Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mixing the Wedding Songs

I was up until 1:30 this morning preparing and packaging the music for Debra's wedding this evening. It wasn't hard, but the final music selections weren't decided until very late yesterday -- after all the other errands had been done. Finally, I was given a sheet detailing which songs in which order, and some of them had to be 'looped' because they were short.

This gave me the perfect opportunity to play with GarageBand. This is one of those Apple iLife programs, targetted to anyone who wants to mix audio tracks. I had not installed it on my laptop when I bought the iLife '06 DVD, since iDVD and GarageBand both contained gigabytes of templates and samples, and I was conserving hard disk space. Plus, I don't play a musical instrument and have no delusions of mixing down my own compositions.

But, hey, it's a cool program and I was glad of the opportunity to tinker. Installation was quick, as was the Software Update that followed. As is usual with Apple programs, there was no manual, but it was obvious what needed to be done.

The music was collected on three different computers, containing a mix of Windows Media Files, MP3's and protected AAC iTunes music. Only one set of music, in encrypted WMA files, was unusable, but luckily Jonothan had unprotected versions of the same music on his USB thumb drive.

I downloaded the shareware EasyWMA which allowed me to convert all the un-encrypted WMA files over to AAC or MP3 (I don't remember which one I did) and collected them in a playlist. I copied all the unprotected MP3's and AAC's over from the other laptops, and for the iTunes purchased songs, I exported them to AIFF audio, burning a standard audio CD. Those, I re-imported over to my laptop in my iTunes, (sadly losing all metadata, but I didn't really need it for this project.)

Now with all the music usable and on one computer, I set up a GaragaBand project for each part of the service: BeforeTheWedding, Mom's Processional, Bridesmaids Processional, Bride's Processional, Recessional and Reception Music. For each of the first five stages, I opened the iTunes browser in GrarageBand and pulled in the appropriate songs and arranged them on the timeline, testing out the fades and making sure that all the transitions were fairly smooth. Some had to be looped so there was enough music for the length of time the event would take, so some of the shorter pieces, I laid down multiple times on the timeline, matching up the tempo. Each section I exported as one long song, to make it simple for the man who'll be running the soundboard.

After a final change in the Recessional music, choosing a brisker paced song than the original choice, I had two CD's worth of music. The ceremony and the reception. I burned two copies of each and placed them also on my iPod. It was a smooth process, for having never used GarageBand before. I know that I didn't touch any of the real musicians features, but I didn't need them for this.

I just hope the actual event goes as smoothly as the music preparation.


Karen said...

Cool. How much do you charge? That is exactly what I'll need to do soon. I'll try it myself first. I'm also going to try to make a slide show in iDVD for the reception. Should be fun. Thanks for all the pointers. I'm especially glad looping is possible, in case I need that too.

Hope everything goes well today. I really wish I could be there. I'm just having to take off work so much lately for my own wedding season. Blessings to you and your family.

Chris said...

Nice. If the writing thing does not work out, it looks like audio engineer will!

Henry Melton said...

The music went well. Of course, the ceremony had a few delays and unexpected glitches, but nothing to mar the event.

The music was played from my laptop running iTunes and if I would change anything I would have changed the settings so that each of the compiled music selections would just repeat play, until manually switched to the next track. When delays occurred, our music kept advancing into the next section. Of course, I doubt anyone really noticed.