Archive for Music Ed

Write On! Touchscreen Tablet PC’s and Music

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(Microsoft Surface Pro 2, microsoft.com)
Cross-Posted May 23, 2014 at Choralnet
This week Microsoft announced the third generation of their Surface Tablet PC, and the attention it garnered shows that the market is starting to mature for these hybrid devices, which combine the processing power of a laptop with the touchscreen interface of a tablet or smartphone. To some degree, these devices (called Hybrids, Tablet PC’s, or Touchscreen Laptops) are hard for consumers to wrap our brains around: is it a tablet (albeit a more expensive and heavier one)? Is it a computer? Why would I need this when I already have x’? These devices can offer some interesting possibilities in the music technology field, but I suggest that properly understanding what these devices are meant to do will help us understand where they can best be utilized.

The Players

While Samsung and others have made Android-powered tablets that tout their increased power and productivity over devices such as the iPad, the Tablet PC’s run on the new Windows 8 platform. Windows 8 attempts to merge both a touchscreen interface and apps with the familiar Windows desktop that we’re used to from the history of that operating system. While Windows 8 got some decidedly heated feedback, the subsequent update to 8.1 has been much better received (8.1 is a free update to 8). Complicating things a bit, and driving some of the misunderstanding about the power of the Tablet PC’s, has been the release of a stripped-down version of Windows 8 (called RT) designed for mobile devices such as phones and lighter tablets. RT is the version which is meant to compete with the Android- and iOS-powered tablets, but it is limited in terms of what it can run. Developers have been much slower to embrace Windows RT and move their apps already developed for iPads and Android tablets into a third operating system. This has led to a collective impression that the Windows Tablet PC’s “don’t have many apps to run.”
If you can discard mobile-purposed Windows RT devices for the moment, devices running the full version of Windows 8 suffer from no such limitations on the programs available– since it’s a full-version of Windows, it runs everything that your Windows laptop or desktop runs on these devices as well. Rather than thinking of devices like the Surface Pro, or the Lenovo Helix or Yoga as tablets, think of them as laptops that you can write directly on. And therein lies the potential for the music field– the combination of touch interface and the computing power of a full operating system.

Audio Recording

One of the most recurring statements that I hear about working with audio recording on the iPad is that it’s much easier to do the fine controls of music editing with the touchscreen devices than with a mouse and keyboard. Being able to physically manipulate the software sliders as you would a board, drawing envelopes and filters, or manipulating the playback head for fine editing and splicing are all controls which lend themselves well to the fine finger control available in the touchscreen (or with a stylus) rather than the large and more clumsy mouse control. On a Tablet PC, we gain the ability to use this style of interface, but can apply it to fully-powered Windows software. Again, while mobile-oriented RT devices have to wait for programs to be designed specifially for that space, chances are that all of the software currently running on your Windows device will translate to the Windows 8 hybrids– your full Cubase setup, for example.
The processing power and storage capacity of these machines is significantly higher than a mobile tablet as well, and that combined with built-in USB ports means that you can use them in combination with external audio interfaces to a much greater degree than is possible with mobile tablets. While still being smaller and lighter than your traditional laptop, and thus easier to deploy in a field recording setup, it can be the computer hub for your recording needs.

Notation and Composition

As with the recording, the ability to use your full Windows programs in combination with the touchscreen interface is an intriguing combination for composition. Whatever your preference of notation program, running it one a hybrid device will allow you to “ink” and edit your manuscripts by hand using the stylus. In comparison to iOS or Android, I find the Windows 8 stylus capacity to be much smoother and higher-quality. Writing on an iPad, for example, always feels like the pen tip is a bit too thick for my tastes, and my script usually ends up being a bit “fat” and sloppy because of it. Writing on my Surface Pro 2, by comparison, feels very realistic. This review of the upcoming Surface 3 from WIRED describes writing within one row of graph paper. That level of detail makes writing within a notation program very smooth and satisfying. With a little practice, I was able to use the keyboard number pad to switch note values while writing with the stylus in the other hand for a pretty efficient workflow. And of course, with the USB interface, things like keyboard input and external sound synthesis devices are still available as well.

One More Toy?

Some people are the natural gadget-collectors, and the idea of adding another device to the quiver isn’t intimidating at all. For the rest of us, using a Tablet PC involves thinking a bit about what place in the toolbox it best occupies: does it replace an existing device? Does it make something else redundant? Thinking of these devices as tablets with more power, I initially held it up against my iPad and found it unsatisfying. It was once I decided to use my Surface Pro 2 as my full-time work machine that I understood its value– it is truly a laptop with extra capacities. As such, I added some extra work considerations (extra monitors, external keyboard) that make it indistinguishable from my previous desktops or laptops. When coming to something in graphics or audio which is best served by the touchscreen capacity, I can pick up the stylus and work directly on the screen. It’s a great combination of modes, and of course I still have the mobile flexibility. There are times when I use it in a traditional “tablet” capacity as well, although there is a lack of the apps that we’re used to from the iOS and Android space.
In the end, ironically, it did end up largely making my iPad redundant, but because most of the things that I used to do with that device have now either been scaled up to the Tablet PC or down to my smartphone. As more devices appear in the market with this model, including the (much larger) Surface 3 from Microsoft and what now feels like a steady rollout of devices from other manufacturers, a wider range of power and size will be available letting people choose whether they want a true powerhouse machine or something closer to the traditional tablets. Regardless, the combination of the full operating system and the touchscreen interface gives us huge possibilities in speciality or niche computing needs such as music and audio, where a wider range of software, diverse input/output capacity and higher processing power are all necessities.

How About You?

Have you experimented with a hybrid or Tablet PC running the full version of Windows 8/8.1? What are your thoughts or experiences? Do you have questions about these devices? Join in the comments below!

What Are You Listening To?

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Originally Posted on ChoralNet.org on April 11, 2014
In the early days of listening to music on the Internet, the only available offerings were those “commercially viable” genres that could attract enough attention to warrant the high set-up and operation costs. Now that streaming music online has become standard and widespread, there are wonderful sources for choral music and other classical/art musics available online. For conductors and singers alike, this is a huge opportunity– for us as conductors, it’s an easy way for us to discover new compositions or ensembles. For singers, especially young singers who may not have exemplars of “the choral sound” in their ears, an opportunity to experience what choral music can sound like at its highest levels can be highly valuable. With that in mind, here is a quick run-down of some options which may help you and your musicians fill your ears.

ChoralTech: Advertising Concerts, Social Media and Streamlining

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(fredcavazza.net via Flickr)

Cross-posted 1/24 at ChoralNet

Do you use social media outlets to advertise your events? It’s a simple goal to advertise our concerts and fundraisers using social media, but unpacking all of the terms, strategies, services and options available can become a full-time job, and one that seems very far removed from the rehearsing which we’d prefer to be doing. Nevertheless, either we, or someone else in our organization, should be able to use some basic services to help spread the word about our upcoming events.

The Basics

At the least, every organization should (in my humble opinion) use Facebook and Twitter to distribute concert information. There are myriad examples of how organizations do this, but I suggest a quick look at San Francisco Girls Chorus and Choral Arts as examples of organizations sharing information via Twitter, and The Choir of St John’s College (Cambridge) and The Bach Choir for examples of Facebook Pages. These are far and away the two services which have the most reach and through which you can have the highest percentage of your audience “passively” subscribe to you. There are others as well which you may use personally or have heard of: Google+, YouTube, Instagram, or LinkedIn among others. I’d suggest, though, that each social network attracts a different speciality or subset of the population, and we may use these personally to share information with friends or to subscribe to people in whom we have an interest. When publicizing our groups, on the other hand, we want maximum reach for minimum effort, which is why I’d suggest Twitter and Facebook as your mass communication media.

I’m Only Going to Say This Once!

Even with just having two accounts, though, repeating efforts is miserable. Nobody likes repeating themselves, and broadcasting the same announcement twice (once on Twitter and once on Facebook) isn’t a good use of time. If you use more than one social account, find ways to link them together. You can, for example, link your Facebook and Twitter accounts to that your tweets automatically appear on your Facebook page as well. Also, if you make use of many accounts (for example, your own Twitter account as well as your choir’s), you may want to sign up for a service such as HootSuite. HootSuite lets you subscribe to many different social media accounts, read them all from one place, and post to multiple places simultaneously. Think of it as the social media equivalent of being able to access all of your email accounts in the same mail program.

It’s Called A Conversation

One of the most crucial mistakes that people new to social media make is thinking about it like an email newsletter: you send information out, audience reads it. Remember that the whole point of social media is that it’s easy for people to speak back to you– don’t forget to check your account every once in a while! If someone replied to an announcement you made, you should reply back to them. After all, it’s only polite to respond when someone wants to talk about your group! Even better, if you are setting up a group account that will have little to no activity outside of announcing concerts throughout the year, make sure that you turn on email notifications in your account settings so that you will receive an email when anything happens with your account. That way, you won’t have to check the accounts manually, but rather you’ll get an email when anyone is talking about your events or posts.

What to Share?

Both Facebook and Twitter make it easy to share video and pictures with your postings. If you’re announcing a concert, throw a picture of the poster up with the post for a catching visual. If the poster isn’t done yet, have a choir member (or dropping-off spouse or parent) take a quick picture of the group warming up. Of course, the true gold would be to have a 30-second video clip of one of your pieces as a “teaser,” but that’s a tiny bit more time-consuming. If all you have is text, share the text, but it’s pretty easy to find some type of picture or multimedia to include with your posts.

Your Musicians are your First “Followers”

Once you have an account, you need to let people know about it! Posting a link on your blog or webpage is obvious, as is making sure that your Twitter and Facebook accounts are listed in the program. The reason that social media can be helpful to your advertising is that it is so easily shared, so to get those crucial first few followers, turn to your musicians. After all, they have a vested interest in packing the house too! Ask your musicians to follow the organization’s accounts, and tell them when concert announcements are going out in case they miss them. That way, they can share your announcements with all of their friends and family with one click. Obviously, those of us working in school settings need to check with our administrations regarding policies about communicating with students via social media, but make sure to clarify that you are a) using an organization account, not your own, and b) strictly disseminating information regarding the choir ensemble.

Beyond the Basics?

How do you use social media tools to advertise your concerts or events? To do use anything besides Facebook and Twitter? Have you noticed a difference in attendance/tickets since using social media? Anything to share below?

ChoralTech: Use Word Clouds to Interact with Text

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Cross-posted at ChoralNet.org
Whether implicitly or explicitly, the pieces that we select for our concerts tell a story and convey meaning. As conductors, choosing areas of text to emphasize or using specific diction can be part of our toolkit to communicate our interpretation of the piece. That interpretation has to be relatively unified, though– while we may encourage our musicians to each bring something personal to their performance of a work, the ensemble still needs to perform the conductor’s intention: “Everyone emphasize your choice for the most important word in this line” is a fun rehearsal strategy but probably shouldn’t happen in the concert.
You can recruit and honor your musician’s individual interpretations using visuals, however. A word cloud is a graphic which is sourced from a piece of text. The program that you use to generate the word cloud will display the most commonly-occuring words largest, allowing the viewer to quickly see what words seem to be the most important out of the selection. Simply inputting the text of the work may or may not result in anything interesting (Whitacre’s “hope, faith, life, love” would give you four words of the same size, for example). The fun starts when you open up the word cloud to crowd submission. By asking your singers to generate the text for the word cloud based on their interpretations of the work, you can create a graphic which conveys the group’s individual reactions and shows the most common submissions.
Some examples of questions that might get this started:
  • In your opinion, which is the most (/are the 3 most) important word(s) in this piece?
  • When you listen to this piece, what emotions are the strongest for you?
  • What do you imagine or visualize while performing this piece?
Anything which generates a list of ideas will work. Remember that the software is looking for word matches, so steer towards descriptive words instead of long sentences or phrases. Once you have your list from your singers, you can upload a text or Word file to a web site such as Wordle or Tagxedo, or type the text directly into the webpage to get your graphic. Either site will give you an image file which you can then use on a web page, print in your programs, or project on the wall in the concert to create a visual aspect to your performance.
While you can take time in a rehearsal to generate the words, create the word cloud at home and bring it back to the next rehearsal, you can also generate them live with a little Google Docs-fu. For an interactive experience for your audience, imagine how you could have the audience generate one live as the musicians sing (or in between pieces/ensembles, for example). If the following instructions scare you, find a techie friend or singer to help you put it together: it’s actually not that complicated. If you construct a Google Doc which is open to the public, and feed the URL of that document to either Wordle or Tagxedo, the word cloud will generate off of whatever words have been added to the Google Doc. It’s not live, so you actually have to have someone refresh the word cloud image to pull in words as they’re being added. You could also set up an auto-refresh of your browser to do it for you. Then, it’s just a matter of connecting your audience to the Google Doc: projecting a QR code on the wall or providing a TinyURL would work for those with smartphones. For true power users, use IFTTT to create a recipe which would add texts or Tweets sent by the audience to the Google Doc.
Poll Everywhere has a free version of polling which will generate a word cloud, but the free version is rather limited in the number of people who can respond, so it’s unlikely to be useful for a large group of performance situation.
However you generate the text, though, word clouds can be a fun and powerful way to gather reactions and interpretations from a variety of people and make them part of your ensemble’s communication and honoring of the piece of music or text.

ChoralTech: Google Sites Host your Choir’s Resources

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We’ve talked in the past about setting up websites for sharing your choir’s information with the world, but you might want a website for a different purpose: sharing information internally with your choir. There are some immediate benefits to having a central place where all of your musicians can access materials, see the practice calendar, and communicate with each other. While it has limited “visual appeal,” using Google Sites can get you up and running with an internal website in a manner of minutes. The Internet is loaded with tutorials on how to create a Google Site, so rather than take you through the steps to set-up, I’d like to point out some features that I think make this an extremely useful choir homebase.

Just Add Singers: iPad Recipes for Recording

(cross-posted at ChoralNet
 (edtechteacher.org)
So far in discussing iOS, we’ve talked about some of the microphone options, as well as some of the apps available. Many people using the iPad, though, get limited in the possibilities of iOS by working only within one app space. We talked about this a bit when we discussed apps in our last post, but the key to truly using the power of the iPad is assembling hardware and software into workflows which combine multiple apps. Some call this process “app smashing.” Again, where we’re used to working within one comprehensive application on Macs or PCs, iOS apps are designed to perform more limited tasks but make it easier to share data between apps. With that said, let’s look at 5 processes to combine resources and power between different apps. The key to all of these processes is the share button, which looks like  in iOS 6 and some older apps, and  in iOS 7. This is the universal “get me somewhere else!” button in iOS, and is pretty common to most apps.
With all of these examples, please remember that these are only samples of possible workflows– these apps are not “chosen to work together.” Any of these apps and myriad more can be used to combine forces.

I want to… Share Audio with my Choir Today (Right now, no setup involved)

Let’s use a basic but common sharing example: you record an example and want to share it with your ensemble. How would we approach this?
  1. Contacts (already installed): Pass around before rehearsal or during breaks and collect and ask each member to enter their name and e-mail.
  2. Camera (already installed): Record a video example.
  3. Camera: After rehearsal, press the share icon, and choose “Mail.” This will open up…
  4. Mail: enter the names of your ensemble members and hit Send.
This works really well for short examples, but mail has a size limit, which will bite us if we want to send larger examples. Let’s step up a level.

I want to… Record Larger Audio Examples and Share them with my Choir (A little more setup)

Larger audio examples require a storage solution. For more information on some of these options, see “Storage and Sharing” from earlier this year.
  1. Notes (already installed): Create a blank note and pass around the device for people to enter their e-mail addresses.
  2. Google Drive: Create an account, or use an existing account. Create a folder and share it with the e-mail addresses that you’ve collected. They’ll automatically receive a link in their e-mails, so you don’t have to worry about sending it to them.
  3. Camera (already installed): Record your video example.
  4. Google Drive: Upload the video from Google Drive. This is an example where the workflow that normally works doesn’t (pushing the share button from the originating app), but Google Drive can access the Camera Roll and all of your videos to upload. By uploading the file into the shared folder, it will now be accessible to anyone that you invited to the group.

I want to… Record Audio and Clean it up for Conference or Festival Submission

This is a general guideline– check with your specific submission criteria
Most submission committees want MP3’s, which are pretty standard. They’re lightweight and easy to upload, and nearly any device now is capable of playing them back.
  1. TwistedWave: Record your audio. Edit the beginning and end of the track to be able to cut out extraneous noise. Copy the audio.
  2. GarageBand: Create a blank audio track and paste the audio from TwistedWave into GarageBand. GarageBand will let you e-mail the file as an MP3. Depending on your submission protocol, you might be able to e-mail it directly, or you may have to use a web uploader to submit it. Unfortunately, web uploaders are very iffy on the iPad– this is the exception where I’ll suggest e-mailing it to:
  3. Your computer: Open the e-mail and download the MP3 file. You can then upload it to the web uploader from there.

I want to… Record a Music Video of My Group

You can import music from GarageBand into iMovie, so our process looks a lot like the last recipe, with only the last step changed.
  1. TwistedWave: Record the audio. Copy it to…
  2. GarageBand: Paste it into an audio track and save it. Import it into…
  3. iMovie: Record your video tracks and put them together. Export it via:
  4. Vimeo or YouTube. Be mindful that copyrighted music could be flagged for removal (although choral group recordings don’t usually get caught).

I want to… Make all of this Faster!

Remember the multi-touch gestures which make navigating between multiple apps easier and faster: four fingers on the screen, then swiped up will expose icons for the most recently used apps. Four fingers swiped left or right navigates directly between the most recent apps, and saves a lot of time when bouncing between two apps in particular.

What About You?

This is just a sample of how to use apps in combination for basic audio tasks– this doesn’t begin to consider options like integrating Keynote or Prezi to create presentations for School Boards, Department Meetings or potential Donors/Sponsors, nor integrating straight into social media apps like Facebook or Twitter. What are your favorite combinations? How do you find yourself “app smashing” with different apps in your toolbox?

Beyond GarageBand: iOS Recording

(cross-posted at ChoralNet)

TL;DR

  • Use GarageBand to assemble products
  • Bounce audio to effects processors and advanced editing using AudioCopy/AudioPaste
  • As with hardware, select an app meeting your level of need/expertise/time
Last week, we talked about some microphone options and ways to get audio into an iPad. There are a wide range of setups, from a simple single microphone to a full digital audio workstation, that let you record the audio that you want to work with and share. The next question is what apps to use to record, edit, and produce it. Like with the microphones, the best option will depend on how in-depth your project. You can use a very simple process to record a quick example for playback in rehearsal, but you may want to do more editing and production before you publish to the web. This is a very small sample of some of the tools that you have at your disposal however complex the process.

Recording High-Quality Audio on your iOS

(cross-posted at ChoralNet)

 

 

The iPad or iPhone are, out of the box, perfectly capable “home movie” devices, and can create decent video or audio recordings of your ensemble with the built-in camera app. Using a combination of some basic retail accessories and a couple of workarounds, though, you can make the iPad a fairly powerful portable recording and editing station. Over the next three weeks, we’ll explore some of the ways to expand the capabilites of an iPad for recording the kind of high-quality audio that you’d like to use with your ensemble. This week, we’ll start with the hardware.
Rules of Thumb (or No-Thumb)
If you have no money to invest in this project, but want to be a little more reliable in your recording, consider this quick tip: remember the first time you ever got a small film camera? How long did it take before you got your first pictures back with your thumb or a finger covering part of the lens? With digital cameras, it’s easy to see when your finger is in the way, but since we don’t listen to digital audio as we’re recording it, it can be hard to know when background noise is creeping into your recording. An additional challenge is that most people aren’t entirely sure where the microphone on your iPad is.
(There it is!)
Hard cases for the iPad tend not to move around much, but soft cases do, and they can cause handling noise to appear in your recording. To ensure that your recording is as background-noise-free as possible, consider removing it from a soft case, or finding a way to prop it up out of your hands (resting it on a table, for example).
Violating the $0 clause from above, there are now attachments which allow you to mount your iPad on a music stand or microphone boom, which would allow you to position the device ideally for recording. As with any sound system, though, if you have $1 to spend, $2 of it should go to…
The Microphone
When the iPad first came out, one of the loudest initial criticisms of it was that it didn’t have a USB port. Critics went so far as to way that without a way to expand the capabilities of the device via USB, the iPad was doomed from launch. Apple did make it possible to expand the device, though– they just wanted you to have to buy their hardware to do it. The music industry has caught up in a major way to the designs of Apple’s proprietary port, and there are dozens of iPad-specific microphones on the market now which use either the 30-pin or Lightning connectors (see below). Many of them are designed for podcasting and may not be sonically ideal for music, but there are also some which closely emulate our more traditional vocal mics.
One additional layer of complexity– iPads now have two types of ports on the market (as do iPhones): the 30-pin or the Lightning. 30-pin has been the staple of iOS devices since their invention. The iPad 2, still available to buy new, uses the 30-pin port. All of the newest generations of iPad use the Lightning port. When I refer to ports henceforth, I’ll assume that the two are interchangable, but if you are purchasing a microphone or accessory, make sure that you are purchasing the correct version for your device. I’ll point out any significant differences between 30-pin and Lightning when necessary.
(30-Pin on the left, Lightning on the right. h/t to gottabemobile.com)
Your choices for microphones fall into two broad categories: USB mics which will work with iPads, and dedicated iPad mics. Dedicated mics like the Apogee (Lightning-only) or the Rode iXY (30-pin) are designed to work natively with the iPad or iPhone, and provide significantly higher-quality area recording sound than the built-in microphone.
USB mics work by taking advantage of a quirk in Apple’s design: they began manufacturing a device called the Camera Connection Kit which allowed users to plug in USB cameras through Apple’s adapter. These kits are available in the 30-pin or Lightning versions, and were immediately jumped upon by all manners of iOS aficionados as a way to connect every type of USB device on the planet, including USB mics. The catch is that this is, in its heart, a workaround relying on a piece of hardware is was neither built for nor marketed to handle the kind of data that live audio recording takes, sometimes there are errors. Your mileage may vary, but there are enough cautionary tales of crashed apps or laggy audio to be wary of this solution and steer towards one of the mics designed to work directly with the device.
Beyond the Microphone
Mention must be paid to the next level up in your iPad recording options, which is a full Digital Audio interface. Most of the consumer-grade audio manufacturers have entered this field with an interface designed to connect to either the Lightning or 30-pin ports which allows for audio and MIDI in/out, may have preamps on board, and likely has both XLR and 1/4″ ports available (including 1/4″ headphone jack). These range in price anywhere from $100-$1500+. For recording a choral ensemble, some of these features like MIDI may not be relevant, but having dual 1/4″ jacks to record a proper stereo field, being able to use your existing microphones, and having a preamp built-in dramatically expand the potential of the iPad for recording live audio.
Now What?
In the next two weeks, we’ll take a look at what to do once it’s in the iPad– apps and workflows which allow to you edit and publish the audio directly from the device so that you can record and share your audio with your ensemble or a wider audience.
Do you have experience working with any of these devices? What do you use to record with your iPad? Join the conversation in the comments below!

Storing and Sharing Rehearsal Audio

(cross-posted at ChoralNet)

Are you still handing out practice CD’s? Are you not handing out anything at all? The ease of sharing audio with our singers has blown up the idea of the practice tape, and offers myriad ways to customize a practice resource depending on what you want to accomplish. Chris Russell wrote a post this week called “Using Soundcloud Out of Necessity” at Technology in Music Education (a must-follow for teachers). His post comes from the desire to allow students to record their own singing to use as an assessment, and he talks about the limitations of an iPad in that regard. What if you just need a way to share files with your singers? Let’s look at some options available.
The Legal
First, the debate about sharing recorded practice materials is extensive both from a conducting/pedagogy perspective and a legal/copyright one. I am not a legal scholar, and I am skipping this debate lest it dominate the larger idea here: distributing audio (whatever practice resources you’d like) to your musicians. In an educational setting, fair use includes distributing material to students who are considered enrolled in a course or institution– the intent being that if you could share it with x people within a class setting, you can share it with that same population x through an online portal. In general, whether in education or not, it’s now accepted that you best have any copyrighted material behind a password/login option whereby you can ensure that the scope is limited to your population, rather than the whole world. Again, please consider whatever limitations and implications of sharing copyrighted material online.
Not copyrighted? Go nuts.
The Webpage
The first iteration of distributing practice files online was posting to a webpage. This is certainly an option, and there are easy ways to create blogs and websites for your organization. Unless you’re going to add some additional components, though, it’s hard to restrict webpages and blogs to only members of an organization unless you create accounts for each person directly. There are cleaner ways to address this.
Cloud Storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive Pro, etc.)
Creating a folder in Google Drive or any cloud storage option is easy, and folders can be directly shared with individuals. This is closer to our intent– to share our files with a defined group of individuals. These programs all have ways to access files on a mobile device, meaning that our singers can load the files directly on their phones or tablets. They all require individual accounts, though, which again introduces a layer of complexity to our equation. An advantage of Google Drive is that Google Accounts are so ubiquitous (and apply to so many products) that many people already have them. If your singers use GMail, Google Calendar, or any other Google products, the same account will apply to the Google Drive.
SoundCloud
We’ve talked about SoundCloud in the past as a way to reflect upon and analyze a rehearsal, but Chris’ post describes it as a way to share audio with his group. SoundCloud offers a variety of options for communicating around music files, and is a great way to extend the rehearsal process. SoundCloud uses a content identification system (similar to YouTube) which scans files and attempts to identify if the audio matches anything requested for takedown by a copyright holder. If you are attempting to share an original recording of a pop song, for example, you may run afoul of the upload system. In addition, it’s yet to be seen how far-reaching these software ID systems will be as they develop. Arrangements of songs, for example, usually don’t get caught in the filters (especially if they’re general MIDI/keyboard sounds), but melodic analysis software may in the future be able to identify melody fragments more effectively, identifying arrangements as well as full songs.
What About You?
How do you share your files with your singers? Do you have advice about how to set this up with the members of your groups to share? Post below!

New Instruments and Soundmakers

(cross-posted at ChoralNet)

 

 

 (image: commons.wikimedia.org)
The only instrument that can match the sheer range of sounds available to the human voice is the synthesizer. While not capable of the incredible variation of tone, timbre and resonance of the voice, the synthesizer has a similar capability to create a diverse palette of tones and mix them in myriad unique combinations. Over the last 40 years, the synthesizer has been synonymous with the electric keyboard for most people, but now that computing hardware is smaller, more customizable and more economical, the capability to synthesize sounds is breaking out of the keyboard and into a variety of artistic tools. Developments such as Kickstarter, the Maker movement and “hackable” technology like Raspberry Pis and Arduino kits are allowing a whole generation of tinkerers, composers and sound artists to add tools to our musical imagination. While no means extensive, here are some of the more interesting ideas that have risen to the surface in recent months.
BeetBox
This Raspberry Pi-based project measures electrical resistance to generate pitch. Nothing new there– the theremin has done the same thing for years. The theremin, though, doesn’t also help you fill a basic food group.
Ototo
Looking like something from a high school science project, this kit of leads and a processor allow you to make anything into the “keyboard” or playing surface for an instrument (anything conductive, that is).
The Imaginary Marching Band
This tool begs for a collaborative music and dance project: finger triggers for a MIDI synthesizer. Since it’s based on MIDI, it can be run through other sound processors or editors as well, meaning it could be put to endless performance and recording instrumentation.

The Recycled Orchestra

Finally, while not a synthesizer project, a worthy reminder of finding music in odd instruments– and a bit of perspective the next time we all bemoan the state of our funding.