A New Sound of Music

By Larry Anders, Librarian., Tampa PC Users Group

No, Julie Andrews hasn’t resurrected her roll of the singing nun-wannabe. The Internet has spawned a new breed of music called MP3, which is short for MPEG-1 Layer 3. MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) was developed for the compression and storage of video. Layer 3 is that part of the standard that addresses the compression and storage of audio.

Are you totally confused? Don’t be. Plain and simple…MP3 compresses audio to a fraction of the size of a standard audio file found on today’s music CDs. What does this mean? Audio files have now become easily transferable electronically (over the Internet). The modern music album that is sold today uses up most of the real estate of a 680-megabyte CD. A CD with the same music in MP3 format can be stored on less than 50 megabytes. MP3 typically uses one megabyte for one minute of music.

What’s better yet is that anyone can record an MP3 file, which has spawned this revolution of an abundance of music now available for nothing, or next to nothing, on the Internet. Do a search on the Internet for ‘MP3’ and see what you come up with. It’s everywhere.

Is it as good as a store bought CD that you pay $10 - $15 for? Probably not, but close enough for my ears and the price is hard to beat.

Okay… so how do you play and record this music? There’s a bunch of shareware and freeware MP3 players and recorders all over the Internet. You can also download these files from your computer to portable players like the ‘Diamond Rio’, which is slightly larger than a pager and sells for about $100, and take your music with you. My favorite place for anything that deals with MP3 is aptly named MP3.com. Here you can find every popular MP3 player and enough free music to keep you busy for months. But, this is not the only place. Just do your search and see how many you come up with. Even Lycos, one of the Internet’s major search engines, now has an MP3 database search ability.

You can also translate your own personal music CDs into MP3 and with the size of the new files play them directly off your own PC, or, like I do, copy them to your notebook and take your music along with you. If you have a CD writer you can convert about 10 CDs to MP3 and copy all of them to one CD. But remember, you are still dealing with copyright laws here. Making personal copies for yourself is one thing, but giving away or selling copies is still ILLEGAL no matter what format you use.

One of the reasons there is so much music out there is because it is so easy and inexpensive to make your own MP3 music. That has opened the door for many new musicians that otherwise would have had to wait for their big break to get a record deal, which doesn’t come easy. Don’t get me wrong… your definition of music and mine are probably different. But there is so much choice that I’m sure that all of our tastes in music can be satisfied. And with the popularity of MP3 growing every day, there are more and more seasoned artists deciding to publish their music in the MP3 format also.

None of this is hard to learn so do yourself a favor and start enjoying some of the benefits of having that Internet account. You won’t be sorry! u