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Archive for May, 2007

The Music-Brain Connection

I‘ve been fascinated by the music-brain connection ever since I got my hands on Dan Levitin‘s spectacularly enlightening book, This Is Your Brain on Music (2006, Dutton). So I read Sunday‘s “Glad You Asked” column in my local McClatchy newspaper, The Charlotte Observer, with great interest. A reader submitted the question, “Why are old songs so unforgettable?” The columnist‘s answer, of course, was all about cognitive neuroscience. You can read the column here.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Geary Yelton |

Corea & Fleck on NPR

Tuesday‘s edition of “Talk of the Nation” featured an interesting interview with Chick Corea and Béla Fleck. They‘ve collaborated on a new album, and they played a few cuts from their CD live in the studio. You can catch the broadcast here.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Geary Yelton |

USB Mics: Who Uses Them?

Hey gang,
Before I pose my question, let me give you some background info. I spent over a month working with various USB mics in preparation for the April ’07 roundup, “The Direct Connection.” Before I started my research, I naively thought there would be little sonic difference between the mics, imagining that the majority of them would be suitable only for informal recording situations (songwriting demos, jams, Lo-Fi Podcasts). Was I ever wrong!

Each of the mics had its own personality, and a couple of them surprised me by how good they sounded, especially when you consider the price. However, I still had some reservations.

On a recent trip, I wanted to bring only a laptop and a USB mic to throw down some ideas, because I didn’t want the extra weight of an external preamp, A/D converter, or even an XLR cable. Surprisingly, the recordings were good enough to fit into an upcoming project, and now I feel that my studio toolbox is that much richer. Have you had a similar experience?

Tell us how you’ve been using USB microphones. Do you have any interesting tips or anecdotes to share with other EM readers who are using (or considering) USB mics? If so, hit reply: we’d love to hear from you!

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Related Topics: Emusician, Gino Robair |

Get Your CD’s Info into the iTunes Database

I get a lot of CDs sent to me as part of my work for EM, and I’ve noticed that with many independent releases, when I go to play them in iTunes, they show up without any of their track names or CD/artist info. If you’re sending your CD around, or selling copies, you want people to be able to see that info. Since iTunes is on all Macs and on a lot of PCs, it’s very important to get that info into its database if you’re releasing your own CD.

The database that iTunes uses is called CDDB, and it’s from a company called Gracenote . When you load a CD into iTunes that’s had its data uploaded to CDDB, it’s identified based on the length and order of the songs on it, which collectively act as a unique identifier. The idea is that no two CDs will be entirely identical in those respects. That’s also why when load a single song into iTunes, it sometimes shows up with the name of another song. That happens because your song’s duration matched something in the database. If you want more info on how CDDB works, check out this entry from Wikipedia on the subject.

Anyway, if you want to upload your CDs track info to the database so that anybody who plays it will see the track info, this is what you do:

1) Put the CD into your computer and open iTunes.
2) Select all the tracks in the iTunes window.
3) Hit “Get Info” (command-I), and enter in the common info (album name, artist, year, genre, copyright info, etc.).
4) Select each track individually, hit Get Info, and enter its correct name.
5) Go to Advanced>Submit CD Track Names. Your info will be uploaded to CDDB. Once it’s processed in their system, when anybody puts your CD into iTunes, all of your information will show up.

Before uploading, be sure that you have everything correctly entered, including the song order. If you submit the wrong info, it can be a hassle to change it. To do so, you have to contact Gracenote, it can take a while, and in the meantime, people will be seeing incorrect info when they put your CD into iTunes.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Mike Levine |

MySpace on NPR

Yesterday on the NPR radio show, “Talk of the Nation,” I heard an interesting interview with unsigned songwriter Ingrid Michaelson. Her music was discovered on her MySpace page and consequently is being used on the TV show, “Grey‘s Anatomy.” In a discussion with host Neal Conan, she asserts that record company support is unnecessary to make a living composing music, and that companies searching for talent are as likely to look on MySpace as anywhere else. And because she‘s unsigned, she gets about 2/3 of any sales on iTunes. If you‘re an independent musician, I recommend that you listen to the program here.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Geary Yelton |

On an Island

I spent last week vacationing on Ocracoke, an island in North Carolina‘s Outer Banks. Ocracoke is many miles from the mainland and can be reached only by air or by sea. The National Park Service administers most of the island as part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, but a small village near the south end has been occupied for nearly 300 years. Ocracoke is best known for its picturesque lighthouse, in operation since 1823, and for the pirate Blackbeard, who lived and even threw parties there and was beheaded there in 1718.

Armed with a Korg MR-1 recorder, I was struck by the variety of island sounds and how they differ from the city sounds I‘m accustomed to. I naturally anticipated the roar of the Atlantic Ocean, but the west side of the island faces Pamlico Sound, a body of water whose sounds range from gentle lapping to turbulent sloshing, depending on the weather. Ocracoke‘s birds sound quite distinct from the birds around my home in Charlotte, with lots of seagulls, ducks, and other aquatic birds, as well as red-winged blackbirds and many species I couldn‘t identify.

Ocracoke has a thriving tourist trade, and an assortment of windchimes was on display on the front porch of a shop called the Island Ragpicker. I positioned a stereo mic between the metal bells and bamboo chimes and captured not only their ringing and clacking, but also the “Wooo!” of exuberant college girls on break as they drove past the shop. Almost everywhere I went, the constant breeze made itself an issue while recording, and I often had to use my hat as a windscreen.

Over a dozen families have lived on the island for many generations, and some lifelong residents speak with an unusual brogue I‘d never encountered, pronouncing “high tide” as “hoi toid,” for example. I recorded Jimmy, owner of the local garage, and Della, who ran a small crafts shop behind her home, telling stories of how the island had changed since the days when locals depended on rain as their main source of drinking water. Though I‘m not sure just what I‘ll do with my collection of field recordings, it captures Ocracoke aurally in much the same way that photographs do visually; however, I‘m sure they‘ll take much longer to edit.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Geary Yelton |


The Bus, EM's editorial blog, features posts from all the EM editors on topics related to gear, recording techniques and much more. It's also home to posts from a selected group of guest bloggers.


May 2007
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