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The Frugal Soundman

Jun 28, 2008
As the soundman and projectionist for my local church, I found it to be frustating and time consuming when searching for a particular song among all our cds for choir practice. I was determined to sit down at some point and catalog all those songs and cd's. I took some time to search the Internet for a simple, free database I could use for this purpose. I even considered creating my own database but never quite got around to it.

One evening during choir practice, as I was searching for a particular cd, a friend stopped by the sound booth and made an interesting suggestion: rip all the songs from the cd's and save them to my projection computer. The idea sounded entirely plausible. Not only could I have the individual songs available in alphabetical order, I could also play them through the sound board via the computer's audio out and eliminate our stand-alone cd player for this purpose.

I gathered up several cds, took them home, and ripped the songs from them. It was at this point I had to use a little creativity - here's why. The choir's practice cd's are recorded in a different fashion than a typical music cd. Each track is recorded with two mono channels - vocals on the right channel and instruments on the left. This allows the choir to hear how the song should be sung with or without music, or to practice (and perform) with music only; simply by shutting off one channel or the other.

Also, each song is divided up into sections, each one being a separate track. In other words, the first song on the cd might be composed of tracks one through seven, the second song tracks eight through fourteen and so on. This allows the choir director to go back to a specific point in the song and start again in order to work on a troublesome area.

To record the cd's, I would rip all the tracks of a single song and save those tracks (in MP3 format) in a folder with the name of the song title. Then I'd do the same with the next song. I placed each individual song folder into a master "Choir Songs" folder. Of course, this all took some time, but so would have cataloging all the songs and info into a database.

Then I ran into a problem. Not being very familiar with media players I was determined to find one that was small and easy to use. After finding one I liked, I installed it on the pc and simply dragged the song folder into the playlist window. By double clicking the first track the song began to play as it should. The problem occurred when changing tracks. Since each track contains a section of the song, there needs to be a smooth, undelayed transition between tracks in order to have no interruptions in the song. Unfortunately, this wasn't happening. There were burps between the tracks that I couldn't remove even by changing the buffer settings in the player. After more searching I found another media player with a buffer ahead setting that played the song perfectly.

Since I am responsible for the sound as well as the projection of the songs' words on a screen for the choir to read, this is an excellent setup for me. I can have the projection software and the media player both running on my computer's desktop screen. I click the play button to sart the music, then use the keyboard to advance the slides with the song lyrics.

Initially, I had some concerns about the sound quality I would get by playing MP3 files through a computer sound card, then through the mixing board. After hearing the results I can tell you that I was very pleased. The sound was crisp and clear and the reduced quality of the MP3 file was not distinguishable.

Obviously, there are hard drive recorders/players on the market that are designed for these kinds of audio applications, but they are somewhat expensive. If you already have a fairly powerful computer in place for projection, this method costs nothing (except for a cable and some adapters to run from your audio card to the mixing board). Give it a try.
About the Author
Steve Leedy is the owner and webmaster of Audio Recording/Mixing Software. Steve's interest in music and audio goes back decades to playing guitar in a local rock group and now includes mixing sound in his local church.
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