Monday, September 2, 2013

Get more exposure from target language music by adjusting songs' start and stop times

While using music as a tool to improve my various languages, I discovered something that was crashing headlong into my impatience to learn quickly: when trying to get exposure to a target language via music, I'd often have to sit through parts of the songs that weren't giving me any exposure to the target language or were only providing very repetitive exposure.

There were basically three things that led to this. The first was those parts of the song that were purely instrumental; obviously if nobody's singing, you won't be getting any exposure to the target language. The second was that some songs use languages other than one of my target languages—most commonly English. The third was that certain songs would repeat the refrain or some other part of the song so much that I wasn't getting any particular value from all the additional repetitions.

That led me to thinking that if there's a way I can skip these parts, I can increase my exposures per minute and make the exposures more valuable by reducing excessive repetition. In theory, I could edit out such parts with an audio editor, but that'd be quite a lot of work and I'm not sure the time spent doing so would result in a net gain. However, if the parts you want to skip are at the beginning or end of your songs, iTunes has a pretty easy way for you to skip those sections on a permanent basis: changing the start and stop times of the songs.

The following is how to do it. I've marked a number of these steps as optional; optional steps will make it easier for you to set the start/stop times to exactly where you want them, but if you're not as anal as me and are OK with a rougher cut, you can skip those steps.
  1. Optional: Make a new playlist that contains only the song for which you want to change the start and stop times.

  2. Optional: Turn repeat play off in that playlist. You can do this from the "Control" menu or from the iTunes window; select "Off" in the "Control" menu's "Repeat" submenu, or click on the repeat icon in iTunes' information pane until the icon's grayed out.

  3. Figure out how many seconds into the song you want to stop listening.

  4. Select the song, press command-I (or control-I on Windows), select the "Options" tab, change the "Stop Time" to the number of seconds at which you want to stop listening, and click OK.


  5. Optional: Play the end of the song, see how it sounds, and adjust the stop time as needed. You can adjust by as little as 1/1000 of a second (.001), so you should be able to get the song to stop exactly where you want it to.

    To get the end time exactly where you want it, it's helpful to be able to listen to the playback end repeatedly followed by silence (continuous play after the end can make it harder to tell if you're ending where you want it to end). To quickly listen to the end multiple times:
    1. Select the song.
    2. Press command-I (or control-I on Windows).
    3. Select the "Options" tab.
    4. Change the "Start Time" to a few seconds before the time at which you want to stop the song.
    5. Click OK.
    6. Click play to play the song to the end (which'll only be a few seconds of playtime) and repeat as needed.
    These steps will make the song automatically start playing from right before your desired end so you can quickly test to see if it sounds right.

  6. Figure out how many seconds into the song you want to start listening.

  7. In iTunes, select the song, press command-I (or ctrl-I on Windows), select the "Options" tab, change the "Start Time" to the place where you want to start listening, and click OK.


  8. Optional: Start playing the song, see how it sounds, and adjust the start time as needed. Again, you can adjust by as little as 1/1000 of a second (.001), so you should be able to get the song to stop exactly where you want it to.

    To get the start time exactly where you want it, it's helpful to be able to listen to the playback start repeatedly preceded by silence (continuous play before the start can make it harder to tell if you're starting where you want it to start). To quickly listen to the start multiple times, hit the pause button (which stops the playback), the previous button (which puts you back at the beginning of the song), and then the play button (which restarts the music) in that order after the music is playing and repeat as needed.
To give you an idea of the kind of increase in efficiency you might get from this, here's the data from the songs that I most recently put through the Learning with Texts / Anki gauntlet:

Duration Start time Stop time Saved time Saved percent
Song 1 0:02:33 0:00:07 0:02:33 0:00:07 5%
Song 2 0:03:17 0:00:28 0:02:54 0:00:51 26%
Song 3 0:04:49 0:00:22 0:03:12 0:01:59 41%
Song 4 0:04:13 0:00:32 0:03:19 0:01:26 34%
Song 5 0:02:46 0:00:00 0:02:46 0:00:00 0%
Song 6 0:04:42 0:00:11 0:04:15 0:00:38 13%
Song 7 0:03:44 0:00:10 0:03:02 0:00:52 23%
Song 8 0:03:15 0:00:22 0:03:14 0:00:23 12%
Total 0:29:19 0:06:16 21%

So from this sample of 8 songs, prior to trimming down the beginning and end of the songs, about one fifth of my time spent listening to music was being wasted by listening to lyric-free music. I'll estimate that it took me about 30 minutes to trim down these 8 songs, and I'll make up that lost time by listening to these songs 5 times, after which it's all gravy.

1 comment:

  1. any suggestion for japanese learning apps or softwares?

    ReplyDelete