My Five Most Indispensable Music Technologies

I started listening to music on vinyl way back in biblical times and things seemed just fine. CDs came along and made hauling around music somewhat easier and, once you got past the crispy clarity, the music sounded pretty damn good. But, in the last 10 years, technology has gone from a light jog to a steroid-fuled sprint and we are all racing to keep up.

It got me to thinking, setting aside the obvious benefits of things like the MP3, the music blog, streaming services like Spotify as well as download sites like iTunes and Amazon (or P2P if you prefer), there are still more technologies that are part of the way I now enjoy music. And I'm not even counting all the technology I use to create, record and edit music.

5. Computer Speakers

This is probably the most boring and the most obvious. I never really spent time listening to music at my computer before about five or six years ago. If I did, it was on crappy little speakers that came with the computer. When I finally dropped $100-plus on a really good pair of desktop speakers, it changed my world. Suddenly, I could listen to really good music without having to leave my desk. I still struggle to write when listening to music with lyrics -- I tend to stick to jazz while working -- but my computer is now the best spot in my apartment for hearing tunes, which is good considering how much time I spend in front of it.

4. AllMusic.com

I'm old school in that I really, really like knowing who played on a given record. For most hardcore musicians, the idea of listening to a record while staring at the liner notes to see who played on it can be a bit of an obsession. By finding out who played on something we like, we can find out what else he/she recorded and expand our list of influences. Enter AllMusic.com. Think of AllMusic like IMDB but for musicians. It is the most comprehensive source of information I've found anywhere and nothing helps me figure out who played on a record faster, nevermind when it came out, who produced it and the like.

3. iPhone

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Like the speakers for my computer, this may sound obvious, but that's why it is on the list. I used to have an iPod (actually, I still have it around somewhere), but with the advent of the iPhone, the device that allows me to take calls, receive emails, get directions, look things up on the web and generally stay organized also gives me access to my music wherever and whenever I want. At night, I hook it up to a little speaker system that charges it and amplifies anything I want to hear from the radio (yeah, on an app) to music to white noise. When Apple finally launches its Match service that syncs up music in "the cloud," you can damn sure bet I'm dropping the annual fee to have access to all my music no matter what the size of the hard drive in the device I'm carrying.

2. YouTube

There is probably no faster way to hear a song than YouTube. Streaming services are great as are downloads, but with YouTube, you not only access the song, but all different versions -- live, covers, you name it -- instantly. Plus, how awesome is it that footage of great musicians recorded all over the world is right there. Like many people I know, I've spent hours sifting through all different kinds of live performances, interviews and instructional videos. And YouTube didn't exist a decade ago.

1. Shazam

Ultimately, nothing has changed the game for me as much as Shazam, the brilliant app that will listen to a song and provide within seconds and with remarkable accuracy the name and artist. What kind of insanely amazing world do we live in where we don't have to wait for a DJ to come on the radio and tell us what we heard 30 minutes ago. That's right, kids. That's what mommy and daddy used to do.

I've found more killer music with this app in stores, restaurants, bars, clubs and driving around in my truck than I ever could have before. Prior to Shazam, I probably would have stumbled into a music store, humming the music and lyrics over and over so as not to forget it until some unsuspecting employee heard me warble the barely-identifyable tune I heard on the radio. With Shazam, I don't look like an idiot any more...well, at least not for that.

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