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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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 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: May 20, 2012

May 20 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I’m still mostly making sure I don’t do an awful job as accompanist for the Suzuki recital on June 8th, so I didn’t practice guitar at all on Saturday. Today, I went through the standard review stuff; the main question that raised is whether I should try finger-picking the triplets in Something Bigger, Something Brighter. It’s a lot easier (at least for that part, there’s another tremolo bit where I assume I’d want a pick), but I don’t think the guitar will detect finger-picking nearly as well for game purposes (though I haven’t tried recently), and I also have no idea how they actually play it in real life. I’m currently thinking that, if I were good at using a pick, playing it that way wouldn’t be a problem, but who knows.

As to new songs, I went through two that I’d recently downloaded, namely The Only Exception and Jerk It Out. Both are tier 1, though a bit harder than I expected from that level: chord progressions that were slightly unusual, enough to throw me for a bit of a loop but in a good way that will bear further studying. And certainly I enjoyed playing both of them.

Liesl and I also went through a few pieces of DLC on harmonies: the Hall and Oates 3-pack, Heart’s Alone, and The Only Exception. All good songs; the one surprising bit there was that we managed to get 100% on Maneater, I totally wasn’t expecting that.

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Rock Band Status: February 26, 2012

Feb 26 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

The main unusual event that happened this week was that I replaced the strings on the guitar for the first time. Electric guitars are different from other instruments that I’ve dealt with, because the strings are a lot stiffer; I wish I’d wound the bottom two pegs a bit more, but they seem to already be holding their tune fine, so I guess I didn’t screw things up too much?

This weekend’s pro guitar pieces:

  • Werewolves of London: an alternate tuning, and the music itself was mostly boring but with a few bits that were harder than I’d like mixed in, all of which added up to something I didn’t enjoy.
  • Me Enamora: It started off with single note bits that were fun but a bit too hard for me, then strummy bits that I had the wrong pick for (I would have liked a thin pick, but I couldn’t have played the single notes with that), then a solo that was definitely too hard for me, then repeating some of prior bits. I like the song; right now it’s too hard for me, but I hope that eventually I’ll come back to it and be able to do rather better on the single note bits in the start and somewhat better on the solo?

That was the last of the solid songs, so next on to moderate:

  • Working for the Weekend: Really really fun, absolutely one of my favorite pro guitar songs. Though I didn’t take good notes on it, so I’m not exactly sure why I enjoyed it so much; I’ll definitely be playing it again and will find out more. It also sounded quite good plugged in.
  • Hey Man Nice Shot: Full of fast dropped D power chords, changing constantly instead of repeating the same chord over and over again; the upshot was that I couldn’t hit them properly, and didn’t particularly enjoy the attempt.
  • More Than a Feeling: Arpeggiation that started out a bit too hard but where I eventually started getting used to it; chord bits that were pleasant, and a surprisingly accessible solo. I should return to this one, too.
  • I Can See for Miles: Surprisingly accessible and pleasant. It had unusual chords, but not too many different ones and they weren’t too difficult. And that made it quite interesting to play when plugged in, hearing what those chords sounded like coming out of the amp.

I also went through five (I think?) songs on Pro Bass. I’m actually on the moderate difficulty tier on both instruments now (though noticeably further ahead on pro bass), and bass is giving me trouble more and more often, though it’s still generally a bit easier than guitar.

Liesl and I also finished going through all the on-disc vocal harmonies content; that’s been a lot of fun, and while there are songs that I have no desire to sing again, on balance it was good to have an excuse to branch out more than normal. I was amused to see that we’re in the top 1% of the harmonies leaderboard: so now I’m there on pro keys, pro guitar, and harmonies, and pro bass is certainly attainable. Pro drums, not so much; and, while I haven’t checked, I doubt I’m particularly close to the top 1% on solo vocals, I think there’s a lot more people who have done a few songs on harmonies than who have gone through all the songs. (Also, Liesl is a better singer than I am.) Still, we have gotten gold stars on many of the songs; in fact, I think the “5 star every song on expert harmonies” goal may well be attainable for us?

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Rock Band Status: February 12, 2012

Feb 13 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Some general practice notes:

  • I’m up to 70% speed on that arpeggiation lesson; and it’s revealing that, not only am I not good enough at shifting to F chords, I’m actually not as good at shifting to G chords as I think I am. (And I did badly on the tremolo lesson this week, not sure what’s going on there.)
  • I created a guitar practice playlist, to make it easy for me to go over my current batch of songs that I want to practice every week.
  • I’ve started writing down key chord progressions for some of those for use when practicing outside of game, instead of trying to remember them. Which got me used to the notation of chords with a dropped note on the bottom, and also had me realize that the weird barred C chord in Take On Me is actually an E chord with a G# on the E string. Interesting.

This week’s new guitar songs:

  • Have You Ever Seen the Rain: I’m only playing it now because I just downloaded it, it’s deservedly warmup, but I liked the moving bass part to move it into the practice rotation.
  • I Need to Know: mostly plays around on the seventh fret, with a bit of arpeggiation thrown in, I can tell that the difficulty is increasing.
  • I Feel Good: Different chords than I’m used to (more R&B / funk), but I got used to that soon enough, and I was surprised how much I liked the sound when plugged in. I need to work on scales more, though.
  • Riders on the Storm: pleasant noodling around that felt more like a bass part than a guitar part. And then some annoying vagueness on the high frets.
  • Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before: some pleasant chord variants, I didn’t do so well on the arpeggiated bits.
  • Need You Tonight: there were three different modes of the piece: some 9th fret chords, some rhythmic alternating strumming, and a bassy bit. All of which added up to something I enjoyed.

I went through a few songs on bass, too, and Liesl and I sung for maybe two hours? We were going through some on-disc songs that we hadn’t sung; and we seem to be getting better, we’re getting gold stars surprisingly often.

Quite happy with that amount of practice, given the number of other things I did on both Saturday and Sunday. And I was good about piano practice: I practiced on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. I’m on my second pass through the 6-Part Ricercar in the Musical Offering; it’s going quite a bit faster than I expected, though I’m also starting to realize just how little I understand the different voices in that piece.

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Rock Band Status: February 5, 2012

Feb 05 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Busy day on Saturday (we went to The Pitmen Painters in the afternoon and I went to 915 Cayuga in the evening), but I did get in a bit of guitar practice in the late morning. I gave the lessons one more try, and I managed to make it through the easier arpeggiation lesson: once I started paying attention a bit more, I realized I was moving my fingers off of the D chord a bit early. The other remaining arpeggiation lesson is still rather tough for me: not so much because of the arpeggiation but because it requires me to quickly and forcefully shift to an F chord, which I’m not great at. The other lesson I haven’t succeeded at yet is the tremolo lesson—I’ve gotten 98% a couple of times, so clearly one of these weeks I’ll luck out and get 100%, but not yet.

My list of songs to practice is getting longer and longer. Yoshimi continues to get better; the main area where I’m having trouble in it is quickly shifting to that same F chord I mentioned above, so clearly that’s one of my next hurdles to focus on, I should add that chord sequence to my nightly unplugged practice. Also, I managed 4 stars on Take on Me, so my barred C chord practice is paying off: I’m still not at all comfortable with that shift, but at least I can succeed at it some of the time.

As to the new songs I’ve done: my left hand hurt when playing Centerfold, but the chord sequences seem pretty reasonable, I should add them to my practice routine as well. 20th Century Boy had these fast single note/chord combos, and I wasn’t sure what weight of pick to use there; eventually, I decided to compromise on a medium pick, which turned out okay. It sounded surprisingly non-awful when plugged in, given how many notes I was missing; I think the point there, though, is that I simplified the piece rather than flailing around at random, so while the game didn’t like that so much, my ears were less unhappy.

London Calling got me worried, because my Xbox froze up several times while practicing that. But eventually I realized that it was freezing up in the same training segment, so now I think something in that segment is triggering a bug in the game and OS, rather than it being a sign of my third (fourth?) red ring of death being on the way. That training segment was, unfortunately, one I could use the help on, though actually it’s hard enough that I’m not sure that going through that segment more really would have helped; it didn’t sound too bad plugged in, but that was for the same reason as 20th Century Boy, namely that I didn’t try to play that part at all accurately. Other than that, it had some interesting chord variants where I had my hand in the same basic position on the top four strings but had to move my fingers around a little.

That was yesterday; today I played through some Pro Bass. Get Up, Stand Up was fun, with only one hand position transition providing a bit of challenge; no reason for me to miss any notes there, though I didn’t quite get that far. Humanoid was some interesting hopo practice and required periodically jumping to the 15th fret. King George was probably the toughest bass song so far: lots of fast notes, and getting the third star took both time and luck. And Been Caught Stealing also had fast notes, but they were in sets of three notes with space after them (and in fact I could have treated the third note as a hammer-on if I’d wanted), so they were more manageable.

And then Liesl and I sang together for probably a couple of hours? It’s been way too long since we did that, we should really try to do that every weekend. We finally got 100% on Expert Harmonies (on Outer Space, I guess my practicing that on guitar has rubbed off subconsciously); quite surprised to see us at #22 on the leaderboard for that song, but I won’t complain.

I practice piano a couple of times (and once or twice in the middle of the week): I’m now done with a first pass through the 6-Part Ricercar, but I’ll need a second pass before I feel like the notes are at all starting to get into my finger. And I’m still not thinking about the 3-Part Ricercar as much as I should. I’m thinking I might also do another run through the Ghibli book—I went through the NausicaƤ songs on a lark, and they’re really pretty—though notes are sticking when I hold down the pedal, so I’ll probably want to have that looked into first.

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Rock Band Status: December 18, 2011

Dec 20 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

This week’s pro guitar practice was interesting enough that I wrote about it on my main blog, so go read about it there! Outside of that:

On Saturday, the three of us went to a musical version of The Secret Garden. Which was pretty awful, but for some reason it led to us introducing Miranda to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on the ride home. Which Liesl and I sung along to, and we enjoyed that enough that we pulled out Rock Band and sung through the rest of the afternoon.

And fortunately my throat has recovered from the constant draining that it was doing a month or so ago: cleaning the air ducts really made a difference, I guess! So we kept that up for an hour and a half (stopping only because of dinner); and I was pleased to discover that I seem to be gaining a bit of range on the bottom, and that my voice sounds better overall as well. So I’m glad that the practice seems to be paying off! Still not good at hitting close harmonies, but hopefully that will also improve as we continue to sing together.

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Rock Band Status: November 6, 2011

Nov 06 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

On Saturday, Liesl and I sung together. (For the first time in several weeks; I’d missed that!) We mostly tried to go through songs that we hadn’t yet sung, and we were going in order of band name, which meant that we did a lot of Billy Joel and most of London Calling. The former was surprisingly fun on harmonies; the latter was rather frustrating, partly because only 15 of the 19 tracks had harmonies and mostly because the harmonies just aren’t that good. (Actually, the melodies aren’t that good even when singing alone: I really like the vocals in the album, but that’s mostly due to the lyrics.) Lost in the Supermarket is still awesome, though.

And today I went through six more songs on Hard Pro Guitar. No One Knows had nice riffs and a pleasantly short solo; the tuning was completely different when I tried plugging it in, though, not sure what’s going on there. Jerry Was a Race Car Driver really wasn’t my style of music, but I kind of enjoyed playing it anyways. Been Caught Stealing had some interesting chord transitions, though I wouldn’t want all songs to be like that. In the Meantime mostly served to show that I really need to improve my technique on barre chords: I just can’t transition as fluently between different ones as I’d like. China Grove, on the other hand, showed that I can at least transition between power chords, and have fun doing so. And Radar Love was rather fun, which is surprising given its melodic/solo focus.

So: only 3 songs left on Nightmare, and then, I believe, 12 left on Impossible? Next weekend is a three-day weekend, and Liesl and Miranda will be out of town; it’s not inconceivable that I’ll finish Hard Pro Guitar next weekend, though my guess is that I won’t quite put in enough time to manage that. (Alternatively, I may use the extra time to put in more solo vocals practice.)

I’ve also been reasonably diligent with my out-of-game practice. I’m trying to put in a couple of minutes a day of alternating strumming practice; doesn’t feel like much, but it really is having an effect. And I’m continuing to shake the rust off of the 3-Part Ricercar from the Musical Offering: still fumbling notes at times, but I’m hoping it won’t be too much longer before I can start focusing on the music.

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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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