Archive for January, 2012

Rock Band Status: January 29, 2012

Jan 30 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

This week, I acquired my first non-CRT TV (yes, I am behind the times), which meant that I had to actually calibrate Rock Band before playing it. Which I was a little nervous about, but the automatic calibration that comes with the current guitar controllers works great, so I can’t tell any timing difference at all. Looks good, too, though you can definitely tell that the game’s not in 1080p.

After which, of course, I sat down to practice. Aside from going through four or five of the older songs, my guitar practice was: Fly Like an Eagle (boring and surprisingly hard); Walking on the Sun (simple, fun, I somehow reached #98 on the leaderboard); Touch Me (meh chord practice, but the hammer-on bit was surprisingly instructive when I played it plugged in, I’m getting to where I rather like hopos though they still don’t sound as good as I’d like); Space Oddity (interesting chord variants in the strummy bits, a bit too long of a solo for me); Get Free (a surprisingly pleasant mix of power chords and single notes, I rather enjoyed it); Antibodies (at least I dislike it on Pro Guitar rather less than on other instruments; and I managed to break a pick on that one); and Du Hast (I suppose it’s good that my two least favorite songs on the disk showed up back to back, because now they’re both out of the way).

A quite solid weekend’s practicing, and now I’m done with Apprentice! On to, uh, Solid? (Two-dot difficulty.)

That’s Pro Guitar. I didn’t do so much Pro Bass, but I did get a few out of the way: My Sharona was quite a bit of fun; Working for the Weekend’s fast triplets were too much for me but it was quite pleasant otherwise (and rhyming “weekend” with “deep end” is lyric genius); Ziggy Stardust was absolutely the best thing to play; I Can See for Miles was fun in training, but in the actual song you play the same note over and over again for most of it (in fact, you can make it to three stars before you have to play a second note), and by the time you get to the interesting bits, it’s been long enough since your training that I for one screwed up; and Spanish Bombs never required you to change your hand position but had enough variation that I had fun nonetheless. (No reason why I should have missed a note on Spanish Bombs, and while of course I did miss three or four, I reached #6 on the leaderboard, though admittedly that doesn’t mean much for DLC.)

On the piano front, I’ve been slacking on my Musical Offering practice, but I did put in a decent hour. The Six-Part Ricercar continues to be extremely thorny; I’ll be done with my first pass at figuring out fingerings and hand placement in a couple of weeks, but I’m pretty sure I’ll need another full second pass before I can start seriously thinking about the musicality. I did at least work more seriously on the Three-Part Ricercar this time, instead of just coasting: it sounds good enough that I enjoy just playing it, but there’s definitely enough room for improvement that I shouldn’t settle for the way it sounds now.

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Rock Band Status: January 22, 2012

Jan 22 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I was busy on Saturday, so I didn’t get to play Rock Band; I did at least get to chat with Dan Apczynski a bit, and he told me that, when playing power chords, it’s generally best to only downstrum. So I’ll go back to that on I Wanna Be Sedated.

And today I was a little worried that I’d be pretty busy today with grocery shopping and watching the football game, but I actually ended up with a rather nice practice session. I went once through a few older songs (as is generally my habit these days), and then started in on the Apprentice level songs.

And it turns out that I’m fine with Apprentice level, too: I went through six of them. Good Vibrations made me glad that I’d practice alternating strumming; and, actually, it was the first song I can remember where I scored higher unmuted, because in that context the controller picking up extra string vibrations helped instead of hurting. Rock the Casbah didn’t have much to do on the guitar part, but what there was to do was fun.

Outer Space confirmed my opinion from Yoshimi that strummy songs are now an active plus for me instead of an active minus: nice shifting between chords, and I liked the way it added an extra high note on some of the D chords and dropped the note on the bottom string when transitioning from G to E. I’ll probably add that sequence into my midweek guitar practice, it’s fun and good for me.

Break on Through (To the Other Side) half sounded like a bass part and half was full of scales; the scales were also good hopo practice. Whip It had fun single note sequences that I did surprisingly bad on; I don’t really understand that.

Rock Lobster was the only one I didn’t like. The first half was overloaded with alternating strumming, the second half was overloaded with fast two-string chords. And it was using some sort of alternate tuning that I’m not familiar with (both the bottom two strings were lower, but there was more going on than that), I disliked the piece enough that I didn’t spend the time to figure it out.

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Ni No Kuni Status: January 15, 2012

Jan 17 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Even though it was a three day weekend, I didn’t play as much Ni No Kuni as I probably should have: I was in a more Rock Band mood instead. (And a little tired on Monday because I was on call for work this weekend.) At least I did play it some, unlike the previous weekend, though, but clearly I’m not going to really make progress through the game until I start playing mid-week. Which hopefully will happen soon: I’ve beaten back the worst of my blog writing backlog, so hopefully I’ll be able to carve out one evening a week to make progress?

Anyways: I spent a bit of time in the town I’d been in, seeing if there was anybody with a job that needed doing; I completed one job, but it looks like I’d found most of the jobs before going to the volcano. And then, as instructed, I went to the southern port. There, I got a crafting pot; that filled the last of the spots on the X-button menu, so I think I’ve got all of the game’s basic mechanics available to me now? (I don’t remember any more mechanics from the manual, though I haven’t gone back to confirm.) I can’t say that I’m super excited about crafting: I’m not in a micro-managing mood. But hopefully I won’t have to worry about it too much. (The game has been very generous about letting me run past monsters if I don’t feel like fighting them and still leaving me adequately powerful to fight bosses.)

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Rock Band Status: January 16, 2012

Jan 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

A three-day weekend, which I took advantage of by putting in quite a bit of Rock Band time. Starting with the Pro Guitar training mode: coming into the weekend, there were only four segments that I hadn’t done, two within Advanced Single Note Runs and two within More Chord Holding and Arpeggiation. And I finished off one of the former (the fifth in that group, with tons of hopos); I still haven’t quite managed the first one (tremolos), though I’m not too far away, certainly I could do it if I get lucky. I didn’t manage either of the arpeggiation ones: I’m not particularly close to being able to finish the second segment in that group (I need to be faster at shifting into barre chords), but I think it’s mostly bad luck that I haven’t yet managed the third segment in that group.

Then I went to songs on Pro Guitar. I first went back to some older songs that had been giving me trouble and where I’d been working on the relevant techniques offline, and my practice definitely helped: on Last Dance, I had a much longer streak in the barre chord section than before, and I finally managed to at least get three stars on Take On Me, and while my streaks were still shockingly short, I fell out of them as often because of the alternating strumming on the D chord as because of jumping to the barred C chord.

As to new songs: Yoshimi was a song that I’d done surprisingly badly on at Hard, so I was worried about it on Expert, but it actually went much better: part of that is because my skills have improved, but a lot of that also has to do with my trying out a thinner pick. So I’ll have to keep my eyes out for other songs where I can use that. It sounded surprisingly good when plugged in, too, and actually I spent a while just playing it outside of game (unplugged and unmuted). Modern Love was easy to the point of being a little boring (so I guess not all DLC is harder than the rating says), but it’s so much fun to sing that I didn’t mind: that made it possible for me to sing while playing guitar. (Though, actually, the vocals at the end demanded enough concentration that I wasn’t able to sing them accurately while playing.) And Midlife Crisis was enough not my style that I didn’t put significant amounts of time into it. Which was the last Warmup song: glad to have successfully navigated that tier! Hopefully I’ll be okay for another tier or two, but I’m certainly going to hit some real challenges at some point, maybe halfway through.

Today I played a bunch of Pro Bass, all in the two-dot tier. (Solid is apparently the official name of that tier.) In general, a fair amount of alternating strumming, without too much moving around but usually with enough to keep me interested; Portions for Foxes was particularly good alternating strumming practice, I Need to Know and Outer Space were straightforward but pleasant, Rock Lobster was similar and easy enough that there was no individual note I should have missed (though I did miss several of them), Get Free was surprisingly pleasant the second time, once I got the notes right.

Viva La Resistance was much much harder than any of the preceding songs: the tremolo section in the beginning is fast enough that it took me a while to realize during training that I was only playing it at half the speed I’m supposed to! Pity, because it’s absolutely one of my favorite songs on disc (and my most surprising favorite on disc); something to work on, I guess? She’s Got the Look had fairly relentless alternating strumming, albeit not as fast; it was good practice on switching strings during alternating strumming. Foolin’ is a song that I don’t like and while I’m usually good at finding something interesting in the technique even on such songs, I didn’t manage that here. Here I Go Again was pleasantly easy; but I was shocked to discover when I finished it that I’d reached #25 on the leaderboard, I’m not usually in the top 10% for Pro Bass. (Makes me wonder how many people have played the song on Pro Bass.) I mean, I did a good job, but I wasn’t perfect or anything, and I would have thought many other people would manage a similarly good job? And Touch Me was pleasant enough, though I don’t have a lot to say other than that.

And then there’s a discovery I made: if you hit down on the D-pad on the screen after finish the song, you see tons of stats: longest streak, a breakdown of accuracy percent on each section of the song, a breakdown of how much of your score is due to accuracy / streaks / overdrive, etc. I would say that I have no idea how I’d been unaware of this for so long, except that the on-screen indicator isn’t very obvious and I’m usually not thinking about the D-pad. Still: very glad I learned about that!

I practiced the Musical Offering a couple of times this weekend; the 6-Part Ricercar is still hard, but I’m getting through it, so hopefully in another month I’ll be able to play the whole thing and not sound dreadful. There will, of course, be a lot of work to do after that, but that’s when it will really get fun, so that’s okay.

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Rock Band Status: January 8, 2012

Jan 13 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Not a lot of Rock Band last weekend. I was thinking I should try out different picks, so I went to a local music store; after realizing that the picks cost fifty cents each, I ended up buying one of about half of the models that they had. When I got around to trying the different picks, I was kind of regretting it for a while—I guess I liked a few of them more than the pick I’d been using, but I didn’t see a huge improvement? But then I found one that I rather liked: a little thicker and more textured than I’d been using and with a similar slightly rounded tip. So: success! At some point I’d like to try significantly different guitar picks—e.g. at work there’s a triangular much thicker one that I found surprisingly interesting—but it’s definitely a start.

On Saturday evening, Liesl and I finished the songs from Lego Rock Band. Which I don’t regret buying, because the game is quite cheap these days, but on average I don’t like the songs from it nearly as much those in other games. And we went through a couple of pieces of DLC; I’ve forgotten what they were (it’s been a busy week), but they were pleasant. (And I’m way behind on DLC, I really need to catch up on listening to them to see what I want.)

And then I tried out three songs on Pro Guitar. Rehab was okay; it felt more like a bass part, and a not-all-that-interesting bass part at that, but wasn’t unpleasant. Get Up, Stand Up was not very interesting noodling around on one chord.

The third song was Take On Me. I’m used to DLC songs being harder compared to on-disc songs with the same rating, and this was no exception. Though the interesting thing was that its main difficulty was that it required me to play a barred C chord—I don’t think I’d really had to do that yet, or was even aware that that was much of a thing? There was also one annoying segment that asked me to play a bunch of muted notes slightly faster than I would have liked; I probably would have enjoyed that if the notes weren’t muted so I’d had to think about the fingers, but as is I just didn’t like it.

Ah well: it’s a piece that I bought because of the keyboard part, and ended up quite enjoying the vocals on it; it’s okay for me not to love the guitar part. And it’s given me something new to practice, which is always a bonus. So I’ll work on barred C chords offline, and then come back to the piece in a few weeks when I can hit them more reliably. (Or: fail them less completely reliably.)

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Ni No Kuni: January 1, 2012

Jan 02 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Weekends in December had been horribly busy; something had to go, and Ni No Kuni was it. But I finally got back to playing it this weekend.

I went through the volcano dungeon that I’d arrived at last time. Right before the top, there was a training grotto (“cave of trials”); it had a few non-combat puzzles, including a logic puzzle that I was proud of myself that I managed to puzzle out the Japanese well enough to get it right on the first try. For anybody else who is stuck there and googles this: on the outside of the statue/spell logic puzzle bit, the left statue wants fire and the right one wants ice. (Those are the paired statues with the writing from the back of the book on them.) And inside that room, first heal the dog, then talk to the bird, then cure poison on the bull, then unlock the dragon.

Once I was done with that, I learned how to capture Imagines. Which, honestly, I have mixed feeling about: I’m not actively excited about the combat in game, but I’m not sure adding a larger cast of characters for me to manage is the answer for that. Ah well; I’m done with that dungeon now, time to go back to the city to tidy up loose ends and then off to a southern port.

Though I imagine progress will be slow: I have a few more blog posts to write before I’ll feel comfortable playing instead of writing mid-week. Eventually I’ll find more time, I hope…

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Rock Band Status: January 1, 2012

Jan 01 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I went through four songs this week on Expert Pro Guitar. Low Rider was easy and boring, mostly sounding like an unimaginative bass part; but hey, at least I got my Pro Guitar gold stars out of the way, and reached 50th place on the leaderboard. I actually shouldn’t have missed any notes; I did make some mistakes though, and on my first playthrough the game frequently thought I was playing extra notes when I wasn’t. I’m not sure what was going on there, but when I played a little more crisply, then that didn’t happen as much, so I guess that’s good?

Last Dance was also easy and boring, but a little more useful: a significant chunk of the game had me switching between a simple I-IV-V barre chord sequence, and while I could do that well enough to not get an awful score in game, I didn’t do great, and it made my hands hurt. So that’s useful feedback: a touchstone that I can use to measure the extent to which I’m not completely incompetent, both by listening to myself and by building up my hand strength. I’ll certainly work on the chord progression in question outside of game, and play through it again in-game (plugged in) in future weeks.

For Beautiful People, I finally tried out the dropped D tuning plugged in; and, you know, it was more fun than I expected it to be. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to going through more pieces in that vein, but I should give them a fair shake instead of skipping them.

And I Wanna Be Sedated was interesting enough that I wrote about it on my main blog. And, as I said there, it also suggested something I should practice outside of game, namely alternating strumming of power chords: I’m bad at at it, and hit strings that I shouldn’t far too often when shifting chords. Like Last Dance, I’ll return to that song in future weeks.

I’m also thinking I should experiment more with different guitar picks; I’ll stop by a music store this week and pick up a few to try out.

I went through a few songs on Pro Bass; fun, though they’re definitely getting harder, enough so that I can’t just go through a whole swathe at once. And I finished off another group of the game’s lessons, just two of them left.

I’d been lax on my piano practice over the last week and a bit, and you could definitely tell: the 3-Part Ricercar actually wasn’t so bad, but I was at sea far too often during the 6-Part Ricercar. I’ll definitely have to put in more time on that in the middle of the week.

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