.I.A.

Running Band in A Box Under Parallels

Ok, so we all know that the latest Macs all run Intel processors. You might have heard of an Apple Beta program called Boot Camp where you can get your Mac to boot up as a *shutter* Windows XP computer. You might also have heard of a program Parallels that lets you mitigate Windows to just a Window. Well, if you take the two programs, and add in Band in a Box 2007 for PC, you get a very functional program that runs pretty flawlessly.

Yes, Virginia, it works fine….

Ok, so, first off, you need to download Boot Camp, and get Microsoft Windows XP Pro with Service Pack 2. Not Vista. Vista, as of right now, works fine in Boot Camp (IE: Dedicating the whole machine to it), but has a lot of issues with Parallels. Boot Camp is picky, and you need to have Service Pack 2.

Now, having Continue reading Running Band in A Box Under Parallels

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….

Tweaking Smart Music On The Mac

I have a love/hate relationship with MakeMusic’s Smartmusic. First, the love part. I love that it has a lot of backgrounds for classical etudes, and you can slow them down, tweak the key, etc. You can even record yourself with it, though the quality and the mixing of the resulting recording is not great at all.

Hate part. They tether you to the computer. Personally, I hate looking at a computer monitor all day, and for music. I like to have music stretched out on my stand. 3 Pages sometimes. A lot of stuff, including the jazz stuff in Smartmusic, is screen only. While I can understand copyright issues for songs, for simple little jazz patterns I don’t. Why not let people print them?

Anyhow, the Continue reading Tweaking Smart Music On The Mac

YouTube Jazz Videos

You’ve probably heard of YouTube. I’d say, it’s kind of like Napster of almost 10 years ago. People post all kinds of videos there, some are legal, some not (TV Shows, probably some of these videos, etc).

Anyhow, there are a number of great Jazz videos there. Do a search of Coltrane, or Michael Brecker. There are some fantastic videos there, even a recent one of Michael playing a new EWI. So go over to YouTube, and type in the name of a few of your favorite musicians. I’m sure you’ll find a good clip there. I’m still looking for a good clip of Quincy Jones (on Sat Nite Live) doing Manteca with Michael Brecker.

On a related note, if you like the video a LOT, you can download a program like PodTube to have it on your iPod.

Update: 08/28 18:30 GMT by E :Here are some of my favorites so far:

And a whole lot more.

Real Book Listening Project

I came across an interesting site. Real Book Listen. The goal is to provide links to audio clips of the songs found in the Hal Leonard Real Book (the one that was “illegal” about 10 years ago, and now is “legal”).

It’s a good idea, especially the iTunes links. I think the author should have included links to Emusic as well as they have a lot of classic Jazz available there.

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.