Guitar Status: June 30, 2013

Jun 30 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Almost nothing to report this week; sadly, no guitar practice on Saturday (we were talking to people about kitchen renovation and having lunch with friends), but on Sunday, I did practice, going through the standard single event plus some of my favorite songs. Which was pleasant, but it doesn’t make for much of a blog post! I suspect that busy weekends will be the norm coming up; maybe I’ll batch a few weeks up into a single post going forward.

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Guitar Status: June 23, 2013

Jun 23 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I didn’t play Rocksmith yesterday: we were dropping Miranda off at summer camp, so I spent more time doing stuff with her. I did spend a couple of hours playing today, though; Rocksmith threw two dropped-D songs at me, which would normally be annoying, but actually I turn out to kind of like Unnatural Selection. The only song that gave me trouble this time was Cult of Personality; I’m getting better, though, it has the sort of quickish picking that I’ve been practicing recently.

On which note: I’ve been practicing the arpeggios from Something Bigger, Something Brighter outside of game, and I think I’m getting faster at that? I doubt I’m up to the actual speed of the song, but still: progress is good. And on the arpeggio section of Tom Sawyer that I’ve been going through in Rocksmith, I finally managed to have the game declare I’m doing it right at full speed. That’s with only 93% of the notes, so now I’ll have to get to the same speed at 100% of the notes. The extra notes are actually a little weird: it throws in two- or (in a few spots) three-string chords, except that two of the strings are actually playing in unison. (Fourth fret on G and open B.) I don’t really understand what’s going on there, but I’ll do what the game tells me…

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Guitar Status: June 16, 2013

Jun 16 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

No guitar practice last weekend: we had a guest in town. Though on Friday I did accompany a violin recital on piano; my favorite selection of music of any of the recitals so far, lots of Bach and no bad Vivaldi arrangements. I was thinking I’d practice guitar on Tuesday evening, when everybody else was out at the opera (I really can’t stand the seats at the S.F. Opera House), but I was too tired to concentrate that evening. (It’s been an interesting week.)

I got back on track this week, though. Nothing huge to report; the same Rocksmith stuff as always. A string broke, so I switched strings, going back to the the Gibson ones; I think they’re a little clearer, for better or for worse, though not a huge difference? I also ran across a nice guitar arrangement of Itsumo Nando Demo (from Spirited Away); I don’t think I’ll spend time on it right now, but good to have it around.

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Guitar Status: June 2, 2013

Jun 02 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

The new piece this week was Call Me. Fun to play; at first, the game said I wasn’t doing very well, though. This sometimes happens with power chords, and I think the problem here was exacerbated by the fact that the chord wasn’t repeated, giving the game fewer chances to do its note detection; after playing around with it for a while, I decided that the game was actually accurately reporting that I sometimes was only strumming two of the strings instead of three. So, nice to have improved my playing that way, I only wish the game’s feedback had been a bit more direct.

I’ve (somewhat accidentally) unlocked master mode in a few more songs; I ran into The Guns of Brixton in an encore on Saturday, flubbing it completely, so I spent a bit more time with that song over the weekend. It points out something that sometimes happens with Rocksmith: the song has a basic repeated chord structure, but in some sections you only play partial chords, and which notes you play is pretty random. Also, there are a couple of basic strumming patterns, and which pattern shows up at a given time is similarly random. And there’s a real tension between that and playing the song from memory—I can easily play something from memory that will sound correct, but whether I happen to play exactly what the game expects is quite a bit more random. The game is forgiving, so if I want to maximize my score I can strum extra times and always play full chords, which will give me full points even if the game omits some of the strums or some of the notes of the chords, but doing that lessens the texture of the songs.

Fortunately, I’m not too score driven, so I don’t mind missing a few points while I explore songs. But it’s also probably just as well, given my temperament, that there are lots of songs where memorizing the whole thing is more reasonable.

Other than that, the standard stuff—a couple of events, which led to some focused practice on a few of the songs; more Tom Sawyer arpeggio practice; and a few playthroughs of some of my favorite songs.

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Guitar Status: May 27, 2013

May 27 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

It was a three-day weekend, but I somewhat uncharacteristically only practiced guitar on two of them. Part of that was having a violin recital coming up: I needed to practice piano for that, and we had a rehearsal for the Bach Double. Some of that was wanting to leave a bit of time to burn down my list of one-off things. And some of it was wanting to relax and hang out with Liesl and Miranda. (E.g. we played a bit of Galaxy Trucker today, and made a more complex dinner than normal.)

Still, I did get in good practice on two of those days. Nothing huge to report: I’m sticking with my mix of doing one event a day (to go through a random mix of old songs, plus some new songs if I’ve bought any over the last week or two) plus some focused practice (that Tom Sawyer arpeggio section) and some of my other favorite songs (went back to More Than a Feeling for a while and got the solo up to 100%). A very pleasant (and, I think, productive) way to spend time.

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Guitar Status: May 19, 2013

May 19 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

The game threw the rest of the Rush songs at me this weekend: Limelight, Red Barchetta, and YYZ. Generally on the hard side for me, though some of the chords were familiar from Subdivisions and Tom Sawyer. All good stuff, but I think right now focusing on Subdivisions as a song and on the arpeggios in Tom Sawyer is enough Rush for me; maybe the next time they come around I’ll do better. (Subdivisions is quite tractable; Tom Sawyer will require more practice, but it’s good practice.)

They released a Maroon 5 pack this week; I got Misery and Harder to Breathe, and enjoyed both of them. Good chord practice in the former, and the latter is pleasantly funky.

The other thing that’s going on musically is that there’s another violin recital coming up soon. The main new piece for me is the Bach Double; I like it a lot, and one of the other students playing it came over today to practice it with Miranda and me. Good stuff, it sounded okay when we started and pretty good by the end.

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Guitar Status: May 13, 2013

May 13 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I’ve hit the Rush portion of my song list in Rocksmith, clearly: the game had me play Subdivisions last week, Tom Sawyer this week, and I see both Red Barchetta and Limelight in the next event. Subdivisions was great because its arpeggio section was good practice for me; the arpeggio section in Tom Sawyer uses some of the same chords but throws in a few more, as it turns out. Which is also great: there’s enough common ground between the two songs for me to be able to start to make sense of Tom Sawyer, but it’s definitely a stretch for my current abilities. So after I’d gotten to where I could play the song well enough to qualify for the event, I went back to that section to work on it in practice mode; I returned to it again on Sunday and even on Monday morning (I took the morning off from work), a good choice.

I can’t remember too much about the events other than that; but I have been playing songs outside of events more and more often these days. Sometimes I’m returning to the same songs, often trying to learn multiple guitar parts from them (More Than a Feeling, Anna Molly, Six AM Salvation); sometimes I’m just dipping into fun stuff. Sometimes I focus on sections in riff repeater mode, sometimes I just play through the whole thing.

This morning I decided to try to unlock all of the pedals, so I went to look at what on-disc songs I hadn’t gotten 70,000 points on. There were a few, and rather than bang my head against them, I decided to try out alternate parts to unlock the pedals that way. And that was an interesting experience on itself: unsurprisingly, it turns out that songs that I’d been having trouble with the main part on are also tricky (but more manageable) on the other parts, so I got some good practice with fairly fast plucking and pull-offs.

After doing that, though, I got to where I’d gotten 70,000 parts on at least one part of all songs except for The Star-Spangled Banner; I started working on the latter and then I realized that it wasn’t showing me a tone to unlock! So I looked more closely and realized that, on some songs, there’s an alternate part that unlocks a different tone than the main part does. So I guess that’s what I’ll work on next week; certainly my experiences with trying out alternate parts have been almost universally positive. Heck, maybe after that I’ll go through all of the alternate parts that I haven’t tried yet.

I like where my practice is going these days: playing through events some to give me randomness, working on a few specific songs to get better at them, working on arpeggios specifically to try to improve my skills there, and also trying to explore more broadly. This adds up to a very pleasant way to spend my weekends.

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Guitar Status: May 5, 2013

May 05 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Very little guitar practice this week: Saturday morning and early afternoon was spent a performance of Miranda’s school orchestra, the rest of Saturday afternoon was spent on work stuff, and Sunday afternoon was a bit of work and a bit of catching up. So that only left two hours on Sunday morning; I went through the event that was queued up plus two new songs.

The new songs were White Wedding and Eye of the Tiger; both pleasant (and both at least a little ridiculous). In terms of old songs, the main bit of note was that it threw a Rush song at me for the first time in a while: Subdivisions, and I did pretty well at it once I went through a few of the sections in riff repeater mode. In particular, I managed to get the arpeggio fairly solid; I think I’ll probably practice that one outside of game for a while, it’s a good level for me.

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Guitar Status: April 28, 2013

Apr 28 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I went through a couple of events in Rocksmith this weekend: pleasant, as always, and it’s nice to both see a new song (Get Free) and to return to songs I enjoy that I hadn’t played for a little while (a couple of Clash songs, and Santana’s Smooth).

But I’m also trying to step a bit away from the events: so I spent some time going through individual songs, sometimes trying to learn segments, sometimes learning a different part from the one the game throws at you from default, sometimes just enjoying playing a song. I’ll continue doing that: I like the randomness that come from having events suggest songs at you, but it’s good for me to dive into songs a bit more.

I also had an interesting talk with Joan about what she’s focusing her guitar practice on. (Which she spends a lot more time on than I do!) I’m certainly being conscious about what I focus on: I’m not focusing on pedals and sounds like that, I’m not focusing on trying different guitars, I’m not focusing on improvisation, but I am focusing on execution. (With, right now, a focus more on my right hand than my left hand.) Listening to her talk about what she’s getting out of her theory grounding was quite interesting, though: that’s something that I should consider thinking more about. This weekend was particularly interesting in that regard: Joan and I spent some time a month or so ago improvising around a twelve-bar blues, and a couple of songs that I played this week had sections that are based on that. (So I should spend more time playing with Joan, to get more to think about! Though I’m sadly super busy this month…)

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Guitar Status: April 21, 2013

Apr 22 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I didn’t spend a huge amount of time playing guitar this week; though we did go to an Arlo Guthrie concert on Thursday which was surprisingly good. (And unsurprisingly full of old hippies, even Liesl and I were among the youngest people there, let alone Miranda.) Lots of his dad’s songs, lots of his songs, lots of songs by other people he met when growing up; I ordered a couple of song books after the concert, maybe I’ll try to learn some of them.

I’ve hit an arpeggio-heavy bit of the Rocksmith on-disc songs; still hard, but I’m doing a little better than the last time I hit those songs. So: progress, yay. No new songs this week; I downloaded Get Free, but I haven’t played it yet.

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