Guitar Status: April 14, 2013

Apr 15 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I’d been on vacation, so no guitar for a couple of weeks, but I got back on Saturday, and spent several hours on Sunday playing Rocksmith. Which was fun, I’d definitely missed playing guitar over break!

I bought all three of the songs on the latest bit of Rocksmith DLC: Have You Ever Seen the Rain?, Ballroom Blitz, and Southbound. I’d played the former in Rock Band 3, and found it pleasant enough; it’s similarly pleasant in Rocksmith, though there’s not a lot to do, it’s all chords, with the only interesting aspect being a moving bass line in one section. (Hmm, and also that, on most of the C chords in the song, Rocksmith throws in a G on the bottom E string.) Ballroom Blitz was mostly straightforward but also quite fine, I’m looking forward to playing that again. And Southbound seems like a reasonable challenge for me right now.

Lots of string bending this week: some in Southbound, and some in the on-disc songs the game threw at me. Which I can still feel slightly in my fingers, I can use the practice!

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Guitar Status: March 24, 2013

Mar 24 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Rocksmith put out a three-pack by The Cure this week; I got it, good stuff in it. Other than that, not much to report: I’m starting to get used to Cult of Personality (and I’m doing okay with the fingering that Rocksmith suggests), but it’s definitely not the easiest piece in the world. I’ve played that song enough times now that the game is going back to a standard rotation instead of throwing it at me every event, though. (And it only threw the new Cure songs at me two or three times, presumably because they were easy enough that that was all I needed to get to 90,000 points?)

I’m thinking I should probably change up my practicing a little bit: still do at least one event a weekend, to get random songs thrown at me, but also try to master one new song, so I don’t end up getting to where I can do a half-assed job at everything? We’ll see. I might also try going through other parts a little more systematically, in general I enjoy it when I see those in the double encores.

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Guitar Status: March 17, 2013

Mar 17 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Nothing out of the normal to report this week. I bought one new piece of DLC for Rocksmith: Cult of Personality, its riff is a little trickier than I expected, and Rocksmith fingers it in a quite different way than Rock Band 3 did. Not sure which way I prefer yet. And I’ve finally played all of the DLC I bought other than that song enough times that I’m seeing on-disc content in events again; nice to see those songs again.

I get the feeling I’ve gotten better after my journey through the DLC. And I’m continuing to somewhat inadvertently unlock Master mode: I did that on Plug In Baby yesterday (fun with scales!), and I discovered that I unlocked it on Surf Hell some time ago and forgot about that. So I spent a little time today going through old mastered songs again, so they don’t get too rusty.

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Guitar Status: March 10, 2013

Mar 10 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

The violin recital that I was doing piano accompaniment for happened on Friday; it was fun, but I’m glad to have it over. I didn’t do a great job, but hopefully I did a good enough job that I didn’t distract from the kids’ playing.

Guitar wise, songs are definitely getting harder at the difficult level I’m at now; I’m generally only given four or five songs in my set, but it may well take me two hours to get to where I qualify. I’m not unhappy that I got that Rush 5-pack, but all of those songs are pretty trick. Still, they’re all rewarding, too. And other songs are fun; e.g. today I played Anna Molly and Hit Me with Your Best Shot, both of which are mostly chord progressions that are interesting enough to not be boring and that are also fun, combined with enough single note stuff to keep me on my toes. I do hope the game starts including on-disc songs in the mix again soon; not sure what the trigger will be for that. (Maybe the total number of times I’ve seen a song in an event?)

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Guitar Status: March 7, 2013

Mar 03 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

A busy weekend (we went to a concert this afternoon, the Brentano String Quartet performing works by Haydn, Bartok, Purcell, and Beethoven), so not as much Rocksmith as normal. But I did manage to go through a couple of events, one of which took quite a while because it threw me two Rush songs at about the 90,000 level. (I still have a ways to go to get the arpeggios right on Tom Sawyer.) From this week’s DLC I bought Anna Molly, which I quite enjoyed going through.

I’ve probably spent more practice time this week on the piano, actually, practicing for accompanying the Suzuki violin recital. We had the rehearsal on Friday; I was a little worse than I would have liked, but I did well enough on the first movement of the Vivaldi, and was pleased to learn that nobody was playing the third movement of the Vivaldi after all. That concert is this coming Friday; glad to be doing it, but I’ll be glad to have it over with as well.

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Guitar Status: February 24, 2013

Feb 24 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I didn’t practice guitar at all in the middle of the week; I can’t quite remember why in retrospect, other than that I was a little busy and was spending some time practicing piano for the recital. Which is going okay; I still don’t like the arrangement of the Vivaldi pieces, but I’ll do a competent job at one of them and may get good enough to do a competent job at the other.

I did play a bunch of Rocksmith this weekend, though; my Japanese teacher had to cancel this week’s lesson, which freed up a noticeable amount of time. The game is still throwing an exclusive diet of DLC at me; I think that will change soon (it’s frequently asking me to get 90,000 points, which isn’t too out-of-line with where I was on the on-disc content), but I’ve been thinking that for a while, so who knows. Fortunately, I like all the DLC I got; I wish I weren’t seeing the same pieces quite so frequently, but I can deal with that. (And I’m on the edge of thinking it’s a bit of an overdose of Rush, but I can deal with that, too!)

Last week, I alleged that Rock Band 3 throws more chord variations at you during London Calling than Rocksmith does; I played through that song today, and I now no longer think that’s the case, I think it’s actually throwing the same chords at you, just on different strings. Interesting seeing the difference. (There’s definitely a difference in More Than a Feeling, though.)

I’ve played enough events now to unlock all the guitars, which prompted the game to give me a bit of a graduation speech. So I decided to look at the achievements; I had all the non-bass ones except for two that I can get any time I want and the ones for the games. I used that as an excuse to give most of the games a try; I got the achievements on the games for scales and chords, the other games will take more work. I’m still not a huge fan of the games, but they’re mostly teaching useful skills, so I’ll probably try to nibble away at those? (I seem to be in an achievement completionist mode these days: I’m working on getting all of the achievements in Mark of the Ninja, too.) I haven’t yet unlocked all of the pedals and tones; I assume the latter drives the former, and I’ll get the latter as I keep on progressing through the on-disc content.

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Guitar Status: February 18, 2013

Feb 18 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

A lot of guitar playing this week. I think I played Rocksmith two weekday evenings this week, and I played it either two or three days of the three-day weekend, and I got together with Joan to play guitar as well. And we sounded surprisingly non-horrible! She had me look up “12-bar blues”, so I watched a video about that (and then searched some more and got more confused, so I’m glad I started out with that one); that gave me something to work off of, and she played on top of that up at the twelfth fret. Which was a lot of fun, and something I’m not used to (my music background is classical, so improvisation is pretty foreign to me); good times.

As to Rocksmith, I’ve been going through DLC all week, both the songs I’d downloaded the previous week and the Clash three-pack that came out this week. (I hadn’t intentionally been focusing on DLC, but the game’s leveling up algorithm decided that that was what was appropriate to throw at me.) By now I’ve gone through all of those songs at least once, some of them twice, and I continue to think that they are a good, varied mix: e.g. this morning’s set was This Love, Tom Sawyer, Black Magic Woman, and Paris, and while I won’t claim that that’s the most coherent set of all time, I enjoyed playing each of the songs.

Some of the songs were ones I’d played on Rock Band 3 as well; interesting comparing the different versions. Rock Band 3 puts multiple parts together, and doesn’t expose string bending (or harmonics, as was noticeable in More Than a Feeling), but there are differences beyond that: Rocksmith uses two-note chords in More Than a Feeling while Rock Band 3 uses four-note chords, and some of the chord variants that Rock Band 3 has in London Calling aren’t there in Rocksmith. And I’m sure there are similar differences in the other direction, too. What’s a little more frustrating was finding the arpeggiation part in More Than a Feeling in Rocksmith: it’s there if you choose the appropriate guitar part, but when you’re playing at less than 100%, they don’t just remove notes, they change the timing. So that was pretty annoying: it was a part I knew how to play, yet the game was telling me I was doing the wrong thing when actually it was giving me the wrong notes! Eventually, though, I got good enough at what it was asking me to do to get those sections to 100% difficulty, at which point it gave me the correct notes.

(It would seem that I’m not the only person playing Rock Band less, because they just announced that they’ll stop releasing weekly DLC in a month and a half. No huge surprise—the Blitz rereleases mean that they effectively haven’t been releasing new DLC for much of the last month already—but a bit sad none the less.)

I had a string break today for the first time since I got the SG; I did buy an extra set of strings when I got the guitar, but the store didn’t have Gibson strings around, so they sold me some D’Addario strings instead. Which are fine, but my first reaction is that they’re a bit bright; I think I’ll try Gibson strings the next time I replace the new strings. Which raises the question of which type; I’ll start with the “Special Alloy Humbucker Guitar Strings”, but who knows what actually came on the guitar. (The web page for the guitar I have just says .010–.046, but it doesn’t specify the strings beyond that.)

The other thing I’ve been doing musically is practicing piano for the violin recital. Mostly pleasant enough, though I really am not thrilled with the arrangement for the Vivaldi pieces; I should probably go through those two most days between now and the recital, to at least try to get them sounding good.

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Guitar Status: February 10, 2013

Feb 10 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

For the third weekend in a row, I haven’t played Rock Band 3; I still might get back to vocals, but I’m busy enough that I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon. So I’m declaring victory on Rock Band; it’s been a great few years, but I’m focusing on Rocksmith these days.

Which I played a couple of times during weekday evenings this week, actually. Once, I was in the mood to try out bass, so I gave that a run through; fun, though the bass emulation for guitar players sounds a bit odd. I’m not planning to dive into it more now, but if I do, I’ll probably end up buying a bass fairly soon after that.

I went through a couple more guitar events on Friday, and I was pleased with the results; I’m reaching 90,000 points regularly on most songs, and I was surprised at how well I did on Jules (one of the bonus songs without vocals); I’m still not up for the sorts of solos that Rock Band 3 is fond of (and that Rocksmith mercifully isn’t), but I’m getting better.

Even with that, I still have a ways to go with the on-disc songs, and there are more parts for the songs. (I’d assumed for a while that the game would eventually start throwing other parts at me on a regular basis, but by now it’s clear that it has one favored part for each song.) I am worried about getting stuck with Master mode with too many songs if things continue at this rate; what I decided to do was to enlarge the range of available songs.

So I spent Friday evening looking through the available DLC, and ended up getting 18 songs. A bunch of one-offs, except for Rush five-pack. And once I finished the last event that was in queue, the game promptly presented me with an event containing seven of the new songs. (Red Barchetta, My Girl, Message in a Bottle, Pumped up Kicks, This Love, Smoke on the Water, and More than a Feeling.)

And they were all great! Well, Message in a Bottle wasn’t entirely to my taste, and Red Barchetta was a bit tricky, but I think I’ll end up liking both of those eventually. Also, to my surprise, three of the songs involved harmonics, and Red Barchetta had a section full of them (that was the tricky bit); I’m not sure there are three songs involving harmonics on the disc, and certainly it’s something I could use practice on.

It was odd playing through More than a Feeling—I’ve played through that song a lot on Rock Band 3, but the part you play version in that game is a composite of multiple parts. Whereas in the part that Rocksmith gave me, I didn’t have to play the arpeggio part; but the flip side was that Rocksmith asked me to play techniques (harmonics and string bends) that Rock Band 3 didn’t model. I’ll have to go find the arpeggio part in Rocksmith; and, for that matter, I’ll have to see where in Rocksmith I can find the fuller chords that Rock Band 3 puts in its part.

Good times; I think I’m going to try to play Rocksmith more often during weekday evenings. Though I’ll be practicing more outside of game, too—I’m playing guitar with Joan next weekend, and she suggested I learn “12 bar blues”, so I’ll be spending some time on that first.

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Guitar Status: February 3, 2013

Feb 07 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

A busy weekend: I had my first Japanese lesson on Saturday, and we went to a friend’s house for board games on Sunday. Despite which I managed to fit in a decent amount of guitar practice, I think, on the weekend? I might have even practiced one weekday evening; a pity that I’ve taken so long to actually write things up.

I did hit Mastery Mode on one more song, We Share the Same Skies. It’s one of the songs I’d been working on with Brad, and I’m glad I had—the riff is a combination of switching strings and switching fingers that is reachable for me (clearly!) and that I enjoy but that took some amount of time to get solid on. I’m still not completely solid on the details and variations of the riff, so I’ll certainly want to practice it more, but a nice accomplishment.

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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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