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Getting back into the swing of things (original thread)

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I've been desiring a wind controller for quite some time. I finally decided ... not to get one.

I forced myself to think about what I really want to do. Rather than wanting to perform someplace, I'd rather make recordings of some instrumental pieces I can only find sheet music for. As an example, I'm very fond of Peter Schickele's serious music. I've been looking for a decent copy of "Spring Serenade" for flute and piano ever since I stopped living in Buffalo NY and could no longer check the record -- vinyl, folks! -- out of the downtown library. There's a performance on YouTube, but it's live and the quality isn't that great.

This isn't exactly new for me. I've done this type of thing back in the 80s and 90s. The two big changes are that I can now use a computer scanner to scan in a score and I can now use virtualized instruments -- no physical instrument; all sound is created by your computer.

I've downloaded a bunch of different trial software, my wife is going to get our POS MIDI electronic keyboard out of storage, and I just put in an order for a MIDI interface (that's the thing that allows the electronic keyboard to communicate with the computer).

Wish me luck!
 
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pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Definitely. I'm going to try to post stuff as I try it. I'm also trying to do this as inexpensively as possible. I do have a maximum number in mind: $550. That's about the cost of the aforementioned wind controller. In this case, that'd be a Yamaha WX5. It's very true that there are cheaper Yamaha WX11s (which I used to own) and WX7s out there, but those are also 20+ years old. Considering that I'm a computer tech IRL, I know that electronic things can easily break just by letting them sit that long. Hey, it's not much different than having a woodwind sit around for years and then you'd need new pads.

However, I'm going to try to go as close to $0 as possible.

If I had unlimited cash, I'd love to get the entire Vienna Symphonic Library of (virtual) instruments (check out their demos here and here to hear why I'd like it). It's only 10,000 Euros, which is about $11,000 US. Then, Finale at $350 US (academic discount). Then, possibly, Ableton Live at $749 US. While I'm at it, I'd like a new house and desk ....

I'm actually starting with trial software, as mentioned above. I used to use Finale notation software, so I'm going to try the new version. I'm primarily interested in the scanning/OCR component, then I'm going to see how Finale has matured as a MIDI sequencer (translation: how it plays back). That's why Ableton is also on my list, just in case. However, there are free music scanning apps, Finale has a free music notation app, and there are lots of free MIDI sequencers out there. I also have an old Macbook, so I've got Garage Band. That might take care of all my needs.

Speaking of "house," my wife is going to be switching to a different job and that's about 20 miles from where I currently live. It was all of 15 minutes away. My job is 33 miles away. You might think these are small numbers, but it takes me an average of 45 minutes to drive into work and an hour driving from work. My wife's job will probably be close to a 40 minute drive, each way. So, my wife wants to look at housing a bit closer to where either or both of us work.

The desk I mention is actually something to think about. I have a limited amount of room, currently, and I've got a bunch of stuff. It'd be nice if I can put my electronic keyboard on my desk and sill have my computer keyboard and monitors on the same desk, not to mention my iPad and speakers. My boss is into woodworking, so I might commission him ....

Well. Just waiting on the MIDI interface to arrive and to get the keyboard out of storage. Fortunately, if said keyboard is broken, a new simple MIDI keyboard hovers around $100. That's not too bad.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Ah, Garage Band...

When I made the move away from analog and towards digital, I got the Yamaha controller (along with a nifty case), and a Macintosh/iOs interface, but decided to go on the cheap for now (as my tongue is almost dead, and my lips are starting to fail, plus my index finger on the LH has gone numb) and not get a synth, at least not now.

Not a problem, I thought - I'll just use GarageBand and purchase the extra patches for the horns (it comes with one saxophone, I think, and that might only be on the iPhone version). Cheap, and good enough to practice with.

Fast forward four months. First, the controller has been tried out before, and the "funkmeister" who used it didn't bother to cleanse the mouthpiece end of the "horn". Gross and a half. (I still haven't gotten around to taking it apart and doing it right.)

Second, no one (including the top drawer technicians in Houston at the Apple Stores, seems to be able to cause the horn patches to install into the program. I've cleared off half of my solid state drive, had both the top dogs at the Galleria store, and a guy brought in on assignment all the way from Austin, of all places, to attempt to do this, but nothing will take.

From what they have all said during the normal small talk, it's clear that this was the first time that anyone had ever bothered to try to do this - incredible to me as a reed player, but not all that hard to imagine for your typical GarageBand user. Let's face it - the program is really only good for the likes of Kanye West and other "musicians" of his ilk, when it comes right down to it.

Money for the synth unit is not a big problem - there may even been a purchase under an obscure DVA program that advances monies for equipment enabling me to work in "my chosen profession". But, even if that doesn't pan out, I can easily manage the Yahama unit I've used in the past.

But, it seems a shame that I've bought (in theory) a certified add on for a fully engineered Apple program, only to find out that said add on won't work.

I'm getting a new Macbook Air in a week or so, so I'll try it on there and see what happens. I've also got a case open with the top dog tech support folks at Cupertino, so that may pan out.

In the meantime, the stick sits there stinking and tasting horrible. Perhaps I get around to doing that within the week...
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
Argh, that's a horror story and a half that plays into my germ a phobia. Dunno, sometimes I trade instruments with a friend, but even then I have to fight my screaming mind from scaring me. Can't count the number of times I didn't purchase something because of how grungy it was. And don't even get me started about where mine goes when I pick up my clarinet from the 1800s!
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I have no real experience with Garage Band. I do know that there have been some relatively famous musicians that have recorded albums with it, like the "band" that won the Grammy for best alternative album, St. Vincent. (Although, I believe it was her first few albums she used Garage Band on, not the one that won the Grammy.) I'd also say that if you're using Garage Band just for the built-in loops, you're not really using it as intended. You'd be much better off finding a VST: a virtual instrument. Try Kontakt Player and their demo content then download their Factory Selection. That's what I'm going to start with. The download is for Mac or PC. Native Instruments also has some other free virtual instrument players that are based on synths and other things.

The MIDI interface I ordered isn't here yet and my wife hasn't picked up the keyboard from storage, so I can't tell you much about how things are supposed to be connected to each other, but I can appreciate some of the audio samples, like this fairly nice piano.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
My decision to try GarageBand was based upon the fact that I already had the program, and that the instrument augmentation package was cheap. No point in spending hundreds or a half a grand for something when you supposedly can get it for next to nothing.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
No point in spending hundreds or a half a grand for something when you supposedly can get it for next to nothing.
The Kontakt Player and their Factory Selection is free, so that's better than next to nothing :p.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
I did the download of the files listed above. I noted some mention of some fee for something, but was not able to chase it down, as the Apple folks reset my master Admin password on me and I cannot perform any new installs.

When I get the new MacBook Air​ next week, I'll try it again.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Excellent.

If you happen to have an original MacOS install DVD, you can boot up with that and reset the administrator password in about 5 minutes. Ooops. Sorry. "Macintosh security is incredibly strong and there's no way to get into it if your admin password is locked out. I'm sorry."
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Yeah, but it may be that the startup disk (actually a USB drive these days, but who's checking) is lost amongst the office papers (where my install disks for Canvas are also MIA). I had to dig through all of that once to find my executor stuff (letters testamentary and certified copies of the death certificate), but didn't see them then. However, focus on a purpose generally distracts you from other things.

We'll see. I had to visit the storage unit today to try and find all of the cordless microphones to remove the batteries installed in them. We moved directly from our last job to packing up the truck to move over here, and I don't remember pulling them first.

Getting to stuff in the stuffed storage unit is a real ordeal, especially with my physical restrictions these days. Just fishing the one microphone case involved some pretty involved acrobatics between the two of us, all in the midst of huge amounts of other stuff getting in the way. I had hoped that they would all be stacked together, but I persisted in keeping the 9 volt rehearsal microphone separated from the 3 volt performance microphones, just to avoid picking up the wrong one. Well, now I can pick up the wrong one, but not the ones that matter.

For the record, there was no corrosion on the 9 volt terminals. The unit is pretty well climate controlled, so I imagine the dampness issue was well regulated.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Back to the topic, I did pick up the keyboard from our storage unit. It's dusty, but undamaged. The music stand and keyboard stand were also right with it. The only thing missing was a power supply. I got home, opened my bag o' power supplies and the first one I grabbed worked just fine. I'm somewhat amazed at that.

Amazon says that my MIDI interface will be here on Tuesday.

Per the above comment from Jim (Gandalfe), I'm writing out stuff regarding "my journey." The only question is whether it's going to be a thread or a blog post. I'm also going to try the "cheap as possible" route, rather than a combination of paid and free stuff I initially was going to do, so it can be accessible to even more folks. So far, I've written stuff about stuff you have to purchase, like a computer, MIDI interface, etc. and some stuff I've done with music scanning software. We'll see how it goes. I'm all for sharing!
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
And, in my tale of woe, the next chapter. I've found the USB drive that allegedly allows you to reset the password through a relatively complicated process of starting up a program, clicking on restart, and then renaming/re-passwording the whole shebang.

Drive in and program started without problems. Click on the restart button, and instead of being offered the reset option, I get the same "Something is being reset on your computer - type the authorized user name and password to get started". This does not track with the listed procedure at all.

We have an authorized Apple vendor in town, so I'm going to haul it all over there tomorrow and see if they can make any better sense of it.

Concurrent with this was the loss of all but one of my printers as being accessible from my computer. My main unit, the big Canon laser, just does not show up as connected. I've tried to delete and reinstall the driver but - surprise of surprises - it wants me to type the admin name and password first.

I've used the same root password for over twenty years on my stuff - the password that you always need to do any very basic actions. Never got locked out before, but I'm really locked out now. Ironically, the "hint" offered as part of the process is the same one leading to the same "fail safe" password.

The new computer is supposed to be here this week, so it's not the end of the world - as long as I can still use this computer with the one working printer to cut checks next week. That's a bit more important than tooting away on a synth...
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Same with mine. Plug in the cable from the stick to the box, and the box to the computer, and I could play grand piano all day long. No horns, mind you, but (in theory) the Apple mothership is working on that as we speak.

I got the problem with the computer fixed today. Now to load the Virtual stuff and clean the mouthpiece on the stick. (It still stinks to high heaven...)
 
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