Rock Band Status: Finished Hard Pro Guitar

Nov 28 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

As expected, I finished Hard Pro Guitar this week. Which was great! I’ll go into details more on my main blog, but, for the record, the last four songs were: 25 or 6 to 4, whose solo was interesting enough solo practice; Llama, about which I have nothing good to say; Beast and the Harlot, whose main positive feature was that it wasn’t Llama; and Roundabout, which defies description. So, not my favorite group of songs, but really that’s my fault: we’re clearly well past my level of competence even on Hard, especially at the solos. It will be refreshing to go back to the easier songs: even with the switch to Expert, I imagine I’ll find more in those songs that I can play well.

My other musical project has been the Three-Part Ricercar from the Musical Offering. Which is now at a state where I’m not making stupid mistakes, but I could stand to improve its musicality. And, frankly, I could use help with that: I am sorely tempted to fly to Paris to beg a lesson from my harpsichord teacher. (Well, maybe I’m sorely tempted to fly to Paris for other reasons. But still!)

I decided to keep the Three-Part Ricercar in my fingers, but to mostly move on to learning the notes for the Six-Part Ricercar. Which has been interesting so far, though clearly I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. But then a funny thing happened today when I went back to the Three-Part Ricercar: my ears did a much better job than they had of parsing out the different voices! So, all of a sudden, improving the musicality of the piece doesn’t seem nearly as out of reach: I like the way it sounded today a lot more than I had, and I’m really looking forward to playing around with different possibilities.

Good times. And my throat is feeling better, maybe we’ll get back to harmonizing next week?

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Rock Band Status: November 20, 2011

Nov 21 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, I finished off some lose ends: I did the Expert Vocals hall of fame challenge, as well as a couple of other random challenges. (What a Diva! and the Rock Band 1 one.) The only hard bit in the hall of fame challenge was Good Vibrations, which manages to be both above and below my range, but there were more than enough other songs that fit into my range (though I did shift Rainbow in the Dark up an octave) to make up for that.

My throat was feeling pretty raw from drainage, so instead of singing with Liesl after that, I decided to switch over to Pro Guitar. And I felt like I’d run into a brick wall there, I just couldn’t do anything. Only when I was at dinner did it dawn on me: I’d probably left the difficulty at Expert, so no wonder I couldn’t play the songs!

And, indeed, when I came back the next day, that proved to be the case, and they were all much more tractable on Hard. Free Bird was quite a lot of fun, and could be good practice for scales; Rainbow in the Dark isn’t my type of music at all, but I enjoyed the repeated bit rather more than I expected. Caught in a Mosh is probably my least favorite song on disc—I’d been thinking that Du Hast had that honor, but now I’ve changed my mind. (Though even there I enjoyed the fingering challenges outside the solo.) And Crazy Train was interesting because it took me four tries to get the third star: there’s one repeated sequence with unusual chords where I kept on either missing the fingering or playing the wrong strings.

Satisfying week, and only four songs left to go: I’ll finish that over the long weekend with room to spare. Which means that it’s time to think about what to do once I finish Hard Pro Guitar.

As to making music outside of the game: my plan of record has been to try to practice alternating strumming, 風の丘, and the Three-Part Ricercar from the Musical Offering every day. I’ve been doing the alternating strumming rather reliably; it’s amazing how much a difference just putting in a couple of minutes a day makes. I haven’t been working on the Three-Part Ricercar every day, but more than enough to make a difference: in fact, now it’s getting to a state where my fingers generally do a quite good job of getting the notes right, so I need to switch from what to play over to how to play. Not so easy, for the first time in ages I wish I had a teacher to help me with that. Still, I’ll keep on working on it for a while, and then probably switch to something else on the piano.

風の丘, however, is not going so well. I enjoy playing it, but I’m finding it surprisingly hard to memorize; I could probably succeed at that, but I really would need to practice it every day to do so, and I’m not making the time for that. And, upon reflection, I’m happy enough with that decision: I’d rather spend that time focusing on improving my piano playing. Also, as I move up to Expert Pro Guitar, I’ll have many more opportunities to focus on really learning individual songs on the guitar. So: it’s been fun, but time to move on.

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Rock Band Status: October 30, 2011

Oct 31 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

We were playing bridge with friends on Sunday, so I had to get in my guitar practice on Saturday; fortunately, that practice went rather well, so it was a productive weekend. I finished the last two Challenging songs on Hard Pro Guitar; Misery Business was straightforward fun, though I wish I’d done a bit better with chord transitions (dropped D tuning didn’t help), and Humanoid was a bit too metallic and showed that I need to work better at quickly sliding between chords. (And, again, that I don’t like dropped D tunings! I should try actually tuning the guitar that way at some point, to see if that helps me make peace with it.)

After that, I moved up to Nightmare, and made it through four songs there. The first song was Power of Love; I have no idea why it’s rated at that difficulty level. Though the solo did seem to be missing an unusual number of notes, I’m willing to believe that it’s significantly more difficult on Expert? And I ended up in the top 3%, which is unusual for me, so it would seem to be a song that plays to my strengths, whatever those might be. (And I did a better job hitting the chord transitions in that song than in others; it feels really good when that happens.) Oye Mi Amor and Don’t Stand So Close to Me were also quite entertaining, though I don’t have notes on what I found distinctive about them. Which is three songs; I could have sworn I played through four on that tier, but I don’t remember what the fourth was and I don’t feel like turning on the game to find out.

At any rate: six songs is a good total for the weekend; that leaves, I believe, 9 more songs on Nightmare (including one piece of DLC) and 12 on Impossible? So the end is in sight, and it’s not so crazy to think that I might even finish Hard before the end of the calendar year. And it makes me just as happy that there’s not another Rock Band game coming out this year, I’m quite confident playing through songs on Expert will take up a good chunk of next year…

Liesl and I also played through another dozen or so Lego Rock Band songs on Saturday. Mostly unimpressive, though I was surprised how much I enjoyed Ghostbusters and the Jackson 5 song. (I Want You Back, I guess it is.) What we haven’t done for a while is vocals—I had a bit of a cold and she was feeling a bit frazzled this weekend, I hope we’re up for some singing next weekend.

I’ve also been working on the 3-part Ricercar from the Musical Offering some recently. And the rust is starting to shake off: I don’t feel too bad about the first half of it, and Liesl commented that it sounds better to her, too. So nice that my fingers haven’t completely lost their abilities to play fugues, at least at a basic mechanical level; we’ll learn in a couple of weeks how good my ears are at refining the music once I have the notes under control.

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Rock Band Status: October 16, 2011

Oct 16 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

It was a busy weekend, so not as much Rock Band as normal this week. Our friend Jordan came over on Tuesday, so we got him to sing with us; yay three-part harmonies! Not that we actually hit all three parts very often, but we enjoyed the attempt.

The surprising fun song there was Tubthumping: the end of that song has three quite distinct vocal lines, and the separation between those lines made it easier for us to hit all three of them than in songs with with more traditional harmonization. So: yay counterpoint!

I did spend a bit of time yesterday playing Pro Guitar, but I only made it through three songs. Smoke on the Water was, unsurprisingly, quite a bit of fun; easy outside of the solo, too, and the solo seemed learnable if I want to put in the time. I didn’t realize that the notes in the main theme were played on two strings instead of single strings; now, hopefully, I’ll be able to hear stuff like that better. It even sounded pretty good when I was unmuted and plugged into an amp.

I also enjoyed Portions for Foxes, though that song was a little beyond me. Some of the chords were unusual (partly caused by having the bottom string tuned to D, though I don’t think that was all that was going on), and there was more jumping between strings than I’m comfortable with. Definitely good exercise, at any rate.

The third song was Before I Forget; I don’t like playing metal, though the song wasn’t too unpleasant given that constraint.

I spent an unusual amount of time playing piano evenings and over the weekend, too. I’m tentatively thinking that I’ll try to get the Three-Part Ricercar from the Musical Offering back into my fingers: I used to be able to play that quite well, and I feel a little embarrassed that there aren’t any fugues that I can currently play to my satisfaction. So I spent a decent amount of time working on the first third of the piece, with pretty good results; of course, the first third is the easy part, so I have a fair amount of work ahead of me. Still, the ability and knowledge is there in my fingers, I just have to shake off quite a bit of rust.

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