Guitar Status: October 7, 2013

Oct 07 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

It’s been a month since I gave a guitar status update, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been playing Rocksmith: it’s just that I didn’t have anything particular to write about. (Though there was one weekend day where I didn’t practice guitar because we spent the afternoon singing in Rock Band 3 instead.) I was basically just going through the new DLC that I downloaded; some was quite good (the songs from The Strokes and My Chemical Romance in particular), some was pretty boring to play (funk is nice to listen to and probably fun enough on bass but not so great on guitar), and Love Hurts was fascinating enough that I think I’ll write about it on my main blog.

But now I’ve finally played those enough that the game has decided to go back to the regular rotation. I’ve already started being a little more selective in what to play, ejecting songs from events if I don’t think I’ll enjoy / learn much from them, and I plan to do that more. And I plan to get back to practicing specific songs (and even sections of songs) instead of just going through events.

And I might learn a few more songs outside of the game: in particular, I’m thinking this arrangement of Itsumo Nando Demo might be worth learning.

Of course, it doesn’t make much sense to talk too much about my plans, because Rocksmith 2014 will comes out in just over two weeks, and once that’s out I’ll be spending my weekends diving into what’s new there…

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Guitar Status: August 18, 2013

Aug 20 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

We’re done with summer visitors, so I got back to Rocksmith this weekend. Which started off by throwing more Rush at me: YYZ and Red Barchetta this time. And a couple of other songs, too, maybe My Sharona and I Miss You? Pretty tough group; I had a target of 90,000 on most but not all of them. And I hit my target on some and missed it on some, but on the whole I felt like I was doing better than the last time I saw those songs, and I got a little better at them while practicing that day.

Then, that evening, instead of watching Deep Space 9, Miranda was in the mood for playing Rock Band 3. So we did that, for the first time in a while, and it was (of course) super fun! Miranda on vocals, me on (fake) guitar, Liesl on (fake) bass, except that one song in I pulled out the mic stands, and Liesl and I ended up singing along as well. (And doing better than we used to do when playing + singing in that song.) Really glad we did that. And Miranda is a Rush fan, so we ended up continuing that theme, singing another couple of Rush songs.

I can’t remember what I played on Rocksmith on Sunday (I should have written this up then!), but it was back to a noticeably easier level. So I went through the event rather more quickly, and then went through my current standard-ish set of songs.

Good weekend, glad to be getting back in the groove.

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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: 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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Guitar Status: January 13, 2013

Jan 13 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

As I mentioned last week, one of my coworkers has started playing Rocksmith as well. We talked about that and decided that it would be fun for the two of us to work on a few songs to play together. So we looked over the on-disc content, and came up with a list of seven songs: Are You Gonna Go My Way, Boys Don’t Cry, Higher Ground, Rebel Rebel, Take Me Out, We Share the Same Skies, and When I’m with You. I’d already memorized (or mostly memorized in the case of Take Me Out) one part of three of those, but four of them were songs that I still need to work on, but they’re all songs that I’m happy to learn.

Still, that’s going to eat into my time regularly progressing through the game. So, on two or three evenings this week, I practiced guitar for a while after I got home from work, before making dinner; that’s a time when Miranda had frequently been practicing violin, but she can do that earlier if the noise pollution bothered her.

This weekend, Miranda had a friend over on Saturday, so I didn’t practice guitar then (though I did practice piano a bit—I’ve volunteered to accompany at a violin recital next month). I used that as an excuse to get the grocery shopping out of the way on Saturday, so I could devote lots of time on Sunday to making music. Which I did lots of: I went through the seven songs that I had mastered, the other four songs that I’m working on that I don’t yet have mastered, and two events worth of songs that didn’t fit into those categories. I’m getting to where it puts me at the 90,000 point tier for most songs; I’m curious if it’s going to force me into mastering songs (which could be a bit of a problem, memorizing 7 or 11 or whatever songs is one thing, but memorizing 57 songs is another thing) or if it’s going to start switching up parts on me. (I think that the only time it’s ever given me a different part on a song from the one it started me on is when it’s given me a double encore.) If it starts going too far down mastery mode, I’ll probably take matters more into my own hands, either switching up parts myself or downloading DLC for it to use.

I also sang a little bit; though my voice is feeling rough and my lung capacity isn’t quite as good as I’d like. But I did manage to get five stars on Good Vibrations on Hard (though I sounded lousy doing it). No progress on Bohemian Rhapsody on Expert or 20th Century Boy 100%.

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Guitar Status: January 6, 2013

Jan 07 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I played a bit of Rock Band 3 on Saturday, working on my vocals. I’m working on three songs now: Bohemian Rhapsody on Expert, Good Vibrations on Hard, and trying to get 100% on 20th Century Boy. And I didn’t succeed on any of them. I think I improved on all three, but there’s definitely a ways to go; and I’m not going to bang my head for too long on any of those goals. Not that I don’t like singing, but if I’m going to sing, I should probably do that with Liesl.

I did the singing while Liesl and Miranda were out of the house with one of our cars, and while I’d loaned the other car to a friend: otherwise, I would have been out of the house as well, going shopping. Because, as threatened, I wanted to go guitar shopping on Saturday. And, fortunately, Liesl and Miranda weren’t out for very long, so I did head out after them.

And it was a success! I ended up just playing Gibson models; mostly SGs, though I gave one Les Paul a try. (Which was great, but not great enough for me to want to spend $700 more on it.) I was thinking I would give the SG Special Faded a try, since it’s supposed to be a solid SG for a good price. (Ignore the list price on that page, it’s available for a lot less retail.) And they had one (with the Worn Cherry finish, which was really lovely); I liked it a lot, and would have been very happy to walk out with it.

But somebody had put a 2011 50th Anniversary SG Standard 24 for sale up in the consignment section for only $150 more, and that really was a wonderful instrument. I tried out a few different models, but I kept on coming back to those two; I liked the looks of the SG Special Faded maybe a bit more, and actually it had longer sustains, but the Standard had more character in its treble pickup. (The Special had a very clear sound on both the regular and treble pickups, but too little differentiation between the two.) So ultimately I decided I liked the sound more for the Standard, and the price difference was great given the difference in list price (not that I plan to resell it, but still: the difference in value between the two is more than $150), so I went for it.

And I’m super super happy with that. I brought it home, plugged it in, and fiddled around; then I started going through songs on Rocksmith. And songs where I’d been starting to hit my limits all of a sudden were a lot easier, the fingerboard was just easier to move around on, and bending strings was a lot more natural. (And those sustains are ridiculous.)

So: it was the right time for me to buy a new guitar (and the right time in a way that it wouldn’t have been a month and a half ago), and I’m very happy with the choice of instrument.

Not much else to say on the Rocksmith front; basically, I’m just going through the events. I unlocked the last bonus song; I was starting to get a little annoyed at the bonus songs because they’re sometimes focusing on solo techniques that I’m not that interested in, and in fact this week I ran into one of them (Boss) that was the first song that I’ve felt was really too hard for me in ways that I’m not actively interested in struggling with right now. Except that, in the same event, I had to play another bonus song, Six AM Salvation, which is both super fun musically and has very amusing lyrics. So: yay bonus songs after all! (I still wish there were a way to tell it “don’t show me Boss again in the rotation”, though.) I’m still generally seeing the same part over and over again for a given song, I wonder when it’s going to start showing me more parts?

One of my coworkers also started playing Rocksmith over the holiday; and another is interested, and I think might be interested in using it to learn bass. Which could turn out really fun – it could give us access to a common set of songs that we could play with two guitars and a bass. So who knows, maybe this will lead to me playing guitar outside of games!

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Guitar Status: December 30, 2012

Dec 30 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I thought this was going to be a light week: my parents were visiting, so I didn’t practice guitar yesterday. But they left this morning, and they actually left early enough this morning that I could start playing Rocksmith at 10am. Which meant that I had a bunch of time to play that game: I went through the seven songs that I’d unlocked Master mode on (I’m getting faster at that practice, though all the songs still require weekly review), and my current event was only four songs, with three of them taking only one or two playthroughs to get the target score. And, once I’d done that, the next event was only three songs, so I did that as well.

And even with that, I still had time left before I needed to go grocery shopping, so I decided to chip away a bit more at vocals in Rock Band 3. I finished I Got You on Expert (took several tries), Bohemian Rhapsody on Hard, and Good Vibrations on Medium. (With Miranda popping up to sing along as soon as I started Bohemian Rhapsody; Liesl joined in on that one, too.) So now only two songs left; I think I’ll be able to do Bohemian Rhapsody on Expert with a bit more practice, but I’m dubious about Good Vibrations. (Maybe I’ll be able to get it with judicious octave shifting, who knows…)

Still: approaching the end of my regular Rock Band 3 practice. Which is sad; more exciting is that I’m planning to go shopping for a better guitar on Saturday. The Rock Band 3 Squier has served me well, but I’m definitely running across its limitations now.

(Administrative note: if anybody is subscribed solely to the ‘pro guitar’ tag of this blog, I’m going to stop using that tag for general guitar learning, reserving it in the future for those rare occasions when I’m actually talking about Rock Band 3 pro guitar. So from now on I’ll just tag Rocksmith posts with ‘guitar’ (as well as ‘rocksmith’, of course). Though of course those posts will continue to be the vast majority of the posts in this blog anyways, making the tag almost pointless.)

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Guitar Status: December 23, 2012

Dec 23 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, I played Rocksmith. I went through all of the songs I’d “mastered”, partly for didactic reasons but mostly as a defensive measure against being thrown one of them as an encore. And then I went through the next event; and I was glad at the end that I’d gone through the songs I’d mastered, I would have done much worse at Take Me Out otherwise!

And this morning I sung some in Rock Band 3: I’d been enjoying doing that when I was on break from work, and I figure I should get over my shyness if I’m going to want to keep doing that. I continued trying to five-star all of the songs on Expert; I now only have three left namely, I Got You, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Good Vibrations. Good Vibrations in particular is an amazing pain: it puts together a bunch of different vocal parts, including both ones that are too high for me and ones that are too low for me. So I kind of doubt I’ll be able to get five stars on that one; I’ll give it a shot, though. And, if I succeed at that, the only remaining vocal challenge will be to get 100% on 20th Century Boy; also seems like a long shot, but who knows.

I thought about practicing guitar some in Rock Band 3 this afternoon. Right now, though, I think I’m getting a lot more out of Rocksmith. So, as of now, I’m pausing my practice in Rock Band; once I’ve done enough singing to feel that I’ve given it a fair shot, I’ll remove that game from the list of games in progress. Though I imagine Liesl and I will return to it fairly often even after that, especially to sing.

But, in the meantime: focus on Rocksmith. Including getting a better guitar: the time has now come to do that, I don’t want to be fighting the guitar when bending strings, for example. So I’ll try out some guitars a friend has and then go off and buy one for myself. And I did in fact play more Rocksmith today, going through another event: I’m still making progress, and I still haven’t hit a wall, though I wonder how long it’s going to be before that happens on a solo-heavy piece. Which, fortunately, Rocksmith is less enamored of than the Rock Band series, though that may be artificial: the game hasn’t shown me different parts on almost any of the pieces, so maybe more solos are coming? I’ll find out eventually.

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