Hi, my name is Marko and I used to be a music magazine addict. 🙂
It started in 1987 with my first (German) “Keyboards” magazine.
A year later, soon after I had started playing guitar I also bought my first guitar magazines. In the early 90s I had a subscription to “Guitar for the Practicing Musician” and was getting the magazine shipped to Austria until I moved to California for my music studies.
On my bookshelves there’s issues of:
- Guitar Player
- Guitar One
- Guitar School
- Guitar Techniques
- Sound Check
- Electronic Musician
- and various other mag experiments
Crazy, I know.
When you are young(er) with less responsibilities and less bills to pay, it’s easy to throw some money around for stuff like music magazines, books and CDs – you don’t have as many pesky bills to pay yet.
Fortunately I’m not a hoarder in any other aspect. My passions are almost exclusively about music and books. And I seem to have become more selective and some years ago settled down to basically “Guitar Techniques” and German “Keyboards/Sound and Production” to stay in the loop.
So, it’s awesome to have all those magazines with their great information at your disposal, right?
Well, yes and no.
How Quickly Can You Find What You Are Looking For?
Yes, all the information is here, but is it really at your disposal? What good is all that information when you can’t find what you are searching for when you need it?
Sometimes a student asks me about a specific song he wants to learn. So we start transcribing but want to double-check specific segments of the piece. I know I have seen it transcribed in one of the magazines – but which one?
I remember seeing some great workshop about a certain technique getting featured – but which year and issue was that again?
Having to look through dozens of magazines is time-consuming, annoying… and what about those cases when you are looking through the wrong magazine folder to start with?
Some of my Past “Solutions”
Here’s what I have tried in the past…
1) Magazine Index Summaries
I made copies of index summaries provided by the publishers as a special service in the print magazine.
Those summaries were really helpful, but they happened infrequently. Not every magazine provided them, or they were incomplete and just summarized interviews and test reviews and left out transcriptions and workshops.
2) Websites With Index Created by Some User
Some kind, sharing soul published a detailed index they created themselves on their website.
Awesome, until of course the updates stop sometime in 2004. Hey, I don’t blame them – it’s tedious to keep an index and a web site up-to-date.
3) Cloud-database Service
A couple of years ago, I came across a web service called blist.com, which promised to make databases sexy and fun with an easy-to-use interface that was intuitive and yet powerful. Blist was a merger of spreadsheet and visual database creation service, all manageable online at a time when cloud services were just getting started.
Probably too early, because over the course of a few weeks I noticed the downsides – sluggishness as my data entries grew and unfortunately there were some bugs as well. Still, I had hopes that it was just initial growing pains of a start-up company, but soon they switched their focus and turned into a public sector service provider.
Fortunately, I was able to export my data and continue with a replacement service (dabbledb.com) that didn’t offer that many features and after a while closed shop as well.
At that time I had it with unreliable cloud services and shifted my search towards an offline desktop solution.
What About a Desktop Solution?
After some searching I stumbled across DatabaseOasis and since the program was/is fairly inexpensive purchased a copy.
Similar to my initial Blist experience, here I could design my own data model without programming. With some experimentation over the course of a weekend I designed my own model with all the data I wanted to track and got going.
So far so good – the database designing actually was fun. But getting the data in was tedious and boring. I tried the focused-push method of sacrificing some days of my summer break entering data into my intricate model.
I did get faster and reduced my entry time to roughly 10-15 minutes per magazine. Not too bad, but the prospect of finishing sometime in 2016 (entering 1 mag/day) was a real downer.
590+ data sets in, but in my mind that project died 2 summers ago.
DatabaseOasis is a cool program, and I do use it for other smaller projects, but definitely not this monster music magazine project.
So, what’s the solution?
Evernote to the Rescue
But what am I supposed to do? Should I keep quiet about this excellent solution?
No, of course not. Even though you might not have that same music magazine information overload problem, this might give you an idea about solving something else.
When my girlfriend got a new HP Officejet Pro printer/scanner to print out her diploma thesis, this actually got me thinking about an Evernote Premium feature. I’ve read about how great the ocr (optical character recognition) and the search inside of uploaded PDF documents work in Evernote Premium. But I hadn’t tried it myself yet.
Now my train of thought went something like this:
- What if I scan the magazine cover and the 1- or 2-page index at the beginning?!?
- I could almost mimic my initial database model without going through the hassle of entering all that data.
- Let’s say, I’m looking for a specific song transcription – a quick search in my notebook stack and Evernote’s ocr algorithm would do the rest of the magic.
- All I’d have to do is go to my library to pick up the specific issue.
- No need for tags, authors, type of article, etc…
To my pleasant surprise I found out that Evernote’s ocr does not only work with PDF, but jpg files as well. So I could test that search functionality without having to upgrade to Premium first.
A few quick scans and tests was all I needed. I was blown away by the accuracy of the Evernote character recognition.
I still did upgrade to Premium though, because scanning a few hundred magazine covers and index pages at 300 dpi in color uses up the regular 60mb monthly upload allowance rather quickly. 😉
But hey, Evernote Premium is only 5$/€ per month and then you get 1 GB of uploading. Best of all, you don’t even have to stay a Premium subscriber. Upgrade and upload and once your stuff is in the system you could simply cancel the Premium membership without any hassles at all.
Your data is still in there – and when you need more uploading capacity at a later time, you’d simply upgrade to Premium again.
Some Tips on Making the Process as Easy as Possible
I spread the scanning out over a few weekends, but most of my guitar magazines are now in the system. The few left-overs I’ll get in over the next few weeks. And some later time I’ll do another focused push to get my various keyboard oriented mags in.
Scanning stuff in absolutely is not as tedious as typing all that data into some database application. And once you have instant access (from desktop, tablet or mobile) via that awesome search functionality to all that valuable information (that you did spend your money on) and that you now can use – you know that the scanning process definitely has been worth it.
Here are some things I learned…
- Decide if you want to use separate notebooks for the magazines or are going to use tags instead. I chose the separate notebooks for each magazine in a combined notebook stack. (look at the screenshot to the right)
- Select and scan in your material – in the case of music magazines I’d suggest the cover and the 1, or 2 index pages most magazines use. I used 300 dpi color scanning – maybe overkill, and you could save quite a lot of storage space by using a lower resolution, but I figured that I only ever want to go through the scanning process once. So let’s do it at the highest resolution possible.
- Rename your scanned files to something sensible. Most likely your scanner will either use some weird numbering scheme or some progressive naming scheme a la scan 000001, scan 000002, etc…
Evernote would be fine with that, but I think it’s more helpful to have the actual magazine information in the title of your note. My naming scheme is: year-month-page-magazine abbreviation. For example: “2013-02-0-GT” would mean the cover page of the Guitar Techniques February 2013 issue. (For the page number: 0 meaning the cover, 1 the 1st index, and 2 the second index page.)
- Create individual new notes inside the appropriate Evernote notebook for each scanned page.
- Optional: tag the notes with either “cover” or “index” tags. This gives you more granular filtering options. Let’s say you’d just want to visually browse through a certain virtual magazine stack. Simply go to the appropriate notebook, choose the “cover” tag as an additional filter and Evernote will only present the relevant cover scans of that particular magazine to you.
- When you found what you are looking for, simply get the “real” magazine from your bookshelf.
Any Additional Ideas You Could Use Evernote For?
A magazine collection, a CD collection (when you haven’t gone 100% digital yet) or lots of music books that you’d like to index – give Evernote a try and create your personal index system. You’ll get 1 month of premium features for free as a special sign-up bonus.
If you come up with any other great ideas on how to use Evernote for organizing your music-related stuff, please share them in the comment section below.