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May 31, 06

Why a techie like me hates digital pianos, Part 2














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May 30, 06

Why a techie like me hates digital pianos, Part 1






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May 29, 06

Music Meets Tech #13: CD Recording Session Notes

I've been meaning to write up a 'debriefing' of last week's recording session with Jan Vinci, so since i'm falling a little behind with my interview edits i thought i'd put my thoughts down in audio format for this week's podcast. Here are some links relevant to today's show:
  • I'm now a member of the Techpodcasts.com network! "If it's tech, it's here!"

  • Adam Abeshouse was our Grammy-award winning recording engineer extraordinare. You can email him at abesmuse@aol.com

  • Pyramix is Adam's DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) software program of choice. Pyramix runs on Windows 2000/XP machines

  • Sequoia is another high end Windows-based DAW that produces excellent results for professional audio engineers

  • Adam is the founder of the Classical Recording Foundation, a non-profit entity dedicated to providing the means to record the greatest classical artists in the best venues with the best equipment and technical expertise.

  • The New Yorker has a nice article about Adam and his Classical Recording Foundation

  • See a picture journal about the Miro Quartet's recording session with Adam here

  • The Nexus TDD-3000 Laptop Cooling Pad did a great job of using thermal heat sinks to wick heat away from my tablet pc, keeping fan noise down to a minimum. It's completely passive, requiring no external energy or internal fans to operate

  • My current tablet pc of choice is currently the Fujitsu Stylistic ST5000 or ST5000D Slate series. They seem to have the best design that keeps fan noise to a minimum, a critical factor when considering the use of tablet pc's for professional audio recording

  • As i've mentioned several times before, i'm using the Griffin PowerMate USB multimedia controller to turn pages with my foot. I created a custom cradle to angle the Powermate for optimal ergonomic use. When covered with a towel, the unit operates completely silently

  • You can see a picture gallery of last week's CD sessions here




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    Super Size Me: Computer Screen Solutions a Conductor Would Love

    Eric Mack posted an April Fool's video of a so-called "ultra-widescreen tablet pc", but it seems that fiction is actually catching up to reality!

    AkihabaraNews.com is reporting on a new device from Korean company Navisis that will transform any computer monitor into a virtual Tablet PC screen, enabling pen input and on-screen annotation/handwriting recognition.


    This next item has actually been out for a little while, but still worth mentioning as most folks probably haven't seen this yet: Wacom's Cintiq 21UX is a touchscreen pressure-sensitive monitor that boasts a 21.3 diagonal inch LCD display. Wacom happens to be the company providing the tablet pc pen technology for most Tablet PC's on the market today. Great looking monitor, but hardly a portable solution, given its hefty weight of 22.4 pounds and $2999 price tag...


    Freehand Systems, the makers of the MusicPad Pro Digital Music Reader, have come up with a new product called the "Maestro" that features a 19 inch touchscreen and looks to be running Windows XP (no mention if it's the Tablet PC version or just the plain vanilla XP). It only seems to operate in landscape mode, showing 2 pages at a time...i need to email these folks to see if the device can operate in portrait mode, which would be more practical for most orchestral conductors (doesn't really look like it would, given its apparent fixed base design, but i could be wrong...)

    I'll let y'all know if i ever see Maestro Eschenbach take to any of these nifty devices...

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    The Shark Moves On: Classical Music's Dorsal Fin Still Cuts the Water

    A fascinating look yesterday by the New York Times at how classical music isn't merely surviving, but in fact thriving and growing, most notably in contemporary and baroque performances. My biased opinion? I think we're on the verge of a truly explosive growth in the classical/contemporary art music scene. My dream is to see stadiums - yes, stadiums - full of fans eager to hear the latest contemporary art music performances and compositions. I think that day may be nearer than one might expect...

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    May 27, 06

    Cartoon Covers for Classical CD's

    Got this from BoingBoing - apparently, Deutsche Grammaphone is issuing a series of classical music CD's for newbies called "Classical Bytes", featuring CD covers illustrated by well-known cartoon artists. I must say, these covers are very attractive! Whimsical, contemporary, eye-catching - certainly something i might lean towards rather than some of the soupy fuzzy-filtered "put-me-to-sleep" covers from other no-label generic Classical Collection series. This cover is by illustrator Richard Sala. Looks like - er, sounds like - a fun listen!

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    May 26, 06

    Piano Pedagogy Site

    The networking power of the internet never ceases to amaze me! I recently received an email from a reader in Northern Wisconsin who came across my site via Mario Ajero's blog. He runs a wonderful piano pedagogy site called Piano Pedagogy Plus, and it looks to be a terrific resource full of articles, media clips, interactive musical games; reviews of music, books, and music-related technology, and much much more. Be sure to check the site out!

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    May 25, 06

    Ink Blog Guide 101





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    Video Podcast: How to Make an Ink Blog





    Camtasia Screencast Software


    Ruled Templed with Margins for Ink Blogs
    Blank template for Ink Blogs
    The GIMP - Open Source Image Editing Software
    Snipping Tool is part of Microsoft's free Experience Pack for Tablet PC's
    Microsoft Experience Pack for Tablet PC's













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    May 24, 06

    CD Recording Project Day 2: DONE!!

    AMAZING!! We actually finished recording all of the flute/piano repertoire for Jan's CD project yesterday!! Given the pace of our first day, i was fully expecting to have the sessions extended to a very long 3rd day - but we actually got through the remaining rep after a marathon 8 hour session! A lot has to be said for getting acclimated to a new situation, and how that tends to slow things down the first day of a recording set. Once we got started on day 2, we really hit a great groove and were able to sustain focused takes for much longer stretches of time. Pictured here are me, our amazing engineer Adam Abeshouse (who happened to be a Grammy Award winner in 1999 for "Best Producer" in the "Body of Work" category, and i believe he was nominated for another Grammy 2 years ago - i can see why, this guy is really incredible!), and Jan. More on Adam when i do the 'debriefing' blog tomorrow.

    Adam was really, really impressed with how well the Fujitsu Stylistic Tablet PC's performed, allowing for completely silent page turns without any significant noise signatures for the microphones. He really thought this was the best solution for digital music, so hopefully this will help other musicians to seriously consider using Tablet PC's for studio recording sessions.

    I've just put together a picture gallery of the recording sessions, which you can view here. I'm also planning to come out with a podcast interview/rehearsal outtake series in the weeks leading up to the final CD release through Albany Records, so i'll give a heads up when that approaches. I'm hoping to interview Hsueh-Yung Shen, the composer of the piece "And Then, Things Changed" involving all of the extended piano techniques. Quite an amazing composition, so i'm anticipating a great conversation with him if we can work it out!

    Jennifer Higdon was an angel on Day 1 - i'm hoping to schedule a podcast interview with her soon, so stay tuned for that as well!

    Sorry for the brief post...my brain is officially fried. I'll need a day to recoup before slamming back into prep mode for my summer schedule, so posts might be a little lean for the next few days.

    Congrats, Jan! Hopefully Day 3 is even easier for you! (she has to record 3 more works, 2 for solo flute, and one duet with her jazz saxaphonist husband Mark Vinci)

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    May 23, 06

    CD Recording: Day 1.5

    Forgot to give a quick rundown of my equipment for the recording session. Here's what i'm using:
  • 2 Fujitsu Stylistic Tablet PC's, both with the top vent covered with a piece of adhesive felt to minimize fan noise; the reason for using 2 tablet pc's is to allow me to switch between them every hour to prevent overheating. Repertoire and Powermate pedal settings are copied identically on both machines.

  • Nexus TDD-3000 Thermal Innovation Heat-Pipe Technology Laptop/ Notebook Cooler (Cooling Pad) - since the vents are blocked, i needed another way to try to keep the tablet pc's as cool as possible during operation. This is a passive heat sink pad that is placed right behind the tablet pc on the music rack - it allows for air to flow around the tablet pc, as well as providing a thermal "wick" to draw out heat via heat pipes. All this is done passively, ie: no fans, electrical power, etc. Pretty nifty, and seems to be working well - no meltdowns so far!

  • My Powermate USB controller as a foot switch to turn pages, with my original cradle model to angle the controller for comfortable foot operation. A towel is placed over the Powermate to ensure silent operation. I'm so excited about how well this is working out, as there is absolutely ZERO click noise from the Powermate, and the page turns have been really reliable! The only times that i get 'false' clicks (ie, no page turns when i push my foot down) seem to be if i accidentally angle the cradle the wrong way - easily corrected, and once i have it set up properly, the towel actually does a good job of keeping the setup in place

  • Fujitsu battery charger with a grand total of 5 batteries - 3 extended life batteries and 2 normal capacity batteries. I'm sticking primarily with the extended life batteries between the two tablet pc's, and they are holding up extremely well time-wise


  • One of the engineers seemed to be really impressed with the level of preparation that went into my equipment preparation...i guess that's a good sign!

    Today, we might get to the Shen piece, requiring my special music rack for extended piano techniques - i'll let y'all know how that goes.

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    CD Recording: Day 1

    Ah, the travails of recording a CD! Just finished Day 1 (Monday) and what an adventure - i'm here at Purchase, NY, working on a CD of contemporary Flute/Piano music with Jan Vinci. Pictures and ink blog to come as soon as i get home (probably Wednesday night/Thursday morning). Also have an ink blog tutorial video to post, hopefully by the end of the week...
    First off, our session was delayed because the piano we were supposed to use - a Hamburg Steinway - apparently was completely 'verboten' for any type of prepared piano playing, even if it only involved using hands/fingers to strum or stop the strings (worried about the hand oils damaging the strings...go figure) - so we had to wait until the secondary Steinway piano could be wheeled out and tuned for the session.

    Good news - no, make that FANTASTIC news - was that the engineer gave the green light for me to use my tablet pc for the recording! My biggest fear was that the tablet pc's internal fan would somehow be too loud for the uber-sensitive mikes (yes, he IS using at least 2 pair of BK mikes within his 6 mike setup - those mikes are SCARY! Once had a session where the engineer could hear my stomach growl from 20 feet away with those same mike models!). I had prepared the tablet pc by taping a piece of felt over the top vent and placing a passive thermal heat sink behind the computer...fortunately, that seemed to be good enough to pass the "quiet" test! Otherwise, i would have been forced to use paper backups (ugh!) An additional towel was placed over the PowerMate to completely muffle the sounds of my page turns, so that was an added bonus.

    Tough first day...recording never gets any easier. Difficult repertoire, and still plenty more to go (Jan thought we could rip through everything in just 2 days, but it's pretty clear that we'll need the full 3 days as originally planned). What a brain drain...if i'm being a bit incoherent as i type this blog, blame it on the recording session.

    Jennifer Higdon joined the beginning of the session, playing the first flute part of her flute duet entitled "Lullaby" - boy, she sounded great! Really looking forward to sitting down with her sometime soon to do a podcast interview!

    Ok, gotta get some sleep now...brain is drained, body is weary, and mind needs to refuel to get through the next two days...

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    May 22, 06

    Podcast #12 - The Balanced Pianist with Susan Nowicki

    Pianists can be susceptible to a host of injuries. To address these issues, Susan Nowicki, a faculty member of the Dorothy Taubman Institute of Piano from 1997 to 2002 and current faculty member of the Curtis Institute of Music, will present principles of the Taubman technique as a clinician in The Balanced Pianist summer program at Colorado Christian University in July 2006.


    I asked Susan to talk about the Taubman technique, as well as her activities as an active pianist in the Philadelphia area.


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    May 20, 06

    The Green Mile: Philadelphia Orchestra Violin Auditions














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    May 19, 06

    Tackling Extended Piano Techniques with a New Music Rack and an Ink Blog






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    May 18, 06

    New Poll script messes up blog in IE

    This shouldn't be much of a surprise, but it turns out my new Poll Script messes up the layout of my blog when viewed within Internet Explorer. My browser of choice is Firefox, so i highly recommend switching to that if you're having problems viewing this site - i'll try to fix the poll script, but in the meantime...

    [Update: Still haven't figured out why my new poll script totally messes things up in IE - since over half of my readers use IE, i figured it would be best to put the poll temporarily on ice until i can work out the technical glitches...if you still would like to vote, you can see the poll temporarily parked here. All the votes are intact, it just messes up the layout of the entire site in IE...sigh...anyone out there like to take a look at the PHP script and help me figure this out? You can download it here...] No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

    I've been 'South Park'ed'!!

    Brian Sacawa came up with the most artistic rendition of me, thanks to a new 'make-your-own-South-Park-character' website:

    Hugh Sung in "South Park", a la Brian Sacawa

    Just for the record, i don't watch South Park myself...but this is just too hilarious!

    Thanks, Brian, i think...boy, do i need a haircut...

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    New Music Rack for Prepared Piano and Tablet PC

    Next week i'll be recording an amazing set of contemporary works for flute and piano with Jan Vinci. One of the works - "And Then, Things Changed" by Hsueh-Yung Shen - calls for fiendish fingers, cylon-precision rhythmic skills, and extended piano techniques where strings are dampened and plucked. It was the extended techniques that got me thinking about designing a new type of music rack to allow for full access to the piano strings on both sides of the dampers, and this is what i came up with:
    Since the tablet pc only displays a single sheet of music at a time, this design accommodates a more narrow rack, allowing for greater flexibility when reaching into the string bed.

    Here is a closeup view of the music rack placed further back to allow for access to the strings both in front of and behind the dampers.

    Here is another view with the rack moved all the way forward in a more 'traditional' position. Note how the long arms of the rack rest on top of the iron-cast framework.


    The black book/document stand is completely collapsible, with rubberized feet and the ability to adjust for 9 different viewing angles. You can get this at Staples (though i can't for the life of me find it on their online catalogue...)

    Go to my picture gallery for more views of my new piano music rack.


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    May 17, 06

    Tech meets the Foot and the Fret

    I've been amazed at the generosity of the online community, particularly when it comes to sharing great information. One reader of my site has pitched two great leads, both of which i'll pass on to all of you.

    The first is a new type of foot pedal - actually geared towards PC gamers - but the device seems to be completely programmable, so there's every reason to believe that it could work as a viable Page Turning footswitch. Talk about making your feet look good! Good thing the membranes of this device are designed for heavy usage - just watch out for the smoking pedals when you need to turn pages for the Prokofiev Toccata!
    From www.extremetech.com coverage of the E3 show is mention of the "The Fragpedal". The blurb says "Also form GWS, the Fragpedal moves the left and right mouse buttons to the floor. So when you fire (using your foot), the mouse doesn’t jerk from the reflex of pushing your finger."

    Direct Link to article here

    Sad to say it does not appear to be wireless, but with two buttons (hopefully programmable) it could be useful. Oh, and I really hope it comes in a color other than red - unless you have the Elton John "Special Edition" Yamaha Diskclavier grand piano!

    Found it doing a google. Looks nice (not red) - check it out at this link. Price $79.95.

    Love your site! Keep up the good work.


    The other lead is a promotional hybrid device, marrying a Fender electric guitar with an HP TC1100 Tablet PC computer embedded in back!
    Thought you might find this interesting, since it is a really cool "Music Tablet PC" news item. It concerns the "The Intel-Fender Telecaster Guitar" with built-in tablet PC.

    Quote: "Introduced last November, the Intel/Fender Telecaster marries the features of the venerable solid-body electric guitar with a Hewlett-Packard TC1100 tablet PC. Equipped with 1.25GB of RAM, an Echo Indigo I/O sound card and Intel's Centrino wireless technology, the tablet allows the guitarist to play the instrument while listening privately through headphones, record a demo, e-mail the demo to friends, tap into online resources, and use the guitar-PC's Webcam."

    CNET blog link

    Photo 1
    Photo 2

    The author of the article states that the guitar/computer capabilities aren't earth-shattering - you can do those things with separate off-the-shelf components right now - but keep in mind that these are promotional items, not designed for commercial sale. You have to admit, it looks pretty cool!
    Thanks again for the tips! Keep them coming!

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    What makes ink blogging attractive




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    May 16, 06

    Find me on Blognoggle's Top 100 Classical Music Blogs!

    Wow! What an honor! My blog has been added to Blognoggle's Top 100 Classical Music Blogs! Blognoggle does a fascinating job of "shadowing" the most recent blog posts from their roster, effectively giving you a bird's eye view of the Classical Music scene today on a single page. Think of it as a dedicated/selective RSS reader (special browser based programs that capture feeds from sites that post new content on a regular basis - my favorite RSS reader currently is Bloglines, but there are several other wonderful readers out there) specializing in the field of classical and contemporary art music. Be sure to make Blognoggle New Music/Classical and a nice cup of coffee a part of your morning daily news routine! Thanks, Blognoggle!

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    The Joy of Ink

    Sumocat and Silver run amazing blogs that are entirely written in digital ink. It really feels like you're leafing through the paper pages of a moleskin diary! Sumocat's groundbreaking 'proof of concept' blog has been around since July 2005, but relative-newcomer Silver has come up with an innovative way to create hyperlinks within the digital ink images, using Microsoft's Front Page to 'draw' URL hotspots (as Sumocat plaintively put it, "It is inevitable that the student will become the master..."




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    Video Podcast: Using Gimp to Clean Up Music Image Files

    GIMP is a wonderful open-source photo editing program, comparable to commerical products like Adobe Photoshop (which can cost as much as $700 for a single license). Just the other day, i was writing about using various copy stand options that would allow you to use a digital camera as a document scanner (you can find the article here). As promised, here is my screencast video demonstrating how i cleaned up the original photo of a page of music.

    Here's a view of the original photograph:

    Before


    And now a look at it after i cleaned it up with GIMP;

    After



    BTW, i did get around to downloading and installing CutePDF Writer, a free program that can turn any printable document into a PDF file. Note that for the program to work you need to install BOTH the program AND the free converter, both of which are available from the download page. When you are working with multiple image files, you can easily select all of them within a given folder (preferrably an image folder in Windows) and print them into a single PDF document using Windows' image printing wizard and selecting CutePDF Writer as the preferred virtual printer.

    [Update: Sorry, i used the wrong script for my video podcast post, hence the delay in getting this updated in iTunes - note to self: need to remember to use "Enclosure" instead of "Podcast" for videos!]

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    May 15, 06

    Back on iTunes!

    Good news! My new feed is now back on the iTunes podcast directory! Now you can search for my podcast by either my proper name ("Hugh Sung") or my 'web name' ("hughsung"), or even by terms like "Classical Pianist" (looks like i'm at the top of the featured titles with that one! hahaha!)

    To subscribe via iTunes, you can click on the icon below:


    Even if you've already manually subscribed to the podcast previously, i'd appreciate it if you could re-subscribe via the new feed. That way i can have a better idea of how popular (or not) my podcast series is. I'm really excited over the next batch of podcasts coming up - tune in tomorrow for a neat video podcast, and several more video editions to come covering a variety of "how to" subjects. Great audio interviews coming up too, and i'm hoping to draft together an open proposal for general invitations for submissions and participatory projects - should be lots of fun, so be sure to jump on the band wagon and subscribe/re-subscribe already!

    (p.s. Many thanks to Mario for his generous spirit and eagerness to help! Much obliged! - oh, and your "Cold Play" instructional video rocks!!)

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    Podcast #11 - Sheridan Seyfried, Composer - Part 2

    Composer Sheridan Seyfried is a native of Philadelphia and currently studying with Richard Danielpour at The Curtis Institute of Music. His works have been performed in major venues throughout North America and Europe, including the Kennedy Center, Verizon Hall, the Mozarteum Grand Hall in Salzburg, and Vienna's Radio Symphony Hall. In addition to his accomplishments as a composer, Sheridan is also a gifted violinist and pianist.



    Music featured in this podcast:
  • Love Song (2003) after Yeats; originally for voice and piano - whole song is included here; Jonah Kim, cello, Sheridan Seyfried, piano

  • excerpt from Quintet for Strings (2005) - I. Vivo; Stephanie Jeong, Anna Tifu, violins, Joel Link, viola, Jonah Kim, cello, Alexander Hanna, bass


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    May 13, 06

    Scanning Music with a Digital Camera

    I absolutely love my Justice Visions Portable Scanner Camera, warts and all (see the original review written by Barry Brahier here) and many students at Curtis have eyed it longingly...but the $499 price point is simply too high for any of them to seriously consider purchasing one for themselves. One student in particular has been hounding me about trying to come up with a cheaper solution, as he is about to go overseas to start a new orchestra job and wants to have a truly portable scanning solution.


    Well, the Justice Visions PSC is essentially a high quality digital camera on a folding stand, so in principle you could use any comparable digital megapixel camera (something that most folks are more likely to own). All you would need would be a copy stand to hold the camera and have it point down to the music you want to copy, keeping it steady and ensuring relatively uniform pictures from page to page. Typical copy stands can be pretty bulky, with dual lamps on gooseneck arms extending from the central copy stand arm (for example, here's a link to the Froogle listing for the Testrite 23-C Flexi Copy Lights, which costs between $56 to $77.)


    The most portable copy stand solution i was able to come across seems to be one sold by an eBay store. It's basically a monopod that secures one end to the edge of a table with a clamp, and hold a camera with a typical stand screw on the other end. The angle and height both seem to be adjustable. The Monopod Photo Copy stand is currently selling for about $40.


    The next "portable" size might be the Testrite CS-7 Mini Copy Stand, which is slightly more expensive at $42.95. The legs can be removed for portability. Keep in mind, that for both the Testrite CS-7 and the Monopod you will need to provide a separate light source.

    For an excellent article that goes into detail regarding the use of digital cameras to copy books and documents, click here. It does a good job discussing the requirements for legibility, as well as the limitations and benefits of using digital cameras as scanners.

    The student i mentioned above sent me a 1 MB example of a page of music he photographed. It looks quite good - the resolution is high enough that the notes are clear, but the lighting source was relatively dim, making the picture look pretty dark and greyed out overall. To fix this, you could use either industry-standard Photoshop, or a free open source photo editor like Gimp to convert images to greyscale and adjust the brightness and contrast settings to make the background page look lighter and the printed notes darker. You could also adjust the angle by any degree if the image is off-kilter. I'll try to come up with a screencast video showing how to do these touchups within Gimp sometime soon. For now, here is a copy of the same page of music that i cleaned up.

    After you've cleaned up your digital images, you would then need to assemble them into a single document. PDF would be the preferred format, in my opinion - if you don't have the professional version of Adobe Acrobat, then you might be able to use one of the freeware versions available, such as CutePDF Writer, PrimoPDF, PDF Creator, or WinPDF. To be honest, i haven't worked with these programs myself, so if some kind soul could give one (or all) of these a try, please be sure to send me a write up. In particular, i'd like to know if these programs can put multiple separate files into one single document, or if they can add pages to existing PDF docs.

    Hope this helps!

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    iTunes Subscription Snafu

    Ugh...i think i messed something up...in trying to change my RSS feed for my iTunes podcast directory, it seems that i've both managed to remove my old feed AND somehow prevent iTunes from recognizing the new one...
    grrr....
    I'll keep trying to update the directory listing via iTunes, but in the meantime, if you'd like to have my podcasts automatically downloaded to your iPod, please follow the following directions:
    1. Within iTunes, click on "Advanced", then click on "Subscribe to Podcast"
    2. In the URL box, enter: http://feeds.feedburner.com/hughsung/Wxsq
    3. Click "Ok"

    The latest podcast episodes should now be available for individual download and automatic updates. Sorry for the confusion - hope to have my series relisted on iTunes soon...if i can figure out how to untangle myself (anybody able to offer any help?)


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    May 12, 06

    New Podcast Playlist Addition: MarioCast, The Piano Podcast

    Mario Ajero is a Music Ed (with a concentration in Piano Pedagogy) PhD candidate at the University of Oklahoma who has put together an amazing audio and video podcast series covering a wide range of technology/pedagogy topics, from group teaching techniques to MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) lectures, as well as a nice set of solo and collaborative performances. This guy is a terrific pianist - check out his performance of the first movement of the Copland Sonata here! His videos are beautifully titled and rendered, and the pedagogy topics are really insightful and filled with practical tips (i loved the discussion with colleague Julie Knerr on successful group piano class techniques - i had envisioned a room full of synthesizers and headphones, but was pleasantly surprised to see the imaginative and wide-ranging activites that can be done with just a single acoustic piano and a room full of eager kids! Take note of the improvisation exercises and the innovative rhythm card games!)
    Nice to see that Mario is from the Philly area (he hails from Cherry Hill, NJ), which explains his familiarity with the Phillies and Citizens Bank Park.
    Too bad he's a Mac guy...i'll have to work my Dark Force powers on him to woo him to the Dark Side and the world of Tablet PC's!
    Keep up the great work, Mario! Maybe we could do a podcast together sometime...

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    Music Rights Management gets a little easier

    The Harry Fox agency handles the mechanical rights licenses for music in the U.S. (mechanical rights are what you need to obtain to have permission to reproduce music in recordings). The byzantine process has now been made a bit easier with the Fox agency's offering of online processing via a new website, digitalmix.com. Should be a big boon to musicians and producers everywhere. I wonder, is there a one-size-fits-all rights management system like CCLI in place for classical musicians? (CCLI stands for Christian Copyright Licensing International - essentially it offers churches the rights to use an extensive library of music and videos for worship services for set yearly fees - different licensing packages range from reproduction of song lyrics to full videos)

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    May 11, 06

    Lecture Notes: The History of the Piano

    This morning i gave my 1-day version of my lecture on "The History of the Piano", from the Pythagorean Monochord to the Yamaha Disklavier Pro 2000, for a wonderful group of Elderhostel participants. The material was developed from my original 4-day series on the development of keyboard instruments (that full lecture series will be given at Curtis for another Elderhostel group in June).

    As always, the group was enthusiastic, the discussion was lively, and the questions were excellent! As a follow-up, i'm posting a few notes and links as a general point of departure for the class. Enjoy!

  • Here is a timeline of the development of keyboard instruments from 500 B.C. to 1700 A.D.


  • Here is an outline from my PowerPoint slides of the development of the modern piano from the Harpsichord to the Janko Keyboard


  • The Ancient Hydraulis is generally considered to be the first true keyboard instrument, invented by the Greek engineer Ctesibius around 250 B.C. Here's a link to the Archaeology Channel's video page, where you can find a wonderful streaming movie detailing the reconstruction of the Hydraulis of Dion. The clip is entitled, "The Ancient Hydraulis (Greece)", located about 6 items down from the top of the page.


  • Here is a great web page for hammered dulcimer instructional videos and books. The video clips give some nice demonstrations. The hammered dulcimer, or Tympanon, was a 15th century instrument that laid the basic principles leading to the eventual development of the Cristofori pianoforte


  • The Metropolitan Museum has an audio sample of a Ludovico Giustini sonata played on the museum's Cristofori Pianoforte


  • Here's a fantastic sound sample page from "Five lectures on the Acoustics of the Piano" containing clips that compare a wide variety of instruments, from a Cristofori piano to wooden frame pianos to the modern Steinway.


  • Here is a link to my article reporting on a wonderful project to convert old piano rolls to MIDI files via a new optical scanning program


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    Podcast #10 - Sheridan Seyfried, Composer - Part 1

    Composer Sheridan Seyfried is a native of Philadelphia and currently studying with Richard Danielpour at The Curtis Institute of Music. His works have been performed in major venues throughout North America and Europe, including the Kennedy Center, Verizon Hall, the Mozarteum Grand Hall in Salzburg, and Vienna's Radio Symphony Hall. In addition to his accomplishments as a composer, Sheridan is also a gifted violinist and pianist.



    Music featured in this podcast:
  • excerpt from "Assassin's Hour" for Orchestra (2006) - Andrew Hauze, conductor, with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra

  • excerpt from Sonata for Violin and Piano (2005): "Feroce" - Elena Urioste, violin, Hugh Sung, piano

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    May 10, 06

    New Podcast Playlist Addition: EdTech Musician

    Three words that get me excited: Ed(ucation), Tech(nology), and Musician (:-) - EdTech Musician sounds like the perfect equation for a new addition to my iPod playlist! I must confess, i haven't heard any episodes yet - i'm writing this just as i'm downloading my first batch, but the content summaries and links are too good not to share! I'll report back when i've heard this podcast for myself. Stay tuned!

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    My iPod Playlist

    Most people probably consider the iPod primarily as a music player, but i've always enjoyed listening to audio books purchased through my membership at Audible.com. Now with internet technologies like podcasting and RSS (Really Simple Syndication), you can really explore a whole world of new and informative content like never before, and virtually all of them for free!

    Here are a few of my favorite podcasts (in alpha order) that have become part of my iPod playlist. All of these can be found in iTunes' Podcast Directory - i'm presenting them as links to their source websites here:

  • Cacophonous.org - a terrific, ecclectic podcast about contemporary art music, musicians and composers, with performances, interviews, and news. A great way to keep abreast of the contemporary art music scene!


  • Cello Journey (video podcast) - i noticed that Luke's videos weren't iPod compatible, so i emailed him about it - good news is that he's now reformatted his delightful cello music video series (the compatible episodes are labeled, appropriately, "iPod Edition"). Luke presents small vignettes of cello repertoire in a friendly atmosphere - well played, i should add! - with nice commentary and descriptions of the works he presents.


  • Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church - my home church's podcast, featuring sermons, Sunday School lessons, and even a set of readings through the Westminster Shorter Catechism (by yours truly, ahem, ahem), available either as one full reading (about 40 minutes in length) or broken up into sets of 10 questions (it's also available as a zipped folder containing all the questions individually that can be imported into your iPod)


  • HughSung.com via Feed2Podcast.com - some crazy pianist thought it would be fun to hear a computerized voice read his blog for folks who don't have the time to sit by a monitor and read the old fashioned way! Ok, ok, i keep a copy of my own podcast in my iPod...for demonstration purposes, really...yes, really!


  • Inside Home Recording - just starting to delve into this rich archive of audio recording tips for the amateur home studio. There's a ton of really helpful advice and reviews of affordable equipment, presented in a fun, easy to absorb style (but i'd recommend having a tablet pc and pen handy to take notes, all the same!)


  • "Just Thinking" and "Let My People Think", two podcast series from Ravi Zacharias, a thought-provoking Christian apologist and intellect. Food for the heart, soul, and mind!


  • Make Magazine (video podcast) - wow, and i thought my PowerMate cradle was cool - check out the amazing things you can make from everyday (and not-so-everyday) stuff (i love the link to the video iPod hard case/stand that can be made from an old plastice tape cassette cover!) An amazing resource that's sure to get your creative juices flowing!


  • Naxos does a nice job of presenting samples of their enourmous classical music catalogue in their podcasts, combined with great descriptions of the works and an occasional luminary interview. Good stuff, especially for exploring unfamiliar music.


  • Renewing Your Mind from Ligonier Ministries with R. C. Sproul - another great resource for the thinking Christian. There's a great episode dealing with some of the contraversial aspects of the novel (and upcoming movie), "The DaVinci Code" that's well worth checking out


  • Rocket Boom (video podcast) - this is a fun, hip, daily 3 minute tech/geek news video produced in New York City with a consumer-grade video camera, two lights, a laptop, a wallpaper map, and charismatic host Amanda Congdon, and the astounding operating budget of $0! This amazing formula has catapulted RocketBoom to podcast stardom by being one of the most syndicated programs around - either that, or the kvetchy theme song...


  • Have a favorite podcast? Let me know what you're listening to, and i might try it out myself!



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    May 09, 06

    Podzinger: Search podcast audio text!

    I came across this amazing free web application from viewing a video podcast episode of "Rocket Boom", a kind of geek news overview. Podzinger employs speech-to-text technology, and essentially allows you to search the text of any subscribed audio podcast! I've just added a podzinger search bar in my podcast directory - here's a sample search box for you to try out. As with all speech-to-text technology, the computer has a way of mangling certain names and words that are 'garbled', so some of the results might not work as spelled. Also, it seems to take a while for new episodes to become "searchable" (usually a matter of days, i think), so the most recent episodes may not turn up in your search query, but what a cool service! (This will be particularly helpful for my pastor's sermons on our church website!) Let me know what you think!




    [Note: it looks like Podzinger has only archived my podcast episodes starting from #6, so you won't be able to search the text of older podcasts...maybe i'll "re-issue" them to make them searchable...]

    BTW, speaking of speech-to-text technologies, has anyone checked out my feed2podcast version of this blog? You can hear a computer reading the text version of my articles...pretty cool, huh?


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    May 08, 06

    Video iPod glitch

    When i first received my video iPod from my eBay seller, i thought the unit was defective. After its first full charge, none of the controls seemed to respond if the unit was unplugged from the USB cable. I managed to get the unit working after completely wiping out the iPod's hard drive and reinstalling the latest drivers, but i noticed that sometimes when i unplugged the iPod right after a full charge, the unit would not shut off, and the power icon would show that it was still plugged in. Even after holding down the "play" button to do a manual shutoff, even after rebooting the machine, the unit would still stubbornly stay "on" and proceed to completely drain itself within about 2 or 3 hours.
    Turns out, the workaround is as follows: right after unplugging the video iPod from a full charging, i need to play something for about a minute or two. By doing so, the unit starts to recognize that it's no longer receiving a direct electric current, changes mode to show that it's running off of the battery, and allows itself to be turned off.

    Battery life is pretty lousy, i must say. Running audio only podcasts or music seems fine, but video clips will quickly drain the batteries dry. I don't see how you can get more than an hour and a half of video at the most from a full charge...that's pretty ridiculous, in comparison to my Samsung i730 Pocket PDA phone, which allows for at least a good 3 hours of video play on a much larger screen, in addition to being a full-fledged cell phone and pda with great speakers and even Bluetooth audio capabilities (albeit, limited to mono audio via a software hack)...

    So why go the Apple route? The iPod's hard drive and RSS. The 30 gig drive makes it so easy to just load up with whatever i want and just not worry about space or memory management, in contrast to my i730 which needs to have its 1 gig SD memory card constantly emptied and refilled with content. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) via iTunes makes it so easy to subscribe to a world of great audio and video podcasts, kind of like having my own customized radio station filled with only the shows i really want to listen to. Each time i plug my iPod in for a charge, it's automatically updated with the newest versions of my favorite shows.

    It's a love/hate thing - hate the technical quirks and limitations of the iPod, love it's simplicity and ease of use. And being a content provider now of sorts with my ongoing podcast series, you can't argue too hard against such a ubiquitous medium.

    Keep an eye out for a new little left-column link feature, "My iPod Playlist" featuring my favorite podcasts - coming soon!


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    May 06, 06

    News Roundup from the Blogosphere

    As the semester here at Curtis winds to a close, here are a couple of interesting articles that i gleaned from the blogosphere this week:

  • Bart Collins from The Well-Tempered Blog writes about Canadian Pianist Anton Kuerti's efforts at reconstructing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 0 - in essense, a 6th piano concerto - from a single piano reduction written when Beethoven was 14 years old. The premiere performance of this reconstruction will take place on May 30 in Montreal with Kuerti and Boris Brott conducting the McGill Chamber Orchestra. Go here to read the original article from The Chronicle Herald.


  • Kevin C. Tofel from JKOnTheRun.com reports that the teachers at Clinton Central Elementary school in Indiana will be using Tablet PC's and digital projectors in the classroom. How's that for a forward-thinking school board? Apparently, the 36 tablet pc's only cost $34,200 - excellent price, i imagine, for buying them in bulk! It's also interesting to note that these tablet pc's and digital projectors will essentially be replacing the blackboard, TV's, VCR's, DVD players, and overhead projectors. Another point made is that the teacher's back won't be turned to the students as they use their digital pen to draw examples and make presentations, enabling more direct contact between teachers and students.Here is the original article from The Times, based in Indiana.


  • If you work at or for a non-profit entity (which pretty much describes most of the classical music organizations out there), you must spend some time reading this article by Matthew Richter from TheStranger.com. Essentially, Mr. Richter argues that non-profits are falling apart as an organizational model, and that between a corporations and non-profits, a third model must be created: essentially, a corporate/non-profit hybrid, merging the financial strengths and incentives of the corporate model with the altruism and social benefit of the non-profit. Fascinating reading, with so much of it ringing true in my mind especially as i read the descriptions of why non-profits are falling apart from within...


  • Audiophile Thomas Hampson will appreciate this story: Richard Menta from Digital Music News reported that the company MusicGiants is collaborating with Microsoft to embed their music store within Windows Media 10. Download music stores like iTunes typically offer compressed versions of CD tracks - for most consumers, these 128 Bit resolution downloads sound good enough, but for audiophiles with high-end equipment the resolution is simply too low and makes the music sound thin and flat (there was an interesting round table discussion on a recent episode of TWIT where Leo LaPorte remarked that Apple's new high-end speaker for the iPod revealed how limited classical music sounds when played as a low-res download). MusicGiants will work with Windows Media 10's lossless codec (compression/decompression code, a method of getting computers to interpret large files as smaller ones for easier transmission) - tracks will be priced higher at $1.29 a pop, and albums will go for $15, roughly the same as physical CD's. This will be interesting to see (and hear) how it develops, especially in light of existing lossless codecs like FLAC and Apple's own ALAC format...


  • Here's a fascinating press release from Freehand Systems regarding the use of their MusicPad Pro in an Internet 2 video conferenced Master Class featuring violinist/president David Cerone from the Cleveland Institute of Music! The demonstration took place at an Internet 2 conference in Miami Beach, which was designed to be "a hands-on audio/video production workshop for distance learning and remote event technologists" (wish i could have been there). It will be interesting to see where CIM goes with the MusicPad Pro if they decide to integrate it into their pedagogy... No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon
  • May 05, 06

    Friday Freebies

    Check out some of these links:
  • I dare you not to spend time playing around with this fascinating online visual composition program from typorganism.com! Music and rythms are composed straight from your QWERTY keyboard, with corresponding (and addictive) visual stimulants

  • This is the motherload of freeware programs, smartly categorized by tasks. Unbelievably comprehensive. A huge resource for the musician without a budget...

  • A few years ago, i thought that moving applications away from the desktop computer and leaving them to be run purely through internet connections was a crazy idea. Why in the world would i want to use a program i didn't have a disk for? Well, with the advent of programming languages like AJAX, i'm beginning to see how wrong i was (i.e., Gmail - i'm actually getting more comfortable leaving my email online than downloading it into my computer, since Gmail does such a fantastic job of searching all my messages in lightning fast time). If you find yourself on the road a lot, or shuffling between several locations, you might want to seriously consider working on your word documents online with free programs like Zoho Writer, gOffice, and ThinkFree. Another example is WriteBoard, an online word processor with collaborative capabilities (great if you have multiple authors, or simply want to have others proof your work). All work is done in your browser, and you don't have to worry about trying to figure out which document is stored in which computer anymore, since it's all stored online.


  • Enjoy!


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    Catalysts & Connections - Fantastic Music Education blog

    Evan Tobias, previously mentioned in my blog about his collaboration with concert saxophonist Brian Sacawa, writes an amazing blog on contemporary music education. I mean, truly amazing! If you're looking for resources, inspiration, ideas and models to explore in your pedagogy, you must take some time to read up on Evan's blog. His primary focus seems to be developing innovative techniques for teaching modern composition to his students, and from what i've read so far, this man deserves a medal!

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    May 04, 06

    Quick Links added

    While my move to this new host server has been mostly terrific, i've noticed that my blog category list no longer links correctly. Until i can go through the code and figure out how to get that applet talking nicely to MySQL 5.0 (website database, don't ask...), i'll be manually adding links to some of the most popular items along the top left column. So far i've added the popular "Getting Started" page, as well as a new "Podcast Directory" (9 audio podcasts and 1 video podcast at the time of this writing, with many, many more waiting final post-production editing!). Coming soon:

  • Hardware - articles discussing hardware-related items, including the archives of my Griffin PowerMate Cradle articles

  • Software - a respository for all the articles relating to software issues for musicians

  • How To - i've gotten requests for help with setting up personal/blog websites, and would like to start a new series on mobile digital recording. As i post these types of articles, i'll add this page

  • Showcase - this will be an experimental page, designed to provide concert and event presenters with a roster of musicians that i highly recommend. Features will include a dedicated page filled with pictures, bios, embedded videos and sound clips.


  • Hope you enjoy the redesign! No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

    Scanning old Piano Rolls to Digital MIDI files

    This is absolutely incredible - i just read Michael Kaulkin's blog about his engineering friend who can optically scan piano rolls and convert the information to MIDI, the digital music language that modern synthesizers and digital pianos use. The link to the piano roll scanning info page is here. I have CD's of some amazing piano roll performances by Debussy, Gershwin, and Josef Hoffman, who himself praised the Piano Rolls' expressive qualities and ability to capture the nuances of great pianists...this is tremendous news, and a fantastic way to both preserve and propogate an amazing catalogue of music "recorded" in this fashion!


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    ThinkDenk: amazing blog by pianist Jeremy Denk

    Jeremy Denk, concert pianist, writes a fantastic blog...my connection to him is only by so many degrees of separation (Jeff Khaner knows him, David Ludwig has argued the merits of Ives with him...), but my admiration for this highly respected pianist grows by leaps and bounds with every post that he publishes. This man has GOT to write a book! Or at least, a screenplay for the next art-film blockbuster ("Schubert in Starbucks"?)

    Be sure to check out Jeremy's wonderful rendition of David's "Isabella in Venice" from his podcast interview, part 2.

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    May 03, 06

    iPod Earphone Cord Wrap with Hair Ties

    I really hope the new video iPod comes with Bluetooth capabilities, because i hate dealing with earphone cords. That being said, i've come up with a simple solution for quickly wrapping and storing said cord - borrowing my old technique of using hair ties (the kind with two plastic balls attached to an elastic loop) to wrap up my power cords, i found that by leaving the hair ties wrapped around my video iPod (shown here in a neoprene protective case) i could quickly, easily - and CHEAPLY - wrap my earphones around my iPod and secure them by slipping the ends through the two plastic balls.

    My version of an earphone wrap for my iPod

    View of iPod with hair ties and cord unwrapped

    For a larger view of these pictures, visit my new iPod picture gallery here.

    I did a quick search to see if there were similar products for earphone cord management, and here's what i came up with:
  • A $12 flexible piece of plastic called the SmartWrap

  • A $10 EarPod, which acts as a wrap and earphone case in one

  • Marware's Sidewinder for 5G case, which features a protective case and slide out earphone cord wrap - this goes for about $30 - pretty cool features, including a kickstand, but i like the color of my neoprene case better...

  • Here's a clever little plastic "monster" that gobbles up earphone cords - the Tetran - which will only set you back $13...


  • There are other nifty cord management devices, but i think i'll stick with my cheapo hair-tie technique. Let me know what you think!

    BTW, here's a link to a really cool video demonstration of the "over/under" cord wrapping technique - might not work well with earphones, but it's great to know! This link was discovered in the MetaFilter discussion posted by someone else frustrated with iPod earphone cords.

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    Be Moved! Collaborative music project with Brian Sacawa and Willow Grove Students

    Check out this innovative educational collaboration between Brian Sacawa and Evan Tobias' students at the Willow Grove Middle School. The project is called "Be Moved!", and it involves the students at Willow Grove writing short compositions for Brian, a concert saxophonist (and contemporary music blogger extraordinaire!) to record as digital sound files. The recorded sound files are then uploaded to a server for the students to download and manipulate into a final remixed composition. The project's activities are being documented on a blog, which presently features a great Q&A between Brian and the students. What a fantastic way for these kids to connect directly and creatively with professional musicians!

    BTW, this is reminiscent of the Vermont MIDI project for composers - podcast interview with David Ludwig on that project to be posted soon!

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    May 02, 06

    Midori: New Music Champion?

    Check out this New York Times article on Midori's efforts at championing new music. Also check out Midori's own website - some really innovative approaches to bridging connections between new music and reluctant audiences, including symposiums, DVD's mailed out to ticket buyers, and even a 50% discount on Midori's performance fee for presenters to take a chance on this type of programming. Kudos to Midori, and best wishes for her courageous artistic endeavors!

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    Home stretch at Curtis...

    The final week at Curtis, and things are going to be crazy for me...two more graduation recitals to play for, and a recital with Jeff Khaner at the Art Alliance next Monday...ongoing rehearsals in preparation for a CD recording project with Jan Vinci...and a full plate of podcasts to put into post-production editing! So many exciting things to tackle and blog about - in particular, i can't wait to dive into video podcasting!

    There is light at the end of the tunnel, but my blog posts might be a bit sparse this week, so please bear with me. Thanks for visiting, and stay tuned! No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

    May 01, 06

    Podcast #9 - PrivateLessons.com, Part 3

    In the last of our three part series on PrivateLessons.com, Ghena explains some of the principals of internet marketing and how it can be harnessed for the working musician today.




    Musical selections from Ghena's CD "Songs & Dances" - "Song Without Words" in E-flat major, Op. 53, No. 2 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

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    Welcome!

    Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!

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