Listen to the music

Listen to the music

By Richard Heller

Listen to the music

One of the most neglected programs that came with your computer is the Windows Media Player. Most computers built within the past few years have a sound card built in that supports wave table synthesis. What does this mean, you may ask?

Formerly, the music in your computer was generated by a system called FM synthesis. The sound was good, but it sounded as though a computer was producing it. This was better than the sound coming from the built-in speaker, but was hardly high fidelity. Then it was discovered that by taking a small digital sample of the sound produced by an actual musical instrument, all the notes that the instrument could produce could be electronically created.

The result of this was that now your computer could sound like a piano or an oboe or a harmonica. The sound produced is so accurate that many musicians use this method to produce the music that you hear. By using a program called a sequencer, whole musical numbers can be produced, all without requiring a musical instrument. What they have also discovered is that the sound is exactly the same each time it is played, no wrong notes, no missed cues—in fact, no musicians.

To the computer user, this means that you can produce CD quality music that, along with a good speaker system, can sound like a symphony orchestra, a rock band, or a pianist.

If you are a vocalist or a karaoke singer, it is possible to take a piece of sheet music and, by using a program similar to a word processor, type the notes into the computer and produce your arrangement. It is also possible for you to compose music right on the computer without having any musicians. There are even programs available that enable you to take sheet music and, by using your scanner, actually scan the music into your computer without doing any keyboard entry.

When you are finished composing your arrangement, you can print out the sheet music. If it is a piece that has many instrument parts, you can print the music for each part. But even better than this is the ability to play the music and have it sound like the actual instruments that the piece was written for.

There are companies that have midi arrangements available for purchase, but many arrangements are available for download from the Internet. In a little over a month’s time, I was able to download over 11,000 midi files ranging from “God Bless America” to “Godspell.” Of course, these are musical instrument arrangements only; there are no vocal parts.

Companies such as Creative Labs and Turtle Beach manufacture sound cards that feature the wave table synthesis. The Sound Blaster Live series enables you to install “Sound Fonts” into the card memory, giving you the ability to have the true sound of an instrument such as a grand piano on your computer. The price for these cards is between $100 and $200. Now go listen to the music.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

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