After purchasing accompaniment tracks from this website, you can vastly increase your practising options by modifying them, either using mobile apps or using a free program called Audacity, which is available for Windows PCs and Mac computers. This page contains a number of tutorials for modifying tracks for free using Audacity, but if you are after mobile apps I can recommend the following, all of which allow you to change the tempo of the accompaniment tracks:
• Anytune (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac)
• The Amazing Slow Downer (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac)
• Transcribe+ (iOS)
Despite being completely free for Windows PC, Mac and Linux computers, Audacity has evolved through the years into what is now an extremely versatile wave editor, capable of producing high quality results while still being simple to use. Tracks from Piano-Accompaniments.com can easily be modified within Audacity to suit your practice needs. The beauty of this is that you can create as many versions from the original as you like, at different speeds, and save them on your computer to use whenever you want, without being in an app environment or needing an expensive subscription. You can also easily create practice loops, very useful for taking difficult bits and practising them over and over again!
To download Audacity, visit www.audacityteam.org. While you are on the website it is worth viewing the comprehensive online manual. There are also dozens of great video tutorials to be found on YouTube and if you require any further help you are welcome to contact me.
Open the track you want to modify into Audacity by going to the File menu and selecting Open. Once opened, you will notice this looks nothing like a music score! Instead it represents the audio waves of the track, hence the name wave editor. A timeline at the top helps you identify where you are in the track, and the representation of the audio can help you identify where the louder sections or silent parts are. You can use the playback buttons at the top, alternatively press Space to play and stop the track, P to pause/unpause or X to pause and set cursor. Tip - you can use Fit to Height (Ctrl Shift F) to make the audio full screen which makes editing easier. If your mouse has a wheel, on Windows you can use Ctrl+mousewheel to zoom in and out quickly. Lastly, remember that if you make an editing mistake press Ctrl Z (Cmd Z on Mac) to undo.
Please note, any modified accompaniments created using Audacity still retain the copyright and intellectual property rights of the original track (see Terms and Conditions Section 3). Also, when exporting a modified track please give it a different filename from the original, for example you could call the new track ‘Piece 20 percent faster.mp3' or 'Piece in new key.mp3'. This way you can keep the original in case you want to make further modifications.
1. Change the speed of a whole track
2. Change the speed of part of a track
3. Create ‘practice loops’
4. Add silences or mute parts of a track
5. Make whole track louder
Tutorial 1 - Change the speed of a whole track
It is very easy to slow down/speed up an entire track by a desired amount. Open the track into Audacity, then select the whole track using Ctrl A (Windows) or Cmd A (Mac). Go to the Effect Menu and select 'Pitch and Tempo/Change Tempo' (please note, do not select ‘Change Speed’ as that will also change the pitch). In the next dialogue box, you can change the tempo either by a percentage, a new bpm if you have this information, or by specifying in seconds how long you want the modified track to be.
Make sure 'Use high quality stretching' is selected before clicking Apply - although this takes a bit longer for your computer to process, it is worth it to ensure the stretching process doesn't significantly lower the quality of the audio. You may still be able to hear some slight distortion of the sound compared to the original, especially for large tempo changes, but nothing to prevent you using the modified tracks effectively.
Once done, you can play this modified track or save it using File/Export, and give it a new name to signify how you have modified it.
Tutorial 2. Change the speed of part of a track
If there is a certain section within a track that is the wrong speed for you, it is easy to modify just that part while leaving the rest of the track the same. Audacity should automatically accommodate the rest of the track around the modified section. In case it doesn’t, select ‘Sync Lock On’ in the Tracks menu, so that it becomes ticked.
First identify and select the section you want to modify. One way to do this is to click and drag your selection using the mouse. Another way to do this is to play the track and press [ (square bracket) to set the start selection point. Then, while the track is still playing, press ] to select the end-point, then press Space to stop playing. The selected area should now be in a different colour to the rest of the track. Now, as in Tutorial 1, go to the Effect Menu, select 'Pitch and Tempo/Change Tempo', and define how much faster or slower you want this section to be. Make sure ‘High Quality stretching’ is selected for best results. Afterwards, you should notice that your selection has either contracted or expanded relative to the timeline, and the rest of the track should have moved to accommodate this. If you now play the track from just before your modified section, you should notice the change in tempo when it occurs, and then how it reverts back to the original speed afterwards. You can perform the same operation as many times as you want depending on how many sections need to be changed. Once done, you can save the track using File/Export, and give it a new name to signify how you have modified it.
Tutorial 3: Create ‘practice loops’
There may be a certain part of a piece, maybe just a few seconds or maybe a minute’s worth, that you wish to practice over and over to get right, while excluding the rest of the track. Tutorial 2 tells you how to select a specific section of a track in order to modify its tempo - you can use this same method to select and isolate a segment you want to loop. Note - it may be worth including a few extra seconds before your desired section starts, to allow yourself a cue rather than plunging straight in! Once you have marked your desired loop select ‘Trim audio outside selection’ (Ctrl T or Cmd T - there is also a button for this on the toolbar). This leaves just the section you want to loop, the rest of the track should have disappeared (just for editing purposes, the original track still exists on your computer!) To move this section around, hover the mouse cursor on the title of this selection (which is probably the name of the piece), just below the timeline. As you hover the mouse there, the cursor should change into a hand symbol. This allows you to hold the left mouse button and drag the selection around using the mouse. Drag it to the beginning of the track. An alternative way to place it at the start of the track is to select it, go to the Tracks menu, select Align Tracks and then 'Start to Zero'. Now you can play and loop this section in one of two ways:
1. double click to select it and press Shift L - this will apply the loop to this selection. Now press L to set looping on - there is also a button on the toolbar for this. Press Space to play and when you reach the end of this section it should immediately start playing again from the beginning. When you finish, you can turn loop off by pressing L again, and to clear the loop selection press Ctrl Alt L (Cmd Option L on Mac).
2. double click to select and then press Ctrl C (or Cmd C on Mac) to copy. Press the End key (Fn + Right Arrow on Mac) to move the cursor to the end of your selection, then Ctrl V (or Cmd V) to paste. The same selection should now appear twice, and you can repeat this for as many times as necessary. The big advantage to this method is that you can now modify each one of these selections individually. For instance you could create five copies, slow the first one to 60%, the second to 70%, the third to 80% and so on to create a way of getting up to speed.
Tutorial 4. Add silences or mute parts of a track
It is easy to add periods of silence in a track, or to mute parts of it. For example you might want to add more time at the beginning of a track before the piano starts. Alternatively, if you are playing alongside a concerto accompaniment, you may want there to be a longer silence when a solo cadenza occurs. To add more silence at the beginning, move the cursor right to the beginning of the track by pressing the Home key (Fn + Left Arrow on Mac). Then go to the Generate menu and click Silence. You can use the Duration drop down menu to select the way the time is displayed, I would suggest you select seconds if you just want full seconds of silence, otherwise the default is hh:mm:ss + milliseconds. Use the cursor and number keys to input your desired amount of silence, for example to add 2.53 seconds of silence input 00h00m02.530s then click Generate. A simple 5 second silence would be 00h00m05.000s. To add silence elsewhere in the track, simply click the mouse where you want it to begin and use the method described above. Alternatively, to extend an existing silence, drag your mouse to select it then select Generate/Silence from the menu. It should show you the existing silence duration, so simply change this to your desired amount using the cursor and number keys and click Generate. Should you want to mute bits of a track, for example to eliminate opening click beats, you can do so by selecting the section in question, then go to the Generate menu, select Silence and then simply press Generate to mute the selected area. Alternatively, you can use Ctrl-L (or Cmd-L on Mac) to silence the selected area or there is a button on the toolbar for this.
Tutorial 5. Make whole track louder
Tracks available from Piano-Accompaniments.com have deliberately been recorded with a wide dynamic range, however this does mean some works can be quiet in places. If you want to make an entire track louder there are several ways to do this in Audacity, but I would suggest the following method which ensures no unpleasant ‘clipping’ noises occur afterwards. Select the whole track (Ctrl A or Cmd A on Mac). Then go to the Effect menu and select Volume and Compression / Compressor. Leave the values as they are but tick the two boxes at the bottom ‘Make up Gain for 0db’ and ‘Compress based on Peaks’. Click Apply and you should see the waveform graphic has become larger, signifying that the audio will now be louder when played. Once done, you can save this track using File/Export, and give it a new name to signify how you have modified it.