Music keyboard with mp3 playback

Liam asked a question about a keyboard which could handle midifiles and mp3 playback:

Hi Kenny,
Liam here, Im on holls at the moment, but when I get back Im thinking of changing my system. Im using a korg i5s and a laptop computer at the moment. This might sound stupid, but I feel really comfortable behing the keyboard (even if i dont play it) I put on a better show from behind the keyboard, its like a comfort zone, so im looking for a keyboard that plays midifiles and mp3….am I asking for too much..I reckon your the man who can tell me if such a machine exists ?
Regards
Liam

Hi Liam

The keyboard that is most likely to fit the bill for what you’re looking for would probably be something like the Roland RD-300GX which has superb GM sounds and also has an audio player onboard that will play mp3’s.

However it’s not necessarily the way I personally like to work, although I do see and understand why you would want everything to be in the one convenient keyboard.

Personally, I prefer everything to be seperate – not just my keyboards and mp3 players, but amplifiers and speakers too.

I do impress though that this is purely a personal thing, so don’t feel that I am saying that this is the way every keyboard player must work or anything like that!

I just always feel that when you use any all-in-one keyboard (or all-in-one anything), if it breaks down during a gig and you’re pretty much left high and dry.

If all your stuff is seperate then at least you will have enough stuff still working to get you through the gig.

I’d persoanlly spend half of the amount it’ll cost for a keyboard with mp3 playback and just buy a less expensive keyboard which would give me an equally good set of GM sounds (maybe something like the Korg PA500) and use an Apple iPod to play the mp3 files.

Regards

Kenny

Hey, everyone needs to be loved!

Thanks to Tony for this compliment. As most of you know, I  routinely write entertainment related articles in the hope that they will be of help to some of you out there. It’s nice to get feedback from some of the people who have read them:

Dear Kenny

I am a person who stumbled onto your website quite by accident. I am a solo vocalist, but Im moving towards putting a guitar into the act.

But this email is not about me, its about you, or more to the point your company.I have never ever come across a company that is so helpful to its clients. Besides the sales aspect of your company, you go above and beyond the call of duty to help musos get the very best quality tracks and sounds.

I’ve been in the music trade a long time, and I thought I knew it all HUH!!!! Not so – Ive got a lot to learn, and the helpful articles you have on the myriad of subjects relating to music and sound have already helped me, even though I thought I knew it all!! Any newbie to music stands a better than average chance of suceeding if they have the talent, but also if they have a company like yours backing them. I have found that numerous music studios and companies selling backing tracks are loathe to impart any information regarding help with sound etc. I’m not sure why (repeat business?? fear of competition?? really not sure), but I can carry on safe in the knowledge that I have a company and a NAMED PERSON I can trust to help me should I need it!!!

And finally, Its not often that a company gets public praise from Mr Joe Public. Please feel free to use this email in any capacity you wish, but Kudos must go out to you guys, you rock!

Tony

Thanks Tony, it’s my pleasure…

It all happened by accident. I had been spending so much time answering the same customers questions over and over again about all sorts of entertainment related matters, not just backing track related, that I decided to publish a few articles on the website a couple of years ago which would answer the most common questions people asked.

The good, positive feedback I got from doing this was so great that it really blew me away…and it’s kinda snowballed from there since!

I continued to write and publish more and more entertainment related articles on the website, and now I also send out regular emails with all sorts of discounts, offers, reports, news, even bits of software etc.

I reckon that everybody wins when I do this because you get lots of good info (and a few freebies now and again), I get to say thankyou to you for your past custom by giving you all this stuff, and if in the future you want to buy some backing tracks hopefully the name “MP3 Backing Trax” will come to your mind before anyone elses name so it’s a bit of good PR/marketing too.

A kinda win win situation for all!

Regards

Kenny

Minidisc to mp3 stereo question

Simon asked me a question about getting music from his minidisc in to his computer.

He is considering buying the audio editing program SoundForge and needs to record audio from his minidisc which has a click track on one side and the rest of the music on the other and wants to know if he needs to kepp everything in stereo:

Hi There,
I have read the article by Kenny Campbell about converting Mini Disk files to MP3 files. If i purchase a program such as SoundForge, and record the backing tracks up onto that program, will it still keep the click to one side and the track to the other if i am using just the 6mm Jack output from the small mini disk player? Would i need to use a ‘stereo’ lead as opposed to ‘mono’? Any help you can offer would be great.
Thanks,
Simon

Hi Simon

Yes, you would need to use a stereo cable to preserve the seperation of the music you have on both sides.

Stereo simply means 2 channels of music running at the same time – one channel of music on on the left side and one channel of music on the right side.

So if you have a minidisc with stereo audio on it which has say, a click track on the left and the rest of the music on the right, you need to preserve this stereo seperation when you record it in to your computer.

SoundForge is a particularly good audio editing program and will certainly record both the left and right channels from your minidisc and keep the seperation.

To do this, there are two important aspects you have to keep in mind.

1. You need a stereo cable from your minidisc to your computer. Your local computer or hi-fi store will be able to supply the correct cable off-the-shelf if you tell them exactly what you’re looking for.

2. You need a sound card installed in your computer that is high quality and can record incoming signals in stereo.

Cheap computer soundcards sometimes only have a mono mic-in or a mono line-in so just check the technical spec of your soundcard as this type of sound card won’t do. You need a sound card installed in your computer that will allow you to input a STERO signal in to your computer.

If you don’t have a stereo soundcard in your computer then it may mean a trip to your local computer store (or you can buy one online probably for a lot less).

Most sound cards are of the type that require you to grab a screwdriver, open up your computer and physically install the hardware. But there are also external soundcards on the market which simply plug in to the USB port so are easier to install. External sound cards were primarily designed for use with laptops but work just as well on desktop PC’s.

If you’re using an extermal soundcard just make sure you follow the instructions carefully to ensure there are no conflicts with your internal soundcard – you may need to uninstall the drivers and software for your internal sound card before you will be able to run your external sound card.

Regards

Kenny

iPod with a powered speaker

Thanks to Bobby for this question:

I read your article on the proper way to connect an ipod to pa system, but the article assumed that a mixer would be used. Given my small operation, I don’t have access to a mixer and my powered Behringer speaker only has one 1/4 jack and a single XLR connector. Can you please tell me the proper way to hook up my ipod directly to my powered speaker under this scenario. Thanks so much. Bobby.

Hi Bobby

Unfortunately there is no “proper” way to plug your iPod directly in to your speaker.

This is because your speaker doesn’t have the ability to accept more than 1 input and the iPod needs two inputs (left and right).

The xlr and quarter inch jack connections you mention on the back of your powered speaker can’t be used simultaneously to give you two inputs.

Powered speakers such as the one you described are, as the name suggests, a speaker with an amplifier built in.

They have no ability to mix sound. They are designed to be used with a separate mixer.

In a normal powered speaker PA set up, you would use two powered speakers, one to the left hand side of the stage and another at the right hand side of the stage.

You would then take two cables from your mixing desk to the speakers. The left output from your mixer would go to the left speaker and the right output from your mixer would go to your right speaker.

You say you only have one powered speaker and you want to plug your iPod in to that.

It can be done, but certainly not with any degree of success I’m afraid and the sound will be pretty dreadful.

If you attempt to do this, the main problem you will find is that you will only hear one side of your iPod (i.e. you will be hearing it in mono).

Also you will have very little control over the quality of the sound – your iPod is not a mixer so by plugging it directly in to a powered speaker you are, in effect, asking the iPod to act as a mixer.

Certainly the iPod has a volume control and some very basic EQ settings, but not enough to allow you to EQ it to the extent it needs to be EQ’d in order to get any sort of quality sound.

My advice would be to buy another powered speaker and a small mixer.

if you don’t want to spend too much money, Behringer (the people who make your speakers) actually do a little mixer which isn’t expensive and will do the job:

cheap Behringer mixer(click on the image for more info)

Yahoo email filters

Rob from Australia was in a bit of a panic when his Yahoo mail filter “ate” the download link email we sent him.

I re-sent it from the server, and the second time Yahoo let it through AND then delivered the original email too, even though they had blocked the original one a couple of hours previously! Aaaargh!

Thankfully I helped sort it all out quickly for him (it’s good to know there’s always a human peson on hand to help you here at MP3 Backing Trax).

So, use Yahoo email at your peril…read below…you have been warned!

Thanks Kenny
These two emails came through just now… the original one…. just another one of those great mysteries of life! Sorry to have been a pain…. i just happened to need it urgently… isn’t that the way it goes? Anyway, thanks for looking after it!
Rob

Hi Rob

Sorry for taking an hour or so to get back to you but I was checking a few things out first.

You see it has happened in the past that Paypals server has glitched and failed to send the response code to our shopping cart after an order has been made. When you make a successful payment, Paypal immediately send a resonse code to our shopping cart telling it that it’s ok to release the tracks and send out the download email. There have been times in the past when Paypal failed to do that due to glitches in Paypals server, but it doesn’t happen often – maybe once or twice a year.

However, the Paypal side of things does seem to have been absolutely fine in this case.

I’ve troubleshooted it further and have found that it was the fault of Yahoo – they filtered the email we sent you.

Yahoo run very strict spam filters and they scan each email before delivering it to you. They ultimately decide what you should be allowed to receive and what you cannot receive.

Yahoo act as judge and jury so you unfortunately have little say in:

a) Which emails they choose to deliver to your inbox

b) Which emails they filter and then pass to your spam folder for you to review later

c) Which emails they filter and then delete completely without you getting a chance to look at them first.

When I re-sent the download email to you a second time it got through (strange as it is, sometimes this happens – we have no idea why Yahoo do this).

Yahoo filters are notoriously sloppy and inconsistent and this is a tyical case where they blocked you from receiving an email one time but allowed the exact same email through to you another time!

Problem is that Yahoo are a free email service so you can’t really complain to them and ask them to stop interfering with your mail.

If it’s any consolation, in my experience Hotmail are almost as bad as Yahoo, and AOL are worse.

Surprisingly Google Mail (Gmail) are exceptionally good with deliverability so it looks like Google have got their act together more when it comes to spam filtering. Yes, Google have strict spam filters too, but they at least put ALL the emails in your spam folder, not just delete them completely if they don’t like the look of them like many of the others do…

At least with Google they will deliver suspected junk mail to you, they’ll just put it in your spam folder. The others should do this, but don’t. The others delete some spam emails at their server side BEFORE you have a chance to review them and decide for yourself if they are spam or not.

It may be an idea to open a Gmail account, especially for those most important emails that it’s absolutley critical you receive without the risks of filters blocking them…

Obviously you can still keep your Yahoo email operational – just use your Yahoo email for less important emails which you’re not too bothered whether you receive or not (that way it’s not the end of the world if Yahoo block you from receiving them).

Just as a quick aside, one of our customers uses BT Internet which is a UK email provider (the initials “BT” stands for is “British Telecom”).

He was unaware that BT Internet had handed their email processing to Yahoo (BT Internet are now called BT/Yahoo Mail).

So overnight his emails went from being filtered by BT Internet (which had been a reasonably good filtering system) to now being filtered by Yahoo (a notoriously poor filtering system).

Problem is, it was 3 weeks before he realised this changeover from BT to Yahoo had taken place and the only reason it came to light at all is because he contacted me when he didn’t receive a download link from us and asked if I could help…

I told him that his email was now being handled by Yahoo, not BT Internet, so he should check his Yahoo webmail spam folder.

He didn’t even know he had a webmail (he’d always used Outlook Express on his computer for his BT Internet email up till now)!

He checked his email and sure enough, there was our download email in his BT/Yahoo webmail spam folder…AND there was a 3 week old email from the BBC in London offering him a job which he obviously hadn’t replied to.

I’d like to say that there was a happy ending but sadly there wasn’t – he didn’t get the job at the BBC. He hadn’t replied to them so they thought he wasn’t interested and hired someone else.

However he did get rid of BT/Yahoo Mail and doesn’t use them any more, so that’s one consolation. He also told me he even cancelled his BT phone line and internet package because he was so disgusted with BT.

I suppose this is just a long winded way on a leisurely Sunday morning of me saying to you that, an email with a backing track download that doesn’t get through to you may be frustrating but I’ve re-sent it to you as soon as you let me know about it, you’ve got your download now, and all is well. More important emails are more than just a frustration so beware.

The real lesson in all of this is to be very vigilant if you use a Yahoo email account for anything really important like your bank, or your job, or important contacts from family. It could cause real serious disaster if some of those emails to you were blocked by Yahoo.

Again, sorry for the frustration, but hopefully some good will have come of it if this alerts you to a Yahoo problem you may not have known about before. It will hopefully help save you more serious problems further down the road…

Regards

Kenny