Not a lot to say here; I’ve been practicing regularly, no huge insights or anything. Though I’ve been feeling a little less energetic than I had been in the past, both about learning guitar and learning Japanese; and playing into that is the fact that I’ve been really enjoying a programming project I’ve been working on at home for the last couple of weeks. I think I still want to keep on playing guitar regularly, but I might shift into more of a maintenance mode – put in three or four hours each weekend, but not focusing particularly on actively improving in any particular way? We’ll see.
There wasn’t a lot to take pictures of in the March Minecraft session: Miranda couldn’t be there, so she wasn’t building, Dan was still traveling in a straight line, and we mostly talked.
While talking, I decided to follow Dan’s lead and also travel in a straight line; I just did it underground, coming out of the very first tunnels we dug back in 2010:
I hit a cave fairly early on:
Except that it wasn’t a cave, as I discovered when I went inside:
I think that’s something that Jonathan blew up years ago; as you can see above, it’s a huge pit under one corner of our big train track loop.
Continuing on, I ran into another cave, this one a real cave and a fairly interesting one:
I took more pictures of the mineshaft, but honestly: those all look kind of the same. And I ran into two or three more caves; pleasant enough, but nothing super distinctive, here are the best of the pictures.
An interesting experiment, but I kind of think I won’t continue it this month?
Pictures from the February Minecraft session:
At first, I wandered around.
But then Dan asked us if any of us had seen a procedurally-generated temple before, so I teleported to him:
And then, when I looked up, there was a path overhead; it turns out that he’d been building that for a few month. So I decided to follow it back.
I have more pictures; it was a long trip back! Eventually, I reached the end of the path; it was somewhere familiar, though I don’t think I could get there from the main city without guidance. So I wandered back from there.
While I was doing this, Miranda was continuing her renovation of a village we’d discovered several months back. I only took a few pictures near the end, but I think she was working on houses on the dock:
And eventually I made it home:
Not a lot to report on the Rocksmith front; I’ve been mostly plugging away as I had been. I did finish all the main Session Mode missions this weekend, which is super cool; and I think I’m sounding noticeably better now than I was when I started Session Mode? At least with the right band; there’s a blues one (blues scale, 12-bar blues chord progressions) that I’m getting along well with. And I’m not sure why the game took so long to nudge me towards shifting positions and zooming out, but now I’ve learned how to do that within the Session Mode interface; it’ll be very helpful getting liberated from playing scales in root position.
Pictures from the January Minecraft session:
First, the standard flying around, looking at random stuff:
Patrick was continuing work on the spire he’d started last time:
And Miranda continued improving the decor in the village we’d discovered a few months back:
I’m done with The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance; mostly not very actionable, but there are a couple of chapter on deliberate practice at the end. Which suggest that I should focus my guitar practice more: don’t spend so much time playing through full songs (especially ones that are too easy or too hard for me), do spend more time working on techniques or bits of songs that are within reach.
Or at least that’s what I should do if my goal is to increase my expertise. Which isn’t wholeheartedly the case: all things being equal, I’d prefer to get better at guitar, but enjoyment is primary. Still, when working on piano / harpsichord pieces, I enjoyed focusing on sections, and I’ve enjoyed working on guitar techniques as well, so there’s no particular reason why those two goals should be in conflict.
So I’m changing my routine. I’d already started working on pinch harmonics and tapping; now I’m picking a few songs and dropping into riff repeater on no mistakes / 3 repeats mode for isolated sections. (Specifically, Love Hurts, More Than a Feeling, and probably Anna Molly.) Which has been a good experiment so far: just the act of going through small sections repeatedly lets me see little bits to work on beyond the notes.
And I’m reducing the amount of random songs that I’m playing through. Which, actually, is good timing—the game’s “recommended” list sorts by fewest number of plays, which means that, the more you play, the more likely you are to run into songs there that you’ve been actively avoiding. Good to be exposed to songs like that every once in a while, but not heavily; I think I’ll lean on nonstop mode rather than recommended songs to get my dose of randomness.
Not much to report about Rocksmith, which is why I haven’t been blogging about it recently: it’s still awesome, I still spend a good amount of time on it every week. I continue to be impressed by Session Mode; it works well, and the game continues to suggest new things for me to try there. The game has also started to suggest that I building tones; I’ve been doing that as prompted, but I haven’t really jumped into that particularly.
Mostly I’m still playing through songs, of course. But I’m also thinking I should work a bit more on specific techniques; so I’ve been trying to learn how to do pinch harmonics over the last month (with some success in isolation, though I haven’t tried it in the middle of a song), and today I started working on tapping. Na Na Na Na has a good tapping section; if I set the difficulty to where there are only pairs of notes, then I can do it okay, but right now triplets are too hard for me; they don’t seem completely out of reach, so that’s a sign that that’s a plausible section for me to work on. I’m also falling out of the habit of doing non-game practice (e.g. going through the arpeggio section of Something Bigger, Something Brighter, or learning Itsumo Nando Demo); I blame that on me having the guitar packed away because of the kitchen work. But the kitchen is almost done, there should be less than three weeks left.
I should also spend more time just focusing on individual songs, and in particular using Riff Repeater to get sections solid. There are a few songs that I’m playing every week (Love Hurts and Anna Molly, at least), and several others that I play frequently, but I’m not really taking them super seriously. In general, I still enjoy playing lots of songs, and I do feel that I’m getting better, but I suspect that I should be spending more time on focused practice, at least to the extent that that doesn’t hurt my enjoyment. I’m reading through The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance right now; I haven’t gotten to where it talks about specific recommendations yet, but I may well change my practice style once I get to that.
Oh, and today I tried following the game’s advice for how to string a guitar, which differs slightly from how I had been stringing in terms of how it sets the initial loop of the string; seems to work well, I’ll probably stick with that method assuming that the strings stay stable. And I bought a capo yesterday, though I don’t have any specific plans to use it: they released a capo-only Oasis song last week, but that didn’t seem like my style.
So, a transition period: once I finish that book and once the kitchen is done, then I’ll probably change how I practice: it will be easier to practice outside of games on weekdays, I’ll go see if my neighbor is offering lessons, and I’ll have science giving me advice. But I’m feeling pretty good about things even without that.
In Rocksmith news from other blogs: I enjoyed this Rampant Coyote progress report.
Pictures from the last Minecraft session of the year:
It was rainy when I started up the server; I ended up wandering around for a while taking pictures in the rain.
But eventually the rain ended:
The other main focus of my environmental photos was glitches: they seem more frequent in the current version, of which I approve.
Roger worked a bit more on his cathedral:
And Pat starting building a new tower:
And Miranda decided to make improvements to the village we found the previous month; I didn’t get pictures of most of her work, unfortunately, but I did stop by for a visit:
Not much to write here; I’ve been playing Rocksmith a lot (including both Tuesday and Wednesday this week, I think?), and having my usual grand time. The bug about new songs being at 0 difficulty is real but manageable: it only affects the first new song you play in a session, and that one you can fix by going into riff repeater, setting the difficulty to something reasonable, and exiting. And, browsing the forums, the bug about existing song difficulty levels being reset to something that doesn’t take into account your progress is also real, and in fact affects some other people pretty severely, but it isn’t affecting me too much. Still, I do hope we’ll have fixes for that.
Speaking of downloads: Tomoyasu Hotei is great, The Who is fine but less fun to play than I expected, and one of the B’z songs was pretty good. I’ve also been spending a fair amount of time in session mode; I still like it and am impressed by it, but I’m also feeling my playing there is a little repetitive/boring; I should try session mode in the rhythm path and see if it shows me chords to play instead of notes. Also, I noticed that Love Hurts has an alternate lead, I should try that one more.
It’s really time for me to write more about the game on my main blog, though.
I finished going through all of my old songs on Rocksmith 2014 on Saturday, so I bought some DLC. Which may or may not have been the wisest decision—I’ve only played through most of the Rocksmith 2014 on-disc songs once so far—but there’s already been a fair amount of quite good seeming DLC released since that game was released, so I felt a little behind.
And I ran smack into a bug I’d seen before where it showed reasonable difficulty levels on the screen to start playing a song, but when you hit start it resets all the difficult levels to the lowest level. So I guess that’s a bug in how the game handles newly-added songs, given that I’d seen it before for unlockable songs? It only happened on one out of three songs today; for the other two, I went in and out of the selection screen before playing them, maybe that’s a way to avoid triggering the bug or maybe it’s just random.
I did at least find a reasonable way to recover from the bug: I went into Riff Repeater mode, manually bumped up the difficulty (and selected a long stretch), played through it once (doing well enough that it was happy), and then resumed playing normally. That seemed to have worked; annoying that I had to do it.
That’s actually not the only bug in that area that I’ve run into: a fair number of songs seem to have had their difficulty levels reset, so I’ll be presented with a flat (but at least not horribly low) difficulty rating for songs that I’ve played in some cases dozens of times. No idea what’s going on there; the good thing is that, by replaying the song once, I can generally get back to close to the right level for everything but solos. (And I’m not particularly good at solos anyways.)
The other thing that happened this weekend is that I tried Session Mode for the first time. And I will say: I’m super impressed by that. The game presents a virtual band that will accompany you as you noodle around; you can select what key and what scale you’re working in, and some other parameters that control chord changes (e.g. there’s a 12-bar blues mode), and then you just play away and it will add other instruments doing something that sounds reasonable. I put off trying this for a couple of months, but now that I’ve tried it, I think I’ll return to it every weekend, it’s a really good idea and I certainly need the encouragement to do more messing around.