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Using Technology in the Shed (DB forum Thread)

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, Jan 24, 2003.

  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Lately I've been using my home recording gear to help me practice, and I'm really enjoying the process a lot more than practicing alone. It doesn't take a whole lot of gear to add a lot of flexibility and options to the old practice routine, and I'm finding myself getting more inspired by the variety I can get by just what's in my music room.

    * A Mixing board - I'm using a Soundcraft M12, but any old 4 channel mixer would do for these purposes.

    * A Minidisc recorder and/or CD burner: I use both, but even a decent tape deck would do for these purposes. I prefer the minidisc because the discs are re-recordable.

    * A Direct Box of some sort: Right now I'm using a Raven Labs PMB-1, but before I got that, I just set up a mic and played into the board from that.

    * A CD Player: Self explanatory.

    * A Piano or Keyboard of some kind

    For scales and Simandl/Rabbath/Petracchi exercises, I'll record the exercise in question on the piano into the minidisc player, run it into the board, and then play along on the bass with the signals mixed into headphones. It's great for intonation and time practice, and I find that as I get better, I can reduce the volume of the recorded track to almost nothing and still maintain pretty decent intonation.

    For tunes and music, I'll usually just mix a click track through the board and practice the tune solo, first the melody, then the changes, then improvisation. This gets recorded onto the minidisc sans click track, and I can listen to what's good and what sucks later. I like the objectivity of being able to listen while NOT playing, as I tend to be able to learn a lot more this way.

    Last - and my favorite part - is playing along with my favorite jazz giants minus the bass. Using just the tone filters on most mixing boards, it's pretty easy to erase most of the frequencies that the bass occupies on the recording, and then play along with what's left. This is a great experience, and can also be recorded onto minidisc or CD to check how it really sounded later when I can be more objective. Also, it's really FUN.

    I just got done playing along with Kenny Barron and Victor Lewis for about 90 minutes in my living room, and the time just FLEW by. Last week it was the Fred Hersch trio. Next week, who knows?

    I plan on doing a lot more of this, and was just wondering if anybody else does anything similar with their practicing? If so, any tips?
    RRR likes this.
  2. Sound like a great idea, Chris - thanks for the heads-up! My practice regimen tends to be the same boring old stuff - I have lots of recording gear, perhaps I should make more use of it!

    Thanks again!

    - Wil
  3. My recording gear is segregated from my DB and piano, kind of on purpose. It sounds like fun, but I guess I am just sticking to the bassics for now...
  4. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I've been messing around with stuff like this a little bit, although "inching closer" might be a better way of putting it...

    I'm not a piano player, but I do play guitar well enough for accompaniment (and writing), so I do the guitar and click thing.

    I'm interested in using the PC more. I've got piles of computer chops, and even recently built a PC for musical purposes, but I'm pretty green on using it and I've never been one to pay too much attention to recording/PA technicalities and such.

    I'd be interested in some kind of software/data mojo that would let me easily whip up looping tracks for practice purposes. You know, with good drum grooves. (I've heard, for example, of a CD George Clinton put out with sounds and grooves; for sampling, I guess, not for practicing.)

    Any recommendations for simple and reliable PC-based tools and techniques?

    (Just thought I'd throw in a little twist, Chris. I mean, while we're at it and everything....)
  5. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Band In A Box is a great practice tool.

    You'll find plenty of Realbook collections for it on the net.

  6. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I have the first real book in BIAB format, found it on the net :)
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm a Mac type dude myself, so I can't help you with the PC software aspect. But I'm getting ready to upgrade my MOTU system to Digital Performer, which will allow me to add a MIDI aspect to the existing rig for very little $. When I get this, I plan on recording all of Simandl, Rabbath, and Petracchi onto DP for intonation practice, with the added benefit that once it's in there, I'll be able to speed up and slow down the tracks without changing pitch - which will be great for long term practice. I could also use it to transpose the same exercises into all 12 keys to work more on ear and intonation. AND, like you said, it would also do loops.

    The ability to create loops will be an incredibly potent practice tool, since I'll be able to isolate trouble passages, repeat them over and over, and gradually speed them up. The MIDI thing will also be great for having an intonation reference while learning heads in 12 keys. Can't wait!

    Sorry I can't help with your software question, but I'm sure a bunch of PC guys will be along shortly with some good info....there's tons of good PC software out there. Good luck.
  8. Shlomobaruch


    Dec 31, 2002
    Boise, ID
    I've flirted with things like this, but what I've found is that I *know* when I play out of tune. I don't need to set up a bunch of recording equipment to know that a pitch was questionable. It's just a matter of fixing it. I suppose it could be argued that the equipment could help there, but if you know the note, and you know it's out of tune, fixing it takes place on the instrument, and your ear should be able to tell you it's fixed. This may come off more critical than I intend, but maybe you folks should find a copy (or dust off the one you have) of Hindemith's "Elementary Ear Training for Musicians". If you want to play with this stuff, that's fine, but if you *need* it to shed, then your ears probably aren't as tuned as they should be, and *those* are what you need for the gig.

    What I've been interested in doing is recording a combo of video and sound so I can send performances of etudes, solos and stuff back to my old teachers (currently 2200 miles away) for their evaluation and feedback. But even as I do this, I find I'm looking for grand problems that just aren't *there*. Instead there are the little problems mainly involving sacrificing control for speed, then adding tension instead of relaxation to increase the control. So again, technology loses somewhat to the simple lessons of relaxation and slow practice. Still, it would be nice to hear their thoughts.
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    How does this get turned into an issue of technology "winning" or "losing"? Metronomes are technology. Strobe tuners (which are the most common tools used to tune pianos) are used to ENHANCE the musical experience. No one in this thread is saying that these TOOLS - which is what they are - are going to replace practice...all that's being said is that they can be used to enhance the experience of practicing. You can turn up your nose at it if you want, but I find using a tone filter to eliminate the bass track of a great jazz album and then seeing how your groove feels in comparison to that of some of the giants of jazz to be very educational in an entirely positive way. As always, YMMV.
    Brad_Pearson likes this.
  10. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I'm checking out the evaluation version of BIAB, not on the music PC yet, just on the trusty notebook so far. I can see it's a great tool, lots of handy functions. On first listen, though, it is definitely reminiscent of those old organs that did everything for you. A whiff of fromage, if you know what I mean. I'm assuming the sounds are configurable, and I'm just listening to default sounds that came with this stock Toshiba notebook (sound on the motherboard.) The music PC's got an Echo Mia in it, I'll move BIAB over there and check it out. I guess I'll actually have to work at it a bit...

    Shlomo, you've got great confidence in your ears and your internal tuning fork. Wish I had it. I know what you're saying, but playing DB for me -- especially in a group -- is an act of continuous "intonating" (if that's a word.) Doesn't it make sense to practice that activity? I hadn't thought of the intonation angle as I've been fooling with this stuff, and I think it's a cool idea.

    As for the vid thing, low res can be done with a cheap-o eyeball web cam over the net. Hi res you're looking at a digital video camera, fast connection to PC like Firewire or USB 2.0, modern CPU and hardware that can handle the data processing and streaming without driving you nuts, and acquiring/learning/tinkering with the software. I'm with you and inclined to think it may not be worth it!

    sincerely, Flamin' ;>)
  11. I think its neither good nor bad, I am just keeping things simple right now. The big struggle I have is being discplined and I think I get sidetracked when my recording gear gets near my bass (I start writing things instead of practicing things). I do have to say Chris, I understood your post as simply, "hey this is working for me, its cool, I'd like to share it", not that you were saying it is necessary. It's just whatever works, I think we all have similar goals - to get better.
    GlenParks and PaperbackRyder like this.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Word. Thanks for boiling down what I was trying to say into clearer terms. :)
  13. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    That's a good idea too.

    I've got all the gear necessary to do these things, but it had not occurred to me to do so. I wouldn't have thought of taking the bass off a recording and playing along with the rest.

    I'll try those things out - especially that scale exercise for intonation (I play fretless SLAB rather than DB though).

    Also - I've found the time compression/expansion feature of my DAW really useful for transcribing things that are Too Damn Fast :) Also useful is the facility (which my CD player doesn't have) to play back one small passage repeatedly. Something it also has that I haven't used is a pitch shifter algorithm, so you can throw a bass line up an octave, which can make it easier to figure out the notes - particularly when it's a DB playing at the bottom of its rangem, and the pitches don't come over too well in the mix.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I use a keyboard Roland D5 plugged into a sound module with a nice piano sound, for trying chords examples etc.

    But my main tool for practicing is a Roland MC303 microcomposer - so this has 7 channels which you can programme in step time or real time. 6 synth sounds and one rhythm channel.

    So - I get chord charts for songs and generally programme in a piano part and drums - well more like a metronome than a real drum track.

    I have all my gear going into a 8:6:2 small mixer into my Hi-Fi with big monitor speakers (Tannoy) - so I can play along with the Microcomposer and practice bass lines and solos over the chord changes - looped indefinitely.

    Also - if I get given a difficult written bassline, I will program that in to the microcomposer in step-time, select a bass sound and play along with it . In some cases this has been the only way to "get" the line at all and no other ways have worked.

    So, I mentioned how I was given a written bassline which was two different measures of 15/4, followed by 3 of 10/4. I was able to programme it as 5-bar chunks of 3/4 - my microcomposer doesn't know about 15/4 !!! And it seemed to work - although I suppse some people might have been troubled by the difference between 5 bars of 3/4 and one bar of 15/4!! ;)

    PS - it's hardly new technology - I've had all this tuff for at least 5 years!!
  15. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Do they exist?? :D
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Sounds pretty nice through my big monitor-style speakers in stereo - I have several piano samples - they sound great like this - although they don't work so well in live gig situations - but I wouldn't use them for this anyway.

    Besides - we're only talking about practising and my microcomposer piano sounds are truly awful - they are analogue synth "attempts" at piano, not samples - so my point is that the module sounds 100% "nicer" than the Microcomposer!! ;)

    But I'm not that bothered when I'm just trying to get a 32 bar chord-sequence in my head!
  18. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    moley wrote:
    There's a program called "Transcribe!" which can change independantly the tempo or the pitch of any tune extracted from a CD with "CD X-tractor":


    Those programs are a good complement to BiaB, IMHO.
  19. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Unfortunately, in my experience, you're pretty much right. I really don't think I've ever heard a piano sound from a module that I would even consider using for recording my own compositions.

    However, there are some pretty damn good digital pianos out there (some crappy ones too though). Yamaha do some really good sampled piano sounds in their digital pianos. I have a Yamaha P80, which has some really authentic piano sounds. I'm primarily a pianist, and I consider it good enough to use on my recordings - it really does sound like a grand piano - my dad (who is a professional audio engineer and has recorded quite a few pianos in his time) thinks so too.

    Yes, I have used "Transcribe!" once before. Although for most transcription I do, I don't bother to slow down, for those times when I do, it's really useful - however now that I've got a DAW that does it anyway, I just use that.
  20. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Besides Band in a Box, I used PG Music's "Power Tracks Pro Audio" multitrack recording software. Very cheap- like $50 for the basic system- and very powerful. I uses a MidiMan audio card- an inexpensive stereo in/out card designed for direct audio rather than games- and an MidiMan "AudioBuddy" preamp for mike and instrument feed. A good cheap system.

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