Monday, 11 March 2013

Back to school

Since I finished my degree back in nineteen eighty something I've had a few bursts of further education. I did a few community college evening courses in French, piano, guitar and jazz improvisation. Some of these were great fun and very good value compared with private one to one coaching. Unfortunately they don't seem to offer so many music courses since then. When I decided I wanted to do more singing I had a few private lessons that helped me discover what I'm capable of. I've considered more guitar lessons, but it's tricky when I don't have a specific aim. I had a trial lesson with a teacher a few years back, but he didn't seem to know what to do with me as I already had a lot of technical skills. I've also done a few courses for work on things like Oracle database programming.

My latest course is something a little different. I heard that Berklee College of Music was offering some free courses via Coursera. I initially decided I'd like to try the one on improvisation with Gary Burton. That looked like a challenge as it's something I would like to improve in my playing. That starts in April.

There is also a course in music production. A few of my on-line buddies were taking it, so I decided to join in as I could do with learning more about how to record and produce music. I have all the tools, but am only scratching the surface of what they can do.

The course consists of lots of short video lessons and quizzes on what was presented. Those are fairly simple if you take notes on the lessons. It's largely a matter of understanding the terminology used. The trickier parts are weekly assignments where you have to teach one of a selection of topics. That can be in written form or a video or audio presentation. I tried doing a video. I used GTK+ UVC Viewer to record from my webcam whilst I sat there using my Zoom H4 as a microphone and interface. I was talking about recording spoken word, so it was also a demonstration. I then tried to do a little editing using Kdenlive, but I couldn't seem to get it to trim the segments as I wanted. I have used this a long time back to edit some DV footage and it worked well then. Perhaps it didn't like the video format.

I tried doing the video in a single take, but found that hard. I was going to re-do it, but then had issues getting a decent recording without weird sync issues. I decided that audio would be easier. I recorded in Audacity and did lots of editing to clean it up. That was very quick and easy. The result was not too bad, but I did rush my delivery a bit.

Anyway, that has been submitted now and should be being assessed by other students. There are over 50,000! I've assessed my share and they were generally well done.

The lecturer, Loudon Stearns, has been encouraging people to discuss the course on the Coursera forums and various social sites. I was on a G+ Hangout with him and others at the weekend. It's almost like being on campus.

I'm finding the course fun and am learning lots. The first week was mostly audio theory, but this week is about DAW editing features. I need to explore these more in Ardour. V3.0 was just released, but I've been using some of the release candidates. It should do all I need. A screencast would seem a natural for the next assignment, but I need to figure out how to do that.