Sing and See: Pitch Matching Practice Tool

equipping vocal students with an effective practice tool I was recently engaged to teach vocals / singing to three fabulous pre-adolescent kids. At our first lesson, I was primarily interested in assessing what needed work. Emerging quickly as the front runner was pitch matching (the ability to hear a note and then sing it accurately). As I sat at the piano and played note after note, asking them to reproduce it, my students responded well to my feedback – “up a couple notes, down a couple… bring that up just a bit…” but I worried. All a teacher can do is show you what to learn and how to learn it – a student ultimately teaches themselves. How on earth could they practice effectively without me there to tell them how their pitch was doing? So I went home and did some searching, hoping to find an application that could help. Enter Sing and See – at $49 USD. It provides a window with real time pitch placement feedback, a keyboard for playing tones and a record and playback feature that works with any standard computer microphone. In the weeks since I’ve assigned my students practice work with Sing and See – move up and down the scale, move in semi-tones, play a note and sing it… and they have applied themselves diligently with admirable results. I highly recommend this application if you’ve got students (or yourself) with this... read more

Whiskey In the Jar

traditional, recorded March 2010 WhiskeyInTheJar.mp3 As I was a goin’ over the far famed Kerry mountains I met with Captain Farrell and his money he was counting I first produced my pistol and then produced my rapier Saying “Stand and deliver” for I am a bold deceiver Musha ring dumma do damma da whack fol the daddyo whack fol the daddyo There’s whiskey in the jar He counted out his money and it made a pretty penny I put it in my pocket and I gave it to my Jenny She sighed and she swore that she never would deceive me But the devil take the woman for she never can be easy I went into my chamber, all for to take a slumber I dreamt of gold and jewels and for sure it was no wonder But Jenny drew me charges and she filled them up with water She sent for Captain Farrell to be ready for the slaughter T’was early in the morning, before I rose to travel Up comes a band of footmen and likewise Captain Farrell I then produced me pistol for she stole away me rapier but I couldn’t shoot the water, so a prisoner I was taken If anyone can aid me it’s me brother in the army If I but knew his station be it Cork or in Killarney And if he’d come and join me, we’d go rovin’ in Killkenny I swear he’d treat me fairer than my darlin’ sportin’ Jenny Now there’s some take delight in the carriages a rollin’ and others take delight in the hurling and the bowlin’... read more

Microsoft Live Writer 2011 – A Love Affair

a cool tool for bloggers Every now and then something happens and your life is forever changed. I suppose this is usually encountering that special someone and sliding down a silver slope into bliss. For craftspeople and tech geeks, sometimes it’s just finding the right tool for a job you do often. The day I was introduced to Microsoft Live Writer was just such a day, and it was renewed with the release of the 2011 version. Live Writer is a freebie blog authoring tool from Microsoft that works with pretty much any blogging technology out there. Equipped with dozens of plug ins (my favorite slides a flickr photo into the post with a couple of mouse clicks). You can include photos, video and maps, slide them around, wrap text around them and apply a bevy of pre-set styles – even give a graphic a little tilt (as shown by my ink to the right). The application connects to your blog, downloads the blog’s theme (some themes play better than others), category and tag lists, and you then work on your post offline. Once you’re ready to roll, you upload your post as a draft (and it’ll upload photos automatically to your site if need be – some configuration may be required). Once uploaded, you can inspect it and hit publish from the admin panel. One tip to mention… I cannot find, on any menu or ribbon thingy how to open entries on an existing blog – something I relied on with the previous version – but all is made clear if you hit CNTL-O (keyboard shortcut for “open”)... read more

The Groves of Fionntán Senechs

by Mike (Binary Rhyme) Heffernan One autumn evening three companions huddled against the cold and damp. Each felt their lot to be most unfortunate and were warming to a long evening of complaint. They were interrupted by a passing bard, seeking succor against the night. Reluctantly, they took him in, fearing he had a faerie look to him. As evening drained into night the bard was ignored. The company moaned protest piled on grievance and scorn. Only after the moon had come and gone and the litanies waned did the bard speak. “Seldom have I heard lamentations stretch to such epic length as yours. It is clear I have neither song nor story to cheer you in thanks for your fire. There is, however, a place of which the faeries speak that may relieve your misery.” At the mention of faeries the three exchanged satisfied glances, glad to have read his appearance correctly. “On the mountain south of here there lie two magical groves ringed in willow and yew. On the equinox the lines between worlds thin and mortals may enter the henge. Seek out the groves and their keeper to gain mastery over your plight.” They looked again at each other, dubious and doubtful. In that instant there was a flutter of feathers and the bard was gone. The strange disappearance ignited the curiosity of the company enough to overcome any doubts; they journeyed to the mountain. On the afternoon of the equinox they found a great ring of willow and yew, just as they had been told, and entered through a narrow gap in the trees. A... read more

Design and Composition

a presentation made to the Nepean Fine Arts League This presentation was originally run as a half day workshop for artists in the summer of 2010, but was stripped down to a one hour format that dropped discussion of a lot of design elements to focus on establishing dominance and harmony and using line effectively – with the emphasis on composition techniques. The Goal of Composition and Design is to create a desired effect in the viewer Some pieces “work” better than others A piece “works” when it creates an effect and has impact, draws the viewer in. Understanding how design techniques work enables us to employ them to create an effect The goal is a desired effect, not to “follow the rules” You can download the .pdf of the presentation. There are a ton of great tutorials on design principles and composition online. Google is your... read more


by Mike (Binary Rhyme) Heffernan You can download the .mp3 here: BelltowerofPrivilege.mp3 What calling what meaning minor wanderings and fleeting effect? From earth’s womb emerges consciousness seeking purpose cause great or small Unique, perhaps, amongst rock fire and ice to come and to pass on What more is required? to be is sufficient privilege This follows a late night discussion… one of those “meaning of life” chats. I’m pretty driven but I recognize that my efforts will result in things destined to pass in time. The conclusion of the gab was that conscious life is so rare in the universe (indeed – perhaps we are the only self aware consciousness? Who knows?) that to be here is enough. Legacy is a nice idea but not required. The image is a capture of a structure I built, The Belltower of Privilege, that portrayed this poem for Burn2 2010, an official (if virtual) affiliate of Burning Man. It played random notes across three pentatonic octaves – which you can hear in the... read more

No Limits

by Mike (Binary Rhyme) Heffernan, 1996 No Limits.mp3 No Limits video I included in a talk on Innovation for a government conference run by DPI Canada. Someday you’re gonna find out where you truly belong Racing swifter than lightning Tireless, skillful and strong ’cause win is made in your mind possible defined by your will can’t is a word best forgotten set your mind and say go Break your mind free of its limits Reach for more than just a try Keep you sight on the horizon Spread your wings, touch the sky! You’ve got stiff competition they’ve set the bar very high but you’ll be sailing right over this is your time to fly ’cause you’ll define what the best means and you’ll leave them reeling in dust They might be good – but you’re better put your foot through the floor Break your mind free of its limits Reach for more than just a try Keep you sight on the horizon Spread your wings, touch the sky! No Limits is my fight song. Originally written for a Fulcrum Technologies sales conference in Phoenix, AZ, the first performance featured a rap by Mike Gaines that slammed our competition – while the more generic version simply has an instrumental break. It was reprized live at the inaugural OCRI Techrocks “battle of the bands,” and I’ve used it during speaking gigs at conferences and as a pep tune for online gaming... read more

I Give

by Mike (Binary Rhyme) Heffernan, 1977 I Give.mp3 I give to you all of my love I give to you all of my dreams I give you all of what I’d like to be To deal with as you please I give you all of my world I give you all of myself I place it here within your arms so please let it rest here with you I give to you all of my doubts I give you you all of my fears I give you all of what I’ll fail to be To deal with as you can I give you all of my world I give you all of myself I place it here within your arms so please let it rest here with you Probably my most well known tune. I Give was written as a hymn, but has become an anthem for all forms of genuine love. It’s been sung in church and at campfires, weddings and funerals. This rendition is sung by Christine Armstrong. Photo: Jenn and Darren got... read more

Song Man

by Rachael Heffernan, 2004 SongMan.mp3 Here’s a story about man who was lost in song Tall as the sky, never, ever shy and he smiled about everything Song Man, don’t you ever leave me Song Man, sing those songs honey Song Man, sing the blues, jazz, pop, punk hymns, carols, rap and rock He sang bass to soprano to guitars and the piano from the ground to the silky sky and he promised me that he’ll always be right there with me by my side sing high to low, wide to slim tall to short – everybody – no-one could top him he was mine, I was his he was the best in the song biz Another quick sketch recording of a song, this time by my daughter Rachael. It was written by her and recorded when she was 11. It was pretty clear, even then, that she’d be a... read more