Sunday, 11 January 2015

Poll results and Never Tear Us Apart

I hadn't run a poll for a while, which was a shame, I love polls.  So I posed this one: "Out and about...who do you play guitar for?"

The results from 69 votes were:

53% I play only for myself
23% I play for anyone who will listen
18% I play for friends and family
2%  I play small gigs
1%  I don't play guitar
0%  I play large gigs

Other than the usual analysis of "100% of people polled are the sort of people who respond to polls", I didn't find it surprising that nobody plays large gigs and everybody plays guitar. (Except for you, my 1% friend, but I'm sure you will soon).  People who play large gigs or don't play guitar don't need this.

I was hoping for more people who play for friends and family and anyone who will listen.  I spent too many years playing for myself, you are missing out when you hide away.  Sure, there is that "putting your heart on your sleeve" when you play, the opening yourself to potential emotional distraught, but you are missing out on the connection you get to make with other people through music.  What a powerful thing music is!  How great is it to share it!

So my 53% of mates out there, yes sure, practise by yourself to get your stuff up to performance level, but then go play for an audience! It is good for you!  The rest of us - keep playing for audiences, and keep refining and expanding your set - don't ever be a half song playing guitarist.

In other news, Wifey and I watched a great documentary the other week, INXS - Never Tear Us Apart.  I wasn't a fan of my home town band during the day - wifey was - but over the years I have come to appreciate them more.  And I like being able to play Aussie Pub Rock!  So while I was away with work just before Christmas, I had a crack at "Never Tear Us Apart".  I've really enjoyed how it came together as an arrangement.

In other other news, I've been doing some renovations to our bedroom, it is currently completely gutted.  So it's one big concrete echo chamber.  I decided to record "Never Tear Us Apart" in there, for Ultimate Natural Medium Room Reverb.  The play needs work, I'm finding it hard to get the arrangement to stick to my fingers.  Some arrangements are like that.  As for the reverb - well, the sound just gets muddy.  The trebles are nice, but the bass is washed out.  I ran some post EQ to demuddify it, it's tolerable, but it reminds me why I never use any reverb/delay for gigs.  Keep the sound flat and clean - the room is already going to add reverb/delay and mess up the EQ.  And get the tone you want with your fingers - not with electronics!

Have a listen if you like - Ultimate Natural Medium Room Reverb "Never Tear Us Apart":


JAW

Saturday, 27 December 2014

"Get Back" Video

I've just uploaded "Get Back" by The Beatles, I thought I'd take a moment to discuss the video process, maybe it will save you some time, I learnt a few new things while creating it.

"Get Back" fitted nicely into my current standard arranging style, it's somewhat difficult to play, but worked out well.  I'm pleased with the arrangement.  If you are new to fingerstyle guitar check out how do I get into fingerstyle? As for arranging songs to fingerstyle, check my previous posts such as Arrangement concepts or Can you arrange a song for me? or How far do you take your arrangements?

I wanted to mix up some creativity with technology, I go through spurts of trying out "the fancy new stuff" and putting a bit extra into my video productions.  Generally, fancy new stuff and a bit extra in video means only one thing - a lot of time.  Quite a lot of time.  Extra time spent recording, organising, producing and waiting for processing.  So what's new this time around, why did I spend so much time?
  • Got a bit dressed up.  As part of Movember, which I have been doing for a long time now, I dyed my hair (and moustache, and eyebrows) black.  Well, okay, it's not dressed up, kinda.
  • I recorded in the spirit of The Beatles Rooftop Concert - I played guitar standing up (which I never do), amplified, on a balcony.
  • I recorded 6 different angles, with the help of my oldest daughter on the camera.  Yes, each was a separate play through, I don't have six cameras.
  • ...but I do have two cameras, and I used them paired to be able to create a 3D video.
  • I spent some time learning yet another video editing package, my usual VirtualDub video editor of choice isn't a multi-scene editor.  I produced two videos - a 2D and a 3D.
So the video recording - I played through 6 times, keeping on tempo even when I botched it (Play through your mistakes).  Which I do a bit when playing standing up.  I don't like to play standing up.  But by playing on tempo and never dropping a beat, the later editing should be easier.  HOWEVER - unless you are playing to a metronome (which would sound forced), you aren't ever going to be able to exactly synchronise one video with another.  So what that meant was each "camera angle change" in the video I had to carefully synchronise with the audio track.  And yes, each "camera angle change" didn't synchronise perfectly, they drifted.  There were three ways I dealt with that - first, I would line the video to the audio slightly ahead or behind and end up slightly behind or ahead - but the bulk of the scene was close to synchronised.  Secondly, I would only use a length of time where it was pretty close to synchronised.  Surprisingly, I was finding 20-25 seconds of playing that perfectly synchronised to audio.  Thirdly - fool the eye.  If it looks like it is synchronised, then that is fine!

What about the audio?  No, I didn't use any audio from the day.  It was all home studio recorded (okay, my kitchen table).  Not only was it not live, I recorded the audio a month after I recorded the video!  Not only that, the audio was bits and pieces from about 6 different takes!  Why oh why JAW would you fool us like this?  Look I'm not fooling you.  In the video, yep, it's me playing.  The audio, also me playing.  All real.  But both were riddled with imperfections.  It is a hard song to play, I've only been playing it for about five or six months.  I wanted it to look and sound pretty cool, so I went a lot further in capturing video and audio than I normally would.  I didn't aim for absolute perfection (impossible) - you will hear plenty of missed notes, fret buzz, and I can clearly see some places where I played a wrong note in the video but miraculously the audio is correct.  I just wanted it to look and sound pretty cool.

3D is an interesting thing.  I have two cameras which I welded up a bracket to connect them together - one camera records the left eye, one records the right eye.  From previous experience the cameras are too wide to be side by side, that tends to "overdrive" the 3D depth.  To reduce the distance between the lenses, I mounted the cameras bottom to bottom.  This gave a separation of about 80mm - I was after 65mm, but this was better than the previous 120mm.  Not many humans have an eye separation of 120mm...

This introduced a problem - the footage was tall and narrow.  I still wanted it to be a normal wide screen video.  So, I rotated the videos, and cropped them hard, sadly throwing away most of the picture, to be 4:3. That means it's not full HD video, which I kinda like.  Oh well.  I then had to further crop the videos to "align" the left eye and right eye.  In my experimentation with 3D video I found you should find a point of interest - something in the middle around the centre point of focus - and crop the videos so that point is at the same x,y location in both the videos.  This helps make up for the too wide lens spacing and any alignment error in the camera mount.  Light physics takes care of the rest - the left and right videos have an outlook that creates the spacial difference that your brain translates to depth. Your brain doesn't seem to be too fussy - the variety of distances and angles it has dealt with (tilt your head - depth perception still works!) I guess means it's prepared to accept - it wants to accept - most stereo inputs and turn them to a depth image.

Putting the images side by side via software (more synchronising - this time synchronising left eye video feed with right eye) will create a "standard distributable" 3D video.  Then chop them up and match them to the audio. It seems like putting two HD video streams side by side (3840x1080 pixels) is too much for most systems to bear in 2014, whereas reducing the width by half (1920x1080) seems to be accepted by most 3D playback systems.  The 2D video is simply one half of the original video.

I haven't worked out the deal with Youtube and 3D videos, so I uploaded both the 3D and 2D one.  I'd hoped that Youtube would automatically play the correct video based on your playback system, but I haven't worked out how, if it even exists.

I've plenty more to say about the creation of the video, if you need more information about some part of the process drop me a comment.  Until then, check out the 2D or the 3D  video!

Get Back
Get Back - 3D 

JAW

Thursday, 4 December 2014

After a lesson, the boys light up

Since the "issue" from the other day, I found another couple of hours I could spend with the guitar.  A quick test to see if I could re-record some audio, nah, "tone" won't be back for another week.  So, what have I got to work on?  Hmm...

I've been asked by several people after playing "Reckless" "Do you know any other Australian Crawl?"  I don't.  My mate Jono, when we catch it usually ends in a few beers, maybe a whiskey or two, he sings and I play guitar.  Last session he was super keen for more Crawl, particularly "The Boys Light Up". "I have the whole internet here on my phone, let's look up the chords."  After strumming, with some embellishment, I mentally noted it was a good fingerstyle candidate.

So here I am, "The Boys Light Up"

First challenge was putting the chords into fingerstyle - Bm, G, A.  Pretty much the entire song.  Hey, it's 80's Aussie Pub Rock, keep it simple.  I didn't like the idea of having to do stuff while hanging onto a Bm, so I shifted it down two steps to Am, F, G.  Better, I could work with that.  It is a seriously backbeat song, which made it both challenging and interesting.  I developed a pattern quickly, bass-pick-rest-pick, similar to my current standard, but with a rest instead of body slap.

Harmonica solo at the start.  I pulled apart a midi file I found on the internet for ideas for the whole song, there wasn't much in it but the harmonica solo was pretty clear.  It went easily onto the pattern.  No problems there.  The verses were slightly problematic, 'ole Reyney sings pretty radical (nobody has deciphered some of his lyrics) and the melody was difficult for me to work out.  But it seemed essentially in chords so I just winged it, trying to sing it in my head.

Sadly still, the melody is midrange, which puts it smack bang in the backbeat chord fragments I was going for.  If it was up high you can put it up there out of the way, but in the middle, again, makes it more challenging.  The whole song being down two steps from Bm to Am it also sounded "flat".  Capo on the second fret, ha ha, back to normal, still with open chords, yah!

There are a lot of lyrics in the verse structure, which makes it kinda boring for fingerstyle.  So I aimed for "variation" to not bore the audience too much.  There's a little bridge which follows the verse structure which is signature for the song and very cool, then it is chorus, which is same as verse.

It was just about a wrap!  A nice easy one, bit of interest, very simple phrases to remember.  I was sad to put aside some of the groovy bass and distorted guitar, which didn't immediately fit, but I slipped in a nice bend on the beat before the start of the main phrases which made up a little bit for the loss of the groovy bass.

Not my best work, but an easy three minute song to fit into the repertoire, and it is 80's Aussie Pub Rock, a personal fave.

Here, have a listen to the demo I just recorded:


Never heard the song?  I love this super-early recording where they stuffed up the backbeat for the first 20 seconds, even Reyney looks back "what the heck are you doing?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtniUXtDY6M

Or, much more recently, and this one has cowbell!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7luJhTELfI

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Learn a lesson again. And again.

It's a familiar situation.  In all aspects of life.  But we do it to ourselves over and over again.

It started after having recorded footage for a new video on the weekend.  I'd put in a bit of effort - I recorded myself from various angles playing the same song so that I could splice pieces together from each angle.  To make a cool video.  It's a bit of an epic to compile the video as you could imagine, but one of the key issues is that each time you play it you won't play it at exactly the same speed.  One way around that is play to a beat, which makes my playing a bit stiff, the other way is to record a good clean audio track and compile the video carefully so that everything appears to synchronise.  You generally will only vary in speed slightly, so you can make 10-15 seconds worth of video appear to synchronise with the audio.

So I had the footage, which was recorded outdoors so none of the audio was clean enough, I needed the audio track.

One night during the week I had about two hours free to record the audio.  I sat down, set up the microphone and started playing. Take 1.  Take 2.  Take 3.  Take 4.  I wasn't liking any of them.  Change approach - record smaller sections of the song until I get each one bit right at a time, and then piece it together later.  I really dislike doing that, it is much better to get it all in one take.  It sounds more natural and is a lot less audio editing.

Looking back I was actually playing it nicely, I was after perfection, so nice wasn't good enough.  Because I had limited time, I put pressure on myself.  Each take I could feel my arm/hand muscles starting to clamp up - I wasn't relaxed - and each take was getting faster and faster tempo.  That generally happens to me when I'm not relaxed, I play faster.  It's a shame, because I call that a beginners trait, I should know better.  Still haven't got that beginners trait out of me after all these years.

And to top it all off, I am attacking the guitar.  Digging right in, getting a huge sound.  Sure, the guitar sounds full and crisp, but I know "it's not working."

"Whoa, it's like, music, man.  You've gotta let it flow, relax, and like, let it come to you man."  Perhaps I should have started the session with a tasty glass of liquid muscle relaxant.

And then, still playing too fast, too hard, in pieces rather than the full song, I cracked my index fingernail.  Diagonally across, right down to the base.  Cleaned it up with the clippers, basically nothing left.  Picked up the guitar, that crisp sound I get with a bit of fingernail was reduced to a mellow, kinda dull tone.

"Well that sucks."  I pack up guitar, it's all over.  Nothing recorded.  Feel tense and unsatisfied.  It will take about two weeks to grow fingernail out again.  I knew it wasn't working, but I put the pressure on myself to make it work.  And then it didn't work, and worse, resulted in a a setback.

Another lesson learnt.  One that I already knew.  Learn it again!

JAW

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Get Back Experiment^3

I'm still practicing The Beatles "Get Back", it's basically ready for recording, but I decided to embrace the fad future and try some 3D video.  So if you are 3D playback equipped (or even if you aren't) have a look at this:



From a 3D point of view there are two main problems - the 3D depth is too deep, it comes across as artificial to me.  On my playback equipment there is also ghosting of the right eye on the left eye, and a little bit the other way around.  The depth problem is related to how I created the 3D, I haven't yet worked out the ghosting problem. I currently suspect it is crosstalk as a result of the over-depth 3D.

How did I do it? Yep, two cameras side by side, recording left eye and right eye.  Then a bit of synchronisation and cropping in VirtualDub.  Then putting them side by side using AVISynth.  Finally synchronising the audio from the microphone in Virtualdub.  YouTube takes the 3840x1080 file (ie two HD videos side by side) and does what it needs to do so you can see it in it's full 3D glory.  There is the problem, two cameras side by side, the spacing should be eye distance.  My two cameras side by side are a bit too wide apart even when touching.  Your eye will resolve it as 3D, but it's a bit weird.  Some thought will be required there.

From an audio point of view, it's rough.  It's cool, but rough.  When I do record it for proper I will ensure the recording is nicer, even if I have to resort to overdubbing/punch in.  Ah, they joys of editing digital audio.

So drop me a line and comment on audio and 3D - did one of the embedded videos work better than the other?
JAW


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