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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningPractice Room(Moderator: blast) My Use Of A Wave Editor For Practice
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Geezerhorn

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« on: Aug 30, 2017, 05:15AM »

I have always liked the Willie Nelson classic "Always On My Mind" and it gives me a "country" song in my rep.

Here is what the Audacity project looks like. The Band-in-a-Box (my fictional T-boner Quintet) backing track is on top. A computer-generated 16-bar keyboard solo (my fictional cousin Carl) is amplified a little bit in the middle, after the first chorus, which I played fairly straight with a bucket mute. You can see my wave file under the backing track.

For the second pass on the chorus, I removed the bucket mute and embellished the melody line a little bit.

Always On My Mind

See how fairly tightly grouped the notes in the phrases in my solo track are? After a couple practice runs, I look at the solo track waves. If I see spaces between the notes where I don't want to see spaces, that tells me I am not playing as smoothly and "legato" as I would like. So I make the adjustment and record again and again and again... Also, in my practice runs, I could see places where my articulation was not as clean as I like and they look like little tiny spikes prior to the actual note. So again I practiced some more and then did another recording, and so on and so on until I had one that was as good as I am currently capable of.

So even without listening to the solo wave file, I can visually see where improvement is probably needed. There may also be graphic representation of my tone visible. I think I can see the top of the wave a wee bit higher than it was a few years ago, which could be an indication of overtones, or perhaps merely my wishful thinking. LOL. I am not aware of any visual representation of intonation. However, I can  spot where timing is an issue, because it does not visually line up with the beat on the recording track. So again, it's back to practicing! And if a use a MMO demo to compare my own solo track with - well, that  is quite a humbling experience - both visually and aurally!!!!!

I generally do not pass my sound through any post-recording filters. So what you hear is what the mic hears, other than some gain adjustments.

A serendipity of this is that sometimes I get to see & hear good things that were unintentional. In the rare event that happens - LOL - I then go back and mark my little chart with some type of musical notation so I can keep it and play the music that way again - on purpose the next time.

I thought sharing this could inspire other students to record themselves with something a little more sophisticated than their Iphones. Audacity may not be the best but it is free and certainly good enough for student diagnostics. I use an Electro Voice RE20 cardioid mic with a Cloud Lifter interface to boost the signal to noise ratio, and a desktop computer. An SM57 or an SM58 mic for about $100 or a new generation USB mic would probably work fine taken directly into the sound card. Maybe others could comment on that. Anyway, great learning tool for the money!

Perhaps this thread I started should be on some technology board, but I didn't think anyone would see it there and this is not about technology per se - certainly not new technology - but rather, how relatively old and common technology can be used.

...Geezer
« Last Edit: Aug 30, 2017, 02:03PM by Geezerhorn » Logged
timothy42b
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 30, 2017, 05:32AM »

Audacity is a great tool, and I agree the visual aspect adds to it.

I've noticed that when I'm trying to play a legato line with steady air, I can really see that some notes will be unintentionally louder and need to be fixed.  It seems to be easier to see that than hear it. 

Reaper is free too, and I was playing with it last night, trying to see if there are any advantages over Audacity.  I'm not sure if there are, for my purposes, but Audacity certainly has less of a learning curve. 

Audacity can slow down a phrase so you can hear note transitions better, but if you keep the pitch steady you lose quality, and if you let the pitch drop it sounds like a tuba.  I'm trying to see if Reaper can do better. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #2 on: Aug 30, 2017, 05:51AM »

I've ended up using real band from band-in-a-box for recording. Easy to use like audacity. Since you already have BIAB, I thought that you might take a look at it.
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Geezerhorn

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« Reply #3 on: Aug 30, 2017, 05:52AM »

Audacity is a great tool, and I agree the visual aspect adds to it.

I've noticed that when I'm trying to play a legato line with steady air, I can really see that some notes will be unintentionally louder and need to be fixed.  It seems to be easier to see that than hear it. 

Reaper is free too, and I was playing with it last night, trying to see if there are any advantages over Audacity.  I'm not sure if there are, for my purposes, but Audacity certainly has less of a learning curve. 

Audacity can slow down a phrase so you can hear note transitions better, but if you keep the pitch steady you lose quality, and if you let the pitch drop it sounds like a tuba.  I'm trying to see if Reaper can do better. 

Can you elaborate on this a little more Tim. I'm not sure I get it.

...Geezer
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Geezerhorn

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« Reply #4 on: Aug 30, 2017, 05:54AM »

I've ended up using real band from band-in-a-box for recording. Easy to use like audacity. Since you already have BIAB, I thought that you might take a look at it.

I will.

What I do is to play the backing track from Band-in-a-Box and record it with Audacity as it runs through my sound card. There is an Audacity setting that allows me to record anything at all going through my sound card. I get a much truer recording of the midi files than if I merely save the BiaB accompaniment as a sound file. I neglected to mention this in my initial post. Thanks for the prompt!

...Geezer
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timothy42b
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« Reply #5 on: Aug 30, 2017, 05:57AM »

Sure.

In Audacity, if you want to slow something down, just select that section and go to Efffects.

You have two choices:  Speed and Tempo.

If you choose Tempo, you can slow it as much as you want without a pitch change but you get distortion in the tone.

If you choose speed it doesn't seem to distort, but it changes pitch. 
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« Reply #6 on: Aug 30, 2017, 06:08AM »

Sure.

In Audacity, if you want to slow something down, just select that section and go to Efffects.

You have two choices:  Speed and Tempo.

If you choose Tempo, you can slow it as much as you want without a pitch change but you get distortion in the tone.

If you choose speed it doesn't seem to distort, but it changes pitch. 

Oh! Okay. I know what you mean. Yes, those tools are available. I don't notice too much distortion of tone if the tempo is only changed a bit; say less than -10 on a short phrase or long tone.

The pitch change tool is useful to me if I want to take the backing track of a MMO accompaniment up or down to another key. I have some of the more challenging selections re-written in Song Writer, so a click or two and I can modulate the solo up or down to whatever key I want that gives me a pitch center I can actually play - theoretically. I don't really do it, though - although I have threatened to. lol

...Geezer
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« Reply #7 on: Aug 30, 2017, 02:26PM »

For some odd reason, when I listened to that recording I posted above on YouTube, the solo track was booming. It wasn't on my wave file. I don't know what happened when it got mixed down to a wave file, converted to a movie and uploaded. So I cut the gain on my wave file, converted it to a movie again and uploaded it to YouTube again. Sounds balanced now. I wonder if tomorrow I will be able to hear the solo track at all!  :-0

Anyway, it's not about the recording or my playing, it's about the use of a wave editor to diagnose one's playing.

...Geezer
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« Reply #8 on: Aug 30, 2017, 05:45PM »

Geezer, is the microphone inside your bell? It sounds like the mic, especially if its a Shure, is far too close to the bell. Ideally for a dynamic mic like those SM58s, you would put it three feet out in font and three feet above your bell, aimed directly at the flare of the bell, with the gain set so that no room noise comes in. This gives the horn sound space to breathe, but you can still add reverb and effects to it.

Also, you can use Audacity to slow down your track through the tempo tool, i believe. There's an option for keeping pitches at the same hertz, which drastically reduces the quality when you slow it down.
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« Reply #9 on: Aug 30, 2017, 06:32PM »

Geezer, is the microphone inside your bell? It sounds like the mic, especially if its a Shure, is far too close to the bell. Ideally for a dynamic mic like those SM58s, you would put it three feet out in font and three feet above your bell, aimed directly at the flare of the bell, with the gain set so that no room noise comes in. This gives the horn sound space to breathe, but you can still add reverb and effects to it.

Also, you can use Audacity to slow down your track through the tempo tool, i believe. There's an option for keeping pitches at the same hertz, which drastically reduces the quality when you slow it down.

It's an Electro Voice ER20 mic. I have tried every mic placement I can come up with. It's about 20" away and pointed at my bell, at about bell high. Any further and it sounds like I'm in a tin can. Higher isn't good. Lower isn't good. Off to one side or the other isn't good, etc.

I think I have a pretty good sound with a strong core, but I find it a little tough to capture it well at home. I tried an SM57 once. Not good (for me). But I think that despite the budget limitations and my own flawed way of using the equipment I have, my sound still carries through pretty well. What is my flawed way of recording? I record Karaoke style; no headset for me. Then I use the noise reduction tool to eliminate the backing track bleed-through to the solo track. Not exactly the pros way of doing it, I realize. lol

You do know I was using a bucket mute for the first pass? I've never had too much luck recording myself with a bucket mute. I seem to be able to over-blow the mute way too easily for the mic to like and I find I have to tell people it's a bucket mute b/c it sounds funky.

I just listened to the second pass on the recording. It's fine for household use, since I'm neither selling nor auditioning and have no plans to - ever. What you may be hearing are limitations to my inexpensive equipment. Some techs pull their hair out at people using desktop home computers and Audacity. I know of one guy who runs his solo track through an EQ to drop some lows, add middle and a little high, then put in his own calibration of reverb - all on his $10K worth of equipment.

OBTW: I listen to my recordings with a good desktop and good headphones. Anyone listening to it off some kind of iphone and it's going to sound terrible.

Thanks though.

I may do a little more experimenting to see if I can tweak mic placement. But I don't like the idea of electronically enhancing my sound much. My sound is good enough that it shouldn't need it.

I have also been giving some thought to buying an SM58 and recording myself in stereo. That might be interesting.

...Geezer
« Last Edit: Aug 31, 2017, 04:28AM by Geezerhorn » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: Aug 31, 2017, 05:13AM »

Is this bass trombone enhanced a bit?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7V4s3NusJA

You don't often hear such a clear bass trombone part in popular music. 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #11 on: Aug 31, 2017, 05:20AM »

Is this bass trombone enhanced a bit?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7V4s3NusJA

You don't often hear such a clear bass trombone part in popular music. 

Not in the way we would do today, but sound engineers have been using specific mic placement,  tubes, and preamps to get a certain sound they want for a lonnng tine.
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« Reply #12 on: Aug 31, 2017, 05:35AM »

I would be surprised if it wasn't enhanced in some way! I call it "The Slim Whitman" effect. Lol I'll stack the fidelity of my recording up against the fidelity of that recording any day! Musicality? That's another issue and I'll pass on that one. lol

Anyway, here is a magnified shot of my solo track wave.



Look on the left. Do you see tiny gaps between the first 10 notes. That visually tells me the run could be smoother. If you listen to my recording at mile-marker 2:29, you can verify that the entrance could be smoother. I mean, it's not bad - but it certainly could be smoother. Okay. There is something to practice. Might a student have heard that in his own recording? Maybe. But seeing it is another tool. And educators have told us that the more senses involved in learning, the better and faster something is learned.

The pic I posted here isn't quite large enough, but on my monitor I can see something else. There are two places where my articulation could be a little more precise on that run.

...Geezer
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« Reply #13 on: Aug 31, 2017, 09:13AM »

I'm sure there is some validity in what you say about using all the senses to better learn things, however:

Music is all about the audio, sense of hearing, etc.

We already use our sense of 'sight' to learn how to read music, technology has provided us with cheap ways to use of sense of 'sight' to 'see' if we're in tune or not. A lot of software that provides sound trax, also provide a way to 'see' what measure we're supposed to be on, etc....

I think, in order to upgrade one's musicality, one should not put their sense of 'hearing' in the back seat behind their sense of 'seeing', especially sense music is all about hearing.

Music educators in my past experience, have always taught to ignore 'playing by ear' and play according to what's written. That happened to me in the 6th grade when I started piano lessons. Fortunately, she spent the first year teaching music theory, regarding chord structures, and how they fit in the key. But, if I ever played something by ear, she would smack me down, and lecture me that I would never learn to play what's written. There's probably some truth in that too.

So, here we are just a bunch of geezers, wanting to improve our playing. I feel like it's better to 'hear' what needs to be improved, as opposed to 'seeing' what needs to be improved. The side product of 'hearing' what needs to be improved is better musicality.

For example, I listen to a lot of jazz trombonists when you break it down, play a lot of notes that academically aren't clean at all. But, the expression, musicality of the phrase they just played, is so good, I never notice the artifacts around the notes. That's why, all the experts on this forum say, when you ask them how to learn jazz, always say, transcribe, transcribe, transcribe. That's done with your ear, not your eyes. I spend more of my time, after daily maintenance on that.

Anyway, I said all this not to disregard your point, but to add another view of how we go about improving our geezer chops.
 
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« Reply #14 on: Aug 31, 2017, 09:28AM »

And I think you have made some most excellent points!

Listening IS number one!

However, I also like to look at the wave files to see if my ears miss anything and they sure do! So it turns out that my eyes have played a large role in training my ears. I don't want to see little articulation blips. I don't want to see gaps between notes when there really shouldn't be any. Those things kinda cue in my ears to listen a little sharper during play time so that I won't have to look at them later. lol

I wish I could look at professional demo solo tracks! But they are mixed down into a combined wave and there is a darn good business and legal reason why.

Like you, I also listen to other trombone players I like, but I don't just automatically like them all. For the ones I like, I try to hear what notes they are playing (I even keep a pitch pipe handy!) and what I suppose they are doing to make those notes come out. They give me a sound concept and a musicality concept that I would not have if I lived in a vacuum.

If I sadly had to make the choice between blindness and hearing loss - as far as trombone-playing is concerned - I would have to choose blindness.

Anyway, I hope I haven't given the impression that I play with my ears wide shut. I just wanted to post some information that I have never seen posted before and see what - if anything - stuck to the wall or otherwise resonated with anyone else. lol

P.S. After I do a test recording, I have to look at the solo track wave file anyway. I may as well learn something from it!

...Geezer
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« Reply #15 on: Sep 01, 2017, 07:38AM »

Sorry about what I said about the mic placement. I didn't realize it was a bucket mute.

Mutes are difficult to record and require a lot of EQ to get them to sound like they actually sounded had you been in the room during the recording.

I had to record the muted excerpt from "A Fairy Tale of the Priest and His Servant the Knockhead" for an audition, and it needed lots of EQ to just sound normal. I'll try to post it if you want to hear

I stay far away from mutes besides a plunger, and a straight metal mute. Probably is just me avoiding learning to sound good on them!
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« Reply #16 on: Sep 01, 2017, 07:51AM »

Sorry about what I said about the mic placement. I didn't realize it was a bucket mute.

Mutes are difficult to record and require a lot of EQ to get them to sound like they actually sounded had you been in the room during the recording.

I had to record the muted excerpt from "A Fairy Tale of the Priest and His Servant the Knockhead" for an audition, and it needed lots of EQ to just sound normal. I'll try to post it if you want to hear

I stay far away from mutes besides a plunger, and a straight metal mute. Probably is just me avoiding learning to sound good on them!

Lol! I really did try to insult your intelligence in my reply!  :-0

But you did make me listen a LOT harder to my recording to try to figure out what was so terrible. It was a boost to my self-confidence when I determined that there wasn't really anything wrong with it - for a home recording.  Way cool  Well, other than my musicality - or lack thereof. We won't talk about that!  Amazed

Yeah, mutes are a PITA for me to sound good on in a recording. When I studied water-coloring, my instructor told me that if I had to put a little note on my painting explaining what everything was and why I did what I did, then it was probably a lousy painting! Probably the same for my home-recording use of a bucket mute. Lol If I have to tell everyone that it is a bucket mute...

But I think there is great value in practicing with one. I think I sound sooooo much better when I pull the blasted thing out! Or maybe it's just that I think  I sound better. lol

Thanks! I should look into EQing just the bucket mute part to bring it a little more forward without increasing the gain.

...Geezer
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« Reply #17 on: Sep 01, 2017, 08:03AM »

The other thing you can do, but it requires that the room be really good and the musician(s) to be fantastic, is to put two really good condenser mics in a stereo configuration 1.5 meters directly in front of you and 3 or 4 meters above the ground, with the mics angled towards the edge of the bell. It will sound pretty much exactly like what that performance sounded like, for better or for worse. Good luck doing that in a home studio though haha!

see below, not as a "you should only record like this!", but more of a "lookee how the pros do it". They've got spot mics on his feet and ambient room mics as well. Not really my cup of tea, music wise, but the sound engineer's work is plain to see.

<a href="http://youtube.com/v/-oN0GlTW_YE" target="_blank">http://youtube.com/v/-oN0GlTW_YE</a>
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« Reply #18 on: Sep 01, 2017, 08:28AM »

LOL! Well, there's what I referred to as your $10K worth of equipment!

I have one extra port on my little Cloud Lifter, so I could add a mic. I'm tempted to buy an SM57 and another mic stand (both inexpensive) and tinker with it's placement - maybe down low.

A good sound engineer can really make an otherwise decent performer into a superstar! On trombone, it's amazing how they can turn an edgy, airy sound into a big, fat lush sound. Truly amazing.

And a good sound engineer along with a good tech could turn a chromatic scale of long-tones into the most beautiful sonata you have ever wanted to hear.

It is both interesting & inspiring. Thanks for posting the vid!

...Geezer
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« Reply #19 on: Sep 01, 2017, 09:10AM »

Harrison,

Turns out that if I EQ the bucket mute part by dropping a little off the very bottom and boosting the mid-range a tad, it gives the solo track more presence without making it louder. Good to know, but I don't know that it's enough. And there doesn't appear to be anything I can do about the bucket mute pounding on the mic during vibrato - except to eliminate the vibrato and maybe that's what they do.

There isn't anything on the wave I can see to cue me in as to how to make a correction. And it sounds just fine to my ears in real time as I am recording. 

...Geezer
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« Reply #20 on: Sep 01, 2017, 09:30AM »

You can drop both the extreme lows and highs, and shelf boost the mids a little just like you say. For a bucket mute, you might try boosting the lows or boosting the highs on the edges of the mids. For example, on a metal straight mute, the extreme lows and highs get dropped, mids stay the same, and I boosted by quite a bit in the middle high register. I really think the mic needs to be farther away and offset from the bell, especially with mutes. 20 inches is very close. Dynamic mics aren't as good for this type of placement, but ribbon and condenser mics are.

In general you'll get the best sound in a lively room with the mic placed far enough away to let the horn sound breathe but not far enough away to pick up too much of the room sound. These rooms are also easier to play in. In a dead room the mic needs to be closer, and you'll need to process the sound. Dead rooms are a lot harder to play in.

I am still trying to work on my own mic techniques so I am by no means an expert. I've considered joining a home studio forum just to learn more about it.

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« Reply #21 on: Sep 01, 2017, 09:36AM »

I'm going to copy and paste your post into a Word doc so I can keep it handy for review as I tinker.

If you join a recording forum, you may be sorry. lol You think WE are nuts!?!?

The Mills Brothers

...Geezer
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