My strange relationship with how-to books

The Audacity book was very good and very useful. I learned many things, but … did not really learn what I was after. I guess that will just have to come with experience.

Still, it’s good to learn what to click on when you want to do something in a program.

This is not the first time I’ve reached this conclusion about a how-to book.

Still trying to solve a phrasing problem without using the pedal. I think I have a possible solution in mind, but this is where the fact that I’ve mentally practiced the living daylights out of this piece works against me. I have done it the old way in my head about a million times. It will take A Long Time™ to overwrite that. Wah. Other than that, it’s just enormous amounts of slow and metronome practice to get this thing into shape. It’s a piece that I’m particularly pleased with, so I’ll be happy to get it down.

Audacity book is here, more problem-solving on five sharps

There’s that one annoying bit that I used to clean up with the pedal, and I think I’m going to have to try cleaning it up another way, with a slide on my thumb from the A# to the G#, to keep there from being a noticeable gap between those two notes that I don’t want. Other than, that it’s just slow practice and making sure I pedal properly. There’s some pedaling work that I have to mentally go over in the last section of the piece as well, just to make sure it’s as clean as I can get it. Almost no chords in it though, so no mental ranting at myself for inadvertently rolling them at least.

Also, the book is here, and I plan to poke around in it all this week.

Also here are three cans of the most delicious coffee from Cafe du Monde, and I really look forward to having some this weekend. 🙂 Probably won’t be as good as I remember with the sunshine and the beignets, but I’ll enjoy it nonetheless. The stuff I bought online was the full-strength stuff, but the coffee I drank when I was actually at Cafe du Monde was the decaf, and it was still the best coffee I ever tasted.

They overdid the powdered sugar on the beignets, though. Way too much — looked like they had dumped a full half-cup of the stuff over the things, and I had the hard luck of wearing a black shirt. By the time I was done eating, I looked like a little kid who had been told to clap the erasers before class. (They were good though, once I scraped the blizzard off the top.)

Here’s a recipe for the things — the original one made something insane like ten servings, and asked for seventeen thousand pounds 7 freakin cups of flour. I live alone. No way am I making anything that requires 7 cups of flour! I suspect that even halving it is too much, and I may end up getting the box mix from CdM, inglorious though that may be.

The stuff I’m using to record myself at the moment

A quick run-down for the curious:

  1. A Clavinova CLP340 with AUX IN/OUT inputs under the keyboard roughly behind the low E; this is the sort of digital piano you can pick up on Craigslist if you don’t have the money to buy new
  2. A cheap Dell PC running Audacity, which is freeware
  3. This audio cable because it’s shielded
  4. Two of these jacks to connect the red/white ends of the above cable to the Clavinova’s AUX OUT connections
  5. This soundcard which plugs into my laptop’s USB.

I’m sure that having exposed all of this, there are many nerds out there who will argue about my choices (technology zealots are worse than the religious ones), but this setup is what I’m starting with, and I will update it over time as things change, if they do.

For now, though — this will help give any curious pianist out there an idea of the fairly bare-bones stuff they need to get started recording themselves. As I learn more — and I will because I only just got this crap working last night, I will post more.

My sound card came.

I officially have a “Line in” input now — in a box, but still. I have to make myself open the box now to make sure that it has all the tertiary bits it needs to function, cables and whatnot. I hope I don’t need a wireless connection for this thing to run off looking for a driver or anything; my home laptop is hopelessly infected (it’s a frigging PC) and I turned the wireless off.

I also got a nice Y-cable with RCA connectors and a tiny stereo phone plug; I can stick the larger adapters on it. It’s Gold-Plated™ woo-hoo, which means nothing if there are any more resistive interfaces between the Clav and the computer, but hey. They’re pretty at least.

So some fiddling around with it tonight, then more this weekend. Shit. Then I have to actually let people know what I sound like, don’t I? That’s the point of this whole evolution, isn’t it? Crappers.

ETA: Opened the box. It seems to have the right cable, but I feel like the ends are going to metamorphose on me between now and when I get home, and what looked like two nice USB plugs on either end will have turned into a bloody eyeball and a piece of salted fish, or some other godforsaken thing that can’t be plugged into either the Clav or the laptop. Damn it, stop awfulizing, you.

Framizams and whatchamacallits

So I bought an external sound card, which is nice. I also figured out at least a bit on how to get stereo sound and mmmmmmm-decent sound quality through the Mic In, although it’s nothing wonderful. So things are moving forward. When the sound card gets here, I’ll start poking with that.

Then, I start recording, because I’ve truly gotten sick of talking about composing and not having links to music up on this damn thing.

Cables, computer, gear, writing, recording, yadda yadda …

I put an external sound card in my cart at Amazon and will see what I can do about picking up a shielded cable.

This shit is annoying. I like computers, and even I think this is annoying. Well, I like basic coding and learning to use programs. I’m not intimidated by computers, thankfully. But I do not like hardware. My interest level dies the minute we’re talking about anything electronic that can be dropped on your foot. If a mechanism doesn’t have gears, pulleys, pistons, and stuff I can actually see moving, I lose interest. And at that, I’m endlessly grateful that I have the ease and comfort with computers and the Internet that I do. A lot of musicians tend not to — certainly in my age cohort — and my technical background keeps me from being frightened of all of it.

I think that the technical abilities that I have that will stand me in the best stead as a musician are that I know Illustrator and Photoshop and am better with them than many graphic artists. All of the graphic work that I will need to support this rigmarole will be done by me; I need pay no one else. All of the publicity and media contact garbage that I need to do I can also do myself without cutting a single check. All of the website/blog maintenance I need to do I can do myself. I’m very fortunate to have the skills to be a shop-unto-myself. I am also lucky to play an instrument that requires relatively little post-production. The only things I do not know about are the bureaucratic junk behind it all — what unions I may need or want to join as a musician, what paperwork I need to keep straight so the government doesn’t shave me bald on April 15th, the paperwork required to perform live should I ever decide that I’m going to, that sort of thing.

But I still get a reflexive burst of petulance when I’m forced to concern myself with gear of any kind. I would be a terrible guitarist. They love that stuff.

I’m also starting to realize that I should have concerned myself with it a lot earlier. I had a (typical classical, I think) vision of writing a full compilation worth of music, and then woodshedding it piece by piece and recording the whole thing. Probably comes from those days when I’d have complete albums of composers’ work propped in front of me as if the compositions had all come into being as a single large block of work.

What I wish I had done now is piffled around with whatchamacallits and framizams and reversing the polarity of the neutron flow much earlier so that I could have recorded each piece as I finished it. That’s the best time to get a piece recorded, when it’s still for the most part coming naturally to your hands. Now, I have to go back and re-learn eight pieces anew — about thirty pages of sheet! — and record the stupid things. I should have bitten the bullet on the technical junk much earlier.

Hopefully now that I am making myself untangle this, I will be able to write/record more quickly in the future because I won’t have this idiotic backlog of completed pieces building up anymore. We’ll see how that goes.