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: 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: 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: 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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Rock Band Status: May 13, 2012

May 13 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I told Miranda’s violin teacher that I could be the accompanist for his students’ next recital, so I spent most of my music time this weekend going through those songs. Mostly songs that I’ve played before, and in particular the hardest ones are all ones I’ve played before, though there are a few new ones that will require some amount of practice. So I imagine I’ll be somewhat busy going through those until I feel that they are well enough into my fingers that I won’t distract from the students’ playing; the recital isn’t until June 8, so I certainly have more than enough time.

When playing Rock Band, I mostly went through old songs. And, actually, they mostly sounded pretty good, or at least not awful, I’m happier than I have been about the sound that’s coming out of the amp. The newest song that I added to the rotation is Something Bigger, Something Brighter, whose triplets I’d been practicing all week; the practice helped, but it’s still way too fast for me to play at full speed without missing a bunch of notes. Something to work on, definitely: my right hand needs to get better at that kind of stuff.

The one new piece this week was Smoke on the Water. Which I was excited about, and which turned out to be fun enough, but still a bit of a disappointment. Basically, the only part that’s at all difficult is the solo: it’s a tier 4 song, but if you throw away the solo, it’s more like tier 0. (At least that’s how it felt to me, though maybe it’s unusually well-suited to me: I ended up #85 on the leaderboard, which is quite high for me for on-disc content, and it’s a popular enough song that I would think many people would have taken a swing at it?) The solo actually would be a good one for me to work on, if I should so choose: it’s definitely too hard for me, but most of it is noodling around without changing your hand position too much, so if I spent the time to learn the hand position changes, the rest would be good practice. I’m not planning to do that right now, but maybe eventually I’ll make a run through the game trying to get better at solos? The one other thing that I learned was when playing it unmuted: there are arpeggiated chords with a fair amount of space after them. If I just play them normally, then the last note of the chord sounds for a while; so I experimented with lifting up my left hand after playing the last note to mute the chord. Worked pretty well, though there’s definitely room for improvement.

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