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Issue 168

Topics    News    User Reviews    Forums    Articles    Videos    Classifieds

Dear Musician,

Using Gear for Good. After paying for yet another unforeseen auto repair (are there any other kind?), I found myself envious of the car mechanics who probably never pay full price to have their own cars fixed. When they need to replace their rusted rear shocks (as was the case for me), they simply do it themselves. Sure, they have to pay for parts, but they use their own expertise to save themselves a bundle of cash by not having to incur expensive labor costs.

So I got to thinking how I could apply my own musical skills in that way. Could I offer a useful service that someone would normally pay high prices for? (And I'm not talking about being hired as a performer.) On the gear front, I thought of an example right away: Several times I have donated the use of my portable P.A. and wireless microphone rig to events like the local street fair or Cub Scout pinewood derby contest. But recently I had to apply actual expertise, along with my equipment, for a task that would have cost a non-musician “civilian” an arm and leg in service fees.

DM\_168.jpgMy elderly neighbor had three vinyl albums he wanted converted to CDs. He loved the music on these decades-old records, but playing them on a turntable was no longer an option. We’ve known each other for years, so when he asked me if I knew of or could recommend a service that would transfer vinyl to CD, I told him I’d do the job myself for free. He was amazed that a “musician” (as opposed to a "lab," I guess) could do this, and at first he declined the offer, saying he didn’t want to inconvenience me. (He also didn’t want me to think he was hinting for a favor, which I knew he wasn’t.) I reassured him it was no bother because the process was simple: you hook up a turntable to the computer, drop the needle, walk away, and let the whole side play. While recording the music, the software auto-senses the gaps and divides up the LP’s bands into corresponding digital files. Flip the LP, repeat for Side B, and you’re done. Then you just burn the auto-separated tracks to a CD—which takes less than 3 minutes.

“It’s that easy?” he asked, incredulously.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s not like I have to monitor every step in real time or anything.”

I was telling the truth, because the software that comes with my Ion USB Turntable does just that. But when I started the process, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy. For one thing, in a CD track, you want no time gap from the start of the track to the first note of music. Where you do want silence is at the end of the track—about 2 or 3 seconds’ worth. This ensures that you still hear a pause between tracks, but if you decide to select tracks out of sequence, the music plays instantly (which is what you want). The auto-sensing software wasn’t cutting it in that department.

The second problem was that, though the software captured the sound and converted it to CD-burnable 16-bit/44.1kHz wave files, the raw sound was pretty bad. It was crackly and lacked low end. I realized that through my restoration software (iZotope RX 2) and my various EQ plug-ins, I had more than enough resources to make the tracks sound much better if I simply ran them through my DAW. But then the automation options—along with the convenience—went out the window. This was now becoming “a job,” and not a “quickie, low-impact favor,” because of my own pesky standards.

No matter. I did the right thing and manually edited each track on my DAW, being selective and specific in the way I applied restoration strength, EQ, and normalizing (as long as I was doing these other things anyway). It took me a bit of time, but the results were far better than if I’d just “dropped the needle” (as I told my friend I would do).

For extra credit, I wanted to scan the album cover images and insert them in the jewel case covers, but realized that my 8.5" x 11" scanner bed wouldn’t accommodate a 12" x 12" album cover. By doing a little research, though, I found that my image-editing program (Adobe Photoshop) can stitch together separate scans of an image seamlessly, as long as there's an overlapping region. The process is so simple that point-and-shoot cameras include this “stitching” feature internally, as “panorama” mode. It’s dead simple, quick (like, two keystrokes), and the results are completely undetectable. So in taking on a favor, I actually learned something new. As a bonus, I got to hear some unusual music: vintage Spanish bullfighting instrumentals.

My neighbor was delighted beyond expectation to get back not only the CDs, but artwork in the jewel cases, and neatly typed-up track listings (couldn’t scrimp on that last step). For my part, I was happy to have helped a friend who would have otherwise paid a lot if he’d simply “opened the yellow pages.” As a collateral benefit, I had honed my vinyl-restoration skills and picked up a nifty trick in transferring LP album art to CD jewel cases. And though I had undertaken this project as a favor, I realized I could now probably advertise my services on the open market. Because I think I just heard my brakes squealing.

Jon Chappell

This Week on HC

Configure Your Forum Settings to Notify You on Thread Updates

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The HC Forums are a great way to read about topics that interest you, or to join in and get your voice heard on a particular issue, or to get a specific problem solved. It’s this last scenario where the Forums can be of particular help, because so many knowledgeable people come to HC to help their fellow musicians.

To get the maximum benefit of “crowd sourcing” (that is, tapping the collective wisdom of the HC Community), be sure to consider carefully which forum to post your question. (Don’t post it in multiple forums: That’s a breach of forum etiquette known as “cross-posting.”) Make you opening thread title meaningful rather than saying just “Need help!” It helps to make it succinct as possible, too, so people can read it without resizing their windows.

But the best part about either posting in a thread, or finding a thread dealing with your exact problem is that you can subscribe to the thread. That means that any responses trigger an email alert, sent to the email address you set up in your preferences. This way, you don’t have to be paying attention, or have to remember to check the forum periodically for new posts. The alert does it for you, by pinging your email. Even better, the email includes a link both to the thread and to the new post.

To subscribe to a thread, click on Settings on the top right of the Forum main page. On the left-hand column, go down to My Settings/My Account/General Settings. After clicking on General Settings, look at the second heading, Messaging & Notification. In the row marked Default Thread Subscription Mode, the pull-down menu should be showing the selection that reads “Instantly, using email.” Read the text below, which explains the setting: “When you post a new thread, or reply to a topic, you can choose to automatically add that thread to your list of subscribed threads, with the option to receive email notification of new replies to that thread.”

That’s exactly what you want: to be notified any time a new post comes through for a thread you’ve contributed to. Make sure that the email address you’ve entered in My Profile is one of the accounts that you also have included on your mobile device. That way you can stay informed no matter where you are in your busy day, and always be connected to the HC Forums.

Featured Articles

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Review

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Lexicon MPX Native Reverb

By Phil O'Keefe

Lexicon's classic reverb is now available as an affordable plug-in

Technique

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By Jon Chappell

DAWs offer two different ways to apply effects momentarily: plug-in automation and track adding

Technique

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Curves of Steal: Fabulous Frequency Felons

By Craig Anderton

Pssst, want an EQ curve? Used only once on a hit? Here's the story on curve-matching software

Hot Tip!

Convert Stereo to Mono on Your Mobile Music Player

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It might not come up that often for the general listening public, but for musicians there are many opportunities when listening to stereo music played back in mono is necessary. For one thing, you might want to do a “sum to mono” check of your mixdowns, which insures that if your stereo tracks are for some reason converted to mono, they’ll still sound good. Rather than create a separate mix that includes mono versions of each of your files, you can check their mono compatibility simply by putting your mobile listening device (smartphone, tablet, iPod touch, etc.) into mono mode.

Mono mode is handy for people with hearing damage in one ear, allowing them to hear all the parts. Another reason to listen in mono is for early stereo recordings where key instruments and voices were panned hard left or hard right (think early Beatles albums). It’s especially distracting when listening to hard-panned music over headphones (as opposed to speakers where bleed from the left and right channels feed both ears), which the engineers never imagined. But with earbud-equipped devices being the most popular means of playback these days, a mono function helps normalize the listening experience.

Be sure to investigate your player’s settings for the mono functionality. On an iOS device, it’s found not in the options for the music player, but unintuitively buried in Settings/General/Accessibility/Hearing (see image left).

—Jon Chappell


Featured Industry News

This week's pick hits from our News section

Peavey MuseBox Virtual Instrument and Effects Module

Line 6 Ships New XD-V55 Digital Wireless Microphone Systems

Csound Power! Instructional Resource Book Distributed by Alfred Music Publishing

Hal Leonard Publishes The Power in Logic Pro

MOTU MicroBook II Now Shipping

Ableton Releases New Partner Instrument: Electric Pianos by Soniccouture

American DJ Introduces 4 Low-Profile Professional LED Pars

G Sonique Releases Moonitor MSX5 Headphone Monitoring System

Korg Releases iKaossilator v2.1

Native Instruments Introduces Skanner XT

Forum Watch
A few of this week's top discussions from our Forums


Pedalboard Potpourri

Feast your eyes on these pedalboard photos, ranging from high-tech to low, deluxe to guerrilla. Many of the posters don’t caption the pedals in their photos, so part of the fun is seeing how many you can name. And even when you can identify a pedal, you still have to know what it does. For example, one poster claims—and another concurs—that his rare Boss SG-1 Slow Gear is the coolest pedal in his board. Anyone know what that pedal does?

Your Favorite Mic—and Why . . .

The Effects forum discusses their favorite microphones—which is a pretty wide range of models—and the reasons for liking them. Even better, you’ll find several mic application tips.

Best Movie Score Ever!

Who better to ask than keyboard players? But the cool thing about this thread is many posters back up their opinions with video embeds so you can hear what’s special about a particular soundtrack.

Richard Gere’s Guitar Collection

Here's something that’s well worth checking out—actor Richard Gere’s guitar collection will impress all but the most seasoned and well-heeled collector, and his obvious love for the instrument and extensive knowledge may surprise you.

How Many Here Use Weirdass Effects on Bass?

From distortion to envelope filters to ring modulators, there’s more to bass effects than EQ—and it turns out the Bass forumites have some pretty eclectic tastes.

Fingernail Care for Electric Guitarists

If you’re going to articulate the strings with your right-hand fingers—the way Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, Derek Trucks, and Lindsey Buckingham do—you’re going to have to get familiar with nail care. This forum covers all the current and popular nail-strengthening and maintenance solutions, including gels, fiberglass tape, cyanoacrylate (“super”) glue, resin, and even ping-pong balls.

Hot Pro Reviews

The Pro Reviews section continues to rack up the page views and participation—partly because of the two latest (Casio XW-P1 and Line 6 “Dream Rig”), but also because interest continues in the other ones. In particular, the DigiTech iPB-10 Pro Review is becoming a sort of resource center . . . want to know the best carrying case for it? Find out here.

“Toy” MIDI Guitar Controllers?

They’re not guitars, but the YouRock Guitar YRG-1000 and Rock Band 3 Wireless Fender Mustang PRO-Guitar Controller let you use guitar-type playing gestures to trigger MIDI synths. And, they’re inexpensive. But can they really do the job? Depends on who you ask, and both the pros and cons are on display here.

Help Me “Get” Tom Waits

120 posts and 7,300+ page views?!? This thread gets into Tom Waits . . . and uncharted territory.

Am I the Only One Who Uses Only One Drum Kit and One Set of Cymbals for All Types of Gigs?

Interesting question, and while he’s definitely not the only one, this thread has useful tips for drummers on when you can—and can’t—get away with a single drum kit for different gigs.

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EditoriaCraig Anderton, Editor in Chief • Jon Chappell, Senior Editor • Phil O’Keefe, Associate Editor • Chris Loeffler, Reviews Editor

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