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Piano

Not quite the same feeling as a real piano especially without a sustain pedal.

Not quite the same feeling as a real piano especially without a sustain pedal.

A month or so ago I accidentally opened Garageband to discover that it offered piano lessons. I have always wanted to learn to play the piano and the violin but never had the motivation or the money to do so. Free lessons already on my computer spurred me to seek out an electronic keyboard to hook up to my computer to learn to play.

I remembered that my brother had received a keyboard about nine years ago and that it had made it’s way up to my grandmothers. My next trip up there I uncovered it and hauled it back home. First thing it needed was a new power supply, easily done through RadioShack. Second was a MIDI to USB converter, not so easily done. In fact trying to find out locally was near impossible or far to expensive. This presented two options: the first to simply buy a USB keyboard and the second to just not hood it up to my computer.

Taking a step back from myself I realized that I have been swept up in the equipment and technology of the process instead of the goal of playing a piano. I forgot the MIDI cable and just started up Garageband with a keyboard in front of me.

The lessons are pretty good and they teach enough (I am only five in out of eight I believe) so it becomes fun. I have two concerns with the software: I cannot print out the sheet music from the lessons and with a laptop it is hard to see the onscreen sheet music while sitting ergonomically at a keyboard (the musical kind).

The internet came to my rescue at this juncture. I quick search on the knowing Google came up with a neat site. This site offers free sheet music at levels from just starting all the way to complex pieces. It also has simple recording of what the piece normally sounds like. It has been fun to branch out and play simple songs like Rain, Rain, Go Away and Frère Jacques.

Finding a gem of a site like this I used an internet archiving program to download the whole site as a backup in case it disappears in the future (having happened once to me before I do this occasionally for really handy sites).

I hope to eventually be able to play a fluent Für Elise.

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Not a great photo but you can see the rows of cell phones beneath the stage

Not a great photo but you can see the rows of cell phones beneath the stage

A phenomena that I have noticed at any college music event is the technological replacement of lighters. In the past (at least based iconographic images and the media) music concerts entailed many of the audience members holding up lighters and waving then slightly to the music.

Now cell phones have taken on that role. There is now a sea of blue screens held aloft by enthusiastic fans; oddly I believe that the band cannot actually see this due to all the screen facing backwards. I am sure most are taking pictures but the effect is the same.

Another potential reason for the replacement is the decline in smoking in the student body. Not many people smoke (cigarettes), I know two people who do, so there is not the prevalence of lighters. Also there would be the safety restrictions on any open flames near any large crowd of people. In fact my friend informs me that they were spraying/splashing water on the crowds to put out a fire of some sort (likely caused by a certain leaf based narcotic).

Overall I like the effect of the sea of cellphones, if I was photographing an event it would add a nice visual element to underline the main performance. The tick of course is to be about one or two feet higher then the crowd so that the sea is compressed into the same horizontal line.

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Audiophiles

I had to wait outside for forty minutes for a fire alarm a couple of days ago, not fun.

I had to wait outside for forty minutes for a fire alarm a couple of days ago, not fun.

There are certain things in life I do not understand: wifi allergies, conspiracy theorists and audiophiles. Namely doing things like spending six hundred dollars for a super high fidelity audio cable less than three feet in length. Forever claiming that records sound better with the natural hiss and pops of dust. Custom ordering vacuum tube amps since those solid state transistors just don’t cut it  with their crossover distortion.

I just don’t get it.

So I was happy to read this article on the new up and coming music format preference.

In short the newer generations prefer 128 KBs mp3 recordings over vinyl, lossless formats or any other. The “warm” background sound of records is being replaced by the mp3.

In twenty years I want to see expensive equipment to transfer the latest lossless music format into good ol’ 128 KBs.

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