Thursday 8 December 2011

Video Blog: Any Colour You Like (how to look inside a midi for clues)

You didn't know that I love Pink Floyd?  That I've been working for, um, let's say a decade on a full fingerstyle cover of the album "Dark Side of the Moon"? You must be new here then, welcome :)

In this video I talk too much as usual, but I fumble through what I've done so far on "Any Colour You Like" and how I dissabled a midi to find out what is going on it because my ear isn't all that good...



Thursday 1 December 2011

A "spare" guitar, just a banger...but something interesting

I decided I should buy a guitar.  Nah, not a fancy new one, just a spare "banger", which I can hide in a cupboard at work and pull out when I need a lunchtime fix.  "Normal" people would say "just take in one of your other guitars", but my only choices are my old Maton steel string, which is a steel string (I'm 100% addicted to nylon at the moment); or my thin body cutaway nylon, "but the neck is too narrow, that's why I stopped playing it!"  My first fullsize guitar, from 1981, I still have; it is a proper classical guitar and would do the job but I keep it at my place down South.

Obviously I don't want to spend a lot; but at the same time I don't really want to buy a just a new beginners guitar (although when I take my oldest daughter to piano lessons while I wait I play a beginners guitar from the shelf, it plays and sounds surprisingly good.  Basically, I think with modern day construction techniques and cheap overseas labour, you can make a pretty reasonable low cost nylon string guitar).

So I want something "interesting".

I started looking in the local classifieds.  I have a theory that pretty much every second house has a nylon string guitar in it that nobody has played for a decade.  But nobody sells them because guitars are, hmm, I don't think there is a word to describe it.  They make you feel good even if you can't play them, and "one day I'll learn how to play it" (that won't happen (but it's good for the soul to think it will)).  So they generally don't find their way into the classifieds.

But when they do; well, they are interesting!

You'll see a whole lot of near-new beginners guitars - it didn't work out.  And then there are the really good guitars being sold by players who are upgrading.  But then there are the decades old ones, maybe the owner has died, someone is just getting rid of it.  *Those* ones got me interested.

There have been a few 1970's classical guitars, one interesting one made by Fender.  I did a little bit of research, umm, okay, it is a beginners guitar from the 70's :)  So I'll have to watch out for that - old, interesting, but essentially just beginners guitars.  Then I saw something _really_ interesting.  The seller listed it as a circa 1940/1950 Japanese classical guitar, made by a company called "Tempo".  Researching it online was difficult, very little information available.  The company existed from 1948 to 1975, but only made electric guitars for the first few decades or so.  Looking at other classical guitars from the 60's they seem to generally have that, umm, "folky" look to them, whereas late 60's and from 70's on they have the "standard" "traditional" sort of look.  This one looked "traditional", so mostly uninformed, I decided it must be early 70's.

I haven't been to look at it yet, but I might.  The thing that puts me off is somebody has strung it with _steel_ strings.  Sheesh.  How many classical guitars do you reckon have been broken by steel strings?  Judging from the photos though there is no big bend in the soundboard (they usually concave in under the extra tension) - so if it has taken steel strings for a while, it must be tough guitar!  (which also means it might be too stiff to get a good sound).  Only way to find out will be to give it a whirl.

Or, keep looking.  I never considered vintage guitars, but now I'm intrigued.  Guitars with history, and even guitars made before I was born!

Monday 14 November 2011

What's happening November 2011

The results for the poll "When buying music..." from 72 voters were:

35 (48%) I just pirate music, arrr
30 (41%) I want a CD in my hands
7  ( 9%) Online music stores are great

This actually didn't surprise me at all - well, perhaps everyone's honesty did!  What I did take from that is not to bother putting up pay per download music...if I did ever want to take the time and effort to create really nice recordings I should put them on a CD and offer them for sale.  As for pirating music, well, is youtube not the king of music pirates?  You can listen to _and_ watch any song you can think of, "for free", maybe have to watch an advert.  I guess the artist is supported (well the record company is supported) by advert revenue, which is "better" than P2P "sharing" mp3s put straight onto an mp3 player.

Interesting times.  The old model is dead.  A new model is forming, but what will it be?

Busy time of the year, I haven't been getting to play as much as I would like.  I did a tiny bit more work on Naudos "James Bond Theme", I play it once through each time I pick up the guitar - an important practise method I reckon.  Fingerstyle is not so much about training fingers, but about training the brain.  And the brain works best when you chuck stuff at it in small repetitive bursts.  60 minutes straight of playing the same thing over and over again is not as good value as playing 10 minutes over 6 days.

In the same way, I've played through all the songs I know twice this month; I'm at a point where I need to play for two hours to fit everything in!  Some songs have fallen out of my brain; I need to refer to my tabs to freshen them up.  Such is the need if you want to keep your songs ready!

In October 2011 Dark Side of the Moon was remastered and released.  There are "packs"; you can buy just the remastered album, the "experience" version which has some extras, and the "immersion" version which has a heap of extras.  I grabbed the experience version.  The remastered studio album had a few subtle changes I noticed, but not really enough to buy it outright, but it came with a 1974 live recording of Dark Side of the Moon at Wembley Stadium.  Really interesting to hear.  Not as "nice" as the studio album (that is probably just familiarity speaking) but I love how it shows what they doing with the album shortly after it was released, and how pink floyd were heading towards the next stuff to be released in later years.  I heard sounds and phrases that would be used on everything through to The Wall, possibly beyond.  Recommended for my fellow floyd aficionados.  Keeps my passion for the DSotM project alive :)

Another quite month on the guitar front ahead, but I'm still here!



Sunday 23 October 2011

Munji...JAW Munji

As (kinda) promised, here is a little video of me first time transcribing my way throught Naudo's James Bond Theme. It's straight off the bat, so if you see any obvious errors, please pipe up! :)

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Video record fail...with some Pink Floyd consolation

Grabbed an opportunity last night to record the new song for youtube.  I stupidly put a lot of pressure on myself, and by take four my left hand had cramped up.  It's a regular issue for me now - if I play the same song more than say 3 or 4 times back to back, I'm using the same muscles over and over, they don't like it.  Not all songs, but generally, most songs I arrange have some part in them that hurts if you repeat it too much too often.  In this case, "Stupid Girl", you hang onto a G7 with a second string D for a long time.  When I first worked on "Something" it got so bad I did some sort of tissue damage to my pinky (I've talked about that before), fortunately, after about *a year* there were no further problems.

So I gave up.  I don't like the idea of a years worth or recovery again.

But, not to totally waste the opportunity, I played some different stuff.  I'm due for a re-record of some of my earlier posted songs.  Unfortunately the hand cramping didn't help, so both the songs did not meet my "stringent" requirements for what I will allow on my youtube channel.  But, my mates here (that's you) don't mind so much if my videos aren't up to scratch, so rather than throw away the videos I'll just post them on the blog channel! :)

First up was "Wish You Were Here", which I fumbled too many times through (one take), the tempo was not acceptable, dropped some key melody notes, basically I wasn't happy.  Mostly, I was happy, so it's probably worth a look.

Interestingly, when I posted it, Warner Chappell immediately flagged it and claimed it.  Bugged me a bit, so I deleted it, renamed it, and uploaded it again.  Warner Chappell immediately claimed it again.  Interesting - youtube actually parses the audio and checks if it matches claimed songs.  Worth noting.  I'll take it as a compliment (I play the song so well and true to form that it pattern matches) but in future if I upload a pattern matched song first I'll upload the video without audio, claim it for myself, and then upload the audio.  Ha ha, schneaky :)

Second up was the ever increasing/ongoing Dark Side of the Moon.  Again, hand was still cramping somewhat, even more dropped melody notes, bad tempo - my phone rang at one stage making a racket, I ignored it but it really threw me, played wrong chords and stuff, ha ha.  So you'll see a botched Great Gig in the Sky which I gave up on and moved on, Us and Them is still in production, and I made hard work of Brain Damage which is strange because I've been playing that for years.

But, some of my mates will appreciate it even if it is messy, in fact appreciate it more than they would if it wasn't messy (you can see me laughing at myself because of the ridiculous errors I was making).  Warts and all, but be warned, it is 16 minutes of your life you will never get back :)

Friday 7 October 2011

There is no end...

What I find time and time again is regardless of the direction you go playing the guitar, there is no end.  You can take it as far as you like, there will always be something more.  You'd think after 30+ years I would have exhausted _something_, but no, it's no the case.  And once you have the guitar in your blood, it's there for life.  You might be in a 10 year hiatus, but the guitar will entice you back sometime.

I was on holidays with the family for the whole of last week and I didn't play any guitar.  When I came back, that evening I picked her up and played her, and she has the sweetest sound, so rich and warm, and my fingers just knew what to do and it felt and sounded like the best guitar playing I've ever done.  Just one week away.  You can never reach the end of realising how beautiful the guitar can sound.

This week I was mixing up the melody in my latest song, for a bit of interest.  You don't want to play the verse exactly the same every time, especially when it is sung different in verses, and I found an 1/8th note lag in verse 2 forced my brain to have to completely re-evaluate what was going on.  I could "feel" I needed to program a quite different process in my brain to be able to slip that one note back.  Here is the two almost identical melodies, there is one G missing on beat 2& (which actually provides a mental cue) but it is the Bb set back from beat 3 to beat 3& that makes the difference:

|---------------|------------| |----------------|------------|
|---------------|------------| |----------------|------------|
|----0-0-2-3--2-|------------| |----0---2---3-2-|------------|
|--------3-0----|------------| |--------3-0-----|------------|
|-------------1h|==3---3--1-3| |--------------1h|==3---3--1-3|
|-3--3----------|------------| |-3--3-----------|------------|

You can never reach the end of finding stuff that is challenging to push into your brain.

The last two nights I've had an opportunity to play the guitar a bit, and both nights I've run through Dark Side of the Moon.  You'll be pleased to know Ryan and Marc :)  Since it is a good twenty minutes of continuous playing, you're probably not surprised to hear that I experiment all over the place with subtle differences in melody, techniques and sound.  You'd think that the longer I'd played a piece the more consistent it would get.  I think that is true initially, but once you are playing a piece in autopilot that is when you can start introducing differences.  Naudo is a classic example, I've seen different recordings of something like "Losing my Religion" and "Another Brick in the Wall" and each one is quite different - maybe in another key!  You can never "finish" a song.

The list of never ending goes on - perhaps it is because our approach changes over time; if we were to do only one thing perhaps we would reach the ultimate end.  But I doubt it :)

Friday 16 September 2011

What's happening September 2011

Two more polls completed, the first was "How do you like your blog?" and from 43 votes we had:

23 (53%) text is just fine
13 (30%) in glorious video
4  ( 9%) I don't like blogs 
3  ( 6%) audio for my 'pod

So the message is that I shouldn't bother with an audio blog, that roughly 1 in 10 people who find my blog (probably looking for tabs) like to fill in polls but don't like blogs, and I should run say 2 text blogs for every video blog I post. Okay, thanks all!

For "I'll watch a youtube video...", from 58 votes we had:

27 (46%) even if I had to watch an advert first
18 (31%) only if it was totally advert free
13 (22%) even if there were overlaid adverts

Which tells me that only around one in three respondents don't want any adverts at all...which is less than I expected. It seems that adverts are just an accepted part of life, I would say because they are easily ignorable. But, marketers are prepared to spend huge dollars on them, so they must work. On this site I get about a 1% click rate - that is, 1% of all advert views result in someone clicking on the advert. That either means that 1% of people don't know how to use the internet, or 1% of people do know how the internet works and that clicking on an ad sends money to the publisher :)

Speaking of which, I signed the youtube channel up. I had been asked, slightly persistently, by Viso Music (a Canadian broadband TV crowd) to partner with them. After about two months of avoiding making a decision, reasoning with myself about why I should or shouldn't, and boring them to tears with incessant questions I finally said "what the hey" and signed their (scary) agreement.

Good or bad decision? Time will tell.

There were two good reasons that made it an easy decision in the end. Viso have an arrangement with YouTube, they look after the licensing issues of cover artists, and in return YouTube will allow a cover artist to be a Youtube partner. Normally if you, as a cover artist, applied to be a partner you'd get turned down due to copyright infringement. But as a partner, you can then advertise with your videos.

Did you notice the two good reasons? (a) I'm now a partner with Youtube protected under the banner of the ligitimate company Viso Music so Youtube will never shut me down due to copyright infringement. (b) Youtube videos get adverts which sends money my way - although it won't be much, maybe a dollar a day.

The downside is I've basically signed videos over to them, if I want to pull the plug, well, they've got the videos now, I don't.

Of course, early days, we'll see how it works out.

In other news I started working on an interesting video which I'm sure you will appreciate, stepping through an arrangement with screen video captures and a commentary. It is taking longer than I hoped, but I will finish it, sometime! Mostly mastered playing "Stupid Girl", will probably record a video of that in the next few weeks. Really enjoying playing it, it's just got a good feel and a cool sound. Recommended!

Thursday 8 September 2011

Naudos new guitar revealed?

It looks like Naudo has unveiled his new guitar (but didn't specifically discuss it, just got his daughter to record him playing a few songs on it!)  I did a bit of research and decided it is a Crafter SAC TMVS electro-acoustic, here's the product blurb:

Unknown if he's had it modified in any way - I suspect it's off the shelf, I get the feeling he's not that finnicky with his selection...

Word from The Man himself has revealed no, the Crafter SAC TMVS is not his new guitar, he has had that one for about 4 years.  His new guitar is in fact a Prudencio Saez.  I hope to see it soon! :)

Best wishes as always Naudo my friend! :)

Saturday 20 August 2011

Video blog: More Stupid Girl

I kept going on Garbages "Stupid Girl", I more or less have it complete. Made a lessony type video for my mates, I'm still enjoying the song a lot. Sorry that the tab doesn't exactly seem to line up with what I'm playing in places, but I think you'll get the drift. Sorry to Nil - too much talking in this one. Melvin however, you are in luck!

If you don't know Garbage "Stupid Girl" you can watch it here:

Friday 19 August 2011

Saturday 13 August 2011

Video blog: Early arrangement in progress - an insight?!

Sometimes I hear a song on the radio that I think "that'd fingerstyle nicely" and then it gets stuck in my head, and then I have to have a crack at it. Someone mentioned (could be an urban myth) that they'd like to see an arrangement in progress. I remembered that after I'd already done a bit of ground work - listened to the song a few times again, had the chords sussed, ripped open a midi to see what was going on inside it, realised it would work better if I transposed it up a semitone...about an hour of that occassionally with guitar in had but mostly listening, and then I had a crack at playing it. Then half an hour later I flicked on the video.

I don't recommend anyone watch it, I almost didn't want to put it up - but I noticed looking back something about how I work - I just kinda freestyle on a song for a while, in chords, searching for the sound. Stopping and replaying bits here and there that I didn't quite get right, listening, and then getting it smoother next time through. Nothing written down yet (probably will write something down next week), just an organic/fluid exploration.

Sorry about the video production values, I just threw it on and pressed are playing in the background (I set up painting for two of them, one came past and put their hand in front of the camera being a wise might notice the deleted section :)).

Anyway, I quite liked the feel of this one, so I suspect I will complete this one! Nineties song! (I didn't give up on music in the Eighties, contrary to my covers list...)

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Counterfeit Strings!

Probably like most of you have done with each of your guitars, I have been trying to work out what strings I like best on my Esteve. I started with my old favourite Augustine Red packet, but they started to get harder and harder to find. So I was taking whatever the music shops were suggesting, and each type had ever-so-slightly different characteristics, which was very frustrating because I couldn't easily tell what "was better". I didn't want to go to the effort of restringing multiple sets in one sitting and trying to work it out - they all sound very close - I detest restringing nylon, they take so long to settle in!

Anyway I finally settled on D'Addario Pro-Arte EJ45's, quite a good string. Good bright tone out of the packet (not as bright as some others) but the brightness lasts a long time (longer as some others) which is just what I need, did I mention not enjoying restring & bedding in nylon strings. Some other manufacturers I had also discovered I was breaking the D string - breaking the metal winding at low frets that is - after two or three months. The EJ45's never had that problem.

I had ordered a set online from a music store, no problems, where I'm working at the moment doesn't take me near a music store. Then I got cheeky - purchased a set on eBay, man they were cheap!

About a week ago I put them on. Tuned them in and whoa, the trebles were horrible! Very dull, sound levels between the three strings out of balance with each other. The bass strings were okay, not as bright as I was used to. I was disappointed.

So disappointed that I emailed D'Addario and asked them why it would be that after three sets of good strings I'd get a dodgy batch - a quality issue? Were they a copy/fake?

D'As got back to me real quick and wanted to explore the possibility of them being a counterfeit set. I vaguely thought they might be, but if they were, they were an *amazing* copy. The packet, the corrosion proof bag, the little sticky labels telling you which string was which - spot on. But, I had noticed three things that weren't quite right...the little "flexible" section on the wound basses (for the bridge tie-off) was a lot shorter than previous sets...the E string felt fatter (interestingly, I put my calliper on it and it was 0.1mm fatter. Amazing that my fingers would notice 0.1 of a millimetre!)...and the bad tone of course.

I sent through some detailed photos and yes, they were identified as counterfeit! D'As told me that they were having a lot of trouble with counterfeiting by my neighbours to the North, and had recently gone through a similar story with some electric strings from another guy in Oz.

D'Addario super-generously have sent through several packs to replace these ones - they'd like me to send them the counterfeits. I said it was my own fault for being such a cheapskate, but they seemed very grateful for me bringing it to their attention.

So, be warned! As with everything, if something is too good to be true, then it probably is. And yes, that last song I posted on youtube was played with them - the basses are not *horrible*, but I had to crank the EQ on the treble to get some brightness into the sound. Not terrible, but I had an opportunity for a posting. I've still got them on the guitar, but only until replacements arrive! (I hope they come soon, or I'll be off to buy a genuine set this weekend.)

Monday 1 August 2011

How far do you take your arrangements?

Anyone who has arranged a song for fingerstyle guitar will tell you it is a labour of love. Generally, particularly for rock and pop, you work out the chords. If there is a signature bassline for the song then you'll make a resolve for that...if the bass isn't prominent you might just fall back onto some bassline that fits the genre - or one that you know you can play easily and reliably without thinking! Add on the melody, which generally involves forcing some crazy thumb independence into your brain on the right hand, and then some bizarre fingering solution for your left that you've never used before. Fill it all out with something in the mid, arpeggio or a finger flick, just something to give it a bit of fullness. Sometimes a distinct plucked melody on bassline works fine; the options are endless, the end result is "you".

Initially you are pleased to get out anything, and to be actually able to play it too. Then you start getting increasingly trickier. Yeah, okay, you pat yourself on the back for coming up with an amazing resolve that "no one else could ever have thought of" - don't get too much of a head swell, there will always be the next guy who will come up with a better arrangement than you.

Now this might be coming down to a quantity-versus-quality discussion, or at least a trade-off between the two...but I'm in the final throws of another arrangement and I'm not sure how far to go. For instance, for a standard verse-chorus rock song, each verse is identical except for the singing. You could play the same verse identical and maybe nobody will notice (except for you) that you missed out some subtlety. Some subtlety might be easy and worthwhile, like there are some extra syllables of the some note - not hard to do. The other day I found a verse that dropped one note down a tone in the lyrics...the note forced me to go behind a barre chord, which meant I had to reform the method without the barre, which then disrupted my left-hand right-hand craziness that I had burnt into memory...

A lot of work for one note!

Now I Naudo would do it...however this time I don't think I will. When I look back at earlier arrangements they were verse-for-verse chorus-for-chorus identical. As I started to get a bit better at creating and playing crazy fingerstyle arrangements I discovered I was more able to mix it up a little between verses without any major re-learning/disruption. It's a carefully paced progress...if I try too far beyond my skill level at any time I might lose interest, be left with incomplete arrangements (ha, got a few of them)...if I don't push the boundaries a bit I won't be improving my skill level.

Perhaps there needs to be a time rule. Each arrangement may only take two months from start to fluently playable. The two months may be stretched over a year...noting that "two months" for me means about 3-4 hours a week for 8 weeks on the job at hand.

That way, whatever you can fit in two months is what you should aim for. To start with, it might not be a lot. At the end, in two months, you have captured every subtlety, solo, inflection, nuance of the song!

Friday 22 July 2011

Video blog: Body Tapping

For some reason I felt like talking about body tapping, and I used "Time" and "Come Together" as examples of how I use the percussive technique.  Disclaimers - I caught a cold from the kids which I hadn't got over so I sound more nasally than normal - and I'm not much of a drummer, especially when I've got the drum kit set up for my 4 year old son! :)


Tuesday 12 July 2011

Live Music

Another poll processed, this one was quite interesting, not what I expected! Out of 164 votes cast on "What's your main guitar goal?" we had:

60 (36%) Hobbyist; only playing for me
52 (31%) Playing for family and friends
28 (17%) Occasional public live gigs
20 (12%) I want to play professionally!
 4 ( 2%) Recording internet audio/video

So 2/3rds of guitarists polled aren't interested in playing guitar to someone they don't know. That's understandable, we all need that time to learn and build confidence, we don't need to have our spirit crushed by a stranger. I would have thought the recording videos would rate higher, seeing as that is the path I took. It's not as intimidating as public performance but it has all the prerequisites for it - being able to play a song at performance level from start to finish, and then dealing with the (eventual) feedback, both positive and negative.

To the rest of us, who feel the need to put their stuff out to the general public, good luck and good skill to us! :)

In the same vein, I bumped into a guy at work today who is a both a guitarist and a wise fella; we had a bit of a chat about music stuff. He said a few things that made a lot of sense, well worth sharing with my mates here.

He has observed that in Australia, we don't really have a culture of live music. As in, if you were to take your guitar around to a party, people there wouldn't know what to do - do I be quiet and listen? Do I have to sing along? Should I ignore it? He said in other cultures throughout the world he'd seen live music firmly embraced; at parties live music always came out and it was an enjoyable experience for everybody. They knew what to do. It came as no surprise to me, I've seen the lack of enjoyment/understanding of live music at parties many times. How sad for us Aussies.

Further, he said the live music scene (specifically here in Perth) was disappointing. He'd played in restaurants where they saw live acoustic music as merely something they can put as a promotion on their door and flyers. That they weren't particularly interested, very slow to pay (if at all) and if the live musicians were having a great time "and getting too loud" then that was distracting for the customers - tone it down. That live music to them is just slightly higher than having a CD playing as background music.

Interestingly, he thought that fingerstyle guitarists in places like the USA were on every street corner, each one worthy of a record deal, but not wanted for their music. I don't know if I agree with that - if youtube is anything to go by, there aren't that many *outstanding* fingerstyle guitarists that make me say "wow". There is definitely a lot, and probably more than the market needs, but I'm not thinking one on every street corner.

This all adds up with my inability to find anywhere to perform. I'm a bit picky, and not trying as hard as I could, and I'm certainly not a record-deal-worthy; but so far out of maybe 15 places I've talked to nobody is jumping at the idea of having me play at their venue. Without even talking price (I'd basically play for free if someone haggled me down that low!)

I'm living in possibly the best place in the world for engineering and mining - which is important because that's how I earn my crust - but possibly the least live music cultured. Lucky my guitar is a hobby not my lifeblood!


Wednesday 6 July 2011

Breaking news...Naudo is back on youtube with a new channel!

After seeing an increase in new Naudo Rodrigues' videos on Juan's youtube channel recently, I'm not surprised that it has happened, but it is great to see him back.  Let's hope that common sense prevails this time and his fans around the world get to see more of Our Master of Fingerstyle!

Looks like Juan has improved his video and audio recording so I'm looking forward to some great new videos.

Rush there now!

Naudo's personal channel:
Juan's channel, lots of Naudo:

Monday 4 July 2011

What's happening video July 2011

Another video blog!  I got excited when my "present to self" came in today, a Zoom H1 audio recorder, so I knocked up a what's happening video to test/celebrate.  I say nice things about the Zoom H1, hint hint if you want to advertise with me Zoom...ha!  Nah, on that front, well let's just say I can buy at least one set of strings per month, so although I can't give up my day job, there's enough left over for a few beers and a pizza :)

Again with the text, bring on the video!

Saturday 18 June 2011

Video blog: Arrangements in progress June 2011

In an effort to try and improve my videoing skills, I've put together a video blog. I talk a bit about two of my current arrangements, "Us and Them" and "TNT", the sort of stuff I'm putting into them. From the video production point of view, it's my new webcam hooked into my laptop now running windows 7, but still captured with virtualdub. Took me a while to get the webcam and windows 7 to agree, I still have work to do in the area. I managed to put some bits of tab in as overlays using some other software, see what you think, I reckon it worked alright.

I noticed playing it back that I'm still a bit camera shy/awkward, I'm getting better at it, but I do say too often "this bit is easy, you'll work that other bit out, it's all simple" etc etc - sorry, I think it is a nervous habit. It's not actually easy, I'm not trying to be condescending. Really!

Anyway, this is a video blog, so enough text already!

Monday 6 June 2011

What's happening June 2011

Poll 3 results are in, I'm quite enjoying these polls. The thing about polls is that people like to vote on them - they are quick, easy, and kinda fun. The site is getting around 500 hits per day, which is largely due to YouTube people coming for tabs, but nonetheless the stats show me that around 1 in 40 visitors still vote on a poll.

This poll was "How many times a week do you play guitar?", the results from 184 voters show me that you are pretty serious with your playing!

89 (48%) : Every single day 
65 (35%) : Almost every single day 
20 (10%) : 2 or 3 times a week 
6 (3%)   : Once a week 
4 (2%)   : Less than once a week 

I've been getting a bit more playing in than normal myself, and, not surprisingly, the more I play the better I play. Last week I felt like I was playing great! Just my usual repertoire; but everything was flowing and it felt really good. The beauty of being "in the zone" is that you start to get more emotion and feeling into your playing. Which makes it even more enjoyable. Basically it goes something along the lines of: learn how to play the guitar; learn how to play a song; learn how to play the guitar well; learn how to play the song well; be able to pour emotion, love, heart into the song! Okay, maybe a tad oversimplified.

I even dragged the amp out into the backyard, cranked it, and went through some songs I was enjoying playing. Wifey was not all that pleased: "Why do you have to play so loud? I think that is rude to do that to the neighbours." But, in my defence, it was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and it was the first time this year I have played plugged in. Playing acoustic unplugged and plugged is different; I usually only play unplugged. If I ever get around to lining up some gigs (I'll save that for another blog) I need to be able to play plugged in. I need the speaker loud enough that I can't hear the guitar I'm holding, just the sound that is being amplified to me. And then, I play off that sound.

I put my phone down in front of the amp in record mode, sadly, it recorded 45mins of auto-gained distortion. I'm quite sure nobody would want to listen to a recording of me play for 45mins, but there *might* be somebody, so I'll tweak some settings on the phone and record again next time. Promise.

Speaking of recording, I watched a YouTube clip of kjjmusic play "Air on G string" last night. Beautifully played, but what really captured my attention was the superb audio recording. He'd used a Zoom Handy H1. Up until that moment, I thought my plugged in recording was pretty good. The H1 took digital recording up another notch. NOOO!!! Now I want one! :)

Changing subject; apparently, some of my mates like to know when I'm going to next put out a video. Well, I'm in a strange place where I have "Take me Back" done but I'm not happy enough with it yet. Also, I'm past the honeymoon period, and I've stopped enjoying playing it. Usually I have recorded a video before I've stopped enjoying it. (And in 6-12 months, I will probably start enjoying playing it again. Circles and cycles :)). "Howzat" is great, but I need to create the bridge. Which requires time and effort. I don't think I can let that one out the door without the signature key-change/bridge. So, on hold. And finally, my AC/DC medley which consists of "You shook me all night long", "Who made who", and...well there's the problem. I've got the first two ready to go, but I don't know what to do with the third. Yes; it needs a third. I wanted to go with "Back in Black" but I haven't been able to arrange anything cool/playable enough for it. Toying with "TNT", which would be simple enough, and probably quite effective, but again, time and effort. I'm enjoying just playing too much at the moment!

Meanwhile, I was going to say something about my guitaristy. Wasn't going to, was going to...well, maybe let me skirt around it a bit.

I follow blogs of other musicians, and guitar teachers, and well, they are great. Consummate professionals, all class, great people to boot. Passionate about music. Live it, breathe it, want to share it with you. Now I haven't self deprecated for a while, but just to clear up any misconceptions with my mates - I'm not a musician, far from it. I play the guitar pretty well but that's it - so long as you aren't looking for perfection, I strive for "good" not "excellent". Because playing the guitar represents only a small (but important) part of my life. Additionally guitar for me is at least 50% "a physical challenge" as it is music, and I'm a persistent bugger when it comes to challenges; I don't stop. I describe myself as a "programmable guitar playing robot". And I like to talk. And I like to share.

But what I found was there are other people out there - in fact probably the norm, not the exception - just like me. Guitar is a hobby that brings joy; who don't have the time or inclination to immerse themselves in all-things-music, who in fact just want to be able to play some nice fingerstyle even if they have no idea what they are doing; even if it is just programmed in like a robot. Welcome to one of the middle grounds of music. I hope I've helped out in your quest for joy. We are here (hand on heart gesture). Amen Brother, and Sister.

* * *

Well, that was definitely true to form original JAWs Guitar Ramblings. See you again when I have something more coherent to say!

Thursday 19 May 2011

Q&A: Basslines

"The system" told me this comment was posted on my last post, but when I looked for it, it was gone.  I thought it was a great comment so I decided to Q&A it!


Hello JAW

Just wondering, how often do you stay true to the original bass line of a song while creating fingerstyle arrangements. If things get too hard, is it alright to simplify it as in leave a few bass notes here and there from the original bassline?

The importance of bass has really got to me the past few days. Great article.



Hey Kris, great comment.  No straightforward answer though, it comes down to "as much as you can be bothered with" :)  The likes of Tommy Emmanuel or Adam Rafferty will aim for pure perfection.  Every subtle nuance of a song (including the bassline) will be carefully planned, highly polished and presented.  It's brilliant stuff, but if you're like me then life is too short for that - I'd like to have 50 good arrangement than 5 perfect arrangements.  Don't tell Adam or Tommy I said that though, the world needs people who strive for absolute perfection!  Fingerstyle arranging is all about time, with skill permitting.  Maybe after 50 "good" arrangements we are already starting to come up with close to perfect arrangements anyway?

Anyway, the bassline should represent as much as possible, and within reason, the original bassline, even more so where the bassline is a prominent feature of the song.  An overriding factor is melody.  Melody is more important than bass.  I reckon it's better to trade more accurate melody for simpler bass.

For instance, one of my current works in progress "Howzat" has a very distinct bassline in the verse.  I had to get that right, with the melody.  It makes the left hand a finger twister, but it's worth it.  The chorus bassline is not so distinct, it has a slight 70's disco feel to it, so I kept it prominent where the melody was not busy, but once the melody got busy I simplified it to, as you say, a few bass notes here and there.  It keeps things easier (back to life is short) and casual listeners will hear the bassline when the melody is quiet, and not notice when the bassline is simple because their attention is turned to the busy melody.

Now that's all when you are staying true to the original.  There is no rule saying you need to; stylising a song your own way could mean a completely different bassline - for example, there are plenty of alternating bassline fingerstyle covers of songs.  I tend to stick true to the original firstly because I think people want to hear that, and secondly because I haven't developed a distinct style of my own, it's all just generic "fingerstyle" :)

Bass is indeed important and should be treated (almost) as carefully as melody.  As I go my basslines are getting more complicated; it's an evolution.  You start with simple arrangements, get the hang of it, and each arrangement gets a bit better as you build on skills.  I'm starting to think my arrangements are actually getting pretty cool these days :)  I've mentioned before, and will mention again, but step 1 of fingerstyle is to learn arrangements from tabs to build initial skills, step 2 is to transcribe your favourite arrangements by others where no tabs exist (eg Naudo or Iggy) - changing them slightly to suit your style and what you are capable of doing - and finally step 3 is building on the previous steps to tackle your own arrangements.


Monday 16 May 2011

Cross training

It wasn't until I had worked on transcribing some of Naudos stuff I it started to dawn on me the number of different skills needed to be able to do what he achieves.  Probably the key skill is to be very well versed in music theory - be it learnt the hard way from schooling, or learnt "on the job", as you go, intuitively "music just makes sense" style.  Seeing as I have very little schooled or intuitive music theory (being the programmable guitar playing robot I am), the other skills that I started noticing I had a shortfall in was bass, and rhythm.

You ever played a bass guitar?  Picked it up, realised it is just the lower 4 strings from a 6 string guitar, figured "that's gotta be easy enough!" and then discovered you couldn't really do anything with it?  Yeah.  I've had a bass guitar for more than 10 years, I used it while I was writing original songs circa 2000.  I bought it when I realise a detuned 6 string does not sound as good as a bass guitar.  At the time my bass prowess was generally just 4 beats per bar of the root chord note.  Not very exciting.

I think the first thing you need to accept is that playing the bass guitar is quite different to playing a "normal" guitar.  Bass guitar players think differently, it's like they *feel* a beat.  I've started to just touch the surface of what is going on in bass playing - because in fingerstyle, you need to have some bass skills.  For example, playing the current root chord note 1/8th before the next chord note.  Or, while in chord, go down a fifth then back up again for a groovy "bah-da-dah" 1/8th before the 3rd beat in a bar.

Check out some bass guitar players.  Get some ideas!  Fingerstyle basslines won't probably be as cool as a soloist bass line, there is only so much you can do while playing a melody as well, but there are plenty of tips to be gleaned.

The other skill I've developed a little bit on the side is drumming.  Even just to learn and co-ordinate a basic rock beat can help your fingerstyle.  Especially for those of us who don't have a natural rhythm.  Not only are the drums good fun as well, but it is quick and easy as a beginner to get skills of basic drumming just from watching internet tutorials.

I reckon the skills you'd learn from lead guitaring are useful too, but I was never very good at lead guitar, nor did I enjoy it.  If learnt lead guitar from a music theory point of view - knowing how to improvise over chord progressions and that sort of stuff - very useful, that takes me back to the key skill I identified during my Naudo transcriptions; music theory.

But, if like me you just want to get some better bass and rhythm into your arrangements, do some bass guitar and drums cross training!


Tuesday 10 May 2011

Q&A: Alternating pick

I had an interesting email that I tried to best answer a few weeks back; it was out of my area of confidence - being specifically *not* about fingerstyle! - but I had a crack at it.  I thought it might be interesting to my fingerstyle mates here; and even better, some of my not *solely* fingerstyle mates might be able to offer up a better answer than I did! :)


Hi Jaw,

According to you, using a flat pick is not your forte :) but your experience should be able to assist me.

If I am going to learn alternate picking, should I not alternate pick all my notes/songs/scales etc ALWAYS anyway after that ? If alternate picking is so much more better/efficient why isnt it just the standard type of picking taught from the onset ? I clearly understand the benefits of alternating pick, but I am having a problem understanding why anyone would revert to "regular" picking if its inferior to alternate picking. So for example: Once I learn alternate picking and I am given 3 notes to play, I will simply alternate pick all over them, it will feel smoother/faster, why wouldn't I? What will I miss if I completely do away with "regular" picking ?

Sorry if it all sounds repetitive, its impossible to Google such a question and I'm just trying to make sure that I describe it well enough for you to understand my beginner dilemma!


Greg, you sound just like an engineer! The best way of thinking of course :)

But when we put down our technical physics based ways, and have a go at thinking about what we are trying to achieve - sound, groove, style - alternating picking shouldn't always be performed. For instance, say you were playing just four bassnotes in a bar and you wanted to accentuate the same thumping sound; you would downstroke each one the same.

And if you were playing offbeat, playing notes on the "and" (one and two and...) they will want to have that "and" sound you'll get from upstroke.

I'm not suggesting that on beat is always downstroke and off beat is up, although it's probably a good starting point to help you "feel" what the groove is doing. I'm talking from more a rhythm style than lead style, but the message is similar.

Shredding for instance would probably be non-stop alternating, you need the speed - but even then I'd suggest that occasional downstroke notes would line up on beat.

I think if you close your eyes and feel the music, and put the mechanics out of you mind, you'll know where to downstroke and upstroke. That's really easy for me to say however with a lifetime of guitar mechanics behind me that I *can* do with my eyes closed, but I could have come along a lot faster if I got more into what I can only describe as "groove", where the music is coming from "you", not through a series of optimised efficient programmed movements :)

Hope you find something in that ethereal vauge gut reaction from this 30-years-in-guitar-still-leaning, who hasn't held a flat pick for more than five years :)


Friday 6 May 2011

What's happening May 2011

I managed to get a good break over Easter, the whole week in between in fact. Even spent at least two nights in front of a campfire with another Floyd enthusiast; we worked through Dark Side of the Moon several times, him singing and me on guitar. It's a deviation from fingerstyle - where we do everything, unsupported - but while you are having a few whiskeys it's a good excuse for sloppy playing, and reverting to simple strum patterns not worrying about the melody so much. It's good not to be solo all the time.

Two days ago a song jumped into my head, and wouldn't get out. This happens a couple of times a year to me, and basically I can't get rid of it until I've arranged it (or at least arranged a bit of it. Yes, I have many incomplete arrangements :)) It is a classic 70's Aussie rock song by Sherbet, "Howzat". Unmistakable bass line and chorus. It mapped out really well into fingerstyle - and I was in luck, there was a great midi on the net when imported almost perfectly into powertab, I didn't need to do much work. And, unusually for me, it is a left hand finger twister! I've put in another good technique which hasn't featured in my arrangements for a while; where you hammer-on/pull off/slide the bass line while plucking a melody note. Your thumb sympathetically wants to pluck that bassnote while plucking the melody note, but don't.

I spent about an hour and a half last night quite engrossed in it, then realised I was abusing my left pinky. I had the good sense to stop at that stage. Yes, I've made it so I have to fret a bass F and a top string A at the same time - which I can do - but I shouldn't :)

More on that later; here is a little snippet of it, quite interesting, I would have recorded an audio bite (need to do that more often) but I couldn't play it up to my minimum standard yet!  *Update* about a day later I recorded a very scratchy demo, still got a lot of work to go but I'm not afraid to share the learning process, warts and all, with my mates :) Still not clever enough to insert as an embedded thing, so here is a link.

Now since switching to I've been running some polls. It's interesting stuff, and people have been voting. I've put a new one up; if anyone was interesting in some sort of fingerpicker statistic, let me know a good poll to run!

The first poll was "what song would you like JAW to do a lesson on" and the results from 165 votes were:
88 (53%) : Canon in D, definitely, even if it is hard
25 (15%) : Here Comes the Sun, new to fingerstyle I want to learn!
21 (12%) : Wish You Were Here, I love that song
13 (7%)  : Another One Bites the Dust, how do you bass slap!?
11 (6%)  : Anything, I just want to hear your crAZy Aussie accent!
7  (4%)  : Sunshine of Your Love, for some groove

No surprises there, it lines up with the viewing statistics on my youtube channel :)

The second poll was "what is your current fingerstyle guitar" and the results from 132 votes were:
59 (44%) : Classical  
27 (20%) : Big body steel string acoustic  
23 (17%) : Small body steel string acoustic  
18 (13%) : Nylon string crossover/hybrid  
2  (1%)  : Solid body electric  
2  (1%)  : 12 string  
1  (0%)  : Hollow body electric  
0  (0%)  : Other

That was more surprising, I thought classical wouldn't rate as high as that - I thought the steel string acoustics and even the hybrid would rate higher than classical. So I'm not sure if the classical players are coming here looking to get a bit pop/rockier - or the pop/rockier players are coming here ready to get more classical! :)

Sunday 17 April 2011

When in doubt, medley it out!

I've had a few opportunities recently to look at arranging some new stuff. Since I've got quite a few songs on the back burner half finished, rather than start on something new, I've revisited them with an aim to finishing. Well, not quite...

Rolling Stones - classic stuff, everyone knows a bit of 'stones. They are however not arranged for fingerstyle very often...certainly not as much as Beatles, Queen, Pink Floyd and the like. My theory is that the songs are, erm, "simple". What made the 'stones popular was more about Mick's singing, Keith's guitar playing and their general antics. The bulk of the songs are melodically simple. Good 'ole simple rock'n'roll.

But converting that to fingerstyle is a challenge, because there isn't much going on, it becomes kinda dull. Okay you get a verse sorted, you mix one up with some arpeggios, you percussify up another one...but really, some great songs are plain boring in fingerstyle (I generalise; the super-music-savvy types will do something with anything, I'm talking about mere mortals such as myself.)

The solution? A medley! 3 songs from the same band - maybe same album, maybe same era, maybe across an era! Do two verses and a chorus, say up to 2 minutes, then morph into another song.

I've focused a bit on Aussie classic stuff over my time, and a while ago I worked a cool arrangement of an AC/DC song. But it suffered from repetitiveness. So I grabbed another AC/DC classic and had a go at that aiming for medley. Even better, Iggy P had already done a cool arrangement so I've borrowed heavily from his one. (Interestingly, if you look at the youtube version of his "You shook me all night long" he has actually pitch shifted the song down two steps - unless he detuned the whole guitar down a tone, which I doubt. Interesting.)

The one other great aspect of medleys is you only have to learn a verse, chorus, maybe an intro...but you don't *need* to put any effort into bridges or solos. Unless you are a natural improviser, like Naudo, I find I spend just as much time - if not more - working on the bridges, refrains, solos - than I do on the chorus and verse!

I wouldn't like to medley everything, but when in doubt, and when after a few cheap attention grabbers, medley! :)

Thursday 14 April 2011


I have been communicating with HFA in the US for a couple of weeks now, to get a feel for what it would mean to pay royalties on the songs I cover. It's the right thing to do; I've been in a less-than-gray area handing out free tabs, but since I haven't made any money out if it, I justified it away.

I like arranging fingerstyle covers. I like to share them with you guys. I'd like to provide quality video lessons on the songs so you can play them too. And I want to respect the ownership of the works.

I have all but come to the conclusion that an advertising based model to fund the costs of licensing does not work with the expectations of royalty payments. Essentially, every time somebody downloads a tab I'd need to pay (say) 20c to the license holder. Let me assure you that my intial sojourn into advertising does not come anywhere near 20c per download, more like 0.2c per download! Perhaps I could entice high paying advertisers but I don't ever want to be out of pocket, I don't need that sort of risk in my life.

What I feel would be possible is have an online shop sort of thing where you'd purchase a video lesson and tab - and I'd try my very hardest to make a great lesson - and work out a cost that covers licensing fees, hosting server fees, and a little something in my pocket to pay for my efforts. I suspect it would only need to be in the order of a couple of bucks; in the next week or two I will know what that number would be when I get feedback from the license holders - if I choose to go down that path.

But then it will start to feel like I'm becoming what I told my online mate Nil I wouldn't do - become a "learn guitar" website. It wouldn't be would it Nil? It would be a "learn song by video lesson and tab", for a few bucks to cover the cost of doing this legit? I am completely unqualified to teach guitar, but I can show punters how I approach playing songs they'd like to learn how to play in this style.

If it all falls in a hole and I feel I have to take down everything leaving only the blog (and the youtube videos...I'll leave that for a later discussion) - well, at least I still have my 4 mates to chew the fat with :)

Let me know what you think, I post this post with trepidation, be kind, but firm...

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Take the Survey!

A mate of mine who has been pushing me recently about my webstuff - responsible for me setting up - "Do it now." "No." "If you don't, I'm going to do it." "Argh, okay, okay." - told me I need to find out what people want, and give it to them. He's far more an "internet entrepreneur" than I am. I've always given people what I like, and what I think they like...but it's a good question, what do people like?

If you were to use my youtube viewcounts as a guide, then most people are after classical and folk...but that doesn't sound right to me.

The reality is that exists because I like to ramble on about fingerstyle guitar stuff that interests me. And my mates keep it interesting by challenging my rambles, and giving me new ideas for new rambles. (I'm back to only 3 mates now, according to my blogger subscriber list, the other 18 got left behind at wordpress. I miss you guys)

But hey, one of the rambles I have called time and time again is - "play for an audience!" One of the subtleties in that statement is "know what your audience wants".

So my mate created for me a survey. It will be interesting to see what us fingerstyle guitarists - and the people who like to listen to fingerstyle guitarists - are the most interested in. So head on over to the survey, it's pretty short and sweet, I'll report back later on what the verdict is! :)


Monday 28 March 2011

What's happening March 2011

Okay, everything has been moved onto'm not sure I like the layout, but that can change later.  I particularly don't like the lack of links to old blog entries - Blogger only uses "labels" unlike wordpress that had categories and labels - and the archive blog widget on the side isn't all that useful.  Worse still, the search widget just plain doesn't work.  I'm pretty sure it is something to do with exporting from wordpress to blogger, but I don't know.  Fortunately the global search engines look like they've caught up with the site, but now all the pages are at the bottom of a search list...will be a while before they work their way up to replace the wordpress ones I reckon!

Meanwhile, the guitar playing front is quiet.  Since getting Super Mario Theme out, I've spent most of my time just playing the things I am currently enjoying; stuff like "Sunshine of your love", "Another one bites the dust", "Breathe/Time" and "Wish you were here."  Not focusing on my songs in-the-works, just having fun.  Sounds nice?  Well, I thought over the weekend I should revisit some of my old tunes.  Because one day I will be doing some gig work, and I need to keep them fresh.

I played about two bars into "A Whiter shade of Pale", which I love but haven't played for about 6 months.  I couldn't remember it!  Argh!  I had to go back to my tab (lucky I write these things down) and refresh myself.  Rusty, and even after playing it through twice it was no longer "natural".  A few more plays should fix that, I hope.

So that's another reason why I need to have a regular gig.  Just to make sure I play every piece I know on a regular basis!  That might sound a bit strange and dumb, but as with everything, you do the stuff you like, and ignore the stuff you don't for as long as possible.  Maybe it's not even stuff you don't like, it's just stuff that isn't as much fun as other stuff.

In other news, since I haven't been playing much recently, my left hand pinky is actually feeling almost normal again.  Perhaps it's just time, perhaps it is less stress from less playing; either way I'm pretty happy about it.  I've even been tentatively doing root A-chord pinky barre formations up the neck again.  It's my favourite way of doing a root 5th barre chord (uses just two fingers). I'd been using "standard" barre + 2-3-4 versions for the last several months, not as quick nor as adaptable.  I promise not to go too hard with it though, just use it here and there, okay? :)

The future.  I guess anyone who's been following me for a while has worked out that I like information to be shared; I like to teach anything useful I've learnt myself to others.  I love to see someone respond to one of my youtube videos having learnt from my tabs.  What I've been missing for a long while now, and what I've wanted to do for a while, is actual video lessons.  Work through songs phrase by phrase, showing the phrase tab and talking through it.

I've done three lessons in the past, all three still exist on the internet (somewhere), but they were a bit clumsy and not very well produced.  I've now got myself a nice HD webcam - I shot my Super Mario Theme on it - which will do quite nicely for lessons.

There are some challenges.  I've got some software I used in the past where I can do overlays and stuff, it's time consuming but do-able.  There are copyright issues, and I'm going to continue to look into it.  With copyrights comes costs, I'm hoping the advertising here will offset those (and any other) costs.  There is my ability to do lessons, but just like if you look back on my very early youtube videos (please don't) I'll get better the more I do.

The main challenge is time.  My work life and family life has grown to consume all available time.  I'm typing this during my lunch break.  I'm hoping in the next few weeks to try out my lesson skills at "Here Comes the Sun"; both a great starter for fingerpicking newbies and a pretty straightforward one for me to begin with.

Watch this space!

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Hello. Welcome.

Hello and welcome to  Why are we here?  Mostly, to organise all my Jawmunji stuff into one place!  Previously I had a blog, a website with tabs, an ftp site for mp3, videos on youtube and a site and sevenload and mojo24...well, it was silly.  So here we are, (soon to be) all in one place.  A very Googley place.

You may also notice that there are ads here.  Sold out you say?  Well, as some of my regular old blog readers would know I've talked about giving away stuff for free, and how I have had a donation page for about 4 years and doesn't work.  To all my friends who have donated in the past, thank you.  Now, you don't need to.  Advertising will take care of things.  Enough that I will be able to buy new strings...and if one day a guitar manufacturer decides to give me a guitar if I promote it, well, they will be the best guitar manufacturer in the world! :)

Business as usual.  I'll be blogging, and adding new songs to youtube...but everything else goes here.  Youtube is just too big and widely used and Googley to boycott; it brings in listeners.  But here is where you get the "value add", this is where I'll put the stuff that hopefully is useful to you, or brightens up your day a bit.

It will be a while before the move is complete; in the meantime, thanks for coming!

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Fingerstyle "Time" by Pink Floyd progress lesson

Here's a little video primarily for Ryan but for anyone who is interested. "Time" by Pink Floyd played finger flicking :) I'm still not all that comfortable doing video "lessons", but like all things you just have to do it, get on with it, and eventually you'll get better at it.

It's about 10 minutes long, and no, I'm not actually singing in there, it's more like strangling a cat (that's why I play the guitar) :)

Yes, I'm still "developing" my skills as a lesson presenter, one of these days I will get around to posting proper this space!

2017 Update: Although this is not a lesson as such, I played through Dark Side of the Moon again. I also mumbled more about "Time" and some changes I've made over the years


Monday 31 January 2011

Hold onto that bass note...

...or don't; the choice should be up to you, not up to your skill level. One of the standout features of good fingerstyle players for me is that they will hold onto a bass note if it should ring throughout a measure; even if it is difficult to do so. You can spot the beginners, all credit to them "I played the note!" but the note lasts about as long as it takes for them to refret to the very next plucked note.

Holding onto bass notes can be challenging. For simple in-chord stuff, you can normally fret the whole chord, giving you the bass note and plucking melodies in the chord per measure, before changing to the next chord. When the melodies start moving out of chords sometimes it becomes difficult to hang onto that bass note.  Here are some options:
  • More practise :)
  • Don't hold onto the bass note play it staccato, but do it on purpose to make sure it sounds like an accent, not like "I couldn't hold the bass note".
  • Rework the fingering so you can find a position to hold the bass note more easily.
  • Rework the arrangement to something simpler you can play.
  • Adopt a different technique that allows you to hold the bass note; for instance:
    • Naudo Style middle finger bass note: for example, instead of playing a full first finger barre chord E shape or A shape, play the bass note with your middle finger. Ringy and pinky fingers can do normal stuff in chord leaving index finger able to play on or _behind_ the chord root position. (There are other features of this technique; it's not strength taxing, you can more easily mute strings in the middle of the fretboard, it is easy to pivot around your middle finger...not to mention your middle finger is pretty strong and normally "wasted" in a normal chord formation. Leaving your index finger, typically a very quick and agile finger, for "under chord" work is quite sensible.) 
    • Thumb over bass notes. I refer to this as bad technique, but it isn't really, it's a very handy technique :)

Tuesday 25 January 2011

What's happening January 2011

The earlier reports of the death of "What's Happening" are greatly exaggerated :)

Over Chrissy I took two weeks down South, and then another (working) week up North, so over three weeks I played the guitar maybe twice, for about 15 minutes each time.  I was happy to use the break as a test for the left pinky, which has continued to remain "injured".  What I can report is that it got better, but after the three weeks I sat down for an hour and it started to go bad again.  Just a dull pain when I stretch it too far, or put a lot of pressure on it.  Luckily my brain is working again unlike the first time when I did the damage, and I thought "this is starting to hurt a bit, I'm going to stop now" and did.

So the left pinky injury summary to date is:
* If you are playing something difficult and it is starting to hurt, *DON'T* play through, stop, play something different, approach the piece slowly over days/weeks, build up to it.
* Stretching for me hasn't really been effective for this particular injury.  Stretching definitely helps avoid cramping when you are playing too hard and muscles are tensing up, but it has made basically no difference to the pinky.  I find if I'm relaxed during a session then after the first two songs I'm warmed up; those first two are my stretching.
* Rest, time and not pushing it too hard is slowly, - v e r y   s l o w l y -, improving the finger.

Meanwhile, I love playing Super Mario theme!  It is a zero flick song, it's all standard fingerwork.  Since creating quite few flick-style pieces recently I (a) didn't think I'd enjoy  just plucking ever again and (b) felt that too much flicking was becoming boring.  Trapped!  But this piece is a lot of fun to play, bright and chirpy.  Difficult, I won't kid you, but doable.  I put two maybe three instances of left thumb bass fretting, I don't like putting it into songs because it is "bad technique".  The two occasions I do it there was no real other way to achieve what I wanted.  Trust me, when I've worked out a measure I will try and try and try to get it using standard techniques, and if that fails I might first try to rework it, and as a last resort I'll break into the bad techniques ;)  There is one part where I bass thumb the 2nd on 6th and two note harmony 5/6th on top two strings, sliding down, holding the bass note.  Difficult, I don't get it every time, but great when it works out.  Song is otherwise ready for video though, I think you'll like it, must dust of the camera and get recording!

I'd actually forgotten about "Take me Back" until a few days ago.  Did I mention I have a list of all the songs I can play sticky taped to the back of my guitar?  Once I start playing a song I remember exactly how to play it and what to do...but I can never remember all the songs I can play!  I hadn't written that one down yet, so forgot about it.  Heard it on the radio and remembered it is still in my production line!  It's a pinky hurter, so I'm taking it easy on that one, just once a session is enough.

On the gig front, not good news.  Finally got back from one cafe "I don't have a spot for you" which was good at least now I know.  Other pubs and cafes yet to get anything firm from.  Lunchtimes is as good as out, nobody wants that.  If I want lunchtime, it will have to be busking.  I'm not amazingly keen to go busking again, but if it ends up being that well it's better than playing to the bedpost and dog.

Since lunchtime gigs are out, and it will need to be evenings (cutting into family time which I wanted to avoid), I may as well open the floor to any venue nearby.  There are open mics in a few places within 10kms from my house, but I dunno, open mic is bands, and singers, people doing stand up comedy.  Does a bloke playing fingerstyle guitar fit into a place like that?  I should go check one out to get a feel for it, but again, cutting into family time.

I've sent out a request to one nearby venue that could be alright, currently not doing live music, but who knows.  Yet to hear back.

Also sent an email to another Perth fingerstyle player, Andrew Ellis, he has a regular session and apparently has "guests" from time to time, I could be a "guest"...again yet to hear back.

I tell ya, if this were my profession I'd be starving on the street!
Anyway, welcome back to ramblings.  If I ever say I should stop rambling again, remind me that this is a blog about rambling :)

Monday 24 January 2011

It's good to be back!

I'm still here, it's good to be back!

Know any good guitar blogs? (other than mine :)) I'm thinking something slightly above "I finally nailed a C-chord!", but maybe not as life-changing, fundamental concept re-aligning as Adam Raffetys blog (not a dig at Adam, love his stuff, but often leaves me feeling overwhelmed and underpowered to take onboard any of it).

Hit me up for some topics this year too, I've got a blank slate at the moment. Nil mentioned "Thumbpick or no Thumbpick", a good subject - I'm still musing over some discussion points.