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How can I easily record my son's violin lessons?

Doug Rice

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Hi All,

I would like to record parts of my son's violin lessons so that he

can look back in six months and see how far he has come, and also

to share his music with some friends.

I started off with a crummy cassette recorder, which, of

course, sounds horrible.

Recently I bought a Zoom PS-04 on eBay, but it is so

user-unfriendly that I REALLY hate it. The interface was designed

from The Engineer From H*ll. I am going to sell it.

So, are there any relatively inexpensive solutions for me? I have a

Mac laptop, but I really do not want to carry it to his lessons. Is

there anything decent, very portable, and not too expensive. What

about MiniDiscs?

Thanks for any advice.


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Thanks for the suggestions. "Shave twenty years?" I think not Michael, although I was prematurely gray I recall when VCR's came out (and I was not young at the time) and everyone complained about how hard they were to program, but they ain't NOTHIN' like the PS-04. Of course if the PS-04 had a decent manual it would help a lot. To elh and maryodog: thank you for the suggestions. I have found a couple of good reviews at the oreilly site. I'm still not sure what to buy, but will keep reading. If anyone elese has a suggestion, I am all ears. Thanks, Doug.

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If you have a laptop, Microsoft has a software, OFFICE ONE NOTE 2003, which has an excellent recording program for just your needs. All you need is a charged up battery (or a 110 outlet) and a mic, say from Radio Shack and you're there! I've done it, down loaded my recording to a CD and pleased with the result. Dr. R.

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Sorry Doug...I read the first part of you reqest and responded with what I have done.....don't blame you for not wanting to carry your laptop to your son's viloin lesson. I have three grandsons in college and they(sometimes) use this method for class lectures; maybe it's not that cool, I don't know! Good luck, Dr.R.

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If you have a video iPod (5th generation), there are at least two high-quality alternatives available:

iTalk Pro

Belkin TuneTalk

I have used the TuneTalk for about a year. It is fabulous 44.1K, 16-bit recording right into the iPod. If you get the leather InCase for your 'Pod, by flipping the top cover around to the back, it also acts as an isolation stand and increases quality even more. Very unintrusive and one button operation. Plug microphone into the bottom of the iPod and it goes into record pause immediately. Press center button and you're off!

Upon connection to Mac, iTunes launches and window appears with "Do you want to import new voice memos?" alert.

Nothing could be simpler or more effective, IMHO. But then again, you have a Mac, so you already know that.

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"So simple a 46 year old can do it."

Now you're talking! (Although I am 53.)

Henry, I was looking at hose iPod plug-ins on the Apple site this

morning. My iPod isn't compatible, but I could buy a new iPod and

one those gizmos for less money than an H4, etc. I would like to

try one out. Maybe I can find a friend with a new iPod I could

borrow and then hit the Apple store to try out out a recording


It seems odd to me that no one makes a simple decent quality

recorder. Heck I would even buy a semi-pro cassette recorder if

someone made one. Guess I'm just too old to appreciate multi-track

editing and wah-wah effects on a violin.

I really do appreciate everyone's suggestions. It is really hard to

evaluate these things without some on-hands comments from people

like you.

My thanks to all,


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Originally posted by:
Doug Rice
It seems odd to me that no one makes a simple decent quality recorder.

Doug, an iPod with microphone upgrade IS a simple decent quality recorder. and the other units mentioned here are simple & decent recorders too. Fostex has a few easy to use HD recorders (but that´s pro quality/ price tag), so i see no reason for you to complain. of course if you want it "old school" you better check out your local pawn shops for a wrecked UHER cassette device (and a crappy microphone). i still do most field recording with a portable DAT and a Neumann stereo pair, but you wouldn´t want to know the price of the Neumanns!

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Sorry if I was too negative Matz. I am TOTALLY ignorant about recording, so I really have no idea what is good and what isn't. Yes those sound like simple solutions, it's just that it is hard to try them out without buying the darn things, and after my experience with the Zoom PS-04, I am hesitant. I see of lots of very positive and very negative owner reviews for most of these items. I need enlightment Grasshopper, or a copy of "Recording for Idiots."

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alright, Doug. in that case i´d recommend you go to Radio Shack and purchase a pocket sized Minidisc recorder with a mini stereo microphone for probably less than US$ 200. it will be easy to use, it will fit in your pocket and will sound decent. if you find this setup still not "idiot proof" you can simply return it at the store and come back here for more help. the disadvantage in comparison to HD recorders is that transferring your MD recording to a computer is timetaking (and maybe once more not idiot proof, but likely at that stage you have already developed your recording knowledge a bit, so - no problem). hope this helps.

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Heh Doug,

I'm 54 and I like to keep it simple, too. Interesting thing about the two mic adapters I listed for the iPod: both have a built-in stereo mini-plug for external microphones, so if you really want to get serious and bypass the built-in mics with some Neumann's, you can.

The video 'Pod is a useful upgrade. I use MediaFork for turning my library of DVD's into files I can watch on the 'Pod, and a standard movie ends up around 400 megs, so there's plenty of room for Casablanca, Art of the Violin, or whatever, on the 5th generation 'Pods. The quality of the video on that device is astounding.

If you get a new one, here are instructions on how to rip DVD's for viewing on your 'Pod. MediaFork is now the upgrade to the mentioned Handbrake utility.

Can't tell you how useful the iPod has become, above and beyond music playback.

One more piece of unsolicited advice: transfer your CD's to iTunes using Apple Lossless. It is fully uncompressed (bit-for-bit copy of the CD) without the huge file an AIFF version will generate. Hang an Airport Express off the back of your audiophile receiver and use the optical connection to bypass the crappy headphone converters in the Express and use the D/A ones in the receiver. Stream iTunes wirelessly from your Mac. Sooooooooooo 21st century

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Thanks Henry, Matz and Michael. I'm still reading and learning. I will definitely avoid eBay this time and get something that I can return if I don't like it. This afternoon I started building a pair of "Alice" mic's like stefan1 posted a while back. Don't know what I will do with them yet, but I haven't soldered in a while, so I thought I should build something. I do appreciate all of your help, but there is one more thing: How do explain to the better half that I need a new iPod/H4/ etc, Doug

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Sorry, I missed the part that you don't want to bring a laptop.

I always buy my pro-audio stuff from Sweetwater, and they have a

selection guide to several hand-held recorders:"http://www.sweetwater.com/feature/handheld_recorders/index.php">http://www.sweetwater.com/feature/handheld...rders/index.php


I use a Blue Snowball to record my own practice.

It is a single-channel USB microphone costing $99.


For software I use a free one called Audacity:


All you have to do is find a computer that has USB, and hit record

in Audacity and it records.

If you don't like the take just delete it, and only save the one

you like.

Then you can edit it or convert to other file formats like WAV or

MP3 and share with others.

It is pretty easy to archive everything since it is all in the hard


The good thing about USB microphone is that the A/D converter

 is built-into it.

Blue Snowball outputs 16 bit, 44.1 kHz data (CD resolution).

The sound quality is more than decent for the price.

Blue also makes hi-end microphones for studios, and so they know

what sound quality means.

The clarity is excellent and noise level is very low, and

even sounds quite decent when played back on a hi-end stereo


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Nice resource--the information is very up to date, which is usually the problem with these sites; someone puts a lot of effort into putting a review together then doesn't bother to keep up with changes.

Regarding equipment I'm happy with my 2-year-old Sony RH-10 Hi-MD minidisk recorder however as this is a dying format--Sony now only manufactures a single Hi-MD recorder, the RH-1 ($300USD), aimed at professionals--probably wouldn't recommend it unless you could find one of the newer units cheap. However it has the advantages of small size, high fidelity, long recording times on a charge and cheap, replaceable media that make it ideal for a field recording unit, and will likely serve me for a few more years until some of the flash-based units evolve for a couple more generations.

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