Audio/video and piano - What is its role?

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:42 am

Many performers and teachers advocate that students record themselves playing to get a better idea of how they really sound and look at the piano and help identify areas of the piece that need work. At one time, this was a luxury, but now, with many people owning digital cameras with at least some audio/video capability and just about everybody owning a portable tape (cassette or other) recorder, recording one's own playing is within the budget of just about everybody (FYI: a forthcoming article for PEP is entitled Digital Audio/Video Recording on the Cheap). Computers make digitization of these recordings easy and straightforward, so that they can be output to CD or DVD for distribution to others or simply to provide a record of one's playing.

Let us know how you use video or audio in taking or giving lessons. If you don't, but would like to, tell us what you would like to know. How does the use of these tools help in learning or teaching? I'm hoping that this discussion will enlighten us and also, perhaps, give us a few creative ideas. :)
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Fri Mar 02, 2007 4:36 pm

Over the years I have used tape recordings to let the student hear their music while not having to concentrate on playing it. I have also played a certain rhythm pattern in a piece that was giving some trouble. Both have had good results. The rhythm problems that were sometimes hard to correct over several lessons, were fixed in one week. Dynmanics improved as did tempo.

My old tape recorders do not produce good sound. Most students do not have tape players any more and look at you as though you were strange. (What do I do with this?) Give them a CD and they can play it at home and in the car (and on their computer and whatever new gagets they have).

I would like to know, if not too technical, how to record a CD while the student is at the lesson (plus for me to do any time) and have the student take it home. I do not have 'windows' I have a Macmini. According to a person at Radio Shack, it would be easy. (For him, maybe). I have a CD player for the computer plus a small CD/tape/ radio.


Thank you, Joan
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Postby Stretto » Fri Mar 02, 2007 6:17 pm

One thing I would like to do is record myself playing a selection of pieces onto computer so that students can listen to a recording on cd at home and pick and choose from listening which ones they would be most interested in learning.

I'd also like to help students record compositions.

Also, I would like to hear some ideas about how ipods both student's and teacher's ipods can be used in conjunction with lessons for music listening assignments or ? What are some things ipods can do that could be useful in lessons? (I don't own one and am just barely learning what they are or can do. I just learned a couple weeks ago what the difference was between ipods and mp3 players! - I think.) Here's a question for dummies - Are ipods capable of holding home recordings? I was wondering since many people especially teenagers seem to carry ipods, should interested teachers be thinking in terms of putting recordings on ipod vs. cd or dvd?

I know what you mean, loveapiano, about the taperecorders. When I've asked students if they have a tape player at home, they think for a while and come up with one place somewhere in the house they remember might have one.




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Mar 02, 2007 6:54 pm

loveapiano wrote:My old tape recorders do not produce good sound. Most students do not have tape players any more and look at you as though you were strange. (What do I do with this?) Give them a CD and they can play it at home and in the car (and on their computer and whatever new gagets they have).

I would like to know, if not too technical, how to record a CD while the student is at the lesson (plus for me to do any time) and have the student take it home. I do not have 'windows' I have a Macmini. According to a person at Radio Shack, it would be easy. (For him, maybe). I have a CD player for the computer plus a small CD/tape/ radio.

Here's a question for dummies - Are ipods capable of holding home recordings? I was wondering since many people especially teenagers seem to carry ipods, should interested teachers be thinking in terms of putting recordings on ipod vs. cd or dvd?

The purpose of the article I mentioned in my original post is to tell people what they can do and, probably, exactly how to do the most common things. Regarding tape recorders: you don't need anything fancy, so long as you're not terrribly picky about the sound quality. For example, the built-in stereo mikes on Walkman cassette/radio combos do a quite adequate job for non-critical stuff and can be carried just about anywhere.

As my article will say, you can record directly into the computer using your sound card's Microphone input. I don't have a Mac Mini, but my old Mac PPC 6500 has a standard mike input that you could hook a mike to, or, in a pinch and with a certain amount of care, even the headphone outputs of a Walkman. I'm sure your Mac Mini has the necessary software to record the signal, though I don't know what specific program was provided with that system. You can't record directly to CD (for all sorts of complicated reasons), but you can record to hard disk and then use your CD burning program to output that to CD (as audio or data)

You bet iPods can be used for home recordings. Just make your recording in whatever recording software came with your system and then output it to an .MP3 file. Then you just transfer it to your IPod (or any other MP3 player) and you're in business. Your suggestion about the Ipod is a good one, though remember that SRAM (Static Random Access Memory) in an iPod is not the kind of "permanent" medium that a CD or DVD is. The estimated life for CD or DVD is around 100 years, while the SRAM in an MP3 player will lose stored material in a matter of years (faster if a cosmic ray hits it just right).

:(
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:24 am

loveapiano wrote:I would like to know, if not too technical, how to record a CD while the student is at the lesson (plus for me to do any time) and have the student take it home. I do not have 'windows' I have a Macmini. According to a person at Radio Shack, it would be easy. (For him, maybe). I have a CD player for the computer plus a small CD/tape/ radio.

I thought I should expand on my earlier answer to this question. It's generally true that you can't and shouldn't try to record directly to CD from your computer. That said, it doesn't take long to transfer unedited recorded sound to a CD. You can probably do it in well under 30 minutes. In a pinch, I've done it in less than 5 minutes, though, of course, you give away one of the major advantages of digital audio, the ability to edit and improve, if you make such fast recordings.

Given that I don't know the details (installed software and hardware) of your MacMini, here's a general procedure that you should be able to apply to record a student playing onto CD.

Using a pre-taped recording:

1. Record the sound on tape (cassette is fine for most purposes), using whatever type of tape recorder you have
2. Connect the tape recorder's Line output jack (or headphone jack if it doesn't have a Line Output) directly to the Microphone or Line Input of your sound card. You'll need a two-ended RCA stereo cable to make the connection. You probably got one with the computer, but you can also get one at RadioShack, BestBuy and the like.
3. Start the recording software that came with the machine. For machines that have Creative sound cards (the most common type), the right program will be found in your Creative folder and may be called something like WaveStudio. Depending on what specific software you have, you may need to use either the operating system's volume controls to turn on the Line or Microphone inputs or the software that came with your system. For systems with Creative sound cards, this is usually called Creative Mixer. Use the appropriate program to turn on the Line or Microphone input and set the level in that program for the appropriate input to mid-range for starters.
4. Here's the only "tricky" part: If you are using the amplified headphone or speaker outputs from your tape recorder to get sound into the computer, Be sure to start with the volume on the recorder/player as low as it will go. This approach will prevent you from electrically overloading your sound card's input.
5. Once you have verified that you have the appropriate inputs turned on in your computer, start playing the tape. Since you have the volume on the tape recorder set as low as it will go, chances are you will see nothing happening on the level meters in your computer's recording software. Now, slowly edge up the volume on the tape recorder. Before long, you'll start to see the input meters on you computer's sound card software respond. Then, it's just a matter of setting the volume from the recorder to get the correct levels, just as with any recording medium. At that point, you're ready to record.
6. Rewind the tape to the beginning, put your recording software in record mode, and begin playing the tape to the end. In most recording software, you'll see the waveform appear before your eyes on the computer monitor as the tape plays. When the tape is done, stop the recording software and tape. You now have the sound into the computer.
7. Make any changes you want to the digitized (because it's now in the computer) recording (adding silences at beginning or end adjusting track levels, cutting out noises, etc.).
8. Save the sound to a hard disk file (File,Save As..) in two formats: whatever the "native" format of the program might be and one of the following: .MP3 (for computers and iPods), .AVI (mainly for video), or .WMV (format for the Web, if you want to put the file on the Web). Mac users may want to use .MOV in place of .WMV.
9. With the sound now saved, exit your recording program and start your CD burning program. The two most common of these are Nero and Roxio's Creator, but there are many others.
10. Tell the program to create an Audio disk (assuming you want it to play on a CD or DVD player) or Data disk (assuming you want to be able to play the file, instead, on a computer or archive it it for iPod playing or the Internet).
11. Burn the CD. When it's done, close the burning program.
12 . Open the CD or DVD drive door, leaving the disk in the tray. Reclose the door. If the disk is good, it should start playing within 20 or 30 seconds.
13. When you're done with recording from the microphone, turn off the microphone input in your software. Disconnect the input cable if you don't want to leave them connected permanently.



OR

Using a microphone for direct recording:

1a. Connect a microphone directly to the Microphone input of your sound card. On some systems this input may be duplicated on your speaker control (the one with the hardware volume dial).
2. Start the recording software that came with the machine. For machines that have Creative sound cards (the most common type), the right program will be found in your Creative folder and may be called something like WaveStudio. Depending on what specific software you have, you may need to use either the operating system's volume controls to turn on the Line or Microphone inputs or the software that came with your system. For systems with Creative sound cards, this is usually called Creative Mixer. Use the appropriate program to turn on the Line or Microphone input and set the level in that program for the appropriate input to mid-range for starters.
3. Put your recording software in record mode, and press the pause button in your recording software. Play a few bars on the piano until you get the levels set properly. When you're ready to begin recording, press the pause button again and start playing. In most recording software, you'll see the waveform appear before your eyes on the computer monitor performance proceeds. When you're done, stop the recording software and tape. You now have the sound into the computer.
4. Proceed with steps 7-13 above.

This is a lot of steps, but, after the first couple of times, they'll be second nature to you, especially if you're familiar with recording on a tape recorder of any type.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby Stretto » Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:08 pm

Wow! Thanks, Dr. Zeigler, for such detailed step-by-step directions!

Here's another question that crossed my mind after this thread was started and part of the topic was video recording:

If someone doesn't have a digital camcorder for making video recordings of piano playing but they do have a video camera for recording onto VHS tapes, is there a way to transfer recordings from a video camera onto computer?

Since a tape recording can be transferred to computer, it made me wonder if a recording on a video camera (a non-digital one) could.




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Mar 06, 2007 5:12 pm

Stretto wrote:If someone doesn't have a digital camcorder for making video recordings of piano playing but they do have a video camera for recording onto VHS tapes, is there a way to transfer recordings from a video camera onto computer?

It depends on what hardware you have, specifically your computer's video card. Many modern video cards have TV In jacks which you can use to import an analog composite video signal (from a VCR or analog video camera). Most DVD writing programs support importing and exporting analog video, as well.

Another way to do it involves a digital video camera. You can transfer the VHS from the VCR to the digital video camera DV tape. Once transferred to DV tape, you can pull the information into the computer easily, via the computer's Firewire or USB2 port. I've done it this way many times. You also get a nice backup on DV tape of the shorter-lived VHS tape. :)




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