Internet Explorer Download Problems

A young lady called Carol-Anne had some trouble downloading her backing tracks recently. After some investigation, we discovered that her version of Internet Explorer in her Dell laptop had changed from its default settings and was mis-configured.

This meant that when her browser (Internet Explorer) SHOULD have been downloading and saving her backing tracks, instead it was trying to download, open, and play them in her media player, all at the same time.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, her media player (which shouldn’t have over-ruled Internet Explorer by jumping in and trying to make the download) wouldn’t even recognize the files when it downloaded them!

She did get her backing tracks eventually but she had to resort to using another computer to do it…

Hi Kenny
I am happy to say I have managed to download them
from my old laptop.  This new DELL laptop I bought a
few months ago is cr** and annoying. Thanks again
for your time and help!
Carol-Anne

Hi Carol-Anne

Yes, I agree..I had a Dell laptop that fell to pieces (literally) after about a year and a half. Little screws kept loosening themselves and bits would fall off. On top of this, the laptop wouldn’t recognize it’s own built-in CD writer from time to time and I would have to re-boot it 2 or 3 times until it would finally “see” it’s own CD writer again!

Similarly, a friend of mine used to work in the admin section of a College and one year they bought 40 brand new desktop PC’s. 20 were Dell PC’s and 20 were Compaq PC’s. Within 3 months of buying the new computers she was on first name terms with the Dell repair guy – they had to call him out nearly every week! The Compaq’s just kept working with very few issues or problems.

In saying that, the problem you’ve had is more a software problem than the actual laptop itself. My guess is that some multimedia program in your Dell laptop has changed your Internet Explorer configuration. This would explain why Internet Explorer is not treating the zipped backing track file you are trying to download in the way it should treat it.

The main reason people zip files is to compress them and make them smaller. However with mp3 files, the mp3 encoder has already compressed the music so there’s actually no difference in the size of an mp3 file before or after it has been zipped. The actual reason why we zip music files is so that your browser (Internet Explorer) knows to download and save it, not play it, or open it up in a media player, or anything else. In effect we are “forcing” your browser to treat the file as a download and not in any other way.

The fact that your Dell’s Internet Explorer is NOT treating the file like this and is NOT allowing you to download and save the zip file makes me 99% sure that some other program has plugged itself in to your Internet Explorer and messed around with its default settings.

I’m glad you managed to get your backing tracks eventually using another computer – the main thing is that you get your downloads and I’m happy to spend as much time as it takes to help you do that and work through any problems you have so there’s no need for a thankyou – it’s my pleasure!

It would be worthwhile checking out your Dell and Internet Explorer to try and find out why it’s not doing what it’s supposed to. At best it may just be a couple of settings that have went a bit haywire, and at worst it could be a virus that’s got in and is creating havoc.

You could try updating it to the newest version of Internet Explorer from Microsofts website, but just be warned that there’s every chance it will also “migrate” your old settings to the newer installation and you may be no further forward!

Ain’t computers wonderful (not)!!!

Regards

Kenny

Backing tracks with click track for the drummer

Thankyou to Aaron for this question about using backing tracks with a band…

I’m in a band and we want to start using back tracks
from an ipod in our live show. Our drummer wants
to listen to a metronome and have the ability to
adjust the back tracks himself. We make all of
our own back tracks (synth, shakers, back up
vocals, tambs.. etc ) on Garageband ( Mac ) but
don’t really know how to make the track so that
only the drummer can hear the metronome and
the audience only hears the back track with our
band. Do we have to pan both tracks (metronome
and back tracks ) opposite from each other? Can
we use an ipod ? We just bought a mixer, do we
also need an audiio interface? any advice would
be appreciated! Thank you!
Aaron

Hi Aaron

Yes, you are quite correct. If you want the drummer to be able to keep time by listening to a metronome (i.e a click track) through his headphones, then you need to pan your click track completely to one side of the stereo spectrum. The music should then be panned to the opposite side and routed through your mixing desk, sending it your PA system.

Making up the backing tracks in this way shouldn’t be a problem and Garage Band is a decent enough program to do it all in – just pan all the instruments to one side and the click track to the other.

However, once you’ve done this you then have to look at how you are going to send the stereo output to the two different places (your PA and your drummers headphones)…

There are many different ways to do this, but the simplest way is to buy a small headphone amplifier for your drummer and send the click track to it. The other side can go straight in to your PA system.

You say you want to use an iPod. This is also no problem. Just make sure you use a cable which has a mini jack at one end (which connects to the headphone out on the iPod) and two jacks at the other end (left and right audio) which will go to your PA and drummers headphone amp respectively.

You can either have your local music store make up a special cable for you or you can buy a ready made cable off-the-shelf from any good electronics store. The off-the-shelf cables usually have a mini jack at one end and two rca jacks at the other. Depending on the type of jack inputs your mixing desk and the drummers headphone amplifier accept, you may have to also purchase a couple of jack adaptors.

Generally the biggest hurdle bands face when they use click tracks is the ability of the drummer to actually hear the click track over and above the noise of the onstage music booming out of the PA. Noise cancelling headphones help to a small extent but the high volume that the drummers headphones have to be at can often be detrimental to the drummers ears. Persistant loud music through headphones for even short lengths of time is not really recommended – the human ear is very sensitive and prolonged periods of high volumes directly in to the ear can cause deafness so please beware.

Over the years I have worked with many bands using backing tracks with many different musician line-ups, and so far EVERY drummer I have worked with has preferred to have a little powered monitor speaker piping the click track to him rather than having to hear it through headphones.

I even worked with one drummer who didn’t like a click track at all because he said it “grated” on his ears even when the click track was playing to him through an onstage monitor. He preferred to have a recorded bass drum and snare playing through his monitor instead of actual clicks. He reckoned he was able to keep time to that with much more ease.

There are many ways to use click tracks when playing live and I guess that the “best” method is always going to be whichever method that your drummer is most comfortable with…

Regards

Kenny

Making the iPod easier to use with backing tracks

More and more singers are using iPods for their backing tracks but many are looking towards buying iPod / DJ based machines to get around the problem of the iPods fiddly little buttons and small screen:

Hi Kenny,
I was thinking of buying an iPod mixing desk
eg.Numark IDJ. This particular desk needs two ipods
and i was just wondering if you knew if when playing
one iPod, when it switches over to the other if there
is a gap in the sound? I have checked all over the
web for some clue to this but cannot find any info.
I sing myself using backing tracks but occassionally
I finish the night with a disco and would love to let
both ipods work simultaneously with gapless
playback. Can you please advise?
Thanks
Craig Swan

Hi Craig

I’ve found the same problem – there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information out there about the Numark IDJ and without actually road-testing one of these machines it’s difficult to really know how good it is.

From the information I have found, it seems to be ok for playing backing tracks. It scores highly on things like having a better sound quality than usual because it connects through the iPods bottom connector rather than the mini-headphone jack. Also the IDJ buttons are big and bold as is the display (compared to the iPods fiddly little buttons and display).

Where it seems to fall down though is on DJ functionality (and ironically this is what it was designed for)! Apparantly you can’t scrath, beat match, pitch shift, and the fading in from one iPod to another isn’t too good.

Users also say that the automatic cueing of songs isn’t too accurate which is an absolute disaster for a singer using backing tracks. DJ’s can get away with a song starting 3 or 4 seconds in to the intro, but if singers are faced with their backing track not starting EXACTLY on the first note it could completely throw them out of sync.

From the limited information I can find, the IDJ would work fine as a very basic DJ type application (you say you’re only doing a bit of DJ’ing at the end of the night so the lack of scratching and beat matching etc is unlikely to be an issue for you).

You just have to decide if it’s going to be usable enough as a backing track player.

If it can auto-pause after each song then that would certainly fix one iPod problem that most singers using iPods complain about. But if the dodgy cueing facility makes your backing tracks start a few seconds in to the song or even fades every song out automatically then that would make it very unsuitable for backing track playback purposes.

I think this is one machine you will really need to try before you buy.

I’m sure most music shops and DJ shops who sell this machine will be happy to let you play around with it in the shop and put it through its paces before you commit to buy.

I wouldn’t recommend buying one on the internet just in case it arrives and then you find it’s just not up to the job….

Regards

Kenny

Backing tracks and the music “business”

Thanks to Michael from South Africa for this backing track question – Michael sent us a song and wanted a backing track specially created for it. He was mighty disapointed when we couldn’t produce the backing track specially for him for under £10. he’d searched everywhere for the song but no other backing track company had it in their catalogue and he was bemused as to why a) no backing track company had the song in their catalogue and b) even if they didn’t, why couldn’t they produce it specially for him and sell it to him for a few pounds.

Here’s my attempt to explain:

Hi Michael

If we don’t have a backing track of this song and no other backing track company out there has a backing track of this song, then it’s because it’s not a song which will be a popular seller as a backing track.

From your email I can see that you’re quite bemused as to why nobody is producing this song because you think that the song you want produced is a good song (and it is).

But there is a VERY big difference between a good song and a good seller.

You’re probably the only person in the world right now who wants a backing track of this song, so unless you have it produced specially for you, it’s unlikely that we or any other company will be producing it for general release. All backing track companies, not just us, choose the songs they produce in the same way – by sales potential rather than popularity. So if nobody has this song in their catalogue, then it’s because it won’t sell well as a backing track. This is a business decision that backing track companies have to take rather than a reflection on how good or bad the song is.

As I said in my earlier email, we can create your song specially for you, no problem. But to do that we would have to pass the full cost of production on to you because we couldn’t possibly employ musicians and use up 5 or 6 hours of professional recording studio time to produce something that we will only sell one time (to you) for less than the price of a pizza. Yes, it may be a great song, but if it’s not going to sell in large quantities then it’s just not worth us or any other backing track companies wasting hours of their studio time producing it.

Here’s an example, some time ago we created the backing track of a Miley Cyrus song (at the time she was very popular thanks to her hit TV show Hannah Montanna). The Miley Cyrus song wasn’t nearly half as good a song as the song that you’ve asked us to produce. But within 3 days of creating it, we’d sold over 100 copies…and the song only took us 5 hours of studio time to produce, it was fairly simple dance beat type of tune. A little simple arithmetic shows that 5 hours of studio time producing this song ended up earning us £500 GBPounds in just 3 days (and it’s still continuing to sell well even now).

If we spend 5 hours of studio time producing your track, we would sell one copy (to you), earning us less than £5 GBPounds.

So, ironically, we made 100 times more producing a song that wasn’t as good as your song. It has also enabled us to supply hundreds of our customers with a backing track that they really want, so hundreds of our customers benefit too.

Hence, sales potential is the main factor when deciding what backing tracks we produce rather than how good a song is.

I’m a musician and it’s very unfortunate when really good songs need to be left by the wayside to make way for others that are not nearly as good. As a musician I would much prefer to create backing tracks of songs I personally like rather than songs which are just popular good sellers.

But as a businessman I have a duty (and so do all other heads of backing track companies) to use our recording studio time in a way that best benefits the majority of our customers with the tracks they really want. We don’t just cater to the masses however. We DO cater to individual customers recording needs, but if a customer wants special songs recorded for him, then there is a special recording service price tag for this service.

The conflict between business and creativity is is by no means a new debate. it’s been on-going in the music industry for years with artists and musicians constantly complaining of the corporate big-wigs in the recording industry stiffling their creativity and telling them what to play, what to sing, and deciding what songs they should release. Many artists, like George Michael in the nineties, got so fed up being told what songs to record by the recording company execs that they had major splits with their recording companies and just refused to record anything. Personally I think they were wrong. George Michael understands music, but he doesn’t understand the music business – his record company bosses do.

This lack of business knowledge from many of the worlds top artists is understandable. Musicians and singers tend to be very sensitive, creative types who love their music with a passion but they often don’t understand that what they like and what the public like (and will buy) are often two different things.

Yes, the corporate guys in their suits may not understand music, but they understand what music SELLS.

I remember Simon Cowell (from X-Factor, American Idol etc) talking about a problem he had with a band called Westlife. They had scores of number 1 hits but now wanted to release a song that was more uptempo and a bit more raunchy to get away from their boyband image. Simon Cowell told them it wouldn’t work…but let them do it anyway just to prove a point.

Their uptempo, raunchy new song barely made the top 10.

Simon Cowell called them back in to his office and said “I told you so…now go back to making pop ballads which people like to hear you sing and will buy”. T

They did…and their next single release went to number 1.

The friction between musicians versus recording company execs has been a bone of contention between artists and the people who run the music business since music sales began. No doubt the debate will still continue to rage even long after we are all dead and gone…!

Regards

Kenny

Normalizing backing tracks

Allen contacted me and asked about normalizing backing tracks. He’s not alone. Quite a few of you out there have been asking about “Normalizing” backing tracks. Some of you know what it is but just don’t know how to do it, while others have only just come across this word. So here’ goes with an explanation:

Hi Kenny
Someone told me the other day I should “Normalize” all my
tracks, as their volumes are all different? What is
“Normalizing”, and how do I do it myself?
Allen

Hi Allen

Normalizing a track means adjusting the level (volume) of a track.

This usually refers to increasing the volume of a track that is too low (quiet) but in some cases can also refer to reducing the volume of a track which is too loud.

When your friend spoke about “Normalizing” your backing tracks, he was talking about adjusting the level of all your backing tracks so that they all have a constant volume level.

The advantage of doing this is that when a singer is singing live on stage, he then doesn’t have to spend time between songs fiddling with the volume of every backing track he’s about to sing. Audiences like to concentrate on the singer and they find it very off-putting when they see a singer constantly messing around with their sound equipment while in the middle of their act – to an audience it looks like the singer doesn’t know what he’s doing.

The reason most singers haven’t heard of Normalizing or don’t know what Normalizing means is because it’s not actually a musical term! It’s one of those rather unhelpful “buzz words” that crept in to the music & audio industry a few years ago by non musicians. Professional sound engineers never used the word “Normalize” until recently. It was actually coined by computer users back in the late nineties when they began “sharing” mp3 files with each other and found that different mp3’s from different “sharers” often had different volume levels. I guess that they just wanted all their songs to have a “normal” volume level, hence the distinctly un-musical word “Normalize” was born!

The good news is that there are many inexpensive and even free programs out there on the internet which will “Normalize” your backing tracks – just do a search on Google and you’ll come up with loads. Try a few and see if any give you satisfactory results.

Unfortunately I can’t personally recommend any of them because in my opinion to properly normalize backing tracks (and by that I mean retain the quality of the original sound file you’re normalizing), you really need good quality audio editing software and this is expensive. For best results, the mp3 should be converted to a wav file, normalized, and then re-encoded back to mp3.

One of the best programs you’ll find which I DO recommend is wavelab. It can open up tracks as wav files, normalize them, and then convert them back to mp3 all in the one program:

CLICK HERE

Unfortunately Wavelab is very expensive so perhaps before you go and throw a ton of money at Wavelab, have a look at a free program we have. It isn’t nearly as comprehensive as Wavelab, but it IS an excellent audio editor:

CLICK HERE

Also here’s a link to an article I wrote some time ago about editing backing tracks which you may also find useful:

CLICK HERE

Regards

Kenny