Technology

Introduction

I (Steve) have always been keen on useful technology and, for Songs4U we use a fair bit of it. It's not truly expensive stuff for the most part since I have funded most of it myself with the group chipping in towards some of it.

What we use

KEYBOARD: We use a Yamaha Tyros 4 musical workstation. I find that it is difficult as a singer to maintain good contact with the audience whilst trying to also play your own backing on the keyboard. So whenever I am singing we pre-program the keyboard to play the backing automatically. We don't buy pre-recorded backings, but rather I prepare unique backings that you will only ever hear with Songs4U. Sometimes I play them live and record them. Sometimes I scan in sheet music, convert it to MIDI using tools like Sibelius and Noratron and the add more layers of backing, some produced with Band-in-a-Box and some produced directly on the Tyros 4, and I use software that I wrote myself to join all of the pieces together. The Tyros 4 has a fantastic range of sounds and accompaniments and was bought for me as a 60th birthday present by Cheryl, my wife. Here's a brilliant YouTube video demonstrating the wonderful sound of the Tyros 4 - everything you hear is produced by this instrument - nothing is added.

SHEET MUSIC: Often we have no idea what the lighting will be like where we are performing. On many occasions it can be really difficult trying to read the music. So we now use a 12.2in tablet, dual boot between Windows and Android...

On this tablet we run iGigBook. We can scan all our music at 400 dpi which is ideal for Noratron PhotoScore to read and convert to MIDI or to Sibelius format, but iGigBook can assemble a whole library of music, it can be told where repeats and codas etc occur, and with the aid of a Bluetooth page turning foot pedal device I can step through a playlist of the music required for each programme. I can also add useful annotations over the top of the music to remind me what keyboard settings I need in order to get the right sound.

   

WORDS: We often get asked to sing songs that are not in our programme, where we do know them, but we haven't rehearsed them. To that end, not only can we carry all of our sheet music (above) but we also use a 7in table (Nexus 7 Mk2) running Android with Android Prompter. This is a brilliant app for storing all of our words, which again we can group into playlists, and it will scroll the words for a complete programme, or we can pick out individual songs. We can also colour code the parts of the song to indicate which of the three of us should be singing at that point.

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