Archive for January, 2013

Guitar Status: January 27, 2013

Jan 27 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

There are a lot of pieces I don’t know on the upcoming violin recital that I’m accompanying, so I figured I should get to work on that. Though there’s a bit of a quandary: the list is so long that I don’t actually believe all those pieces will be on there, but that leaves me not knowing which of the new pieces I should work on! I decided to solve that by working on the new pieces that I enjoyed the most, on the theory that I won’t feel that the time is wasted if I end up not needing to perform them. (And they’ll show up in future years even if they don’t show up this year.)

So I decided to not work on the Vivaldi arrangements, and instead to work on the Bach Double. A really nice piece, that, but definitely one that I have to work on: I’m still trying to figure out what fingering works best for me in several of the sections. But that in itself is pleasant to work on, I’m definitely happy with my choice of what to practice.

On Thursday, our VGHVI gaming session was Rock Band 3. Which was the only time I played that game this week (no time for vocals practice); one of these weeks, I won’t play any Rock Band at all, but this was not that week. I played drums, which was a lot of fun, and points out how great Rock Band is—sure, I’m having less fun playing guitar and keys in that game than I used to, but vocals and drums are great! I’m still not planning to immerse myself in the game any more, but there’s an amazing amount of material there.

And then there’s Rocksmith. I played some on Friday evening, and didn’t do a particularly good job: I like listening to parts with arpeggios, and they make sense to me musically, but I’m surprised how hard a time I have getting them into my fingers. This morning’s event wasn’t so bad, though I can see multiple songs getting to levels where they’re tricky for me—I’m frequently telling it to reduce the target score.

I’m also feeling relatively secure with the seven songs I had previously mastered, so I decided to start going for mastery on new songs again. This morning I mastered I Can’t Hear You, which actually was surprisingly dicy: I got 100,000 points exactly, even though as far as I can tell I didn’t miss a single note. I didn’t realize the game ever left no room for error like that; I guess that’s what happens when a song has no bends / sustains / tremolos / chords / etc.? Sheer luck that I got a full combo on it: there’s just enough jumping between strings to be delicate, and it has palm mutes which the game doesn’t detect as reliably. And then later in the afternoon I inadvertently unlocked Master Mode on I Can’t Get No Satisfaction; there’s a few bits there that I’ll definitely have to work on in Riff Repeater mode, though. Hopefully I’ll be able to stick with unlocking Master Mode on one or maybe two songs a week?

There was also other song where the detection seemed a bit off; I can’t remember which one it was, but it seemed to me that I was playing the riff correctly and occasionally one of the notes wouldn’t register. The same things happens to me with Rebel, Rebel; not sure if my timing is off more than I think or if something else is going on.

Then Brad (one of my coworkers) came over and we played through a bunch of songs. That was super fun, and we actually sounded pretty good on several of the songs! On some of the songs, the two parts overlapped a fair amount, but there were several where hearing multiple parts really added something to it. So I’m very glad that we did that, we’ll definitely have to do it again.

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Guitar Status: January 20, 2013

Jan 20 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

A busy week and weekend, but I managed to get in some Rocksmith one evening mid-week, and I played it both yesterday and today as well. I’m splitting my time between the songs the game throws at me for events and practicing songs that I’m going to play with a coworker (with a little bit of practice songs that I’m likely to hit in master mode encores to boot); a pleasant enough mix.

The one thing that’s a little frustrating is that one of the songs I’m working on is Rebel, Rebel, and I haven’t been able to get the 100,000 points on that to unlock master mode in it. Part of that is my fault—I’m not as good at playing arpeggios that I’d like—but it also seems to be the case that the game occasionally says I haven’t played a note that I actually did. (And I don’t think my timing is off?) Not sure what’s going on there; maybe the vibrations from the different strings are confusing it somehow?

Though the main guitar-related note was that I finally wrote a long blog post on my main blog about games and guitar learning. I like how it turned out; and I was very pleased to see a tweet calling it “insightful” and to discover that the author of that tweet works at Harmonix and that he’s pointing my article out to somebody who works on Rocksmith. (Who also liked it.) So: I’m being read by the right people, and I don’t sound too crazy to them!

I did a bit of singing: still chipping away at Bohemian Rhapsody, still sounding bad. Also, I volunteered to do piano accompaniment at a recital for Miranda’s violin teacher’s students, so I started working on those pieces. Which rather worries me—the current list of pieces has four from Suzuki book 4 or 5 that I haven’t played before, and the piano parts there are tricky enough that they’ll need some amount of work for me to get comfortable with them. Hopefully it’s only a tentative list and some of those will end up not being in the final program; otherwise, I’ll need to be very focused on playing piano for the next few weeks…

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Guitar Status: January 13, 2013

Jan 13 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

As I mentioned last week, one of my coworkers has started playing Rocksmith as well. We talked about that and decided that it would be fun for the two of us to work on a few songs to play together. So we looked over the on-disc content, and came up with a list of seven songs: Are You Gonna Go My Way, Boys Don’t Cry, Higher Ground, Rebel Rebel, Take Me Out, We Share the Same Skies, and When I’m with You. I’d already memorized (or mostly memorized in the case of Take Me Out) one part of three of those, but four of them were songs that I still need to work on, but they’re all songs that I’m happy to learn.

Still, that’s going to eat into my time regularly progressing through the game. So, on two or three evenings this week, I practiced guitar for a while after I got home from work, before making dinner; that’s a time when Miranda had frequently been practicing violin, but she can do that earlier if the noise pollution bothered her.

This weekend, Miranda had a friend over on Saturday, so I didn’t practice guitar then (though I did practice piano a bit—I’ve volunteered to accompany at a violin recital next month). I used that as an excuse to get the grocery shopping out of the way on Saturday, so I could devote lots of time on Sunday to making music. Which I did lots of: I went through the seven songs that I had mastered, the other four songs that I’m working on that I don’t yet have mastered, and two events worth of songs that didn’t fit into those categories. I’m getting to where it puts me at the 90,000 point tier for most songs; I’m curious if it’s going to force me into mastering songs (which could be a bit of a problem, memorizing 7 or 11 or whatever songs is one thing, but memorizing 57 songs is another thing) or if it’s going to start switching up parts on me. (I think that the only time it’s ever given me a different part on a song from the one it started me on is when it’s given me a double encore.) If it starts going too far down mastery mode, I’ll probably take matters more into my own hands, either switching up parts myself or downloading DLC for it to use.

I also sang a little bit; though my voice is feeling rough and my lung capacity isn’t quite as good as I’d like. But I did manage to get five stars on Good Vibrations on Hard (though I sounded lousy doing it). No progress on Bohemian Rhapsody on Expert or 20th Century Boy 100%.

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Guitar Status: January 6, 2013

Jan 07 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I played a bit of Rock Band 3 on Saturday, working on my vocals. I’m working on three songs now: Bohemian Rhapsody on Expert, Good Vibrations on Hard, and trying to get 100% on 20th Century Boy. And I didn’t succeed on any of them. I think I improved on all three, but there’s definitely a ways to go; and I’m not going to bang my head for too long on any of those goals. Not that I don’t like singing, but if I’m going to sing, I should probably do that with Liesl.

I did the singing while Liesl and Miranda were out of the house with one of our cars, and while I’d loaned the other car to a friend: otherwise, I would have been out of the house as well, going shopping. Because, as threatened, I wanted to go guitar shopping on Saturday. And, fortunately, Liesl and Miranda weren’t out for very long, so I did head out after them.

And it was a success! I ended up just playing Gibson models; mostly SGs, though I gave one Les Paul a try. (Which was great, but not great enough for me to want to spend $700 more on it.) I was thinking I would give the SG Special Faded a try, since it’s supposed to be a solid SG for a good price. (Ignore the list price on that page, it’s available for a lot less retail.) And they had one (with the Worn Cherry finish, which was really lovely); I liked it a lot, and would have been very happy to walk out with it.

But somebody had put a 2011 50th Anniversary SG Standard 24 for sale up in the consignment section for only $150 more, and that really was a wonderful instrument. I tried out a few different models, but I kept on coming back to those two; I liked the looks of the SG Special Faded maybe a bit more, and actually it had longer sustains, but the Standard had more character in its treble pickup. (The Special had a very clear sound on both the regular and treble pickups, but too little differentiation between the two.) So ultimately I decided I liked the sound more for the Standard, and the price difference was great given the difference in list price (not that I plan to resell it, but still: the difference in value between the two is more than $150), so I went for it.

And I’m super super happy with that. I brought it home, plugged it in, and fiddled around; then I started going through songs on Rocksmith. And songs where I’d been starting to hit my limits all of a sudden were a lot easier, the fingerboard was just easier to move around on, and bending strings was a lot more natural. (And those sustains are ridiculous.)

So: it was the right time for me to buy a new guitar (and the right time in a way that it wouldn’t have been a month and a half ago), and I’m very happy with the choice of instrument.

Not much else to say on the Rocksmith front; basically, I’m just going through the events. I unlocked the last bonus song; I was starting to get a little annoyed at the bonus songs because they’re sometimes focusing on solo techniques that I’m not that interested in, and in fact this week I ran into one of them (Boss) that was the first song that I’ve felt was really too hard for me in ways that I’m not actively interested in struggling with right now. Except that, in the same event, I had to play another bonus song, Six AM Salvation, which is both super fun musically and has very amusing lyrics. So: yay bonus songs after all! (I still wish there were a way to tell it “don’t show me Boss again in the rotation”, though.) I’m still generally seeing the same part over and over again for a given song, I wonder when it’s going to start showing me more parts?

One of my coworkers also started playing Rocksmith over the holiday; and another is interested, and I think might be interested in using it to learn bass. Which could turn out really fun – it could give us access to a common set of songs that we could play with two guitars and a bass. So who knows, maybe this will lead to me playing guitar outside of games!

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