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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Rock Band Status: October 2, 2011

Oct 02 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I spent a decent amount of time in the middle of the week playing through music outside of Rock Band. On the guitar, I continue to try to learn 風の丘, and that continues to be like pulling teeth. But I am doing a slightly better idea at seeing the chords in the piece; I’m also using it as an excuse to learn how to play an E minor scale on the guitar, though that’s not well enough ingrained to have any effect on my playing of the piece yet. And I’ve been playing piano some, mostly the first five parts of Pictures at an Exhibition. Which, it turns out, Miranda rather likes; I’m toying with the idea of trying to learn more of the piece, not sure which way that will go yet.

On Saturday, I decided to go through some of the Yes DLC on Rock Band. I got side-tracked, though, because when I sorted the keyboard songs by artist, the first artist was A-Ha, and I decided to go through Take On Me first. Which turned out to be super fun, albeit slightly frustrating: catchy tune to play on keys, and there’s no individual note in it that I should miss, so why can’t I get five stars on it? I don’t know, and I tried over and over again, but failed; grr, except I had enough fun in the process that I didn’t really mind.

After doing that for most of an hour, I decided to switch over to vocals; also super fun, and it turns out that the top note in the song (which shows up several times) is also the top note in my vocal range. Which, honestly, made me glad nobody else was in the house at the time—to hit it, I really had to belt out the note, and while I was in tune, my timbre was less than wonderful. Still, a nice exercise in stretching my range, I should return to the song and practice it some more. In fact, it turns out that the bottom notes in the song are either right at or right below the bottom of my vocal range, so it’s great for stretching in both directions!

After that, I did move over to Yes, going through I’ve Seen All Good People. Which was also extremely entertaining, on both keys and singing. I did rather better on the keys that time, not making nearly as many stupid mistakes; Liesl was home by then, so we did harmonies when it came time to sing, and I managed to hit harmonies beneath the lead several times, which I’m normally pretty bad at. Not sure if I’m getting better or if the increased separation between the vocal parts helped; I won’t complain either way.

Today was a guitar day. I’d had Modern Love running through my head constantly since last week, so I decided to make it my inaugural Pro Guitar upgrade purchase. And I’m happy with that decision: simple chords coming slowly enough to make the transitions fairly straightforward, but there’s definitely something satisfying in playing a fun piece that I should be able to do well on and actually doing well.

After that, I went back to the on-disc content, going through Viva La Resistance, The Look, Walk of Life, and One-Armed Scissor. All of which but the last I like quite a bit, and even the last one was interesting from a didactic point of view. As were several of the earlier ones: e.g. the repeated notes in Viva La Resistance were a useful thing for me to work on. (Great song that, too.) I played through all but the last of those songs (including Modern Love) plugged into the amp, and they actually all sounded pretty credible: nobody is going to confuse me with a serious rock guitarist yet (not by a long shot!), but at least I didn’t feel that I had to apologize to everybody in earshot for any of those four songs, as happens sometimes.

(The one weird thing about playing unmuted: I’m surprisingly bad at tuning guitars. You’d think that, given that I had a part-time job tuning harpsichords while I was in high school, that I’d be better at that? For whatever reason, though, I have a somewhat hard time hearing the beats when testing a plucked guitar string against the sound of a piano; maybe I’d do better if I plugged the guitar into the amp and skipped the piano?)

Very pleasant week musically; and I strongly suspect that this week’s earworm will be Take On Me, which I’m okay with. (Though I don’t like it as much as Modern Love; hmm, maybe I’ll try to convince my brain to obsess over Viva La Resistance instead?) I should be able to finish the Moderate songs this week; I still have at least a couple of months of Hard Pro Guitar ahead of me, but the end is visible in the hazy distance?

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Rock Band Status, September 11, 2011

Sep 15 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

This weekend was an interesting one: I was going through a manic bit, and it expressed itself by making me feel very musical, in a scattered fashion. After the previous weekend, I’d bought some Billy Joel sheet music, so as soon as everybody else was awake I went through that on the piano. (With occasional singing and whistling.) Then, to work off some energy, I switched over to Rock Band drums; I was pleased to be able to make it through the Warmup songs on Expert, and while Killing Loneliness defeated me on the next tier, it has the rhythm pattern that I need to work on (regular yellow notes with red and pedal alternating, the latter on the off-beats). So I’ll probably return to that one the next time I’m in a drumming mood, it’s definitely good practice. Also, inspired by Kirk’s comment on the Experience Points Podcast, I gave Vaseline a try; a pleasant challenge on Hard but not quite as good for me to focus on as Killing Loneliness, and way too hard for me on Expert.

After that, Liesl and I did some vocal harmonies; and I put in my Pro Guitar practice, going through (I think) another four songs there. Also, that evening, we went through some recent DLC (me on non-pro Guitar, Liesl on Bass); mostly Yes, which I wasn’t thrilled by, though I’m hoping I’ll like it more on Pro Keys.

We had friends over on Sunday, so I didn’t play any Rock Band that day; I did find time to bang out some Ghibli music on the piano, though. On which note, later that week the song 風の丘 got stuck in my head via the excellent Brasta Ghibli album; it wasn’t in my piano book, but I found a quite nice guitar version, so I’m trying to learn that now.

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Piano: Recital Accompaniment

Jan 22 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I haven’t had much time recently to work on my Rock Band 3 pro keys skills. Part of that is due to a secret project, but part of that is because my daughter’s violin teacher has roped me in to do some of the piano accompaniment for an upcoming recital. Most of the pieces are easy enough that I don’t have to practice much to play them well enough not to distract from the students’ violin playing; a few of them are trickier, though, so I need to put in some time on those ones.

And I can confirm: it’s not just Rock Band‘s imagination that I have a hard time playing repetitive notes quickly with a sufficiently accurate rhythm, my hands really are pretty rusty. Fortunately, I’m getting better, so I think that by the time the performance rolls around (the Friday after next), my playing shouldn’t distract too much.

With luck, that will make me better at Rock Band, too. But it’s also a reminder of the physicality of keyboard playing: not just different fingers reacting differently, but different keys at different heights, fingers on different positions depending on the surrounding notes, and different instruments having different notions of how far you have to press a key for it to register. So I’ll continue to whine about Rock Band‘s lack of audible feedback; I should probably spend more time playing on the keyboard in GarageBand via the MIDI adapter, to understand its behavior better.

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