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Making your own Practice MP3s on a website

Greetings!

As always, Choralisters were extremely helpful thanks to one and all!
here's a compilation of the responses (that is, the ones that weren't simply
asking to see a compilation!):

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What you CAN do is determine how many times a particular file (such a
an MP3 or MIDI file) has been downloaded (i.e. accessed) that
information is kept somewhere on the web server and it's only a
question of convincing the computer whiz in charge to let you have
access to that info. What you CAN'T do is find out how many times
they listened to the file; presumably you'd want them to listen
several times in a row so they can practice their part, but once the
file is downloaded it's on their local computer and you can't observe
what they're doing with it. Sorry.

You have to go by results. Have they learned their part? Anyway,
that's what's most important.

P.S. You can have a "practice log," if by that you mean students can
sign in/out and the times recorded, but there's no way to verify what
they're doing during that time, and inevitably they'll forget to sign
out so the data will always be a pain to evaluate. You'd need to have
a CGI script written by a computer whiz to do this.


Allen H Simon
Chair of Web Services
ChoralNet Inc.
http://choralnet.org
allen(a)choralnet.org

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I use Sibelius, quickly entering the music (first notes, then dynamics
and tempo changes.) I have gotten quite speedy. The biggest hang-up is
in pieces with constantly changing meters. then I call up the  "Mixer"
(just press "m") and assign really clear sounds to each part. I find
that with standard midi the woodwind patches tend to produce the most
clarity. The I 'Save As" a midi file, then adjust  the panning (putting
the predominant part all the way to the LEFT and all other parts
(except maybe a solo or instrumental accompaniment) all the way to the
right) and do additional "Save As" for each part.

If I am really ambitions, I enter the lyrics, save as midi, then import
into a nifty piece of shareware, from France, I believe: Melody
Assistant (It was $15 when I first downloaded it). Tthe program itself
is has a nightmarish interface, but it does have a "Virtual Singer"
module that will actually produce an acceptably sung version of the
lyrics in English (British or American), Spanish, German, or  French
(norther or southern), and Italian. You have to fuss with the voices,
because the defaults have every voice sounding like a normal pop
singer?ots of scooping, noisy vowels, imprecise attacks and out of
tune enough to make it sound "real".  Then I save this as an mp3. the
resulting file is huge compared to the midi files, but for people who
learn mainly by listening it is invaluable, especially for the foreign
languages.

I could send you samples if you like.


Bill Ganz
294 Divisadero
San Francisco, CA 94117
415 861-1206


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I've just found out that Finale has a free downloadable version that plays
and does simple editing.  That might be a good idea for you as they can not only
hear the notes, but they can watch them pass by as Finale plays back the
parts.  They can also add and subtract parts on their own.  All you would have to
do is enter the parts into Finale for them to practice, and that's not too
hard.  David

+++++++++

Hi there Ann.  I think I can help.
 
First, verify that the computer you will use to store the sound files has an
audio input jack.  This is usually on the back of the computer and is a
standard stereo mini-jack, just like you will find on any type of audio devices. 
Most computers made in the last 6-7 years will have this capability.
 
Next, purchase a cable with a mini stereo plug on one end.  The other end
will be determined by the type of device you will be using to transfer recordings
to your computer.  A stereo tape deck or CD deck will usually have the
standard RCA jacks used to hookup with other devices.  A boom box may only have a
mini stereo jack for headphones.  Either will work.  Radio Shack will have any
cables you may need.  Make sure the cable is long enough to reach without
having to use extendors.  They can add a "buzz" to the sound that is quite
annoying.
 
Once you have your device(s) hooked up to the computer, you will need
software to make the recordings.  Unfortunately, Windows Media Player is not
applicable for this.  It is fine for transfering files from CD-ROM, but you will
probably need a program for "Line-In" recording.  I recommend "MusicMatch"
www.musicmatch.com as they have a program you can download for free that will get you
started.  However, you will probably want to purchase the full program, which
is not too expensive.  Last time I checked it was around $30.  You can either
download the program directly from their website or order it on CD-ROM.
 
Set up the program to record from "line-in", put the media you wish to
transfer in your player and just follow the directions from the Music Match
program.  I recommend that you set up the type of file as MP3Pro, as it will take up
the least amount of memory on your hard drive and the website you will be using
to post the files for downloading.
 
Once you have created a library of songs on your computer, then you can begin
to "upload" them to the website.  That is a whole other ball of wax, and you
should seek out someone who is either the webmaster of your school's site or
perhaps purchase webpage software like MS Front Page to create that site. 
Suffice it to say, depending on the amount of songs you plan to upload, you will
need significant band width for storage.  My chorus website has between 7-10
songs and I'm maxed-out at 50 megabytes.  This issue is something you will need
to discuss with the webmaster.  If you are doing it yourself, I highly
recommend creating a domain through Yahoo.  But again that is up to your personal
situation.  I hope I've been helpful.  I did all of mine through trial and error
so I've learned what I know on the fly. 
 
Feel free to check out my chorus site at
www.members.cox.net/arizonacactuschorus and click on the download page.  BTW - most of our songs are original but
are for sale if you find them suitable or interesting.  Contact information is
available on the site and also at my newer (still under construction) site
www.grokmusik.com.
 
Good luck!
 
Greg Amerind
Scottsdale, AZ


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I'm sure you'll hear this from a lot of folks, but let me stress that you
need to clear copyright issues before you start posting practice files on
your website. If a publisher should be prowling the web and come across it
and your paperwork isn't in order it gets nasty.

Now - it is a great tool, but it is TERRIBLY time consuming to make the
things and get them posted. I just this week had to prepare 12 sets of files
(one for each voice part on twelve pieces) for an honor choir where I'm
taking my students. Rather than post on the web, I burn them onto CDs so I
can control the quality and control who gets access to them. It took me
approximately 20 hours to sequence the parts (and I'm a very skilled pianist
and am extremely fluent in technology), and then another 8 hours to burn 30
CDs. If you post to the web, you don't have that time - but if your files
are of any quality they take a great deal of web space.

I use Finale and Cakewalk to do my sequencing. If a piece is VERY complex I
will transcribe it note by note into Finale. If it's simple I just play it
into Cakewalk. I like to make the files into MP3s so the kids (or me) can
burn them into CDs so they're not tied to a computer to practice. Computers
rarely have decent sounding MIDI playback functions, so with MP3s I can
record a good sound and that's what the kids will hear back. To change from
MIDI to MP3 or WAV files you'll need some program to transform the files.
Again I use Finale; the latest version of Finale for PCs (2004) has a great
synthesized software and will actually save the MIDI file directly into a
WAV or MP3 file without having to use mics and lines and separate computers.
I probably have about $1000 in my entire setup counting my laptop, Finale,
Cakewalk, and a $300 Yamaha midi keyboard.

As for documenting how much the files are being used - I can't really speak
to that part of your question. I run a website for our local Music Teachers
Association and as webmaster, I can log into the web server and see how
often a particular page or file was accessed but I can't track each
individual user. I'm sure there is someway to do that, but I just don't know
how.

Good luck.

Terry Sanford
Hixson High
Chattanooga, TN
tsanford(a)spire.com

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>Check out SmartMusic.  I just attended a technology conference where
>this software was demonstrated and it's great!  Although it used to
>be prohibitive in cost, it's now only about $90 with student
>applications $20 each (once the initial $90 is paid).  The
>capabilities are amazing - if a student plays or sings a scale
>exercise, for example, it will show where s/he went out of tune!

Good luck, and please do post a compilation of responses.

Best,
Margaret Anne

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Check out Smart Music, a software that provides accompaniments for hundreds
of vocal and instrumental solos from the standard literature, follows the
student's own tempo if desired, and allows the student to record his solo on disk
or send via email.  It works in conjunction with Finale, and allows you to scan
an octavo and send it to Smart Music.  I have just purchased it for my
program I am having a few initial rough edges, but have great hopes.
 
Fred Ford

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Ann Foster
a.foster(a)holychildrye.org
FosterMuse(a)aol.com