Music Teacher's Helper Blog

RiffMaster Review: Slowing Down Recordings

Whatever your level of learning, it’s great to be able to slow down a recording to work with it.  RiffMaster Pro is a new bit of software out (as well as a smartphone app), which I’ve had the opportunity to explore and review for you.  I was impressed, and I suspect you and your students might be as well.

RiffMaster allows you to load a recording from your computer files or from a CD, and select any speed, up to 75% slower or faster, at which you’d like to listen to it, or to work with any portion of it.  You can then, if you wish, save your selection as a new music file at the new speed.  This function does not change the pitch of the music.

One nice feature for working with RiffMaster is that you can simply click and drag to highlight a portion of the musical track, and the software will automatically repeat that section for you to work with.

The benefits of slowing music down are obvious:  to better learn, transcribe, or analyze the playing of a performer.  The benefits of speeding up a selection are less obvious, but there are uses.  For example, since you can save the file at your chosen speed, a dance teacher might choose the perfect tempo for future use.

In addition to speed adjustment, there are several other main adjustments you can apply to your musical selection:  you can change pitch, adjust the balance or EQ, and even use a special function to hear backup musicians more easily. Changing the pitch might be useful if you wish to make some music available in a different key for others to learn, since you can save the new version to a new file.  The “Super Vocal Reducer” changes the tone of the selection so as to reduce the presence of a vocalist and make it easier to listen to what the backup band is playing.  The fourth function offered is left-right balance, which can be particularly useful in working with recordings where certain instruments are featured primarily on one side of the mix.  Some instructional recordings deliberately place the lead instrument on one side and the backup on the other, so with the balance feature you could listen to one or the other.

The look and feel of the software is friendly and clean.  The sound file is presented graphically as a horizontal image of sound waves, allowing you to click anywhere within the selection to start listening there.  Loading time for music is fairly quick and each selection is added to a play list on screen so you can easily return to any previous track unless you choose to delete it from your list.

The four primary functions each have a slider for mouse control, a plus and minus at right and left that you can click for fine control, and several clickable options at the right:  for example, for speed you can click on -20%, -10%, and 0% to get back to full speed, while your mouse can slide anywhere up to -75% or +75%.  For pitch control, you can click to the right or left of the cursor to raise or lower the pitch roughly a half step, or slide to any number up to +/- 2400 (1400 is approximately an octave).  The vocal reducer allows you to click to turn the function on or off, and the balance has a button you allows you to get back to center with a click.

A detailed EQ screen is available for any selection, and I’m told the software will soon offer multiple looping.

The software imports all the main sound formats.  The most important, to my knowledge, are mp3, wav (CD quality), wma (Windows Media files, great for my little digital sound recorder!), and AIFF (iTunes), but it also accepts mp4, ogg vorbis, flac, m4a, cda.

The software hails from Australia, and currently goes for $49 for Windows or Mac.  A stripped down version is available for iPad and iPhone at $5.49, with just the slowdown and pitch change features.  A version for Android and Windows phones is in the works.  You can email questions about this or other features to the creators of the program, who are quite responsive.  I found that demo videos on the software’s website are very helpful as well.

If interested, check out more info, a free trial, and demo videos, at http://riffmasterpro.com

About the Author

Ed Pearlman
Ed Pearlman has focused on performing, teaching, and judging fiddle music for over 30 years, offering performances and workshops throughout the USA and in Canada and Scotland. His original training was with members of the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, and he played with orchestras and chamber groups at Yale and in Boston. He currently teaches privately in Maine and at workshops around the countr... [Read more]

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