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Using Digital Music in Scottish Country Dancing. A presentation by David Ambrose 19th April 2009 for South East Region Teachers Association. Our Discussion Today. E quipment. Mixing and microphones. Digital music; what is it? Getting music onto the equipment. Working with sound files.

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Using Digital Music in Scottish Country Dancing

A presentation by David Ambrose

19th April 2009 for South East Region Teachers Association


Our Discussion Today

  • Equipment.
  • Mixing and microphones.
  • Digital music; what is it?
  • Getting music onto the equipment.
  • Working with sound files.
    • Analogue and digital.
    • Converting to digital files.
    • Cleaning up the sound.
  • Tools we can use in class.
    • Slowing down the music.
    • Chopping up files for class.
    • Queuing different phrases.
  • Different software available.
  • Internet Resources.


  • Laptop
  • Ipod
  • Mobile Phone
  • Other MP3 Players


  • Relatively expensive.
  • Can be used for other club purposes.
  • High Definition sound is a essential.
  • The built in speakers are not representative of the output quality of the internal electronics.
  • Turn off networking and other non essential features.
  • Can be a little delicate.
  • Can store a great amount of music and dance instructions.
  • Needs more space than traditional equipment.
  • Needs to be used indoors or in good weather.
  • Can be difficult for new users of the equipment to quickly understand.
  • Remote controls for volume are available.

Laptops continued...

  • Allow in purchase budget for good carry case and external mouse.
  • Maintain the battery – dissipate and recharge regularly, minimum of every few months. Normal practice for all battery and mains operated equipment.
  • Make a backup of anything you don't want to lose.

Apple’s Ipod

  • Pros
    • Cultural standard.
    • Very easy to obtain.
    • Small and light-weight.
    • Can be controlled via RF remote (be aware that many remote controls are IR).
  • Cons
    • No slow-down of music built in.
    • Non-upgradable internal memory.
    • Relatively low output.
    • Battery not easily replaceable.
    • Need to use iTunes.

Mobile Phones

  • Pros
    • Small and light-weight
    • Tend to be always on hand.
    • Can be easily recharged.
    • Can be kept as backup to main system.
    • Other features (camera for the end of the evening pictures).
  • Cons
    • Unlikely to be able to obtain a suitable remote control.
    • Older phones do not have good file support or sound quality.

Other MP3 Players

  • Early inexpensive players were hard to use with poor quality sound and limited storage.
  • Current models compete for market share with Ipod.
  • Are relatively inexpensive.
  • Many manufacturers and models (in no particular order).
    • Microsoft Zune.
    • Sony Walkman.
    • SanDisk Sansa.
    • Creative Zen.
  • Modern models can increase storage capacity by inserting extra memory cards.
  • Play other digital audio files type in addition to MP3.

Mixing and Microphones.

  • Mixing on the pc.
    • Connection has potential for pulling and damaging equipment.
    • Radio microphone with separate volume control and on/off preferred.
    • When there are problems with volume or feedback it can be fiddly and not easy to adjust the volume quickly when required.
    • An advantage is that the instructions could be recorded with the music.
    • Dependent on current set-up – easier to attach a microphone through traditional mixers.

Sound and Digital Music.

  • Analogue to Digital
  • DAC and ADC – affects the quality of transfer.
  • Different types of sound file.
    • File extensions describe the type of file.
    • MP3 The most well known and nearly every device supports this.
    • Lossless and lossy file formats.
    • Proprietary and non-proprietary file formats
  • See
  • MIDI files are instructions files not sound files.

Hearing, Analogue Sounds

  • Analogue sounds – sounds from nature, the sounds we hear from our tapes, cd's and our computers
  • Initiated from physical movement – drum skin or loudspeaker cone.
  • Vibrates through air molecules, which in turn vibrate our eardrums.
  • This is encoded in the eardrum into electrical impulses.
  • Interpreted in our minds into language, music etc.

Sound Waves

Sine wave representation of a sound wave showing major components.

  • Wavelength – measure between peaks.
  • Amplitude – variance from centre line.
  • Frequency – number of waves per time period – Hz cycles per second. Not to be confused frequencies in digital files.
  • The human ear can hear frequencies of approx. 16Hz to 16384Hz

Complex Soundwave of music

Picture of soundwave from a section of music – Taken from the Strathspey “Pleasures of Bath S3x40”.


Digital Sound

Picture showing the breakup of the waveform into samples, “small segments”. The number of samples per second is the frequency. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz) .


Digital Sound – other considerations.

  • Bit Depth – the amount of information that is stored for each sample taken.
    • Measured in bits (binary digits 0 or 1)
    • Common measures are 8, 16 and 24 bit
    • Greater bit depth equals increased quality but larger file sizes.
  • Quality of original affects final output quality.
  • Quality of conversion equipment (CD Player) or software affects final output quality.
  • Conversion from analogue to digital and back again.


Analogue to Digital Converter and Digital to Analogue Converter. The quality of the electronics used will affect the end quality of the final output.


Different types of sound file you may meet.

  • Uncompressed file formats
      • Keep all information at original sampling rate.
      • Not supported in many portable devices.
      • Large and cumbersome.
      • Take up a lot of space.
      • PCM files (Pulse Code Modulation) – digital representation of an analogue signal.
      • Windows file extension .wav .pcm
      • Apple Macintosh file extension .aiff

Different types of sound file continued...

  • Lossless file compression.
    • Compresses files to reduce their size and portability.
    • Allows, when decompressed an exact reproduction of the original.
    • Uses arithmetic coding to reduce the file size.
    • Windows file extension .wma (pro)
    • Apple Macintosh Lossless .alac
    • Advanced Lossless ATRAC
    • Free Lossless Audio Codec .flac

Different types of sound file last bit...

  • Lossy compression
    • Compresses files to reduce their size and portability.
    • It loses information from the original recording when decompressed and it cannot reproduce an exact copy of the original.
    • Uses arithmetic coding to reduce the file size and can produce very small files without a noticeable loss of quality.
    • MPEG .mp3
      • Playable on nearly every system. Supported by some modern CD drives without conversion to audio files.
    • Windows file extension .wma
    • Apple .aac

MP3 File format

  • MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 normally called MP3.
  • Moving Picture Experts Group.
  • Digitally encoded file that losses some of the audio information.
  • ISO/IEC standard in 1991.
  • Designed to be small but a good reproduction of the original.
  • Not considered to be high fidelity.
  • About 10th the size of original audio files – dependent on sample rate and bit depth.
  • Apple's, AAC encoding was designed to be MP3 successor - better quality – standard on Ipod and iTunes.
  • IdTag information.

Open and proprietary file formats.

  • Open file formats
    • Uncompressed - Wave WAV (PCM)
    • Compressed lossless - Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC)
    • Compressed lossy - Advanced Audio Coding – AAC and Ogg Vorbis - OGG
  • Proprietary file formats
    • Uncompressed – Apple's Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF)
    • Compressed lossless - Windows Media Audio (WMA)
    • Compressed lossy - Moving Picture Experts Group (MP3)

Original Digital Audio Compact Disc

  • Defined by Sony and Philips – The Red Book
  • Digitally encoded
    • Using raw, PCM format for uncompressed data.
    • Sampled at 44100Hz
    • Bit depth (rate) 16 bit
    • 2 Channel stereo
    • 74 minutes in length
  • On a computer a file with the extension .cda in not the actual sound file but it points to where the file resides on the disc.
  • Need to be converted to work on modern digital equipment.

Time for a break!

Let's dance...

The Inimitable Derek


Converting a compact disc to audio files

  • Music from a CD are not directly editable on a laptop, Ipod or other media player without conversion.
    • Converting from CD to digital file format (ripping).
    • Converting initially keeping all information (PCM format).
  • Put CD into drive.
  • Select the CD drive in the software you choose.
  • File names are normally downloaded automatically if online, from the Internet.
  • Select or create a folder which you want the converted files copied into.
  • Select the digital audio file format/type.
  • Press GO... wait a little while... and... hey presto!

Converting CD's

Express Rip free software for converting CD to digital audio file format. An example of free software available for ripping CD's to audio files.



Converting a CD to digital audio files.

N.B.Track names not found as no Internet connection.


Other software available for converting CD's

  • Commercial software examples.
    • Nero
    • NTI CD+DVD Maker.
  • Free non-commercial software.
    • Express RIP
    • Free RIP MP3.
    • Free CD Music Converter XS1.
    • Raptor Audio.
    • Audacity.
  • Software can be safely downloaded from:- - tested for viruses.

Recording and converting LP's and cassettes

  • Recording
    • Line out from amplifier.
    • Line in on computer.
    • Play the LP or cassette.
    • Use software on the computer to record the LP or cassette as one large file.
    • Load the file into a software package.
      • Split into separate tracks.
      • Name the tracks.
      • Adjust quality with software tools.
      • Convert to final working file format.

Splitting up the tracks

  • Demonstration
    • Find the point between each track
      • Remove clicks or add a larger gap.
    • Name each track.
      • Standard naming convention to enable easy identification.
    • Number each track.
    • Artist and Album information.
    • Record or tape – royalty code as part of album name.
    • Batch convert the tracks to the final working file format.
    • File the tracks on your computer.

Naming the audio files.

  • Name using a standard naming convention.
    • Put all albums from the same artist in the same folder.
      • Add to the Album Name its cd code (on case).
    • Put all tracks from one CD in the same folder.
    • Name the track after the dance or tune.
    • Add to the name the tempo and length e.g. R8x32.
    • Use track numbers to keep the order of the original album.
    • Add idTag information.


Converting LP's or tape recordings to digital audio files.


Adjusting the quality of the digital track.

  • Normalisation – balancing the levels across a recording.
  • Spectrum Analyser.
  • Graphic equaliser. (equalizer)
  • Hiss and Click removal.
  • Noise removal.
  • Automatic gain control.
  • Applying changes to a file.
  • Applying changes to a batch of files.


Adjusting the sound after it is on the computer.



  • Digital files are a copy of the original for convenience.
    • If you lend a copy to a friend then tell them the media code and ask them to pay the royalties and buy the music if they intend to use it regularly.
  • Respect the rights of the writers and bands.
  • Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) – royalty payments for performers
    • Fees tariffs can be found at:-
  • PRS for Music (PRS) – royalty payments for writers and composers
    • Tariff General Purpose (tariff gp) - Section 3.1.11

Time for a break!

Lets dance...

Nacton Hall


Tools we can use in class

  • Slowing down or speeding up the music.
  • Chopping up files for use in class or in demonstration recordings.
  • Queuing different phrases.

Slowing down the music.

  • Windows Media Player.
    • Normally already installed
    • Menu item – View Enhancements – Play speed settings
    • Works with converted digital audio files only.
  • Winamp
    • Free to download.
    • With add-on software Pacemaker.
    • Works with CD and converted digital audio files.
  • Amazing Slow Downer – commercial software $50.
  • Pulse Master – commercial software $30.
  • Slow Gold – Free - converts to audio file to slow down CD.
  • Total Recorder Professional – commercial software $36 - my choice.


Slowing down the music with Windows Media Player and Winamp with Pacemaker add-on.


Total Recorder by High Criteria.

Established since 1998.

  • Progressive product improvement.
  • Conversion of nearly all audio file types.
  • Allows restoration of music with add-on.
  • Can be used for all recording needs.
    • From voice.
    • From Internet – radio - scheduling.
    • From any sound you can play on your PC
  • Slow-down and speed-up sounds, built into the software.
  • Allows sections to be cut and inserted into recordings.
  • Automatic setting of optimal recording level.
  • Append recordings.
  • Cue file creation for playing just selected phrases.

Different Software Available

Great deal of sound production software available.

  • Check compatibility with your version of Windows.
  • Free software is great but doesn't always have support or gets canned – one man band.
  • Who is the target audience?
    • Sound Engineers – full sound editing, mixing and production – great for budding Madonna producers.
    • Musicians – particularly slow-down software.
    • Players and recorders of music – us!
  • Is the sound quality what we expect?
  • Ease of use?
  • Support for all standard digital audio file types?

Other Internet resources available.

  • Strathspey Server -
  • Dancedata -
  • Minicrib -
  • Dance music -
  • Grand Chain -
  • St Andrew's Shoemakers -

Digitising Dance Books.

  • Always have them to hand for reference.
  • Scanning in as pictures.
  • Checking Dancedata or Minicrib for original source.
  • Filing in a structured way to enable easy finding.

The End

Using Digital Music in Scottish Country Dancing

A presentation by David Ambrose

19th April 2009 for South East Region Teachers Association