John Hiatt’s Race Car Garage Studio

John Hiatt has turned his race-car garage into a recording studio. There’s a wonderful article in the Alabama Scene Blog that captures Hiatt’s humour in discussing his recording process and in his friendship with Lyle Lovett:

The great thing about having a recording studio at his house, John Hiatt says, is he gets to work at his own pace. And on his own time.

“You can get up at nine o’clock in the morning and go out in your underwear and fiddle around with the mix that you left up,” the journeyman singer-songwriter says from his home outside Nashville. “It doesn’t matter. It’s your place. I guess the down side is you can get overindulgent, I suppose, but so what?”

Although he’s gotten rid of his race cars, the recording studio has given the 55-year-old Hiatt a new toy to putter around with.

“The one thing that keeps me honest in this particular situation is that my recording medium here is only eight tracks,” he says. “It’s a digital recording machine, so you can do a lot with the eight tracks. You can bounce them around without any loss of sound, but still it’s functionally only an eight-track machine.

“So it’s kind of like old-school recording in a way, where you have to make decisions and combine things early on in the process much like you had to do in the early ’60s. I like that. I like that approach.”

Hiatt’s pretty cool and the Muse is with him…

Music Computer Stolen – Important Works Lost

In Illinois, Lake Forest College’s Department of Music suffered a serious blow when it’s one and only laptop was stolen – read the full article here and a small selection follows:

Associate Professor of Music Donald Meyer, who chairs the department and specializes in use of the studio, called the incident “a devastating loss.” Besides taking away important work by his students and himself, the theft has disrupted his ability to teach Songwriting this semester. Productivity in the class came to a halt, since the stolen computer was the only one students could use to record and compose in the department.

I don’t know… I suffered the same fate once when my laptop was stolen, but I had most of my songs backed up (though not all). It seems to me that some precautions should have been taken – stolen or not, even a hard drive failure could have led to this outcome… but who am I to judge…

May the laptop be returned and may the Muse be with this songwriting program, professor and students…

Tailor Your Backup Band – More Technology Coming

Another Listening Post Wired Blog post from Eliot Van Buskirk had me going today:

Amateur musicians should eventually be able to use similar technology to create entire songs using only a vocal melody and an idea of which band — or mix of bands — would sound right playing the accompaniment. Want a backing track for your “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” cover that sounds like a mix of Radiohead and Green Day? Soon, you could be able to click a button and make it so.

Pretty cool stuff… the program will take songs you “feed” it from a particular artist and become that band in style – they call it “Automatic Style Specific Accompaniment” or ASSA. You can see this in action in this video which shows the ASSA success rate of 82% in coming up with the melod of Creep by Radiohead after being given 3 of the band’s songs (High and DryFake Plastic Trees and Airbag).

Who knows, eventually an artist/songwriter may license their “style” under ASSA? Will you be able to copyright a style? I guess if it can be analyzed and stripped to such a point that it can be copied and utilized to another songwriter’s benefit, the answer may be “Why not?”.

Right now the system is bits and bytes and MIDI-based, but theoretically, it should work on audio files as well in the future. As the author states in the article: “If all you need is a melody, lyrics and a concept of which band or bands you want your accompaniment to resemble, the bar to songwriting will be lowered.”

Something to think about…

Music’s ‘DNA’ Decoded: Melodyne

Peter Neubacker, the music software engineer behind Melodyne, is interviewed online on the Celemony website here and I hope you take the time to take a look.

It’s really quite incredible what his invention within Melodyne, Direct Note Access (DNA), has done for polyphonic sounds (i.e. guitar/piano chords). It allows the user to take individual notes within that polyphonic sound and “play” with them (pitch/decay/timing, etc…) – see image at end of post.

As Eliot Van Buskirk states in the Wired Listening Post blog piece on this:

While Melodyne enabled anyone to sing in tune, Direct Note Access’ effect will likely be far more widespread. Any one of us will technically be able to create a guitar-based song by strumming all of the open strings on a guitar then editing the resulting chord to play whatever we want. Talk about your democratizing technology.

Celemony’s Direct Note Access will likely lead to a revolution in how music is made, although purists are likely to scoff at yet another technology that downgrades the importance of virtuosic talent. Others will surely see this as a natural progression in the ongoing musical fusion of human and machine.

Remember to check out that demonstration (very cool)! And may the technological Muse be with you too…

MuseScore v. Finale NotePad

Last week I wrote about the demise of the free version of Finale NotePad and advising readers to pick up the free 2008 version before it’s too late. I received a comment on that post from David Bolton regarding the free and opensource project known as MuseScore.

Logos and Graphics | MuseScore

Indeed, David provided a link to very helpful comparison of the features between MuseScore and Finale NotePad which I’d encourage you to read. It definitely is a great alternative, is well-supported and available for Windows and Linux.

May the Muse(Score) be with you…

The World In Six Songs by Daniel Levitin

by Daniel J. Levitin The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created  Human Nature(text only)[Hardcover]2008: by Daniel J. Levitin:  Books

Okay, now this book is hot off the press and I haven’t had a chance to review it other than the sample that’s availabel on Dr. Levitin’s website. This book – The World In Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature – “shows how six specific forms of music played a pivotal role in creating human culture and society as we know it. Levitin masterfully weaves together the story of human evolution, music, anthropology, psychology and biology from the dawn of homo sapiens to the present.”

“Music seems to have an almost willful, evasive quality, defying simple explanation, so that the more we find out, the more there is to know, leaving its power and mystery intact, however much we may dig and delve. Daniel’s book is an eloquent and poetic exploration of this paradox..”
– Sting

The “Six” are Friendship, Joy, Comfort, Knowledge, Religion and Love. You can watch/listen to Dr. Levitin on TedX discuss the Six Songs which can be summed up as follows: Music makes us human…

Happy listening and may the Muse (and Science and the Six Songs) be with you…

This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin

This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession ...

Well, I was going to wait till I actually finished the book to right about it, but since the author, Prof. Daniel Levitin, appeared on CBC Radio’s The Current this morning (to discuss a new book of his), I thought I’d make my first thoughts on this “old” book known.

The book is – This Is Your Brain On Music  and it’s a wonderful, thought-provoking achievement regarding the “science” of music. Don’t get scared by that thought (re “science”) as the book is lucidly entertaining, drawn from the real-life experience of the author as a musician/producer/scientist (don’t see that combination every day).

Yes, the “raw” science of sound is analyzed – that path of sound vibrating air molecules and triggering nerve impulses in the listener. But “music”, as opposed to just “sound”, can bring simple yet complex analysis within the brain that delves into the timbre, pitch, tempo and other musical elements. And it’s fascinating, without destroying the soulfulness or mystery of music.

As Levitin himself simplifies the book in his introduction to be: “what music can teach us about the brain, what the brain can teach us about music – and what both can teach us about ourselves”. I’m finding that I out as I complete the book…

As discussed, his new book The World In Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature has just come out… see next post.

May the Muse (and science) be with you…

My Self-Hosted WordPress Blog

Just a note to steer all readers to my “copy” of this blog on my self-hosted site at:


I think I’ll be running both pages in tandem, so whatever style suits your fancy… but I have a bit more control on my self-hosted site (using WordPress as an installed script).

May the Muse be wtih you… still posting at

Finale Notepad – No Longer Free

So I found out that Finale Music will no longer be providing its basic NotePad product for free beginning with its 2009 version.  Here is what the company says on its website:

September 4, 2008
Dear Finale NotePad user,
We’re writing today to share some exciting news surrounding the upcoming release of Finale NotePad®.
When it was first released in 2000, the initial idea behind NotePad was that it would work like an “Adobe Reader” for music notation, letting anyone open, play, and print any Finale file. Since then more than four million educators, students, and other musicians have downloaded and made excellent use of Finale NotePad.
In the intervening years NotePad’s feature set has been greatly expanded. Recent additions include guitar and bass tablature, MIDI file import/export, step‐time entry, and MIDI playback. Even so, we continue to receive requests for additional functionality, and this year NotePad has reached a crossroads.
In the next few weeks we plan to release Finale NotePad 2009 with even more features, including an all new Expression Tool and the ability to import/export MusicXML files. It will continue to include free online support. At the same time we will begin charging $9.95 for the NotePad 2009 download.
Then, within the month, we will also release our Finale Reader™. The Finale Reader will be able to open, play, and print (but not edit) any Finale family file – as well as MusicXML files – and it will be a free download.
Please note that with the release of the Finale Reader, we will no longer offer previous versions of NotePad from our site. Keep in mind that among the many advantages in NotePad 2009 is its ability to import/export MusicXML files: this means that it can save files that can be opened in earlier versions of Finale.
We hope you agree that these changes represent an excellent balance between free reader software and low‐cost notation creation software.
Best wishes in your music making,
John Paulson and Ron Raup
MakeMusic, Inc.

So get it while you can…

Home Recording Forums

I recently joined this site (click here) for home recording enthusiasts. I will add the site to my sidebar on the blog and hope you get a chance to check it out and get some pro feedback on your home recordings without fear of “backlash” sentiments and pretentious condescensions that come from some other home recording sites…

May the Tech Muse be with you as well as the Song Muse…