World Wide Woodshed has released an update of SlowGold II ($49.95), a program that allows you to capture and slow down music without changing the pitch
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World Wide Woodshed has released an update of SlowGold II ($49.95), a program that allows you to capture and slow down music without changing the pitch so you can learn or transcribe parts. The program works with WAV files, and it can record from your audio CD in either digital or analog mode, depending on what your CD-ROM drive supports. If you have audio files in MP3 or other formats, you will have to convert them to WAV format before bringing them into SlowGold II.

The program gives you a lot of options. You can set loop points in the selection using a waveform view in a pop-up window. Loops will play back at the default 50 percent speed or the playback speed you last used, or you can reset playback to any speed between 5 and 120 percent. You can choose to sacrifice sound quality if you want faster time-stretch processing, or you can opt for crystal clear quality if you have either a fast machine or a lot of patience.

SlowGold II allows you to build a loop database that includes chords, lyrics, and comments for future practice sessions. Another useful feature is the unique Rhythm Grid, which allows you to see the rhythm of any passage by placing a beat "ruler" over the waveform of your loop.

Copping Chops in the WoodshedHaving released a CD last year that featured several top-notch guitarists-Jorma Kaukonen, Bob Welch, Joe Louis Walker, and others-I was quite eager to try this software so I could attempt to play the solos they contributed. The installation was effortless, and I immediately set about finding edit points for loops from the tracks I wanted to learn.

SlowGold II is pretty self-explanatory, so I had no trouble getting started. I selected track 1 of the disc, set the edit points for Kaukonen's solo, and allowed SlowGold II to record the loop to my hard disk. Within minutes my loop played back to me at half speed, sounding as though the band had eaten a handful of Quaaludes. I grabbed my guitar and began to hunt and peck for the starting note. After a few passes I was able to play the solo at the full speed of the original recording. Success!

The first solo I looped into SlowGold II was a short one-about 15 seconds long, so I decided to try it out with a longer passage. I set new loop points and recorded a 45-second solo section to my hard disk. This time, there was a noticeable wait for the loop to change speeds-about two minutes. It took this long each time I wanted to slow the section down again. (With version 6.0, which may be available by the time you read this, World Wide Woodshed plans to offer real-time playback of slowed-down files, as well as independent pitch shifting.)

Up to SpeedSlowGold II can run under Windows 95, 98, or NT, and it requires at least 12 MB of RAM and 16 MB of available hard-disk space. You'll need at least a 80486/66 MHz PC, although a 166 MHz Pentium or better is recommended. I tested it on a Pentium II/350 running Windows 98 with 256 MB of RAM and found that it performed very well, even though it took a couple minutes to process longer loops. That's not too bad with a fast machine, but I have to wonder whether it would perform very well on a slower system unless the user were willing to opt for the poorer audio quality.

In the guitar world, it seems like everyone is marketing "slow down" products of one kind or another, from the old Ibanez multispeed cassette deck to multi-effects pedal boards (like the DigiTech RP7). Many manufacturers have recognized the educational value of being able to time-stretch samples of musical parts. If I am seriously attempting to learn a part, though, I would rather sit down in front of my computer with SlowGold II than plug my CD player into a foot pedal and try the same thing. Having visual control over the edit points of the loops is a tremendous benefit.

I intend to keep working with the software to learn more of the solos from my guest guitarists. I only wish it could help me get used to wearing these dang finger picks so I could play Kaukonen's parts correctly.

Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 4