If you’re looking to turbo charge your music and multimedia-making ability, what component do you think could provide you the most “jet propulsion” to blast you to a new sphere of effectiveness? Would it be:
a) a new synthesizer keyboard
b) top-name audio-video editing software
c) a new digital audio recorder, or
d) a new amplifier and speaker system?
No question about it, these items would be nice additions. What may surprise you, however, is that you may already have sitting in your lap all that you need to take your creativity to the next level. Based upon my own personal experience and purchases this year, my new laptop computer, I would argue, has been the best purchase I’ve made. I think you’ll readily agree that most all of the things that can be done with a laptop can be done just as well with a desktop model – EXCEPT for portability, with a capital “P”.
As multimedia and music people, we’re never tied to a single venue. And the hassle of “building” a music and/or multimedia presentation on one computer and then transferring it to another can become a hair-pulling experience:
1) Fighting with software compatibility (oh, man, I forgot we’ve got an older version of that software here in the sanctuary).
2) Dealing with differing processor speeds (hey, the PowerPoint slides synced with the music in the office, why not here?),
3) The absence of a computer where we really need it.
I hope you’ll find multiple things on this list that can serve as turbo-boosters for you!
Capturing Audio Digitally
Using a program such as Adobe Audition (formerly Cool Edit Pro), you can do just about anything imaginable to record multiple-tracks of audio and apply digital effects. If you want to go beyond what you already have with your laptop (Windows Media Recorder and a mic input), you can purchase a USB device such as Tascam’s US-122 (street price $199) to provide the inexpensive link between your sound source and computer. (A scaled down version of Cubase audio software is included with the US-122.) The Tascam device converts the audio to digital and sends it via USB to your computer. It also provides phantom power for mics needing it.
Yamaha’s new O1X, digital audio controller, the latest such device out the shoot, allows you to connect several input sources to the O1X stand-alone unit and pipe the multiple sound inputs via Firewire to your computer. Once sound exists as a .wav file on your computer, then you can have even more fun!
Convert sound files from one format to another
Using software such as Adobe Audition or MusicMatch JukeBox, you can digitally extract or “rip” audio from a CD (beware of copyright laws!), convert the CD audio to a .wav file. Or you can take the .wav file you’ve produced and “burn” a CD. Or, you can convert that file to a MP3 file and post it on the Internet. Converting correctly sampled .wav files is usually as easy as using the “Save As” feature under the “File” menu.
Easily add, edit and “sweeten” audio for video
Adobe has just proven with its new Video Collection how seamless photo manipulation, special effects and audio-video editing can be. It’s easy to extract the audio from video (to create a CD of a videotaped concert, for example) or add digital effects processing to audio for video.
Organize the sounds on your synthesizer
Even the best keyboards ship with sounds not suitable for Sunday morning worship. With your laptop and software such as Emagic SoundDiver or Midi Quest 9.0, a universal sound editor/librarian, you can not only tweak sounds, you can reorganize the positions (bank settings) of instruments in your keyboard. I’ve created an “offertory” set, a “worship group” and “prelude set” of keyboard sounds, for example.
Create or transpose your own sheet music
Using sequencing software, you can record the digital data generated by your synthesizer as MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) data. File sizes are small, compared to digital audio. Plus, any MIDI file can be opened in Sibelius or Finale, music notation software, and tweaked a page or note at a time to transpose songs or create medleys very easily. One of my favorite resources for professional recorded MIDI hymns and choruses is www.musicmansion.com. You can find plenty of inexpensive or free MIDI and digital audio software at www.newfreeware.com
In summary, it’s now possible to create on your laptop computer what just a few years ago professional studios couldn’t even touch. Most importantly, it allows us to do ministry more efficiently and effectively.