Thursday, 24 April 2014

3 Googles and a Drummer

How Google can work for Musicians.

Musicians aren't generally famed as technology users.  At least, the stereotype is that if you're a 'muso', you into the more organic side, and if you're one of those modern breed of techno-freaks ... well that electronic stuff isn't really music is it ;-)

The truth is a long way from this.  There are people who use only computers to make music, who care deeply about the composition, melody, arrangement, sound ... they just choose to do it using their PC.  Conversely I'm sure there are people who honestly believe that unless your instrument is made from bamboo and coconut grass and performed in a bog in Mississippi - it's just mass-produced junk.

However the rest of us are somewhere in the middle :-)

I play acoustic drums, I play electronic drums, I sing when I absolutely have to, and I use technology to help me where I can.  There's a lot more to contemporary music than just playing your instrument, so let me take you a little journey and I'll attempt to highlight how Google, in my case, is as important a tool as my drum key.

1. Learning Songs

Like most drummers, I'm in several bands.  I suppose we are fewer in numbers than those banjo players, so we tend to pick-up more gigs.  My bands range from a pure function band (think dinner/dance), a rock covers band (pubs, clubs, parties), and a symphonic metal band (festivals, theaters and specialist venues).  It's a wide range of music much of which is outside of what I normally listen to for pleasure, so I have to make it as flexible as possible to listen to the stuff I need to learn.
I use Google Play Music and I subscribe to their 'All Access' service.  For those familiar with Spotify, it's similar to their Premium service, with a major advantage.  It integrates seamlessly with your existing music collection.  I don't know about everyone, but I have my entire music collection in mp3 format - so this is a big plus for me.  I can access Google Play Music on my phone, tablet, TV and of course PC.  So wherever I go, I can create/amend/listen to unlimited music and playlists.

2. Song Notes, Charts, and Set-Lists

When I'm learning a new song, I chart out the arrangement and make notes about temp, time signature etc.  As well as forcing me to understand the song at a basic level, it forms an aid memoir during subsequent rehearsals (although I try not to rely on them for gigs).  I create all this in Google Docs, and using Google Drive I sync them across my usual smartphone/tablet/PC mix. I maintain a folder hierarchy and include any midi files, click tracks or associated goodies that I may need.  It's all kept together, it's all kept up-to-date, and I even have a tablet holder as part of my DW rack system so I can access it all from behind the kit.

3. Navigation

I used-to have a dedicated GPS doohickey in the car to help shuffle me from one gig to the next.  Now I just use Google Maps.  Like any other GPS system, it's not 100% accurate 100% of the time, but it's always gotten me at least close, and Maps has the advantage of integrating completely with Satellite and Street views so you can zoom in on your destination from above, and even take a walk down the road in question to work out loading bays and car parking spots.

This is my 'Holy Trinity' of Google products and how they help me in my day-to-day drumming duties.  There is more, of course, and many different ways of doing the same things.  I could talk about my expenses spreadsheets that have fully functional macros to automate everything - every bit as good as Excel for my purposes.  I could talk about how Google backs up all my photos, lets me share them on G+, write my Shloggs on the move, gives me notifications about upcoming appointments, services my email & instant messaging requirements, helps me share files and documents .... the list goes on and on.

You may already do these things electronically, indeed I could be preaching to the choir and you already make use of Google to achieve them.  You definitely don't have to use any single vendor for them if you don't want to, but I find the convenience and integration is very useful and Google seem to have more strings to their bow than anyone else.

A couple of final points: -

  • No, I'm not sponsored by them.
  • No, I'm not concerned about privacy (Google are going to show me ads.  They may as well be based on things I'm interested in!).