Category Archives: General

Variegated Plate

Wonder what this might be?

Coming soon...
Coming soon…

var·i·e·gat·ed
ˈver(ē)əˌɡādəd/
adjective
1) exhibiting different colors, especially as irregular patches or streaks.
Botany: (of a plant or foliage) having or consisting of leaves that are edged or patterned in a second color, especially white as well as green.
2) marked by variety.

Think definition number 2. Coming soon…….

Organ concerts – behind the scenes

On May 3rd, 2015 I was one of two performers at a 2-organ concert. It is unusual these days to have a single organ concert, let alone one that features 2 organs. The location of the concert was a small church in the small town of Micanopy, FL (population 600). The building can hold a very uncomfortable 75, maybe 100. The following video was shot by an audience member and is not the greatest video, but it’s all I’ve got:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OSZLUGeWJE&w=420&h=315]

The 2nd organ was installed on Thursday and modifications were made to the existing organ as well. As of early Sunday morning there were serious doubts whether the existing organ would be working as it should for the concert.

To back up a bit, one should know something about the building itself. Due to the size of the building, a pipe organ of any size that would be practical for the needs of the church is out of the question, so there is an electronic organ in the building. It is a good sounding organ based on sampling technology. The organ also has 2 sound modules attached via MIDI.

The concert itself went very well, in spite of the problems you will read about below. We adjusted the pews (which are not attached to the floors) so that the front half of pews faced on another facing the center aisle. In the back, 3 pews on one side faced forward, the other 3 faced backwards and there was one pew against the wall allowing for a view of the console and feet of the installed organ. The temporary organ was placed across the center aisle as far forward as one could go without getting into the church’s altar area. The idea was that people could see both organists if seated up front and/or just one or the other organist when seated in the back seats.

Needless to say, a temporary organ will not be a pipe organ either.  In this case it was what I would call a modern theater organ. The available sounds were not sounds one would normally associate with church music. It was almost like having an orchestra at one’s fingertips. As you might imagine, setting it up and getting it to sound good would take some time.

The existing organ, only installed about 2 years ago, was working fine. However, the initial installation had been a bit of an experiment regarding the antiphonal speakers. The guest organist, the theater organist was also the person who installed the church’s existing organ. He decided, with my approval, to change what sounds go to which speakers.

The organ has 6-channel outputs and we also have two sound modules, one an organ sound module and the other a Korg orchestral sound module. All controlled by MIDI. The organ module had been modified from stereo out to a 3-channel (each stereo) output. We have two sets of speakers (separate channels) in the back near the organ and another set at the front of the church (opposite side from the organ, the antiphonal speakers). We changed the routing of the various outputs of the organ and the 2 modules to different speakers. All of the organ went to the speakers near the organ up on the wall. Some to the top speakers, some to the bottom speakers. (Prior to this, all of the swell went to the antiphonal speakers). The Korg module now comes out of the front (antiphonal) speakers as does the Division B of the organ module. Changing the outputs, which involved many changes to cables, mixers and software configurations ended up taking about 6 hours on Thursday. As we left that evening, everything sounded good, much better than before.

I came in on Friday to practice. I loaded up some presets/pistons and almost got blasted off the organ bench. The external organ module was not being heard from the correct channels and was much louder than it had been on Thursday. It was not useable as it was. On Saturday around 6pm the organ installer/technician is back. We discover that the modifications to the organ module were not working. (At least that’s our best guess right now). We had to re-do the output of it in order to get things the way we wanted. Then on Sunday morning nothing is coming out of the organ module. So, we determine the organ module’s modified outputs are bad and are affecting the original outputs. Fortunately we were able to get it to work for the concert. And it did. The last I’ve heard is he will take the module and repair it so at least the original outputs work. We set the different divisions to mono outputs and routed Division B to the right side that led to the antiphonal speakers. The rest of the outputs went to the left and the speakers by the organ.

As to the program itself, I played the first half and the guest organist did the next half (and then some). It was decided that I would do more traditional organ music. I did a variety of classical music and hymn arrangements. The guest organist did mostly orchestral transcriptions and popular music with a few hymn tunes thrown in, but with orchestral sounds.

For a town of 600, we were quite happy to have the 40 or so people come out to view the program. The audience seems to have really enjoyed it. The church is anticipating a concert series for the 2015/2016 season (Sep through May).

If you are in Micanopy, FL, – a great place to visit to see ‘old’ Florida & where the movie Doc Hollywood was filmed – stop by the Church of the Mediator, across from the Herlong mansion some Sunday morning and hear the organ.

 

Cubase DAW evaluation

It is always good advice not to switch to a different DAW if you are comfortable and familiar with another one. And, if you aren’t getting the sound you want from the DAW, spend the time learning that DAW before considering switching. Even so, sometimes it’s worth looking at other DAWs if they have a ‘really want’ feature that yours doesn’t or to get ideas of other ways to do things in your current daw.

So I got a copy of Cubase 6 LE as a ‘freebie’ with another product I bought. I know it’s not the latest version of the software nor is it as feature rich as the ‘pro’ version but the midi score editing capability was enough to get me to try it. I also wanted to see the workflow and if the visual is any better than what I’m using. I even watched some tutorial videos so I wouldn’t be completely lost.

I’m not out to start a ‘my DAW is better than yours’ war’. If you like what you use, keep using it. Unless you’re just starting out, you have too much invested to change now.

In my opinion, the workflow of Cubase is more difficult than my current daw. There were a few midi features that were better but not enough reason to switch. The midi music notation editing feature that I most wanted to see was not good. I’ll take PG Music’s Band in a Box (or RealTracks) notation editor over this any day. (For the record, I use Sibelius 7 to create scores then export to midi or play the midi into my daw).

Not that I was seriously considering changing but I will definitely be sticking to my current DAW along with Komplete Ultimate. The DAW I use is the $60 full-featured DAW that even pro-tools professionals have switched to. That is Reaper.

So, Cubase users, any reason I should go back and take another look at it? What is it that made you decide on it rather than something else? Does the latest version have a better interface and workflow than 6?

The piano is dead?

Just an article to get the mind thinking. I’d love to hear some insightful comments on this subject.

Are people learning to play the piano enough to keep the piano going as a popular instrument? Is it becoming like the pipe organ or electronic keyboards/synthesizers, all instruments played by a small percentage of musicians?

Is the future of music in technology? Is music moving to the point where one uses a midi controller (either a keyboard like instrument or a drum pad like Maschine) to produce a loop that is then played by pushing a button on a machine or computer (like an iphone/ipad)? Most music heard today by the majority of people is electronic based music. You may love classical music or live music without processing, but that’s the minority. Even if there is a live guitar player, it is unlikely that it hasn’t been processed by something, whether through an electric guitar amp or a foot pedal or computer based effects. Most TV & film music uses electronic samples (recordings) of instruments. Most live performances, like the large big-name touring artists give have pre-recorded elements as part of the performance. Even the voices are manipulated to make the singer stay in tune. One can half-way learn an instrument, record the bits and pieces, manipulate it in a computer and make it sound like a virtuoso. They then go on stage and play that recording – which I give them credit is something they created – while playing very simple parts. Is the need to learn an instrument really necessary?

If you can put together decent sounding material and play it back through a decent sound system while appearing to perform (like a DJ does), is that not sufficient? Over time as you create the raw material you would naturally become more proficient in your instrument. It would take much longer than in traditional lessons, but you’d still learn. Besides, you can rely on the technology to present a product that people like and that’s what matters.

I ask this because my main livelihood is as a piano teacher, apparently a career that is going the way of the dinosaur. I was shown an article in an actual printed paper (Gainesville, FL Sun 1/3/2015 issue) that said that Piano sales are way down and that fewer & fewer parents want their kids to learn piano. The reasons apparently vary between the appeal of learning computers and technology (eg video games) and the, in my opinion, misguided idea that team sports is preferable to music. I’ve lost many a student to sports and it always seems to be the ones that really should stick in music that go off to sports. It makes me wonder if I should switch to teaching how to use drum machines, music notation/composing software, home recording, etc? Would parents or potential students be more interested in that?

I could write volumes on why team sports is not as good for kids in the long run as taking music lessons. I can’t help but think of the quote from “1984” that goes “Films, football, beer, and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult….” I would paraphrase that to say “Entertainment, alcohol, gambling and above all else, sports captured everyone’s attention so controlling and manipulating, misleading, spying on and taking advantage of society was easy.” (Entertainment being things like Films, TV, YouTube, twitter, etc.). But much better authors than me have pointed out the fallacies of focusing on sports for children. Unfortunately, the parents making the decisions about music lessons don’t listen or don’t care about those facts.

Even if sports were not a big distraction for children & parents, would the side of technology that makes it far to easy to produce music that sounds good be sufficient reason for people not to take serious music lessons? What should a piano or music teacher do if the field of learning a specific instrument is dead or dying?

Comments, ideas? Please share.

Website update

Website update

I’ve made some major changes to the website in the past two months. Visit JamesGilbertMusic.com to see all the changes.

More free music

In the process of getting rid of collections (see below), I decided to move several titles to the free category (listed at the bottom of the music catalog pages). As an example, all of the instrumental hymn improvisations are now available for free.

Singles – no collections

Most print publishers sell music in collections. Multiple titles contained within one book. Overall it is cheaper per piece for the customer. But, in my experience, the collection contains to many titles I didn’t want to buy but were forced to. When I first started the website, I only sold music as single titles. A little over a year ago (I think) I switched to collections for most everything. Thanks to your feedback, I’ve learned that online customers just want to purchase a single title.

Almost everything on the site is now available as a single title. What collections there are will disappear soon to be replaced by singles.

Albums, singles, EP and audio recordings in general

I’ve been an active contributor to SoundCloud and have announced my uploads via Twitter, this blog, facebook and the like. However, on the website, all I had was a link to my SoundCloud page. Also, I have several singles and now 2 EPs (only) on GooglePlay. Those are mentioned on the website’s main page, but nowhere else. I’ve updated the sheet music catalog to include those in the listings with links to the two sites. For most of 2014 my recordings have only been available via online sources other than my website. For various reasons that is best for me and will continue to be that way. Those include CD-Baby, Amazon, GooglePlay and Spotify as well as various online streaming sites.

New titles

I’ve added several new titles to the sheet music catalog. Click on the New Titles icon to see all of them.

Better Icons

At least I hope they are better. I updated the graphics on the music catalog page to make it easier to read. I also added and updated a few on the main page.
Other places you can find us on the internet:


Twitter

YouTube

SoundCloud

CD-Baby

Amazon Artist Page

iTunes

Amazon Kindle

Nook

Google Music

How do you listen to music

Please let me know in the comments or on twitter how you listen to music.

Listening to music

Why I’m asking this question.
I noticed in my collection of computer “junk” that I had a speaker system of a powered sub-woofer and three speakers. They were from a 2006 era computer. The sub-woofer is good, but the other speakers are not high-quality. I couldn’t remember why I wasn’t using them with my current system other than I have some nice near-field monitors. (But they don’t do low end well).

I hooked the system up and they sounded nice. The low end was a dramatic improvement over my current setup. But, after about 20 minutes the speakers started crackling and making a lot of static. Due to the unique (proprietary?) way the sub-woofer connects to the other speakers, I can find no way to use the sub-woofer without them. So, I’m back to just my near-field monitors and good over-the-ear headphones for listening and mixing.

I really liked hearing the low end in the music I was working on. I would like to get the sub-woofer to work with different speakers, but I can’t. This all got me to thinking, how do you and people you know listen to music? Is a sub-woofer commonly used?

 

Few listen to live non-amplified music

Most people will listen to music via some sort of speaker/amplifier system. Unless you regularly go to live performances of non-amplified instruments – which I do recommend – then you are listening to music via a speaker. I’d like to know what type of speakers you listen on. No, I don’t want to know models or brands, just general information. You may listen in various locations. I want to know what the most common speaker setup is for you.

 

Speaker listening possibilities

Here are some possibilities. Do you listen only in your vehicle? Do you only use ear-buds? Do you use the computer speakers that are in your laptop? What about over the ear headphones? Do you use the speakers that came with your computer desktop? Do you listen to the speaker of your phone or tablet? Do you listen through a home stereo or home theater system? When listening on stand-alone speakers are the largest speakers big (10 inches or more)? Are there multiple speakers within the speaker cabinet? Or maybe you listen via some other speaker setup?

 

To sub-woofer or not?

What about a sub-woofer? Do you listen to most of your music via a system that has a sub-woofer? (That’s the ‘point 1’ in a 5.1 or 7.1 system). What do you think of your music when you have to listen on a system without one? When I record or mix music, should I assume most people don’t listen on a system with a sub-woofer and not worry about mixing so it sounds excellent on a system with one? Although I try to mix so my music sounds good on all systems, I’m wondering as a result of this experience whether I need to spend so much time trying to perfect the sound for all systems or focus on the ones that most people listen to? Of course I’ll always strive to sound better on as many speakers as I can, I could save time by not spending so much time working on trying to please all speakers out there.

Any thoughts or comments are welcome here or via my Twitter account @MusicByJames

Visit my website JamesGilbertMusic.com for details about my sheet-music, recordings, piano lessons and more.