A review at www.barefootmusicnews.com

Another review at www.cooltools.com

Yet another review at mac-guild.org

Time for another one of my favorite software tools...

Ever wonder "how on earth does he/she play that??" Or "What the heck is that riff, I just can't quite get it?" Or possibly just want to bask in some player's amazing chops like a fan of a great movie would watch all the behind the scenes extras on the DVD and still want to go to the website and dig even deeper? Roni Music has an application available for both Mac and Windows that will take a song that you have on your computer, or on a CD, and slow it down, in real time, with a speed slider that you control, and no matter how slow you make it go (you can crank it down to 20% speed) the pitch never changes.

As you most likely know, normally when you change the speed of audio, the pitch changes. An example is when you speed your voice up and you start to sound like a chipmunk. The act of speeding the audio up makes not only the beats of the audio "go faster" but the notes themselves are higher. Same goes for slowing things down, the punctuations of the piece of audio itself become slower, more spread out, but also the sound gets really low.

With Amazing Slow Downer, you can change the speed of the audio but the actual notes remain the same. This software was developed to help people who are trying to learn a piece of music. Like let's say there was this killer guitar solo on some tune that you really wanted to learn to play. Well, if you just sit and listen to it over and over, even someone with a really good ear would be challenged to discern and identify each and every note such that they could easily play them back to you. (I do know a few... but they still dig this app!) When you slow the track down, the notes are clear, and further apart - yet still in an even time that you can tap out (meaning the tempo is much much slower but constant). The notes are the same as before so you can "play along" in slow- motion with the recording and actually learn what's going on.

I'm not associated with the developer of this software, and I'm not his Mom... and I think this is an application that every musician should pick up... its uses are many, and it's flaws are few. Even its price point: <$50 makes it affordable and keeps us all honest. Roni Music is a small developer who has made a great product at a low price. I'm all for picking up a copy. They have a trial version, which is fully functional - except that it only lets you access the first 2 tracks of a CD or first 3 minutes of a song file. The full version opens that up and lets you use any length media from almost any source.

You really have to hear some examples for yourself, check these out from the Roni Music site:

Jazz guitar - MP3
Original Stretched 50% Stretched 100% Stretched 200%
Jazz tenor sax - MP3
Original Stretched 50% Stretched 100% Stretched 200%
Classical violin - MP3
Original Stretched 50% Stretched 100% Stretched 200%
Jazz piano solo - MP3
Original Stretched 50% Stretched 100% Stretched 200%

This software is of immense benefit to:

1. Practicing musicians: loading up recordings of the heroes of your genre... are you a fiddle player? load up some classic reels and jigs that are normally wicked fast, and slow 'em down and learn them in a controlled environment, and speed it up gradually as you learn to play the licks. Just want to play along with the band but slowly till you get it right? This is the way to go.

2. Music teachers / students: I think this application is fantastic for illustrating musical concepts to students... it's sort of like a microscope for music. Listen up close like never before to quintessential moments in music that everyone's heard a million times but hasn't really stopped to focus on... try this on the Flight of the Bumblebee... it's fun, try it.

3. Musical analysis for writers or educators: Really allows for critical listening of structure, technique, composition, yes it's a distorted view of reality, but what it really seems like to me is it's another perspective. Not a replacement for just listening to the actual performances, but it's another way of digging in and taking a close critical look at someone's magical performance.

4. Quick study: Have a gig this week and have to learn something really quickly... everyone knows how to set the metronome up and go slowly as you learn the song, or read the charts... but what if you don't have a chart... or even if you do... this app allows you to play along with the original track at any speed you like... and if it's slightly out of tune from your instrument for some reason - or your even going to be playing the song in a different key - there is a pitch slider that allows you to tune the song to you. VERY cool.

5. Dictation / transcription: did you record an interview and you need to transcribe it but don't want to press pause every two seconds and go back and forth... just load the audio file into Amazing Slow Downer and slow it down to half speed, you can still understand and hear every word, only it's set to the speed of your typing. Extremely cool. Also good for transcribing charts for your bandmates. Just nice to get it slowed down while you get it written.

The quality of the sound is incredible, you can save out MP3, or AAC or many other formats of the song in slowed down mode, so you can make a CD of your slowed down tracks for practice, or for giving to the rest of the band, anything you can think of. There's even some on board EQ and sound control settings so you can really get it sounding good.

Enjoy! I'm going to go practice this great Celtic reel I've been working on as played by Seamus Egan of Solas, this amazing band I just saw at the Iron Horse in Northhampton, MA last Sunday night. I'm obsessed with being able to pick this song.

Todd Howard