Introduction by Sandra Bowen, Editor
y contribution to this topic could be subtitled, "What I did on my summer vacation." Vacation? Where were the umbrella drinks? True, I was working, but my CD burner gave my students and me a terrific vacation from our normal piano lesson routine.
During the summer I like to give my students a completely different musical experience. I want them to have something fun and exciting to work on (maybe even to brag about!) and I like for all of us to return to piano lessons in the fall with renewed enthusiasm.
I began my Orchestration Project in the summer of 1989. I was working with an Apple IIe, a very simple sequencing program, and a no-frills keyboard. [For a full report of those early days, see my article in Clavier, August 1989, "Summer Synthesizer Project."] This past summer my students used my 400Mz PC with a Hewlett Packard CD-Writer Plus, Clavinova CVP-98, Philips CDR-778 CD recorder, and Cakewalk Home Studio sequencing software (Cakewalk, 888-CAKEWALK, www.cakewalk.com). At the end of the project each student received a recording of all the pieces, but instead of the cassette tapes my students had received in the past, this year each student received a professional-looking CD, complete with booklet, liner, and jewel case.
In the past I've required students to arrange a "classical" piece first and then explore something of their own choosing if time permitted (they must commit to a minimum of four lessons over the summer). This summer I decided to forego the required piece and let them choose a piece of any style. My Summer 2000 CD is quite diverse! The contents run the gamut from show tunes, movie themes (very popular with the boys this year), to jazz and "classical" pieces.
We began the project by choosing those pieces. We talked about the possibilities. If it was a piece from a film, the kids usually wanted to imitate the recording as much as possible. My students were so excited-each day I would receive e-mails with MP3 files attached with a note that read "that's how I want it to sound!"
If it was a piano solo, we talked about the possibilities of that piece. What kind of mood does the piece evoke? Does it cry out for brass or strings? Look at the dynamics-if it's a quiet piece, you probably don't want brass. Is it bouncy? Strings probably aren't the best choice, but wait-how about pizzicato strings?
We were not limited to acoustic instruments-my summer recordings are rarely conventional. Many of the kids were particularly intrigued with the Clavinova's synthetic "XG" sounds; a lot of time was spent listening and trying out the many possibilities (limits must be set-several students would have spent the entire summer choosing sounds!). Occasionally a student will record two versions of the same piece or repeat a section of a composition with different instrumentation.
The process of recording the pieces is a new experience for the children and requires special preparation and new practice strategies. Because the process of copy/paste is a dominant one in sequencing, the kids become very adept at analyzing their pieces. It's a waste of time to record something twice when one can copy and paste. We spent quite a bit of time looking at musical form and, unlike at their traditional lessons, they paid attention. A repeated phrase means less work!
My favorite dividend from the summer project is my students' sharpened eye toward perfection. When layering the parts-different instruments play different parts at the same time (even if it is only left and right hands of a piano solo)-the rhythm must be perfectly executed. If the counting is not accurate, the parts (tracks) will not match up. Needless to say, it is a plus if the notes and other "details" are accurate as well.
The Orchestration Project is a great outlet for the kids' creativity. Austin added a metronome tick-tock to his "Jeopardy" theme; Grace's "Under the Sea" features bubbles and other water sounds, and her rock 'n' roll "Rockin' Robin" is punctuated with tweets, and Jesse's "Mission Impossible" theme ends with an explosion and machine gun fire. Elizabeth worked from a simplified piano solo version of Mozart's "Piano Concerto No. 21". When she finished she thought it sounded too thin, so I got out the full score and she added some other parts. Annin's work with various instruments on Bach's "Two-Part Invention No.8" improved her piano performance of that piece. Lindsay, a veteran of the Contra Costa Girls' Chorus, chose to arrange a work her group had performed. She brought me a wonderful arrangement of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" that had lots of possibilities. Scoring the introduction for a lone trumpet with timpani set the somber tone. Gradually the piece builds with voices and strings, until the listener feels that he or she is standing at Arlington National Cemetery.
The production was completed with the help of the software that came with my HP CD burner, Adaptec's Easy CD Creator. After putting the pieces in their proper order, I dragged them to the CD. Because I am a gadget junkie, I copied the CDs on the Philips burner which freed my computer for the labeling, but I could just as well have copied them on the HP.
Fellowes Neato CD Labeler Kit makes it simple to produce extremely professional looking labels, booklets and liners for the jewel cases (which are pictured here in this website-version of this article). I didn't even do anything original with mine and they still look great. Fellowes' kit includes an ingenious device for applying labels-they go on right every time.
My summer Orchestration Project is one way a teacher can make wonderful use of a CD burner in the private piano studio, but there are many other applications. Now read Kelly Demoline's article below to learn about the nuts and bolts of what you need to produce your own CDs.
SANDRA BOWEN is an associate editor of Keyboard Companion magazine.
Article by Kelly Demoline
ith CD burners and blank CDs becoming more and more affordable, music teachers are finding many uses for CD burners in their studios.
Making recordings of your own playing or of your students' performances can be as easy as recording with a tape recorder. Creating play-along parts for beginning students or recording orchestral accompaniments for advanced students can make home practicing especially rewarding. Even more exciting for students can be the prospect of hearing their own compositions or performances on CD-ROM.
As much as we would like to provide our students with professional recordings to listen to, this isn't always possible. If you use a CD burner to record yourself or advanced students, it only costs you the dollar or so you pay for a blank CD. In fact, it can be quite motivating for students to hear other students play repertoire they are working on. Public domain MIDI files can also be a great source for recordings, provided you have a good MIDI sound card, sound module or digital piano that can play MIDI files.
It can also be motivating and rewarding for students to contribute their own performance to a compilation CD. Putting one work from each of your students on a CD can also be a great way to promote your studio, and possibly even raise some funds to pay for the computer equipment necessary.
Creating play-along recordings that can be easily accessed and restarted instead of rewinding and fast forwarding is quite easy when using a CD burner. Software such as Band-in-a-Box (http://kellysmusicandcomputers.com/bbed.html), which will automatically create accompaniments for you, can make it even easier! Band-in-a-Box not only will create accompaniments for you, but it will also automatically record the accompaniment to a wav. file for burning to CD.
Another useful application for Band-in-a-Box is to have students create their own music. Programs such as Sibelius (http://kellysmusicandcomputers.com/sibelius.html) and Band-in-a-Box make it easy for students to arrange and record their own compositions. From a simple melody or theme and variation to a piano concerto, your students can be writing their own music and putting their music on CD.
There are many confusing terms that may scare you away from using a CD burner, but with a few explanations, you will find that using a CD burner in your studio can be easy. Most CD burners are referred to as CD-RW drives, meaning that they can write CD-Rs and they can rewrite CD-RWs.
CD-Rs can only be recorded once and are the only CDs suitable for audio recording. If you make a mistake, or don't like the way the recording turned out, you have to make the changes on a new CD and throw the old one out (or keep it as a "coaster").
CD-RWs can be written to over and over again, but can't be used to record audio for regular CD players (they are too shiny for regular CD players). These CDs are perfect, however, for backing up your computer, or storing seldom used files.
There are three components you will need to record music onto a CD:
Not only is CD technology getting less expensive, drives are also getting faster and more reliable. If you do not have a CD burner yet, then there are a number of factors to consider:
In order to turn sound into a CD, you will also need software to record the sound and then put that sound on the CD. Most CD burners come with software for this, the most popular being Adaptec's Easy CD Creator (Adaptec, 408-945-8600). If you plan on recording a lot of music, upgrading to the Deluxe version of Easy CD Creator is probably worth it, as it includes a lot of great features for audio recording. Often a package will come with one program for recording audio into your computer (such as Sound Editor with Adaptec's package) and another one for actually creating the CD.
Virtually every computer comes with some sort of soundcard with an 1/8" input jack. It may be labeled "line," "mic," or "in." For very basic recording, the soundcard that came with your computer might be just fine. Be aware, however, that these soundcards are usually designed for playing games, not recording audio. You may find that your recordings have a lot of excess noise and lack the range and fullness of sound that you find on commercial CDs.
If you want to get a better sound, then you might consider a soundcard designed for music. Roland's UA-30, for example, is an easy-to-use external audio capture device that easily connects to your computer for pro recordings. Visit our web site for more information on sound card options (www.kellysmusicandcomputers.com).
Once you have the gear you need to start, the process is quite simple. You simply connect the source to your soundcard, hit record in your audio software, and then burn the resulting wav. file on to a CD. The source for your recording could be a microphone, or a cable connected from the output on your digital piano or sound module to the input on your computer. Note that you may need an adapter cable to convert a 1/4" jack to the 1/8" connector on your computer.
Each audio recording software program has a slightly different method for recording, but they generally follow the same steps. Check the following items: levels-double click on the speaker in the system tray (right hand corner of your computer screen) and go to the Options menu and select Properties; then click on Recording and make sure that the source from which you are recording (i.e. mic) is selected; then click OK and you should be able to move the slider for your source up and down to control the input level.
If your students have written their own compositions on your computer or you want to record a MIDI file, then you may have to select synth, MIDI, or loop back, depending on your soundcard. You might have to experiment a few times, but don't worry-you can always delete recordings that don't work! Of course, if you are using an external sound module such as the Roland SC-8820, then you simply connect the output to the input on your soundcard.
Once you are happy with the levels, hit Record in your software and start the music! No matter what software package you use, you will be able to save your recording as a wave or .wav file. Once you have the .wav files you need, load up your CD recording software and drag the files onto the CD in the order in which you want to create them. Then pop in a blank CD and start burning! Note that if you do not want gaps between the songs, you should choose the "Disk at Once" or DAO recording method if you are asked.
The software that comes with CD burners is not really specialized for music. If you are serious about audio recording, check out software such as SoundForge, Cool Edit or WaveLab. (See our Buyer's Guide on audio at http://kellysmusicandcomputers.com/digitalaudio.asp for more help.)
Although there are a lot of confusing terms, and even though the steps I have outlined above may sound daunting, recording your own audio CD can be easy and fun! If you run into problems or have any questions, be sure to visit the help section on our web site, or send me an e-mail and I will try to help.
KELLY DEMOLINE is a music educator and owner of Kelly's Music & Computers. He welcomes your comments and questions by phone at 1-888-562-8822 or by e-mail: email@example.com. You can find technology resources for music educators at his web site: KellysMusicAndComputers.com/education.