Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Capo -- Cool Tool for Musicians or Radiology Residents

If you are a musician, the word "capo" brings to mind the device that we guitar and banjo players clamp on the necks of our instruments to change key.

However, Capo also refers to a new and rather swell Mac program for learning tunes from recordings. Capo does this by playing a torrent of music at a speed slow enough for one to comprehend. Here's the really cool thing: it does this without changing the pitch of the music!

The following screenshot shows Capo playing "Heather Bonne", a swell tune I snagged last week at a jam session at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes.

As a fiddle player, I learn a lot of tunes from field recordings made at festivals, jam sessions and concerts. Although I'm a quick study, some intricate or especially twisty tunes are a lot easier to learn when slowed down in this way. Then, once I've worked out the notes, I can play along with the original at a slower speed until I've learned it well enough to play it at full speed.

Capo is not the first Mac program to do this job. I've used The Amazing Slow Downer and Transcribe for years. These fine programs work quite well, but their interface clearly shows their original Windows roots. Capo, on the other hand, was born on the Mac, and is simply gorgeous. It also ably meets the classic Mac software test: "Can I use this without reading the instructions?"

How is this relevant to radiology? The fiddler in me would answer, "Bite me -- who cares!" However, the radiology geek in me would point out that music isn't the only thing you can slow down with this application. If I were the sort of person who transcribed lecture notes or speeches, Capo would be a huge help.

I could also imagine using this app for learning other languages. I suspect that Capo would work pretty well in slowing down foreign language broadcasts to a more understandable pace. It may also be useful among native English speakers separated by their common language. As a long-displaced Southerner, I have gotten pretty good at decoding the Uzi-paced speech patterns of Yankees. However, newly displaced immigrants from below the Muffin-Biscuit Line may find Capo handy for this now and then.

But wait, there's more: Capo is currently on sale at half-price. I paid full price when I bought it a while back, but am now considering grabbing a few extra licenses as gifts for deserving pals.

The only thing that would make Capo even better would be to release an iPhone version. I've suggested this to Capo's developer, so don't touch that dial...

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