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!