Pro Guitar Status, June 19, 2011

Jun 20 2011

The main bit of Pro Guitar excitement this week: I bought an amp! At the recommendation of a guitarist friend of mine, I went for a Fender Vibro Champ XD, and I have no regrets so far: I like the way it sounds, and it allows for what seems to me a decent amount of experimentation, which will help me get a better idea of the possibilities that are out there when/if I decide to move up to something fancier.

And it turns out that, indeed, playing Pro Guitar on Hard is good preparation for the real thing! I’ve only gone through three songs on Hard so far, but in all cases, when I played them plugged in I could definitely hear the music. Flourishes were missing, so I clearly have something to look forward to when I learn those songs on Expert, but buying the amp when I hit Hard was definitely the right choice. (And, conversely, I tried out a few songs on Medium with the amp on, and it just wasn’t the same.)

It was also very educational from a musical point of view. Most notably in learning how notes sustain on an electric guitar: when you’re playing in game, the game is in complete control of that, and when you play unmuted but not plugged in, notes don’t sustain very well. When I’m plugged in, though, notes sustain for a quite long time. In particular, it was quickly clear that I need to mute notes that I don’t want to sustain; for now, I’m doing that with the pick, but I should play around with other possible ways to mute.

That also raises the question: what should I do when the game gives me notes that are marked as muted? The game doesn’t really care, though it gives me advice to not hold down the strings very much; I’ll need to experiment with the different sounds I can produce with that. And hammers-on and pull-offs are much more real to me now: I’d been playing them for years without really believing that they could work (at some subconscious level, of course I trust Harmonix to represent music accurately within the game’s constraints), but it turns out that, yup, they work well! Though that is very much an area which I need to explore more, in order to figure out how to get notes to sustain best across transitions.

The amp aside, though, I’ve only played very little this week. We have guests in town (summer being when grandparents come to visit their granddaughter), and yesterday in particular was quite busy with brunch, a musical, and dinner. So I didn’t have time to learn any new songs; I did manage to put in most of an hour on practice mode, though.

And I would seem to be making progress. There are 10 barre chord lessons; the first four went rather smoothly, which isn’t something I’ve been able to say in the past, and I made it through the last of them for the first time. The open chord lessons also went well, so probably I’ll soon reduce my frequency of practicing those. (Or maybe not, it’s core muscle memory and the better I get the less time it will take for me to go through them!) I also finished the strumming pattern lessons for the first time; those, I wasn’t so impressed by (it wasn’t even clear which strings I was supposed to strum when or what mistake I had made in a given attempt), and I don’t plan to return to them particularly often. I didn’t have time to go through the arpeggiation lessons (which I haven’t yet finished) or the scale lessons (which I have finished but plan to return to frequently).

I’ll happily dive in full force next weekend, though. My current plan is to go through songs like I have been and then play each song a couple of times unmuted and plugged in to see what it sounds like. And I have no idea what my rate of progress will be; I’m sure it will be slower than on Medium (both because of the difficulty and because I’ll be wanting to listen to myself), but how much has yet to be determined.

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