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A great step by step guide to basic improv – perfect for classically trained musicians interested in exploring improvisation. Exercises and sound files available to download for free (or donation).
I’ve been a fan of Mobile recording devices since I was given an Edirol R-09 a few years ago to replace my overly complicated minidisk recorder, which proved to be enormously useful for a host of professional musical activities: recording rehearsals, performances, lessons and found sounds to name a few. So I was excited to have one of the very first Sanyo Xacti recorders come my way to play with and write about.
The Xacti is remarkably small and slim with a sleek touch sensitive design. The complete package includes a docking station, stereo headphones, a 2GB microSD card, a USB lead for transferring files to your computer and charger for the lithium battery. My package excluded the docking station and battery charger, but neither item was a necessity. The battery can be recharged via its USB connection and the device can easily be connected to a pair of external audio speakers via the headphone input. It also features very basic built-in speakers, which don’t offer great sound quality but are useful when using the recorder on the go.
The Xacti also benefits from being very easy to use. Getting started takes no time at all with its user-friendly and intuitive interface. Despite this it packs in a lot of useful features, and it is worth spending time with the manual to fully acquaint oneself with all of these. It offers three different recording environments: Meeting, Interview and Music. Individual recording settings can still be adjusted within each of these environments, allowing you to fine tune your recording. Files can be recorded as WAV (44.1 kHz) or MP3 (320, 198, 128 and 32 kbps). The recorder has an internal high performance microphone with fully adjustable sensitivity, making it possible to reduce wind or breathing noise when recording outdoors or speaking into the mic.
I was astounded at the quality of my first recordings. I recorded my cello, a notoriously tricky instrument to capture well and found the results to be better than a number of condenser microphones I have tried in the past. For this reason I did not try recording with an external mic, but it’s worth mentioning that the recorder offers this option too.
Overall, the Xacti sound recorder is a wonderful device: nicely designed, very easy to use, full of excellent features including a recordable FM radio and music player functionality. With minimal tweaking it delivers crystal clear recordings and the battery life is impressive too. Transferring files to and from your computer is also very straightforward if a little fiddly – the manufacturers recommend using the “safely remove hardware” tool rather than simply disconnecting the USB lead. If you’re prone to loosing things you’ll probably need to wear it as a necklace – it really is very tiny!
Yesterday we put the finishing touches on a new track called A Day to Remember, and we’ll not forget the session in a hurry!
This track is uncharacteristically light-hearted and joyful for us… we tend to gravitate towards minor keys and Mahlerian pathos in our music. Every now and then it’s wonderful to break out of your mould and try something outside of your comfort zone. Of course we don’t think for a second that we came up with anything unique or ground-breaking here. We have one of our favourite bands to thank for the inspiration and are quite happy to describe this track as an Elbow sound-alike with an Entropik touch.
Recording, which took place on the 12th of August 2010 was an absolute blast. The most fun we’ve had in ages! We wanted a string orchestra that wasn’t made up of midi instruments. Cello obviously isn’t a problem, and is very much at the heart of the arrangement. We then decided to challenge my general string knowledge and put my double bass and violin which have otherwise been collecting dust to good use. 20 string parts later we had the sound we were looking for! The only missing instrument is viola, but I managed to mimic a viola sound in the higher register of one of my cellos. Yes, we used not one but two different cellos to get the subtly different timbres one would expect from a full string orchestra.
So without further ado we present to you: A Day to Remember – composed, performed and recorded by Entropik.
I’m thankful to have been provided with a topic for this our very first official WordPress.com Entropik blog. Titles are not my strong point. I agonise over them, over-think them, try to be too clever with them and recently wrote an entire article winging about how damn hard they are to come up with. In a musical context of course, but it’s ultimately all the same. To be fair, the article isn’t’t just about the agony of choosing titles. It also bemoans the troublesome task of describing and applying search optimised keywords to library music. You can read all about it in the September issue of Sound on Sound.
But I digress.
So, Hello World… where do we go with this? You may or may not have heard of us, Entropik, the slightly eccentric married musical partnership from Leeds. If you haven’t, you’ll have gleaned that we are musicians and a little bit odd. If you did not, you’re clearly not paying attention and should probably go and make yourself a strong cup of coffee. What kind of musicians, you ask? Primarily we’re composers. We write for music libraries and films, we collaborate with other musicians around the world, and we occasionally compose and play purely for art’s sake. Given that we try to do this for a living, we don’t get much time or opportunity for the latter. On the other hand, considering the number of tracks we’ve composed which as yet are waiting for the sniff of a license in their respective library catalogues one might say that a far larger percentage of our work is for art’s sake. This is the dilemma of the freelance composer working speculatively and waiting for a nice lucrative ad campaign or big budget film to like one of your tracks enough to license it. As you’d expect, we play various instruments too. These include cello (which I also teach to unsuspecting victims), guitar, bass and piano. Cello features in quite a lot of our music too.
I’ll be adding to this blog from time to time. I’m not going to be too specific about frequency or content – I’ve made that mistake before and found myself suffering from performance anxiety. We’ll have none of that thank you. We just thought it would be nice to have the odd meander about things we like, things we hate and things we hope others will find interesting, amusing or utterly silly. In the meantime, do pay our website a visit. If you happen to be a close personal friend of Mr. Spielberg we’d appreciate you passing our details on to him along with a shining endorsement.
Until next time!