Make Your Worship Song Slides More Appealing

The First NoelIf you are a visual/tech person for an a cappella church, you may be interested in this post. Otherwise, this is a fun exercise in graphic editing.

Many churches are using worship song slides that include music notation. Quite often, there is somewhat of a debate between the people who like the notes and people who want pictures and words. Some need the intellectual stimulus of singing parts from a prepared arrangement while other prefer the visual stimulation of nature, colors, backgrounds, etc. It’s very hard to find common ground. This is a tutorial on how to create song slides that appeal to both tastes.

This will not be an all-inclusive tutorial. I will proceed on the basis that you are aware of some fundamental aspects of editing graphics, and I will be using Photoshop CC 2014 as my graphical interface.

To begin, you’ll need a song. Some churches create their own notation. If so, more power to you. That’s not what I’m covering in this tutorial. If you don’t have the ability to create notation from scratch, take a look at Paperless Hymnal or A View of Worship. Both offer excellent arrangements in pre-formatted slides. For this illustration, I will be using Paperless Hymnal’s version of In Christ Alone.

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Stay away from GuitarTapp Pro

GuitarTapp PROGuitarTapp Pro nuked me.

It’s not often I write inflammatory posts, but this one deserves it. I’ve even reached out to 8:45 Tools, the creator of GuitarTapp Pro, for help.

Silence.

Some background… for quite a while I was in possession of a very nice iPad. It belonged to a company I no longer work with, so I lost it when that employment ended. One of my most used apps on the iPad was OnSong (on which I’ve done a previous review that you can see here). OnSong is a great song chart viewer for live situations… sort of like a teleprompter with all the bells and whistles.

When I moved over to the android platform, OnSong was not available. Shame. Anyway, I had to find an alternative. I thought I had found it in GuitarTapp Pro.

For the past year or more, I have used that app heavily… at least once a week, if not more often. I have over 150 songs programmed into it, all of them tweaked to the way I like and prefer. I even have some alternate arrangements to songs that I liked to use.

It was going swimmingly until a couple of weeks ago. Either android did an update or GuitarTapp Pro updated. Either way, my entire song catalog is now gone. Over a year’s worth of work, disappeared. Talk about frustrating…

Consequently, I would encourage you not to use GuitarTapp Pro. It is most definitely NOT a safe platform. I am even considering getting back into an iPad because of this failure.

Old Tech Ain’t Always Bad Tech

LG220CI consider myself to be slightly behind the bleeding edge of tech innovation. I’m not one of these guys who will jump on some new gadget the day it comes out, but I know about it and I’ll probably have my hands on it before too long. Being 50+ in age, I’ve seen my fair share of new gadgets. I remember well how amazing it was to have a fax machine and sit around staring at it waiting for orders to come in. And I fully realize that the smartphone I carry has more technology in it than Apollo 11 carried, and has had for several years.

That’s why I am slightly surprised how much I’ve enjoyed my new 5-year old clamshell flip phone.

“Le me splain. No. There is too much. Le me sum up.” My contract with AT&T has passed the two year mark, so I am free to either upgrade and get stuck for another couple of years, or go elsewhere. As I was considering my options, Google lowered their prices on the Nexus 4 by $100. That made the Nexus basically the same price as a new phone with new-contract pricing. I jumped.

I love my Nexus 4, but that’s another blog entry. As Inigo Montoya said, “there is too much.” I began to research options other than AT&T. They’ve been good to me and I’ve been with them almost a decade now. Still, they are pretty pricey in the grand scheme of things. After some research, I settled on Straight Talk as the best option for me, but I did not want to just jump and port my number into their system without some further testing.

Which led me to my clamshell. Straight Talk’s lowest level of service is called “All You Need” or something similarly silly. It includes 1000 minutes, 1000 texts and a pitiful 30MB of web access for only $30. That’s the equivalent of one meal at Montelongo’s for my family. I figured it’s worth a test.

I did not want to buy a new phone just to try their service. As I looked through their offerings, I ran across a refurbished LG 220C. It was free with the $30 one-month plan. Why not? I can try out a 2nd line for a month just to see if Shallowater and Straight Talk are a good fit.

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Melodyne: Tuning Vocals… and Tuning Guitars, Keyboards and Other Things During the Mix

melodyne

This post will most likely find a much smaller interested audience than my last post, which topped half a million readers (craziness!). This time I’m talking to that unique demographic of people who spend countless hours in the engineer’s chair at a recording studio. So, for the 12 people who will read this, I’ve discovered a wonderful program called Melodyne.

For years, I’ve been involved in vocal production for studio projects. I am always striving to get the best sound, as any engineer would do. Some musical styles call for that slightly out of tune floating-around-the-pitch sound. I am not involved in much of that. My stable of projects either have a full band with a lead vocal and background vocals that need tuning, or a complete a capella song where everything needs tuning.

For years, I’ve used a program called Autotune. Most people have heard of this, since it was popularized by its overuse, resulting in robotic voicing. I believe Cher was one of the first to do this back in the 90’s. It’s so popular it has resulted in a slew of iOS apps that achieve the same result for the fun of it. Too much.

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What Happens When an iOS Fanboy Buys an Android Tablet

Nexus7I fully admit I am an avid, Kool-aid drinking fanboy of Apple products. I have used 2 different iPads in my past couple of jobs, going from an iPad2 to the 3 with the retina display. I am on my 3rd iPhone. I’m still using my 2008 Macbook Pro and it continues to run like a champ in 2013 and I just recorded a new album on my 2006 Mac Pro Quad and it never even hiccuped. Apple just has great quality products that deliver consistently excellent results.

Since I’ve begun working for myself at Moyers Design, I had to give up my iPad3 and have been without a tablet for over a year. I got to the point that I needed a tablet in order to fully function as a mobile professional. The trouble was, I didn’t have $350 to drop on an iPad mini. After some exposure to the Android operating system (you can read my account of that in this post), I decided to give it a try for about a third less in total cost.

This Apple fanboy bought a Google Nexus 7.

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The Secret Weapon Most Small Businesses Don’t Know and Should

Google Places

I am constantly amazed at the number of small business people I run across who do not know about one of the greatest online tools available for marketing. When I mention the words “Google Places,” I usually get a blank stare in return. For all of you reading who just mentally shrugged, let me share a bit.

Google Place is a free service of the search giant. It is, in essence, your business listing for Google. As of mid-2011, Google owned over 65% of all searches, more than double of Bing (14%) and Yahoo (16%) combined. When someone does a Google Maps search for a business, the results that come up are populated by Google Places. Click on one of those little pins on the map and the page that comes up, hopefully chocked full of info, is a micro-version of their Google Places page.

What makes Google Places so important?

Here’s a few good reasons:

  • Search engine results pages (SERP’s) give priority to Places results. Google Places will come in at the top of any given search, thus raising the possibility of being found by targeted customers.
  • If someone is searching for a product along with a location name, the chances of conversion are much greater. You’ve probably got a buyer on your hands.
  • Even if your website is well optimized, it will always appear lower in the results. Organic search results appear further down than Google Places results.
  • It’s likely you will see an increase in customers, as Google Places brings in targeted business.
  • And last but certainly not least, it’s free!

Mobile Friendly

According to a recent study, 95% of smart phone users are searching for information about local businesses from their phone. This demographic of users tends to act quickly with over 80% taking action on their search results within one day. 77% of these people call or visit the local business they discovered in their search.

Google Places is designed to automatically format for mobile phones. If you have a Google Places page, this gives you the greatest mobile impact with the easiest interface and greatly increases the chances of customer conversion.

It’s Already There, so Claim it!

Here’s the thing. Google Places automatically generates Place pages. There are over 5 million out there now. Only 2.3 million have been claimed by actual businesses. That’s leaves over 2.7 million Place pages that are unclaimed and basically devoid of information. If you have not claimed your business Place page, you are leaving potential customers out in the cold. Not only will they have a harder time finding you, there will be no helpful information when they do.

If you claim your page, you have the ability to add location information, pictures, contact info, special deals… just about any kind of marketing you care to do.

Google has even integrated Google Places into Google+. Anything you add to your Place page will be reflected within their social media site. That’s nothing to sneeze at, either.

How Do I Claim It?

Simple. Go to www.google.com/placesforbusiness and they will walk you through the process. It involves Google sending you a verification postcard, so it doesn’t happen overnight. Overall, it’s a painless and fairly quick procedure and VERY much worth the effort. If you still don’t think you have time, I can do it for you. In the words of Stargate, “Hey, it’s what I do.”

Does your business have a Google Places page yet? Have you seen any results?

Top 15 Posts for 2012

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. It’s a good time to look back and see what has worked and what hasn’t. I read a post from Michael Hyatt this morning that offered a good suggestion. Pull up the year’s stats and see what you top, most-viewed posts were. This kind of thing can be very helpful in determining the direction of posts for the next year.

He was right. It was rather intriguing. My stats are nowhere near as large as his (he ranges from 60,000 to 200,00 per post), but they still tell me something. Here are my top 15.

  1. Is Chinese a Language of the Tower of Babel? (306)
  2. Photoshop Tutorial: Adding Grass to an Image (192)
  3. Here’s a Good iGoogle Alternative (179)
  4. Acappella Memories: Kathisophobia or I’ll Stand, Thank You (173)
  5. Acappella Memories: The Seat of Questioning (170)
  6. Acappella Memories: Entertaining Angels Unaware (149)
  7. Acafest 2012 Review (143)
  8. Acappella Memories: Alvin! (142)
  9. Lose 10 Pounds Without Really Trying (142)
  10. Acappella Memories: Duane Adams at Acafest 2012 Pt. 2 (132)
  11. Acappella Memories: Grounded in Texas (130)
  12. Arranging (129) – this one is actually a page, not a post, for those of you who know the difference.
  13. The Power of Introverts (129)
  14. Acappella Memories: The Original Well on my Way (109)
  15. Acappella Memories: Duane Adams at Acafest 2012 Pt. 1 (107)

I removed the “About Gary” page, which actually fell at #2 on the list.

So what does this tell me? First, it seems there’s a great interest in the mysteries of history as they pertain to the Bible. Who would’ve thought that the Chinese/Babel connection would’ve come in first? I will need to explore more topics along this line.

Next, 2 of the top 3 posts were about productivity. Looking at the top 50, I could see that it placed very strongly as a topic. I should do more productivity.

But obviously, the thing that easily stands out the most is the number of top 15 posts that were Acappella-related. 9 of the top 15 were about my time with Acappella. I guess I need to brush off the cobwebs and revive more memories.

If you have a blog, have you checked your top posts for the year? It’s rather revealing.

Control Your Facebook Privacy Settings in a Few Easy Steps

Facebook Privacy

UPDATE: Within a week of my posting this article, Facebook started pushing its new privacy settings, which are showing to users that are logging into their profiles. The most important change is the shortcut to the privacy menu, which now appears in the main toolbar on the top of Facebook. Furthermore, it is now easier for users to set individual settings and check who can access their photos and various other data inside their profiles. And now back to my regular post.

Facebook has become one of those sites that people love and hate at the same time. It’s a wonderful way to keep in touch with friends and to reconnect with people you haven’t seen in years. At the same time, it’s one of the most invasive websites out there in regards to privacy.

Most people don’t realize the steps that Facebook takes to target their ads at the right person. Every scrap of personal information you publish is available to them for this use, unless you take steps to keep that from happening. It takes more than some nebulous statement posted on your status about how everything you post is “private and owned by you.” That’s laughable. Don’t fall for that ruse. When you clicked the “I agree” box during your initial sign up with Facebook, you voided that right. All that’s left to you is to attempt to control how they use the information you gave up as a member of Facebook.

The settings are there, hidden deep within your account settings. You still have the ability to assert some level of control. Facebook makes it as hard as possible to find them. Nothing stays the same for long. Menu options change. Locations of settings change. To quote a famous character, “it’s tricksy.”

The following information is borrowed from an article by Kim Komando and the original article can be found here. I will quote her throughout, make a couple of corrections (even the Digital Goddess makes mistakes), and add some pictures.

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5 Reasons Linux Might Be For You

Linux Distros

Linux. No, it’s not a character from Peanuts. It sort of sounds like a sneeze when pronounced forcefully and quickly. Whatever your ideas about it, it’s probably not what you think.

For many years, Linux has been the computer operating system most associated with the nerd culture. Since 2000, Linux has run a distant third behind Windows and Mac OS. No one really wanted to mess with it for several reasons, like:

  • I don’t understand it.
  • It’s too hard to use with all that command line stuff.
  • I don’t know how to install it.
  • I don’t even know where to get it.
  • I don’t know which one to get.
  • I don’t want to loose my software.
  • Why? What I have works fine.

For the most part, all of these would have been valid arguments. I would argue that they are valid no longer. As time marches on, the open source community of Linux programmers have done a valiant job of making Linux approachable by the common man. Not only approachable, but easy to use and fun. After a small learning curve, I would argue that Linux is just as good as any other operating system, and better in some cases. Let me address some of the complaints listed above.

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iPhone vs Android

android vs iphoneIf you have read any of my other posts, you’ll know I’m an Apple kool-aid drinker. Card carrying and proud.

Recently, I ran across a new phone service called Solavei. It’s an interesting service, based on the T-Mobile network. It’s only $49 monthly for unlimited voice, text and data. Plus, if you sign up other people, Solavei pays you back. There’s a very real chance to have a completely free phone service and even make some money back on top. You can read more about it here.

But I digress. Solavei is still integrating iPhones into the service. They work, but not at full capacity. Consequently, I thought I’d give an Android phone a try. My son has a Galaxy SII Skyrocket and I’ve been watching him play with it. Then, my father-in-law upgraded to a Motorola Droid Razr M and I helped him set it up. These two events combined whetted my appetite to try the dark side. I bought a Skyrocket like my son’s phone.

The rest of this little article is about what a die-hard iPhone guy thinks of the Android operating system. If you want to skip on elsewhere, the short version is that I like it. If an iPhone is a 9 on a 10-point scale, I’d give Android a 7.759.

Want more info. Okay.

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