Sunday, 31 July 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!

Thursday, 21 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! :)


Monday, 11 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 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! (and a world tour that starts in Australia) :)

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

Rush there now!

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!