Monday, 11 December 2017

What's happening December 2017

I've been focussing on Dark Side of the Moon recently, I have a half finished a resolve for "Any Colour You Like" which was missing the last half of the ending guitar and keyboard solo. Like I've recently done with "Time" I decided that I should learn the solo outtro and cut the solo short, so that the song feels complete even though it is missing parts in the middle.

Hey, it's a "tribute" to DSotM. If/when I arrange every last morsel of it, then it will be a "full arrangement". Until then, it just should feel complete!

Since I'm in the DSotM zone, I got onto my mate Shaun and lined up another Open Mic, planning on a playthrough of DSotM and then maybe some "The Wall" and finish up with "Wish You Were Here". I need DSoTM to be a feature in my toolkit, that I can bring out anytime. I've also got 2 gigs this month at South Beach Tacos (summer is back) so I will do some test runs there. All good!

However what's not so good is that all this extra practise has caused me to overwork my left pinky finger, a long standing issue for me. I've had to stop playing a root 5 A shape barre chord with just my pinky, which bugs me, I prefer fretting that way, but a 2/3/4 left hand chord is much less harsh on pinky than a 4/4/4 chord. Additionally, I must have some sort of hole in my index finger, when I bar a root 5 the top string is not always clear. However, I've always done a full bar - 6th string included - for a root 5 chord shape bar, which of course you don't need to, and I have realised if I only bar a root 5 chord to the fifth string, there is no hole in my finger there and the top string is clear! So many years of playing to work these things out!

As for poor 'ole pinky finger, I have resumed stretching out the offending muscles in my arm. Legend has it that most of the pain in your hands/fingers are from over-tight muscles, from overuse, that pull on joints too much, which causes them to be inflamed, and thus painful. So by calming down those muscles that are too tight, you stop them pulling on joints, stops the inflammation, stops the pain.

I'm there, I agree with the legend. I watched a few more videos about it and saw another interesting tip, that it's your cerebellum that is responsible for the fine motor skills and thus the overtight muscles. So if you put pressure on the sore points and then move the muscle (say, wiggling fingers moving hands) then your cerrebellum kinda "resets" the amount of tightness it is applying to the muscles with the feedback it is getting.

Look it is interesting stuff, we know very little about how our brain works, so I give these things a try. Pressure point stuff definitely works, I have proven that to myself. And "tender tissue is tight tissue" which the dude was saying I have also proven to myself as correct.

Let's do it - put your arm out, palm down, now with your other hand, on top of your forearm getting close to the elbow, dig your thumb in, wiggle it around until you find a sore spot. If you spend you days typing and nights playing guitar, that's probably everywhere. Dig in so it hurts and hold it. Wiggle fingers and hand for a bit. Relocate, keep going, keep finding more sore spots. Stop, and see how you feel. Possibly bruised at first, but later, a bit free-er? A bit less pain? It works for me, but then I forget to do it (because it's no longer painful) and then the tightness comes back.

"Don't forget to do it on a regular basis future-JAW!" "Yes yes, past-JAW."


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Mumbling about Pink Floyd "Time" again

After I had recorded my 2017 progress of Fingerstyle'd Dark Side of the Moon I was immediately inspired to take on a bit more work. I took to "Time" which I had played badly; added more bassline appeal (easing back on the freestyle'd verse) and most importantly started on the iconic solo. I have put that off for a decade, because how do you play a *huge* soulful solo while driving away at a bassline and filling in the mids? Well, turns out, at least to start with, it's not as bad as it seemed! See how useful it is recording progress - it drives further progress!

So have a look and a listen at the new parts, it's a bit rough, I accidentally over exposed the video and I'm mumbling about it as I go, but as a minimum Ryan will be pleased :)

Monday, 30 October 2017


The other day I was practising through my Aussie rock setlist, keeping them fresh, and when the sax solo came up in INXS "Never Tear Us Apart" I said to my son "Your mum would love it if you could play this on your you know all these notes?" After a brief check, yes, it is within his capabilities. "It's E, then an Eb, then..." "Dad, can you just give me the score to look at?" I searched the internet and found a copy. It was a different key signature, but it was MuseScore format so a few clicks I transposed it, and did a quick test play though - hang on, that's not what I play...uh oh!

Sure enough, listening to the recording - I've been playing two notes in it wrong all these years! Hate that! So there's a question - shall I relearn those two notes or just accept that I'm not playing it right? Well anyone with a bit of OCD wouldn't be able to let that go, so I began relearning it.

Relearning is the worst! For starters, you once put effort in, and now, you have to apply even more effort to undo the old and put in the new. If it was just a melody it wouldn't seem like a big thing, but when it is bassline, mid fills and melody on top, you are relying on muscle memory quite a lot to keep it together. I found a resolve for the correct notes (required different fingers) and played the two affected bars over and over again. It started going into my brain, but it required immense concentration. I figure the two bars over and over again for a few more sittings a few days apart and I should be right.

Over the years I've changed bits and pieces in songs here and there, so it's not too bad modifying learnt music. In fact I will go so far as to say that forcing yourself to change bits and pieces in your songs is a good thing - it stops your back brain from doing _everything_ and gives your front brain some work. In songs which are second nature to me I will often slip melody notes an eigth of a beat forward, or backward - for starters it mixes up the song so it's not just the same verse, chorus, repeat; but it seems like a good thing to get the whole of your brain busy while playing.

...but not relearning a mistake.  Don't do that. Get it right before you commit to putting it into you a wise lady once told me, "Practise makes Permanent." :-)


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The future of creating art

I listened to a very interesting TED talk last month that got me thinking, the main theme being how artists can earn a living in this day and age. How 100 years ago if you wanted to hear music, you had to see it live, then the invention of recording, right through to the massive industry dedicated to just the distribution of music, and finally to digital downloads now pretty much superseded by streaming. 100 year juggernaut distribution industry. Now it's all free streaming.

And not that long ago, how an artist would create an album and play venues cheaply to promote the music so people would buy the album. And now, the music is streamed cheaply (free) to get people buying tickets to see the artist live at a venue. A complete reversal!

And many other interesting observations. It's worth a look: Conte - Artists get paid in the digital age

Something that I could relate to was how early adopters were making money (I was, through adverts on youtube) and it boomed until 2013 when it all but stopped. I saw it happen!

What he went on to discuss was the future of how artists can get paid for their art. He started "Patreon", which I had come across and thought was a great idea. Basically crowd funding for a consumer of art, you nominate you will pay a few bucks (whatever you like) each month to an artist. Simply because you want them to keep producing their art, so you fund them. We are talking art that can be digital, as in, art that can be delivered to you for zero distribution costs. So music, video, picture type art.

Artists on Patreon can then get a regular income so they can afford to live (given enough supporters) while producing their art. Consumers get a warm fuzzy, but more importantly, their artist can continue to produce the art they like. It feels so right. Is it the way forward? Maybe. Does it work? Seems to - there are a lot of artists there, and the numbers are published, and we aren't talking small amounts. Many artists living and producing art. Is it working for everyone? I doubt it, but that's not a reason to dismiss it. Will it keep working where it is working? Who knows.

I makes me also think of the Netflix/streaming video people have switched to streaming, the income to those content distributors has gone through the roof. The people want good video content, which isn't always available, so with the bountiful income, Netflix pay creators "Netflix exclusive" to make art, and the stuff I've seen is really good stuff. Such that Netflix (et al) are doing better as content creators than content distributers!

Interesting times. Huge disruption with technology - but people still love art, and artists still love to make art, what is the future of connecting them? Good food for thought.

Me; I just want to play my quaint arrangements to crowds who enjoy it as much as I like playing it. Nice when you can derive a bit of income from it too - what if I could make the same income from creating music as I do from engineering - would I? Probably not. Largely because I'm not good enough ("but if you could apply the same amount of time to music as to engineering you could!" "Yeah nah, I know proper musicians YEARS ahead of my ability/talent who already don't make a living from it"). But mostly because deep down, I'm an engineer first. Engineering fingerstyle arrangements on the side for fun :-)

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Fingerstyle of the Moon progress 2017

I haven't been gigging recently (slowly going rusty) but it has turned my head back to arranging. After my recent other pop/rock songs (The Angels, some Cream and even Van Halen), I've gone back to my old friends Pink Floyd.

Some of my internet mates know that I've been working on a fingerstyle cover of the whole album "Dark Side of the Moon" for longer than a care to mention, with no real update since 2014.  I've further enhanced "Breathe", gone backwards on "Any Colour You Like" and "Great Gig in the Sky", the rest are largely the same. I decided to sit down and play them all back to back for the camera, even though some aren't finished.  But most importantly, I have begun documenting the work in MuseScore.  Only scatterings of tabs currently exist, it's mostly in my head.  One day I'd like to have a book/video.  There is a good chance that will never happen, but if all the songs are documented then it wasn't all a waste of time :-)

Se here you go.  I messed up quite a few times; it is hard to play continously for 19 minutes without bungles.  Much of the work isn't yet done.  But that's why this is a "progress" video, not a "complete, done and dusted" video.

0:00 Speak to me.  JAW can tap the guitar body!
0:10 Breathe.  More freestyled now than just fingerpicked. Now features intro solo with an "innovative technique" I'm still trying to master, check it at 1:08
3:02 Time.  Forgot what I was doing, pretty awful play through, I normally do a lot better. Sorry.
6:19 Breathe Reprise.
7:25 Great Gig in the Sky.  Only the intro, been too long since I played the vocal part I didn't attempt.
8:36 Money.  Still in progress, I need to make it more interesting than just the verse/chorus.
10:36 Us and Them. I can normally make the detuning to Drop D fit in nicer, and get it a bit more accurate.  The pressure of the video camera.
13:40 Any Colour You Like.  Forgot what I was doing again, this needs a lot of work, I almost shouldn't include it.  "Progress".
14:55 Brain Damage. Occasional brain fart.
17:50 Eclipse.

If you make it to the end here, have this kudos ribbon, and pop on a comment letting me know which bits didn't work for you (I have broad shoulders).  Thanks!