The Minidisc Music Revolution
Thanks to Sony's Minidisc (MD) technology, the ability to
good quality recordings of live music is available to anyone with a total
cost of under $500.
In addition, the cost of Internet web space is decreasing. I think
this will revolutionize how music is created and shared.
My prediction is that in 10 years, all musicians will have the
capability to record every performance they make, and post it on the
Internet to share with anyone else. This is already starting to happen
(just check out Archive.org
which has recordings of live concerts from hundreds of bands).
Currently, the major
problem is that the steps needed to record, transfer the
recording to a computer, and then publish on the Internet are quite
involved, unless you are very patient and have some friends who can help
you with the tricky computer bits.
As a musician myself, I have found the Minidisc
to be invaluable. With the new Hi-MD Minidisc players from Sony, you can
quickly move (or "upload") the audio directly from the player
to the computer, and then convert it to a format (WAV) that lets you
burn it to CD or easily make MP3 files that you can put on a web site.
Here are the steps involved in making a recording and then sharing it
on the Internet:
What you need:
A Sony Minidisc
player/recorder. It is
recommended to get a new, HiMD model because they can store more
music on one disk, and are much faster to transfer music to the
computer once it is recorded. Make sure that your model has Mic-in
and Line-in features. HiMD Minidisc players may cost around $300 but
the prices have been dropping lately. Note that HiMD players have a
"direct upload" capability (using USB), whereas the older
NetMD players do not.
Minidiscs. The new HiMD
disks can hold up to 7 hours and 55 minutes of CD quality audio, and
cost less than $10 a piece.
A microphone and stand. Sony makes an
excellent stereo condenser microphone (ECM-MS907) that sells for
less than $100.
Optional - a Stereo RCA to Miniplug
cable - useful if you want to make recordings directly from
sound/mixing boards. (approx $10)
Optional - Some audio editing software
on the computer. A good software program that is quite reasonably
priced is Magix
Audio Cleaning Lab which even lets you remove hissing and noise
from recordings. This software costs $30 USD and is available for
purchase over the Internet.
Audacity is a free
program with most of the same features, but may be slightly more
difficult to use.
At the performance:
Set up a microphone in front of the
stage, or hook the sound board directly to the Minidisc player.
You'll need the right cable to do this.
Test the recording. Try recording a
little bit of a rehearsal and playing it back, to make sure it is
working. Important note: To get a better quality recording, read your Minidisc manual to find out how to turn off Automatic Gain Control and set a manual microphone gain. This will give a much more natural sounding recording.
Start recording the performance. If you
are using a HiMD recorder you can just set the unit on record and
let it record the whole concert (as long as the concert is less than
7 hours). Don't worry about starting and stopping it for each song,
because you will edit everything later. To be safe, you should use
the AC adapter while recording to prevent the unit from running out
Stop recording, by pressing Stop on the
Minidisc recorder. Before disconnecting the unit, allow it some time
to finish saving (it takes about 30 seconds for it to finish saving
the data after you stop it).
Sometimes after a concert, the sound engineer might unplug all of the
wires at the mixing board, including the Minidisc power adapter. Be sure
to have a fresh battery installed in the unit, so that the Minidisc
recorder will be able to save the data in this case. Otherwise if the
Minidisc recorder is unplugged from the outlet, and does not have a
battery, you might lose the whole recording.
After the performance:
You first need to install the right
software on your computer. You only have to do this once, and if you
are not familiar with installing software, get a friend to help you.
See the section on Installing Software at
the end of this document.
to transfer the
recordings from the Minidisc player to your computer. Sonicstage
software comes with every HiMD Minidisc recorder, but if your
recorder is a few years old, it is best to download the Sonicstage
update from Sony.
Below is a screenshot of an old version of the Sonicstage software. To transfer the
recordings click the left arrow button in the center of the screen.
(click the image to enlarge)
Convert the recordings to WAV
format using the Sonicstage software. This can be done by
right-clicking on the recording that you transferred to your
computer, and selecting Save in WAV Format. This option is
only available in newer versions of Sonicstage (such as 4.0 and
Once the recordings are in WAV format,
you are free to burn them to a CD, or do more advanced things such
as audio editing, or making MP3 files which you can publish on the
Have fun!! If you have any questions or run into problems, check out Minidisc.org
and the Minidisc
If you can't find your solution there, as a last resort you can also
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is an
example track that I recorded using a Sony Minidisk MZ-NH700 and a Sony
ECM-MS907 condenser microphone. I placed the stereo
microphone in "180 degree mode" using the switch on the
microphone, and pointed it towards the band.
here to download the free MP3 sample. It is a recording of the Geoff Peters
Band performing an original improvised composition.
that recording will give you an idea of the kind of quality you can
expect, using less than $500 worth of equipment. For another whole jazz concert that I recorded using Minidisc, please click here.
Saxophonist Neil Peters performing with the Third Stage Jazz band
at The Hot Jazz Club on Main Street in Vancouver, BC, Canada in May
This section is the most confusing of all the sections. If you are
not familiar with installing software, please ask a computer-savvy
friend to give you a hand.
Installing Sony Sonicstage 4.0 or higher
First install the version of Sonicstage that came on the CD with
your new Minidisc recorder.
Then, if the version of Sonicstage you installed is less than
you should install the Sonicstage upgrade.
The Sonicstage upgrade that you need differs based on which
country you live in. Go to the Sony home page for your country,
go to Product Support, and locate the support information for
your model number. You should be able to find the correct
software upgrade for your model.
bought your product in USA or Canada, go
here, and look up your model number.
Other countries, just search for your country name and the
word Sony on Google.
(Optional) A piece of digital audio editing software, such as Magix
Audio Cleaning Lab, Soundforge,
or the free Audacity.
(Optional) A piece of MP3 encoder software, if you wish to create MP3
files to share on the Internet. The software should be able to convert
from WAV to MP3. An example of such software is DBPowerAmp.
Guide to HiMD Uploading
I do a radio show and the radio station was helping me to record the shows but
now has decided not to.
I can use a mini disk at the time of doing the show to record on their board but
need to now transfer to CD.
I bought a mini disk player recorder but the software will not let me
transfer due to copy write. Do you have any suggestions?
The newer "HiMD" capable recorder units can transfer directly from
the unit to your computer. However, the older "NetMD" units are unable
to transfer (even though they have a USB cable). I would check if you have a
HiMD unit or a NetMD one. You can probably find a used HiMD unit on Ebay but
make sure you get one with a Line In input (and a Mic In as well if you want).
Some HiMD units only have outputs, no inputs. You should also install the
latest Sonic Stage program.
p.s. you need to make the recording with a HiMD recorder to transfer it. You
can't record it on a NetMD unit and then put the disk in a HiMD unit and then
transfer it - it is a different encoding and won't work.
If you are stuck with Net MD you can still play back the recording and record it
on your computer in real-time with the right audio cable and a program such as
Audacity. (see: http://audacity.sourceforge
=records-tapes) Get a cable that plugs into the headphone jack on the Minidisc player to the Line In jack on the back of your computer.
- a community of Minidisc users (go to the HiMD section).
Forums where you can ask questions about using Minidisc.
Audio Cleaning Lab, Soundforge,
or the free Audacity.
About the Author
Peters is a music and computer science aficionado in Vancouver, BC,
Canada. He writes a music
weblog and performs frequently with his jazz
He also likes
eating out at Vancouver
restaurants and writes restaurant reviews for DineOutHere.com.
This web site
is copyright (c) 2010 Geoff Peters. All rights reserved.