As many of my clients know, I have another life as a jazz pianist and composer. Recently I embarked on a huge project, recording a new CD called Sides, Colors. About half the CD consists of arrangements I wrote for strings, winds and rhythm section, eleven musicians in all. There were several recording dates, each with their own priorities and agendas, many mixes and edits to track, business stuff like who needed to get paid what, and deadlines to remember. It was a huge undertaking, and keeping it all organized is an ongoing challenge.
The other day I started thinking about all the PC software I depended on and continue to use as this project progresses from the creation stage to the promotion stage. Here is a list of some of the software that I’ve found indispensable.
Finale. Years ago I remember a day when I had to xerox three hand-written big band scores and sixteen parts of each score for three different schools. As i sweated it out at the copy machine all afternoon, I vowed to start using Finale. This buggy, annoying, counterintuitive software has its flaws, but it’s still better than spending the better part of an afternoon copying parts.
DeskPDF to convert the scores to PDFs. No need to spend hundreds of dollars on Acrobat when there are several low-cost and even free PDF converters available. I use DeskPDF because it’s easier to scroll through the scores in PDF format than in Finale. Also, even if the person you’re sending a score to doesn’t have Finale, they can open a copy of the score PDF and it’ll look the same across platforms. I used it to create scores and parts to send to Cal Arts, where my trio will be doing a clinic and playing some of the music with the students during our West Coast tour this month. Of course, I also use DeskPDF to create PDFs from Word, Excel or any other format.
Foxit PDF Reader for quickly scrolling through scores while in the studio mixing. Much faster than flipping through pages. Lighter and faster than Adobe Reader. (Free.)
Notezilla for “attaching” virtual sticky notes to any page or file in any program. Very powerful!
Microsoft One Note to keep track of data such as track lists, personnel, ideas for promotion, etc. It’s like a notebook where you can store any kind of data and organize the sections and pages however you wish. You can even save emails or web pages to it so everything on a given subject is in one place.
Microsoft Outlook is my email program of choice. It is certainly not perfect. But it’s incredibly powerful for organizing and sharing email, calendars and contacts. Coupled with an Exchange server (either in-house or hosted) it’s a powerful tool for sharing my calendar and contacts with my assistant as well.
I sync all my documents from my desktop to my netbook by using redirected folders with SBS 2008. Outside of my business clients, most of my clients don’t have their own full-strength server. However, here are some alternatives for maintaining easy access to your files no matter where you are: cloud storage such as Dropbox, hosted Sharepoint or an on-site micro-server; software for syncing files across a local network such as Allway Sync (free), and hosted VPN solutions like LogMeIn Hamachi.
Nero Wave Editor is one of my favorite parts of the Nero Media Suite. Originally the suite was was a way to burn CDs and DVDs in older versions of Windows that did not include these features in the OS. Over the years it’s expanded to include many other features. I use the Wave Editor to test ideas for edits before spending time and money doing them for real in the studio.
If the feedback from this posts warrants it, I’ll post further blog entries discussing the software that I like to use.
How do you use technology to be more productive and organized? Comments welcome!