Making digital music technology accessible to everyone is the goal of a new book by Ryan Williams, one of the most prominent of Indianapolis musicians.
Windows XP Digital Music For Dummies, Williams' book, is the latest in the popular series from Wiley Publishing, the international publishing firm with an Indianapolis office. Local musician Ryan Williams has authored a new book on digital music technology for beginners.
"I really wrote it for my dad," Williams says, "because he's always been interested in technology and computers but doesn't know where to start. So this is a ground level and up book, all the way from picking the right computer to using online download services and media players."
The book also covers basic audio recording, with tips on equipment and software as well, a critical area often overlooked by how-to computer guides.
Williams, known locally as bassist for the groups Mother Grove and No*Star, as well as a kingpin of IndianapolisMusic.net, has a master's degree in music technology from Indiana University, making him well-qualified to write about the topic.
As befits its title, Williams' book gives the reader an entry-level introduction to the digital music world. Using humor throughout, the goal was to make digital music accessible to all age and experience levels.
"Technology becomes daunting sometimes, so it's better to get eased into it rather than being thrown to the digital wolves, as it were," Williams says.
The 290-page book was written in a frenzy between May and September, he says, with special attention being paid to the newest and most recent technology, such as portable digital music players and music download sites, both legal and otherwise.
"In some ways, writing it was a lot harder than I expected, because of the depth of the material and the fact that digital music technology is changing constantly," he says. "A few times while writing the book, I had to go back and add or change significant parts of it because, say, MSN opened their music store, or the iPod had gone into another generation. It took awhile to catch up with everything."
While the shelf life of any book on computers is relatively limited, Williams says his book should stay in print for the life of Windows XP, until the next Microsoft operating system emerges.
The best part of writing a book on a brutal deadline? "The toys," Williams says. "Definitely the toys." During research for the book, Williams acquired all the most recent MP3 players and online services. "The geek in me was satisfied," he says.
As an expert in digital music technology, Williams says making basic concepts understandable to a general audience was one of the biggest challenges in writing the book.
"That was especially true when it came to stuff like what a sound card is," Williams says. "But I have a background in computer tech support. So writing the book was like explaining the basic function of a computer to a user. Having that background helped me in starting with step one and taking the reader from there."
The last third of the book deals with building a basic home recording studio. "Many other people have written much more extensively on the topic," he says, "but this is intended for the first-time user or hobbyist. It's an interesting field to get into, because technology has made it possible to bring the studio into the home computer."
Instead of renting expensive studio time, or using subpar four-track cassette equipment, people can now get high-quality digital recording from even the most basic of home computers, he says.
"You can now get better quality recordings than ever before," he says. "It's not going to be Hit Factory or Electric Ladyland-quality, or a Phil Spector recording, but you can get decent sound. In the future, I think it's going to be the primary way artists can get their music out there instead of the daunting task of finding a record label to sign them."
Although books in the Dummies series usually aren't accompanied by launch parties, Williams and his friend, Steve Hayes of Wiley, thought it would be fun to host a show at Birdy's for the book.
Performing at the launch party Friday will be the infamous No*Star, the band featuring Williams, Hayes and IndyMusic.net editor Matt Fecher, among other luminaries: The Leisure Kings, The Fuglees and Kit Malone.
"It felt like the right time" is Williams' enigmatic answer for the reasoning behind the reunion.
One of the unexpected benefits of being an author whose book is distributed internationally is that Williams wakes up each day and checks his book's ranking in amazon.com's sales charts. It peaked around 55,000, but "I'm hoping to crack the top 50,000," he says, laughing.