Monthly Archives: June 2006

Managing your project

Any worthwhile goal takes an action plan. To reach a desired objective requires attention to detail, overcoming of all the obstacles and interim objectives to that golden pot at the end of the rainbow. In my case that golden pot is producing a CD of original music and the successful marketing and promotion of said CD. My objectives also involve helping my composition teacher Jon Raney achieve his goals of promoting his new CD Waltz For Talia.

As a software developer and manager I have learned that multi-faceted problems require extreme organisation in order to achieve desired results within an acceptable timeline. Will you be satisfied if you crank out one CD every ten years? If that is okay with you then the easy going approach will do fine. Otherwise you will need to be very , very organised. Fortunately, now a days there are some great tools available that greatly facilitate staying on top of the game. I find that “Issue tracking” software applies very well to music projects. Issue tracking is not just about logging in what is wrong with something. Its about defining all the myriad of sub-objectives  and the associated tasks. Its about assigning responsibilities to team member. It also a tool of collaboration on specific tasks. Its  a great tool for documenting what went wrong , what went right and thus an asset to the project. Not repeating the same mistakes is key to becoming more efficient and therefore having a log of the process is invaluable.

There is of course some initial pain and getting use to using these tools. One must enter tasks, one must report on progress and document the hick ups, the successes etc. Often, when one is encountering a lot of issues with a certain task it may seem that one is spending more time with the tool rather than working the problem. All of this is good. The next time the problem or type of problem comes around , and it will , one will be prepared.

An issue tracker is key to success. It eventually becomes second nature. Intelligent and steadfast use of these tools will maintain a level of energy and momentum that would otherwise be much more difficult to achieve.

We are using MANTIS. Its an open source application, its extremely easy to install and although it has its quirks it overall is a solid and easy to navigate issue tracker.

LightScribed UPC codes scan great

As I have written before we are using LightScribe to burn our art work directly on the CD as opposed to having a CD sleeve liner. That is coming along well. There is a new design which we will show later and which incorporates an abstract photo of Jon. I was also burning the UPC code on the CD. I want to make the CD sort of self – containing i.e. that it provides all the necessary info on it. I asked the LightScribe support team about this. They were so cool that they actually ran the experiment for me. The UPCs scan great and that includes the very tiny 2D UPCs.

They also let me know of a specific utility for LightScribing which will significantly enhance the contrast on the resulting burned images but at the cost of increased burn time. Here is the link for that:

http://lightscribe.com/support/index.aspx?id=306

LightScribe is also working on a new film technology which will significantly reduce the burn times. Currently , the CD takes about 20 minutes to burn but I suspect it will get into the 30 minutes with the above mentioned enhanced contrast utility.

 

CD 1.1 – Not a Jazz Waltz

My first tune on my my first CD  is in 3/4.

So its a  | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | etc but the tempo is at 132 bpm with an upbeat bossa like groove so it is not a waltz. The tune starts with an 8 bar intro where there is a one chord per measure change and which clearly established a typical 3/4 feel but then it gets strange in that most of the A and B sections there are two chords per measure but the beats are not evenly divided between the two chords. Jazz players, as confirmed by Jon, when confronted with a lead sheet in 3/4 with 2 chords per measure will evenly divide and therefore every chord would get 1 and a half beats i.e. a dotted quarter rhythm. However, in the case of this tune the first chord receives two beats and the second chord one beat. So against the 3/4 meter one gets this type of feel going:

ta ta-ah

where a ta is one beat and the ta-ah is the two beats.  I seem to be inverting these, right? Invariably, well at least to me my ear latches on to the “ta ta-ah” i.e. I catch the train on a one note pickup, the 3rd beat,  to the changes for the sections in question. I don’t mean that literally the section does start on 1 with a 2 beat chord but I don’t start synching with it, if that makes sense, until the 3rd beat. Lots of fun. Its has been challenging for me to do the comp on these changes since one has to face a one beat shift at 132 bpm on quite decently colorful Jazz chords. No power chords on this baby. Of course, the fact that in the past I was so obscessed with lead playing has come back to haunt me but I’m getting there. Truth be told , I have also been working on a second tune with decent technical challenges.  Jon thinks is an interlude to this current tune . More on that later. I worked a decent start to the melody. Most of the A section is pretty solid for a first pass and the melody is keeping a tango-ish ethnic feel. Another interesting aspect is that the phrases are breaking up into 5 bar phrases I believe driven by the lop sided placement of beats on the changes and just where my ear heard the cadence points i.e. the melodic places of rest.

This “composition focused” approach to the study of the guitar I’m sure will pay off. I know I’m getting better technically and I’m also becoming a better musician. Forcing myself to extract the music out of my head and committing to a structure is a struggle. The tendency to “doodle”during practise sessions is great. Having somebody of the musical caliber of Jon to bounce ideas off, to be taught about strategies, the gotchas and just the lingo of music is invaluable.

Jon’s UPC

In a previous article I mentioned that an artist through CDBaby could obtain for a mere twenty bucks a UPC. UPCs are necessary for digital downloads but also if you want to sell your CDs in traditional retailers. When CDBaby provides you with a UPC not only do you get the “code” but you also get a JPG for the respective bar scan. One can then print labels and then attach to whatever CD packaging. Here is Jon’s UPC:

RaneyUPC 

I went ahead and added the artist and album name. I purchased a set of 600 labels for under $10.00 and printed what you see on my desk jet.

Next step is to get 5 CDs ready to ship to CDBaby. The copyright application will go out reserved mail tomorrow. The copyright is retroactive to the mailed date of the application. Before we ship we are going to tweak the art work LightScribed on the CD and look into the mysterious world of shrink wrapping.

LightScribe – 2nd Look

After reviewing yesterday’s post I realized that I had published the BW image that one would use with a LightScribe capable software. That does not do justice to LightScribe so I thought I post 3 other pics illustrating what one actually sees. LightScribe.com provides an ample gallery of backgrounds.

FULL MODE

FullMode_JazzAge

CONTENT MODE

View_content_renaissance

TITLE MODE

View_title_abstract

I can see a new art medium developing.

 

Burning your ArtWork

Packaging your cd used to be a significant effort. Labels had to be printed  then pasted on the CD which often did not look quite perfect. Labels are not cheap either, never mind including the CDs inner sleeves , back cover etc. All of this tedious and not inexpensive. I believe that the advent of LightScribe has changed what packaging a CD entails and has dramatically reduced the amount of work and the costs. LightScribe is a technology that allows one to print images upon the face of a CD. The image are printed in grayscale upon a brazzy looking background. The result can be very appealing. For example:

 

FullMode_JazzAgeBW

 

 

As one can see a very beautiful CD can be made. The CD itself can be made appealing and one does not have to rely on expensive labels and CD cover artwork to create a professional looking product. Of course just pretty artwork is not all that should be placed on a CD. The appropriate information is the typical :

  • 1. Album name
  • 2. Artist name
  • 3. Tracks

Less obvious:

  • 4. UPC Code
  • 5. Copyright tag
  • 6. User registration id (special order)

 

The independent musician has several avenues to distribute music. For example CDBaby and digital download providers. One avenue is that artist can do the work. These would be “special orders” , the cost would be slightly higher to the music fan but the fan would receive a customised product, with special artwork and even engraved with the listeners name or perhaps an engraving appropriate to a gift for a special someone. The sky is the limit. I plan to later blog about ideas on how the artist can provide the fan with more value beyond the music and at the same time keep more of the profits.

I’m using LightScribe on Jon Raney’s CD which we will be sending to the U.S copyright office tomorrow. For now we kept it simple:

Cdart

 

Click on the image for a larger view.