Monday, February 11, 2013

On Listening To The Robots

I don’t have much for today, but I want to do this post just because it is kind of special to me.

First of all, take a look at this picture. Don’t these people look happy!

They should look happy. They’re making music together. And the guy’s with a hippie girl on acoustic guitar. And he’s playing a keyboard that looks like the control panel of a spaceship.

I’d be happy, too!

That’s an advertising photo (so they’re probably just pretending to be happy!) from a brochure for Yamaha’s current top-of-the-line arranger keyboard, the Tyros 4. It’s probably going to be updated soon because it has been out for a few years and Yamaha just updated their second tier arranger workstation, but that’s what the Tyros 4 looks like now. Very cool and very powerful. It costs almost five times as much as my second tier arranger workstation, but it does look much more like a spaceship control panel than mine does.

Anyway, I’m guessing that’s one way of making the hippie girls smile—being able both to afford and play a keyboard like that.

I’m not up to it yet.

But all that nonsense being said, I had fun on Sunday with my poor old second tier arranger workstation (that is now really third tier because Yamaha recently updated it).

Here’s what I was doing Sunday morning.

I woke up and I was thinking of some melody that just came to me overnight. So I picked up my guitar and worked out the melody and it was fun. It was an odd melody, sixteen bars long, not eight or twelve. But I liked it.

So after I worked it out on guitar I wondered what the melody would look like in music notation. I have a very hard time working out even simple things because my ear is so untrained.

I know that’s not too uncommon in the music world. Lots of people can play things they can’t notate. But it bugs me. I know that a person can reach a point where standard notation becomes second nature to them. But it seems almost like magic to me.

But one very cool thing about music software and workstations these days is that you can just play a melody and the software or the workstation will format the music for you. And then you can learn, and an untrained ear gets a little training.

The robots teach us! (Tricky Times)

That’s what happened on Sunday.

I turned on my keyboard workstation and played the melody with the metronome on so I knew I was playing it correctly. But I couldn’t imagine what the music notation would look like. I was imagining things like triplets and ties and complicated nonsense. But then I buckled down and recorded it.

Here is a simple four-bar arrangement of the two main bits.

The three notes starting the first bar are what I thought might be triplets, and the same with the three notes ending the second and starting the third.

But it’s really very simple.

And after I saw the notation I let the workstation play the music and I watched the metronome and I listened carefully and I found I could hear the difference in the times. I realized I could hear that the quarter note was sounding longer than the eighth notes so they weren’t evenly spaced tuplets of any kind.

Then for a long while I just sat there playing those two figures in various arrangements and various lengths, playing very consciously and listening to the differences of the contrasting figures—first the two eighth notes followed by a quarter note and later the quarter note followed by two eighth notes. I could feel the difference.

On Sunday morning, even playing guitar where I’m much more comfortable, I wasn’t aware of any difference in the time of the figures, even though I was playing the different times. Sunday afternoon, after a session with my robot teacher [!] I could hear and feel the difference.

I know this is trivial stuff, but it made me very happy to be able to do it.

It’s good to get better at something!

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Guitar Sounds In Denmark (Or Chicago)

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #1

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #2

1 comment:

Matt said...

It is amazing what listening to robots can do. Now they are even helping to inspire creativity.