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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Rock Band Status: July 1, 2012

Jul 03 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, I had a pleasant time at Dan Apczynski‘s place playing games with him, Jorge Albor, Mattie Brice, and Kirk Hamilton. Which was super fun; we played some board games (Pandemic, Betrayal at House on the Hill) and some Rock Band 3, and Dan even gave me some super-useful guitar tips! Just having him show me around his setup was useful, but he also had some suggestions on getting better tone.

On Sunday, my goal was to finish Tier 4. Which I did! Well, sort of: the two songs I had left were Sir Duke and Humanoid, and I only managed two and a half stars on Sir Duke. Which I do think should probably be Tier 5, and has one characteristic that makes the game particularly unforgiving when playing it, namely that it has slowly strummed chords that it represents as a closely spaced arpeggio instead of a chord, and the timing is almost impossible to get right on that. Though the flip side is that I later found a section where it was perfectly happy to let me strum chords extra times; not sure what’s going on there, but I guess I got to cheat the scoring both ways, so it all balances out? Lots of ninths and minor sevenths, though, which I’m not good at; I enjoyed the song, and I can imagine returning to it eventually, but for now, I’m not going to put in the time to get three and a half songs.

That one is just DLC, though; for in-game achievement purposes, though, the one that counts was Humanoid, and that one I did manage to get three stars. Actually, if I’m remembering correctly, I got four stars on it? It’s unpleasant metal, and in particular I didn’t enjoy the fast dropped-D power chord stuff at the start; I did enjoy a later reasonably trick bit involving jumping between medium-high frets on the high strings and then low frets on low strings, that’s something I wouldn’t always have been able to do. Still, ultimately: not something I enjoyed, I went through once and then declared victory.

I’d also downloaded a couple of pieces of DLC this week. Good Girl was Tier 3, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it: some pleasant power chords, some full barre chords that I was pleased that my hands could jump to with very little problem. And the single-note runs were within reach, too. I’m thinking I might even add that one to the regular practice rotation—not my favorite song overall, but the guitar part is fun and instructive for me right now.

The other was Drops of Jupiter. Which was only Tier 2, but I found it a lot harder than Good Girl: a fair number of slightly unusual bits and some arpeggiation that I didn’t always get right. It was reasonably fun to play, but I don’t think I’ll return to it.

So: Tier 5 next! I’m pretty sure that Sir Duke is only the first of many songs that I won’t get three stars on, and I’m also sure that solos will start to be way beyond me. (I’ve started adding scales to my out-of-game practice in an effort to help with that.) I doubt I’ll push all the way through Tier 5, and certainly not through Devil Horns, but I’ll see what I can do. And when it gets too hard, I’ll probably start over at the beginning and really try to learn stuff.

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Rock Band Status: June 24, 2012

Jun 25 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I continued my tour through Tier 4 this week:

  • Foolin’: Not my style of music, but interesting enough to play.
  • Killing Loneliness: interesting enough variant chords and arpeggiation; something weird going on with the tuning (dropped D but something else beyond that) so I couldn’t play plugged in, which was sad.
  • Plush: pleasant chord variants, the arpeggiated bit was a bit hard for me, I enjoyed listening to those chord variants when plugged in.
  • My Sharona: pleasant repetitive bassy part that taught me to lift my left hand to prevent notes from sounding; first solo was fun enough, second way too hard/long.
  • Misery Business: fun single note runs, reasonably fun dropped D power chords, occasional quite odd chords mixed in there, half of which I could sometimes get. Unfortunately, the whole song seemed like it was tuned a half step low, so I couldn’t play it plugged in.

So: no revelations, nothing I’m planning to come back to regularly, but I’m happy to have gone through those songs. A bit of a pity that two of the songs were more unusally tuned than normal; ah well.

Which leaves me with only two songs and I’ll be done with Tier 4! Sir Duke and Humanoid, specifically; I was tempted to just finish the tier this weekend, but I had just enough errands to run on Sunday that I didn’t want to take a chance and squeeze in two more songs. Next, weekend, though! At least I hope so—I’ll be busy all day Saturday, but I should have time on Sunday. Though on Saturday I hopefully will have a chance to play Rock Band with Dan Apczynski and Kirk Hamilton, which I’m really looking forward to; I’m very curious what the game will sound like with good singers and with a plugged in guitar and bass. And I’m looking forward to trying out some of Dan’s guitars, I’m thinking it’s time for me to buy a better guitar to play with.

Liesl and I also finally got caught up on our DLC backlog on Sunday night: we went through maybe 35 songs, many of which were quite good. It’s enough of a blur that I don’t have specific recommendations to make here, but definitely a good way to take advantage of the fact that Miranda is out of town so we didn’t have to worry about keeping her awake.

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Rock Band Status: June 17, 2012

Jun 17 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

It was a busy weekend (we were doing other things on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons), but I did manage to find an hour and a half or so to practice guitar. And I actually went through a couple of new songs then (as well as my normal practice of older songs), though admittedly the fact I went through two was for bad reasons: the first song, Before I Forget, was the sort of metal that I dislike enough that, given that I got three stars on it the first time through, I didn’t feel compelled to play it through a second time. Lots of fast boring notes at the start, sometimes single notes and sometimes dropped D power chords; the rest was stuff that I’m better at playing (otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten three stars!) but not stuff I enjoy listening to more.

The other song, Here I Go Again, was more pleasant: certainly not one of my favorite songs on the disc, but I didn’t mind it. The solo was way too hard for me, but also super short; I managed to maintain good streaks through the rest of it, leading to me (rather to my surprise) hitting #74 on the leaderboard. (And that only took, I think, three playthroughs?)

I think that’s ten songs down on Tier 4, and seven left? I won’t exactly say that the end of the tier is in sight, and I still think there’s a decent chance that I’ll hit a Tier 4 song that I can’t get three stars on without more practice than I want to put in right now, but for now I’m enjoying my progress.

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Rock Band Status: June 10, 2012

Jun 10 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I didn’t play any Rock Band the previous two weeks, because I was too busy practicing piano for Miranda’s violin recital. That’s over now, though (and it went well), so: back to guitar!

I did a little more review than normal on Saturday; fortunately, I wasn’t too rusty. And my triplet practice is paying off, I did noticeably better on Something Bigger, Something Brighter than in previous weeks! The new song I tried that day was Portions for Foxes; it was in a dropped D tuning, which normally I don’t like, but that’s largely because I associate it with metal power chords. (I have nothing against power chords, my complaint is with the metal part of that association, though I actually find power chords less enjoyable to play in a dropped D tuning.) This time, the chords were all over the place, including chords that included open bottom strings where that wouldn’t have made sense otherwise; worked well. And it was a good challenge level in general. I don’t plan to return to the piece, if for no other reason than that my guitar has a hard enough time staying in tune even when I’m not changing the tuning, but I’m glad I went through it.

Today I learned Fly by Night. Which took maybe ten tries (I’m not sure) before I got the third star? It didn’t feel that hard, and didn’t sound that bad when I played it plugged in; I think what was going on there was more that the song fairly regularly threw isolated chords at me that I missed (in some cases because the controller has a harder time detecting them, e.g. when I play an A chord one of the strings frequently registers as first fret), so even when I’m hitting most of the notes I almost never built up a streak. But I kept at it, and eventually managed to get that third star. Still, it took long enough that I decided two songs was enough for the weekend.

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