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Computers hit the right note for musicians

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Dan Jones now has what he sees as an open door into the music industry—his computer.

Coupled with a precise recording program, Jones’ computer can moonlight as a full-fledged recording studio, he said.

“A lot of new bands sit at home and don’t need much more than a computer and a couple of instruments [to put together a CD],” Jones noted. “It’s like having a recording studio at home.”

Jones, who works at the hospital here, is just starting out with his band, “Sound-byte.” His 10-year-old keyboard is hooked up to a new computer where two recording program, “Professional Jammer” and “Cakewalk,” are installed.

First he sets up the appropriate key all the music is to be recorded in, the time signature, and the length (in terms of bars). Then he plays the music, feeding it to the program.

He can play by himself on the keyboard (using its many instrumental settings to make it sound like an entire band)—or record other instruments actually being played by musicians.

Once the music is recorded in the program, it’s laid out in bars of music. Here, he actually can manipulate any misplayed notes by picking them up with his mouse and moving them—on the staff—to where they’re supposed to be.

“You can cut and paste and copy, just like in WordPerfect or Word,” he remarked.

Jones noted how a musician’s studio bill can go up based on repeated recording sessions trying to get the piece perfect. “You don’t have to take chances playing the whole thing perfectly,” he said. “That’s what happens in the studio.”

He discussed his own band’s experience with recording a CD, which is slated to come out later this year.

“The cost will be between $3,000-$4,000 for the finished product,” he said. “To go to a studio in Thunder Bay or Winnipeg to make the same thing, you’re looking at it being about $8,000.”

Jones described another way computers have opened up the market to smaller independent bands. Musicians record their music on an MP3, which is a version of a song that can be played off a computer’s hard-drive.

Bands release an MP3 of one of their songs on the Internet, and people get hooked—then go out and buy the whole album.

“[This industry] is 10 percent talent and 90 percent business and marketing,” he stressed. “You can do the business and marketing yourself.”

Cliff Pidlubny of Inside Out Productions, a local production studio, said the most computers can do is make things easier on artists but can’t replace studios completely.

“[Musicians] prefer a more professional approach to recording,” said Pidlubny, who also works at Sight and Sound on Scott Street. “Within the near future, we’ll be adding the computer into the equation, but it will never be run by computers.”

For one, Pidlubny said computers can be unreliable if the electricity goes out or it crashes. Any music being recorded then could be lost.

As well, many producers won’t accept demo tapes recorded by computer.

“It’s too easy to doctor things up,” he noted. “Instead of spending hours and hours recording it perfectly, you can spend hours and hours manipulating it.”

He said programs like “Professional Jammer” make his job as a studio technician easier—when musicians bring the recording to be professionally recorded.

“They take the recording they’ve made and say, ‘This is how it should sound.’ It’s simple,” he remarked.

And computers play a huge role in recording music along with instruments at the recording studio. Different programs can be used to set volume levels and avoid distortion because of specific instruments being played too loud.

Others can be used to record special effects, like an echo, into the piece.

So while Pidlubny has his reservations about using computers to replace the studio, he knows how much they have helped.

“The computer’s made it easier for almost anyone to come out with a great-sounding product,” he said.

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