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Digital Music
Digital Music
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 MP3 Files and Calling  |  A Caller's Perspective  |  Recording and Editing Music  |  Connectors 

How to use MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3) files instead of vinyl records to call a Square Dance.

How to Use MP3 Files Instead of Records 
  • Why use MP3 files instead of 45 RPM records?

    • Your 45 RPM records can be converted into MP3 files and stored on your laptop computer. Bring your laptop to the dance instead of a record case. You don't need to worry about forgetting to bring a specific record since all your music is always in your computer.
    • No need to lug around a heavy record case. Lug your laptop around instead!
    • Software can be used to change the pitch without changing the speed, or change the speed without changing the pitch.
    • Software can be used to minimize noise such as 'pops' and 'scratches'. (a.k.a. noise reduction)
    • Software can be used to automatically do 'record resets' (a.k.a. looping). Dancers won't notice the 'needle' being picked up and set back down again at some random spot. You simply set a start and end loop marker for each record and software does the rest.
    • After a record is converted into an MP3 file, the record itself can be stored as backup. The record never has to be used again, and hence you'll be less likely to break it, scratch it, or warp it.
    • Over time, a record generally tends to lose sound quality due to minute scratches and warping. This doesn't happen with an MP3 file. An MP3 file is a digital recording, and will sound the same the first time it is played as well as the millionth time.
    • A play list or database program can keep track of your MP3 files. You can select an MP3 file from a dropdown list sorted by title and/or label. There is no more need to fumble through your record case trying to locate a particular record.
  • Why use MP3 files instead of Mini-Disks?

    • A computer hard disk can hold a lot more music files than a mini-disk. One gigabyte of storage can hold about 600 square dance MP3 files.
    • Software can keep track of your MP3 files. Locate a particular file by name, or select it from a dropdown list. You don't need to carry around any paper directory listings to let you know which Mini-Disk track contains which song.
    • Software change the pitch and/or tempo, and perform other 'edit' functions.
    • The words on a computer screen are larger and the controls are easier to see and use. Some players such as WinAmp allow you to customize their appearance (using 'Skins').
    • The computer can also display cue sheets for singing calls or round dances.


    • MP3 is a compressed format. The sound quality may be less than minidisk, but I doubt that anybody can notice it. MP3 typically produces high-quality near-CD audio.
    • The computer could break, hang, or freeze up. Of course, so could the MiniDisk player or amplifier.

    What is MP3?

    • MP3 is a way of compressing music. The algorithm consists of two primary steps:
      1. Sounds that can't be detected by the human ear are dropped. For instance, adjacent sounds that are too close to differentiate due to frequency or duration are combined into a single sound; sounds at different frequencies that have different amplitudes may have one of the two sounds dropped because the other sound overrides it so much that the human ear can't perceive it.
      2. The data is then zipped up as with a standard data compression algorithm.
    • MP3 is customizable. That is, you can select the sample rate and bit resolution.
  • What you will need:

    • Hardware

      • Laptop computer
        • The computer stores and plays the MP3 files.
        • All discussion on this page assumes a Microsoft Windows-based PC.
        • The signal booster increases the signal from the computer to the amplifier.
        • The booster is necessary for the Hilton 75. For other Hilton sound systems, it is optional. This is the same booster that you need for Mini-Disk players.
        • The booster uses a stereo 3.5mm plug/jack. Do not use a mono connecter, or you will damage the booster.
        • The signal booster also acts as a volume control, so that the volume doesn't need to be re-adjusted every time you switch from a 45 RPM record to an MP3 file or vice-versa.
        • Available for $49.95 from Hilton Audio Products
      • (Hilton) Amplifier or Sound System
        • I have a Hilton 75-A, and I recently purchased a Hilton MA-150. I highly recommend the MA-150!
    • Software

      • Winamp Player (freeware)

        • The Winamp Player plays the MP3 Files.
        • Hundreds of 'skins' (custom appearances) are available for free on the web.
        • Download the Winamp Player for free from
        • Winamp has (DSP/Effect) plug-ins that can change the pitch and|or tempo:

          • Pitchfork that can change the speed or pitch. Unfortunately, the speed can not be changed without changing pitch, and vice-versa.
          • DeFX (multiple effects module) apparently can separately control the pitch and tempo.
          • Chronotron is excellent at changing the tempo without changing the pitch.
          • NT Pitch can change the pitch without changing the tempo.
      • Windows Media Player Windows Media Player (free)

        • The Microsoft Windows Media Player can also be used to play MP3 Files.
        • If you have Internet Explorer, the Windows Media Player is probably already on your computer. If not, or if you want to make sure that you have the latest version, download the Windows Media Player for free from
          (be sure to select the correct operating system)
          Product = Windows Media Player
          Operating system = <your system>
      • Cool Edit 2000 ($69)

        • Unfortunately, Cool Edit 2000 is no longer available. It has been sold to Adobe, and is now available as Adobe Audition with a much higher price tag. Alternative music editing software can be found on our Digital Music Information page.

          Cool Edit 2000 is a very powerful program that can do many tasks, including:
          • Capture music from an external source such a record player and save it on your computer as a WAV file. A program with this functionality is known as a Ripper.
          • Convert WAV files to MP3 files. A program with this functionality is known as an Encoder. A 20 MB WAV file typically encodes to a 1.8 MB MP3 file (a savings of over 90%).
          • Edit the music to reduce 'pops' and 'scratches'.
          • Change the pitch but not the speed, and vice-versa.
        • Cool Edit 96 is an older version of the program. It doesn't have the 30-day restrictions, and is probably still downloadable somewhere for free.
      • AudioGrabber ($20)

        • AudioGrabber is a CD-Ripper program. It reads an Audio CD in your computer's CD drive, and creates a WAV (or MP3) file for each selected track.
      • Ceder Square Dance System

        • The Ceder Square Dance System (CSDS) is our product. It can play MP3 files via either Winamp or the Microsoft Media Player.
        • A database keeps track of your MP3 files, which you can select from a sorted list. Check out the CSDS Music Player and the CSDS Music Database.
      • Joachim Rühenbeck, a caller from Germany, is the first caller (to my knowledge) to exclusively use MP3 files while calling. He has written a program in Microsoft Access to set and use 'record resets' and 'jump' points within Winamp. Joachim initially introduced me to MP3 files. I was greatly impressed with the quality of the MP3 recordings, the ease of use, and future possibilities.
  • How to convert a 45 RPM record into an MP3 file

    1. Plug in and turn on your computer and Hilton turntable.
    2. Connect an appropriate cable from the Hilton Tape Record (low output) jack to the computer's Microphone-Input jack.
    3. Run Cool Edit 2000 (or any other program that can record and save a WAV file)
    4. From the main menu, select File | New.
    5. Select the following settings:
      • Sample rate = 44100
      • Channel = Mono
      • Resolution = 16-bit
      • (Joachim uses 32000 Hz + Mono + 8-bit. You may want to experiment and see what resolution works best for you.)
      then click the 'OK' button.
    6. On the turntable, set the Bass and Treble dials to reasonable positions.
    7. Verify that everything is properly setup:
      • You may need to 'Open Volume Controls' on your computer and enable Microphone-Input. Set all the recording volume levels to maximum.
      • Place a record on the turntable, and start playing it.
      • Click the 'Record' button (little red dot near the lower left-side of the Cool Edit 2000 screen).
      • Adjust the volume on the turntable so that the decibel indicator (red bar at bottom of Cool Edit 2000 screen) flickers between -15 dB and -3 dB.
      • Click the 'Record' button or the 'Stop' button to stop recording.
      • From the main menu, select File | Close All to close all files. Answer 'No' when asked to save changes.
      • From the main menu, select File | New. Verify that the Mono option is set, then click 'OK'.
    8. Record the record.
      • Click the 'Record' button then start playing the record.
      • After the record ends, click the 'Record' or 'Stop' button to stop recording.
      • If the amplitude of the recording looks low, or if you want to make sure that all of your recording are at the same volume level, do the following:
        • From the CoolEdit main menu, select Transform | Amplitude | Normalize | 100%. This will normalize the volume level.
    9. Save the file as a WAV file (a WAV file uses about 6MB per minute of music -- a typical square dance record needs a total of 18 to 20 MB). Saving the music as a WAV file is important in case you want to edit it later. This is because each time an MP3 file is edited, some fidelity is lost. A WAV file is essentially an exact copy of the record, whereas an MP3 file is a 'fuzzy' copy.
      • From the main menu, select File | Save Selection. Enter a filename (such as RecordName-RecordLabel-RecordNumber), and make sure that the 'Save as type' is 'Windows PCM (*.wav)'. Click the 'Save' button.
    10. Now, save the file as a MP3 file.
      • Method 1:
        • From the main menu, select File | Save Selection. Enter a filename (such as RecordName-RecordLabel-RecordNumber), and make sure that the 'Save as type' is 'MPEG3 (*.mp3)'. Click the 'Save' button.
      • Method 2:
        • Drop the WAV file onto BladeEnc (see below under MP3 Encoders).
  • How to play an MP3 (or WAV) file through your Hilton amplifier

    1. Connect a cable from the computer's Line-Output jack to the Hilton IN-LINE SIGNAL BOOSTER to the Hilton Tape Music jack.
    2. Run the Winamp Player, CoolEdit2000, or the Windows Media Player.
    3. Load a MP3 file, then click the play button.
    4. Adjust the Bass and Treble controls on the Hilton amplifer as necessary (decrease bass and increase treble).
  • Copyright Issues

    • Legally, you must own the original record to make copies of it.
    • Any copies that you make are for your own personal use.
    • It is illegal to distribute copyrighted music to others without the consent of the artist and/or publisher.
    • I actually didn't realize until recently that copyright issues are a big problem for the square dance music industry. The music producers stand to lose much revenue, even go out of business, and the square dance community will no longer get much new music if such problems persist. The following copyright-related "moral dilemmas" have happened to me:

      • I've received E-mails asking me to post some square dance music mp3 files on my site for people to download. This is illegal and I will not do it!
      • I've received requests to post samples of square dance music on our site. Copyright issues aside, I will not do this since I feel it is the responsibility of the record producers and distributors.
      • At a recent dance that I was sharing with another caller, I mentioned that I liked the record that he just played. He suggested that I make a copy of it onto my laptop during the next break. Of course, I could't do it, as it would be violating copyright law.
      • I received an E-mail from a dancer requesting me to bring him a CD full of square dance music mp3 files to the next dance. What are these guys thinking??? How blatantly illegal can you get??? Do you think that just because it's so easy to copy mp3 files that it's okay to do it? Of course not.
  • Disclaimer

    • Use the information on this page at your own risk.
  • Warning(s)

    • Always carry a few records with you when you're calling, just in case some piece of equipment (such as the laptop computer) fails.
    • Alternatively, (this is what I do), carry a CD-ROM with a subset of your MP3 files and the appropriate software. Since laptops are so ubiquitous nowadays, I expect to be able to borrow one in case of an emergency.
  • General Information on MP3

  • MP3 Encoders

  • SDKs and APIs for popular players (for computer programmers)

  • Miscellaneous comments

    • MP3 is a lossy compression format. If you decide to change the pitch, speed, or edit an MP3 file in any manner, some fidelity will be lost when the file is recompressed (saved) into MP3 format. For this reason, I suggest that you insist on a non-lossy version (e.g., a CD or a vinyl record) whenever you purchase music. Personally, I would only consider purchasing an MP3 file if it was the only way to get the music, and only if I absolutely required the music.
  • More information

  • Feedback

    • I'd be interested to hear about your experiences with using MP3 files for calling.
    • I'd also like any suggestions you might have on how to improve this web page.
    • Please feel free to contact me via Contact Vic
21-June-2024 05:01:09
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