Posts Tagged ‘audio’


27 January 2011

I like playing guitar along with my hifi.  It often means I have to figure out the key of the song or tune. That’s OK, and while I have done dozens of songs in my collection, I still have zillions of MP3s not done.  I can listen to a couple of hours’ worth of stuff in D major for example.

But the thing I dislike the most is when a track is between keys — off pitch. Eugh!  I use to correct this by ear using Audacity, this can change the pitch yet keep the beats per minute the same — but the trouble with that is the preview is just the starting few seconds, and on some tracks the music proper doesn’t start for quite a while.

Now I have found Platinum Notes — a great bit of software.  It fixes the volume and audio graphs (clipping etc), and tweaks the whole track to the nearest proper pitch key.  It makes the mp3 file size jump to about double, but what a difference it makes!  It doesn’t overwrite — it makes a new audio file adding _pn to the filename.  All you do is delete the original later, and remove the _pn to be good to go. It really is worth doing, and is a LOT easier than doing this stuff my ear.




24 February 2010

I get asked a lot about favourite free media software, so I thought I’d do a post article on the subject. At the very least, it records the here and now and might provide laughs in years to come.

To begin, let’s say you wanted to download albums, books, or movies on the peer-to-peer network.  There is a nice wee free (and open source) bit of software called uTorrent (micro torrent).

It is really easy to use, you fire up the program and then use the search panel, it opens your browser at a torrent site. You select the torrent you want, agree to use uTorrent to download the torrent, and it downloads your selections in the background, resuming if you break continuity or even switch off.

Sometimes torrent downloads are in a strange format.  There might be several files that comprise a RAR compression.  What you do here is find the actual *.rar file in amongst the list, and simply right click and select “extract here” if you have 7-zip installed.  The result is a single *.avi file.  You can now bin all the other files.

Now that you have an *.avi movie file, you might want to make a DVD disc that can be played on home and car DVD players.

This needs DVD Flick, and open source bit of free software that converts the file and burns the movie — with customisable menus.  I have used various other ones, some better, some worse, but they have now gone by the wayside by introducing charges. They were only free long enough to get you hooked.

Sometimes you just want to copy *.avi files as data files, either as a back up or with the intention to play on a laptop or some-such.  To quickly copy data files (and that means anything from *.avi files, and *.mp3 files to *.jpg and *.gif files), simply use the free and open source InfraRecorder software.

A great way to surf the web is to use Firefox’s tabbed browser. It is free and open source too.

You can customise this browser in all sorts of ways using the free plug-ins. A good plug in to get is Video download helper.

So now, when you are watching a video on something like YouTube, you can download the file.  The Download Helper can be configured to download and convert to a suitable format (the original YouTube format is *.flv).

On the other hand, you can just get a video player that can handle just about any format… VLC.

This can also make *.mp3 files from videos (separating off the audio from the movie), and even take snapshot stills of movies, or turn home movies taken with the camera turned on its side.  Seriously, it does AMAZING things, yet it is free and open source.

VLC is so much better than Window media player; it plays very odd formats and you can even slow down playback — which is great of learning guitar licks from youtube clips.

Hope this list helps someone out there! Enjoy!



26 May 2009

Organising music for media players of various types can be difficult, especially when dealing with databases online.

I have always used the same, basic system for years.

I don’t really care much about underscrores, capitals, or anything too fussy. This means that there is a lot of leeway.

Each file (track) I name like this:

  • 1 – key- name of track – artist.mp3

In Mediamonkey I use the mood tags for the song key so I can group tracks by key signature, but I still need the key in the file name for my phone and mp3 players that don’t go on tags.

When I have not worked out the key, the track/ file will look like this:

  • 1 – name of track – artist.mp3.

As I said, I don’t care very much if the artist is David Bowie or Bowie or David Bowie.  Life’s too short; it is only a file name.  As long as the ID3 tags are consistent, everything is fine.

I know for sure that grouping artists by surname is rare, but I don’t care; it makes more sense to me to have surname/first name. If the artist is known by one name, I’ll use that.  For groups, I think it crazy that so many people would file “The Who” under “T” — along with all the other groups beginning with “The”.

My preference is to name albums/ folders like this:

  • artist surname, artist first name (album name, year, record label);
  • GROUP, The (album name, year, record label).

I downloaded MusicBrainz Picard tonight.  It’s opensource and free, and it is strongly recommended by the followers of the Lifehacker site who voted it into their review listing.

I am going to play around with this to see if I can tweak things to save me some bother, or maybe to help me organise things.  I seriously doubt that it will be of use with respect to keys, but it might tolerate surname/ first name and move “the”.  We shall see…!



5 September 2008

In music, keys are tied to pitches.

And although that might sound difficult, it’s not. Really.

Concert pitch is measured in Hertz or cycles per second, and since 1936, the note A above middle C is pegged at a frequency of 440Hz.

  • There is even an international standard for this (ISO16:1975) — get it here.

You are not even supposed to care about this, you are not even supposed to know about this.  It is a standard, a benchmark, a LAW, taken as read — this is a given — except…

Sometimes a piece of recorded music is slowed down or speeded up, and A4 is no longer 440Hz, and in fact is between the tone and the next semitone — in no man’s land.

I bloody hate that.

For example, my wife noticed that on the Liberty X CD (Being Somebody, 2003, V2) the third track is out of standard pitch. It turned out to be almost exactly between F#m and Gm. A quarter tone! So should it be higher in pitch, the G minor — or lower and F# minor? Which was the original key when they recorded it? Well, the second track, “Jumpin” is G# minor — and so’s the fifth track, “Watcha Doin Tonight?”, so I figured it might be a good bet that it was G minor.

So what I do is rip my CDs to an MP3s (or download the MP3s; whatever), then change the pitch in Audacity (free software) using skill and judgement and a guitar correctly tuned to concert pitch, and then export to MP3 again.

You needed to get LAME so that Audacity would let you export to MP3 fromat, but the results were superb — an altered pitch, without altering the beats per minute!

Anyways, recently my corrections have been shockingly bad quality… and so I am gutted that I have to save as a huge WAV file and then use the free version of NCH’s “Switch” to make the MP3. It’s an extra step I could do without!

Back at the Liberty X track — the quarter tone up to Gm made the voices sound too high, so I dropped the track to F#m in Audacity, and it was spot on!

What the pluck is the good of doing that to a record — it means you cannot play a piano along with it, and you have to retune your guitar all the time.  This is why it is so difficult for people to learn music by ear! Aaargh!

Having a list of musical frequencies and wavelengths is a must, I canny find anything on the web, so I have nicked the following from an old text book.

The Definitive Frequencies List:

Note Frequency (Hz) Wavelength (mm) voice
C0 16.35 21 000
C#0/ Db0 17.32 19 900
D0 18.35 18 700
D#0/ Eb0 19.45 17 700
E0 20.60 16 700
F0 21.83 15 800
F#0/ Gb0 23.12 14 900
G0 24.50 14 000
G#0/ Ab0 25.96 13 200
A1 27.50 12 500
A#1/ Bb1 29.14 11 800
B1 30.87 11 100
C1 32.70 10 500
C#1/ Db1 34.65 9 960
D1 36.71 9 400
D#1/ Eb1 38.89 8 870
E1 41.20 8 370
F1 43.65 7 900
F#1/ Gb1 46.25 7 460
G1 49.00 7 040 sub-bass, contrabass, or  basso profundo:
lower than G1
G#1/ Ab1 51.91 6 650
A2 55.00 6 270
A#2/ Bb2 58.27 5 920
B2 61.74 5 590 Tenor: B2 – G4

Operatic Tenor: B2 – C5

C2 65.41 5 270 Bass: C2 – C4
C#2/ Db2 69.30 4 980
D2 73.42 4 700
D#2/ Eb2 77.78 4 440
E2 82.41 4 190 Operatic Bass – Basso: E2 – F4
F2 87.31 3 950 Operatic Baritone: F2 – G4

Baritone: F2 – F4

F#2/ Gb2 92.50 3 730
G2 98.00 3 520
G#2/ Ab2 103.83 3 320
A3 110.00 3 140 Mezzo- Soprano: A3 – F5
A#3/ Bb3 116.54 2 960
B3 123.47 2 790
C3 130.81 2 640
C#3/ Db3 138.59 2 490
D3 146.83 2 350
D#3/ Eb3 155.56 2 220
E3 164.81 2 090 Alto: E3 – E5
F3 174.61 1 980 Operatic Contralto: F3 – A5
F#3/ Gb3 185.00 1 860
G3 196.00 1 760 Operatic Mezzo- Soprano: G3 – B5
G#3/ Ab3 207.65 1 660
A4 220.00 1 570
A#4/ Bb4 233.08 1 480
B4 246.94 1 400
“Middle” C4 261.63 1 320 Bass: C2 – C4

Soprano C4- A5

Operatic Soprano: C4 – C6

C#4/ Db4 277.18 1 240
D4 293.66 1 170
D#4/ Eb4 311.13 1 110
E4 329.63 1 050
F4 349.23 988 Operatic Bass – Basso: E2 – F4

Baritone: F2 – F4

F#4/ Gb4 369.99 932
G4 392.00 880 Operatic Baritone: F2 – G4

Tenor: B2 – G4

G#4/ Ab4 415.30 831
A5 440.00 784 Operatic Contralto: F3 – A5

Soprano C4- A5

A#5/ Bb5 466.16 740
B5 493.88 699 Operatic Mezzo- Soprano: G3 – B5
C5 523.25 659 Operatic Tenor: B2 – C5
C#5/ Db5 554.37 622
D5 587.33 587
D#5/ Eb5 622.25 554
E5 659.26 523 Alto: E3 – E5
F5 698.46 494 Mezzo- Soprano: A3 – F5
F#5/ Gb5 739.99 466
G5 783.99 440
G#5/ Ab5 830.61 415
A6 880.00 392
A#6/ Bb6 932.33 370
B6 987.77 349
C6 1046.50 330 Operatic Soprano: C4 – C6
C#6/ Db6 1108.73 311 sopranino: higher than C#6
D6 1174.66 294
D#6/ Eb6 1244.51 277
E6 1318.51 262
F6 1396.91 247
F#6/ Gb6 1479.98 233
G6 1567.98 220
G#6/ Ab6 1661.22 208
A7 1760.00 196
A#7/ Bb7 1864.66 185
B7 1975.53 175
C7 2093.00 165
C#7/ Db7 2217.46 156
D7 2349.32 147
D#7/ Eb7 2489.02 139
E7 2637.02 131
F7 2793.83 123
F#7/ Gb7 2959.96 117
G7 3135.96 110
G#7/ Ab7 3322.44 104
A8 3520.00 98
A#8/ Bb8 3729.31 93
B8 3951.07 87
C8 4186.01 82
C#8/ Db8 4434.92 78
D8 4698.64 73
D#8/ Eb8 4978.03 69

Based on A4 being 440Hz and The Speed of sound = 345 m/s (which, in the USA is 1130 ft/s or 770 mph)

It is my pet hate when producers depart from the standard pitch system.  They do it on TV when things are over-running, but there really is no need to mess it up when making a pop record — but they do, and it is sloppy work in my opinion.

ears Years ago I used to have a pitch control (speed adjustment knob) on my turntable, and I would make cassette tapes of the corrected music to keep my ears cleansed!

It took me AGES to buy a CD player because I would be unable to pitch correct recordings — until I got a CD player from Richer Sounds complete with a pitch slider control. Result!



22 August 2008

I am telling you. Seriously. Don’t activate Windows Media Player, don’t download the new crazy version, don’t waste your time.  Believe me. It’s a media player for lawyers.

Real and Quicktime are nightmares too. Try to steer clear, honest. There IS a better way!

Look, I have played around with loads of these things, I loved Musicmatch Jukebox (from yahoo!) about 10 years ago, and then went off it when new versions started to get too fancy.

I still have an old (verison 1) Applian FLV player to hand for stuff downloaded from YouTube, but my main videoplayer is  VLC — and I have a portable apps version of VLC for use on-the-go from my USB flash drive.

For audio, the winner, though, HAS to be MEDIAMONKEY download from

It allows for the most flexibility — even to the point of renaming of file names as well as tags.  It’s robust and comprehensive. Unlike Windows, it can handle any picture file of any name and any dimension and use it as the album art — no weird hidden file in three sizes downloaded in secret!  No DRM — you can rip and burn and organise your collection the way you want it.

I like the way it fades in and out; it gives it a more solid, professional feel — it’s easy to use (easier than WMP and jukebox) and just works!  I hate the way WMP for example, spends ages going through your system cataloguing everything (slowly at that).  It’s basically grassing you up for being a media pirate ah-harrr!

Media monkey, Applian FLV player and VLC are all FREE of Charge! result.