They Say Our Love Won’t Pay The Rent

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Monday morning while sourpuss Bob was telling his Babe that It Ain’t Me, the sunnier Sonny and Cher were singing reciprocally to their Babes that I Got You.

Here are Sonny and Cher long after they were professionally—or privately—a couple, singing their signature song. (I like the way Cher pretends she’s forgotten the words—after all she must have sung it literally thousands of times—as if she’s way beyond that now.)

Thanks to YouTuber Cher Fan Club

“Why, I Can Smile, And Murder Whiles I Smile”

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John Barrymore chewing up the scenery in this no-holds-barred performance as the crook-back’d Richard, Duke of Gloucester, on the eve of gaining the Crown as Richard III.

This is from Henry VI, the prequel to Richard III, which details Gloucester’s rise.

Thanks to YouTuber erfv102012

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And don’t forget to enter the Fourth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest. It’s fun and easy with great prizes. Read the details here:

https://jackshalom.net/2018/10/06/the-fourth-annual-shalom-blog-magic-contest/

Deadline coming up, now’s a good time to enter.

Radio Interview Production Workshop #11: Effective Effects

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person standing beside another person holding fire poi

Photo by Rudolf Kirchner on Pexels.com

By now you should have a rough cut of your interview, which is approximately the desired length of your final mix. In this installment we’re going to get into some more tools of Audacity which will allow you to refine your work further. (For the previous installments begin here and then follow the links at the end of each installment.)

In the top menu, you’ll see a menu item, Effects. If you click on it you’ll get a long list of choices:

effects

There is so much that can be done with Audacity, but the truth is, to produce interviews and spoken word broadcasts, you will only need to use a few of the pictured effects. Of course, afterwards you can play around with all kinds of special effects such as Echo, Reverb, Wahwah, and so on for fun, but we are just going to concentrate now on the indispensable effects that you would need in normal use: Fade Out, Fade In, Amplify, and Change Tempo.

When you click on most of the effects,  there will be some default settings. The defaults generally give a good result, so I don’t recommend messing around with those settings for now. The first ones we will look at are the Fade In and Fade Out effects. Suppose you have clapping or music at the end that you want to fade out; you simply highlight the section on the track from the point where you want the fade to start to the point at the end where you want the sound totally muted. Then simply click on Effect—>Fade Out. You’ll see that you can use the effect over the same area more than once if you like. Likewise, with Fade In: often you want to fade in the music leading into or out of an interview. To do this, simply highlight an area and then click on Effect—>Fade In. Also remember you can always undo an effect with the Edit—>Undo menu item.

Next, let’s look at Amplify. An uneven sound level is a very common problem, and if the volume in general is too high or too low throughout the audio track, or variable throughout the track, we will deal with that later with an effect called Compressor. The Amplify effect, however, is most useful really for small areas where you need to bump up or tone down the volume. Perhaps someone turned away from a mic for a moment, or there was a loud unwanted background noise.

If you click on Effect—>Amplify, you’ll see that there’s a little box that says Allow Clipping. You want to make sure that that box is not checked.

clipping

Clipping means that the volume has reached such a high level that the sound is going to become distorted. Most of us have experienced that distortion when, for example, we turn up the sound to maximum on inexpensive speakers. So we want to be careful when working with sound that we keep the volume within certain limits, so that the vocal frequencies are not clipped. There are two main ways that clipping can be introduced into a mix: 1) either during recording, the source is too close to the mic and the recording volume is set too high (in which case most recorders will flash a red warning signal) or 2) using the Amplify effect in editing  the volume is too high and so clipping occurs. By leaving the Allow clipping box unchecked, Audacity will prevent you from bumping up the volume too high.

How do you know if you’re clipping? Go to View—>Show clipping(on/off). Make sure there’s a check mark next to it. If not, click on it.

view clipping

If the recording or the editing has introduced clipping, you will see it represented by red lines in the waveform:

red clip lines

While a  little bit of clipping is not a disaster, in general, you certainly want to avoid adding more. We will learn how to handle extensive clipping in the next installment, but for now, we don’t want to add any more of it through injudicious use of Amplify.

Amplify, interestingly enough, not only is handy for bumping up the sound, but also for making the volume softer when it needs to be. Your main control, after you highlight the area you wish to change, will be the slider you see when you click on Effect—>Amplify. Moving the slider to the left will decrease the volume (shown as a negative number of decibels); moving it to the right will increase the volume (a positive number of decibels). The general rough rule of thumb is that every + or – 6dBs doubles (or halves) the perceived volume (it depends upon many factors including the frequency of the sound and human psychology.)

The final effect we’ll discuss is a very useful one named Change Tempo. If you look at the first picture above, you’ll notice two other similar sounding effects, Change Pitch and Change Speed. But those are not going to be of much use to us. Change Tempo does something very interesting. Within limits, it changes the duration of a selection without changing the pitch. If you think about it, normally if you speed up a recording it also starts making the voices sound like chipmunks. But the Change Tempo effect shortens duration without affecting the pitch of the voices. It does so by cleverly shortening the spaces between words. Practically what that means is that if you are fighting to cut the last few seconds from a track in order to get within your time constraints, you can do so using this effect.

Now, to be sure, you cannot shrink the time of your track by very much before it becomes noticeable; I find, however, that you can submit a 2-3% tempo change cleanly without any apparent difference in sound quality—and the elimination of those few seconds (say, about twenty seconds for a fifteen minute piece) may be just what you need to make your time limit.

So there you have the most effective effects you can apply to your track. Next time we’ll talk about adding more than one track so that you can have overlapping music, and we’ll also talk about how to prepare your final mix for export. See you next time.

The next installment is here: https://jackshalom.net/2018/11/09/radio-interview-production-workshop-12-laying-down-the-tracks/

 

Compared To What?

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Nellie and Company take a swing at the Eugene McDaniels classic made famous by Les McCann and Eddie Harris

piano & vocals – Nellie McKay; bass – Alexi David; guitar – Cary Park; drums – Kenneth Salters

More Mckay at Nellie McKay

What’s My Line?

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The guest on the October 13, 1953 edition of What’s My Line (exactly 65 years ago) had just celebrated her 69th birthday. Unlike other more recent occupants of her job, she had never been a high-fashion model, served on the boards of exploitative corporations, nor killed her friend by running a stop sign at 50 mph. Nevertheless, she managed.

Thanks to YouTuber What’s My Line?

“Go To Sleep, You Weary Hobo”

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Woody Guthrie’s rendition of Goebbel Reeves’s “Hobo Lullaby,” a song about a heaven where there are no policemen around to harass anyone.

That’s David Carradine playing Woody hopping the boxcars in Hal Ashby’s film, Bound For Glory.

Thanks to YouTuber FreeNeverSaid

Nellie’s Updated Fixin’s

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Monday Morning, Mckay makes mischief.

The versatile Nellie McKay, performing on The Jimmy Dore Show, updates an old Country Joe and The Fish anti-war standard. (NSFW)

Thanks to YouTuber The Jimmy Dore Show

***The Fourth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest***

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trophy-oprah

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Yes, it’s time once again for this blog’s annual World Famous Magic Contest (“World Famous,” as in my local restaurant’s “Sam’s World-Famous pastrami-on-rye sandwich, one trip to the salad bar only, please”).

So here is the challenge this year:

Last year at a magic Convention I overheard the tail end of a conversation where a well-respected famous magician was saying to his companions, “Well, that’s because that’s the Greatest Trick in Magic…” I kept on eavesdropping, but I never heard just what that earth-shaking Greatest Trick in Magic was.

So your mission, Jim and Cinnamon, if you should choose to accept it, is to tell us what the three greatest tricks are in magic. But please don’t just list them. You must explain why you consider each trick a great one. Extra points for coherence, unexpectedness, humor, and persuasiveness.

And wonderful prizes, as always, will be awarded:

First prize is first choice from the terrific grab bag of wonderful magic books, tricks, and DVDs I’ve put together; second prize is second choice from the grab bag; and third prize, in a parallel, numerically pleasing manner, is third choice from the grab bag. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books, tricks, or DVDs, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to own.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll also ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will not be sold, but will be offered only as a free download to all those who enter.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Wednesday, Oct 31, 11:59 PM.

All are eligible except those who have won 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize in the previous two years.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

“Autumn Leaves Must Fall…”

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Chad and Jeremy singing “A Summer Song” 40 years after it was first released in 1964.

Thanks to YouTuber Independent Musicians Foundation

Radio Interview Production Workshop #10: Sculpting Your Interview

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male statue

Photo by Emily Wilkinson on Pexels.com

So now that you’ve had some time to play around with some of the basic functions of Audacity such as cutting, moving, copying and pasting, let’s take a closer look at the editing process, and some more tools and strategies which will save you time and energy. (For the previous installments, begin here and then follow the links at the end of each installment.)

The most important strategy in editing, in my opinion, is working from big to small. That is, cut away the big useless sections first, and then start working more precisely. Again, sculpting is a very useful metaphor here: think of chopping away big blocks of stone before you start doing any polishing. There’s really no sense in beginning by obsessively cutting out each “umm” or “err,” if  that whole portion of the conversation is going to be cut out anyway.

What should you be cutting? Generally, you want to be able to cut enough back so that the listener can sense a clear through line of the argument or intention. Of course this is going to vary vastly from speaker to speaker. But it’s not uncommon for a person to say something like:

“I owe my life to Jane. Jane was married to a guy named Saul who worked in a little candy store down by the Bowery. He was a tall guy who always wore plaid and never liked me. In fact he went out of his way to avoid me. Anyway, Jane was the one who taught me everything I know about poker playing. She taught me how to count cards and bet correctly…”

Now if you have the time, you can leave in the bit about Saul, but really (and the “Anyway,” is the big clue) it would be more clear and direct to edit it so it said,

“I owe my life to Jane…Jane was the one who taught me everything I know about poker playing, etc.”

It is also often the case that a guest will make a statement and support it, say, with three examples. Much of the time, you can cut out one or two of those examples.

“I was always a dreamy kid. I would sing to myself in school and the teachers would yell at me for making noise. Then at home I would lock myself in the bathroom for hours reading books. My parents were flabbergasted by that. And of course when I was sick I would pretend to be the star of my own variety series and use the bed as a stage.”

They’re all fun to hear about, but if you are fighting for time, it could look like this:

“I was always a dreamy kid…When I was sick I would pretend, etc.”

But sometimes the cuts need to be even more drastic, and need to be made based on what topic you are going to focus on. For example, I had a very interesting conversation with a woman who had written a book about the history of segregated schools in the US beginning with the Civil War. I had to make a decision to focus the edited version solely on twentieth century history, with just the briefest nod to the important 19th century era. Sometimes you will be sad about what you had to leave on the cutting room floor, but it is all about working within the constraints you have.

Let’s look more closely at what needs to be done in Audacity to achieve these edits. First we’ll take a look at what I call the “name area” of the track on the far left. There are a couple of important functions hidden away here. And also some buttons and sliders you don’t want to mess with:

name area

The top slider button marked -…+ will change the volume level during playback. Leave this slider alone; there will be times when you want to adjust the volume levels, but you don’t want to do it from here. Likewise, the slider directly beneath it changes the output to the left or right speaker. Again leave that slider in the middle. Instead start off by clicking on the inverted black triangle at the upper right hand corner of the name box. When you do, you should get something that looks like this:

Name Controls

First I will name the track, by clicking on “Name…” at the top and entering a track name. In my example, I call it “penny interview.”

title traack

Since in my example, I started with a stereo track, and I want to work with a mono track, I click on the inverted black triangle as before, and then click on the line towards the bottom that says “Split Stereo to Mono.” (If your track is already mono, you won’t need to do this.) You will now have two separate identical tracks. You are going to get rid of the bottom track by clicking on the “x” in the upper left-hand corner of the name area of the track. (Remember you can bring the track back again by “Undo”-ing the action by going to Edit—>Undo).

Okay, so let’s say now you’ve decided on a chunk of the track you’d like to delete. Highlight the selection by dragging over the area with your mouse. You can extend the selected area right or left by pointing the mouse at the very border of the selection and waiting until it turns into a finger-pointing hand icon, then clicking and dragging the border carefully with your mouse.

Once selected, you can listen to how the track would sound without the selected part by pressing the “c” on your keyboard. You will hear a few seconds of sound from before the selection and then a seamless cut to a few seconds after the selection. In other words, this is what your track would sound like after the selection is deleted. This allows you to adjust the borders before you do the deletion for the best cut.

To help you achieve accuracy, you should use the Zoom function, by clicking on the magnifying glass with the “+” inside.

zoom controls

The more you click, the more zoomed-in you will be. To zoom out again, click on the magnifying glass with the “-” inside it. Notice the time markers immediately above the zoomed in track cover a much shorter length of time now in one screen.You would have to scroll horizontally to see more of the track. For example, this zoomed-in track only covers 33 seconds:

zoom time

This is a lot, so just one more thing about editing for now: if you want an edit to sound natural, the general rule is to cut on the breath. That is, leave the person’s intake of breath before s/he speaks. So let’s say the original audio was: “The CEO was incredibly incompetent and incredibly stupid. What’s more, he was a drunk.” If you want to edit  out the phrase “and incredibly stupid,” make sure to leave in the breath before “What’s more.”

After you make your cuts, save and quit, and next time we’ll talk about adding other tracks to your interview for texture. See you then.

The next installment is here: https://jackshalom.net/2018/10/19/radio-interview-production-workshop-11-effective-effects/