Monday, 26 May 2014

Camp and 10,000 hours

When I'm at the current remote site that I'm working at, if I'm not building junky bikes out of parts I find in the rubbish bin and riding them around then I am playing guitar.  Usually, sitting with the lads have a quiet beer. It's during these times random songs tend to jump into my head. Yeah, I should be working on my staples, but once a song get right into my head it's hard to let it go. On a general evening playing I'll get requests, so I look up chords and improvise a fingerstyle arrangement, and discover that some songs work really well.

The first is a great song that I've loved for years, but never took it on. Now I have taken it on. The Tab is nearly finished, my playing is starting to smooth out, Heart of Gold by Neil Young. I've kept it pretty low down on the guitar instead of the big full Em7 and D for the theme riff, just kinda brings the tone down a little bit. Enjoying this one, it's a keeper. It fell into my standard bass-two-slap-four fingerstyle, with hand down low against the fact all three of these did...hey, the style is working for me at the moment!

Get Back - The Beatles. We all know it, we all respect it. I've never attempted it. Why? Who knows. This is still conceptual, there are a few signature riffs I need to add, no tab started, let's chuck it out there hey? :

This one, just appeared on the guitar from nowhere. One of the lads said, "Are you playing What a Feeling by Irene Cara?", and, embarrassed, I replied, "Umm, yes, but you recognised it!" I remembered Naudo has a cover of this song on youtube, and had a listen later. I think I am developing Naudo skills, just nowhere near as intricate and brilliant. But this was such an easy song to do at a basic level I may as well finish it, and let's face it, it's good fun 80's:

Speaking of Naudo skills, once again I was asked by someone who hadn't heard me play before - "how long have you been playing?" My standard answer is "36 years* so I should be better!" But it got me thinking, how many hours have I spent playing the guitar? The widely quoted "10,000 hours of practise to become an expert at anything" was interesting. From these three tunes, each of which I spent between 1 and 2 hours playing to get to this starting but reasonable level, I felt that I'm actually getting pretty good at fingerstyle arranging and playing. But had I done 10,000hrs in my guitar life?

I did a very quick and probably quite inaccurate summary of my guitar life, which looked a little like this:

Age   Point in life       Average Time   Hours
7-10  School lessons      4 hrs/week     832
11-14 Some lessons        2 hrs/week     416
15-18 Playing Electric    5 hrs/week     1040
19-22 University          3 hrs/week     624
23-27 Start Working life  1 hr/week      260         
28-31 Onto steel string   3 hrs/week     468
32-34 Song writing phase  5 hrs/week     780
35-38 Youtube Covers      6 hrs/week     1248
39-43 Nylon Fingerstyle   4 hrs/week     1040
Total:  36 years                        6708 hours

This number was quite pleasing. I haven't done 10,000 hours, but I'm doing okay. I am reminded that when I first discovered Naudo I was 37, and he was 47. It's been 6 years and I'm still way off his talent, but I've come a long way, and it feels good :)


* Current age subtract 7, which in 2014 is 36 years.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

DSOTM update

Never to go away, my Dark side of the Moon fingerstyle arrangement/cover is medium warm active at the moment.  One thing that has re-sparked the interest is the many full album covers of Dark Side of the Moon I have been listening to over the past few months, while driving or doing really tedious database work.  Let me give a summary of what I have studied so far:

Listened to more than once:
  • Easy All Stars - "Dub Side of the Moon".  Reggae, really well done.  Have listened to more than ten times.  Note there is also "Dubber Side of the Moon", I found that one too hardcore, more house music than reggae.
  • The Flaming Lips - "Dark Side of the Moon".  Psychedelic/Alternate Rock.  Took me a while to "get it", but it has become good stuff for me.  A few songs didn't work, but overall, two thumbs up.
  • Poor Mans Whiskey - "Dark Side of the Moonshine".  Bluegrass cover.  The voilinist -oops- "fiddler" and banjo players are great.  Surprisingly well done, and you can actually listen to it more than once, it's silly but still musical and pays tribute.
  • Dream Theater - "Dark Side of the Moon".  Only just makes this list, a bit too close to the original, but was well done.
  • "Return to Dark Side of the Moon".  Hit and miss - various artists, some with great covers, others not so much, worth a listen though.  Time/Breathe Reprise I really liked.
  • "Moon8" - Brad Smith.  NES (yes, Nintendo) cover.  Well done, cheesy, some really impressive touches considering the limitations of the NES, but you know what, I've listened to it a few times.
  • "Dark Side of the Moon" - Roger Waters live in 2007.  I didn't like his singers much but you can't argue with The Man.  Worth a listen or two.
  • "Dark Side of the Moon" - Pink Floyd 1974.  A recording of a live show at Wembley Stadium.  Really good insight into what they were doing with the album after it was recorded and they took it on the road.  Great stuff.
Listened to only once:
  • The Squirrels - "Not-So-Bright Side of the Moon".  Aiming for comedy, but started to come over as a piss-take.  Didn't like it.
  • Out of Phase - "Dark Side of the Moon". Slightly Ambient, I wasn't a fan.
  • "Any Colour You Like" with Alan Parsons.  Old school rock feel, not bad, but the sound recording is too dodgy.  A little bit hacky in the singing and guitar department as well.
  • Trance Remix "Dark Side of the Moon".  Just couldn't get into trance style.
  • "The Moon Revisited".  It was okay, but I didn't feel the need to listen to it again.
  • Phish - "Dark Side of the Moon". Again okay, but only listened to once.
  • String Quartet - "Dark Side of the Moon".  Look it was true to form, it was just what you'd expect from a string quartet.  I guess it's not my thing, I was hoping for more "DSOTM" than "string quartet".
  • "Dark Side of the Moon a Capella".  Yeah, nah.
  • "Dark Side of the Moon" Acoustic.  I didn't like it.  The guitar work and the singing were not my style, and too much layering over the original recording. 
  • The Problemaddicts - "Dark Side of Oz".  Hip Hop.  Yeesh.  Please no.
There is a heap of stuff on YouTube as well which is worth a listen to but I haven't yet ripped the lot to mp3 for my mp3 player, all these reviewed here were only from a list I found of "proper CD albums".

For my own cover I have touched every single song.  I owe you guys this year another youtube video of where I am.  The project won't be finished this year, but hold me to another video.  This is where I'm at:
  1. Speak to me - currently just tapping guitar body.  I'm going to have to get more creative.
  2. Breathe - Done.  There are a few ways I play it, and I add lib so the "final", like all my covers, will vary from where I am toady.
  3. On the Run - I have ideas and I've played with some concepts.  It has moved from "don't include" to "will do".
  4. Time/Breathe Reprise - all but done. All concepts are in but I haven't done the Time solo.  I will.  Lower priority, I don't "need" it, but I "need" it :-)
  5. Great Gig in the Sky - Done, pending.  The work for the piano was done years ago, the skeleton is in place for Clare's oo-ah, just needs to be finished.  At the moment I just shorten it a lot.
  6. Money - Concepts are done, except for solo.  I struggle to play it, it's the newest one on my progress sheet.
  7. Us and Them.  Done, no solo though.
  8. Any Colour You Like - All concepts in place.  I struggle to both play it and remember it.  Solo not quite finished.
  9. Brain Damage - Done.
  10. Eclipse - Done.
There you have it, still a long way off, but never forgotten!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Tabs back online...

UPDATE:  I couldn't wait, so I have hacked some code and got the tabs working again.  Yah!  Enjoy!



UPDATE:  Still no joy, I have zipped up all the tabs and put them here for now:


Sorry everyone, the tabs still aren't working, but I hope to have it resolved soon. My ISP recently upgraded some stuff and my old perl scripts stopped working.  I have worked out what is going on, and if you are super desperate for now, edit the link address from something like  to

I'm hoping we will be back online in the next day or two! :)


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

What's happening February 2014

Merry happy new year...hmm, okay that's all over and done with, I'm a bit late, apologies. Feels like I haven't said anything for a while. I had nearly 5 weeks off over the Chrissy holidays, did a lot around the house, and "general stuff". Not so much guitar. But that can only happen for so long... m u s t. . . p l a y. . .

In a completely out of character move (and dropping what I was working on) I have been arranging a brand spanking now song. As in, it was only aired for the first time LESS THAN SIX MONTHS AGO! In fact, when I started it, it had only been out THREE MONTHS! I know, I know, where is Jawmunji and what have you done with him!?

Sadly for 95% percent of my audience you will never have heard of Eskimo Joe, a band formed just down the road from me in Fremantle Western Australia. Quite a number of hits in the past decade, alternative rock style. In September 2013 they put out a new single "Got What You Need", a well crafted pop song, nearly synth pop but I'll give them a break. Singer Kavyen smashes it out in falsetto which is good fun and not normally their style. It got a bit of airplay around November and they were playing it as an acoustic number at seemingly every morning show/muso show that screens in Australia. Considering how hard it was pushed (as part of their new album) and that it is indeed a fine pop song, I'm surprised it didn't make much of a dent on the charts. Perhaps because it was crowd sourced and self-labeled...conspiracy detection!

Anyway, it jumped out of the radio and into my brain and onto the guitar. The falsetto fits nice and high above what is essentially just an E-A chord progression, so it made me do new interesting things. I kept to a fairly standard pattern, bass/flick, you've heard it all before. But flying up to the high notes off beat and returning to low E and A bass notes has proven challenging.  I like challenging

It's tabbed out, and mostly ready to record but it might be another month or two. So I just sat out the back then "in the cool of the evening time" (song lyrics :)) and played it nice'n'slow to the backdrop of crickets and occasional rumble of the wind in the mic (sorry).

Other stuff still happening, but for now let me leave you with the recording, and a link to the official video clip, if you are so inclined. My playing is mediocre, quite a few mistakes, but I think you'll get where I'm coming from. Must perfect my slides up to high notes! :)

Jawmunji - Got What You Need Fingerstyle Demo
Official Video Clip

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Play to your own style/laziness

I have mentioned in the past that tabs are good for you where I talked about how to digest and play a tab.  I've seen a couple of YouTube messages recently asking me about my latest tabs, and if they are all there, that some notes seemed to be missing, that sort of thing. My answer - "play to your own style/laziness".

On the other end of the scale, some people ask me why I don't include chords.  Mostly I just forget to add them and really I should always remember to add them, they are pretty important.  Not so much that it shows you what chords to strum (you can get chord/lyric sheets anywhere, much easier for following) - but again it helps you to play to your own style/laziness.

What do I mean "play to your own style/laziness"?

If you had a note-for-note tab transcription of a really stylish player like say Tommy Emmanuel (and I've seen those types of tabs) then you will notice be a lot of notes.  And even as you try to follow timings, and picking patterns, an attempt to perfectly emulate his style, you will struggle and it will take a long time.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid of hard work, but tabs should be a guide.  Your ear will hear the subtleties and inflections when you listen to the recording, trying to track it note for note is not a good use of your time.

Maybe there will be little sections that a really accurate tab is important, but generally, you only need enough notes (or chords!) to get a feel for what is going on, and then develop it into something that you can play.  That is, into your style.

And your style will be as lazy as you want it to be.  If you are note-for-note learning then you are pushing your style out to match the arrangers style.  That's fine but it would be better to find the happy medium between playing the piece note-for-note and how you would play it if you arranged it yourself...that is, make it as lazy as you want it to be!

Drop notes, add notes, do everything as a tremolo, convert it to alternating bass.  Only play the bass note on beat 1.  Play a one fifth down bass note before each in-chord bass note.  Flick chord fragments on the 2nd and 4th beat.  Make it your own, take it (only) as far as you like.  I still believe, as a hobbyist,  it is better to be able to play 10 good pieces of music than 1 excellent piece of music.  Life is short, perfection is bad.  But don't be too lazy, always challenge yourself just a little bit, always move forward.

The other side of my "is the tab all there?" question is when I've only included the skeleton of the song.  I've noticed some songs only have maybe 20 bars of actual "information".  It might be a 5 minute song, but it is the same 20 bars of information played over and over, in different orders, with perhaps some subtle differences (that your ear will notice and you can improvise).  All you need is that 20 bars of information and you can work out the rest!  Imagine, just one piece of paper for a whole song!  You can make your own structure of verse/chorus/verse/chorus once you know what they are.  A bridge or a solo adds more information, but perhaps you don't even want to weigh yourself down with that.
It annoys me to see two pages of a tab where there are maybe 4 notes difference between them.  That sort of over-tabbing looks daunting when you first pick it up, and really, it is making stuff more complex than it needs be.  I'm all about simplification, about giving enough to get you started along the road, and letting you choose your own destination.  There will be times when you need to be 100% spoon fed, (in fact some of my tabs are indeed like that), but sometimes I'm going to give you a rod and teach you how to fish.  And sometimes, you should go make your own fishing rod...