Guitar Status: May 18, 2014

May 18 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

My guitar practice has gotten into a better rhythm than last time I talked about it. I’m not sure I’m practicing more, but I’m enjoying it more and feeling I’m getting more out of it. Basically, I’ve realized that I wasn’t getting as much as I could have out of the game’s “Recommended” list in Learn a Song mode – I’d been going through the songs there in a relatively superficial fashion, going quickly from one to the next. Which is fine to spend some of my time doing, but that’s what the game’s “Nonstop Mode” is for: a good way to spend 20–30 minutes, but not the best way to spend the majority of my practice time.

So now, when I’m going through the recommended songs, I dig into individual songs more. (At least most of the time.) Instead of playing through a song once, now my most typical experience is to play a song twice, dropping into Riff Repeater mode in some sections the second time, maybe spending 15 minutes on the song? And I’m liking that a lot more: it’s transformed the experience from “play a song badly and feel dissatisfied” to one where I feel like I’m getting better in some small way on each song I try.

I’m also doing one exercise that Joan suggested, though it’s too early to see results for that. And I’m not doing Session Mode as much, which is fine; I’ll come back to that later, but it’s okay for me to take a break now. I’m also not currently focusing too much on my favorite songs, but I imagine I’ll come back to that at some point as well, too.

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Guitar Status: April 20, 2014

Apr 20 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Not a lot to say here; I’ve been practicing regularly, no huge insights or anything. Though I’ve been feeling a little less energetic than I had been in the past, both about learning guitar and learning Japanese; and playing into that is the fact that I’ve been really enjoying a programming project I’ve been working on at home for the last couple of weeks. I think I still want to keep on playing guitar regularly, but I might shift into more of a maintenance mode – put in three or four hours each weekend, but not focusing particularly on actively improving in any particular way? We’ll see.

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Guitar Status: March 2, 2014

Mar 03 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Not a lot to report on the Rocksmith front; I’ve been mostly plugging away as I had been. I did finish all the main Session Mode missions this weekend, which is super cool; and I think I’m sounding noticeably better now than I was when I started Session Mode? At least with the right band; there’s a blues one (blues scale, 12-bar blues chord progressions) that I’m getting along well with. And I’m not sure why the game took so long to nudge me towards shifting positions and zooming out, but now I’ve learned how to do that within the Session Mode interface; it’ll be very helpful getting liberated from playing scales in root position.

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Guitar Status: January 26, 2014

Jan 26 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

I’m done with The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance; mostly not very actionable, but there are a couple of chapter on deliberate practice at the end. Which suggest that I should focus my guitar practice more: don’t spend so much time playing through full songs (especially ones that are too easy or too hard for me), do spend more time working on techniques or bits of songs that are within reach.

Or at least that’s what I should do if my goal is to increase my expertise. Which isn’t wholeheartedly the case: all things being equal, I’d prefer to get better at guitar, but enjoyment is primary. Still, when working on piano / harpsichord pieces, I enjoyed focusing on sections, and I’ve enjoyed working on guitar techniques as well, so there’s no particular reason why those two goals should be in conflict.

So I’m changing my routine. I’d already started working on pinch harmonics and tapping; now I’m picking a few songs and dropping into riff repeater on no mistakes / 3 repeats mode for isolated sections. (Specifically, Love Hurts, More Than a Feeling, and probably Anna Molly.) Which has been a good experiment so far: just the act of going through small sections repeatedly lets me see little bits to work on beyond the notes.

And I’m reducing the amount of random songs that I’m playing through. Which, actually, is good timing—the game’s “recommended” list sorts by fewest number of plays, which means that, the more you play, the more likely you are to run into songs there that you’ve been actively avoiding. Good to be exposed to songs like that every once in a while, but not heavily; I think I’ll lean on nonstop mode rather than recommended songs to get my dose of randomness.

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Guitar Status: January 19, 2014

Jan 19 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Not much to report about Rocksmith, which is why I haven’t been blogging about it recently: it’s still awesome, I still spend a good amount of time on it every week. I continue to be impressed by Session Mode; it works well, and the game continues to suggest new things for me to try there. The game has also started to suggest that I building tones; I’ve been doing that as prompted, but I haven’t really jumped into that particularly.

Mostly I’m still playing through songs, of course. But I’m also thinking I should work a bit more on specific techniques; so I’ve been trying to learn how to do pinch harmonics over the last month (with some success in isolation, though I haven’t tried it in the middle of a song), and today I started working on tapping. Na Na Na Na has a good tapping section; if I set the difficulty to where there are only pairs of notes, then I can do it okay, but right now triplets are too hard for me; they don’t seem completely out of reach, so that’s a sign that that’s a plausible section for me to work on. I’m also falling out of the habit of doing non-game practice (e.g. going through the arpeggio section of Something Bigger, Something Brighter, or learning Itsumo Nando Demo); I blame that on me having the guitar packed away because of the kitchen work. But the kitchen is almost done, there should be less than three weeks left.

I should also spend more time just focusing on individual songs, and in particular using Riff Repeater to get sections solid. There are a few songs that I’m playing every week (Love Hurts and Anna Molly, at least), and several others that I play frequently, but I’m not really taking them super seriously. In general, I still enjoy playing lots of songs, and I do feel that I’m getting better, but I suspect that I should be spending more time on focused practice, at least to the extent that that doesn’t hurt my enjoyment. I’m reading through The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance right now; I haven’t gotten to where it talks about specific recommendations yet, but I may well change my practice style once I get to that.

Oh, and today I tried following the game’s advice for how to string a guitar, which differs slightly from how I had been stringing in terms of how it sets the initial loop of the string; seems to work well, I’ll probably stick with that method assuming that the strings stay stable. And I bought a capo yesterday, though I don’t have any specific plans to use it: they released a capo-only Oasis song last week, but that didn’t seem like my style.

So, a transition period: once I finish that book and once the kitchen is done, then I’ll probably change how I practice: it will be easier to practice outside of games on weekdays, I’ll go see if my neighbor is offering lessons, and I’ll have science giving me advice. But I’m feeling pretty good about things even without that.

In Rocksmith news from other blogs: I enjoyed this Rampant Coyote progress report.

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Guitar Status: December 29, 2013

Dec 29 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Not much to write here; I’ve been playing Rocksmith a lot (including both Tuesday and Wednesday this week, I think?), and having my usual grand time. The bug about new songs being at 0 difficulty is real but manageable: it only affects the first new song you play in a session, and that one you can fix by going into riff repeater, setting the difficulty to something reasonable, and exiting. And, browsing the forums, the bug about existing song difficulty levels being reset to something that doesn’t take into account your progress is also real, and in fact affects some other people pretty severely, but it isn’t affecting me too much. Still, I do hope we’ll have fixes for that.

Speaking of downloads: Tomoyasu Hotei is great, The Who is fine but less fun to play than I expected, and one of the B’z songs was pretty good. I’ve also been spending a fair amount of time in session mode; I still like it and am impressed by it, but I’m also feeling my playing there is a little repetitive/boring; I should try session mode in the rhythm path and see if it shows me chords to play instead of notes. Also, I noticed that Love Hurts has an alternate lead, I should try that one more.

It’s really time for me to write more about the game on my main blog, though.

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Guitar Status: December 22, 2013

Dec 22 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I finished going through all of my old songs on Rocksmith 2014 on Saturday, so I bought some DLC. Which may or may not have been the wisest decision—I’ve only played through most of the Rocksmith 2014 on-disc songs once so far—but there’s already been a fair amount of quite good seeming DLC released since that game was released, so I felt a little behind.

And I ran smack into a bug I’d seen before where it showed reasonable difficulty levels on the screen to start playing a song, but when you hit start it resets all the difficult levels to the lowest level. So I guess that’s a bug in how the game handles newly-added songs, given that I’d seen it before for unlockable songs? It only happened on one out of three songs today; for the other two, I went in and out of the selection screen before playing them, maybe that’s a way to avoid triggering the bug or maybe it’s just random.

I did at least find a reasonable way to recover from the bug: I went into Riff Repeater mode, manually bumped up the difficulty (and selected a long stretch), played through it once (doing well enough that it was happy), and then resumed playing normally. That seemed to have worked; annoying that I had to do it.

That’s actually not the only bug in that area that I’ve run into: a fair number of songs seem to have had their difficulty levels reset, so I’ll be presented with a flat (but at least not horribly low) difficulty rating for songs that I’ve played in some cases dozens of times. No idea what’s going on there; the good thing is that, by replaying the song once, I can generally get back to close to the right level for everything but solos. (And I’m not particularly good at solos anyways.)

The other thing that happened this weekend is that I tried Session Mode for the first time. And I will say: I’m super impressed by that. The game presents a virtual band that will accompany you as you noodle around; you can select what key and what scale you’re working in, and some other parameters that control chord changes (e.g. there’s a 12-bar blues mode), and then you just play away and it will add other instruments doing something that sounds reasonable. I put off trying this for a couple of months, but now that I’ve tried it, I think I’ll return to it every weekend, it’s a really good idea and I certainly need the encouragement to do more messing around.

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Guitar Status: December 8, 2013

Dec 08 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

Not much to report since last time; I keep on playing Rocksmith 2014, it continues to be great. I’ve now gone through almost all of the music that I own that has a lead guitar part, maybe 10 or so songs left? Actually, that “lead guitar” caveat is interesting; I think I prefer the original game’s way of doing things where they threw you the most interesting part, whether it was a lead guitar part or not. Not that it’s bad to have an option to, say, concentrate on rhythm, but this is one area where the game’s realism is not what I want. And it’s certainly silly that I can’t actively choose a non-lead part from within a song, I have to change paths for the other parts to be visible.

I was getting annoyed by it constantly recommending Desolate Motion to me but then not letting me play it because it needed some sort of Uplay thing to work, and whenever I connected to Uplay it told me “could not connect to servers”. It turns out that what I needed to do was go to the Uplay web site, create an account, and link it to my Xbox Live account; so a perfectly reasonable set of steps, but it would have been nice if the error message actually told me that. At any rate, I now have that song unlocked; it’s more virtuosic than I like, but not as bad a song as I feared. And I also unlocked other parts; I’m not sure what all they are, but having the alternate lead for Peace of Mind was appreciated. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it should have been behind a gate.)

I ran into a weird bug both on Desolate Motion and on another one (Impossible Dreams, which I did quite like) where it set the difficulty level for all sections to zero. I’ve seen that once before, I can’t remember if the other song where I saw that was also unlockable? I hope that won’t continue.

And I ran into a couple of situations where the new Master Mode seems not to be behaving ideally: basically, it’s when there’s a section that gets repeated with minor variations. When that happens, I sometimes get to where I’m not seeing notes when I hit a variation, so I make a mistake; then, it starts fading in the notes, but by then I’ve passed the variation, so I don’t know what I did wrong. And when I repeat, the same thing happens. So I end up never learning what went wrong unless I drop into Riff Repeater mode. At least I think that’s what happened to me twice today, I didn’t go to the trouble of verifying; and I still definitely prefer the new Master Mode to both the old one and to not having Master Mode available at all.

My strings are starting to not hold their tuning well, I guess it’s time to replace them, I’ll do that this week. At least now I’m aware of how they behave when that happens.

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Guitar Status: November 24, 2013

Nov 25 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I had a great time practicing guitar this weekend. I finished the (non-unlockable) Rocksmith 2014 songs; a solid collection, though there aren’t too many I’m madly in love with, and maybe it has a little more metal than I’d like? (But it’s by no means actively metal-heavy, don’t get me wrong.) And I dipped into a couple more lessons; I think I could probably benefit from doing those more.

But what impressed me the most about the game is that I finally started taking Riff Repeater mode seriously, and it’s really good. It’s super-configurable, for better or for worse, but once you get the options right, the result is great. Some of the configuration lets you mimic the different modes from the original Rocksmith; but some is new. I appreciate having control over how few mistakes I have to make before it bumps me up a speed/difficulty level: the original game’s desire for almost-perfection as something I found annoying, but it also seems reasonable to put that under my control because sometimes I want to be asked to hit every note in a section. And, no matter what, I appreciate having not only a count of how many notes I missed but also being shown the specific wrong notes on the repeat, so I can see where I need to focus more.

I think that combined with the vast number of tracks I have available to me means that I’m going to spend more and more time working on individual songs; I still like being confronted with random songs, I can easily imagine me spending more than half of my practice time in one of the more random modes (either recommendations or nonstop play), but I want to dig into individual songs more. (And the fact that the game lets me flag some songs as “favorites” helps with that, too.)

I’m also coming to terms with alternate tunings more. I don’t exactly like having to change my tuning between songs, but with new strings, it’s not nearly as bad as it had been. So I’ve stopped fleeing alternate tuning songs when I run into them in nonstop mode.

Lots going on with the game, I should probably gather my thoughts write another post about it on my main blog…

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Guitar Status: November 10, 2013

Nov 10 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I got my guitar back on Saturday from having it set up; I can’t remember exactly what he said he fixed, but he adjusted the frets and intonations, and said it should buzz less. Felt a little better when I played it in the shop, but now I’ve adjusted to the new feel and I can’t really tell the difference; it was good before, it’s good now.

Actually, probably the biggest difference right now is just having new strings. (Ernie Ball Rock and Roll; I think I like them about as much as the Gibson Humbuckers I’d been using?) I assume that’s the reason why I spent less time fighting the tuning in Rocksmith this weekend; good thing, too, because I’ve gotten to a section of the songs where nonstandard tunings are coming right and left. (I played through three in E flat / dropped D flat today, and three or for in E flat standard.) On the one hand, I wish there weren’t so many songs in nonstandard tunings; on the other hand, some of them I’m definitely glad are there. (E.g. Ultra Soul by B’z, in standard tuning but with a 444 A; chord progressions that are unusual to me when I play them but that I’ve heard in other J-pop.)

And there are songs that I am not glad are there: I think Rocksmith 2014 goes a little further into metal than the original did, and I have zero interest in learning how to play, say, Slayer’s War Ensemble. But I’m sure there are people who think that’s great, and I have more than enough other songs to play to keep me very busy; my main request right now is a way to flag individual songs as ones that I don’t want to see in recommendations. (Hmm, now that I think about it, I’ve seen references to removing songs from Nonstop Mode; I should look into how that works.) Maybe it’s there, I haven’t looked super hard, it’s just not obvious to me.

At any rate, a pleasant weekend of guitar. I’m most of the way through the new songs; I think I probably have 10-15 left to go through, I’m not sure? And for songs I like I’ve been going through them a few times; I still haven’t started really focusing on learning individual songs by dropping into Riff Repeater mode. Eventually I’ll do that, honest I will…

Oh, the other new thing that happened this time was that I got put into Master mode for the first time. I really like how that works: I appreciate the warning that fading out the notes gives me, it hasn’t yet done it on any sections that it’s not plausible for me to learn, and it’s sent me back out when I started messing up. So my first reaction is that it looks great: nudges towards memorizing songs without throwing me in the deep end.

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