Music Lesson of the Day

Music Lesson with Angela SUMMARY: A recorded podcast session with music teacher Angela Olszta humoring my requests to play a bunch of keys, chords, and play with musical structures for a multimedia music project I’ve wanted to do for quite some time.

My friend Angela, a pianist and music teacher here in New Hampshire, agreed to help me build my own multimedia music lesson. I’ve been pestering her with questions about music for over a year, which has helped me slowly build an understanding of how “music” fits together. She’s been supremely patient with my oddball learning tactics, and since I have all this podcasting gear lying around, I used it to capture the live MIDI performance data from the piano keyboard along with the audio of us talking. I am hoping to someday massage into some kind of audio/visual reference for myself in an interactive authoring environment like Flash.

The resulting session is a kind of extended music lesson, which I’ve bundled into an MP3 file for posterity. It’s all somewhat amusing, if you like this kind of thing, so have a listen if you have about 30 minutes to spare. The “lesson” is presented in several parts (times are approximate):

  • [+00:00] Ange plays all the major and minor triads one after the other.
  • [+02:30] She then plays them all in arpeggio, obligingly adding her feelings about the emotional tone of each major and minor key at my request.
  • [+14:04] I asked if she had a favorite key.
  • [+16:15] I ask what key might fit my buddy and co-podcaster Sid Ceaser.
  • [+17:20] I ask what my key might sound like.
  • [+19:30] We started talking about how movie soundtracks were made, so we tried to do one “on-the-fly”. The story: “The Three Little Pigs”. Ange would play something, and I would react to it and say what I was thinking, and Angela would react to what I said.

For you gearheads out there, I used an M-Audio FastTrack Ultra Pro to capture the MIDI and vocals into Propellerhead Record, a product which continues to impress me every time I use it. I then edited out all the slow bits (still in Record) to stitch together a condensed version of the lesson, applying some additional plate reverb and room presence to give the entire lesson the right touch of schmaltz (I’m thinking it’s like a garage version of Prairie Home Companion). I output the sections as 16-bit WAV, then imported into Sound Forge 9.0 (yes, I’m still running the older version) to convert to MP3. The piano is synthesized in Record through the Propellerhead Reason‘s stock Combinator piano patches.