Practice Tools

If you have a CD with a tune you like, but you can't seem to get it into your head, try using one of the slow-down computer programs such as

Riley session viewed through harp strings

which can slow down a CD track or a WAV/MP3 file, without changing the pitch, and/or transpose the tune into a different key. With these programs you can adjust the tune until you can play along with it at your own speed and in the key of your choice. Amazing SlowDowner (Mac, Windows) and Transcribe (Mac, Windows, Linux) offer reduced functionality free trial versions. Best Practice is a Windows only application, but if that is your computer's operating system this is a very easy to use, intuitive program and it's FREE.

Another program which is completely free, is the multi-functional cross-platform sound editor Audacity with versions for Windows, Mac and Linux computers. This program's strength is in its ability to actually edit audio files, and it is the tool of choice for those who want to import session or class recordings from MP3 recorders or phone apps and save them as separate files on your computer or burn them onto your own CDs. The program can be used to capture the contents of a disc or tape, chop it into sections and export the results into individual files.

Audacity can also change the speed/pitch of a CD track or audio file. Although it is not as intuitive to use in this way as Best Practice, The Amazing Slowdowner or Transcribe!, it has the distinct advantage of being FREE. So, to save you a little time, here is a set of instructions:

  • First you must rip the desired track(s) from your CD to create audio (MP3 or WAV) files on your computer. Use one of the common (free) ripper programs like iTunes, RealPlayer, or MusicJukebox (there are many more). Make sure you know the exact location of the saved file.
  • Start Audacity and open the desired audio file with the File >> Open menu. This will import an in-memory copy of your file.
  • Before you can apply an Effect (such as change speed or pitch) you must first select a portion of the file's wave form. You can select the entire tune with Edit >> Select >> All. You can also select a portion of the tune, by click-dragging the cursor, and export that piece to another file so you can alter and play it separately. To save your selection, use File >> Export ...
  • Use the Effect menu to apply the speed or pitch change to the selected portion of the wave form. Audacity will update the in-memory copy of your audio file.
  • Use the control toolbar buttons (like the buttons on your tape recorder) to play, pause, stop the tune.
  • When you are finished, close the file. Be sure NOT to save the edited version unless you want to update the file to make your effect permanent.

In short, Audacity is a very powerful program for editing your audio files, and since it is Open Source code, it is free. The power, however, comes with some complexity so be prepared to dive in a little deeper to get what you need. And keep in mind that you can always ask one of the instructors to play the tune for you slowly so you can record it.

For additions or corrections to the website, please send email to