Rock Band Status: October 28, 2012

Oct 28 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

It was a busy weekend: I had friends coming over on Sunday afternoon, which meant that I did grocery shopping on Saturday, so no Rock Band practice on Sunday and only an hour or so on Saturday. (I might have been able to find more time on Saturday if I hadn’t played Drop7 for the first time that day…)

So I went through most of the standard practice routine on Saturday, but that’s about it. Still, that’s enough to keep my fingers at least somewhat limber, and I’ve been doing a decent job of chord practice evenings in the middle of the week. It’s not the only busy weekend coming up, so expect more posts like this in the future.

(I didn’t play any Rock Band today, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t play games at all: Drop7 aside, I played a couple of games of Diamond Trust of London against a computer followed by three (I think) against Jorge Albor; I suspect there’s quite a bit of meat there, though I doubt I’ll play the game regularly enough to know for sure. And then Mattie Brice joined us for the Gears of War board game (with Liesl in the fourth seat); a quite solid board game, enough so that it actually got me curious to play the video game…)

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Rock Band Status: October 21, 2012

Oct 21 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Tier 2 would seem to be the tier of songs that I don’t really like very much but that probably would be good for me to add to the rotation for didactic purposes. The latter certainly makes sense, given my level; the former is, I suppose, bad luck. With that in mind:

Last week, I said I was adding London Calling and 20th Century Boy to the rotation. The former is staying in there, but when I played through the latter this week, I decided that the solo at the end was annoying in ways that I didn’t particularly want to work on. I also tried out four new songs this week, all of which I would learn something from practicing but none of which I was super excited about practicing. Right now, I’m thinking I’ll stick with I Need to Know, I Got You (I Feel Good), and Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before, but I’m not 100% sure about that; Riders on the Storm doesn’t make the cut. (Which makes the practice rotation pretty long: I spend most of an hour at the start of each session practicing the same songs. That’s fine, though, it’s good for me; in fact I should probably spend more time, focusing on the trickiest bits.)

The other event this week was that Rampant Coyote published this comparison of Rock Band 3 and Rocksmith. Most other posts I’d read strongly took the side of one game or the other; in particular, Rocksmith proponents’ negative comments about Rock Band 3 left me thinking that I didn’t expect to be aligned with their judgment about Rocksmith, since clearly we disagree about Rock Band 3. But this post spoke favorably about both games; and I am definitely seeing ways in which not listening to the guitar is causing me problems. I’m still worried that Rocksmith is not the solution in that regard, because of the audio lag that it apparently introduces with normal TV setups, but it’s only $45 these days, and I’m spending enough time on guitar that it’s worth a flyer at that price. So I’ve ordered a copy and will give it a try.

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Rock Band Status: October 14, 2012

Oct 17 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I played a decent amount of Rock Band this weekend. I finished the Tier 1 songs on the current Pro Guitar run; Get Free would be a good candidate to add to the rotation from a didactic point of view, but it’s enough not my style that I’m skipping it, and Antibodies and Du Hast are probably my two least favorite songs on the disk! The beginnings of Tier 2 are better, though—I think I’ll add both London Calling and 20th Century Boy to the rotation. (Though, if I’m remembering correctly, the hardest bit of London Calling causes the console to freeze up if I try to learn it in practice mode, so that could be interesting…) The practice list is getting pretty long now, with a fair variety of what I think of as slightly nonstandard chords in it; that seems good for me, and if that means that I spend most of my time practicing the same songs and only a little bit of time trying out new songs, I’m perfectly fine with that.

I also went through all of the songs I’d bought with a keyboard part that I hadn’t yet tried on Pro Keys. Which was mostly songs from Rock Band Blitz, though there were a few other one-offs there. Nothing too stunning to report there, though it was generally a pleasant enough experience.

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Rock Band Status: October 7, 2012

Oct 08 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I practiced guitar on both Saturday and Sunday; not hugely long practices either day, but I went through my current practice rotation both days plus a few other songs. One of which, Whip It, is getting added to the rotation: nothing too complicated, but good single notes and arpeggiation, a song I should enjoy playing but would learn from getting rock solid at. I considered adding Touch Me and Space Oddity to the rotation, too, but ultimately decided that I was on the fence about both of them in terms of what I’d learn from them and I didn’t enjoy either song nearly as much as, say, The Only Exception.

The other thing I did was sing through all of the Blitz songs in vocal harmonies. I was quite surprised to find that 24 of the 25 songs had harmonies parts (and the only exception, Give It Away, was one that fully deserves its place because it makes Blood Sugar Sex Magik complete again); and, while I was expecting the vocals to be good on those songs based on listening to them in other game modes, I was quite surprised just how fun harmonies specifically were in them. So: Blitz is a mediocre game on its own, a pretty good track pack for guitar, but it turns out to be stunningly excellent for vocalists (especially vocalists with somebody else to sing with), significantly better on average than the non-Beatles on-disc games.

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Rock Band Status: September 30, 2012

Oct 01 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I didn’t play much Rock Band this weekend: we decided to watch the last six episodes of Last Exile on Sunday afternoon, and that combined with grocery shopping didn’t leave much time for guitar practice. No regrets about that, though: Last Exile is a great show, and what guitar practice I did was productive!

I went through my new normal practice songs: from Tier 0, that means Last Dance, Yoshimi, and I Wanna Be Sedated. And I was very pleased with how Last Dance went: I got a 513 note streak, only missing two chords, both near the start. (And one of them was a two-note chord, no excuse for that.) So I’m getting significantly better at barre chords: I’m going to keep the song in the rotation to consolidate those gains and to build up strength (I can make it through one playthrough no problem, obviously, but my hand is somewhat tired at the end), but that’s a huge improvement.

I’m doing less well on the other two; Yoshimi in particular I really would like to get better at. And then I moved on to Tier 1; from the previous songs, I decided to keep in Outer Space and The Only Exception, and I also went through Jerk It Out and will add it to the practice rotation as well. I definitely have room to improve in Outer Space, but it’s good solid chord practice for me to work on, and the solo is also useful practice. The other two have somewhat more idiosyncratic chords; I’m not sure the specific chords and chord transitions themselves are going to be common enough for me to need them for many other songs, but they’re all chords that I would like my hands to be able to do without thinking. Plus, Liesl and I both like singing The Only Exception, the lyrics are very sweet.

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Rock Band Status: September 23, 2012

Sep 23 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Yesterday, Liesl and I went through the Blitz songs in Rock Band 3. A good collection: nothing that I was super in love with, but very few that I disliked, and in general we had fun. We went through them on guitar/bass; for a lot of the songs, it seemed like the vocals were the high point, so we’ll have to go through them again in vocal harmonies. (And I should do another sweep of songs that I haven’t played in pro keys, too.)

One bit that I hadn’t realized: the Blitz soundtrack includes two songs that were part of Rock Band 2 but that we weren’t allowed to export to Rock Band 3, namely Give It Away and Spoonman. I in particular really appreciate them for including Give It Away, because without that, it would have been impossible to play all of Blood Sugar Sex Magik in Rock Band 3, which kind of sucks. So yay to Harmonix for making that possible again.

Today I went through some pro guitar: I went through some of the tier 0 songs again and then started on my second tour through tier 1. In terms of tier 0, I think I’m going to leave I Wanna Be Sedated, Last Dance, and Yoshimi in the rotation for a while: they all have me emphasizing different core techniques that I still have significant room for improvement at, and they’re all songs I basically enjoy, so I should keep on going with them. Probably the solo for I Love Rock and Roll, too.

I wish I’d taken better notes on tier 1, because there were two or three songs in today’s selection that I also felt that I should replay, I just can’t remember what they were! And, of course, several that I was less excited about and will drop. (And one that I was unsure about: I really like The Only Exception, but that’s mostly because of singing, I don’t know yet how I feel about its guitar part. I’ll probably keep it in the mix for another week, though.) I only went through maybe six of the tier 1 songs, it wasn’t a particularly long session, so lots more exploring to come.

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Rock Band Status: September 16, 2012

Sep 17 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I was a little worried about how my guitar behaved the previous week, but fortunately replacing the batteries seems to have fixed the problem. I went through the rest of the Tier 0 songs (and repeated a few from the previous week); generally pleasant but unexciting. I’ve now gotten five stars on all of the on-disc ones except for Rehab and Midlife Crisis; both are scattered enough that I don’t really enjoy working on them, so I don’t think I’ll spend time there.

I will repeat some of the others, though. I was pleased at how much better I was getting at Last Dance by the end, I’ll want to keep that in the rotation because my hands just have to be able to do that reliably. I was less pleased with my problems with Yoshimi; another song where my hands have to be able to execute reliably. (And, honestly, I was expecting better, I’ve practiced that one a fair amount offline.) I should probably keep something power-chordy in the rotation, but nothing is really speaking to me; not sure what to do about that. Mostly I’ll move back up to Tier 1 next week, I think.

And on Sunday, Liesl and I sung together for the first time in ages. Which was fun, as always! Though I’m definitely out of practice. The best part was when Miranda joined us for the last 30-60 minutes; we introduced her to some geeky songs that she was previously unaware of, and ended up getting the #5 spot on the leaderboard for 30 Lives. And I quite enjoy the three-part harmonies in the last part of that song, too.

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Rock Band Status: September 9, 2012

Sep 09 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I was looking for the next song to focus on, and decided to go and give all the tier 0 songs a try. No practicing, just diving in and seeing how it was going.

Living in America was power chord practice; I was a little disconcerted how badly it went at first, but pretty soon I figured out how to use muted chords to my advantage when shifting and ended up with gold stars on it. Last Dance really made my hands hurt—I should work barre chord practice into the mid-week routines. Still, it went pretty well, I think that was the song that I managed five stars on for the first time? I also beat my previous high on Beautiful People; only four stars, though, but it’s metal with a dropped D tuning, so I don’t want to spend too much time on it.

The thing is, though, part of the reason why I missed notes on that one was because the guitar kept on playing false strums. And I went on to a couple other songs, and the same problem kept happen. I swapped out MIDI cables and turned the guitar off and on, and it didn’t go away. So then I got frustrated and stopped. And, of course, after stopping I thought that maybe the batteries were low; I swapped those, but didn’t go back to the game and play.

So, a brief session, and one that ended in frustration. But assuming I can resolve that problem, I actually think I’d enjoy going through the tier 0 songs and trying to get five stars on all of them and gold stars on a few more of them. That definitely seems like it’s within reach now. (The one thing I’m curious about is whether I’ll finally be able to beat Dan Bruno’s score on Yoshimi…)

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Rock Band Status: September 3, 2012

Sep 03 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

It’s been a month and a half since I last posted here—I’d hit a wall on pro guitar, and while my plan was to start over when that happened, being more selective on what I played and trying to get really good at a few songs, that plan was interrupted by a vacation, two sets of guests, and a conference. But that’s all over, and this was a three day weekend, so: time to get back in the saddle!

Which, to be honest, my brain wasn’t really raring to do. That’s probably the reason why I downloaded Rock Band Blitz on Saturday and ended up spending almost seven hours on it. My basic takeaway is that it’s a quite reasonable price for a 25-song pack, but as a game I’m not impressed with it, and I don’t like the coins mechanic; I played it for maybe another hour today and I’m not sure I’ll play it again, I have a strong preference for the regular Rock Band gameplay.

On Sunday, though, I did pick up the guitar, going back to tier zero songs. Specifically, I started with The Hardest Button to Button—it’s the song that the training goals encourage you to start with, so it seemed like a good place to restart. And wow, I was a little rustier than I realized: it’s mostly slow arpeggiated power chords, with a few non-arpeggiated ones thrown in, but I made more mistakes than I would have liked. Still, after a while (an hour? two hours?) I was playing it acceptably well—I didn’t get a full combo (though it seemed like that’s plausibly in reach), but I did get gold stars, which is good enough for me. Sounded fine plugged in, too; a pleasant song to have gone through again, but it’s basic enough that I don’t think I’ll particularly return to it.

The next song that I went through was I Love Rock and Roll: I reminded myself of the basics of it yesterday and focused on the solo today. It’s a song that I like (both playing and singing) and that I think will be good for me—the power chords are straightforward, but there’s a solo that I thought was within reach, and a tremolo bit that’s good practice.

And I was pleased to find out today that yes, the solo is within reach: I managed to get 100% on it not only on practice mode but when playing through the song in game. It’s near the edge of my capabilities, and it’s again pointing out areas where I’m rusty (as well as the fact that my calluses have receded!); I plan to add that solo to my regular out-of-game practice routine. Partly because of that rust but partly because playing it unmuted pointed out areas where I should consider working on my technique: the game encourages me to play certain bits as pull-offs, but they sound lousy when I do that, which either means I should work on that bit of my technique or I should strum those notes. Definitely something to work on.

The song is, sadly, kind of frustrating to play unmuted in game, because the non-solo/tremolo bits have enough pauses in them that the game picks up false strums all the time. Though the good thing there is that I eventually figured out how to turn down the crowd noise, so at least I’m not getting booed; that makes it manageable. And when I played it muted, I did quite well: I didn’t manage gold stars, but I did get one playthrough with a 184-note streak. (And where I missed some easy notes at the start—if I’d been crisper there, maybe I would have gotten gold stars.)

So: back in the saddle, with a bunch of free weekends ahead of me. With one new addition to my practice repertoire; and I did well enough on both of this weekend’s songs that I plan to move onto new songs next weekend.

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Rock Band Status: July 8, 2012

Jul 08 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I had a pretty big backlog of recently-purchased DLC that I hadn’t gone through the Pro Keys on (36 songs, it turned out), so I went through all of those on Friday and Saturday. The main takeaways from that are that Huey Lewis and the News are fun on keys and that, if I want to go for a Pro Keys streak, Private Eyes is a good candidate: it’s very repetitive and there’s no chord transition in it that I should miss. Which didn’t mean that I actually succeeded at full comboing it, and in fact my longest streak, 495, was 5 short of what I needed for the in-game achievement, but still, at least now I know about it if I want to go for that.

After last week’s experience, I decided to try adding Good Girl to the practice rotation. Which I was pretty rusty on, so I went back to practice one repeated single-note bit and the solo. The former of which is quite manageable; the latter is actually within my grasp, though it will take me a while to get there. So I think it should stay in the rotation, it’s a good choice for me.

And then I tried my first Tier 5 songs. Continuing the Huey Lewis theme from earlier in the week: The Power of Love turned out to be surprisingly fun on guitar. An easyish but pleasant two-note chord bit that I enjoyed moving around on, a more bluesy bits with chords that are less familiar but that I’m starting to get used to, and even the solo seemed potentially within reach. So I’m thinking I might actually add that one to the practice regime, though the solo in particular will sound bad for a while.

The other song I tried was Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting. Which was fast with a bit of sliding around: nothing individually seemed that hard, but it was too fast for me, enough so that I didn’t get three stars at it. I’m fairly sure I could get three stars without too much more work, but I’m reaching my limit, and this didn’t seem like a song worth pushing it on. So for now I’m leaving it as is and moving on; in the unlikely event that I make it through three stars on all or almost all the other Tier 5 songs then I’ll come back and get the third star on this one, but for now I’m thinking that’s not the best use of my time.

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