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!


  1. Hi Jaw,
    I have just come across to your site from youtube (liked a lot your "Wish you were here" vid out there).
    Just want to thank you for everything your are sharing here. And congrats for your music! I like what you are doing.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Can I get use and them tabs in any other format? Like power tab?

    And btw TNT's style reminds of my lady madonna, u know what Im talking about ^^

  3. Vincent - no worries and thanks, glad you've got something out of it. Not planning on stopping!

    Anonymous - I didn't bother posting the tabs because they are still work in progress. I reckon there is no point posting incomplete tabs - pause the video if you want a longer look, or wait (possibly a long time) until I've finished the tab :)

    Style re-use; yep, that's the go, when you've got a technique in your bag of tricks, don't be afraid to pull it out!


  4. cant wait to us and them's tab release. one f my favourite songs and sounds great so far.

    Gogo JAW you should focus on this!

  5. Hi JAW

    Nice video. Great arrangements. By the way you didn't look very camera shy to me in the video.

    By the way, do any of you guys find yourself making more mistakes than usual when you try to record yourself? I seem to make mistakes where I don't usually do and it gets pretty annoying.

    Anyway, keep up the good work!

  6. Yah, I tense up when I get the camera at me... wounding up too focused on thinking 'don't make mistakes, don't make mistakes'. Focus gets taken from the actual playing and I end up making mistakes... Maybe it's just camera practice that's needed?

    I really like what us and them is turning into, Jaw. Can't wait to see it finished :)!

  7. Hi Jaw, I watched the video more out of curiosity (since I barely play at all these days, and anyway it is very unlikely for me to play other people's arrangements), but found it surprisingly interesting. Funny accent but very clear nonetheless!

    To second Anonymous in the comments, you may have meant Day Tripper rather than Lady Madonna (at least to me it is more similar in style to the former).

    Jaw, you may consider doing more of these video blogs that are not strictly speaking tutorials, but just updates about various pieces you're working on, with guitar in hand, you may even make it more spontaneous as you get more relaxed. I think it really works.

    Still enjoying your blog :-)

  8. Bonjour Romain, comment ca va? Bon! Hmmm, maybe I stick with my funny accent (known as "Strine"). I think it's appropriate that I broadcast as much Strine as I can, it irks me the amount of TV I see with pretend Aussie accents...I haven't seen any fully Ocker accents since Steve Irwin passed. You are getting the gen-u-ine thing here folks :) ...but anyway, I digress!

    Thanks for the feedback Anonymouses! And Kris, yep, recording song videos I believe is an important tool for all guitarists, I've spoken about it many times, everyone who can should. It does put a feeling of pressure on your playing and cause you to make mistakes; but the more you do it the less that effect is. It's a good preparation for live performances, if you are uncomfortable with that thought. Recording songs is fairly comfortable for me now, but this talking to the camera is new, and doesn't feel natural. If you noticed the cut in the middle of the video, it was because I didn't think it was appropriate to show me swigging from my "relaxing" beer...

    Rom - thanks for the feedback too, I noticed this post drew out more passers by than usual, so I was wondering what my regular mates thought. I'm more of a text consumer than a video consumer - I don't tend to watch video blogs but I'm happy to read text blogs. So I wasn't sure if people were interested in video. It seems they may well be, and your tick of approval finishes the deal.


  9. :) Us and Them. Can't wait. The little bit you teased us with was the first thing I have learned in weeks.

    The videos are great, I like Romans thought on it. I don't expect it to happen but I've always wanted to see a video of one of u guys "learning" a song. I think it would be interesting to see the process of someone as accomplished as you and Naudo and Kelly. To see if we all do the same stupid stuff in the beginning, any strategies used in the learning/creating process would be very interesting. But, like i said, I doubt anyone wants put put up a video of themselves muffing up songs :)

    But, GREAT video, eager for more.

  10. I thought you'd appreciate "Us and Them" Ryan :) The melody fits reasonably easy on top of the pattern because it's all in chord. You just need to put some accentuation on the melody so it stands out from the main pattern. Very suitable for nylon, ha ha. The chorus can be simplified by playing the melody on a bass/finger flick pattern, I can do that already, but I think I might need to be a bit cleverer than that. We'll see!

    "Accomplished"? - get out of here. Hack; with a lot of time in the saddle, is all. But yes, I think guitarists are a bit secretive, we are all perfectionists. None of us particularly want to show our foibles in public. But that just keeps the perfectionism going from generation to generation. I like the idea of putting the warts'n'all out there, in the open, to "make it real", humanises, makes playing approachable, not ivory tower stuff. Not so much watching a video of just bad/unpractised playing - we are all capable of that! - but more of in works, developmental, still thinking about what I'm doing behind the scenes stuff. That's what I'm thinking.

    I reckon I have shown over the past few years that I can ramble on about all sorts of stuff and some of it is even vaguely interesting - Roman is right - putting that on video with a guitar in my hand whilst doing so - seems to have been reasonably well received.

    Don't let me get away with being lazy and not doing it at least every once in a while!


  11. Hey Ryan, this will be no video but I think it’s an interesting topic so I'll share my approach.

    1- I choose the song I'm going to learn. I can either choose a song or a certain arrangement, like a JAW's one. In that case, I skip step 2.

    2- I Google the song looking for tabs in guitar pro format, or power tab, using tags like "fingerstyle" or "acoustic". I choose these formats because I can listen how the tab sounds beforehand. So I listen to it to the end and decide if it fits my style and skill and if it sounds GOOD. Even if I find a good tab, I still check the top results from my search; sometimes I find something even better.

    3- Now I have the definitive tab. If I don't know the song too well, I play it many times in a row, until I know it thoroughly. Then I do the same with the tab, just listening to it. As result of this, when I see a bar, I can hear it in my head. It specially helps me because I suck at reading tempo.

    4- Time to learn the song. I sit in front of the computer and go through it all. It is known that learning it bit by bit is better than trying to learn it all at once, but I'm too impatient I guess.
    Sometimes I print it if I'm planning to play away from the pc.
    I slowly develop speed and let the picking patterns and chord changes get into my brain. JAW has said it before and it’s plain true: sleeping helps this knowledge to settle down in your head. So I prefer to wait at least one night to proceed to the next step.

    5- I reproduce the tab file with TuxGuitar, at reduced speed. 75% or 50% if it’s really fast, and play along. I do so many times, until I can play it comfortably. In any case, I try NOT to simplify hard parts and just cope with them.
    Tommy Emmanuel commented that if you want to learn a song you must play ONLY it and nothing else until you master it. In that sense, I like to joke about how easy to learn Andy Mckee's songs are, because when you tune your guitar to one of Andy’s exotic tunings, you can't play anything else at all so you just play the song all the time.

    6- Finally, I reach the point where I can play it at full speed and even more, but often with mistakes, which I keep doing for the next couple of months. During this period I usually introduce personal changes to the song if I think it sounds better or if I struggle at a certain point so much that it becomes a threat for public performances.
    I also check again the original song, as well as other tabs and other people playing that same song in youtube, to hijack ideas and mix them with my version, until it ends up being quite personal. That's it.

    I'm feeling guilty for invading your blog JAW, my apologies. :(


  12. Hey, Nil. Thanks for the response. 145&6 are very similar if not exactly the same approach that I take. I have Googled, like you do in step 2, for only Fur Elise b/c JAW didn't have one. Ahh step 3. This is where my impatience comes in. A ridiculous moment for it to wildly flare into the forefront of my process, but it does. Most of the songs I learned were old favorites of mine so that part was already done. I could hear them in my head already & sing along to them. Canon and Fur Elise were the 1st ones that I had very little familiarity with before I began learning them. Now that I think about it, a lot of my struggles came from not "knowing" how it was supposed to go. I can read TC "fairly" well, so i simply struggled through it. Next time I will try taking a day of simply listening to the song; getting a firm grasp of its flow before I try to reproduce it. :)
    Thank you Nil,
    Your step seems obvious but our shortcomings (impatience in my case) often blind us to the most conspicuous tools.

    I dont think JAW would mind. You probably just filled his head with blog ideas. :)

    Also, I never have committed 100% of my time to 1 song. I usually have 2. Often though, 1 falls by the wayside as the other comes close to a finish and that 1 never gets finished! i.e. Take Five, Moonlight Sonata, September ends. All these fell victim to Canon, Fur Elise and Breathe, never to be finished. I have to stop doing that.

    anyway, thanks again!
    and thanks, JAW, for the Forum :)

  13. Ha, no worries for the hijack, it's great to have discussion. I'd prefer this to be a forum, but every time I've participated in a forum I've given up. Forums are strange places when they are full of passionate people. There needs to be something halfway between a forum and a blog :)

    Comments on Nil's comments:

    1 - Songs that I transcribe or arrange are songs that I already know really well, so that helps with point 3!

    2 - Yep, never re-invent the wheel. I'll also add midi files as a good resource as well, midi imports into tabbing software which can be helpful when arranging (there's a few good tricks to it when you do it in powertab.)

    3 - See point 1! Being able to play the tab in tabbing software is a very useful feature, probably not talked about enough. Knowing the sound can be just as important as knowing where to put your fingers next. In fact a really good player will learn from ear alone. Those players however probably aren't reading this stuff; this is more for us mere mortals who have to work hard at learning stuff :)

    4 - Agree, if you are really stuck then play a few bars ignoring tempo to let your fingers learn what to do. Play those few bars over and over again until you can start introducing tempo. Put down the guitar, sleep, next day (or few) it will suddenly be in your hands. For the stuff that comes naturally, well, you can process a lot more in one sitting!

    5 - I can see the advantage of not simplifying parts, it forces you to learn skills. I'm lazy and time-poor so I do tend to simplify the "unnecessarily complex" parts. I do miss out on good stuff doing so, but I get more songs in. Depends what your goal is! I have to disagree with Tommy though, I always have several songs on the go. It's like sleeping on it - in the background your brain is "processing" stuff it has come across; putting something else in there won't stop the background processing. It's probably not as good as sleeping on it though. If you are really struggling with one piece I reckon put it down for a while and play something else rather than just stop playing! The downside is you might turn out to be a Half Song Playing Guitarist - if you do have 2 or 3 on the go, FINISH ONE before adding a newie!

    6 - Sounds spot on to me!

    Nice work Nil. If you ever (or anyone) wanted desperately to post up an article, you are most welcome to send it over to me and I'll put it up. I know I'm always the one blabbing on, but it's you guys who get me thinking and rethinking - not to mention I have many many holes in my blabbing which you guys can easily knowing actual stuff about music!