Song Surgeon Review
Song Surgeon is a full featured high quality song studying tool.
You can get a time-limited, but otherwise fully functional trial version here.
When I ran the program, I was immediately pleased with the simple visuals and the easily accessible controls for all the important parameters. The button graphics are a good representation of what it does so you won't get lost, and only the help button has a drop down menu, giving you a virtually one click operation for all parameters.
After visual inspection, I picked a song and loaded it straight away into Song Surgeon. It easily loads up the song and gets it ready for use within a few seconds.
They say that CDs are about to go out of style, but you can still get songs straight from your CD collection via Song Surgeon's built in Rip functionality. Another cool feature of the Song Surgeon is the "Sniffer", where in it automatically detects audio or video that is streaming in your browser, allowing you to strip and download the audio for you to learn from. With its multi format and multi source inputs, you can virtually use any song that is recorded in digital format.
Once my song loaded the first thing I did was to check the audio quality, which Song Surgeon having quality audio at its core, easily delivered. It has the basic functionality of music players, complete with preset and customizable EQ controls.
I then tried to play with the Tempo controls. I can change the tempo from a slow 10% to a very fast 400% speed while retaining original pitch and having negligible effect on audio quality. It was amazing to hear the solo I was learning at 50% speed in its original pitch, with all the vibrato, slides, bends, dynamics and other details magnified. Tempo controls are very useful to slow down music to easily learn the fast licks. It can also be used in vocal or speech transcription, music transcription or tabbing, creating effects, instrument and dance teaching and other audio production needs.
The same quality applies to Song Surgeon's Pitch controls. Song Surgeon gave me a wide range of pitch adjustment, from a very low -24 to a "chipmunks" high of +24, that's a total of 4 octaves. All this is done by without affecting the Tempo and audio quality. An obvious application for the pitch changing feature is for learning songs in different keys. If you are a musician that plays for different male and female vocalists - like in a worship setting, this feature can let you learn a song in the preferred key of your singer without messing up the tempo and the audio quality. Again it is not limited to just musicians as pitch changing is equally valuable to transcribers, for karaoke music, and backing track creators.
To ensure better quality, there are 2 Algorithms that you can work with. P or Performance mode is optimized for small changes in tempo and pitch, while T mode or Transcription is optimized to maintain quality when big changes in tempo or pitch are applied. The way Song Surgeon applies the Tempo and Pitch changes independently while retaining clarity and quality is simply amazing.
Song Surgeon, aside from giving quality pitch and tempo changes, has other additional features. To name one, Song Surgeon gives you the ability to create multiple loops in a single file. Each loop has their own settings, giving you the freedom to set specific tempo and pitch on areas that you loop. I set the guitar solo part into separate loops so I can easily learn them.
Another feature is the ability to edit the waveform data, where you can edit and create new audio files for practice and performance. You can cut and paste audio parts, insert silence and change volume. Adding silence right after or before a solo part loop gives you a few seconds to test out the solo before you hear the music playing again. It is a pretty handy learning feature. With Song Surgeon's export ability, you can easily export your project into a practice MP3 with all your loops, edits and changes.
Song Surgeon also includes a "Vocal Reduction" control where you can lower the volume of the vocals in order to hear other parts better. Pretty handy when learning songs where the vocals overpower the instrument you are trying to learn. Song Surgeon also supports the Infinity foot pedal to keep your hands on your instrument, and let your feet handle the basic Song Surgeon controls.
My favorite added feature of the Song Surgeon is its handy built in "Music Pad". It opens up a new window where you can store basic music notation. It is a nifty tool for notating particular licks that you want to highlight or easily remember.
I have mostly good things to say about Song Surgeon, it is hard not to like it. There are however some features that would be nice in future releases, like the ability to "type in" specific numbers in the Tempo and Pitch parameters instead of just the preselected options and the sliders. Another exciting feature that I would like to see is the ability to slow down video simultaneously with audio.
All in all, the time I spent with Song Surgeon was time well spent. In fact my initial response was - I wish there was Song Surgeon when I was just starting out! It made learning songs so much easier and convenient. This is a great tool for musicians who want to broaden their scope and improve their technique. Song Surgeon is highly recommended.
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When you consider how much time and effort you put into getting your rig to sound just the way you want, it makes sense to ensure your guitar cables are also up to the job - after all they're an important part of the tone chain. Also remember that occasionally things will go wrong, so always carry at least one spare cable to gigs and rehearsals.