Cursor problems in Audacity

This is a first – I haven’t heard of anyone having a problem with the cursor while using Audacity. My guess is that it’s probably a Windows problem than an Audacity problem though…

Dear Kenny,
Of course my problem Is uncommon rather than common. I went quite a ways back in the blog and found nothing like this. Maybe it’s a Windows 7 problem as someone suggested, but: After I’ve recorded and I want to take a little off the front and the back of the piece, my cursor barely works. I have to try and try and try and often give up leaving too long a lead in and out. Have you any ideas?
Thank you for writing these letters,
Canary

Hi Canary

Yes, if your cursor isn’t working that definitely sounds like a Windows problem.

You’ll probably find though that it’s not entirely Windows that’s the problem – it will most probably be the way Windows 7, Audacity, and your soundcard are interacting with each other.

These problems are the most difficult to troubleshoot because it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack…is it Windows 7?…is it Audacity?…is it your soundcard?…is it drivers for Windows 7, Audacity or your soundcard?…

The problem compounds when all these components work fine…they just don’t work fine together!

Try running Audacity on another PC and see what happens. If you still get the same problem then look at what’s common to both PC’s (i.e. programs running, operating system, soundcard, ram, processor type etc) and that may indicate what’s causing the problem.

If it works fine on another PC, do the opposite i.e. see what’s different on the other PC (does it have different types of programs running, different operating system, soundcard, ram, processor type etc).

This is one of those unfortunate issues which you really have to be sitting in front of the offending PC to see how it is behaving in order to properly troubleshoot it so sorry I don’t seem to be of much help here on this one!

iPod freezes during playback

This question was a most unusual one. Normally iPod’s are not prone to freezing (well, not the iPod Classics anyway). But, like all tech devices, it can happen. Troubleshooting the problem isn’t always easy…

Hi folks, I just discovered your site and found some useful info. I do a John Lennon Tribute Show, “Almost John Lennon.” I use backing tracks on an ipod. However, twice in recent days, when i plugged my ipod in to a dircet box on stage, the ipod channel made a weird drubbing sound, then when we fixed that, the ipod froze, it stopped in the middle of songs one day, the next day it froze to where i could not turn off, advance to next song, etc. The ipod is very new, works fine in my car, home docking station, and various computers. i’ve had had it stop in mid-song. I had to switch to a back-up cd. Is there something i’m doing wrong? ipod worked fine in my car after the show. Thank you so much in advance,
Joe

Hi Joe

If the iPod works perfect in your car, on your home docking station and with all your home computers, then it’s very unlikely that there is any problem with the iPod itself.

It’s more likely that there is a problem with the other stage gear your using.

But if the other stage gear you are using is ok with everything else you put through it, then perhaps the iPod just doesn’t ‘like’ the stage gear and is letting you know this by freezing and generally acting up.

There are a few areas you could look at first though….

If, when you are on stage, you are powering the iPod from its internal battery, then take another look at all the other equipment that you have the iPod connected to (like your audio cable, the DI box etc, the mixing desk).

If you are powering the iPod from a mains power adapter, then check that the adapter is functioning ok. While you’re at it, also check to make sure the adapter is a REGULATED power supply because unregulated power adapters (like the cheap ones you can buy from electronic stores like Maplin or Radio Shack) often cause all sorts of problems.

Finally, check to see if the mains electricity supply to the stage itself is fluctuating around a bit – many live music venues are notorious for having bad electrical installations and an uneven power supply wreaks havoc on sensitive electronic equipment and would certainly make a device like an iPod malfunction…

Embed lyrics in to a backing track

Here’s a question about embedding the lyrics of a song in to your backing track so that the words display as the backing track is playing…

Kenny, Do you have a way to view the lyric/chord sheet and have the backing track embedded in that sheet? 
Thanks
Tony 
Have a great day.

Hi Tony

You can have a text file or a MS Word document open while a backing track is playing in the background in a laptop.

If you’re using an iPod you can also get it to display the lyrics while the track is playing (see http://www.mp3backingtrax.com/article40.htm).

But for a more comprehensive system where the lyrics display automatically and move in time with the music) then you would need to implement some kind of karaoke system for displaying words.

There used to be a great program called On Stage Performer which controlled backing tracks, lyrics, and your lighting show all from the backing track itself. It ran a timeline along the playback of the backing track and you could program in all sorts of lighting bursts etc at particular parts of the track.

Sadly they went out of  business a couple of years ago and although there are other programs around that try to do similar things, none that I’ve seen so far have ALL the facilities that On StagePerformer had…

Picking a good song to sing in a competition

We produced a custom track for one of our customers which she used in a singing competition. I emailed her after the competition to ask how she did and I was delighted to discover that the backing track we produced for her and the way she sang the song got her through to the next round of regional finals. So what should she sing next…? Aha, a burning question!

Hi Kenny, 
Thank you so much for your e-mail, was so nice to receive. So…I made it through to the regional finals, its on the 27th November so not long to prepare a new song. Competeition was extremely tough yesterday, and I ended up singing the same song as someone else so that was tough, but I still made it through. Seriously need to think about my next song and need to make it something original, so once I have decided I will be in touch for you to produce the backing track if thats ok? Hmmm what to sing!?
Best Regards
Christine

Hi Christine

That’s great news, I’m really happy for you and I’m glad the arrangement we produced for you helped.

It’s always a fine balance when trying to pick a song that you hope will impress judges.

If you pick something a little bit obscure, then you know that it’s unlikely that any other contestant will be singing that same song and that’s an advantage.

But the down side to that is that many judges can be prone to favouring songs they actually recognise and like themselves, so if the judges don’t know or recognise the song your singing, it could be a disadvantage.

Conversely, if you pick a really popular song, the judges will be familiar with that song and may like it and that’s an advantage. But if it’s TOO popular, they might be fed up listening to contestants singing that song to death and mark you down for it. For example “I will always love you” and “My heart will go on” are songs that many judges are sick of listening to.

It’s a hard choice to make, there’s no doubt about that!

But if you can get the right balance between a song that is well known but unlikely to be sung by lots of others then you certainly up your chances of success.

Just always bear in mind though that the choice of song is only one part of the whole process.

It’s actually more important that you choose a song that suits your voice and vocal range and that you can perform it to maximum effect. So always make sure you are entirely comfortable singing your choice of song and love performing it because that will shine through to the judges…

Get good advice before you buy musical equipment

Buying musical equipment can be a minefield if you don’t know what you’re doing. One of our customers came a little unstuck – I wish she’d contacted me sooner. The rule of thumb is, always seek advice from someone in the know BEFORE you go spending money on equipment that may not be up to the job. Better still, ask more than one person – ask a few people, search the internet, look for reviews from people who’ve already bought the same equipment and read their opinions…

Hi Kenny, Just purchased an Ion Rock Blocker with ipod dock, which is a portable speaker/pa system. I thought it might be good to use in small venues, does have quite good reviews. Still to buy the ipod yet but wondered if you thought this system is a good idea? If the ipod is docked on the Rock Blocker, surely I would need to use a remote control. Do you know if I could use the apple remote with this? Also, which ipod would you recommend? Any advice would be much appreciated. 
Karen

Hi Karen

I took a look at the Ion Rock Blocker and it looks like a very neat and compact little unit. Of course I can’t tell the quality of the sound without actually hearing it but if they have created it specially for an iPod then I would imagine they would need to give it a fairly decent hifi quality of sound.

My only reservations are with the power output though. I see they rate it at 22 watts and that’s not very much.

It would probably be ok for singing in your living room but I doubt you would be able to use this in public, even in a very small venue. The noise alone of people talking in a room would easily drown out 22w of music. Also I see there’s no effect unit built in so you will need to use a separate reverb or echo unit for your microphone.

Regarding the best iPod to buy, I personally like the iPod classic as it is robust and was designed specially just to play music (they designed the classic long before Apple decided to make all their devices do a million different things like on the iPod Touch etc). Either way though, the iPod classic or the iPod touch should slot in to the Ion Rock Block fine.

There are lots of remotes for iPods on the market and you will have a problem if your particular remote needs to connect to the port at the bottom of the iPod to work (because you’re already using that port to slot your iPod in to the Ion Rock Blocke). But if you have a remote that doesn’t need to use that port then you should be fine.

Hi Kenny
Thank you for your response and comments on the Ion Block Rocker. Disappointed to learn that the power output of 22w would not be adequate even for a small venue. Being a complete technophobic and with no knowledge or know how on the equipment needed for performing, I thought the Block Rocker would be ideal for me, buy the ipod, download the backing tracks, connect to the Block Rocker and hey presto, I’m ready for performing! NOT! Apparently you can connect two Block Rockers, would the power output of two linked Block Rockers be adequete for small venues? Noted your comments on the lack of effect for the microphone. If the Block Rocker x 2 linked was suitable for small venues, could a reverb or echo unit be conncted to it.? Thanks again Kenny for taking the time to look at the Block Rocker for me and also for your recommendation of the ipod classic, much appreciated. 
Karen

Hi Karen

Unfortunately I don’t think two Block Rockers together would suffice.

For a small venue with, say, 30 or 40 people you should really be looking to have around 100 to 200 watts at least.

As a rule of thumb, you should always try to have a bit more amplification than you need because if your sound system is putting out it’s full output then you risk getting really bad distortion or poor sound quality of sound (or both).

For a small venue (e.g. a venue which is maybe two or three times the size of your living room and can hold 20 – 40 people) you could probably get away with something like the 160 watt Yamaha StagePass entry level system.

Obviously for bigger venues of 50 – 70 people, you would really need the bigger 300 watt Yamaha StagePass system.

For a venue with 100 people you’d need the bigger one again – the 500 watt Yamaha StagePass sytem.

I’ve just picked the Yamaha Stagepass systems above because they come in different models and sizes so make it easy to illustrate the type of power you need for different size venues, but there are actually thousands of different PA systems out there, all shapes and sizes and prices (although I have to say the Yamahas are really good quality for their price and I would recommend any of them to anyone on a budget).

Word of mouth is always a good thing to go by before buying something, so ask other entertainers who perform in the venues you intend performing in what kind of PA system they use, what power output it has, and how good it is at doing the job (for example can they detect it starting to struggle by the end of the night when volumes are higher, audiences are noisier and it’s working a bit under pressure)?

Another thing to watch out for is power/volume ratings for speakers which are sometimes given in watts PMPO instead of watts RMS. The only power rating you want to take notice of is the watts in RMS. For example, a speaker manufacturer may claim their speakers have 1000 watts PMPO and you may think that’s a lot, but it could be the equivalent of only 40 or 50 watts RMS (there’s no real industry standard for measuring PMPO so converting the numbers is pretty much a guessing game).

Bottom line is, if a manufacturer is not willing to publish the power output of their product in watts RMS you have to ask yourself why. Give these speaker manufacturers a wide berth if you come across them…!