So you bought a guitar (or bass, or drum kit). Now what? Back in my day, there were several popular ways to learn how to play. You could take lessons, which was probably the quickest way to get to basic competence, but seemed short on creativity and punk-rock DIY spirit. You could play along to CDs by your favorite bands, which was slow, error-prone, and frustrating, but balanced by occasional moments of "a ha" enlightenment. (This is how I did it, playing along to Led Zeppelin, which were the only CDs I had in my possession after a … Read more
It's the law of entropy: as your digital music collection increases, you're bound to run into mislabeled songs, duplicate tracks in multiple file formats, and other problems. Apple's iTunes does a fine job of displaying song data and letting you edit it--as long as the song's in a format that iTunes supports (if you try to import a WMA file, for instance, iTunes will ask if you want to convert it first). Microsoft's Windows Media Player has an advanced tag editor, but it's buried a few menu options down, and it only lists songs … Read more
When Guitar Hero or Rock Band come up in conversation, I always feel a little like Stan's dad in this recent episode of South Park (fast forward to 0:45 if you're in a hurry).
I feel a little better since yesterday, when Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein published her review of Rock Band in Slate, in which she compares playing Rock Band with playing in a rock band. It's a fun read, so I won't summarize it here, but the following quote pretty much nails it for me: "And, really, if you are going to … Read more
Speaking of Zeroes and Ones...
Among audiophiles, the analog vs. digital debate rages without end. I, like a lot of other musicians and music fans, have my own preferences--I own many more LPs than CDs, and have paid dearly to record some of my bands' music onto 2-inch tape instead of direct to hard drive. But included in those preferences are some preconceptions. You've heard it before: digital music sounds "colder" or "cleaner" or "more sterile" because it's delivering a stream of 0s and 1s, instead of a pure sound wave. Or something like that.
Audio professionals don't use terms like these, largely because they're subjective and imprecise, and sometimes inaccurate. Recently, one of these professionals presented the best explanation of analog vs. digital sound that I've ever heard. Here's a super-condensed version of an already simplified explanation.… Read more
Last night, my audio production class took a field trip to local studio Glenn Sound for a brief introduction to miking technique: which microhpones to use for a particular sound, where and how to place them, and so on. It wasn't completely foreign to me--I've recorded in probably a dozen studios, but always on the clock and paying by the hour, and audio engineers tend to shrug off poorly-phrased technical questions in favor of showing you the end result.
One of the demonstrations showed us how different distances between microphone and source can give you different sounds. Most … Read more
Last night, I started a professional audio production program at the University of Washington Extension. There are about 40 students in the class. A half dozen or so are like me--in our 30s or older, with full-time careers outside the music industry, but with a longtime interest in recording and a lot of experience writing and playing music.
But most are full-time students, or between college and graduate school, and are expecting to make a career in the music industry. Some of these kids are frighteningly single-minded--there's an 18-year-old who's been messing around with recording software since he … Read more