The Tascam Trainer by Lou Alano & Multitracking by Kit Nelson, 10/19/15

Rochester Guitar Club was treated Monday night to the expertise of two different players demonstrating two different tools for enhancing our guitar playing.


Lou Alano

♫ The first hour, RGC member, Lou Alano, introduced us to the modern way of learning solos from recordings. Recorded solos are usually much too fast to transcribe at normal speed. Instead of holding down a spinning disk to slow down the music as some of us did, once upon a time, we now have at our disposal devices such as the Tascam Trainer to do the job for us and all without changing the pitch of the music. This device which accesses tunes through an internal CD drive was used in conjunction with Lou’s Yamaha electronic keyboard to illustrate the technique.

Lou’s vehicle for the demonstration was Wes Montgomery’s recording, “Know It All.” Using this device, he created his own tune, “I Wish I knew” based on the original Montgomery piece. The Tascam Trainer is also able to change the key of a recording which is very handy, indeed, when accompanying singers or other soloists. It also has the ability to loop, even at reduced speed allowing the player to listen to a passage over and over again. Using this device as a tool, Lou analyzed the many features of the Montgomery tune. When he played back the recording at different speeds the quality of the sound was reduced, but he assured us that when heard through earphones, which we obviously could not do as a group, the sound quality was impeccable.

Lou began his analysis by studying the structure of the song, in this case an intro, several verses and an outro, a typical arrangement. Many of the techniques that Wes used in his music were much easier to discover using the Tascam Trainer. And there was a lot to discover as he had used major, minor, modal, diminished chords and just about everything except whole tone scales. It is amazing to realize that Wes did not read music; and so was not perhaps fully aware of the complexity of his own technique.

The potential for learning from the masters is apparent with the Tascam Trainer. Lou’s model originally cost $170. They can be found on eBay these days starting around $25. They come in various models for vocalists, guitarists and bassists. Lou recommends the vocal model.


Kit Nelson

♫ During the second hour, guitarist, bassist, singer and songwriter, Kit Nelson, showed us how he uses another technical tool to build mlultitrack recordings that can than be used as accompaniment for our solos. With a software package called Sonar 8, the player can lay down multiple tracks either in a midi format from a keyboard or recorded directly from musical instruments and microphones. This results in midi and/or audio tracks which are clearly displayed on the Sonar 8 screen. Each instrument is automatically divided into stereophonic left and right channels, although this feature can be turned off. Kit prefers to combine the stereo output into one monophonic channel.

Kit used Henri Mancini’s “Pink Panther” to demonstrate his methods. He first lays out the arrangement on a handwritten chart getting all the parts in place measure by measure. Using the chart as a guide, he then lays down as many tracks as he needs, typically kick drum, snare drum and bass guitar, leaving the first two bars for a count-in. He uses a MIDI keyboard to generate signals that generate the kick drum and snare drum tracks, and a digital interface into his computer for recording the bass and rhythm guitar tracks. He can then export the audio and save it as a project on the computer’s hard drive. From there, he can mix the tracks to a “.wav” file, format the mix as an MP3 file, and transfer the file to an MP3 player for playback at performances. If any of the played notes should have strayed from the beat during recording, the software allows “snapping to grid,” i.e., putting them exactly where they belong. Individual tracks can then be selected or deselected as desired. When the desired tracks are played back, Kit plays the lead part live on his electric guitar providing a full ensemble sound.

Kit has used this device to prepare a repertoire of about sixty songs that he uses to play in senior homes and other venues in the area. Although, there are newer versions today, some with newer names, he still finds Sonar 8 more than adequate for his needs.

Many thanks to Lou and Kit for broadening our understanding of the tools available for guitarists today!

~Richard Taglieri/John Williamson
Photos: Richard Taglieri

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