Useful Machine for Teachers and Community Musicians

I recently purchased a Roland CD-2e recorder and it’s just the sort of kit I love – compact and versatile, it’s a real ‘instrumental teacher’s companion’.

┬áIt’s primary function is as a portable 2-track (Stereo), direct-to-CD, recording device. There are two internal microphones, or external mics can be connected. It also has LINE input for keyboards, cassette-decks, etc.. You can record either to CD or to an SD card (up to 8GB). It comes with a 512MB card which will record up to 46 minutes of audio. The machine is powered by 6 x AA batteries or the supplied AC adaptor. Mains power is required for operation in CD mode.

For people, like me, who have fought a losing battle with microphones and soundcards to make recordings in lessons, it’s a real boon! Recording couldn’t be simpler and, while the purists can fiddle with placement of the unit or external microphones and settings, it produces excellent results when it’s simply plonked down near the players and Record and Play are pressed on the remote control. It automatically records in the next available slot. This will be great in a workshop situation, where I will be able to make recordings without interrupting the flow in order to fiddle with equipment. The Menu offers a number of “Convenient Functions for Recording”, including “Automatically Starting Recording When Audio Is Detected” and “Inserting a Count Before Recording Begins”.

In addition to accommodating transposing instruments, the option in much MIDI software to change the key of playback has proved a useful accessibilty tool in many other situations. Now, with the CD-2e, I can treat audio in the same way. In addition to changing key, pitch can be adjusted and the tempo slowed down. Other useful functions are a tuner and “Center Cancel”. The latter cancels the portion of the sound that is heard in the centre of the stereo image, such as the main vocal, making it less audible. In this way, the user can enjoy simple karaoke or practise singing or playing an instrument with a commercially-recorded backing.

Have Fun With MIDI!

With so much emphasis on downloading audio to play on iPods, mp3 players, etc., many people who have discovered online music only recently are unaware of the fun and usefulness that can be derived from the many free MIDI resources available.

In order to play music in MIDI format or to use simple music software, most basic users have no more need to know anything about the technicalities of MIDI than Internet Explorer users have to grasp internet protocols befiore they can go browsing. Suffice it to say that MIDI is a ‘language’ in which music instruments and devices which control them can communicate. Very often, this communication takes place without the user being aware that the sounds emerging from the computer are in this format. Games and music played by simple software send MIDI messages to the soundcard, which automatically interprets and performs them, through its in-built sounds. Since midifiles (they have the .mid extension) only contain instructions for playing the music, not the sounds themselves, they are very small. Even if you only have a tiny hard drive, you will be able to save thousands of them!

Nearly all computer operating systems have a default media player installed which plays any midifile you click on. There are hundreds of sites where you can play, or download, files in practically any genre. (If you’d like more information about playing/downloading, Check back -I’ll post a link when I get an opportunity to upload the relevant article.)

Probably the best, and most useful, player for beginners is VanBasco’s Karaoke Player. This plays .mid and .kar files. The .kar files have lyrics which can be displayed by the player. Volume, key and speed of playback can be adjusted and playlists created. This has lots of potential, both for home use and for use in community/classroom situations. On the VanBasco site, there is lots of helpful information, including how to combine playback with live recording of a vocal. It is a great place to begin an exploration of MIDI on the web. www.vanbasco.com


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Get vanBasco’s Karaoke Player NOW – totally FREE!

If you’re feeling more adventurous and you’d like to get into creating your own MIDI or Karaoke files, the free Anvil Studio software looks user-friendly. there are several ways of inputting music. Notes can be entered on a stave, by means of an onscreen music keyboard or guitar frets. It allows the mixing of MIDI and audio tracks. You can download it at www.AnvilStudio.com.

Music and Communication

Do you like my new blog template! Many thanks to Patricia Muller for this! (see link at foot of page) It’s called “Connections.” I love the graphic, which seems so richly symbolic. I may change it when I integrate this blog with my website but, for now, I’m greatly enjoying it.

Connections/communications are, of course, what a blog is all about. They’re also what music is all about. In a shared experience of music, diverse people can be connected to one another in a way that transcends barriers of language, intellectual ability and life experience. This is why I’m writing this blog and why I’ve spent most of my available time over the last four years running a website aimed at promoting creative and inclusive music. Someone asked me recently, “There’s a lot of mention of inclusive music on your site, but what does it mean?”

‘Inclusion’is a somewhat ‘dirty’ word, at the moment: people have come to equate the term with a political correctness that insists that everyone must be able to do the same thing, at the same time. I certainly don’t mean that ‘high-flyers’ should have their wings clipped and be held back by the pace of slow-learners, nor do I mean that those who need special provision should be placed in a mainstream setting when this has a negative effect on their performance or on that of the majority.

What do I mean, then? Well, the glorious truth is that in music people can participate or respond, each on their own personal level. As a teacher and facilitator, I have been responsible for providing music-making opportunities for adults, including former professional musicians who have been struck down by disability and, at the other end of the spectrum, for young children, and for younsters with profound and multiple learning difficulties. I found that I could use the same musical materials with all of them. It was as though the music were stored in a box, to which each had an individual code and it was my job to help them open the box. There was no need for ‘special’ music and it was impossible to predict what their preferences would be.

Yes, music is a great way in which to connect with people and the web is a great meeting place in which these connections can be made. Blog on!

(In case you’re as new to this as I am, to leave a comment, click on ‘0 Comments’ or ‘xx Comments’ at the top of this post and you will find the submission form. I look forward to connecting with you!)