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Old 04-20-2012, 06:16 PM   #11 (permalink)
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1a (10): You-ing the Tube...

A great way to get an idea of the album you're reviewing across to your prospective readers is via YouTube clips. You can select a number of tracks that you want to represent, aurally, the album, and add them to your review. There's no actual limit on how many clips you can include in your review, but consider two things: one, if you put in too many clips it will not only break up the narrative flow badly, making your review look shorter than it actually is, but it will also take longer to process and upload, as the mods have to check each YouTube clip to ensure it works ok and is allowed. The more clips you use, the longer the time to check it, with a knock-on effect of delaying the time between your submitting the article for approval and its being posted.

Two, if you put too many clips in your review the chances are that any reader is just going to run those clips to get a flavour of what the album is about. Why read if you don't have to? Of course, some people will want to read anyway (I seldom click YouTube clips at all, being more interested in what's written than how it sounds: the text usually informs me as to whether or not these might be clips I would be interested in listening to), but not everyone will be that way inclined. So overloading your review with clips may mean that all your hard work in doing the writing may be ignored.

As a general rule, I restrict myself to three clips per album, four or five if it's a double. What those clips are, from where in the album they are taken is up to you. Of course, sometimes the clips you want are not there for the tracks you want to feature; not every clip of every song on every album ever recorded has been uploaded, naturally. There are ways around this, which I'll discuss later. But for now, if you go for a clip that's not there you may end up having to instead use a different one, and then your text becomes all the more important, as you now can't let people hear what, say, Track 4 is like, and they must rely on what you've written.

But how do you get those clips into your review? How do they work? You've seen them embedded in other people's work, but how did they get there? Well it's actually quite simple. When writing your review, or after it, pick either one spot for all your YouTubes or, like me, spread them through the review. Whichever way you do it, choose a separate line or lines, type in the tags youtube and /youtube (you need square brackets around each, but if I try to type them in here for the purposes of demonstration only, the system gets confused) and then find the video you want to use. Check its URL as below.

Highlight ONLY the text after “V=”, again as shown. Copy this and paste it into the space between the two youtube tags, and preview it.

It should work. If not, then you need to begin checking your work for errors. Did you place a [youtube[ tag wrongly, like that one just now (closing bracket is the wrong way round)? Did you make both tags (i have to misspell here, as otherwise the system thinks I'm trying to add a video and does not display the tag)[outube] instead of [outube][/outube]? That backslash is critical, as it tells the program to look for data before it and then display it. More likely though, have you misspelled, incorrectly copied or pasted the YouTube URL? It's easily done: a hyphen or a comma out of place, a letter or number missed out, the “V” included in your pasted article. So my advice is, until you ensure that your YouTube is working, keep the page you pasted from active, so that you can always go back and if necessary, manually check the letters and numbers to ensure you have it right. Once everything matches up, there's no reason why it shouldn't work.

Whether you direct people's attention to the videos or not is entirely up to you. I usually don't, letting the text speak for itself. Some people do. If the YouTube you select has some obvious defect, like perhaps very low audio, is jumpy or cuts off suddenly, you might want to note that above or below it, possibly in brackets and preferably in italics. In case you don't know, to italicise a word, sentence or paragraph, ie make it look like this, you simply place a tag with an "i" in square brackets in front of it and another with a backslash and then the same "i" in square brackets behind it. Again, that backslash is all-important. If you don't want to do that, then highlight the piece you want to italicise and hit the second icon over, on the left, the one that looks like a falling tower.

1a (11): And in conclusion...

When you've finished your review there are a few ways you can go. You can add in a short piece, what I like to think of as an epilogue or afterthought, maybe explaining again why you like or dislike the album, whether having heard it again that view is still held by you, what you have learned listening to the album or any other information you want. You could talk about where the artiste went from there, if at all --- ”On every street” was the last album by Dire Straits, though Mark Knopfler continues to have a very successful solo career” for instance, or ”This was the last Supertramp album to feature Roger Hodgson. After his departure, their sound went in a pretty different direction” --- whatever you want to write, or not, as the case may be. But I usually find that just ending as the album ends is not enough for me. It may be for you.

I often also include a list of other albums by this artiste people who enjoyed this album may also like to listen to, and like everyone I write a tracklisting, just a simple numbered list. Many people rate their albums --- I don't, at least not at the moment --- and if you want to do that you're free to either show the rating at the beginning or end of the review, as is your choice. You can rate them any way you want: marks out of ten, percentage, little icons to indicate good or bad, smileys, frowneys, whatever you like, though as with everything else, once you choose a system you should really try to stick to it. Not only will it confuse and annoy people if you keep trying out new sytems for rating, but if you stick to the one they will get used to it and know where to look.

One more point: if you're planning on using pictures, other than the album cover, do be aware that there is a maximum restriction of ten per post. There is no way past this, and if you go over the allowed amount your post will not even preview until you fix it. Smilies count as images, by the way, so don't throw in too many emoticons if you want to include pictures.

That's about as much as I can say on album reviews specifically, but as I said at the very start, in the final analysis it's up to you what you do, how you conduct your review, how you approach it, how you write it, and what you choose to write. These are only guidelines, but hopefully will give you a basic grounding on what to expect, and what to avoid. Don't forget to comment if you have questions, suggestions, or anything you need corrected or edited.

Next time we'll be moving into the journal deeper, cutting our way through the underbrush and discovering what else you can do with this versatile tool. In many ways, the possibilities are endless, limited only by your time, your imagination and how dedicated you want to be to your music journal.
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Old 04-20-2012, 08:57 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Kudos for creating a guide.
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Old 04-20-2012, 09:02 PM   #13 (permalink)
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This is really really well done Trollheart.
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Old 04-21-2012, 11:08 AM   #14 (permalink)
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2. Why should I even want to write a music journal?

If you've asked yourself the question, it's quite possible that there is no answer that will properly convince you this is the thing to do. Most people start their journals a) because the facility is there, b) because they've read other people's journals and think they can/want to do better or as good as those they've read and c) they have a genuine desire to discuss their music and bring it to perhaps a new audience. If none of these fits, then you writing a journal may not be for you.

But that of course does not mean you can't start one. As long as your request is approved by the mods, you're good to go. But if you feel you may be making a mistake, you owe it to yourself, and your potential readers, to think it through again before committing.

2a: Gimme one good reason...

There are other reasons why people begin these, and if any of these sound like you, then again, they're probably the wrong reasons.

1. You want to show off your musical knowledge and feel superior to others
2. You want to have a great number of views and/or comments on your journal
3. You want to argue with people
4. You're kind of half-interested, but suspect it may be a passing thing
5. You are not a good writer
6. You are not a good listener.

The last two are very important. Of course, no-one is saying you have to be Shakespeare or Tennyson, but as outlined in the intro to this thread earlier, you need to at least have a basic grasp of written English. Like many forums, using “txt spk” is frowned upon here. A sentence that goes ”U hav 2 listen 2 this album it's gr8!” will not attract readers. People here want to, generally, read properly written sentences and pieces, and while we'll all throw in the odd smiley or lol or whatever, it doesn't characterise our writing. You need to be able to spell, use punctuation and grammar and have a reasonable idea of how sentences and paragraphs are constructed. One paragraph, for instance, that runs on for forty lines is hard reading, and needs to be broken into two or more in order for people to be able to easily digest its content. If you can't understand and legislate for that, you need to work on your writing a bit more.

But none of the above matters if you're not a good listener. A lot of the time, people will comment on what you have written; in fact, this is one of the main aims of a journal, to get people talking and discussing what you've created. But if you refuse to take their points on board you're missing the point yourself. Constructive criticism has always been, and always will be, a great aid to any writer. You may think what you have written is great, but if someone points something out to you in your writing that is taking from the piece, you need to look at that and decide if they're right (they may not be) and if so, adjust your writing accordingly.

The best part of writing a journal is hearing what others think of it --- good or bad --- and engaging in discussion with them on certain subjects you both have an interest in. If people comment, and you ignore or put down their comments, they are unlikely to do so again, except perhaps in retaliation, which is not what this forum is all about. So you need to listen to what people say about your writing, even if you don't agree with it. Analyse their comments and decide if they have merit, and remember to always thank people for leaving a comment, as they are under no obligation whatever to do so.

2b: Gimme one bad reason...

But going back to the other possibilities, the “bad reasons” for starting, or thinking of starting a journal. If you're hoping to feel superior and show off your musical knowledge, think again: there are people here who could run rings around you, and me, in terms of what they know about music. Many are musicians, many have had experience of far more genres than either of us could ever even imagine (Grindcore?), so you're unlikely to be able to trump them. Even if you can, who wants to read the writings of someone who just wants to prove him or herself better than them? So cut that out for a reason to begin a journal.

Comments and views? Well, views will depend obviously on how interesting you make your journal and how often you update it, and without question there's a great feeling as you watch the views increase. It means people are reading, possibly regularly, though of course that can only be proved by comments left. But as a general rule, if you have a few hundred views minimum, you must have a decent amount of people “tuning in” reasonably regularly. As for comments, well this is totally outside your control, and people will comment only as and when they feel they have to, or want to. Despite many invitations over the last year for more people to comment on my journal, I would still say they make up less than one percent of the posts in my journal, and most of them are from the same few people.

Don't be discouraged if you don't get comments on your journal. You may not. It doesn't mean people aren't reading: as I said, the amount of views tell you that. But think about all the times you read posts in threads on various forums: did you always reply? There are traditionally only a small percentage of people who actively post in groups, especially on the threads of others. Watch your view count, that's how you'll know if you're being successful or not.

Now, if you're setting up your journal in order to argue with people and debate their point of view, that's also not a good idea. Discussion is of course the lifeblood of any forum, argument can be its downfall. Of course you can debate and disagree, but only as a part of your journal, not its raison d'etre. No-one likes to be shouted down, and even the most argumentative among us like to just kickback and read journals some times, so make sure that if you do start a journal that it's a place of relative calm and serenity.

The last reason is probably one of the worst. If you start a journal, write for a few days or weeks and then lose interest it will invariably move down the list into the realms of obscurity, as others who update more regularly push your journal down the line. Like a “cob web site”, no-one really wants to read a journal that hasn't been updated in months (unless it's gained a reputation and people are just waiting eagerly for the next posting) and doesn't look likely to be, so before you take on what can be quite a committment, be sure this is what you want to do. No-one is saying you have to update every day, as I'll explain in the next post, but some sort of regularity, at least as you're starting out and “trying to make your mark”, as it were, is essential.

Remember, a music journal is not just for Christmas. Or something.
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Old 04-21-2012, 12:18 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I know Tore wrote a guide to or help with writing reviews, but it's now closed and after consultation with him or her, I've decided to try writing my own.
You can leave the bolded part out, mate

Great job on the guide!
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:22 PM   #16 (permalink)
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3. What shall we use to fill the empty spaces?

Now that we've gone into album reviews in some depth, what's left? What else can you fill your journal up with? Well, the answer is everything. Or nothing. Depends on you. If you want, your journal can consist of nothing more than album review after album review. This might be seen as boring, predictable or unadventurous, but if you choose this path just make certain that you do the best damned album reviews you can, and no-one will mind. You may even become the place to go, the go-to guy or girl for people wanting to read album reviews.

3a: Do it good

But if you want to do more, do more. There's no holding you back. I've got about sixty different sections to my journal, with at least twenty more waiting in the wings. How did I think of them? Well, various ways, but most of the inspirations came from listening to music, how it's played, how it's written, how it's presented. Things will jump out at you from time to time, perhaps things I would never have thought of. Team-ups. Debut albums. Live performances. Songs that are special to you. Music from the TV. There are, quite literally, infinite things you can write about. You can choose a particular artist, and concentrate on writing the best review of their work that you can. You could relate your experience at gigs, or maybe the musical tradition, if one exists, in your family tree. Or your own national music, perhaps.

Like I say, literally anything. Just make sure that whatever you decide to do, you give it your very best shot, and then even if no-one likes it, you can be comfortable that you put in maximum effort. But if you do that, it's likely that someone, possibly lots of people, will like it, and read it. You don't even have to have a set format for your journal. Many people don't; they write as they feel like it, posting what they want to at any given moment. Almost a stream of consciousness, if you will. Do whatever you want, just bear these important points in mind:

1. Do it well, to the very best of your ability
2. Make sure it's well researched, if research is required: check your facts
3. Do it with pride and passion and
4. Make in interesting to read.

Follow those guidelines and you should be well on the way to writing something pretty damn good. And don't worry if you fail in your first attempt, or seem to. If your journal seems about as busy as a lift in a bungalow, don't despair: give it time. Not every journal starts buzzing from the first entry. Give your posts time to be read, and noticed, and maybe commented on. And if this doesn't happen, just plough on with your next posts. Someone, somewhere will eventually comment, and even if they don't, it'll have to be a pretty poor journal if no-one at least looks at it, so keep checking those views.

3b: Picture this

I personally seem to be one of the only ones doing this, but you can make your journal more aesthetically pleasing and eye-catching by using graphics, images and pictures. It's very easy: just find the picture you want, copy its location as we showed you in the album review tutorial, stick it between two image tags (that's one “img” and one “/img” in square brackets, as shown below,


or if you prefer, select the “insert image” icon from the top right of the “Reply” dialogue as shown (the one that looks like a postcard or letter, six in from the right).

Type in manually or, preferably, paste the image URL, but this time without the http:// part, since as you can see that's already been done for you

which will then give you the below text.


Whichever method you use, hit the “Preview” button and you should see something like this:


I tend to make my own images, mostly as headers for the various sections I run, and you can do that too, or you can search for images online that reflect what you want to post: a disc perhaps for album reviews, a silhouette of a man and woman for duets, or whatever. Do however be alive to the ten-image restriction placed on all posts. Also understand that if you make your own images, you will need to upload them either to your own website/FTP server, as I do, or to an image-sharing website. Either way, they have to be online and you have to have the URL to make them work: leaving them on your computer will not allow them to display here.

Of course, you don't have to use pictures at all. You decide yourself whether that suits your style or not. But the above just shows you how to do this, if you decide to go down that route.

3c. Basic structure

For those of you familiar with HTML, be aware that the tags used in this forum are slightly different to those you would normally use to highlight, bolden etc text, or centre images. Well, essentially they're the same, but you'll need to get used to using square brackets around these commands instead of the usual, HTML-standard left and right arrow. Many of the tags used in basic HTML will work here, though not all, like B for bold, I for italic, U for underline, CENTER for, well, centreing, and so on, but if you place them in the HTML arrows they won't be recognised, so if something doesn't work for you, consider checking back that you have used the proper square brackets.

Other than that, structure your writing as you would normally. Have spaces between paragraphs, don't let sentences run on too long, and try to arrange your text around the YouTube videos you use so that you don't end up with, for instance, ten lines of text, one YouTube video and then two words of text after that. A little care and experimentation will show you the best way to go. Oh, and paragraph codes don't work: you have to do it the old-fashioned way, ie hit the return key and leave a line space.

Things can be made stand out by usage of the font, color and size tags, again available from the top menu when you post (see the tutorial on headings for albums in the very first post). You can see this in action here, where each subheading is done in a certain font, colour and size so that it stands out from the rest of the article. The number of fonts on tap is limited, but there are a few decent ones there, and you can use many colours to enhance them. So for headings, important notes, titles, quotes, anything that you want to draw more attention to than the basic text, remember the font tags.
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Old 04-21-2012, 02:23 PM   #17 (permalink)
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You can leave the bolded part out, mate

Great job on the guide!
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Old 04-22-2012, 05:15 PM   #18 (permalink)
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4. Beyond the basics

4a: YouTube: sometimes, if you want something done properly...

There will of course be those occasions when you spit and snarl and rage that the particular video you want is not available on YouTube. This will happen, it's inevitable, unless you tend to go for very generic albums where all the tracks are easily locatable. So what happens when you really want to post that hard-to-find video but YouTube returns no results? Well, I normally make my own.
It's not as hard as it sounds.

Of course, if you want an arty, bells-and-whistles video with zooming effects, transitions and floating text, using several different images or even video clips stitched together, I can't help you. That sort of thing is creative expression, and down to the artistic talent and indeed available time of the person involved. I once tried to create one of those sort of videos: took me over three hours and I was only two or three minutes into the song! Not as easy as it looks, let me tell you!

But if you want something more basic, step this way. Remember, people here are not looking for award-winning, cutting-edge video. In fact, most of us could care less about the video itself: it's the music we're interested in. So when I need to upload a video to accompany a track I want to feature, I use the simplest, most basic format I can. The idea is to get the video up, not to create a masterpiece. So a simple graphic of the album cover over which the music plays is usually enough for me. Yes, it's boring and ordinary, and shows little or no creative thought, but as I just said, no-one's looking for the next genius in video composition. They just want to click the video so they can hear the track.

To be honest, if YouTube allowed you just to post music I would, but they're a video site and so you have to upload some sort of video to get your music online. The good news is that it's not hard, and you can use free software to create them. And once you've created your first video, it's the same process every time. So how do we do it? Well, we need two pieces of software (This assumes that you're using a Windows PC, sorry. If you're using Linux, a Mac or some other system, you'll need to look elsewhere for a tutorial) and a very basic understanding of graphics.

WINDOWS LIVE MOVIE MAKER

There are of course other programs you can use, some probably much better, but I've found this one to be both easy and free, and it integrates perfectly into Windows 7. If you're using a version prior to Windows 7, this software should, I think, already be built-in to the operating system. For a Windows 7 version, go here Windows Live Essentials - Download Windows Live Essentials and click the “Download” button. Once the program is installed on your system, rack it up and you'll see this screen

Click where it's ringed in red and you'll be taken to a browse feature, where you can select a picture --- any picture, but I usually use the album cover --- that will be displayed when your video runs. If you don't have the picture you want, you can just download it, either from Google or Wiki (see previous tutorials 1a(2) and 3b) and then navigate to it. Either way, you should end up with something like this

You'll notice that the picture is shown in a large version on the left, and a smaller on the right, both ringed in red. Under the larger picture are buttons like play and stop, but there's nothing to play at the moment: this is only a picture. So we need to add our music.

This we do by going to the “add music” tab, as shown: the one that looks like a musical note.

On clicking this, we then get a further menu. Click on the one marked, where it says “add music”. You can click the other one, “add music at this point”, but I normally use the first one.

Now browse your music collection to the album you want to use the track from. In this case, I'm using Journey's “Eclipse”. Highlight the album directory and either double-click or hit the “open” key, as shown.

Navigate to the track you want. Here I'm choosing “Resonate”. Click “open” or double-click.

Now look at your screen. You'll see that on the right, the smaller image now has a musical note above it, and the name of the track you just selected (or as much of it as will fit, anyway). But note, also in red, the length of the project. It's still seven seconds, which will be totally useless for your video. Try it. Hit the “play” button. You'll get seven seconds of your track, then the video will stop. What a bummer!

Of course, that can and must easily be fixed. What you need to do now is go to the “Project” tab, as shown

and click on the icon marked “fit to music”, again as shown

NOW look at your screen to the right! See the difference? Instead of just the one picture, you now have dozens, so that there is now a vertical scroll bar to show you that they continue on past your immediate field of vision. Also, the FULL title of the track can now fit, as well as the artiste and album, and displays across the screen. In addition, looking to the left, you'll note that our video length is now correct, in this case 5:10, and you can test that by hitting the “play” key again. You'll see the black bar to the extreme left of the first icon move slowly across it, and then over the rest, over and down, while the music plays. Your video is now ready to be saved.
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Old 04-22-2012, 05:26 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Click the small arrow in the blue square at the top left corner, as shown

From the drop-down menu that comes up, select “Save Movie” and then “For computer”, as shown

Type in your filename. Doesn't have to be the track name, but I usually use it. Take note of where the file is being saved (you can see that from the left column or from the title bar, and change it if you want) and hit OK.

Your movie will begin saving to your hard drive

and when it's finished will alert you.

At this point, you have a choice, though it's really no choice. Your video is now saved but in a large WMV format. You can upload this directly to YouTube, if you like, as long as you're prepared for a long wait. The larger the file, obviously, the longer it will take to upload to YouTube. If you have a fast, powerful computer, or lots of time to spare, or you're going to leave it running while you go off and do something, then there's no problem in your uploading the video as it stands. YouTube will certainly recognise and convert it for you.

ANY VIDEO CONVERTER

But if you don't have a supercomputer, lots of time, or you have a few videos to upload, then you should definitely consider converting the WMV to a much smaller, more manageable format, like FLV or SWF. You can use a free program called “Any Video Converter” to do this for you. It's simplicity itself. You download from here Free Video Converter-Any Video Converter Freeware, freely convert video to iPhone, Android, Html5 formats --- just click the download button. Once you have the software installed, run it up and you will see this screen:

Just click where it says “Add video” (ringed in red) on the left. This will bring up a browser. If your video is not in the directory it brings up, navigate to the one where it is and select. Now your video will be shown in the middle, as ringed. Go across to the top right corner and click the small downward arrow, as shown. This will open another menu, showing the various formats you can convert your video to. Select the one with the red banner marked “Flash” as shown, and then either SWF (Shockwave File) or FLV (Flash Video); I always use FLV.

Hit the convert button and you're on your way! The program will show the conversion progress

and when it's finished, just click on the “No thanks” button (unless you want to buy the Pro version of the software)

and the directory wherein your now-converted file is held will be displayed. Note that AVC uses the (documents) directory and then makes a subdir for the type of files it converts to, so look for the “Any Video Converter” subdirectory in your documents folder, then look for the “FLV” or “SWF” subdirectory, and you'll find your file there.


From there it's just a case of uploading your file to YouTube. It's a simple process, so simple I won't be covering it here, but if anyone is stuck post a comment, PM or email me and I'll walk you through it.
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Old 03-16-2013, 06:51 PM   #20 (permalink)
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I actually really appreciate a guide for journals. Awesome Trollheart.

I've been thinking about starting a journal ever since getting here but have been ambivalent, for the same reasons about structure. Unfortunately my learning difficulties proves hard to write essays or reports in a standard format. Practicing English writing for 10 years has only built it to just decent, and whenever presenting competently it's at a quick loss thereafter. Losing train of thought constantly ends up stating things really awkward. I'm pretty insecure about writing so it almost results into OCD.

All leads up to this question. Can I suggest after writing an entry, to seek feedback of how you wrote it? I'm not sure if I feel comfortable planning an entry and getting somebody else to correct later to finalise it. I prefer doing the work myself.
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