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Software for Your Musical Instruments?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the programs-for-your-garage-band dept.

138

kko asks: "After looking for tuning software for my newly-acquired violin, I stumbled upon Tutor, which is an nifty violin tuner that also helps in developing your intonation and quick reading skills. What software have you used to aid your instrument practice, and how has it helped (or hindered) you? If you are an instructor, what do you think of instrument software in your student's learning process?"

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From a Guitar player... (2, Insightful)

zaguar (881743) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093263)

One Instrument - My fingers. And secondarily, my time. I haven't played violin, but I play electric guitar, and I have never used any software. Seriously, you can just pick up guitar and teach it to yourself. Just print some tabs off the internet, put aside an hour of your time, and just enjoy yourself.

There is no need for software if you practice, and practice well.

Re:From a Guitar player... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093440)

It's different for guitars because they have frets. The frets are already spaced out at the correct intervals across the fingerboard (so you always play in tune if your guitar is in tune). On a violin, you have to place your finger at the exact location along the fingerboard to play a note in tune. With practice this becomes automatic, but it's important to learn to hear where each pitch is by ear.

This is where software is important. If you're just beginning and your ear isn't good yet, a tuner will tell you when you're playing correctly/incorrectly (even if you're off by a few cents you are still out of tune).

Re:From a Guitar player... (2, Informative)

Haggador Sparticus (901128) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093472)

From another guitar player, actually bass: Guitar Pro has been quite possibly the most essential tool to learn not only songs by tabs, but also teaches you to read the corresponding music notation. It features a tuner for an instrument plugged in by way of Line-in or mic. The Guitar Pro files can be manipulated in many ways, annotated extensively, and stretched out and timed slower for one to learn the piece. Each file also contains usually multiple tracks (guitar, bass, keys, drums). It is possible to mute and isolate certain tracks to assist in learning, too. The database at http://mysongbook.com/ [mysongbook.com] has entries for tons of assorted musicians and songs. Very very good. Actually, they are about to release a MacOS X version in May, last I checked. Very effective to go with Logic Express or Garage Band. Haggador Sparticus

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

Crussy (954015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093692)

As a guitar player myself I second the vote for guitarpro. I would also add though that DGuitar [sourceforge.net] is a multiplatform guitarpro implementation that can read up to guitarpro 4 files. If you want to use linux or os x and guitarpro this is an easy solution.

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

Sgt. CoDFish (943288) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094505)

I agree. Guitar Pro 4 (and now 5, I believe) is the way to go for musicians. I play bass in a band, and guitar pro has helped me to learn all the songs I needed to practise. It also helps while writing out your own songs.

It's easy to use, and it supports both guitar tabulare (VERY handy for budding guitarists) and standard notation, which increases its appeal to other musicians. There is a chord builder and scales shown on a guitar fretboard and on a keyboard diagram. I teach myself, so things like that have helped me a lot.

Of course, all of these things are only aids; no program is any substitute for practise.

Re:From a Guitar player... (2, Insightful)

rblancarte (213492) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093801)

Ignoring the major issues between Guitar and Violin (already pointed out), remember, some people learn different ways. Some learn by just doing, and others need some formal instructions. IMHO, this piece of software really looks interesting, and if I could pick up a cheap violin, it might make me want to get back into playing.

RonB

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

thc69 (98798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095124)

Agreed. This is especially the case for those of us who are musically challenged. At the age of maybe 14, I took an interest in learning to play the guitar. I started just trying to learn from books and online. Then, I began taking lessons. By the age of 22, I gave up. I could play a few major and minor chords decently, a few licks from some songs (never, however, a whole song).

Somewhere in there, I tried learning bass. I figured that it appears to have simplicity and fault tolerance. No better.

End result? I'm musically challenged. I don't think I have a tin ear; I can hear even slight differences in tone, and sometimes think I know when somebody's instrument is out of tune. However, I can't play a note that I heard; I can (through trial and error) play a note I'm currently hearing, at best. I am only capable of playing an instrument mechanically -- finger this fret, pluck this string; I can't play by sound.

Practical upshot for others: If you start trying to learn, and find that you can only play mechanically, learn _sound_ before you learn an instrument. I imagine that singing lessons would be the best way to do this, but I no longer have the time and the motivation. ObSoftware: Maybe there's software that teaches singing (through a microphone)?

Now, I have a small collection of guitars -- a good one that I love (Vantage 12 string acoustic; sounds good even when played by me), a few that I couldn't make any useful amount of money selling, and one Fender Squire P-Bass. I keep them all around and visible hoping that one day they will motivate me...after all, I'm a geek and love toys, especially when I can do stuff with them electronically (and nowadays I could filter a signal through the computer to get for free all those effects I couldn't afford when I was 18).

Of course, last October I severed the end of the middle finger on my left hand and, while it was reattached successfully, I can not fret a string with it (too numb for accuracy, to painful to give the string enough pressure).

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

xerxesdaphat (767728) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093819)

And it is precisely what you said which makes guitarists to be considered so poorly by classical/jazz musicians. Violin, like most other instruments common in conventional musical circles, are a lot more difficult to simply pick up and teach yourself. Whilst a guitar has frets (so it's impossible to be out of tune) and such things as tabs (not proper musical notation at all - no suggestion of rhythm (most often), and they don't tell you what note to play but (get this!) where to put your fingers! ^_^), so it's relatively easy even if you have no talent/committment to produce something which sounds vaguely musical, a violin, or violoncello, or double bass, or trumpet/french horn whatever requires years of committment and effort before you can make something which sounds nice enough to stop you from cringeing if you heard yourself.

Now I'm not saying this as an elitist (as in, guitarists aren't worthy musicians), but this length of time and effort required for classical instruments serves a useful purpose: it weeds out those with no talent or willingness to put in effort. When just anybody can pick up a guitar and make something reasonably listenable, it means there is a whole lot of really shit, musically uninteresting crap produced. Whereas in the classical/jazz world, the mere fact that you have to commit to maybe 10 years of practice before you can play in public and not be laughed at means that you, on average, get a far better quality of music.

Note that occasionally (Scott LaFaro, jazz double bass) you get a freak who can pick up an instrument in no time at all and play something wonderful; however, that's because they have massive talent in the first place and therefore often make good music too.

There's my rant for the day.

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093878)

When just anybody can pick up a guitar and make something reasonably listenable, it means there is a whole lot of really shit, musically uninteresting crap produced

I beg to disagree. It means that you get a lively culture where people can express themselves quickly, and by this virtue the music has often more to do with life today. Yes, there is much crap, but there is also much crap if you listen to the lay classical orchestra staffed by the local music school.

But there is also stuff like, dunno, let's take Nirvana as an example. Certainly not very difficult music, but with an immediate power, it spoke from and to the hearts of ordinary youths and captured a moment.

While in classical (and nowadays unfortunately even jazz, I'm looking at you, Wynton), you often end up with lifeless robots [musicabona.com] reproducing music from hundreds of years ago. The music is beautiful and important, and the guys are incredible, but the music and the guys are so far removed from me, that it doesn't really tell me all that much.

And worse, if there is no body of really great music to apply the robotics to, you get even worse things [satriani.com]

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

xerxesdaphat (767728) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093934)

Whilst I won't agree with much of your reply, I'll give you a point for dear Mr Marsalis ^_~.

Although `Joe Cool's Blues' was awesome from my personal Charlie Brown nostalgia hehehe...

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094635)

it is not quite that simple.
you can actually completely reverse the approach (for example: violins are for those people who are too stupid to cope with 6 strings).

tabbing on a guitar is sometimes quite important because sometimes the finger position IS essential, especially when you have a bit more strings to chose from (think easier playing when the tones are near each other or thinner sounding vs thicker sounding). you won't get that information from the standard notation.

and while recognizing pitch is important for a violin on the first stage already it is also important for a electric guitar, but later, because of all those effects you can do (bending, reverse bending, vibrato with fingers, vibrato with whammy, dive bombs and so on).

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

NTmatter (589153) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095317)

Are you saying that finger position is unimportant on a violin? Keep in mind that the Violin (and the Viola, Cello, String Bass) are all fretless instruments. Deviating by the merest fraction of an inch from the proper location on the string can mean the difference between a perfectly in-tune note and something sounding horribly wretched when played against someone else.

As for recognizing pitch, it's one thing to say "Yeah, that's a C. Fifth string, third fret." and "Oh crap, that C is pitched about ten Hertz too high. I should move about a 2mm down the string."

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 8 years ago | (#15096618)

no, you got it wrong.

it is a difference between e on the 6th string, open or e on the 5th string, 5th fret.
it sounds different and there is a difference of the frets you can reach easily from that position.

this is what tabs are for.

anyway, as i also mentioned you need recognizing pitch for guitar playing.
think of "bend the tone 3 semitones up and then two semitones down" on two different stringed guitars.

guitar playing is not 5 basic chords you know.

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15097418)

Whe growing up the someoen down the street played the guitar in a local band. It never amounted to anythign but a funn time for them. I asked him to teach me and he replied learn the piano first.

His reasoning is much like yours. Learning hand placement based on notes yet to be played (and learning pitch). Tabs help with this. Taking too long to get from one note to another or having it an octive out can really screw the song up. If a violin (yes i played that and a bass in gradeschool) had the note range a guitar actualy has, it might be better understood. If your going to equate the guitar with another instrument, a piano is it.

Re:From a Guitar player... (2, Informative)

The Wooden Badger (540258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093847)

With guitar you are so right. You can get started very quickly and easily. And then I can't say it enough: PRACTICE. It isn't too hard to learn a few chords and strum chords with a prescribed rythm, but to really get going it takes some practice. I remember reading a Steve Vai interview a long time ago where he talked about his structured practice in his early days. There were three three hour blocks. It was one hour each of scales, I think arppegios, and something else that escapes me. He repeated this three times and then spent an hour jamming. Someone elsewhere mentions jamming for ten hours and really making a lot of progress at the end of the session. Now Vai is insanely talented. I know most mere mortals can barely spare an hour to practice an instrument, but you can still get pretty good and have a lot of fun with that much regular practice. Apart from that I think the software would kind of get in the way when it comes to learning. But if it was the violin we were talking about here, I think that software would be exceptionally helpful without a competent teacher.

from a Cellist and Guitar and etc etc player... (1)

pokopoko3k (874262) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093862)

Learning the violin is completely different from learning the guitar.

You need a teacher to learn the violin. I know this isn't a direct answer to the question about software, but since nobody else has mentioned it, I hope you know that you need a teacher to learn the violin. before i can talk about software, this must be said.

anyway, i don't know about specific software packages, but i use a midi sequencer to make some things that i practice along with... simple stuff like a 3-octave scale that i play along with in every key, or scales in broken 3rds. i change the tempo depending on what i want to focus on.

Re:From a Guitar player... (1)

blackcanoflysol (926445) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094702)

Now, if we got software for our instruments, it's wouldn't be long till we had GUItars.

But seriously, I'd just use a book.

Re:From a Guitar player... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15095836)

I've used GuitarPro, and it is very useful, provided that you can find the song you are interested in.

A more versatile and useful (in my opinion) piece of software is this plugin [ronimusic.com] for winamp. It allows you to slow down mp3s without altering the pitch. This is great for future shredders who want to pick apart that Racer X or Dream Theater guitar solo note-for-note. I use it for transcribing music as well as playing along at slower speeds, building my technique along with speed as I go.

It's not just for metal shredders, or even guitarists. I have used it to break down etudes for acoustic guitar, and there's no reason why pianists, cellists, or even kazooists couldn't use it to get sk33lz++.

zynaddsubfx (2, Interesting)

Perdo (151843) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093264)

Open source, GPL, Sourceforge.

Use it to for banjo tuning, along with finger position charts, basicly as a universal pitch pipe.

Re:zynaddsubfx (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15094273)

yuck, proselytisation! (by the author of zynaddsubfx)

Re:zynaddsubfx (1)

JThundley (631154) | more than 8 years ago | (#15097893)

From the zynaddsubfx homepage: "Please don't use this program to make music that is against God and Jesus Christ. Realize that the only way to the Salvation is Jesus Christ. Please don't lose this chance and don't make others to lose it!"

ROFLCHRIST to that!

Cubase! (4, Insightful)

spinwards (468378) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093271)

I have never improved faster than when I recorded myself.

It is much easier to identify your mistakes when you can just listen to yourself play.

It is also fun to take a break and record some origonal song ideas.

Re:Cubase! (3, Informative)

Poppler (822173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093330)

I couldn't agree more. In case he's running Linux, I'd like to point out some software he could use.
Audacity [sourceforge.net] - simple audio recording
Rosegarden [rosegardenmusic.com] - audio editor/sequencer
Ardour [ardour.org] - digital audio workstation (think pro tools)

Re:Cubase! (1)

quiddity (106640) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095381)

and because audacity looks nice but runs terribly on windows...
wavepad [nch.com.au] is a perfect alternative (free edition). More stable and easier to use.
.

What original song ideas? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093397)

It is also fun to take a break and record some origonal song ideas.

What original song ideas? Didn't you know that the industry already owns every possible melody [slashdot.org] ?

Nothing Spiritual About Software (3, Insightful)

KidSock (150684) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093279)

I used to play guitar a lot when I was ~15. Sometimes I would play for 10 hours straight until I was bleary eyed. It was only deep in a jam session that I thought my skills really progressed. Now, 15 years later, I started tooling around with Garage Band on my Mac. I got an M-AUDIO FastTrack USB to see if I could do some simple overbubbing. Sure it was fun but I've come to the conclusion that software assisted authoring is and always will be inferior to just playing your heart out. The spontanaiety of humans so much more interesting. Computers don't imitate art very well (unless maybe you're mixing techno or something mechanical like that).

Re:Nothing Spiritual About Software (1)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093830)

A tool is a tool I say. If you can wield it you can put your heart into it. Banging on the desk in tribal fashion or taking pen to paper and waving a wand in front of an orchestra - it's all expression. Electronic music is just a new tool for expression and it'll take awhile before more people embrace it as such.

Re:Nothing Spiritual About Software (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093844)

The spontanaiety of humans so much more interesting. Computers don't imitate art very well

They don't need to though. I mostly use the computer as an always-available backing band when I have an idea I want to try. I use Harmony Assistant [myriad-online.com] to set up a backing track, and record my own performance to overlay with the Harmony sounds.

It's not the same as the real thing, but it's helpful. I think of it as a prototype, the way a sketch is step on the way to a portrait.

Re:Nothing Spiritual About Software (1)

the_wesman (106427) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095200)

Of course there is nothing spirtiual about software. Obviously computers don't imitate art very well. However, that's not the topic here.

With that in mind, I can't figure out what your point is here. Sounds to me like you're upset because you spent some money on some gear and it didn't make you amazing.

I used to think that when I was 'deep in the jam' that I was getting better. Participating in live improvisation (with yourself or with a group) is a great way to extend your abilities, but this will only help you improve that one aspect of your playing. If you want to work on your timing, you practice with a metronome - you don't improve your sense of rhythm in any other way (at least not effectively). If you want to work on your ear training you do singing and transcription exercises (among other things).

What I'm getting at here, is that the original poster is asking about software to help with the learning process and you go off into a mini-rant here about how "software assisted authoring is ... inferior to just playing..." You are comparing apples and oranges here.

In what way is 'authoring' 'superior' to playing? And, more importantly, what does that have to do with the topic at hand? How can you compare songwriting (of any kind) which playing (of any kind) and expect to make any kind of meaningful comparison?

I write a lot of songs and I use my ability to do multi-track recording as a song-writing tool (as does almost every other composer who writes non-solo pieces). Honestly, do you think Howard Shore did the soundtrack to LOTR by just "playing his heart out"?? No. He used some instrument ( most likely a keyboard hooked up to some type of sequencer) to try a variety of melodies and ideas before completing his score and presenting it to a full orchestra. He didn't just go into the studio and ask everyone to 'just play their heart out' because that's just so much better than computer-assisted authoring.

I can gather from this post that you probably play ok, but you're not much of a songwriter - am I right?

The original poster was not asking for your opinions on software-assisted composition, so please try to stay on topic next time and save your rants for someone else who cares.

I'm honestly surprised that your post achieved a score of 4. "Insightful"? Hardly.

Speed Adjustment (1)

Eideewt (603267) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093286)

I've found software that allows me to slow down a recording to be very helpful when I'm trying to learn music by ear. Audacity is the one I usually use, but there are many others.

Winamp rocks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093331)

I use a combination of winamp and the chronotron plugin for learning and practicing songs on guitar. That ability to adjust pitch and tempo allow me to learn complex/fast parts really quickly.

Possibly... (4, Informative)

Mozk (844858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093334)

Auralia [sibelius.com] can help with ear training (intervals and such), and Musition [sibelius.com] can help with learning music theory. I have used them both once to try them but never fully used them. Their normal use is for teachers to have students use to record their progress, but you can use it solo. When I took a music theory class we used a program called Finale to compose music, however it won't very much help with learning how to play an instrument.

I play guitar and for the most part I do not use software to aid in practice. I have tuner software (Enable Encore) that I can plug into which I occasionally use, and music composing software (Guitar Pro 5, G7, and Finale).

When beginning with an instrument it's best just to practice reading music manually. In the case of guitars, that would mainly be tabs. Guitarists much prefer tabs (finger positions on six lines for the six strings) when learning music as chords can contain many double notes and would look messy on a staff.

Anyway, with violin, you'll be reading staves. I'm not sure how much you know so I'll to to help a little: violins use the G clef, so the lines on the staff from bottom up are E, G, B, D, and F; and the spaces are F, A, C, and E. The strings on the violin from biggest to smallest are G, D, A, and E. Practice by saying a note and playing it, then move onto reading simple songs and playing them. I'm not used to fretless instruments so I have no idea how hard that is. :P

I doubt my advice there helped, but as for the software part: There isn't much that will help you learn how to play an instrument. It's best just to read music and practice playing it until you get the muscle memory that will assist you in both playing faster and playing with less thought.

Re:Possibly... (1)

The Wooden Badger (540258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093888)

I got Finale's little brother Print Music for my wife to play around with. She loves it. Since then she has arranged three or four songs for our church choir to sing. She doesn't have a great understanding of music theory, but she can write music that sounds good. If you have a decent keyboard (we don't, but our neighbors do this), you can plug that into your box and it will transcribe what you play into sheet music. It's a pretty handy program and it has been well worth the money we spent. Their website has a stripped down demo that will give a good feel for how it works. The only beef I have with it is that it is pretty brutal for guitar, but I guess why they sell a guitar version. We never tried the big super deluxe program (way too expensive and total overkill for our purposes), but for composing and being able to print sheet music I think the 100 or so bucks is a good invetment. Yeah, like you said, it's not going to teach you how to play, but for composing it's a nice one to have.

Re:Possibly... (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094128)

oh yes, guitar pro is great for rehearsing!

Re:Possibly... (1)

zerblat (785) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094643)

Better yet, there's GNU Solfege [solfege.org] , which is a free ear training program.

There are also a lot of other Free Software projects that deal with music practice and education [linux-sound.org] .

Free alternatives (1)

JavaRob (28971) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095524)

I'd definitely encourage getting comfortable with at least basic music theory and sight-reading as part of learning any instrument. Not because you'll need it right at the beginning... but it's the sort of thing that's simple to learn gradually, but pretty painful when you hit the wall later and want to absorb it all at once.

Musition and Aurelia are okay, though aging a bit and not cheap. There are similar resources available online for free.

And now, a bit of shameless self-promotion:
I run a website with free music theory exercises [emusictheory.com] and explorations of music theory concepts [emusictheory.com] . Requires Java 1.1 or above.
Feel free to send me feedback through the site or here.

Musictheory.net [musictheory.net] is another site I recommend fairly often, with Flash-based music theory lessons and some exercises. EMusicTheory (my site) focusses on drills, not tutorials, so when students are having trouble understanding the concepts in the first place I tend to send them here.

Oh, and *take lessons* (1)

JavaRob (28971) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095603)

I'm just reading the original question again.
I'd never recommend the software, videos, books, etc. that purport to let you "teach yourself" whatever instrument. They simply can't compete with a decent human teacher, who can notice that your arm is way too stiff, that your thumb in your bow grip is wrong, etc. etc. when you first do it -- not after you've done it that way for months so that it's ingrained.

There's also software for helping you out with your pitch while playing, etc.. I wouldn't bother (you can talk to your teacher about this as well). Playing along with a recording, and just playing for your teacher will give you better feedback.

Anything else? Oh yeah -- don't get sucked in by the bevy of sites out there offering to teach you perfect pitch (usually for a surprisingly high price), a skill that will instantly turn you into a master musician. Perfect pitch isn't much use except as a party trick (because how hard is it to bring along a tuning fork or pitch pipe?), or if you're singing atonal music (not likely)... and it can actively screw you up in some cases. Focus on good relative pitch (intervals, etc.) instead.

Re:Oh, and *take lessons* (1)

cwtxxx (935556) | more than 8 years ago | (#15097400)

There's also software for helping you out with your pitch while playing, etc.. I wouldn't bother (you can talk to your teacher about this as well). Playing along with a recording, and just playing for your teacher will give you better feedback.

Actually, I think that one of the things that software can help with in learning a musical instrument is that any feedback it gives you is totally impersonal and "artificial". [now for blatant self-promotion] With Sing & See (http://singandsee.com/ [singandsee.com] ) one of the comments we have heard a number of times is that teachers and students find it useful because it is an "impartial 3rd party" giving feedback - if it says your voice is flat, there's no negative undercurrent, but simply a "fact" given by a machine - so the student doesn't feel any put-down, and the teacher and student can more easily process that information and work on how to improve the voice. Possibly the same issues are not so severre with instruments other than the voice.

Another thing with computer feedback (I'm talking about visual feedback) is that it gives a visual representation of the performance that can complement the aural sensations. Many people are visually focussed (including probably most of those who spend their time in front of the computer) so this added information can help the student in learning the aural skills and the motor skills required for performance. Obviously there are issues about coming to rely on external feedback, and there's quite a bit of research going on at present into how best to incorporate visual feedback into motor skills learning in general - not just music but also in sports and other areas, but I think there is quite a bit of evidence that this type of software can help (I'll collate some of it if anyone is interested)

Re:Possibly... (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 8 years ago | (#15098190)

If you want to learn to read music off a staff, you have to get to the stage where it's like reading words on a page - you don't want to have to look at a note and think 'FACE', erm, therefore that's a C. You want to just see the note and immediately play the note without having to think what it is - just like you're reading this text without having to think about it.

There are some good 'flash card' trainers to help learn to read music like you can read letters on a page. http://www.musictheory.net/ [musictheory.net] is a good start and it's free (but requires Flash).

low tech approach (2, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093338)

If you are just beginning to learn an instrument, take the low tech approach and don't mix the computer into it at all. It will only distract you and waste your time when you could actually be learning the instrument. Or if you feel that you must use software to help develop your tuning and intonation skills, then break it up into "with computer" and "without computer" sessions. Honestly, the way to learn an instrument is to become intimately familiar with it, and you won't get that by fiddling with a computer.

Re:low tech approach (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093351)

Oh yeah, and get a pitchpipe, a tuning fork, or possibly a chromatic electric tuner to tune your instrument. It's a lot easier than having to boot up your computer and launch a program to tune your instrument. Not to mention, if you're just playing by yourself, you often only need to tune the instrument to itself, which in itself is very good practice for your ear.

Stay Pure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093346)

There is only one piece of software for me. PureData. Basically it's the Open Source version of Max/MSP and Reaktor. It is an amazing visual programing environment that lets you create anything. Although it started life as a music tool it now includes video processing and interfaces to every kind of GUI and input device like tablets and cameras. Stuff like Csound was always too academic for the normal user, actually writing code to make your music is too time consuming, but PureData allows you to just throw down sample players, filters, granulators, build your own sequencers. And if you don't like whats there it has a very clean C interface to write your own DSP externals as new modules. I built my own multitrack studio in PureData so I can record guitar and overdub samples. Now it has a growing community and overlaps with the Max users since patches are exchangeble between the two. It also has a OpenGL interface called Gem which means you can produce music videos from your music, or music from your animations in the same package - perfect synaesthetic playground.

It took a while for me to really grok what it was all about, not an easy learning curve. To start with you just get a blank sheet on which to begin adding objects. But after a few months I threw away Cubase, Logic and sold my external effects pedals to go Pure.

How do you get to Carnagie Hall? (1)

MagicDude (727944) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093374)

How do you get to Carnagie Hall?

Practice, practice, practice.

Seriously. I'm an amature musician, I've played piano and percussion (all percussion, mallets, tympani, drumset, all of it) for the better part of 14 years, and I've found that just playing as much as possible is the best way to improve yourself. You know if you're playing well or not, you don't need a computer to tell you that. Quantity gets quality, and there's no shortcut to just sitting down and practicing for hours and hours.

Re:How do you get to Carnagie Hall? (1)

kko (472548) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093394)

Heh. I am not looking to avoid practice, as some of the posters might think. I know the violin requires a lot of practice. I am just wondering if there is any particular software you have found useful in the long, hard road to mastering your chosen instrument, and wether you've felt like you've made more progress with it or not.

But I am quite clear on the "requiring practice" bit, since I also play the guitar and the piano.

Re:How do you get to Carnagie Hall? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093488)

If you can't identify intervals and chords by ear or dictate a melody or chord progression then I'd recommend using ear-training software like MacGamut. Those skills are essential regardless of instrument (even percussion).

Musictheory.net has free interval & chord ID for help with the basics.

Re:How do you get to Carnagie Hall? (1)

damiam (409504) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093731)

As a violinist, I've never found any software that was particularly helpful as far as assisting practice goes. For tuning, you're far better off buying a dedicated tuner - you can buy combo tuner/metronome gadgets for $30 or less in most places. Other than that, your best resources are a good teacher, good exercise books, and a lot of persistance.

Depending on your goals as a musician, you may find notation software (like Sibelius) or ear training software (like the free Flash trainers at musictheory.net [musictheory.net] ) to be helpful, but neither of those is going to help you with violin technique.

Earmaster! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093380)

www.earmaster.com is a great resource for ear training. I've been using it intermittently for a few months, and my sense of pitch has greatly improved. I'd recommend it for anyone just starting to learn an instrument.

Some software (1)

Bjorn_Redtail (848817) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093400)

All I would use software for is tuning (not even a proper tuner, just a MIDI sequencer and a file that plays an A, and only because I don't have a metronome), Recording (rarely) and some music typesetting or printing. As for recommendations for software I would look into Lilypond (http://lilypond.org/web/ [lilypond.org] ) for typesetting, and Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] ) for recording and tuning (if you don't have a metronome). And as a previous poster said, you will not be using this stuff during a "normal" practice session. You would print music off of Lilypond, and once you have tuned up, you will have no need of audacity unless you are recording which will not often be the case.

Re:Some software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093505)

All I would use software for is tuning (not even a proper tuner, just a MIDI sequencer and a file that plays an A, and only because I don't have a metronome)

what do metronomes have to do with tuning??

Re:Some software (1)

no reason to be here (218628) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093595)

what do metronomes have to do with tuning??

I think what the GP was refering to is that many "pocket metronome" type devices also have a function where they will play a pure A440, such that they can be used as tuners of a sort as well as metronomes.

A few (1)

illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093460)

For actually practicing, I suggest getting Audacity. Though while it is a piece of shite for serious recording purposes, if you open up an MP3 with a difficult guitar passage, you can slow it down, figure it out, then practice along with the music making it faster and faster until you get up to full speed. SlowCD works good for this too.

When you write songs, it helps a lot to have a multitrack recorder with you. For the love of god, do not use Audacity for this purpose. Use Ardour, which is about a million light years ahead of Audacity in terms of stability and usability. I can't believe this program isn't more well known. Ardour Ardour Ardour. Use this as a scratchpad to test out ideas, melodies, harmonies, and then you can even use it to make your finished product.

The only other software that might be useful is tuning software, and I'm not aware of any available for Linux.

Re:A few (1)

quiddity (106640) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095419)

wavepad [nch.com.au] (free edition) is a more stable and friendly piece of software than audacity.
I found it after running into problems getting audacity to record streaming radio (audacity kept putting in pops and silences that werent there..)

Re:A few (1)

illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 8 years ago | (#15096802)

Oh, if you're talking Windows, then in my opinion you can't beat Goldwave [goldwave.com] , which is great despite having a nag screen.

TUNER_E (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093480)

http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~tuner/tuner_e.html [ocn.ne.jp]
TUNER_E
free universal tuning software/metronome.

Lots of things (2, Insightful)

ericdano (113424) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093483)

There are a lot of great programs to aid you in your musical quest. Programs such as Practica Musica [ars-nova.com] for ear training. There are a number of other shareware and freeware programs to help you.

For Piano, there are a lot of great programs. And they are ruthless. They hook up to your MIDI keyboard, and will evaluate every little detail of your performance.

For other instruments, it's really valuable to actually get together with a teacher. They can point you in the right direction. It's well worth the time and money. You can learn theory, and get your ear to hear things with software. But, to learn how to move the bow, or blow into an instrument, you really ought to get some REAL lessons. You can hear, and see how it is done, and ask questions, and if you are doing it wrong, the teacher will tell you.

Smartmusic (1)

ericdano (113424) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093506)

Oh, I forget to say something about Smartmusic [smartmusic.com] . They are really trying to get into the computer learning with instruments. The latest version has Wynton promoing the "Jazz" selections. Whatever.

There are lots of problems with Smartmusic. First, the interface. It's terrible. It is my biggest complaint with the program. Second, the "Jazz" section does not let you print out anything. Third, when you play with it, say if you are a drummer, it lags behind on the screen. On my Mac Mini it couldn't refresh at the start of a bar the same time the music was. Fourth, the sounds. Cheezy. Big time. Fifth, it's a subscription service.

Other gripes about "Smartmusic" is the "follow" feature. So, you are supposed to hook up a mic to the program, and it will "follow" you. Or it can follow you (you can override it). It never works right, and doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of having backgrounds? If I want to do a Bach Sonata, I don't want the Harpischord to slow down with me.

On the plus side, they have a TON of songs on it.

But seriously, on the Jazz thing, if say you were a drummer, are you really going to have your computer right next to your drum set? And be able to see the screen? And you can't print out anything (except for a few classical free pieces). Stupid. Who really practices looking at their monitor?

MakeMusic, Coda, or whatever you guys are calling yourselves this month, get the interface and the sounds fixed. And let us PRINT something.

Re:Smartmusic (1)

iswm (727826) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094032)

I'm a drummer, and I practice while looking at my screen quite often. I find it much easier to sit here looking at my monitor and slamming out notes on my practice pad than bothering to print out the music and practice elsewhere.

In The Chair (1)

cwtxxx (935556) | more than 8 years ago | (#15097359)

There are lots of problems with Smartmusic. First, the interface. It's terrible. It is my biggest complaint with the program. Second, the "Jazz" section does not let you print out anything. Third, when you play with it, say if you are a drummer, it lags behind on the screen. On my Mac Mini it couldn't refresh at the start of a bar the same time the music was. Fourth, the sounds. Cheezy. Big time.

Give "In The Chair" http://www.inthechair.com/ [inthechair.com] a go - the interface is much nicer than smartmusic, and it uses real recordings (sound+video) rather than MIDI. It is still quite an early stage product, so the quantity of available music is still small, but it's growing pretty fast. And the timing is mostly pretty good (ok, I admit it, I did the timing so I'm completely biased)

Printing sheet music is always going to be an issue with these programs because of the music publishers - anything copyrighted can only be printed if you pay them the price for a printed copy.

The whole issue of how these kinds of computer programs are used in learning music is still in its infancy - there are the "ear trainers" and the "sight reading trainers" and even the "teach you to play" packages, but possibly one of the best things that software can offer is simply help with practice. As a couple of other posters have noted, the main thing you need to do is to practice. For a lot of people, having something like In the Chair that gives you some interactive feedback (and video accompaniment) while you're practising is going to help make that practice more interesting. And the feedback can help also because it gives you a pretty unbiased response about how you're performing (as long as you remember that the computer doesn't have very good ears so isn't going to be perfect in its assessments)

Re:In The Chair (1)

ericdano (113424) | more than 8 years ago | (#15097580)

That is an interesting program. Thanks for letting me know about it.

Record yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15093526)

Just record yourself playing. You don't even have to play it back half the time.
You need to make sure you are really listening to each note you play.
Recording will really help your intonation as you will hear every mistake including ones you never realised you made. You'll then be able to listen for and fix them next time you play.

Audio/MIDI Sequencers (1)

drspliff (652992) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093570)

I've always used audio and midi sequencers, and more recently something called Broomstick Bass (http://www.bornemark.se/bb/ [bornemark.se] ) which takes the hassle away from making different styles of bass track.

Anyway the general idea is that if you're playing in a band, you lay down a track in Ableton (or another midi sequencer) which matches what the band is playing, and practice along to that.

The difference between 8 hours of actually practicing the whole song, and practicing your little part is astonishing. It helps you keep time (e.g. you could practice at several different speeds) and is more exciting than a metronome.

The best thing about this (especially if you're using Ableton Live) is it's trivial to record yourself and lay the audio of you playing over the track. Using this method it's possible for a band to record a master without ever meeting each other.. crazy stuff..

Enough of me sucking upto how great Ableton Live is.. Ta.

Question (1)

orangepeel (114557) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093580)

The poster wrote, "newly-acquired violin". New in what sense? Completely new? Or just a replacement or something?

I ask because I have a (possibly) related question: at what age is it too late to try to learn a musical instrument? About 20 years ago my parents forced me through a few years of piano lessons. To this day the best piano performance I've seen involved a baby grand piano, a trebuchet, and a couple hundred pounds of pyrotechnics.

That said, now at age 30, I really wish I'd had some kind of real exposure to the violin when I was younger. But now I am old and slow. And when I flip through the phone book looking for music lessons, it's all geared towards young kids. So as an old phogey, I presume it's just too late for me, right? I mean, where the heck does a non-kid start, if anywhere?

Re:Question (1)

Webcommando (755831) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093618)

It is never too late to start. I played percussion for years and years before I started my daughters in Violin lessons. After a few months of watching everyone at the music store come in and take lessons, I decided it was time to start learning the guitar (still love drums, but wanted to get my own creations out!)

The secret, I think, is:
Get an instructor who is use to non-traditional students (i.e. doesn't just start you in book one of Suzuki). Then, focus on what is important to you. I wanted to create my own rock music so we focus on learn fingering of blues/pentatonic scales and some theory so I can play my own rythms. Learning a new instrument is invigorating but it requires dedication and patience so don't don't get discouraged if some things are difficult at first.

Re:Question (1)

damiam (409504) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093719)

Speaking as a violinist who started when I was three, I would hesitate to recommend starting as an adult. It's never too late to start violin, but be aware that it has a huge learning curve for adults. There's something about the fine motor control that you need for good tone and intonation that seems to be developed much easier in children. I don't think most people have the patience to handle several years of hard practice before gaining any real facility - I know I wouldn't if I were starting now.

To be honest, I think guitar or piano are much better instruments than violin to learn as an adult. They're much more satisfying in terms of immediate gratification - you can be playing simple songs on your first day, and sound quite decent within a year. Because it's impossible to play out of tune on either of them, there's a lot more room for error. They're also chordal instruments, which leaves you with a better understanding of music theory as well as the ability to play/sing folk/pop/rock songs. And to cap it off, they're cheaper than violin, especially if you factor in the reduced need for lessons (which are a good idea, but not as necessary as with violin).

If you really want to learn violin, though, don't be afraid to call up a teacher and schedule some lessons (self-teaching violin isn't a good idea, it's too easy to develop bad habits). Teachers are usually happy to teach motivated adults; it gives them a refreshing break from the uncooperative brats they're used to dealing with. You can rent entry-level violins from most string music shops for $20/month or so, which is probably what you want to start out with.

Re:Question (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093904)

ecause it's impossible to play out of tune on either of them

Not listening to many bad e-guitar players, huh? ;) While of course much harder than on the violin, it certainly isn't impossible to be out of tune on an e-guitar:
* Many modern guitars have "fast" necks, with frets that are so high that your fingers don't touch the fretboard unless you press hard, kinda like a sitar. Makes it easier to bend and supposedly faster. If you press hard, you'll be out of tune, and it's really easy to do that if you're playing chords
* It's common to bend the string to string notes together legato-style, play vibrato, or produce tones that are not exactly half-tones, e.g. the blue note is between two regular half tones. There is lots of out-of-tune potential there :)

Re:Question (1)

‹berhund (27591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093766)

I am just a couple year older than you. I just took up the violin a couple months ago, and am having a blast. I played clarinet in high school, but wasn't really into it. I was never considered talented at any sort of music.

I've long wanted to take up a new instrument that really interested me, and finally decided that I wasn't getting any younger, so I may as well just do it. Go for it!

Re:Question (1)

russellh (547685) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095079)

I'm 34. I just got a guitar for the first time since I was 16. It's great. I play it for my kids, 5 and 3. they love it and don't care that I suck (so far).

As for the violin, it's probably too hard. But maybe you could play a fiddle.

Re:Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15095457)

I don't think its ever too late to learn an instrument. Will you ever become the greatest player of whatever instrument you decide to pick up? Probably not, but it's always fun trying.

Re:Question (1)

tloh (451585) | more than 8 years ago | (#15097543)

I'm just two years younger than you, but found myself asking the same question more than 10 years ago. While in high school, in order to fulfill the arts requirements, I found myself picking up the violin for the first time with classmates who all started much earlier than I did. My music teacher had a lot to do, more or less running the school's entire music program by himself, so I didn't really blame him for not giving me too much time or attention. It was for the most part "monkey see, monkey do" for two years. It was really hard trying to catch up and keep up by myself. To be honest, I never really learned to play properly. Though I didn't have the optimal learning or playing experience, I feel I still learned enough for those two years to have been worthwhile. Don't get me wrong, I would have killed for the opportunity to learn proper vibratos, tremolos, or pizzicato techniques with adaquate guidance and instructional feedback.

To bring the discussion back to the subject at hand, here is where I think software tools are best utilized. Lots of folks here are saying things like "you don't need software! the important thing is practice! practice! practice!" When you don't have access to proper instruction, sometimes the next best thing is the greater awareness some of the tools mentioned here can provide about your own playing abilities. Years ago, I remember listening to a recording I made of myself for the first time on a tape player and realizing that despite what I thought was accurate notes from proper fingerboarding, I sounded terrible due to lousy bowing techniques. It was as if in concentrating to get the physical motions right, my brain had tuned out my ears and was not evaluating the results of those motions. Idealy, an instructor would be around to catch those mistakes you're not aware of. Sadly, software tools lack the experience and artistic factor that a capable instructor brings. And I think that is the greatest challange for older folks trying to learn in an endeavor where most resources are geared toward young beginners.

The silver lining may be that more mature students are better able to appreciate the task of seriously learning to play. Some years ago, my local PBS station broadcasted a segment of "Great Performances" called "The Art of Violin" [pbs.org] . It was a truly thrilling program that explored the art form from the perspectives of some of today's most illustrious violinists talking about historic luminaries, each other, and most importantly, the physical instrument itself and different techniques and styles of playing that made world famous virtuosos shine in unique ways. While watching the show, I reflected on my own understanding of what I was doing all those years ago and wondered whether the younger me could comprehended what the program was saying to me now about this dynamic nuanced-filled artform, steeped in a sophisticated ever-developing tradition.

I would encourage you to follow your heart and not be too discouraged if you don't immediately sound like Itzhak Perlman. One of the most memorable things I remember from the "Great Performances" program is Perlman himself saying how much harder it is to learn the violin compared to other instruments. Though I haven't the time to really play anymore, I take my old instrument out on rare occasions and it is still satisfying to draw out a tune.

TuneLab (1)

clockmaker (626182) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093596)

The only software I use is TuneLab Pro and TuneLab Pocket (for Pocket PC) available at http://www.tunelab-world.com/ [tunelab-world.com] . Trial versions are available, and may work for you. I have heard that some professional piano tuners use this on a laptop. The program lets you calibrate to the tones produced by NIST on WWV or WWVH and their telephone line (303) 499-7111. See http://tf.nist.gov/stations/iform.html [nist.gov] for more info.

Do you understand tempered tuning? (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093709)

Do you understand tempered tuning? Put simplistically, it's a system where every note is equally out of tune (except out at the ends of a keyboard where there's even more "fudging").

On a piano or fretted string instrument notes like C sharp and D flat are the same frequency. On a violin you may well find that a C sharp is a few cycles per second higher than a D flat. Unless you're trying to play along with a piano or a fretted instrument, in which case you may need to "cheat" on your fingering.

Even if you start with the standard of A=440 cycles per second (Hertz) or halves or doubles thereof, the frequencies of the other 11 notes may vary depending upon in which key you are playing. You should take care to understand whether the software is saying what you think it is regarding the pitch (frequency) of particular notes.

Re:Do you understand tempered tuning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15096444)

What you're referring to is the coma. There are 9 comas between each whole step. They are all equally spaced and are simply intervals. On a piano, you are correct in that A# and B flat are the same pitch. This equates to the 4.5th coma. On stringed instruments, however, A# would be 5 comas above A, and B flat would be 5 comas below B, resulting in a full coma in difference between the two pitches.

Paganini for Guitar! (1)

gameforge (965493) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093786)

For Windows:
  • Sound editing: Started w/ CoolEdit Pro, moved to SonicFoundry SoundForge, now I use Audacity/Win32.
  • MIDI/composing: Cakewalk! It came w/ my sound card.
  • Track editing: SonicFoundry Acid.
For Linux:
  • Sound editing: Audacity!
  • MIDI/composing: Rosegarden
  • Track editing: (haven't tried/looked into it)
[sort of offtopic]
If you play the electric guitar, you should try to find a recording of Paganini [wikipedia.org] 's 5th Caprice. It's kind of an etude for violin; I used Audacity to slow it down (it's all 16th notes at upwards of 200bpm or more) and figure it out on guitar. Jason Becker [wikipedia.org] has a great 1987 video out there of himself playing it when he was about 17. After two years, I'm still not even at two thirds of the original speed (little more than half maybe), but I haven't found anything more fun to play if you like fast guitar solos (and just play for kicks). I've been playing electric guitar for about 11 years now, and this is far and beyond the most challenging piece ever.

Incidentally, using Audacity (or similar) to slow down your favorite guitar solo and then using Cakewalk (or Rosegarden) to tab it out is a great way to learn how to play it. Especially since almost 100% of the tabs I see on the Internet are wrong (true for everything, not just the 5th Caprice). Not to brag or anything, but this is also how I learned the Comfortably Numb solo, Hotel California solo, Stairway to Heaven solo, Hendrix/Little Wing (whole song), Paradise City solo, Top Gun Anthem solo, and a bunch of others (this is not bragging because I never thought I was good enough to learn any of these, especially after looking at tabs on the web :-) again, I just play to listen to myself play)

On (another) side note - if you are in the market for a guitar effects board, I reccomend getting one with a digital output. If you have a SoundBlaster with a LiveDrive (a front panel that gives you more audio connectors such as optical in, RCA in, headphones w/ volume and 1/4 din connector, etc.) or a similar card with S/PDIF input you can hook it right up, and everything after the effects board stays digital. This gives you stereo choruses, reverbs, amp/cabinet models, phases, etc. w/out having to buy two guitar amps (again if you just play for fun). I actually don't own a guitar amp anymore; I just have a halfway decent used stereo on both my front and rear PC channels, and it sounds better than any amp I've ever heard (but will NOT match the volume of a drumset, and is not suitable for jamming w/ others or live stuff - once again, I just play for me)
[/sort of offtopic]

Using software and this hardware setup, I have made my practices at least 100% more effective, and at least 1000% more fun. I highly reccomend it over keeping the two in seperate worlds.

Re:Paganini for Guitar! (1)

The_reformant (777653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095974)

I disagree with the sound quality of digital fx pedals.
They are cheap and incredibly versatile but dont sound anything like an actual amp. I often use the same setup as you and its pretty good for laying down demo tracks and stuff but you just can't beat having a real amp, the guitar becomes so much more responsive and that not even touching on the warmth of a tube amp.
Recently Ive ditched all my digital gear completely and now record using a sansamp preamp using VST for f/x and it gets me a much more "live" feel to playing. What I'd really like is a 2nd sansamp so I could take the stereo outs of all my analogue pedals and preamp into individual inputs. Either that or neighbours that are understanding enough for me to push my half stack up to its sweet spot so I can mic it.

Don't use a computer (1)

xerxesdaphat (767728) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093857)

Now, normally as a self-respecting computer geek, I would advocate putting a computer into any situation you could possibly jam it into. However, in this case, avoid it. You are playing a violin; this is a classical, traditional instrument, best learned from experienced, qualified and capable tutors. You are not playing with some kind of synthesiser, or an electric guitar. Introducing computers into the equation is only going to complicate things and distract you from the long hard work of becoming technically proficient on your instrument. You should develop tuning for yourself, not rely on a computer to tell you whether you are sharp or flat. Ear training is of massive importance on a real instrument like a violin; and looking on a computer screen to tell you the answer instead of learning to work out yourself how many cents you are off-pitch is not going to help you. Buy a pitch pipe; or if you have a piano, use that to play a pitch, then match it exactly on your own instrument. Take lessons if you can afford them. Nobody is more technically messed up and deficient than the self-taught string player. Hell even Charlie Parker and Miles got lessons when they had the money.

Software and music (by music I mean classical/jazz/traditional music; that which has history and infrastructure in the form of universities etc) do not mix IMHO. I am a BMus Composition major (along with my compsci major; so don't accuse me of not liking computers ^_~) and a lot of first year students come along and want to use Finale or Sibelius to compose. Finale/Sibelius are NOT composition tools; they are (very poor, btw: use Lilypond, it's open source and better output than anything else I've seen) music notation tools, so you don't have to give the performers your own messy inaccurate handwritten notation. The first thing first years get told is that to compose, use a pen and paper. Don't rely on MIDI playback to tell you what you just wrote; it won't tell you shit. If you want to be a composition major you should be good enough to tell what something written on a piece of paper sounds like for yourself, without hearing it. Much of the same goes for learning an instrument. Use of a computer will only distract you from the task at hand. The only use that I would recommend of computers is using for (as I mentioned before) notation. But this has little to do with music, and much more to do with publishing.

In short, put down your laptop and look up a professional strings tutor, one with a BMus in performance if you can.

Guitarport (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 8 years ago | (#15093938)

Line 6's Guitarport [line6.com] made me pick up the e-guitar again after many years of not playing. (It unfortunately also made me boot into Windows again).

The problem with the e-guitar is that to get the sound you want for many rock styles, you need to crank up your amp. Effect boxes help, and may be fine for practice, but you never get that sound of a Marshall at 10.
Guitarport is a cheap little box with a DSP that is plugged into the USB port. The software lets you choose from a wide variety of preset digital models of famous amps and effects (and you can save your own edits), and you can listen to it over headphones or your stereo at reasonable volume, but still sound "real".

The software is very easy to use, and you can purchase Rifftracker separately, which gives you drum tracks (sampled, and with "human-like" variations, not robotic drum machine tracks) to play along to, lets you record and arrange etc. It is not really useful for serious recording, but is very easy to use and lends itself very well to practicing guitar (instead of fiddling with the PC).

Line 6 also has a professional line [line6.com] of digital effects, amps, and guitars, but they are more expensive, and are not that great IMO for practicing/playing just for fun.

Re:Guitarport (1)

The_reformant (777653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095991)

Ive tried the guitarport out briefly but I think amplitube is the best amp modelling software out there. You'll need to buy some kind of preamp or DI box to get it to sound its sweetest but its leagues ahead of line6 and guitar rig.

Re:Guitarport (1)

Knuckles (8964) | more than 8 years ago | (#15096163)

Well, I compared it to my little Marshall restraining itself at home, and an assortment of distortion and other pedals trying to sound mean, but in vain :) Thanks for the tip

Tuning Fork & a Teacher (1)

awful (227543) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094086)

Throw away your tuning software and learn to use a tuning fork. Once you get good at that THEN you can use an electronic tuner. Electronic tuners should be used for convenience (e.g trying to tune an instument in a noisy environment), not because you can't tune your instrument without them.

As for learning to play an instrument like the violin, forget software. Find a violin teacher and get some lessons. It will be a much better use of your money because:
a) they know what they are doing and will adjust their teaching method to suit your ability;
b) they will correct your mistakes - if you get into bad habits learning to play by yourself with the aid of software, you'll never fix them;
c) you will get the chance to play with your teacher - the best part of being a musician is playing with other people. And maybe your teacher will offer to get you involved in other musical groups like orchestras.

There are many other good reasons for having a teacher - there is only one good reason for using software (if there is no teacher locally available to you).

I speak from experience - I studied the viola for 15 years (insert viola jokes) and I know that there isn't a piece of software in the world that would have been better than the various teachers I had.

Re:Tuning Fork & a Teacher (1)

kko (472548) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094336)

Ok, many of you seem to not understand me. I have a teacher, and he is not going away any time soon, nor am I looking to replace him.
I am not looking to escape practicing a lot, either. I just wanted to know if there was other software out there to help you make even more out of your regular practice.

From a teacher... (2, Informative)

clarinetn (967153) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094311)

I give individual clarinet lessons to a large number of students and i am continually looking for new material and methods in order to give them the best and most interesting experiences.
If you go into a music store, you'll notice that there are a great deal of 'playalong' cds included with books at the moment - although playing with a cd isn't what i would call learning to be a musician.

Why?
I come across a lot of students who can't *read* music. When it comes down to it, learning to read music notation correctly can give you the most enjoyment in the long term. Sure, it might be hard work - but if you ever want to play in an ensemble it will be very useful. It also opens up a whole new world of music available to play.

That said, technology certainly has its place and the cd's are really very useful in the situation where i can teach the student *how* to use them for maximum benefit. If you haven't got a teacher - get one! But then i would say that wouldn't I?

As some other posters have mentioned, the ability to record is brilliant. I take my notebook to all lessons and where appropriate i'll record my students playing and let them critique their own performance. Being a musician is as much about listening as playing. This also means I can collate their best performances over a longer period and burn a cd for them to take away.

I'm also working with a company in Australia who are developing instrumental teaching software and it is taking some old ideas to new levels. The cd playalong concept is at work here, although now we are in front of an everyday pc seeing music notation, hearing a band, orchestra or piano accompanist and actually playing inside the ensemble. On top of that, the software is calibrated to listen to your playing and let you know how well every note is played. Are you in time? Is your intonation good? Feedback that is genuinely useful to a musician of any level.

Just in case you didn't see it the first time - I work for this company, so make what you will of it. Or you could just try it out for yourself: http://inthechair.com [inthechair.com]

Oh, and to the poster that was advocating the quantity for quality technique. I'm wary of playing for long periods of time purely for the sake of doing lots of practice. If you are going to be the best you need to learn how to do the most practice in the leanest time. Playing for hours on end is sometimes fun, usually painful and often plain stupid.

A great tuner (1)

Quickfry (799118) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094393)

It's called gtkguitune, I play bass and acoustic guitar, and I can tune way more accurately with my computer and guitune than with any of my tuners.

Re:A great tuner (1)

The_reformant (777653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15096027)

Plus you cant leave tuning software lying around somewhere. Im thinking of investing in a rackmount tuner just because Ive lost about £80 in tuners over the last few years leaving them in the practice studio or at gigs.
Im damn sure I wouldnt be able to lose a rackmount :)

Computer + Instrument advice (1)

musonica (949257) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094465)

As a professional multi-instrumentalist with 17 years experience and having completed a masters in a topic relating to computer music (intelligent music performance systems), here are a few basic things I've found helpful on the computer side:

  • Play along with recordings of the music you wish to learn... reading and playing music is one thing, but being able to emulate an expressive performance with its articulation, instumental tone and feel is real music. Imitate until you can freely express yourself and emotions in the song. You could use a sound editing program to loop the playback of a song or select and loop a particular section until you are happy with it. You can use time stretching to slow it down or pitch shift it down an octave so its half as fast.
  • Record yourself playing a piece, theres nothing like listening back to yourself in all your imperfect glory!
  • You might find some ear training software useful, but also improvising to a piece or the radio, or try singing something and then try to play it.
  • you can download many MIDI files of classical and popular music, import them into a MIDI sequencer and play and arrange them if you wish, the parts can appear as a score with which you can play along with, and you can alter the tempo, mute certain parts, even create your own recording of the piece with a MIDI orchestra.

Use the computer as a tool to improve your playing but make sure you have good technique or you'll spend a lot of time relearning bad habits, private lessons from good teachers are essential when you begin.

Lots of different choices are useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15094467)

There are a lot of good comments here and a lot of good points of view, it is very good to learn to do things without the computer, but on the other hand don't feel bad using tools to help either.

One of the best uses I have found is for playing to drums instead of just a click or metronome. It may be personal preference, but I jus fint it much more comfortable for me Live drums are even better, but its not that easy to always have a wiling drummer around to for youto practice too :) I use garageband for this mainly where i'll just pick a drum pattern, or percussion pattern and use that to play/practice too.

Ducky

Avoid Magix Piano and Keyboard Workshop (1)

b00m3rang (682108) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094897)

I bought it because it's all that was available where I was shopping, and this thing is worthless. It basically plays a MIDI file that YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE, and determines how accurately you can play it. That's it.

For tuning ANY stringed instrument...... (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 8 years ago | (#15094918)

I use APTuner 3, and that includes tuning Pianos. For guitars specifically, I usually use Guitar Pro's built-in midi playback where you set note and octave, and it plays the tone back pure so you can tune up/down directly to it.

Basic composition tools (2, Informative)

bender647 (705126) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095068)

I've been a amateur drummer for 25 years, and have tried a few software packages, but here are the ones I actually find useful.

Under Windows, for overdubbing wav and midi I mostly use Cakewalk [cakewalk.com] (warning: link contains annoying self-playing music). I use the cheaper Home Studio. They have a real product differentiation problem as Sonar is the expensive product, and then they market or bundle cheaper versions that may cover your needs just fine (its hard to tell from the product descriptions which features are grayed out). I use Cakewalk because the Windows drivers can be used in a very low-latency mode, and I always have a Windows laptop kicking around. I have not liked the scoring side of Cakewalk.

Also under Windows, I have used Sibelius [sibelius.com] (version 3 and 4). It is a phenominal scoring program that produces great looking sheet music. This is the only thing I do with a PC that I think is really better than without the PC. If you score with a program that plays back what you've written via midi, you can correct many mistakes on the fly. Sibelius is unfortuately still phenominally expensive for my uses, and I've never purchased it (nor has anyone I know).

Under linux, the equivalent of Cakewalk is Rosegarden [rosegardenmusic.com] . It is very impressive at the moment. Building it is a royal pain for me. It doesn't use your standard autotools driven make, it uses Scons [scons.org] (not in my distribution). Scons requires a Python module that's not available in the stable version of Python. Hey, people writing free software can use whatever they want, its just a shame some people won't try their product because of the barrier to entry. I've had latency issues with Rosegarden + JACK [sourceforge.net] which I think can be sorted out but I have to decide if I want to run the tools as root or pull in the whole SELinux overhead + realtime module (no different than Cakewalk in Windows -- it does not work well as non-admin). Rosegarden's scoring is coming along but not quite there for me.

For scoring under Linux, I'm using Lilypond [lilypond.org] . Lilypond is phenominal, but many won't like it because its markup-based (like writing Latex). You have to go through the compile cycle to view what you've written, and dump midi to hear it. Fortunately for me, rythym section music is very repetitive. The quality of printed music it can produce is unmatched. I'm sure more programs will start using Lilypond as a processing back-end.

for guitar... (1)

dyftm (880762) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095083)

I use digital guitar tuner [guitar.sk] , for doing nasty tunings quickly and easily, and Jesusonic [jesusonic.com] . Jesusonic doesn't exactly help with learning to play, but it can add a bit of motivation when you can get your crappy guitar sounding really good for free.

Re:for guitar... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15095278)

Oh man that is some funny stuff.

Was that a senior design project somewhere?

Weird Metronome (1)

jone_stone (124040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095201)

My favorite metronome software happens to be theone that I wrote -- Weird Metronome [pinkandaint.com] . It's probably the most versatile software metronome that's available, at least among the free and open source options. It's actually more versatile than even more commercial programs. It lets you create a measure of practically any length, use a tempo anywhere from 4bpm to 1000bmp, and define your own beat emphasis using nine different percussion instruments that you can choose from the MIDI standard library of about 50 instruments. I wrote it because there wasn't any software available that could handle the weird rhythms in Balkan music (for instance I play one song in 22/16 with note groupings of 2223222322).

And the kicker? It's also one of the smallest pieces of sofware available for this kind of thing, with the zip file coming in at just 24KB. Anyone who plays music near their Windows computer should check it out.

Apart from that, I'd recommend the various tempo/pitch adjuster plugins available for Winamp. I use them all the time when transcribing or learning a song for which I don't have the sheet music.

-David

More software suggestions (1)

DeafByBeheading (881815) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095480)

Check out n-Track Studio [fasoft.com] for recording (Windows only, but a great shareware program with a great maintainer) and Noteworthy Composer [noteworthysoftware.com] for composition.

n-Track is a great alternative to the home recording software big boys (Cubase, Sonar, etc.)--much cheaper than the full versions and much more powerful than the "lite" versions. You'll be doing some pretty fancy stuff before you run into limitations with n-Track.

I haven't really kept up with the world of composition software, but back when I was interested in it, Noteworthy Composer was the only program that had sensible keyboard-based input. To do anything with Finale and other programs I'd tried, I had to click to change the note duration, click to add ornamentation, click on the staff to add a note, and so on. Noteworthy Composer gives you a cursor on the staff and there are easy keyboard shortcuts for the most common actions. Pressing Enter inserts a note at the cursor, holding down Ctrl adds the note to the current chord, +/- change note duration, arrow keys do the obvious thing, and you can use alt with the arrow keys to move up/down octaves on the staff or across measures. I tried several other programs, but this interface just felt way more natural and efficient than anything else...

From a 13 year violin player (1)

Goeland86 (741690) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095497)

Like I say in the title, I've played for 13 years. The best tools to learn are 1: your ear, you've got to be able to tell if you're on or off tune. Not everyone can do it. It's discriminatory, but not everyone has an ear sensitive enough. And I never listen to music from a portable player to keep mine intact.
2: a metronome. It's cheap (somewhere around $5 or $10) and lets you adjust the tempo as you need it.
3: time. You've gotta practice over and over and over and over again. There's no two ways around it. It gets repetitive, and neighbours might start throwing things at you, but that's the only way you'll get better.
4: a teacher is almost quintessential. A book cannot look at your stance and tell you if it's right or not. It can't tell you if you're doing all the variations properly either. Or teach you vibratos, or tremolos, or pizzicato techniques.

My advice: don't try to use a computer for learning music. The web is a great tool to find scores, but not to learn music. Music is done by live things, interaction between people, be it that of a teacher and his student. Don't try and denature music, it's really not worth it.

Speaking as a violin teacher... (1)

hlh_nospam (178327) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095532)

Get a pitch pipe for tuning. Never needs batteries or re-booting. Costs less than $10 even with shipping (I'd be happy to sell you one [blujay.com] ). Once you become able to tune in fifths by ear, get a tuning fork tuned to A440.

If you don't have a teacher, get one. Take a portable cassette recorder with you to your lessons, and record them for playback during the week. Develop good practice habits: 30 minutes/day consistently is better than 8 hours on Saturdays.

For computer stuff, the only thing I use is a collection of music in PDF files; for about $80, I was able to replace a $10,000 collection of sheet music and etude books. Otherwise, I haven't bothered with computer stuff, but that may be because I was a professional violinist long before there were any personal computers.

Learning to sing in tune (1)

bucketoftruth (583696) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095683)

Anyone know of software that plays a pitch and shows where it is on a staff (or sliding scale), then you try to match that pitch and it shows where you are in relation to the source? I saw some software like that at a music teaching school about a year ago. I'd love to get my hands on something like that so I could hone my vocal pitch better.

NO SOFTWARE (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095918)

The computer adds an unnecessary layer of concentration to a practice session.
It may even distract from the lesson at hand.
I use the computer for students to print lessons and to multitrack songs for graduation from a bloc of lessons.Each student ends his semester by recording a song.
I recommend that unless you are a MIDIot,keep off the computer during practice.

This guitar player uses the Line6 Guitar Port (1)

Goosefood (884250) | more than 8 years ago | (#15095932)

The Guitar Port is hardware and software that allows you to hookup your guitar to a computer and emulate the sounds of various different amps and effects. Your guitar's signal is converted to some digital format and sent through the USB bus to the Guitar Port's software running on the PC. The software processes your guitar's signal based on which amps and effects are enabled and outputs the signal to a soundcard or even to the Guitar Port itself (the Guitar Ports presents itself as a sound card to Windows).

To my humble ears the tones produced by the Guitar Port sound very good and are quite varied. The basic sound of the guitar will always be present, it won't magically make your guitar sound like Vai's or Van Halen's. Even so, I was very surprised that my les paul copy sounded so very good through the guitarport.

I only play at home, just for fun but after starting recording my own playing, I really noticed my playing getting a lot tidier and consistent. That is a plus that I wasn't expecting. Ironically, the unique selling point for me was the ability to play music half-speed without changing pitch. I never use this feature.

Software for musical practice (1)

Zenmonkeycat (749580) | more than 8 years ago | (#15097180)

If your issues are less related to the specific instrument and more to sight-reading and general theory, I'd recommend notation software. Coda's Finale Notepad [finalemusic.com] is a free, someone limited version of the Finale notation package. I prefer Noteworthy Composer [noteworthysoftware.com] which is very accessible for people less versed in theory, while Brahms [sourceforge.net] is a good Linux package. I've found that writing music is one of the best ways to learn how it works, and being able to play it back quickly, either through ALSA, a MIDI keyboard or Windows software synth allows you to experiment easily with notation and theory.

InterChart guitar/bass scale and chord calculator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15097198)

I wrote this back in 1997:
http://www.unpronounceable.com/interchart/ [unpronounceable.com]

It's in Java and runs in your browser.

- Dave

A440 source + your ear (1)

adamjaskie (310474) | more than 8 years ago | (#15097217)

1. Take a tuning fork, pitch pipe, or metronome with an A440 setting. Remember that note in your mind. If you are playing in a group with another instrument, tune to the same source. If that other instrument is something that cannot be easily tuned (piano, organ, etc.), tune to that instrument rather than another source.
2. Tune your A string to that note.
3. Bow across the A and D strings. Tune the D string until it is a perfect 4th.
4. Do the same across the D and G string, then the A and E string.

No software required. It shouldn't take you more than a minute or so, unless your pegs are being stubborn.

That is the way my dad has been tuning his violin for as long as I can remember; he has been playing for something like 45 years. It is also the way I tuned my string bass in high school, except that is tuned by 5ths. I would imagine something like a guitar would use a similar method.
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