Archive for December, 2012

Guitar Status: December 30, 2012

Dec 30 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I thought this was going to be a light week: my parents were visiting, so I didn’t practice guitar yesterday. But they left this morning, and they actually left early enough this morning that I could start playing Rocksmith at 10am. Which meant that I had a bunch of time to play that game: I went through the seven songs that I’d unlocked Master mode on (I’m getting faster at that practice, though all the songs still require weekly review), and my current event was only four songs, with three of them taking only one or two playthroughs to get the target score. And, once I’d done that, the next event was only three songs, so I did that as well.

And even with that, I still had time left before I needed to go grocery shopping, so I decided to chip away a bit more at vocals in Rock Band 3. I finished I Got You on Expert (took several tries), Bohemian Rhapsody on Hard, and Good Vibrations on Medium. (With Miranda popping up to sing along as soon as I started Bohemian Rhapsody; Liesl joined in on that one, too.) So now only two songs left; I think I’ll be able to do Bohemian Rhapsody on Expert with a bit more practice, but I’m dubious about Good Vibrations. (Maybe I’ll be able to get it with judicious octave shifting, who knows…)

Still: approaching the end of my regular Rock Band 3 practice. Which is sad; more exciting is that I’m planning to go shopping for a better guitar on Saturday. The Rock Band 3 Squier has served me well, but I’m definitely running across its limitations now.

(Administrative note: if anybody is subscribed solely to the ‘pro guitar’ tag of this blog, I’m going to stop using that tag for general guitar learning, reserving it in the future for those rare occasions when I’m actually talking about Rock Band 3 pro guitar. So from now on I’ll just tag Rocksmith posts with ‘guitar’ (as well as ‘rocksmith’, of course). Though of course those posts will continue to be the vast majority of the posts in this blog anyways, making the tag almost pointless.)

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Guitar Status: December 23, 2012

Dec 23 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, I played Rocksmith. I went through all of the songs I’d “mastered”, partly for didactic reasons but mostly as a defensive measure against being thrown one of them as an encore. And then I went through the next event; and I was glad at the end that I’d gone through the songs I’d mastered, I would have done much worse at Take Me Out otherwise!

And this morning I sung some in Rock Band 3: I’d been enjoying doing that when I was on break from work, and I figure I should get over my shyness if I’m going to want to keep doing that. I continued trying to five-star all of the songs on Expert; I now only have three left namely, I Got You, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Good Vibrations. Good Vibrations in particular is an amazing pain: it puts together a bunch of different vocal parts, including both ones that are too high for me and ones that are too low for me. So I kind of doubt I’ll be able to get five stars on that one; I’ll give it a shot, though. And, if I succeed at that, the only remaining vocal challenge will be to get 100% on 20th Century Boy; also seems like a long shot, but who knows.

I thought about practicing guitar some in Rock Band 3 this afternoon. Right now, though, I think I’m getting a lot more out of Rocksmith. So, as of now, I’m pausing my practice in Rock Band; once I’ve done enough singing to feel that I’ve given it a fair shot, I’ll remove that game from the list of games in progress. Though I imagine Liesl and I will return to it fairly often even after that, especially to sing.

But, in the meantime: focus on Rocksmith. Including getting a better guitar: the time has now come to do that, I don’t want to be fighting the guitar when bending strings, for example. So I’ll try out some guitars a friend has and then go off and buy one for myself. And I did in fact play more Rocksmith today, going through another event: I’m still making progress, and I still haven’t hit a wall, though I wonder how long it’s going to be before that happens on a solo-heavy piece. Which, fortunately, Rocksmith is less enamored of than the Rock Band series, though that may be artificial: the game hasn’t shown me different parts on almost any of the pieces, so maybe more solos are coming? I’ll find out eventually.

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Guitar Status: December 18, 2012

Dec 18 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

It’s been a busy week for me musically: I took a week and a bit off from my job, which left me with lots of free time, and I decided that most of what I wanted to do during that free time was music! With, of course, the help of Rock Band 3 and Rocksmith.

The strengths and weaknesses of those two games is getting interesting enough that I should probably write about this soon on my main blog; but, basically, over the last week, I did my guitar practice almost exclusively through Rocksmith. I played through another set every day; these days, I’m seeing the same songs (and even the same guitar parts in the songs—one of the differences between the two games is that Rocksmith teaches you all the different guitar parts), but with higher score targets.

And, once the targets get high enough, I’m frequently getting to a level where I unlock “Master Mode” for that song, where I can play through the song without being shown the notes. I’ve unlocked that for seven songs now: Angela, Boys Don’t Cry, Go with the Flow, Next Girl, Song 2, Take Me Out, and When I’m with You. Some of them are super super simple, some are a little more complex.

At first, I didn’t actually play them in Master Mode, other than once as an experiment. But then it threw me into Master Mode in one of them as an encore, so I decided I should give them a try. I still have mixed feelings about being dumped into Master Mode without warning, to be honest (enough so that I’m now no longer actively trying to unlock Master Mode on songs until I get more confident with those seven), but ultimately I do want to learn this music.

So I spent a bit of time this weekend playing through all of those songs in rehearsal and then in Master Mode. It turns out that, if you don’t press the A button on the controller when you’re done playing a song, it will play through your performance again, but this time showing you the notes; I think that’s actually a really good idea from a didactic point of view, because you get the correction after you’ve made the mistake, right when you need it. Including corrections of mistakes you didn’t think you’d made, some of which are subtle: I don’t realize how bad my rhythm is in sections that I’m uncertain about until I listen to it.

So: yay Rocksmith! I’m thinking I should dial back my Rock Band 3 practice: for where I am now, Rocksmith is a better teaching tool for me.

Or rather, I should dial back my Rocksmith practice on guitar: I actually felt like singing this week, so I sung in Rock Band 3 for maybe an hour a day. To give me something to focus on, I decided to try for the goal of getting five-star on expert vocals on every song.

Looking around the goals, I actually started on a related goal: I sung the songs that I hadn’t five starred on expert on any instrument. It turned out there were only four of those; and Beast and the Harlot was not much fun to learn! But I managed it; after that, I started going through the remaining songs on vocals. I got five stars on maybe twenty or thirty more songs; now I have somewhere in the neighborhood of ten songs (I think a few less, seven or eight maybe?) left.

And, honestly, I doubt I’ll finish that goal any time soon: I won’t have much free time when the house is empty to sing, and I seem to recall that Good Vibrations was really hard. Who knows, though; and it’s certainly been fun working on that.

The one unfortunate thing that occurred in this process was that, during one play session, the game stopped being able to talk to the hard drive. Fortunately, rebooting the console and reseating the drive fixed that, but that got me pretty nervous. So I bought a USB stick and backed up my save files for all the games that let me do that. (And I’m annoyed that not all games do in fact allow you to back up your save file; fortunately, both Rock Band 3 and Rocksmith allow that.) I should probably look into Xbox cloud saves; that may actually be exactly what I’m looking for, for all I know.

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VGHVI Minecraft: November 29, 2012

Dec 16 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Pictures from the November VGHVI Minecraft session:

Roger started on a new building project. It’s a church, it seems to be mostly floating in midair, and it’s going to be a big one! So far, there’s only an outline in place.

Sketching out a floating outline of the church

Sketching out a floating outline of the church

The steps to the church, in driving snow

The steps to the church, in driving snow

The floor plan starts to become apparent

The floor plan starts to become apparent

Miranda, of course, was the other person working on a building project; she was fleshing out the building that I’d been calling the Wood Temple, but which turns out to be a more secular sort of hall. She finished off the interiors this month.

Working on the interior decor

Working on the interior decor

Books here!

Books here!

Putting finishing touches on the library

Putting finishing touches on the library

Looking into the armory

Looking into the armory

Looking into the library

Looking into the library

Looking into the supply room

Looking into the supply room

Inside the building/farming supply room

Inside the building/farming supply room

Inside the armory

Inside the armory

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Guitar Status: December 9, 2012

Dec 10 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

On Friday evening, Liesl and I went through all the Rock Band 3 DLC that we’d bought over the last couple of months that we hadn’t yet played. (On fake guitar/bass.) Nothing particularly striking to report there, other than that Nugget Man’s lyrics are quite something.

I played Rocksmith on Saturday; two events, maybe 10 songs? I was going to stop after the first event, but then the second one looked short, and for the first time the game suggested ‘Riff Repeater’ mode to me. And that turned out to be something that I’d hoped was there but hadn’t yet gone looking for, namely Rocksmith‘s version of Rock Band 3‘s trainer mode: a way to focus on snippets of a song. Done in a typically Rocksmith-ey fashion, with the game either speeding up the snippet for you automatically or increasing the difficulty level automatically. And, with the help of that, I mastered my first song in the game, Next Girl. (Mastered = got over 100,000 points on a song with all sections at max difficulty; it unlocks a mastery mode for the song where you get double points but don’t get told what notes to play, I haven’t tried that yet.)

That may have been my first Rocksmith session where I never felt frustrated by the game: it seemed to be reliably detecting what I was trying to do, which was great. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration—sometimes it felt like it didn’t pick up on my bends, though admittedly my guitar makes that harder. And trying to do as well as it wanted on Space Ostrich was slightly frustrating, but that was mostly frustration with myself rather than the game. Still: I’m pretty sucked into the game. Which raises the question of how I should best use it; I’d been thinking I’d go through what it recommends until I feel like I’ve probably seen every song in the game, and then pick a subset of the songs to try for mastery on. (Using it in the same way I’m using Rock Band 3 now, basically.) And I may indeed do that, but seeing it throw the Riff Repeater mode at me makes it think that I’ll be able to stick with its suggestions longer than I expected? Who knows, no need to decide right now.

On Sunday, I played Rock Band 3. Not a lot—we wanted to clean the upstairs carpets and do some yard work—so I didn’t go through my full practice routine. I decided to go through most of the harder songs, including training on Me Enamorata; I still have a ways to go on that song. And I went through three or four new songs; I think I’ll put I Can See for Miles and King George into my practice routine, and I think I’ll need to spend a fair amount of time in training mode to do well on King George.

I expect to be playing a lot more guitar for the near future: I left my job on Friday, and I decided to take December off instead of applying immediately for another job. Honestly, part of me wants to spend all day playing guitar; I definitely won’t do that, but I may try to go through one Rocksmith event per day? And I’m actually tempted to spend some time working on singing, too. Who knows if I’ll end up doing that, we’ll see. But I will be somewhat restrained: I have programming to do, blog posts to write, and various loose ends to get in order.

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Guitar Status: December 2, 2012

Dec 02 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, I got my guitar back from the shop. I can’t remember what all he said he adjusted, but he worked on the curvature of the neck, the tuning apparatus (the bridge, maybe?), put on a new set of strings, and probably did some other stuff.

In general, it feels a little better to play? Also, the new strings seem noticeably stiffer, which probably helps with the problem I’d been had from being out of tune when I press too hard. (I wonder if that will change as the strings get older.) And it sounds maybe a bit janglier, but I’m okay with that, in some sense it sounds to me more like an electric guitar should. I don’t think it will make a colossal difference in my playing, but I’m glad to have had the guitar set up, and the guy who did it seemed to know his stuff. (Mark’s Guitar Repair in Campbell.)

On the way home, I stopped by a local guitar shop to wander around for a bit. Mostly I just looked at price tags on guitars, I didn’t really try anything out. (I probably should have looked at effects pedals, too; ah well.) I’m thinking that, at some point, I should just pick a price point (not particularly high, $300-ish) and buy a guitar somewhat randomly there along with a couple of pedals, and just get used to the ways they can make noise. Then again, I should probably do that more than I have been with my current guitar; I’m just feeling somewhat hampered by some aspects of its construction (e.g. not being able to bend strings smoothly) and by my feeling that it’s almost certainly musically deficient in many ways.

Once I got home, I played Rocksmith for maybe three and a half hours. I went through something like nine songs; I’ve forgotten which ones they were (Sunshine of Your Love is the only one that comes to mind, though I’m sure I’d remember more if I looked at the track list), but I was enjoying the experience enough to keep at it.

I’d done a better job practicing guitar mid-week than normal this week: Good Girl in particular has gotten stuck in my head, so I’ve practiced it both unplugged and in game a few times. Which has gotten me back in the habit of playing Rock Band 3 plugged into my amp. And I figured out how to turn off failed note sounds (you have to scroll down to see the option on the appropriate menu, which is why I’d missed it before); I still wish the game had a way to turn off failed note detection completely, but at least now it’s not actively offensive. (I’m currently #11 on the Good Girl leaderboard, which made me happy until I checked how many people had played the song at all; the answer turns out to be 78 people, which made me despair at the lack of popularity of Pro Guitar, because it’s a super fun song to play. Though admittedly probably a lot of people overlooked it, because Carrie Underwood isn’t the first artist that comes to mind when thinking about guitar.)

On Sunday, I played Rock Band 3; I was feeling like I had a lot to do, so I didn’t try new songs, but I did go through all of my standard routine, and went through the practice sections of Me Enamorata. I can already see some improvement on that song, which is heartening; still a ways to go, the solo in particular will take a while, but that’s okay. Once I’d gone through all the standard practice songs muted, I went through a few of them plugged in; I was planning to only do two or three of them that way, but I enjoyed the experience enough that I ended up playing about half of them plugged in. The other main thing that I learned today was about The Only Exception: something was clearly off on the solo when I’d played it before, with one of the strings being a half-tone off, and when I looked more closely at the names of the chords it was displaying, I realized that it showed E7 for what looked like it was the fingering for a standard E chord. Putting those two bits of information together, I realized that I was supposed to tune the top string down a half step, to a D#; I’m a little embarrassed that it took me so long to realize that, but better late than never! (And most of the chords don’t sound awful in either tuning, they just sound better tuned correctly.)

My hand ached a noticeable amount by the end of the afternoon. After this week, I’m planning to take December off from working and to do a lot of guitar practice during then; I hope my hands are up to it…

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