Snowmageddon? Not Quite.

 Music, Travel  Comments Off on Snowmageddon? Not Quite.
Jan 222014

As I was going to piano class last night, it was snowing like crazy. The local weather forecast wasn’t good. It looked like we were going to get smacked with a lot of snow. So when enough of us had gathered for piano class, we agreed to cancel it for safety’s sake. NC isn’t good at dealing with winter weather.

Of course, by the time I got home, the snow was tapering off, and even though a few stray flakes were falling through midnight, nothing ever accumulated. Oh, well. Better safe than sorry.

Monitor Stand is Done!

 DIY, Music, Technology  Comments Off on Monitor Stand is Done!
Jan 142014

It only took a month to finish it, but the monitor stand is done. It’s five feet long by one foot wide, with a couple of one by fours supporting it in the middle, and two screwed-together one by fours on each end. It’s sturdy as heck.

Painting it is what held everything up.

It’s been so ridiculously cold here that it’s been too cold to paint. I’ve been using spray paints, too, and they’re even fussier about having temperatures well above freezing.

I started with a simple grey primer, then added two coats of black satin, but it just didn’t do anything for me. It looked very “meh.”

Then I remembered an old woodfinishing project from years gone by. I finished a small 3-legged table with a nice black top, and faux stone legs. The faux stone effect came right out of a spray can.

So I went looking for more of that stuff. It’s been at least ten years, but I figured I could find it somewhere. I did. It was at the last place I checked. It’s a muted Black/White/Grey faux granite look that’s kind of muted. It also needs to have a clearcoat sprayed over it, so it will hold up better with time.

It took me two days to apply the paint, and one more to apply the clearcoat. Now it’s sitting in the garage, off-gassing. I’ll leave it alone for a few days, because I don’t want the house to stink, and I like my brain too much to melt it with the various chemicals in the finishes.

But it looks smashing! The faux-stone spray hides anything I may have screwed up well.

And it’s not made out of cheap MDF that will sag in a year. It’s made out of good old southern pine.

Would it have been cheaper to just buy the stand on Amazon? Well, yeah. It would have been faster, too. But my stand looks really cool, is a custom fit to my desk, and won’t sag. The finish has a rough bumpy stone feel, even. No regrets!

Piano class has also started up again. I’m still terrible at piano. When I get the stand in place, I should be able to practice more.

Also, Push is still fun, although I’ve been using it so much, my fingers are starting to hurt from thwacking the pads so much.

Anki Assault / Piano Practice

 Education, Japanese Language, Music, Technology  Comments Off on Anki Assault / Piano Practice
Sep 102013

In order to get ready for both the N1 and the A+ exams, I’m going all out on Anki for the next few weeks. I’ve just finished setting up a bunch of workbook practice sheets for Anki, thanks to e.Typist. It lets me OCR stuff and get it into Anki relatively painlessly.

For A+ material, if the book I bought is in PDF format, it’s easy to just copy/paste the text into Anki. But if it’s a Kindle book, then I have to use something like Greenshot, which take a photo of the page, OCRs it, and adds it to the clipboard. Then I just have to paste it into Anki.

Really, it would be a lot easier if these publishers just gave us text files. I paid for the book. It’s not like I’m going to give away the contents. I just want to turn it into flashcards I can use.

Also, I finally upgraded to Anki 2.0. I’ve been putting that off forever, but it’s finally time to bite the bullet. The transition took a couple of days to get ironed out completely, but now I don’t even notice the differences. The differences are there, and the workflow is pretty different, but things I used to complain about don’t seem like such a big deal to me anymore. As long as it’s fast, that’s all I care about.

Oh, Piano Class started tonight. That was a lot of fun. The Piano Lit class afterwards was interesting, too. I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to piano music. My background is in marching bands, concert bands, and jazz bands. So I don’t know much about classical piano music. But it’s interesting.

Music School

 Education, Music, Technology, Travel  Comments Off on Music School
Sep 032013

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is starting something new this fall, a Community Music School for people like me who live nearby and want to polish our musical skills in a relaxed setting. It sounds really interesting to me, because as I’ve said before, I need to work on my music composition skills. I also need to work on my piano/keyboarding skills, because that’s the fastest way to enter music into my DAW of choice, Reason.

I spoke with the teachers at an event on Sunday, August 25th, and they both seemed like really nice people who were not only passionate about what they do, but highly experienced. So signing up was a no-brainer for me.

Composition starts this Saturday, Group Piano starts next Tuesday. I’m looking forward to it.

Also, I’m starting to go into full gear mode for the N1, which is coming up in less than three months. (OMG!) I’m also looking at getting my A+ certification, because it’s an easy way to show people I know what I’m doing when it comes to computers. I may get Network+ and Security+ later on, but for now A+ will be plenty.

The only thing I’m worried about is cramming for A+ will mess up my N1 prep. But I want to have the A+ certification before I go to Boston again. (Yeah, I’m going again.)

This fall is going to be crazy.

Coursera-sera // Nektar Panorama P4

 Education, Music, Technology  Comments Off on Coursera-sera // Nektar Panorama P4
Feb 092013

I signed up for Coursera today, mainly because I was interested in an Intro to Sound Design class taught by Steve Everett of Emory University. I’m coming in a little late, but I’ll still have time to finish it and get my certificate, if that’s what I want. What I really want is to learn how to do sound design.

I’ve been trying to get more and more into music production, but it’s always a question of time. I don’t seem to have enough of it to figure this all out on my own, so I’m hoping I can pick up some knowledge here and skip ahead a few steps.

I like the offerings in Coursera, but I wish they had more of a Udacity model that lets me pick up and finish a class whenever I feel like it, kind of like Khan Academy, only with certificates if I want one.

All three sites are pretty amazing in their own way, but it’s still a matter of making the time to get the work done.

Nektar Panorama P4

I keep forgetting to mention this. A few weeks ago my patched-together Edirol MIDI controller was dying again, and this time, no amount of pencil work could bring the dead keys back.

So I started looking at new MIDI controllers. I first went to the local Large Music Supply chain store, and tried a bunch of keyboards out, and just wasn’t impressed with any of them. Some were too mushy, some were too hard, none were what I was looking for.

I could have spent $300 now, and wound up buying another new keyboard in six months when I got sick of it.

So I kept looking, this time online. I decided to give the Nektar Panorama P4 a try. Amazon is good about taking returns, so why not?

The P4 has really tight integration with Reason, and the keys feel great. There’s some weight, but not full weight. The display and rotary knobs/sliders mean that I don’t have to fiddle with the computer as much.

Nektar also says that they’ll be doing frequent updates to keep up with the growing number of Rack Extensions in Reason. If a RE isn’t mapped, you can’t do anything with it from the P4. That’s kind of annoying, but it only affects the latest REs.

I like this growing trend of creating instruments that feel like instruments, and pull me away from the monitor.

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