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: 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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Guitar Status: December 18, 2012

Dec 18 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

It’s been a busy week for me musically: I took a week and a bit off from my job, which left me with lots of free time, and I decided that most of what I wanted to do during that free time was music! With, of course, the help of Rock Band 3 and Rocksmith.

The strengths and weaknesses of those two games is getting interesting enough that I should probably write about this soon on my main blog; but, basically, over the last week, I did my guitar practice almost exclusively through Rocksmith. I played through another set every day; these days, I’m seeing the same songs (and even the same guitar parts in the songs—one of the differences between the two games is that Rocksmith teaches you all the different guitar parts), but with higher score targets.

And, once the targets get high enough, I’m frequently getting to a level where I unlock “Master Mode” for that song, where I can play through the song without being shown the notes. I’ve unlocked that for seven songs now: Angela, Boys Don’t Cry, Go with the Flow, Next Girl, Song 2, Take Me Out, and When I’m with You. Some of them are super super simple, some are a little more complex.

At first, I didn’t actually play them in Master Mode, other than once as an experiment. But then it threw me into Master Mode in one of them as an encore, so I decided I should give them a try. I still have mixed feelings about being dumped into Master Mode without warning, to be honest (enough so that I’m now no longer actively trying to unlock Master Mode on songs until I get more confident with those seven), but ultimately I do want to learn this music.

So I spent a bit of time this weekend playing through all of those songs in rehearsal and then in Master Mode. It turns out that, if you don’t press the A button on the controller when you’re done playing a song, it will play through your performance again, but this time showing you the notes; I think that’s actually a really good idea from a didactic point of view, because you get the correction after you’ve made the mistake, right when you need it. Including corrections of mistakes you didn’t think you’d made, some of which are subtle: I don’t realize how bad my rhythm is in sections that I’m uncertain about until I listen to it.

So: yay Rocksmith! I’m thinking I should dial back my Rock Band 3 practice: for where I am now, Rocksmith is a better teaching tool for me.

Or rather, I should dial back my Rocksmith practice on guitar: I actually felt like singing this week, so I sung in Rock Band 3 for maybe an hour a day. To give me something to focus on, I decided to try for the goal of getting five-star on expert vocals on every song.

Looking around the goals, I actually started on a related goal: I sung the songs that I hadn’t five starred on expert on any instrument. It turned out there were only four of those; and Beast and the Harlot was not much fun to learn! But I managed it; after that, I started going through the remaining songs on vocals. I got five stars on maybe twenty or thirty more songs; now I have somewhere in the neighborhood of ten songs (I think a few less, seven or eight maybe?) left.

And, honestly, I doubt I’ll finish that goal any time soon: I won’t have much free time when the house is empty to sing, and I seem to recall that Good Vibrations was really hard. Who knows, though; and it’s certainly been fun working on that.

The one unfortunate thing that occurred in this process was that, during one play session, the game stopped being able to talk to the hard drive. Fortunately, rebooting the console and reseating the drive fixed that, but that got me pretty nervous. So I bought a USB stick and backed up my save files for all the games that let me do that. (And I’m annoyed that not all games do in fact allow you to back up your save file; fortunately, both Rock Band 3 and Rocksmith allow that.) I should probably look into Xbox cloud saves; that may actually be exactly what I’m looking for, for all I know.

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Guitar Status: December 9, 2012

Dec 10 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

On Friday evening, Liesl and I went through all the Rock Band 3 DLC that we’d bought over the last couple of months that we hadn’t yet played. (On fake guitar/bass.) Nothing particularly striking to report there, other than that Nugget Man’s lyrics are quite something.

I played Rocksmith on Saturday; two events, maybe 10 songs? I was going to stop after the first event, but then the second one looked short, and for the first time the game suggested ‘Riff Repeater’ mode to me. And that turned out to be something that I’d hoped was there but hadn’t yet gone looking for, namely Rocksmith‘s version of Rock Band 3‘s trainer mode: a way to focus on snippets of a song. Done in a typically Rocksmith-ey fashion, with the game either speeding up the snippet for you automatically or increasing the difficulty level automatically. And, with the help of that, I mastered my first song in the game, Next Girl. (Mastered = got over 100,000 points on a song with all sections at max difficulty; it unlocks a mastery mode for the song where you get double points but don’t get told what notes to play, I haven’t tried that yet.)

That may have been my first Rocksmith session where I never felt frustrated by the game: it seemed to be reliably detecting what I was trying to do, which was great. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration—sometimes it felt like it didn’t pick up on my bends, though admittedly my guitar makes that harder. And trying to do as well as it wanted on Space Ostrich was slightly frustrating, but that was mostly frustration with myself rather than the game. Still: I’m pretty sucked into the game. Which raises the question of how I should best use it; I’d been thinking I’d go through what it recommends until I feel like I’ve probably seen every song in the game, and then pick a subset of the songs to try for mastery on. (Using it in the same way I’m using Rock Band 3 now, basically.) And I may indeed do that, but seeing it throw the Riff Repeater mode at me makes it think that I’ll be able to stick with its suggestions longer than I expected? Who knows, no need to decide right now.

On Sunday, I played Rock Band 3. Not a lot—we wanted to clean the upstairs carpets and do some yard work—so I didn’t go through my full practice routine. I decided to go through most of the harder songs, including training on Me Enamorata; I still have a ways to go on that song. And I went through three or four new songs; I think I’ll put I Can See for Miles and King George into my practice routine, and I think I’ll need to spend a fair amount of time in training mode to do well on King George.

I expect to be playing a lot more guitar for the near future: I left my job on Friday, and I decided to take December off instead of applying immediately for another job. Honestly, part of me wants to spend all day playing guitar; I definitely won’t do that, but I may try to go through one Rocksmith event per day? And I’m actually tempted to spend some time working on singing, too. Who knows if I’ll end up doing that, we’ll see. But I will be somewhat restrained: I have programming to do, blog posts to write, and various loose ends to get in order.

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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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