iPod backing track questions answered

Gary, one of our customers, is thinking of buying an iPod and using it to play his backing tracks. First though, he has a few questions…

Hi,
I’ve just read your article on recommending the ipod as your preferred MP3 choice when it comes to us musicians:) I have a few questions of my own and I hope you can answer them.

1. How do I attach my ipod to my microphone stand?
2. Is the screen big enough to view the lyrics?
3. I sing and play guitar at my gigs. Is scrolling time consuming?
4. Is it easy to see when you scroll from one song to the next?
5. Does the back light stay lit?

I realise that you are a company offering mp3 backing tracks (I use midis at the moment and playback using mini disc) but I’ve been thinking about changing to mp3 for a while and I would really appreciate some help. The net is very limited when it comes to MP3 players for musicians and info relating to us. I thought your article was by far and away the most useful I found. Great work and thanks!
Gazza

Hi Gazza

Hopefully I can help answer some of your questions:

1. How do I attach my ipod to my microphone stand?
The easiest way of attaching an iPod to a mic stand is to buy one of those small metal music sheet holders – the type I’m referring to is NOT the full music sheet stand that stands about 4 feet tall and is completely self-standing though. I mean the smaller type of music stand which is basically just the music sheet holder itself – a metal plate with an adjustable clamp which attaches to your mic stand. Use something like double sided velcro to keep the iPod held to the music stand. The other way to attach an iPod to a microphone stand is to ask your local drum store to sell you (or make you) a stand that will specifically fit your model of iPod. It’s very common for drummers to have all sorts of sizes and shapes of stands and clamps for their drums, and as drum accessories are designed to be hit really hard by the drummer while he plays, that means they’re usually pretty robust. A good drummers clamp or stand is unlikely to fall over easily and damage your iPod so they are well worth considering.

2. Is the screen big enough to view the lyrics?
This is really down to your particular eyesight. I personally don’t have any problems reading the song list or lyrics from my iPod, but I do know other singers who don’t have very good eyesight and it is a problem for them. The easiest way to test this is to borrow a friends iPod and take it to a gig with you. You don’t need to actually use the iPod at the gig – just switch it on during your gig and you’ll immediately get an idea whether the text and screen is going to be big enough for you to see and use.

3. I sing and play guitar at my gigs. Is scrolling time consuming?
The beauty of the iPod is that scrolling is really fast compared to other mp3 players. The iPod has a neat little feature whereby when it detects you are scrolling very quickly, it changes to an “alphabetical” mode and skips forward at even greater speed than normal. For example, I have over 2,000 backing tracks in my iPod which would normally be quite a lot of songs to scroll through, especially if I finish singing “All night long” and want to sing “Young girl” next! Fortunately the iPod will recognize that I’m scrolling quite quickly from A, so it automatically begins to scroll through B, C, D, E etc rather than the individual songs until it gets to Y. I stop it at Y, then scroll through the Y’s until I reach Young girl. It takes seconds. In effect, rather than scrolling through almost 2,000 songs, what the ipod is doing is only taking the same time it would normally take to scroll through just 25 songs (i.e. 25 is the amount of letters in the alphabet from A to Y). Hope that makes sense!

4. Is it easy to see when you scroll from one song to the next?
In a word, yes. But again, this depends on your particular eyesight.

5. Does the back light stay lit?
Yes, the iPod settings give you various backlight timer options. You can set it to keep the backlight on all the time, or for a set it to a number of minutes if you prefer.

You mentioned that you currently use midifiles which have been recorded on to minidisc so in that case you don’t even need to buy any backing tracks from us or anyone else to get yourself “down the mp3 route”. All you need to do is play your minidisc in to your PC and record the resultant music to mp3.

I wrote an article that explains ways of doing this which you may find useful.

When you’ve got all your backing tracks in mp3 format, then you can add them to your iPod by simply dragging them in to iTunes.

iTunes will then add them automatically to your iPod. It’s a fairly simple process.

The only time consuming part to any of this is the actual converting of your minidisc backing tracks to mp3. For example, if you have 100 backing tracks on minidisc that are each 4 minutes long, it’s going to take you 400 minutes (almost 7 hours) to record them to mp3.

Fortunately once you DO have all your backing tracks in mp3 format, they are then much easier to work with and manipulate. It’s also easy to backup mp3 backing tracks too – just write them to a blank CD-R and put them away somewhere safe.

Regards

Kenny