Sunday, 2 December 2012

Back to Gigging and Youtube Channel Question Response


I'm back gigging at BBar Cafe close to where I live in Gwelup.  Last Thursday was my first night back and uncharacteristically for this time of year there was a storm howling through, so I played inside.  I had played inside once before...let's just say I prefer to play outside in the alfresco.  The problem with inside is it's an all concrete area so getting the sound right is difficult.  And what tends to happen is people who are having a conversation over their meal need to talk over me...so I end up feeling more annoying than enjoyable.  I've experienced this myself many times - been at a venue where I just want to sit back and chat, but instead I almost can't hear the person next to me, shouting to get over top of the music playing.

But I was actually playing quite well, it felt good, it is great to be back.  I'm looking forward to the warm nights out in the alfresco where the acoustics are great, and people can choose to listen or chat, where I'm not competing with conversation.


In other news, I recently exchanged some messages online with a professional guitarist who is at the starting point of establishing his youtube channel.  I had a look at some of his work, it's good stuff, I could get a lot of guitar playing tips from him!  He wanted to know how I got my youtube channel to where it is now.  I was in a very chatty mood at the time so I thought it was worth posting here  My apologies, it's rambly, I could surmise it a few brief paragraphs, but then it wouldn't sound like me!  Here is the slightly edited response:

---
Mark, you don't need advice from me, I need advice from you! :) You've got the skills no doubt, you are playing with feeling, looks like you have the repertoire too - I mean you play guitar for a living! Although I wish I could pour time into guitar, it's just a hobby for me, the family and the day job mean I only get 5 hours a week if I'm lucky to play and arrange. It's not enough to take the guitar anywhere special, but for this stage in my life it will have to do.

The problem with your youtube channel is exposure. I got lucky. I started a long time ago, in 2006 youtube wasn't even a year old. I posted a (dreadful) cover of Canon in D, a song everybody loves, which became popular and created enough "interest" that at my peak I was getting around 7,000 views per day. That's gone down to about 2,500 now; there are sooo many great guitarists out there I'm competing with now it is to be expected.

There ain't much you can do in a hurry. Post videos of songs you know people like. Watch other people play, and comment on their stuff and press "like" a lot. Don't hassle people to come look at your stuff, just comment on their stuff.  They will come and look at your stuff if they want to. I believe you will get more people coming and looking from a good comment than a trawling comment.  It's all just an investment in time and being active. I didn't realise what I was creating during the time I was very active on youtube, in hindsight it is quite obvious what happened.  Firstly I was increasing my youtube search ranking, but more importantly I was creating connections with an audience who would hang around.

Keep your video and audio quality high. If you can post a video once per week, do it. Don't post a whole bunch in a batch, spread them out over a couple of days at least, so people can keep up. Videos don't need to be "super professional", as in filmed in a studio environment. The audio and video still needs to be high quality, but a few mistakes in playing a song makes it more real, more human. That surprised me at first, but that is what I have discovered my audience appreciates (my youtube audience consists mostly of non-guitarist casual listeners but also some guitar playing listeners.)  I think you connect better, in the youtube environment, if you are "real" - not some ultra professional presenter, but rather you are giving a comfortable experience as a fellow human with faults.  On some level I suspect a listener is thinking "this guy is great, but he isn't perfect, I could do what he does if I tried hard.  That makes me feel good.  What I'm listening to isn't unattainable."

Comment back on interesting comments from viewers. Not every comment, for example "You are great!" doesn't need a response, just smile, nod appreciatively, and move on. Just be active on youtube. You've got the chops, you're a better player than me, it's just an investment in time now, building connections with people (which in turn creates more connections) and away you go. Be active on your blog too, keep it useful. Talk about how you create, the little things that people like to hear they don't hear anywhere else. That you would have liked to have heard when you were starting out.  Pick your audience. Talk about your gigs from a technical point of view and you will attract an audience of hobbyist guitarists that want to be playing and gigging like you. Talk about the beauty of the songs you are arranging and you'll get an audience of music lovers. It's all pretty obvious, I doubt I'm telling you anything you don't already know...

Add value to your videos - post tabs if you can, people *love* tabs. But that only increases your popularity in the guitarist scene.  They don't represent the majority of my listeners, but for me they are _my connections_.  They are the people I invest my energy into, they are the ones I chat with, and exchange ideas, and critique each others work.  They are the reason I'm here at all.  It's interesting; I love playing live to an audience who appreciates the same music as I do, who "gets" what I'm playing.  But online, you don't get that real-time connection with people.  Online I love the conversations I have with fellow guitarists. I don't feel as connected with the online listeners.  I'm not sure how to approach that disconnection...maybe you can take that to a new level.  I think I'm more of a teacher than an outright performer, which "limits my potential audience"...perhaps you should take my learnings and modify them to reach a different audience?

I lost all my early momentum on youtube because I can't update often enough. But there is a baseline momentum that stays alive that keeps me ticking along. Throwing a handful of songs out per year keeps me in the game.  Keep up your momentum.  It means you have to be passionate about what you are doing, and be true to what you are doing.

What are you after? Hooking up more gigs? Want to share/teach? Make money online? There isn't much money to be made in just online videos and blogs. Even with 2,500 views per day I make slightly less than $100AUD(2012) per month. If I licensed and sold tabs, or instructional DVDs, that could make more money. But that is difficult to do legally and would take me a lot of time. I estimate if I recorded a CD I could sell about 3 per day, priced at say $12ea I could probably make $20/day in sales. But that requires time to make a _great_ CD (I would want it to be great) and managing the sales myself. I could make it work, because I have a constant flow of visitors. If you don't have a constant flow of visitors, you won't sell stuff.

Spend time. Create connections with audience. But most importantly what are you after - your answer will tell you what to do.

Oh and be careful; posting covers is a tiny bit illegal. I've had one video claimed (the copyright owner makes money from it, quite sensible, they could have had a take down notice on me but chose instead to cash in) and one video taken down. Three take downs and your account is suspended. I can't give you any advice on who will give you takedowns - maybe surf the net for it, I've only had one in six years so it isn't a problem, but perhaps it might be in the future. Avoid Supertramp covers is all I can tell you so far.

Good luck and good skill!

JAW

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

I'm Still Here November Update

Hey I ran a poll recently (if anyone has a burning question they'd like to see polled, let me know) "Where do you place yourself in your guitar journey?" From 195 votes we had:

6  ( 3%) Expert
18 ( 9%) Just Started
22 (11%) Advanced
61 (31%) Beginner
88 (45%) Intermediate

Only 3% call themselves an expert; I'm going to put that down to (a) "Aww shucks, I'm no expert!" and (b) Experts don't need help from the internet.  Look I don't even want to call myself an expert, there is so much about guitar and music theory I don't know, but if you are talking cover arrangements in fingerstyle, OK, I will begrudgingly call myself an expert.

"Just started and Beginner" was purposely broken into two to provide an escape hatch - "Just started" is a real beginner, but some people who have been playing for 10 years might still be "Aww shucks, I'm just a beginner" so they need the "Beginner" option.

"Intermediate" at nearly half is to be expected.  I would consider most guitarists who have mastered the basics, and have access, would search the internet for ideas and inspiration.  My humble site here hopefully offers ideas and inspiration, so welcome! :)

"Advanced" was also offered as an escape hatch for "Expert", I would have thought there would be more.  I was thinking there would be say 25% in the Advanced/Expert class, 25% in the Just Started/Beginner class and 50% in the Intermediate class.  However it's not like this poll is a true cross section of the community, it is roughly a cross section of solo acoustic fingerstyle. At best.  I imagine a similar poll on a learners site would have the results skewed quite differently.

Anyway, polls are fun.  I'm not sure how much to read into this one.  Must be time for another!

Meanwhile, I recorded another Billy Joel cover and posted it on youtube, you can see it here: http://youtu.be/wHwSqIG12wM  I liked this one because the bass line challenged me a little bit - root notes on beats 1, 2&, 3 and different (but in chord) note on beat 4.  Chuck the simple melody on top and finger flick some chord fragment fills in where you can.  Because of the reasonably busy bass line I didn't find much room for flicked chord fragments.  As you know I like my arrangements less regimented - the fragments add a dimension of "feel" unlike pure alternate bass style picking which is clever but, erm, clinical?  Mathematical?  I was forced down that line somewhat in this song which to be honest is often a good thing - too much flicked chord fragments "muddies" a song, the distinctions are lost, the melody is not clear and the arrangement approaches strumming.

There is a fine line between "Clinical but clear and distinct" and "Muddy but warm with feel".  And a balance to be found.  You can't go clinical for 20 bars, then go muddy for the next twenty...well okay you can, but only when it is balanced.  I think I got a reasonable balance with this arrangement - I was strict on the bass line in places, but loosened off when I needed to.  I'm still learning! :)

I haven't decided what arrangement to focus on next.  I've got a few unfinished to get back to sometime, I've also got a few songs to re-learn.  Gigging is going to be back on in the next few weeks (not that I have time for it, but you must make time!) and I like to have a solid two hours of material, with maybe only a few that I play with trepidation in the fear of botching it...when some nights I'll have a crack at it when I'm feeling good, some nights I'll leave it alone.

However as of today, I haven't picked up the guitar in five days!  It is terrible!  And even then five days ago I only played for an hour!  I've been working 50-55 hours a week, and I'm laying some flooring at home and other renovation work.  Yes; it doesn't sound much like a guitarist...working big hours at a day job doing engineering, and in the evenings DIY home improvements.  I think that is the reality for most of us hobbyists.  Sometimes life gets in the way...priority can't be the guitar.  But it is always there, waiting for when life isn't quite so demanding :)

JAW

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Video Blog: Disco fan confession with Funky Town

I talk a bit about thumb independence, and play a bit of "Funky Town"...and admit to being a Disco fan. I'm a bit rambly in this one, sorry, I need to plan what I'm going to talk about more!

JAW



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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Guitar Cam session two

Guitar cam certainly isn't new, I first remember being amazed by it in the AC/DC video "Thunderstruck" in the early 90's. Concept - rigidly attach a camera to your guitar, the guitar stays still and everything else revolves around it. Heh, everything revolves around guitar, I like it :)

GoPro have specifically targeted this "action cam" scene, and that is the first one I looked at. They have good brackets, but the camera specification is more about being rugged than high performance. Really, any camera you buy these days has the same mounting point so you could use the same bracket with anything. But what really threw me with the gopro was the very wide fish eye lens. I didn't really want to have a "bent" guitar - fish eye is for extreme offroad action. But you need to be kinda wide, so I made sure the camera I grabbed was averagely wide. Wide as in it can capture the whole guitar in the frame even when the camera is really close to the guitar.

I trawled ebay for brackets, and nothing appealed to me. You know what that means - DIY JAW on the scene :)

The first bracket I made was a bit of a mock, consisted of a bit of aluminium, fencing wire and some wood. I didn't even take a photo it was that bad. The second bracket used learnings from the first. And the third bracket, yet to be made, will use learnings from the second!

Okay, things of note:
  • Double clamp - this is just two $1.50 clamps from the hardware store joined together with two little plates. Drill a hole through the plates, screw straight into the plastic handles. Some sheet rubber glued to the clamp faces makes sure it won't scratch the guitar. Two clamps to be doubly sure there is no movement when clamped on!

  • Steel bar - welded to one of the plates on the clamp with a second piece at ninety degrees to the first for more rigidity. The problem is the arm is longer than it needs to be, and because it is steel it is heavy. The heavier, the more mass is bouncing around when I'm rocking out, the more rigid it needs to be so you don't see shocks. And the heaviness makes it harder to play.

  • Angle/position - the bar is long because I wanted, well, the view you see. Of course it means more mass, more bouncing around, and the further out the worse the bouncing. Version 3 of the bracket will have a "more direct" angle/position - same good view of left hand and right hand - but lighter.

  • Camera mount - just a hole in the end of the bracket and a 1/4" imperial thread welded to a tab of metal to make attaching the camera easy.

  • Camera - Panasonic HC-V100. Not amazing, but it has a 32.5mm wide-angle lens, very small and light (lighter than the bracket!) and the iFrame recording codec is nice to work with.
For my first test I played six songs, my arm was tired after that. Of the six, five were "cafe standard" - means not bad, but a few too many fubs for my liking so I won't upload them to my normal youtube channel. One was good, I've already uploaded it :) One key learning was with my nice Zoom H1 microphone, tapping my foot comes through as an annoying thump. Don't tap foot (but I like to tap foot!) DON'T TAP FOOT!

Anyway, here are photos. And since the other 5 songs were cafe standard, that's good enough for my blog. I will be playing and uploading more to my normal channel as I go, but I thought I'd share some more with my !34! mates right now :)

Oh and yep, I think picking up the guitar at the start and putting it down at the end, guitar-cam effect, will be my thing...

JAW








Tuesday, 12 June 2012

What's happening June 2012

[insert standard disclaimer about being busy etc etc] While running some errands the other day I was passing by a music store I'd been in several times before and I thought "Hang it, I'm gunna go in and see if they have anything 'interesting'" - und I did.

On the shelf I didn't see any nylon/classicals that were interesting at all.  It's not really that type of shop (yes, someone was playing the smoke on the water riff with heavy distortion as I walked in).  I asked a guy if they had anything else, no, so I grabbed the most expensive guitar they had, a Yamaha CGX171.  Which, of the three nylon guitars I have, that is actually one on them.  I'm not sure why, but I'm sure it had a wider neck than my one.  Hmmm...

Anyway, seeing as a CGX171 wasn't interesting, I asked to play through an amp.  The guy set me up with a Fender amp I'd tried before, they are okay.  He dug out the nice AER 60W acoustic which I had previously decided was the best amp and if I was to get another that would be it.  It is still nice, but I think he could tell that I wasn't inspired.  He said "How many people do you play to?"  (Which was really nice to hear, I hadn't said anything about performing, he simply assumed that I played to audiences.  Either I look/feel/sound like a performing guitarist or he's a really good salesman.)  He told me "you need to be looking at a PA."  "Have you got anything I can try?"  "Yeah sure, come with me."

I then got quite a good lesson about PA systems from a sound engineer.  There is an interesting system, very modular by a company that is trying to fill gap between cabinet amps and full PA systems.  Imagine an amp/sub box, then a pole, then sets of speakers mounted on the pole.  Except you want a few more speakers, so you click some more on the top.  You want some facing you and some facing the crowd this way and that way, just rotate them.  Basically a click together - no cables except the one to your guitar - modular PA system.  Pull apart to get back on the road.  It requires a mixing desk/box thing, they had a simple 4 channel one, because generally in a PA system you'd have a microphone and more than just a guitar.

Really interesting.  I think that is what I'd need rather than just a cabinet amp on the floor.  Pricey though - perhaps I should stockpile my earnings from gigging to purchase one, starting system is around $AUD2000 (in 2012).

The sound engineering side of it is interesting too.  Because I sit behind the guitar I'm never quite sure what everyone is hearing.  It has made me want to play a gig at a place where there is a sound engineer weaving their magic through the PA.  I know a place - open mic style.  I have avoided it thus far because I picture it as a pub generally full of drunken yobbos where most performers are bands playing loud rock.  I'm not sure I'd fit in there, but perhaps I should give it a go just for the sound engineer PA side of things.


In other news, whilst wholely heartened by my previous gigging, I am disheartened at playing the guitar not gigging.  Aside being busy at work (see disclaimer) I just haven't set aside any time to play.  It is actually at a point where "why bother playing when nobody is listening and nobody is paying?" :) Okay, not quite that bad, but "gigging changes you".  Over the past month I think I've played for maybe 4 hours on 4 separate occasions.  Don't fear though, because...


I made Guitar Cam Version 2 last weekend.  I worked out from Version 1 that the mounting bracket needs to be _very_ rigid, so I doubled the amount of clamping and welded together a very sturdy steel bracket.  I adjusted the viewing angle too, and it worked out great!  The rigidity is not quite there yet; what happened in version 2 is that to make it ultra rigid I made it too heavy, this time the weight causes it to move slightly when I'm digging into the song.  It's only just noticeable, and it isn't detracting, but the weight means I can only play for maybe 15-20mins at a time before it is starting to be uncomfortable.  I'm going to record a couple of Jawmunji Channel Youtube clips for it over the next week; I think you'll really like it and I'm quite excited about doing it.

Guitar Cam Version 3 needs to be made though and I think this time it needs to be aluminium.  I don't have anything to weld aluminium, so that is going to be an interesting project.

JAW

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Thursday, 17 May 2012

Guitar Cam - Attempt 1

First crack at Guitar Cam. The "test bracket" I made was not rigid enough, so the camera was bouncing around. I'll have to crack out the welder and make a nice solid steel one. But as far as a test goes, I think it was okay. I think the camera needs to come out further to catch more of the left hand fingering, but it's an interesting view. The song ended up a bit rough, I was aware the camera was bouncing and it threw me. Once I have a really solid rigid mount, I think the view will be more interesting and my distractions less...distracting :)

But what I hope you appreciate the most is I bought another video camera, nothing fancy just a low end consumer unit, but it makes a nice clear video. It has fancy optical stabilisation, low light is not bad, but importantly it has the nice Apple "iFrame" codec built in, which takes 960x540 video at 25fps (PAL) and every frame is an i-frame. Compression is H.264 for video and AAC for audio, which is fine, that is modern day (2012) top notch compression. iFrame as a codec is good for editing, each frame is a nice clear picture. I just used VirtualDub to knock this out up - synchronising the Zoom H1 audio from the mic to the video feed and adding a text overlay is pretty quick and easy (once you know how). I dropped the bitrate really low (the file is 90MB) because my upload speed is pretty slow and I want to go to bed.  I was experimenting with Cyberlink PowerDirector to render this video, but it was pissing me off (excuse the French) so I stuck to my tried tested and true VirtualDub.  Thanks Avery.

Enough talk, have a look, and offer suggestions - is the viewing angle too horrible? Not enough information coming through on the left hand, too far away from the right? Let me know.

JAW



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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Gig update

Well I had about two and a half months of gig enjoyment, but the colder weather has dropped the number of patrons, so the gig couldn't pay for itself anymore - it's all over!  Paul from B-Bar was really happy and will get back to me when the weather starts to warm up.  I'm thinking of leaving it at that and wait - I do feel a level of pressure to make sure my playing is in good form, the repertoire is up to speed and I'm adding the occasional new song in from time to time.  With work asking me to increase the number of hours I do a week (they'd like 50 hours a week, plus my 60-70minutes per day commute time) and the number of activities I have on with the wife and three little kids - I just can't fit it in.  I made it happen up until now, but I had to hold myself back from really getting into it. By spring next year work (should) have dropped back, so it could line up nicely.

Alternatively, knowing what I know now I think I could fairly easily line up another gig in a less "seasonal" location.  It's a tough call - stop for a while, or keep going.

I know I do tend to go on and on about not having enough time, sorry, but it's the truth!  Life is balances, and one day I'm sure to be ramping up the amount of guitar that fits into it - and then you'll know all about it :)  In the meantime, I'm not going anywhere, in fact I'm hoping to have a few new videos soon.  I've just bought a video camera (they are pretty cheap these days even for 1080p!) and I have a little project in mind to make a guitar-cam bracket.  I still like to weld and grind and create tools and a mounting bracket for guitar-cam videos would be cool.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Video Blog: Revisiting California Dreaming

California Dreaming - it's been three years, why did I wait so long?!  Some Ulli Boegershausen Mad World in there as well.  Just a dodgy mobile phone video but with Zoom H1 audio.  Nothing special, but I haven't done a video blog in a while!

JAW



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Thursday, 29 March 2012

When the world is against you...


Still gigging on Thursday nights and still enjoying it.  Last night it seemed the world was against me - I'd fallen off my bike while riding home from work two days prior and banged up my knee and left arm on the road. I was wearing gloves at the time but still managed to smash blood blisters under 3 out of 4 left hand fingernails.  Not to mention breaking a nail on my right hand :(

I was tempted to call in sick, but instead I popped a couple of painkillers and headed in.  I knew I'd regret it if I didn't go.

It was quite a windy night threatening rain, only ten people were there.  I sat down as comfortable as I could with one knee I couldn't bend and got stuck into it.  I chatted between songs with a nearby table of four, who graciously filled my glass with wine :)  It turns out they'd heard me while walking past a few Thursdays previously and decided to come down to have a listen.  Yah! That's the thing I'm hoping for.

It turned out to be a good albeit quiet night, left fingers hurt but I played through regardless.  I even put out my less-played more difficult songs, to keep them fresh.  There was nobody left by 8:30; Joel who organises the kitchen made me a delicious pizza and I shot through.

When the world seems to be against you, that is most definitely the time to keep going - with all things!

Friday, 9 March 2012

A Gig!


I've played twice now at the café down the road from me, and they are still keen to have me back.  I'm enjoying it - sure, to 90% of people you are just background music, but the 10% of people actively listening give you the audience interaction that makes it nice.  I find my brain scrambles up a bit due to performance anxiety; stuff I'd play okay by myself in a relaxed environment doesn't come out as clean in a proper performance situation.  But, play through.  That's why I always encourage you to play a song from start to finish, playing through your mistakes, it teaches you how to play through your mistakes when you need to.

I also need to slow down, performance anxiety causes speeding issues!

I discovered that a few songs in my repertoire are too rusty to play, and some are a bit rough.  There is a bit of re-learning and practise to do.  However I found that I could play non-stop for 1 hour 50 minutes without repeating anything.  Not bad.  And it's all good stuff, there are no "fillers" in that.  It does include just short of 25 minutes of Dark Side of the Moon too :)  But it would be nice to polish up a few rusty ones, and learn a few more easy ones from tabs just to extend out the song list; Blackbird and Mad World spring to mind.  Just to have good coverage for different audiences on the night.

Speaking of, so far the audience have been primarily "an older crowd" (ha ha)  late 30's early 40's, but also a lot of 50+.  Some kids, but not many.  That works out alright for me, my selection of music ties in with the late 30's early 40's :)

I have been asked for a business card once per gig by someone from the audience.  Weddings, partys...at this point in time it's still a hobby for me and I'm avoiding weekend work (I play Thursday nights) so I've been politely declining.  My day job pays a lot more than a gig does!

From the café owner's point of view I've been good for them - the first night they had advertised "local acoustic guiarist" and packed the joint, 70 people, and had a record takings.  The second time they didn't advertise, smaller crowd, which was nice because I felt less pressure; boost confidence.  It will be interesting to see what happens, crowd wise, whether me being there makes any difference.  The café is near the entrance to a shopping centre, there is a lot of people walking past; will it create interest?  We will see.

Safe to say that folding stuff has been pressed into my hand at the end of the night; not to mention a glass or two of red wine along the way.  Just the way I like it :)

I was asked about my amplification by one of my mates, I'll repeat it here.  Very simple.  It's just the little Ashton Busker amp (BSK158) that I bought a few years back to replace my home brewed amps...because it sounded so much better. It has a 12V battery in it but I'm playing it plugged in. It has a surprisingly clean and crisp sound, it gets muddy if you start to crank it or the acoustics of the area are not nice, but I guess that is the case for all amps.

Ideally I'd like an AER compact 60 acoustic, the best amp I ever tried on nylon. However since I'm only running my little 15W amp at 75% volume tops, I hardly need 60W. And I don't have a lazy $2k to spend on an amp. The sound I can get out of the little Ashton is not that far off what I got out of the AER when I was comparing them, so it will do for now.

I think the key to sounding good is a good foundation - I started with a quality classical guitar (Esteve 1GR-11) and I put in what I thought was the nicest sounding pickup for a nylon that I could find (B-band A6T). Amplified I'm only after a "true" sound, that is what the guitar sounds like unplugged. No reverb, no delay, no effects, just some EQ to make up for any environment imbalance. If the lay of the land is nothing but concrete I sweep out the mids, if it's open and grassy then up the mids. Trebles and basses generally stay flat.

So the gig is going to keep me busy - I'll give you updates if anything interesting happens...or anything uninteresting happens!  For now, it's good to interact with an audience, it's what I've wanted for quite a while.

Friday, 24 February 2012

What's happening February 2012

Well the day job is taking up a lot more time than it used to, and unfortunately that's not going to go away for quite sometime.  The mining boom in Western Australia seems to be boundless, even with a lot of the world on shaky ground.  Make hay while the sun shines eh?

I've been chipping away at "Any Colour You Like", it's coming along well but slow progress.  Nothing new is happening on the arranging front...just general playing and practise.

In more exciting news, at least for me, I noticed the café down the road was extending out into an alfresco area, which made me wonder if they would be interested in a guitarist.  After previously doing a lot of door knocking "We'll call you" I gave up on trying to find a gig, but there was no harm in trying out one more time.

I discovered that the owners were very keen - they had planned for music, ad had even started enquiring at booking agents - I contacted them just in time!  I went down for a "sound check" and played for about an hour; the place has a nice feel, acoustics are nice and I was quite comfortable. In  previous gigs I'd sometimes get a bit tense, which causes your arms to pump up like rocks, making playing hard.  Don't be tense, relax.  A glass of red wine or a beer helps.  Just one, maybe two, to loosen up :)

My playing was a little rough, no catastrophic failures, but quite a number of fumbles.  Some songs I hadn't played in months I struggled with - but casual listeners don't notice, unless you actually outright stop - and perhaps only a serious listener would detect anything, but they generally forgive you.  To err is to be human.  But it's okay, because now once a week I will have a chance to practise!

Now I doubt if anyone who reads this lives in the Northern suburbs of Western Australia - ha, my own country doesn't even rank in the top ten for readers/viewers - but if you do, I'm playing Thursday nights, 7-9pm at Bbar Café in Gwelup, come down and have one of their rather delicious wood fired pizzas (I recommend the Bbar special), a glass of wine, but most importantly say hello - I'd love to talk to you!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

JAW - Can you arrange (insert song name here) into fingerstyle for me?

No.  Sorry.  But that's a good thing.  Let me explain.

I won't arrange for you for several reasons - I'm already arranging the songs I want to arrange, I think there is a 0.01% chance that you have picked a song I'm already arranging or one that I want to arrange in the future.  Arranging takes me a long, long time.  Very long time.  If it were my business...well let's just say nobody would want to pay the price I'd have to ask.  Arranging is "personal" - I put my own flavour into them, in the style I'm comfortable with.  There aren't many songs I arrange these days that are "universal" - that someone else could or want play the same as me - normally people who do tackle one of my pieces will change them into their own style, which is great, I love seeing what other people do.  My mate Naudo, who is a huge inspiration to my style of playing, I can play at least ten of his arrangements, and none sound like the way he plays them.

But all is not lost with that arrangement you seek!

Now if you are asking this question, and you do have the skills to play a fingerstyle arrangement, there is hope.  If you are asking this question and you don't have the skills to play a fingerstyle arrangement...well don't ask the question until you have already learnt a bunch of other fingerstyle arrangements.  And even then, well...

First up get guitar skills.  Maybe you already have some skills, are keen to get into fingersyle and want to know where to start.  One of the most important things I believe you need to develop, which doesn't often occur in other styles of guitar, is thumb independence.  Go and play the riff I mention here and you will suddenly understand what thumb independence is all about.  At this stage, learning lots of songs from good quality well thought out tabs from good fingerstyle arrangers isn't bad for you at all.  It's even better when there is a video corresponding to the tab. And really push your skills - to be a great player doesn't mean just being able to put your fingers in the right place at the right time, it means doing the hard work and getting to those last little things that make the difference, like holding on to that bass note even when you "don't have to".

Next, start transcribing fingerstyle songs you enjoy that no tab exists for.  I recommend transcribing from a video.  Look at hand positions for clues to chords, loop sections in repeat while trying to play along until you get it.  Type it into tabbing software such as tuxguitar or powertab (the days of pencil and paper for that sort of thing are over, you get so much more flexibility and functionality from tab software). Get all computer nerdy and try out programs like Transcribe! to help find those tricky notes (I don't use it myself) and slow down the video.  And don't necessarily try to play it exactly the same as the arranger, simplify sections, change parts, mix it up.  You're starting on the path to arranging now!

So now, armed with playing skills, and having a good understanding of what other fingerstyle players are doing from your transcribing efforts, arrange!  I've mentioned concepts on arranging in the past a just a primer, there would be books devoted to it, it's a huge area not just limited to the guitar. By the stage of arranging you are into your own realm, you do what you want to do.  Arranging is where you let your style and feeling come to the fore, you are making the music become your own.  Of course it's good to read about tips and techniques such as how to work a bassline into your arrangment, so research!

Now there is a good compromise between just using tabs, transcribing and arranging.  I live in this area a lot:  use music score and midis to base arrangements on.  Music score (such as piano music) and midis are both already arrangements, but are for instruments with a lot more flexibility than the guitar.  With the piano, all the notes are laid out in front of you and you have two hands to attack them with.  Midis don't even have that as a limit!  Armed with the wealth of musical data both (can) contain, you can chip away on the guitar re-arranging into what is possible, here's a video of me pulling apart a midi for clues.

And a final note on transcribing and arranging - by the time you have come up with a full arrangement (depending on how far you take your arrangement) - if you haven't already learnt to play the song reasonably well, you will be pretty close!

So you sure you still want me to arrange a song for you?  No way?  Good for you, that's the spirit.  Get to work!


...and who knows, after all the playing and tabs and transcribing and arranging, perhaps you will want to go to the ultimate in musical expression; cast off the non-original - and write your own songs.  Let me know how you go!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Argh! Pre-rolls!

Hey, why didn't anyone tell me there were adverts you are forced to watch before seeing one of my youtube videos!?!

A while back, when I signed up with Broadband TV, I opted out of InStream/Preroll/Annoying ads. I really dislike being forced to watch an advert before I watch a video - and I wouldn't inflict that on you either.

But something changed on youtube somewhere since, and I only just now noticed that all my videos (except the latest one?!) were ticked to show InStream adverts.

You will be pleased to know that I went through them all and unticked it. Enjoy!