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Questions & Answers - Answers 1

Why are the book, eBook, audio and video sold separately?

Self-publishing with amazon-createspace is fantastic - they ship the books anywhere - the books look great - and Calixto, Melón and I can earn a much higher percentage that we could if we let a big publishing company publish the books. But amazon doesn't support putting a physical CD or DVD in the book, so the book is strictly a book. For the audio and video, the whole world is going towards all electronic and both CDs and DVDs will probably be extinct soon. In the mean time, it's just not worth producing them for sale, so we sell the audio as downloadable MP3s on LPM and the video as downloadable MOVs on LPM. If you want to use them with a CD or DVD player, you can very easily burn your own from the files. We ask you not to make copies of the files for your friends so that we can earn enough money to make it worth producing more books. This leaves the eBook product. If you only want to read the book on your PC (it doesn't work on Mac), or print it with your own printer, you can save money because the eBook is half the cost of the physical hard-copy book.

Does the video product play on any computer without additional software?

Yes. For example, you buy the video product for Volume 2, for $9.99 on LPM and you get a .zip file with seven normal .MOV files in it. You double click one and play it on your computer. If it doesn't work you have to go to apple.com and download QuickTime for free .

What about the thing with the loops and Trancribe! software and all that?

Okay, here's where it gets complicated. As a bonus feature, I've also added some special video looping files that you can optionally use with a separate program called Transcribe! (The explanation point is part of the title.) I am not affiliated with the company and if you buy Transcribe! I don't get any money or anything like that. The program is FREE for one month and then if you want to keep using it, you have to buy it, for $50 or $35 Euros.

If you don't have anything to do with this company, why did you make it so you have to get the program to get the maximum value out of your product? Are you nuts or what?

Well, yes, I am nuts, but that's not why I did it this way. When I made a seamless loop of Calixto Oviedo playing at one 20% of normal speed, but at normal pitch ... it was just so cool that I couldn't imagine doing it any other way. BUT DON'T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT ... you can get the program for free for one month and try it, and if you don't agree, just watch the videos normally like any other instructional video. But watch the trailer again and imagine me trying to write all that down (is it any wonder I'm nuts?). Being able to slow it down to five times slower than he played it, and loop any section in clave ... well,  I rest my case.

Aside from whether we watch it looped or normally, just what exactly is in the video product anyway?

There's one video for each chapter which contains Calixto playing the rhythm covered by that chapter and talking about it. There are "subtitles" that translate what he says and add comments while he plays. Now ... bear with me here ... every exercise in that chapter of the book is somewhere on the video, and when it gets to the part that I used for Exercise 3-15, for example, the text bar of the video will tell you.

Okay - so, does he play each exercise fast and then slow like in the Tomás Cruz books?

No. The Calixto books take the opposite approach. With Tomasito, we wrote out the exercises, and when he did the video, he just played them as written. With Calixto, we had him play - the way he naturally plays on a gig, and then, after he left, I studied the video and made audio loops from it, which I then wrote out, and then later, I figured out how to make the video loop in the same way as the audio files.

That's the approach of this book. To study the way Calixto plays naturally. I did the same thing with the Melón Lewis piano books, except in the case of piano, it was much easier because I could record him playing MIDI and the making the loops and transcribing them was a piece of cake. With Calixto, it's all real audio and video, so it had to be transcribed the old-fashioned way. But the bottom line is that this method is perfect for Calixto and Melón because they play with a technique that I call "controlled improvisation", which is explained in great detail in both the Melón and Calixto books.

So Calixto just improvised on the video?

No no no (wagging index finger a lo cubano) . We had Calixto in a video studio for three straight days. We had a list of topics chosen by me, Carlos Caro and Alexey Berlind.  We would say  - for example - "okay, Calixto - when NG went to a piano breakdown, you did all that amazing stuff on the hihat - give us some of that" - and then we'd say "wow - that was amazing - now give us the same feel, but with an easier part that a normal human being might be able to play" and then we'd say "perfect - now give us a medium-hard one", or "what was that thing you played on Santa palabra?" and so on. Later, I went through each video slowly and chose passages that would make great exercises and created fast and slow audio loops  (just like the Melón audio files, but instead of MIDI, it's the actual audio of Calixto's drums being looped). I then transcribed each exercise for the book.

But then ... I discovered this program called Transcribe!  Transcribe!   has been around for years and, like AmazingSlowDowner, it lets you play back audio at a slower tempo without changing the pitch. This of course was a massive miracle at the time, but it's no longer a big deal. Nowadays, even WindowsMediaPlayer can slow down audio. But Transcribe! just added something new - slowed down audio with video . Well, all right - even that's not all that new any more. I've been watching all my timba concerts in slow-motion with audio on PowerDVD for a couple years. BUT ... and this is the big catharsis ... Transcribe!  has now added the ability to LOOP the slowed down video and it WORKS! It actually works! If Calixto doesn't move his head, you sometimes can't even tell that it's been looped! This really blew my mind, and since the program also let you SAVE a video with multiple loops I was going to ship fast and slow video loops with the video product. But two things went wrong. First, there was a bug - actually Apple's QuickTime bug I think. Even though the Transcribe! program played the loop perfectly, the exported one had a little glitch at the loop point that was a deal-breaker. The other problem of course is that it would have made the product way too huge and I would have had to decide how slow, and only let it loop two or three times and so on. How many loops and the exact speed are choices that each viewer should be able to make, and adjust later. So my initial idea of shipping pre-made video loops was entirely unpractical, but the underlying idea was too good to ignore. Then I discovered the final new feature of Transcribe! that brought everything into focus. Transcribe! lets you store as many loops as you want and name them, then save the file as a super-tiny .XSC file. So that's what I did. I made an .XSC for every video with a separate, labeled loop for every exercise in the book and I added the .XCS files to the .MOV files in the .zip file that you download when you buy the video product. The problem is that you have to haveTranscribe! to use the XSC - otherwise, all you can do is watch the videos normally without being able to slow them down or loop them (unless you have some other way of doing that). However, you can download and use Transcribe! free for a full month to decide if you want to pay the US$50, (35 euros), to keep using it after the first month. That gives you plenty of time to decide if you think it's as brilliant a system as I do. Finally, once you have it, you can change my loops, make your own loops, or make loops from completely different videos that you acquire elsewhere. So it's complicated to understand, but to those patient enough to download the program and read the TUTORIAL - which is also included in the free downloadable PDF .

What's the difference between the audio product and the video product?

The audio product is just like the audio products from Beyond Salsa Piano. There's one full speed loop and one half speed loop for each exercise, seamlessly looped with Emulator X. Each one also has a different drum solo, again, at normal and slow speed. Basic Rhythms  has a total of 120 files, 201 megabytes. Timba Gears has 202 tracks, 386mb. While we recorded the video, I had a Zoom digital recorder also recording and the audio was imported from that into Emulator X, looped and then mastered with several plug-ins from the Universal Audio UAD-2-Quad card. Then I slowed each down with AmazingSlowDowner, which I think has the best slow-down audio algorithm.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011, 03:32 AM