CMVC Practice Media - by Phil Talmage

When we start learning a new song, we rehearse each of the four parts, separately and together with the others, so that, by the time we come to perform it in public – without the music – every­ one knows it thoroughly.

Choir members often choose to practice by them­ selves. (Everyone has to learn the words at least!) Those who can read music and have a keyboard will not necessarily require anything beyond the sheet music we provide.

To help members, we produce three other media besides the basic sheet music:

1. We prepare and circulate MIDI files which members can play using a computer. There is a file for each voice, and a file for all voices together; once a member has learned his part using the single-voice version, he can practice singing it alongside the others.

The individual MIDI parts are to help only with learning the notes. Unlike the MIDI for the whole song, they do not have any dyna­ mics - that is, your part is loud all the time.

2. From time to time, we produce CDs for practice purposes. These are especially useful for members who like to play them while driving, and, of course, those who do not have computers with speakers or a sufficiently modern TV. The tracks on these CDs are usually made from the MIDI files.

3. We also circulate PDF files which contain the individual parts. These can be printed using Acrobat Reader: free download from http://get.adobe.com/uk/reader/.

About MIDI files

MIDI files can easily be recognised by the file­ name extensions .MID, .MIDI and .KAR (for "Karaoke" files). A MIDI file is an electronic version of a musical score. That is, it's a set of instructions which a computer can read (if equipped with the right software and hard­ ware) to produce audible music. Most computers (including tablets) have a built-in capability to play MIDI files.

A MIDI file is not itself the music, and a CD player or equivalent can't play it. Simply copying MIDI files to a CD will not enable you to hear the music in the car (unless you have with you a computer which has an optical drive). But you can make a CD, starting with MIDI files, which will then play on a CD player – see below for how to do this.

We include the words in recently-created MIDI files. No computer will "sing" these words, but, with the right program, you can see them on the screen and /or print them.

Playing MIDI files on your computer

The quality of the music you hear will depend on your computer hardware and software. Windows Media Player, which came with your computer - you can update it free from Micro­ soft's website - does a good job. Apple’s free QuickTime Player allows you to control the tempo. But neither will display the notes or the words.

MIDI files can also be imported into music notation programs. These programs will display them as sheet music that you can view on-screen while the notes play, and even print. If the file includes words, these should also be displayed. MuseScore is a fully-featured open-source notation program, free from
http://musescore.org/en/download/musescore.exe
For those who understand written music, MuseScore will do just about anything they are likely to need.

Using Musescore, you can make your part play as a solo, or make other tracks play more softly. You can also alter the tempo – say, to slow it down while learning your part – or change the key to one that you find easier. And you can easily repeat a passage rather than having to play the whole song.

NoteWorthy Player and Notation Player, also free, will display and play the files but will not allow alterations. These programs may there­ fore be better suited to those who are less familiar with musical notation, but who never­ the­ less like to see the music on-screen. Download from
http://www.noteworthysoftware.com/player/ or
http://notation.com/DownloadNotationPlayer.php

For choral practice, some prefer to play MIDI and Karaoke files using vanBasco's Karaoke Player. Lyrics can be displayed in full-screen. It does not display music notation, but you can change the tempo, volume, and key of a song, and mute or solo instruments, useful features which are not available in Notation Player or Noteworthy Player. Download free from
http://www.vanbasco.com/download.html?product=1

Making CDs (and tracks for MP3 players)

Before you can burn an audio CD (or DVD) or play music on a digital audio player, you will need audio files in WAV or MP3 format. The latter is more highly compressed, but, of course, you need a player that will play MP3 tracks. If yours doesn't, then make WAV files. Using a flash drive, you could also play these files on a TV with a USB socket, but you won’t see the words on-screen.

MuseScore will not only import and play MIDI files, but it can also output WAV files. Plenty of shareware programs will convert MIDI to WAV or MP3, and the free Switch package will also carry out this conversion; see
http://www.nch.com.au/switch/index.html

You can burn CDs using free software such as Windows Media Player. You might find it helpful to edit the audio files before you burn the CDs, using e.g. the WavePadeditor that comes with Switch.

 

prepared by Philip Talmage. November 2014

 

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