A member recently asked me which EWI I would recommend.
What is an EWI?
EWI stands for Electronic Wind Instrument. These digital instruments don’t produce any sound out in the real world, but can be used with headphones or used to send a signal to a sound system and then mixed with other sounds via a mixer. You can also connect your EWI directly to a computer via MIDI and use your system as a sound module.
There are many advantages to EWI’s including:
- No external sound, so you can practice at any time without disturbing others
- Unlimited sounds. Because you can connect to a computer, you can make your EWI sound like anything from traditional instruments to sound effects.
- EWI’s are by default tuned to C, you can change the instrument key with the flick of a switch. That means you can play the clarinet part without transposing the music.
- You can change the fingering system on your EWI. If you are a clarinet player, you can have it play with the fingering, you know. I actually use the EWI fingering rather than the flute fingering because the EWI fingering is similar to the flute fingering, but has a lot more alternates. Also, on the EWI, the left thumb is used on rollers to change octave, you don’t have the B/Bb key, so having alternates to 1-1 for Bb is useful.
- Easy to record. You can simply plug directly into your recording device, so if you have noisy neighbours, it doesn’t matter.
I have an Akai 4000s and have used it for many years. This version has 100 onboard sounds, so you don’t have to connect to change between a sax and an oboe. It runs on 4 AA batteries, and I use rechargeable ones and find they last for 5 - 7 hours. I plug it into my mixer via a ¼” mono cable. I also run it through a reverb, though the EWI has a built-in reverb.
Alistair Parnell has the best EWI lessons on YouTube. He covers everything from setup to tricks and tips that will help you get the most out of your EWI.
Another fantastic resource for all things EWI is the Patchman site. https://www.patchmanmusic.com/ in the Wind Controller Forum https://www.patchmanmusic.com/forum/, you can talk with other EWI users and find even more resources.
Three main kinds of Akai EWI
The Fire Stick
and the Flutegirl
Once upon a time, there was a Fire Stick, and it met flutegirl. They lived happily ever after.
A flutegirl member recently asked if it was possible to use play-along music videos on their TV using an Amazon Fire Stick. The answer is yes. There is no flutegirl app, but you can use the internet browser on Fire Stick (Amazon Silk Web Browser). I used my parent’s set up to check this out and here are my findings.
First, typing in the full address https://flutegirl.ca is a big pain in the neck, so I simply type in flutegirl.ca
However, this may send you to an insecure version of flutegirl.ca (described below). If that happens, you can click on the logo at the top, and it will take you to a secure version of flutegirl.ca.
Your user name and password are case sensitive, so make sure you capitalize appropriately.
If you click on the Hamburger (explained below) at the top right, you can bookmark flutegirl.ca, and when you start the Silk Web Browser, you can go directly to flutegirl.ca.
The Fire Stick seems to remember your login, but I’m not sure for how long or if the power goes off.
The streaming MP4 videos work the best and to make them full screen, you can click on the little box on the bottom right.
These instructions also apply to other Smart TV setups like Roku.
- Find the Internet app on your Smart TV
- Type in flutegirl.ca
- Click on the ‘secure’ website button at the top of the page
- Bookmark the page
- Have fun
“Storm Cursed” by Patricia Briggs is the 11th book in the Mercy Thompson series. http://patriciabriggs.com/books/
I read a couple of books a week, mostly hard Sci-fi but sometimes fantasy. The Mercy Thompson series is a quick and delightful read. Very basically, Mercy is a shapeshifting Coyote who has close ties to a werewolf pack and is also friends with a Vampire and a Gremlin. In her spare time from her car mechanic business, she saves the world from supernatural threats.
“Storm Cursed” opens with some black witches creating miniature zombie goats and moves onto a plethora of strange and powerful zombies. Can Mercy save the world once again? Of course, she will and do it with her usual humour and her own unique style.
Linux on Chromebook
With Windows 7 End of Life, I’ve had it with Windows. I have used Linux Mint on an old laptop but figured I would try using a Chromebook. For the majority of my computer activities, the Chromebook is terrific, and since you can now load Linux (Debian), it’s even better.
This video is very perfect, but here are the steps in list form:
Turn on Linux beta in the settings
The ‘Terminal’ will pop up and that’s where you type the commands
sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade
To install a program type:
sudo apt install [name]
sudo apt install gimp
sudo apt install LibreOffice
I mostly use Google apps, but it’s nice having the option of using Linux apps, especially for offline use.
In today’s world, Hamburgers are delicious AND useful.
The Hamburger is the three lines at the top right of many mobile programs and apps. Clicking on the Hamburger brings up a context menu, and that lets you do things like bookmark pages, print, save files and other things. These ‘other things’ change from app to app.
To bring up the context menu, you can also use a two-finger click on a trackpad for laptops, ‘right click’ on a mouse for desktops. The Hamburger accomplishes the same thing but is mainly for touch screens and smart TV devices.
So, here I sit, looking at my watch. My Niece just had a baby, and she and her mother are on their way to my parent’s house for a visit. They are late. My Mom has Altzheimers and is starting to freak out. My Dad, who is almost ninety, is beginning to lose it as well. Mom has now decided to burn some toast in protest, and as I sit in the smoke-filled kitchen, I pondered the importance of time.
Initially, musicians kind of just played what they wanted when they wanted, and everything was very loosey-goosey. The Tactus, which came into fashion during the Medieval period, changed all that.
Rather like the second hand on a watch, it was around 60 beats per minute and was a down-up motion. Sometimes they used a large stick that was struck on the floor. These days we use a metronome or a conductor. This invention kept all the musicians synchronized.
As time passed the time, signatures were refined into what we know today. The top number is the number of beats in a bar and the bottom number shows which note gets a beat.
6/8 time would mean there are 6 beats in a bar, and the eighth note gets the beat.
4/4 time (also known as Common time) means there are 4 beats in a bar, and the quarter note gets the beat.
2/4 time indicates there are two beats in the bar, and the quarter note gets the beat.
Each time signature creates a different feeling.
3/4 time is used in a Waltz and causes a lilting quality. That’s because the strong beat is the first, so it feels like (STRONG-weak-weak).
6/8 time, which technically has the same number of eighth notes in a bar, has a different feeling because the emphasis is different. (STRONG-weak-weak-STRONG-weak-weak) in one bar.
Reggae is in 4/4 time, but the emphasis is on the 3rd beat, so it’s (weak-weak-STRONG-weak).
A March, in 4/4 time has a strong 1st and 3rd beat, or, (STRONG-weak-STRONG-weak).
All this makes me think,
“Where is my sister? Mom is burning more toast!”
I have in my hands,
two different containers.
Though they both hold liquids, one is for Tea, and one is for milk. A side note here: I live in Ontario, Canada, and we get our milk in bags. This isn’t true of all provinces, mostly Ontario and Quebec, I think. Greta Thunberg would be proud! Probably more proud if we drank our milk directly from the cow, or didn’t drink milk for that matter, but I digress.
This is my analogy for video formats. Let’s say the milk is for .avi (AVI) format, and the Teapot (which my Mom made) is .mp4 (MP4). Both can be swapped for the other, but it’s a little messy and usually a bit unnecessary. Both AVI and MP4 are video types, but they are within different containers. One is generally better than the other in certain instances.
MP4’s are the type used by HTML 5 (the coding language of the Internet) and are used for streaming videos. YouTube uses MP4 format, and so do I for streaming the videos on pennywill.com. The next bit is subjective, but I have noticed the blacks are much blacker in MP4 video, though I don’t think the sound is as good. This is the best format for watching movies and is used by Netflix and can also be shrunk down for phones and tablets without losing much clarity. Phones seem to play this type of file better, but sometimes I get warnings that they may not play. They do, but it may be the file size or aspect ratio that is concerning my phone.
AVI videos play better on older equipment. I think the sound is better, and they seem to look better with a 4:3 aspect ratio. That’s why I use the AVI files when I’m performing. I can pop them onto a thumb drive, and they will play just fine on practically ancient laptops or tablets. When I’m practicing every morning, I use AVI files because that what I started with and I am nothing if not a creature of habit.
Whenever I’m playing on old equipment, I’m usually running Linux or even Windows XP, and my goto video player is VLC. It’s free, and it has excellent features, like speeding up or slowing down the video, random, and repeat. I also like using software that works the same on different operating systems and devices. When performing, I don’t want to have to remember all kinds of other commands and functionality.
There are many other types of Video containers. I don’t use those on flutegirl.ca because my videos are small and, so I don’t really need to worry about more efficient formats.
So, I accidentally barricaded myself into my place yesterday and had to call my parents and tell them I wouldn’t be able to go and visit today. Nothing like planning.
I’m a very organized person, except when I get working on a project.
Things spiral out of control, no matter the endeavour. Perhaps that is why I am very organized from the outset because I know what is about to happen.
I have found a few gems that really help me keep my sanity amid the chaos.
A Zone of Tranquillity
I need a small zone of tranquillity.
A place with a chair, a small table and maybe a cooler with some drinks. I also keep my phone in the zone of tranquillity.
When I am surrounded by the horrors of moving, there is nothing like retreating to my zone of tranquillity.
Pro Tip: Don’t barricade yourself from your zone of tranquillity.
Even though I’m inside and more sorting than actual hefting, I still step on prickly stuff. I don’t normally wear shoes in the house (perhaps that’s a Canadian thing). However, there is nothing more painful than stubbing your toe and having to carry on when all you really want to do is sit and cry.
Wear an Apron
Ok, I wear an apron from the moment I get up to when I go to bed because I wouldn’t say I like washing clothes. I believe there is a direct correlation between the newness of your outfit to the likelihood of slopping on yourself. Aprons are also essential for playing EWI. I used to put a small towel on my lap to catch the spit, but an apron works much better. And then there are pockets. Whether it’s my phone, a pair of scissors, or just something I’m carrying from room to room, there is nothing like an apron.
As my moving and renovations progress, I may have more tips, I think, though, I’m stalling.
Out of my zone of tranquillity, I go to attack the mess once again.
Wish me luck.
the musician’s friend
I love white-out pens.
Back thousands of years ago, when I was taking ‘typing’ in high school (yes, that was a real subject), we were warned of the evils of white-out. My bottle of white-out, with a brush, was precious to me. Not only did I use white-out for doing french nails, but I could also label my pencil case and running shoes. I was the talk of the school.
Years passed, and now through the miracle of invention, there are white-out pens. These pens have a little, retractable tip, keeping the liquid fresh.
White-out pens are indispensable
for musicians and techies.
I have labelled all my gig equipment, stands and cases, and find them particularly handy for adapters. I must have a hundred adapters for various bits of kit, from synthesizers to pedals and beyond. When I label an adapter, I know for sure it’s for my Zoom H4n and not my small humidifier.
I also use my white-out pen to make sure I have proper cord connections and quick reminders for setting up equipment with speed and efficiency.
Heck, I even label pill bottles, and once the white-out dries, you can add hilarious eyes.
I keep a white-out pen in my gig bag and another one in my purse, and you should consider doing the same.
A rose by any other name
would smell as sweet.
A note by any other name
would sound the same.
Notes can have other names.
Here is a quick list:
B# = C
C# = Db
D# = Eb
E# = F
F# = Gb
G# = Ab
A# = Bb
B# = C
I didn’t list double flats or double sharps, but this gives you the idea. The usual practice is to use sharp accidentals for the sharp keys and use flat accidentals for flat keys. I write to make it quick and easy to read, so I mix them. Even if convention dictates an A#, I find it easier to break that rule and use Bb. When I see a Bb, my fingers go there, when I see A#, I get stunned because it’s more unusual to see A# than Bb. Especially, if you learned flute in band class, as flats are much more common than sharps.
Flutegirl.ca is a secure site. What does this mean?
I have an SSL Certificate for flutegirl.ca, which is basically like an online ID Card. This lets your computer know flutegirl.ca is legit, and information that goes back and forth is secure from prying eyes. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer and is like a set of keys. Your computer and flutegirl.ca connect with a “Handshake,” establishing security protocols (exchange keys) and off you go, logging into flutegirl.ca with confidence.
I also don’t use any tracking information. The only data retained is your login, and that’s done by your browser and set up and dictated by you.
If you get to flutegirl.ca by another website that doesn’t have the address spelled correctly, you may land on flutegirl.ca and be told: “This is not a secure site.” If that happens, look at the address and at the beginning is Http:// it should be https:// That “s” stands for “Secure.” You can go to the Http and put an “s” in after the “p,” and it will change it to the secure site.
Save Save Save
To download any file, just right click (two finger gesture on a phone or touchpad) and save it to your device. You can save it to your main storage then move it to storage media, or save it directly to storage media.
Music's Greatest Lesson?
The Value of "Every Day Effort"
There are many studies extolling the virtues of music.
It helps develop a child's brain,
it improves hand-eye coordination,
it forestalls Alzheimer's;
but I think the greatest benefit of music is that it fosters an "every day effort" mindset.
In this day of montages in movies and a desire for instant fame and fortune, nothing is more important than developing the true key to success;
Every Day Effort
I'm not a world class flute, piano, or guitar player. In fact I'm rather ordinary, but I play every day.
At 8:00 a.m., I turn off my cell, pop on my headphones and play. I don't have any other criteria than that. I don't worry about how long I play, what I play, what instrument I play, and generally, have no goal in mind.
Some days it's horrible.
Some days I don't play for very long.
Some days I end up fiddling with electronic gadgets and do very little actual playing.
Occasionally, I have a great day, but more times than not, it's just an unremarkable day.
Unfortunately this "every day effort" mindset runs counter to the "lottery" thinking that pervades our society. So many people give up on music because they are not instantly great like this montage in August Rush
Thanks to movies and TV, we get used to the idea that long and tedious tasks can be accomplished by magic. Because this is unrealistic, as we try and learn something we invariably lose our way.
At some point you ask yourself,
* "Is there any point to this?"
* "I'm getting nowhere, should I give up?"
* "This is hard. Is it this hard for everybody?"
and worst of all
* "Isn't there a quicker way?"
Cue the dramatic music and enter the purveyors of the quick and magic solutions.
We've all seen these hucksters:
- "Make millions with no investment, time, or effort."
- "Buy a house with no money down, even if you don't have a job."
- "Lose weight in days with this pill."
- "Learn the computer in one seminar."
- "Find your perfect mate by calling this toll free number."
- "Learn a musical instrument in an hour.
After watching Rocky run up a few stairs to some inspirational music, then skip a bit of rope, only to become world boxing champion a few scenes later, these quick and easy solutions don't seem so far-fetched.
We all know, logically, that if we want to be the world boxing champion we have to train every day, for years, but we've been so inundated with the message that everything is instant and easy, that we've lost the ability to work slowly towards our goal.
Learning music is great for re-establishing the concept,
"The slow and steady, wins the race."
Here are some tips that have helped me develop an
"every day effort" mindset:
- Set a regular time. At first you may need to move the time around to accommodate work, family, your favourite TV show, food; whatever, but once you have a time that works, stick with it.
- Have everything ready to go, or at least handy. Nothing stops you faster than having to re-arrange furniture or drive somewhere.
- Don't watch the clock. In fact, don't have a clock anywhere near you. Work until you finish or become so wretchedly uncomfortable that you have to stop.
- Don't fret if "today" is wasted. You will always have bad days. Things will go wrong; don't sweat it. Even if you only lasted for 10 minutes, that's fine.
- Goals are good but don't become a slave to them. If you start of with a particular goal and get side-tracked, that's fine; that's how we discover new things.
- Enjoy it as much as you can, or at least take satisfaction in knowing that you put in some effort
A side benefit of learning music to develop every day effort, besides making you fun at parties, is this is transferable to other things in your life.
One of my YouTube channels recently passed the 16 million view mark. I don't have any viral videos. I wasn't written up in a premier website. It wasn't luck. What I do is work on that channel, slowly, every day.
Many of my videos are terrible. Many are experiments. Many are too short. Many are too long. I've deleted countless failures and I've re-issued some with improvements. Not everything has to be gold.
This is the incredibly valuable lesson of music. A little effort every day and you can move mountains.
10,000 hours, we are told; it takes 10,000 hours to become expert in something. I don't know if that's true or not, but if you take on the "every day effort" mindset, in 27 years you will be glad you did.
YouTube is in a state of flux at the moment,
but you can still watch the videos at: