Thursday, 3 March 2016

Shine with three point lighting

Heh, I had to giggle at that title.

I recorded a video tutorial on a song I'm working on, Collective Soul "Shine". I can play it well enough to do a tutorial. I also recorded it using my new three point lighting system that I purchased from ebay late last year for around $AUD150 (2015). I had been looking for an excuse to use it. All my videos for too long have had bad lighting. Well no more!

Definitely an improvement, but more learning required. Firstly, don't position the light so that it reflects off the guitar into the camera. Try not to have such a blotchy red face. Don't illuminate the solar panel on top of my head too much. Oh well, can't help much of that. Makeup? Nah, that's going too far.

Here's a photo of my set up. In a room currently full of junk, I was using a backdrop but it wasn't flat enough and was catching shadows so I stuck with the wall. Things to note:

  • Rear upper light
  • Key light (brighter) on my left as I sat
  • Fill light on my right (dimmer).
  • Camera in front of me and a mirror behind it (camera doesn't have a forward LCD).
  • Zoom H1 mic on small grey tripod. 
  • Dog wondering what I was doing.



Now as for the video, I've kept it shorter than my usual waffle and just got on with it. Enjoy some gen-u-ine Aussie accent. Look it's a great song, give it a crack. Why have I hit the grunge? Dunno, but it is the second grunge song I've done recently.

Here's the video, tab in ASCII follows. I will post the pdf when I get the song recorded for real. Enjoy!


|-0h2-2-2-2-2-2-0-|---------------|-0h2-2-2-2-2-2-5-|--------0-0-2-2--|
|-3-------3-------|--3-3---3--3-3-|-3-------3-------|--3-3-3-3-3-3-3--|
|-2-------2-------|------2-2--2-2-|-2-------2-------|----2-2-2-2-2-2--|
|-0-----------0-0-|---------------|-0-----------0-0-|-----------------|
|-----------------|---------------|-----------------|-----------------|
|-----------------|---------------|-----------------|-----------------|

|-0-----------|-----------0---2---|-0-----------|-------------------|
|------3------|-------3-----------|------3------|-------------------|
|------0------|-------------------|-------------|-------------------|
|------2------|-------------------|-------------|-------------------|
|-3----3p0h=3-|-(3)p0-3p0-3p0-3p0-|-------------|-------5---5---5---|
|-------------|-------------------|-5----5p0h=5-|-(5)p0h5p0h5p0h5p0-|

|----------------|-------------------|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|--------------1s3--|----------------|----------------|
|----------------|-------------------|----------------|----------------|
|-0--0-0-3-0-0-3-|-(3)-0-3-0-5-------|-0--0-0-3-0-0-3-|-0-0-3-0-5--6---|
|-0--0-0-3-0-0-3-|-(3)-0-3-0-5-------|-0--0-0-3-0-0-3-|-0-0-3-0-5--6---|
|-0--0-0-3-0-0-3-|-(3)-0-3-0-5-------|-0--0-0-3-0-0-3-|-0-0-3-0-5--6---|

|-3----3-3-0---|-----------------|-2--2--2----2-|-2-2-2-2-5-5-5-5-|
|-1----1-----2s|==3---3--3-3-3-3-|-3--3--3----3-|-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-|
|-0----0-----0-|-(0)-----0-------|-------2----2-|-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-|
|-2------------|---------0-------|--------------|-----------------|
|-3----------4s|==5--------------|--------------|-----------------|
|------------4s|==5----------5-5-|-0--------0---|---------0-------|

|-5--------5-5-5-|-5--------------|-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-|-0-2---2---5-5-5-|
|---3--3---------|---3--3---------|---3-3-3---3-3-3-|-----3---3-3-3-3-|
|----------------|----------0-0-0-|-----2-------2---|-----2---2-2-2-2-|
|----------------|----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
|-3------3-------|----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
|----------------|-5------5-------|-0-------0-------|-0---------------|

|-3--3----3-3-3-|---------------|-5-0------------|-5-0------------|
|-1--1----1-1-1-|-3--3----3-3-3-|------3---3-3-3-|------3---3-3-3-|
|-0--0----0-0-0-|-0--0----0-0-0-|------2---2-2-2-|------2---2-2-2-|
|---------------|-0--0----0-0-0-|----------------|----------------|
|-3-----3-------|---------------|----------------|----------------|
|---------------|-5-----5-------|-0------0-------|-0------0-------|

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

What's happening February 2016

I have been doing hand and wrist stretching for around a month now, and apart for pushing the stretches too far on one occasion it has been great.  My pinky pain has gone away and I have found that the fingering that was previously causing me issues is not causing such a problem anymore.  I'm recommending that we all do hand and wrist stretches.  Don't push too far, and don't stretch when your hands are cold and stiff.  There are plenty of good videos on YouTube about it, my personal favourites are pushing your hands back at the wrist, and stretching your fingers apart.

I'm working on three arrangements again, it always ends up being three, I don't know why. "The Chain" is basicaly done, ready to be recorded.  I saw Kel Valleau do "Smells like Teen Spirit" on YouTube a while back, as always he did a great job.  Was enough to inspire me to have a crack.  I remember that song back in the day, one of the guys I worked with at the time loved singing it.

What inspired me about "Smells like Teen Spirit" was that it is only a few phrases to learn but they looked quite challenging. I've also basically finished with it and am ready to record a video. I reckon I'll write a post about it sometime soon, it's worthy of a story.

While practising it, my wife remembered another grunge song from the era which we both liked, Collective Soul "Shine" which sparked an interest in me.  I didn't notice any existing fingerstyle arrangements of it so I had a quick crack based on some tabs I found.  As with any fingerstyle arrangement adding the melody line is the trick.  And as I've found before, pushing all the music back down to open chords helps, and this particular song suits Drop D tuning.  I still really enjoy Drop D tuning.

And grunge, ha ha, what a style of music :-)

Meanwhile, I am gigging again, at a cafe in Mt Claremont in my home town of Western Australia.  Great to be back out there,  Since I've been away for so long I have found my performance anxiety levels are back to high, and my tunes were rusty.  I played a demo a week back and played a proper session over the weekend.

Perfect crowd for me, correct age group. I love it when I ask if anyone has a band request, and I happen to have a song from that band in my setlist! I kept playing even when there wasn't so many people and they weren't as engaged. I played songs I was very rusty with, which made it a good practise session too.

I ended up playing more or less non stop for about 2 and half hours.  Longer than I should have, but I wasn't experiencing pain or discomfort so why not.  Towards the end I was starting to drop notes and my hands were getting too sweaty so I knew it was time to stop.  I always carry a clean cotton rag to wipe the sweat off my hands and fretboard from time to time while playing, which is a good tip I came across a while back.  Even wiping the strings after playing, the amount of sweat and oil I had added during the session really deadened them.  Later in the week the bass strings were still very dead, so I took them off and gave them a clean, and restrung them backwards.  Another good tip I came across - reversing them gets the fret wear on the other end, exposes a bit more unplayed string and brightens them up.

At the end of my set the cafe owner pressed some folding currency into my hand, I look forward to the next!

JAW

Sunday, 24 January 2016

D'Addario EJ45FF strings

A few months ago when stocking up on strings (I'm sorry Local Music Shop, but I buy my strings online, because I always get exactly what I want and it is half the price even with delivery) I noticed my normal string of choice - D'Addario EJ45 - now come in a "Carbon" version. I finally wound them on and observed a few points:
  • The trebles are transparent. For some reason I thought they be non-transparent!
  • The trebles are thinner. In fact the 3rd string is about the same thickness as a normal 2nd string. But then on the basses, the 4th string is a tiny bit thinner, the 6th string is a tiny bit thicker, neither enough to notice, the 5th string remains the same:
String     | Nylon  | Carbon
1st string | 0.71mm | 0.61mm
2nd string | 0.82mm | 0.69mm
3rd string | 1.02mm | 0.84mm
4th string | 0.74mm | 0.71mm
5th string | 0.89mm | 0.89mm
6th string | 1.09mm | 1.12mm
  • The thinner trebles are noticeable, but did not cause me any issues.
  • The trebles a brighter tone than nylon. Note the "carbon" in carbon strings means that the filament is made from fluorocarbon, which is essentially a hydrocarbon where all the hydrogens have been replaced with Fluorine. The Carbon-Fluorine bond is apparently the second strongest bond known next to Silicone-Fluorine. Interesting. Nylon on the other hand is a synthetic long-chain polymer which makes more sense as a fibre, but we've just run out of my chemistry knowledge.
  • The basses are about the same tone as the standard EJ45's. Maybe slightly brighter, hard to say, you'd have to do a control test.
  • The trebles feel "silkier", maybe "slipperier" might even be a better way to describe them. The basses have the same touch and feel as nylon wound, I didn't detect any difference.
  • The trebles bedded in faster than nylon, as in, they stopped stretching and held their tune[1] in less time. The basses maybe the same too, I find the nylon wound basses bed in reasonably quickly anyway. Note that I have been re-stringing the same way for a while - basses one twist at the bridge, 2nd/3rd treble two twists, 1st treble three twists. At the tuner I pull the string tight and loop it over itself so a minimum amount of turns to reach tune. This has always been the best way to get a fast bed-in for me.
  • The tone lasted long enough, not double the time considering the double the price.
I played a few long gigs on this set of strings which deadened them quicker than if they were just in a practise rotation.  So the dynacore basses have a slightly better tone than the standard basses, and the tone hangs in there a little bit longer.  The carbon trebles have a nice bright tone that lasts but over time I found I disliked the thinner strings.  Will I use them again?  No, but in the future I will try the "dynacore" and the EXP coated sets. There's a web page showing all the D'Addario string variants here http://www.daddario.com/DADProductsClassical.Page
[1] No classical guitar ever holds its tune. Just you holding the guitar for a few minutes is enough to put a bit of body heat into it which changes the tuning...which you re-tune compensate...and then when done pack away...and then next time it is out of tune again because it is cold again...

JAW

Sunday, 10 January 2016

What's happening January 2016

Warm wishes for 2016, and warm it certainly is, summer is sure heating up Western Australia.  This year is my 10th year anniversary of being on Youtube, how times flies. Youtube had been around for around for about a year when I created my account in May 2006, so I felt like a late comer, but it seems now like I'm an early adopter.

Meanwhile, whilst practising one of my latest songs I injured my hand again. Argh. Same as last time, left pinky. It's some sort of strain, only hurts when I use it...I've mentioned before that when you are practising it's not a good idea to do the same movements over and over again.  I should listen to my own advice.

I stopped playing for a week or two which coincided with Chrismas so it was not too bad, but I was very disappointed with my boo boo.  I started doing some research into what it is, and what I can do about it. It seems that it is an over-use injury, somewhere between tendonitis and carpal tunnel but not arthritis...nothing Dr Google could fully diagnose.  I did however come across much interesting and useful stuff.

Did you know your ulnar nerve is the "largest unprotected nerve in the human body (meaning unprotected by muscle or bone), so injury is common" (Wikipedia).  The reason I mention this is because it is connected primarily to your pinky, via your elbow.  It is your "funny bone" - when you whack your funny bone it is your ulnar nerve you are whacking. Since both my pinkies suffer from the same problem I'm pretty sure my left hand pinky is only aggravating an existing issue at my elbow.  Cubital tunnel syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome except rather at the wrist it is at the elbow, entrapment of the ulnar nerve.  I don't think that is what it is, except it made me realise I've had elbow issues for years.

Anyway, what was the most enlightening was what to do about all these finger, wrist and arm issues - stretching!  After watching a few Youtube videos, I couldn't believe how flexible some people's hands are - and how stiff I am.  In fact, I sat down with my wife and we did a ten minute video doing a bunch of different hand stretches, and my wife's hands are far more flexible than mine!

So I've been doing a bunch of stretches daily, or more, things like bending my hands back and forward, stretching fingers apart, pushing thumb against the wrist and backwards. Very quickly I noticed my hand flexibility improved. It didn't make my problem go away, but it's early days, I'll report back with findings.

JAW

Monday, 12 October 2015

What's happening October 2015

This month I created an opportunity to sit down and record some songs.  Okay, I did it twice.  The first time was outside and I was so displeased with the recordings that I ditched them.  The video was just awful.  The second time, inside, was tolerable.  My lighting still sucks.  I generally turn on all the lights in the room, and put a lamp facing me.  The videos end up full of excessive highlights and shadows, and the not-enough-light makes the camera recording noisy.  I tweaked the balance later in software, but you need a good video source to start with, you can't make a silk purse from a pig's ear!

So, I played three songs, recorded the video with a Canon EOS-M and the audio with a Zoom H1.  Around 3-4 play throughs on each song.  Post processing the video consists of choosing the best play through and putting on a watermark, tweaking brightness and re-encoding.  I then take the audio from the winning take, and if there are any really horrible mistakes I will punch them out with audio from one of my other takes.  I have to do this, because I don't feel like you, as the audience, are receiving what I'm trying to give you if there are obvious horrible mistakes in there.  I'm happy to live with small (but noticeable) mistakes, hey I'm only human - perfectionism is a life destroyer.

I only ever run a graphic equaliser across the audio, usually boosting the high and low frequencies and scooping out the mids.  Any reverb you hear is actually from the room, but there is very little reverb.  The room has a big woolly mat on the floor, and three cloth loungechairs I'm playing into which soak up the sound nicely stopping it from turning to mush.  The room is quite long anyway, so reflections straight back are minimal.  The then synchronise the resulting audio and video by eye "that looks about right" in virtualdub and job done!

Rather than dump all three videos on youtube at once, I uploaded them all as private, and over a week (whilst organising the tabs) switched them to public.  There is only so much JAW anyone can take at once.

So all good, but I'm going to buy some lighting equipment.  I've read up about "three point lighting" and what I need to do; I've seen you can buy some pretty reasonable lights from ebay for a reasonable price.  I'll let you know how I go!

JAW