Using a cheap computer mic with your audio gear


In order to do lessons on Skype or other video-chats, I need to pipe the sound of my grand piano, sequencer and other computer audio signals to the computer. For this, I use my MOTU interface and various preamps. I also need a headset mic/headphone so I can hear the other person, without putting their voice through the speakers (internet feedback/echo.) While there are high-quality head-worn microphones, I don’t think it is necessary for me to spend that much just for my voice in lessons.

Cheap computer headsets are everywhere, but with my setup, I need the signal to go through an XLR mic preamp, so I can include it along with the other audio going to the client. These headsets have an 1/8-inch plug designed for computer sound-cards. Upon doing some research, I found that these microphones require about 5v of bias power, delivered to the “ring” or middle conductor of the plug, with signal on the tip, ground on the sleeve.

The above picture  shows an adaptor I made with some soldering. I “sacrificed” a USB cord, which when plugged in to a phone-charging adaptor can deliver the 5v power. I then wired the signal to pin 2 of an XLR plug, while grounding pin 3. (“floating” pin 3 can invite RF interference, as the wire can act as an ungrounded antenna) A 22k current-limiting resistor was added between the power and the plug. (this may or may not have been necessary.)

Now, I can use the cheap, crappy headset mic with my otherwise decent audio rig!

Product Review: Waves Electric 88



As a keyboardist with a lifelong love-affair with the Rhodes electric piano, I’m always intrigued by new virtual instruments simulating that classic sound. The one I use most of the time I bought many years ago from a developer called Scarbee, and I have been pretty happy with it. (Scarbee products have been subsumed into the Native Instruments product line, and I assume those samples are still part of the “Komplete” collection.) When Waves came out with their version at an introductory price of $39, I decided to take a risk and order it.
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Musings on Composition and “Thing-hood”

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When does something start being a “thing?” When writing music, I find this transition to be a very important moment, a bit like a birth. When a piece achieves “thing-hood,” it now occupies a new place in my mind. Continue Reading…

Problems with Digital Piano Reproduction Live















Recently I played a gig where, for space purposes, I plugged my keyboard into a small PA system, along with the vocalist. The venue was very small, and there was no need or room for large speakers, and the volume would be low. This small PA did a decent job of making the singer sound good, but the piano sounded terrible. (at least to me) On this gig, it certainly wasn’t worth trying to fix the sound, but it brought up issues I constantly struggle with using a digital piano live.

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Two Computers











Working on orchestra or other large-ensemble music using a sequencer can be very taxing on a computer system in terms of processor power, memory and disk usage.

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The End of the Artist

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What are the factors needed to make art? or, more importantly, good art?
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The Big Lie, Part II











Content is King

…like this random rainbow dashboard picture. Publish articles, release free music, make YouTube videos. This is how we build our “tribe” and create “engagement,” thus building our “brand” and setting ourselves up for prosperity. I discussed the other Big Lie in a previous post.

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Obfuscation through Pedanticism











Ever find yourself in a conversation with some people who suddenly switch to another language to talk to each other? While certainly a bit rude, there are a couple reasons why they might have done this: They may be more fluent in that language, perhaps needing to get to the point quickly, or were at a loss for words in English, but more likely, they didn’t want you to know what they were saying. This is the same reason parents “spell” words around their toddlers: “Do you think we could get some I.C.E. C.R.E.A.M after dinner?” Continue Reading…

The Loss of Creative Innocence















Ever have an idea, invention, or creative thought, only to find out somebody somewhere in the world had already done that same thing? Continue Reading…

Why Improvisation Matters













If you don’t play jazz, blues, or some other type of music that involves spontaneous playing, you might wonder what purpose there is in learning to improvise. Sure, “jazzheads” can sit around listening to John Coltrane or some other historic figure, but how can this arcane skill be of any value to a contemporary musician? Listen to popular songs, film scores or even academic classical compositions, and you will hear very little improvised material. Even in the classic rock guitar-hero era, most solos were brief 8-bar affairs that could (and often were) pre-composed by the soloist. So what’s the point of putting in massive amounts of time for this “obsolete” skill? Why not just work it all out in advance?

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