#1August 17th, 2005 · 09:42 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
FYI - Song Issues and Mp3 Encoding
< == SONG PROBLEMS == >
          Uploading and Playback

We get lots of problems with song uploads around here.  Some of the time, it's the programmer's fault when they break something.  Sometimes it's the user.  Sometimes it's the actual song itself.

In most cases, it's the user's fault, or the song's fault.  Don't take offense at that comment, but that's how the tech world goes, day after day.

If you and your song meet all the requirements listed below, and you still can't get the song to upload correctly, then feel free to PM either myself, or one of the admins.  Please note that I am not an admin for the site--I'm just really active   The user entheon is the current programmer for the site.  If it is in fact a code problem on the website, sending a PM to him may be the fastest way to get help and to solve the problem.

If you are having a problem uploading a song, please check these things before posting a zillion help messsages in every forum.

1) Be sure the file is a actual mp3.  Please do not be insulted that I ask you to check.  Make sure the that file exention (on a Windows machine) is a ".mp3".  Windows Media Player and iTunes will not encode songs into mp3 files by default.  WinMPlayer does ".wma" (despite the fact that it says "mp3" in the description) and iTunes will encode as a ".aac".  These settings can be changed, but it won't read your mind for you.
If you cannot see any extention like this, open a folder somewhere on your computer, go to the Tools, choose "Folder Options."  Go to the "View" tab, and look for an option called "Hide extensions for known file types."  Make sure the box is UNCHECKED.  Pressing the "OK" button will make your computer show it's file types from now on.  Some users like this, others don't.  If you would rather NOT see the exentions from now on, you can go change it back, but first check to see if your song has a ".mp3" at the end of the file name.

2) The suggested bitrate for an mp3 on BandAMP is between 96kbps and 192kbps.  Having a song at a higher bitrate will not neccesarily cause problems, but songs that have a lower encoding than 96kbps have been known to play at double speed or faster.  So please, try to keep your bitrate between 96 and 192.  Also, avoid encoding in a VBR (variable bitrate) setting, as this can cause problems similar to the low-bitrate issue.
FYI: 128kbps is the general use standard, though sometimes it may not sound the greatest.  Encoding at 192kbps is indistinguishable from a cd in most cases, unless you have a very wide range of high and low tones in the song, in which case, you may need a higher bitrate than 192.  But, as a general rule, 192kbps will be more than just fine.

3) Try to do all of your encoding with the LAME mp3 encoder.  This comes standard in most software encoders, though you may see some others, like Blade encoder, or maybe some other sort of encoding method.  LAME is a "good citizen" mp3 encoder and works with any standard mp3-player hardware and software.  Your best bet is to use LAME.
If you don't know anything about mp3 encoders, please check the next post made on this thread, where I provide a step-by-step for obtaining a way to encode with LAME and a program called Audacity.

3 and a half) Make sure your mp3 song is not in mp3PRO format.  As nice as mp3PRO is, it doesn't meet the general standard of an mp3.  It's basically a different file format than an mp3, despite the fact that the file itself is still called a ".mp3".  I know that it's confusing like that, but I wasn't the moron who thought that one up.  Even if you have no idea what mp3PRO is, please check your software and be sure that you didn't code your song into the mp3PRO file format.  Once again, mp3PRO is basically a different file format and won't work on just any machine.

4) The standard that is most used in audio is a sampling rate of 44100Hz.  Sampling rate is something that is generally "behind the scenes" in most software, though it can really screw someone over if it gets messed with.  Some programs sample at 48000Hz, but 44100Hz is most common.  Having lower sampling rates can double and sometimes triple (or more) the playback speed of your song when played through the BandAMP Flash player.
Wave sound files for sound effects that you can find on the internet are sometimes in a 21000Hz rate, so be careful to convert anything other than 44100Hz to match the standard.  Note that in many audio-editing programs, the number "44100Hz" is abbreviated to "44kHz".  This means the same thing.

5) The spoken standard for the maximum file size for an song on BandAMP is 5Mb.  Most songs will fit that size limit, even at the 192kbps rate.  Specifically, I cannot find proof of this limit, as there are several songs here that are 6Mb and higher.  Either way, I'd play it safe and try to keep it under 5Mb unless you'd be losing major song-quality or length.

6) Please make sure your internet browser is up to date.  As of this post, the current versions of the three popular browsers are:  IE - version 6.0, Service Pack 2; FireFox - version 1.0.6; Opera - version 8.02.
To check your browser's current version, go to the "Help" menu, and choose "About".  If in IE (Internet Explorer), the "about" option will be called "About Internet Explorer", in FireFox, it will say "About Firefox", etc.  The "About" option is typically at the bottom of the Help menu.

7) Try to delete the entry, and upload again.  Despite the fact that people are generally moving to broadband connections to the internet (including DSL, Cable, T1, etc, etc)... most online sites try to count on the fact that perhaps 50% of their visitors are on modems at 56k connections or less.  This being the case, many BandAMP users are undoubtably using a modem to do their dirtywork.  Back in the day when I lived with a modem, it used to bug me that it was so flakey sometimes.  I'd spend 35 minutes downloading something and then when I tried to run it, the computer tells me that it's corrupted.  That's life.  Sometimes that sort of thing happens on modems.  The same thing can potentially happen to your song if you uploaded it and it does not play correctly on the BandAMP website.  Downloading and uploading isn't perfect yet.  Why don't YOU try to manually send thousands of ones and zeroes across an ocean and get every one of them correctly reassembled on a BandAMP server...  That's what the internet is for, but it messes things up sometimes, to make a long story short.  If it doesn't play back correctly on BandAMP, check the properties of the song as I've described in the above steps and try to sort out the problem.  If it comes down to it and you can't figure out what's wrong, try deleting the entry on BandAMP, and upload it again!
If "Delete" isn't an option for the song you want to get rid of when you look at the "My Music" part of your profile, make sure that the song is not entered into a battle.  If it is entered, you must first use the "Declare Peace" option.

If none of these steps seem to be solving your problem, or if the BandAMP website is literally giving you an error message, please try making a post on the Tech Support thread, or sending a PM to an administrator, like entheon.  Please please please please please describe the issue as thouroughly as possible.  If BandAMP gives you a code error or something, just copy and paste the whole thing into your post or PM.

Please note that if you are getting a code error (something that says stuff about an "exception" or an error on "line xx", posting on the Tech Support form won't get you any responses from fellow BandAMP members.  Only entheon will be able to really help you out and fix the problem, so you may as well just PM him with the error pasted in the message.  Click here for the link to his profile.

If none of the above is working, blame AOL. 
#2August 17th, 2005 · 09:43 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
< == ENCODING AN MP3 == >
          A few words about MP3 encoding

For those of you who don't have much of a clue about how to save mp3 files that work well... I hope to provide you with a solution to get you by with.

First of all, let me describe what an mp3 is.  An mp3 is basically a CD audio file that goes through a bunch of processes so that it gets really small.  Now obviously, the idea is that we want it to still sound good, yet be a small file at the same time.  The process behind mp3 compression is comparable to zipping a folder in Windows.  Winzip compresses the files so that they don't take up as much space.  Encoding audio does the same thing, except you get to choose how much to compress the audio.  You get to pick a number that describes how compressed the sound will be.  The lower the number, the smaller your file will be.  You could choose a value of 8, or you could choose a number all the way up to 320.

So why not pick 8?  If it makes the file really small, what's the problem?

The problem is that, unlike zipping a folder in Windows, when you compress audio, you have to lose some information about the file in order to get it that small.  Typical mp3 compression likes to start throwing away really low tones and really high tones in the music first.  This is why mp3 audio is not "lossless," because it begins discarding data about the audio if it must.  So basically, the number you choose for compression is like choose the quality of the song.  The higher the number, the better your mp3 will sound, but it will take up more space on your computer.  You may not be worried about running out of room on your hard drive, but if you've got a modem and you want to upload the song onto a website like BandAMP, you're going to have a problem with sitting around for two hours waiting for your 12Mb song to upload.  12Mb is great compared to leaving the audio uncompressed, but it's no good if you're wanting the file to be more portable in terms of the internet.

So, the challenge here is to "encode" you mp3 at a small file size, yet not lose audio quality.  We want the sound to be listen-able, yet we don't want the file to take 9 years to download or upload.  Here at BandAMP, the suggested quality (called a "bit rate") is somewhere between 96kbps (that means 96 kilobits per second) and 192kbps.  128kbps is the general standard, though a lot of people aren't so satisfied with it.  Some people can hear the fuzziness of the compression when using a 128kbps encoding.  192kbps is a great bet though.  Most of the time, you can't tell the difference between an actual audio CD and an mp3 at 192kbps.  There are some songs that need a higher bit rate in order to avoid distorting the audio.  One such example of a song, is one by Yellowcard, called "Way Away".  Just as all the instruments kick in, the sound gets really messed up if it's only encoded at 192kbps.  The reason is that there's just too much audio information for a 192 bit rate.  If we were to encode the song at 320kbps instead, we can solve the problem.
In most cases, a 320 bit rate is a bit extreme (no pun intended :P ), but in some cases, like Yellowcard's song "Way Away" as I described, it's unavoidable.
There is another way to encode an mp3, other than just picking a bit rate like 192, or 128, or 96.  Alternately, you can choose to encode with a VBR rate.  This stands for Variable Bit Rate.  Instead of picking one single rate to encode by, VBR looks at the audio while it's encoding and makes the best decision about what the number should be.  So basically, the bit rate is different all the way through the song.  If there's not very much audio in a particular spot in the song, it'll encode that part at maybe... 96kbps because it doesn't NEED to go to 192.  However, if there's a LOT of noise during part of the audio, a VBR encoding will try to be smart and encode that section at a higher rate, like maybe... at 188kbps, or maybe it'll jump up to 224 in order to get more of the audio quality.  So basically, it's doing a better job at optimization.  VBR isn't always perfect though.  Sometimes when it tries to catch all of the audio quality, it won't catch it all.
Most VBR mp3 encoders will let you try to (somewhat blindly) pick a range of bitrates that it will stay within.  It may also let you pick a general quality, like... "VBR - Good" , "VBR - Better" , or "VBR - Best"
If VBR does a better job at optimizing, why not use it all the time?

You may pick your VBR quality yourself, but remember, BandAMP recommends not using VBR, because some VBR encoders aren't universally playable.  That means that you can't just expect everyone to be able to play the mp3 without problems.  This is why it is best to stick with a "good citizen" mp3 encoder, like a constant-bitrate LAME encoder, which should be playable on any hardware or software.  Then again, if it's just for your own use, do whatever works best for you.  But as a general rule, be very mindful of your audience's ability to play mp3s on their own computer.  You certainly don't want to cut them off.
#3August 17th, 2005 · 09:43 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
< == SETTING UP TO USE LAME == >
          Using plugins to encode MP3 files

There is plenty of software out there that can do mp3 encoding on it's own.  It is usually safe to assume that a program that does mp3 encoding without a plugin is alright to use on common mp3 hardware and software, like BandAMP's Flash player.  This is becoming more common with newer programs, though there are plenty of other programs that can do it too.  Sometimes they need an extra bit of configuring to work, but it's do-able.  Audacity and Kristal are two free ones that I know of that work rather well.  If you're going for the real thing though, have your credit or debit card ready, as you can easily start wracking up large charges.  Try to be smart about what you choose to buy.  Like I said, if you're going for big "brand name" style programs (like Cubase, Sonar, or Adobe Audition), you mostly likely won't have to worry about setting up an mp3 plugin.
Major programs like Cubase and Sonar usually have Pro editions and Home editions.  The Pro ones are always more feature-packed, but they can easily cost at least $1000 USDollars.  Home editions are usually in the $100 to $200 USD range, and they are very functional to fit the needs of a home artist.
Anyway, I'm going to explain the process of setting up a program called AudacityAudacity is a freeware waveform editor.  It's made for a bunch of operating systems, so visit the site and see what they've got to offer.  It can handle plugins for audio, like VST plugins (Here or Here), but it must also be configured to use the LAME_ENC.dll file in order to save in the mp3 format.
As a quick side note, Audacity's VST plugin ability is a bit more limited.  You have to download a VST enabler in their plugins section to use them.  Beyond that though, you don't have live manipulation of the plugins.  It's more like applying permanent audio fliters.  The advantage to being able to manipulate the audio live is that you can fine-tune the effect much more efficiently without having to do any "guess, check, undo, make another guess" sort of work.  Kristal can do live manipulation, but the current version cannot handle mp3s as a file type.  I believe version 3 will have support for mp3s though, so don't write it off.
First, download and install Audacity for your operating system.  (There is also the option to download the source code and compile it yourself, but most users can just download the given install files.)  When you run Audacity for the first time, it will tell you that it needs a copy of the LAME_ENC.dll in order to use the mp3 file format.  It gives you the option to find the dll file now and it tells you how to do it later.  If you don't have the LAME_ENC.dll file, just skip over that step for now.
If you're not sure if you have the LAME_ENC.dll file, you probably don't, because you normally have to go get it by yourself.
Download LAME_ENC.dll here.  Save LAME_ENC.dll somewhere intelligent.  Don't leave it on your Desktop, or in your Downloads folder.  Put it somewhere like the Windows / System folder, or maybe the Program Files folder, or even just in Audacity's folder where you installed the program to start with.  Remember where you save it to.  You have to tell Audacity where to find it now.

Open Audacity.
Go to the "File" menu.
Choose "Preferences...   Ctrl+P".
Click the "File Formats" tab.
In the section labeled "MP3 Export Setup," click the button that says "Find Library".
Browse to the spot on your computer that you saved LAME_ENC.dll.
After selecting it, push the Open button to return to the Preferences menu.

You can now select the bit rate that you wish to export mp3 files at.  Remeber how the bitrates work.  Higher numbers mean better quality and larger file size.  Lower number means lower quality and smaller file size.  You can change the Bit Rate setting any time you wish.  Keep in mind the recommended range of 96 to 192.
Using this setup, Audacity will only export with a constant bit rate, which is perfect for what BandAMP requests.

Also note that this setting only takes effect when you try to save as an mp3 file.  Even if you were to set the bitrate setting to 16, your song will still sound really good when playing it in Audacity, but as soon as you export the song as an mp3, it's going to sound like crap.  Just remember, the Bit Rate setting is ONLY applied when exporting as an mp3 file, and thus you can save project files without losing any audio quality..
Pressing "OK" on the Preferences menu will then allow Audacity to export mp3 files.  Please note that Audacity will only let you save as a project file (a ".aup" file) if you choose "Save As" on the File menu.  To save mp3 files, ogg files, or wave files, you must choose so explicity on the File menu using the various "Export" options.
Audacity project files are only readable by Audacity.  You can't save a ".aup" project file with it and then try to open the ".aup" file in a different program.
Congratulations!  You have just configured Audacity to allow it to use mp3 files.  You should treat yourself to something nice.  No, really.  Go ahead.
#4August 17th, 2005 · 09:43 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
< == VST PLUGINS == >
          What that means and how to use them

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#5August 17th, 2005 · 09:43 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
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trying to reserve space for a future post
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#6August 17th, 2005 · 11:20 AM
74 threads / 5 songs
441 posts
United States of America
This is some good shit! Keep up the good work! 
#7September 6th, 2005 · 09:26 AM
11 threads / 2 songs
69 posts
United Kingdom
I have a small problem. When i download lame_enc.dll, it saves as a zip file, which doesn't work in the "find library" browse section. How can i get it to work??
#8September 6th, 2005 · 09:35 AM
115 threads / 18 songs
1,414 posts
United States of America
oops.  they changed the link since i posted.  i've fixed it in the post, but here's the link anyway:

http://www.level-1.org.uk/uploads/lame_enc.dll

if it's in a zip file, you'd have to use winzip or something to get it out of the zip file, but to save the trouble and confusion, use this link instead.  eventually i'll change the link to something that will never change, but until then, use this one  hope that works for you!
#9September 7th, 2005 · 09:04 AM
11 threads / 2 songs
69 posts
United Kingdom
The link didn't work when i tried it, so i unzipped the file, andnow i can export mp3s. Cheers for all the help, an please review my song
#10September 15th, 2005 · 05:57 AM
13 threads / 1 songs
408 posts
United States of America
Does anyone know about this website: Audio Utilities for converting wav files to mp3?
I hate to download any and everything.
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