Computer hell

I am currently residing in computer hell. Actually, it’s not that bad – maybe “computer heck” is where I am. The problem, as one says during a breakup, is me. I am the proud owner of two new pieces of powerful software, and I don’t have a clue how to use them*.

Before I get to the software, a brief digression into the realm of travel. I have been to a lot of cities, often giving a concert and quickly leaving, but sometimes staying for a short residency before moving along. Somehow, my brain immediately begins, ever so slowly, to build a map of any new place. It starts with a landmark or two (“I know I was in this spot earlier today”), but the map slowly thickens with detail. With a long enough stay, at least a few routes carve themselves out, and, even if I get a little lost, I can find my way back to the hotel, the concert hall, the good restaurant.

My hope is, of course, that my exposure to new software will follow the same trajectory. Unfortunately, it seems rarely to do so. The option always available in a new city (“Let’s take a walk”) seems not to exist as I stare at the new screen without a clue how to begin. Perhaps if the software were simpler it would seem less opaque to the neophyte, but of course if it were simpler, it wouldn’t be powerful professional software.

Seemingly to the rescue comes YouTube. I watch a video or two: Getting Started With Pro Tools. Looks easy enough. A young, hip fellow comes on the screen and says, “Hey, man, lemme show you a few cool things about setting up Pro Tools.” Perfect, just what I need. He proceeds to point, click, set the trim, open a new channel, add some reverb, and so on, leading presumably to a Grammy in the near future. I watch one or two of these, then put Pro Tools back up on my screen, stare at it for five minutes without a clue how to begin, play a sudoku online, and call it a day.

When my students come in for a lesson, it must feel just the same to them: the path from student- to professional-level playing is far from clear, and any demonstration (“Make it sound like this”) can both SEEM revealing and BE no help at all. Perhaps the best conclusion to draw, and the way to best see my way out of the twelve circles of computer heck, is that knowledge comes slowly and with a lot of practice, a lot of help from friends, colleagues, and teachers, a dose of YouTube, and a huge portion of patience.

_____________________

*The programs are: Pro Tools, which is software for making recordings, and Ableton Live, which is for performing live with electronics: making loops on the go, putting effects on the sound, and so on.

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3 Responses to Computer hell

  1. Just keep staring, Dan! Computer software is like those 3-D paintings! Just last night, I realized I could drag e-mail messages onto the calendar on Outlook. Duh! That led to realizing I could keep multiple, colorful, superimposable calendars too. Double duh. I had been looking for such software for months, and it was literally just under my nose.

  2. Stan Corfman says:

    Hey Dan – I’ve felt this way sooooooo many times- and then my son (whose picture adorns the dictionary under the heading “computer gaming geek”) introduced me to the idea that you, in fact, CAN take a walk through a computer program – and it can be one of the better ways to wrap your mind around what it does.

    My big mistake with a new program was always opening it up to try to accomplish something specific. I’d then spend countless fruitless hours trying vainly to figure out which cryptic series of button clicks would get the result I wanted.

    He (my son – who, though now 25 will always be 8 to me) asked me, “Why don’t you explore a program the way you explore a new town? Walk down the street without any specific agenda except to see what’s there? Start at the top of the menu tree (almost all programs have one starting with “File” in the upper left corner) and just see what each click does.”

    I gotta tell you – for me, it worked. Instead of dreading yet another bout of frustration when I opened up Sibelius to try, yet again, to figure out how to make it switch from 3/4 to 4/4 time, it got to be fun! (Well – I confess – not exactly fun, but at least every keystroke wasn’t a new episode in frustration.

    Hope things are going well in Mad-City!

    Stan Corfman

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