Monday 25 November 2013

Play to your own style/laziness

I have mentioned in the past that tabs are good for you where I talked about how to digest and play a tab.  I've seen a couple of YouTube messages recently asking me about my latest tabs, and if they are all there, that some notes seemed to be missing, that sort of thing. My answer - "play to your own style/laziness".

On the other end of the scale, some people ask me why I don't include chords.  Mostly I just forget to add them and really I should always remember to add them, they are pretty important.  Not so much that it shows you what chords to strum (you can get chord/lyric sheets anywhere, much easier for following) - but again it helps you to play to your own style/laziness.

What do I mean "play to your own style/laziness"?

If you had a note-for-note tab transcription of a really stylish player like say Tommy Emmanuel (and I've seen those types of tabs) then you will notice be a lot of notes.  And even as you try to follow timings, and picking patterns, an attempt to perfectly emulate his style, you will struggle and it will take a long time.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid of hard work, but tabs should be a guide.  Your ear will hear the subtleties and inflections when you listen to the recording, trying to track it note for note is not a good use of your time.

Maybe there will be little sections that a really accurate tab is important, but generally, you only need enough notes (or chords!) to get a feel for what is going on, and then develop it into something that you can play.  That is, into your style.

And your style will be as lazy as you want it to be.  If you are note-for-note learning then you are pushing your style out to match the arrangers style.  That's fine but it would be better to find the happy medium between playing the piece note-for-note and how you would play it if you arranged it yourself...that is, make it as lazy as you want it to be!

Drop notes, add notes, do everything as a tremolo, convert it to alternating bass.  Only play the bass note on beat 1.  Play a one fifth down bass note before each in-chord bass note.  Flick chord fragments on the 2nd and 4th beat.  Make it your own, take it (only) as far as you like.  I still believe, as a hobbyist,  it is better to be able to play 10 good pieces of music than 1 excellent piece of music.  Life is short, perfection is bad.  But don't be too lazy, always challenge yourself just a little bit, always move forward.

The other side of my "is the tab all there?" question is when I've only included the skeleton of the song.  I've noticed some songs only have maybe 20 bars of actual "information".  It might be a 5 minute song, but it is the same 20 bars of information played over and over, in different orders, with perhaps some subtle differences (that your ear will notice and you can improvise).  All you need is that 20 bars of information and you can work out the rest!  Imagine, just one piece of paper for a whole song!  You can make your own structure of verse/chorus/verse/chorus once you know what they are.  A bridge or a solo adds more information, but perhaps you don't even want to weigh yourself down with that.
It annoys me to see two pages of a tab where there are maybe 4 notes difference between them.  That sort of over-tabbing looks daunting when you first pick it up, and really, it is making stuff more complex than it needs be.  I'm all about simplification, about giving enough to get you started along the road, and letting you choose your own destination.  There will be times when you need to be 100% spoon fed, (in fact some of my tabs are indeed like that), but sometimes I'm going to give you a rod and teach you how to fish.  And sometimes, you should go make your own fishing rod...


Sunday 17 November 2013

Youtube stats 2013

Ah YouTube, what a great platform. It has greatly helped my guitar enthusiasm and performance. Without it, I would probably still be like I was during my twenties - maybe play a few hours a month, when I could be bothered. If you aren't playing regularly for a reason - that is, for an audience, could be a gig, church, guitar teacher, something that forces you to play and practise regularly - then YouTube can fill that space.

I first posted a video on YouTube as part of a discussion on a forum about fingerstyle guitar. A guy inspired me to record a video. But how was I going to send a video - too big for email, too tedious with ftp! He said "Use that new YouTube thing". I'd never heard of it, it had only been around for nearly a year when I created an account.

It wasn't until Sept 2007 that they started recording proper statistics. I do love a good statistic. Here is a simplified lifetime statistic for my Jawmunji channel:

The graph shows number of views per month, each dot is a month. May 2010 was the all time high just short of 200,000 views in that month. All time highest day ever, 7,344.

But the graph shows a rise and fall. Currently I'm down to half of the views from where I started; and at 10% of my peak, and it looks like it is continuing to fall. Why? I have a few ideas:
  1. In the early days, there weren't many fingerstyle guitarists on YouTube. Now every second fingerstyle guitarist has videos on YouTube, so the viewers have a lot more videos to choose from. Supply and demand.
  2. You can see that more than a third of my views come from "Canon in D", so that one pretty much dictates my channel performance. Over the years, YouTube has featured that video, which drew far more views. None of my videos get featured anymore, see point 1.
  3. Most of my views come from YouTube/Google searches, so as each time they update search algorithms, it can cause a lot more views, or a lot less.
  4. I don't post as much now as did originally. YouTube "rewards" frequent posters, "engagement" is what's in, "social networking" is everything and that drives search results.
  5. YouTube is changing. It's more like watching a TV station than watching random videos. Since people can now upload videos as long as they like, it means that the total amount of time spent by people watching is no longer 20 x 2 minute videos, it is 2 x 20 minute videos. Less clicks, less "channel surfing". This change will be to increase income through advertising. YouTube/Google model people's behaviour, and tailor YouTube to drive (and reward) what works best for them. After all, YouTube is a business, that Google paid a lot for.
  6. YouTube isn't all there is. There are plenty of other places to find video. YouTube is the biggest (at 82% of the market Google tells me), so this probably isn't a major factor.
Getting views was never a big driver for me; I have watched it increase and decrease over the years with fascination, but the reality is that the conversations I have with just a few people are far more valuable to me than thousands of silent views. I did "monetise" my videos a while back, and I kind of regret it now. For the $20 a month I get, it's not worth making people watch advertising to see it. Too late now, I can't go back.

It's been an interesting project, and one that I will continue. I've got several songs I'm planning to record soon, watch this space.

I'm not exactly sure why I wrote article, perhaps it's just my love for statistics, and analysis of them :) But if you had ever wondered how my Jawmunji YouTube stats went over the years, now you know!


Tuesday 15 October 2013

Jawmunji Wordle 2013

Since one of my readers did a Wordle for me a few years ago, every now and then I like to do another one. It's both interesting and amusing. I try to keep my writings here interesting and amusing - my aim is always that you will go away either entertained, or having learnt something, or even better, both :)

I love the "just play guitar" main words, particularly with a little "well" in front of it. Although, I use "just" too much in my writing...hmm...must remember to back off on that.

I'm obviously a positive sort of chap too: "good, great, right, well, like, really, much". You can tell what this blog is about: "play, guitar, playing, songs, sound, hear, bass, music, video." There's little phrase gems hidden about too: "still got years need songs"..."now music stuff really".

"Song fingerstyle something good!"


Thursday 3 October 2013

Hey man, tune your guitar!

I get that every couple of months.  Someone on my youtube channel will tell me my guitar is out of tune.  I listen back, umm, yeah, maybe?  Ever so slightly?  One or two of my videos are indeed slightly out of tune, but the recent ones are not.

Here's my thoughts on the matter.

Some people have an _amazing_ ear for pitch.  A _really amazing_ ear.  My ear is pretty bad so I tune using a pretty accurate digital tuner, and always tune in very carefully before recording.  However, the intonation on the guitar is only so good.  In fact when I was hunting for my Esteve, that was high on my list of what I was looking for in a guitar - good intonation.  I used my tuner to check the intonation on many guitars, and the Esteve is pretty good.  But generally, if you are playing up the fretboard, she's gonna be a bit out of intonation (tune).

Furthermore, when I fret a chord, I'm usually bending the strings out of "the correct place" a small amount.  On unusual shaped stretchy chords I'm bending the strings quite a lot out of the place where they should be to sound in tune.  Even the simple act of fretting distorts the intonation slightly (but guitars do compensate for an amount of fretting intonation).  Not that you or I could hear fretting intonation distortion, but some people can.  It's especially noticeable on nylon because they have lower tension strings.

Even the guitar heating up slightly after me playing it will put it out of tune - you should be constantly adjusting your tuning while playing.  But since I don't have an amazing ear, by the time I notice, my pitch perfect mates were already wincing in pain five minutes ago.

I have developed a very healthy respect for fretless stringed instrument players.  They have to hear the intonation and play to it.  They train their ear.  Us guitarist, well, duh, we ain't so bright, see, we don't need to hear intonation, duh, the frets dun do that for us.  Okay, I'm being a bit harsh there, slide guitarists, even pulling bends, you need to have an ear for pitch, but I think you get what I mean.

The bottom line - no matter how hard I try to have good tuning, there will be a percentage of the population who will cry out at my "terrible tuning".  And they are right.  Luckily, the other percentage of the population and I won't hear it.

(It's all relative though, I have been known in the past to very politely and with great tact mention to players on youtube that perhaps their guitar was a bit out of tune.  For me to notice - that's got to be a long way out of tune.  With that said, my ear for pitch is now a lot better than it used to be.)


Sunday 15 September 2013

What's happening September 2013

I ran another poll a month or two ago, this time I asked "If Jawmunji made a product it would have to be..." Here are the results, from 37 responses:

54% a music DVD of songs with interesting booklet, tab data and other cool stuff
27% an instructional DVD, c'mon man!
10% an Audio CD of songs with an interesting insert
8%  just high quality 99c downloadable mp3s

There weren't nearly as many voters I would normally have for a monthly poll, less than half. Either the traffic to the site was down, it was a boring question, or a Jawmunji product is not really called for. But hey, I liked the results! A video DVD with cool stuff appeals to me the most and it was the most voted. It would be a large amount of work, but not as large amount of work as an instructional DVD. I didn't mind the idea of an Audio CD, but, they seem to have passed their use-by date. Thanks for confirming the 99c downloadable mp3s though - I don't like that either. One song might be a cash cow for an artist, but the amount of art you are buying might be the tip of the iceberg from that artist. They might have so much to offer, good stuff you'd enjoy, but all you did was download "the most popular song".  Buy the album!

I'm still working away a lot - 2 weeks on site, 1 week in Perth. While in Perth I get the weekends off and only work a 40 hour week, but up here on site I work a 12 hour day 7 days a week. Sure, all my meals are catered for in the mess, my room is regularly cleaned, all I do is work...but I get weary. Hence I haven't been doing as much writing to you as I thought. I'm still playing the '74 Yammy a heap, it's just not "productive" playing. Generally I will sit and just play my regular tunes, most nights with the lads over a few beers. I've done a little bit of working out new tunes - in the pipe I've got "Without You", "Lean On Me", "Bright Side of Life", "Something So Strong", "Bad Moon Rising" all basically ready to record. But I'm not recording while I'm here, and when I'm back in Perth I don't set aside the time to do it either.

Someone commented last month "you should do a Tame Impala cover"...and I youtubed a song of theirs or two, discovered they are a local band, and my favourite genre - psychedelic rock.  Closest sound would be early Beatles and Pink Floyd.  I enjoyed them so much I bought the album and I have listened to it a lot.  I might cover "Only Going Backwards" or "Mind Mischief" to pay homage, it would be lost on 99% of my listeners, so it would have to be a quick and easy cover.  But alongside Dark Side of the Moon (I listen to it about once or twice a month, to keep well as "Dub Side of the Moon") it is what I'm listening to.

In fact, what do I listen to?  Kinda nothing.  I'm totally out of touch with modern music, and I don't feel the need to constantly relive the past either.  I'm not a headphones-all-day sort of guy, it just makes me further deaf. I do listen for 70's and 80's music if I'm driving somewhere, songs that I might be able to cover, and I do listen to other fingerstyle guitarist covers, but I'm just not a regular listener.  Does that sound strange?  It does seem a bit rude of me to not pay attention to new music!

Well a quiet What's Happening this time, I do have some stuff in the bag waiting, I just need to get some long term rest so it can come out in flying colours :)


Thursday 15 August 2013

How have you kept playing guitar for so long?

A good question.  Although it doesn't surprise me when beginners give up playing guitar (another topic), it does surprise me that players who play well, and have done for a long time, give up.  Does it come down to character traits - applicable to more than just playing the guitar - commitment, and persistence?  I think it is more than just that.

There are many things in life that people will do passionately and they won't enjoy it in the slightest, it will be hard work, expensive, painful, but they carry on.  Why?  The satisfaction of completing something challenging.  Doing something not because it is easy, but because it is hard.  There's your commitment and persistence right there.  But hey, those guys who did play for ten years and then stopped, they must have had the commitment and persistence to get that far, right?

Habit.  Ah but aren't we all just creatures of habit?  Once you form a habit, it's hard to break it.  If you have a habit of playing the guitar, then you basically never stop.  And yet, they still do.

Priorities.  For sure, as life progresses you travel through different phases.  Some things are very important, then they aren't so important.  Apparently it takes six weeks to form a habit.  Well, when priorities change, it only takes six weeks to un-form a habit.

I'm going to throw opportunity into the mix.  If playing the guitar is a privilege - it's rare, you don't get to play as much as you would like - for whatever reason - then playing is a tantilising treat you eagerly wait for.  Being able to play as much as you want whenever you want will increase the risk of losing the sense of satisfaction...changing your priorities...and breaking the habit.

I think all these things play a part while traversing your guitar life, but there is something else.  And look, I believe once you are a player, and you've had a taste of all this, you will always be a player.  You might go a few years without playing, but something will come up again and you'll get back into it. That something is...delight.

Yeah, delight.  In all your opportunity, priorities, satisfaction and formed habit, it is delight that rises above it all.  Just when you think you've done it all, you've climbed every mountain, overcome every obsticle, something comes along and blows your mind.  You can't believe you could have possibly missed the song, the technique, the concept, the something - something that simply delights you and you just can't get enough.  You can't stop.  Shifting from delight to delight.

If you are constantly exposing yourself to new avenues of delight, the passion will stay with you.  This is with everything in life.  Seek out delight.  And delight doesn't mean amazement or awesomeness or some huge gratification.  It can mean a hammer-on where you used to to pluck the next note.  I could mean slipping in a 7th on the last beat of the bar instead of staying in the major chord.  Just enjoying a new song that you never even thought about before.

I think I may have just gone all new age hippy on you just then, but The World seems dissatisfied with you just smelling roses.  You aren't living if it's not Bigger and Better.  Well, bugger that :)

Speaking of which, here is my current delight.  Naudo played it years ago, I heard it on the radio last week, decided to transcribe (more or less) Naudo's version, and I'm delighted.  So many "Oh wow!" things that happens in this song, can't believe I didn't tackle it when I first heard Naudo play it.  It's a window into his playing (I can see how he has re-used phrases from other works I have transcribed before) and it's just a really nice song.

Badfinger's "Without You", made famous by Harry Nilssen, and later by Mariah Carey, but let's just stick with Naudos version :)

Apologies about the recording, it was made via my smartphone. And I'm still developing the song, I haven't committed it to muscle memory, and I'm not playing on my normal guitar, and blah blah blah...JAW "warts and all" Munji strikes again, enjoy.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Cape Lambert Recordings 1

Well here I am at the end of my second two week stay in the tropics.  I thought I should upload something, so here you go!  I did bring up my video camera, but the room is too small, and the internet is too slow so it is audio only.  In fact I'm lucky to have internet at all at the camp - I use my netbook tethered to my mobile phone!

Anyway, some tunes and some stories perhaps?  These are all demos of what is to come, played on my $100 1974 banger, in a room I can nearly touch opposing walls, so be kind :)

First up, Lean on Me.  Pretty close to ready for production.  Tab is made, I play it ok, just not so smooth.  While I was sitting with the lads one evening have a beer with guitar in hand, Lisey said "can you teach me Lean on Me?"  I flicked the chords up, went the improvise, and behold, it was very simple!  Only about half a day invested in this one.  It is my "default" fingerstyle strummy drummy flicking pattern - beat 1 is a bass note, beat 3 is a flick/snare drum feel, the rest is squeezed in the gaps.  This is going to be a nice easy and reasonably popular tune.

I'd already played the intro to "Something so Strong" about a month ago and decided that would be a good candidate too.  My default fingerstyle feel again.  It's okay, I don't have too many songs that are this formula, so if I disperse this sort of feel throughout my setlist, nobody will write me off as a one trick wonder.  But for you, here is the same feel applied to a different song.  Note that I have worked out the solo and tabbed it, it just isn't into muscle memory yet so it was a bit off in this demo.

This I've been playing for a while, I've mentioned it before, Ulli Boegershausen's fingerstyle cover of "Mad World".  Excellent, haunting, highly recommended.

"Albatross" by the Peter Green version of Fleetwood Mac is an excellent chillaxing tune, Hansel Pethig did a super-cool improvisation on it a while back on youtube, I have had it noted for a while.  You will notice that I...just...can' slowly...consistently...  It's like I have a fixed speed and I always come back to it.  Sorry, but song is still in practise mode!

And finally, the start of "Money", one of the last songs to tackle in my epic Dark Side of the Moon project.  This is really raw, concept only.  Firstly I wanted something that said "fingerstyle" but also was cash registers/coins clinking.  I tried a few tings until I settled on something that flowed, in 7/4 timing, which is achievable and has a "feel".  Tap soundboard under soundhole, scrape upper soundboard, fingernail taps on top side, scrape again, clunk base of bridge, scrape up bridge, fingernail tap bottom, repeat.  I need to work on the "mesh", I don't want it to sound contrived, it must flow into the song.  But it still needs to be obvious what it is!  It may yet morph, and my playing of the song is very stiff, you can tell I've only just started...enough excuses, I don't mind sharing my half-baked concepts with you.  There's a few edit/cuts in this to make sure it was at least vaugely coherent.

There you have it.  Next swing is 3 weeks away, so nothing doing for a while.  Hope you found something interesting in my very hacky fingerstyle song concepts on my $100 banger.  Sorry about the G-string not being in tune, I only noticed when listening back, bleurgh...okay, enough with the excuses already :)


Tuesday 18 June 2013

Look after your hearing!

Once upon a time I used to drill, angle grind, circular saw - you name it - with scarcely an item of safety gear on. After two incidents where I put small fragments of metal in my eye I learnt to wear safety glasses, but it wasn't until much later on I finally heeded the advice: "JAW, wear hearing protection."

Suffice to say, for quite a number of years now, I won't even pick up a hammer without having safety glasses and hearing muffs on. But, damage to my hearing had already started. Irreversible damage. Yes, I have minor noise-induced hearing loss and minor tinnitus (a "ringing in the ear when no sound is present").

Hey don't feel bad for me, it's very minor comparatively, I only hear the tinnitus when the background noise is very low. The hearing loss only affects me when there is a lot of sound coming from all around and I'm trying to listen to something specific. Just take note: if you are doing something - power tools, listening to loud music, that sort of thing, and you come away with a ringing in your ears then that was too loud. Keep a few pairs of ear muffs around the house and a few rolly squeezy type inserts on hand and turn it down. That ringing in your ear, which goes away after a day or so? My tinnitus is very similar to that sound, except it doesn't ever go away...

Noise induced hearing loss, well, let me try to describe it. You might actually have it and don't realise. Now would be a good time to stop it getting any worse if you do. What, you are fine, you can hear a pin drop? So can I. In the quietest of quiet rooms I could hear a flea on a mouse squeak. That's not how this type of hearing loss happens. However, if you put me in a room where several people are talking, and someone is talking to me - right there, right in front of me - I can't understand a word they are saying. Why is that?

As it was explained to me, which makes a lot of sense, it's the high frequencies that are lost first. High frequencies are where the data is. Think about wireless data, or radio transmissions: the higher the frequency, the more data you can fit in it. And even though the main component frequencies of the human voice are generally lower than 1kHz, the "sss"es, are up as high as 8kHz. That holds more information that you'd think. Let me see if I can simulate noise induced hearing loss for you.

First, here is me saying something Ocker. Yes, I am a bit "nasal", that's why I don't sing:

Now here is the same thing with everything above 1kHz removed. It sounds "mumbly", but you can still tell what I am saying:

Here is me saying the same original thing again this time with a crowd of JAWs all saying Ocker things. At about the 3 second mark you can hear me pretty clearly over top of those other noisy JAWs:

Same thing, except the talking over the top has everything above 1kHz removed again. You can still hear me, but it is more difficult:

And that's where the problem is. In a noisy environment, you can't "hear" (where "hear" means "understand") the important stuff - that high frequency data is lost. Apparently people with this sort of hearing loss, as it progresses, may start to withdraw from crowds, perhaps leading to other psychological problems.
But like I said I'm not too bad. I do struggle in a noisy environment, and yes, I don't go into a loud music environment. I do ask people to repeat themselves quite often, and will get up close to hear them. I notice people get a bit annoyed if you ask them to repeat themselves for the third time...and if I still didn't understand them I smile, nod my head and play along like I did hear them. Ah the social techniques and strategies of hearing loss...

Bottom line - protect your hearing!

Saturday 1 June 2013

What's happening June 2013

Welcome to the Pilbara!  This is my home two weeks out of three for the foreseeable future. It is an area in Western Australia responsible for about 20% of the worlds iron ore production.  I've been working in the iron ore mining game on and off for 20 years, and have spent the last couple of years engineering software for an expansion of an iron ore port facility at Cape Lambert.  Now it is the pointy end of the job - where we commission the facility, which means a lot of time away from home.

(Here is the Birrabira camp where I am staying, and here are a couple of stackers in the facility I'm working at.)

What this all means is that since I don't work more than 12 hours a day I get a bit of free time between meals and sleeping...which I have been filling with guitar playing.  I've been running through my set list most nights to several mates who are happy to listen, and I put in time working out new songs.  Good news for guitar!  Not so good news for my family.  But, it is the nature of my work, good pay in return for being away from home.  Make the most of it me thinks.

I decided I'm not going to take the Esteve on the plane up and down every roster, so I looked in the classifieds for a good classical banger that I can leave up here.  I think I have mentioned I have a soft spot for 70's and 80's Yamahas.  Probably because that's all I had for the first ten years of playing.  I found a nice example of a G-55, circa 1974 vintage, so pretty much the same as my first guitar.  It was in fair condition so I grabbed it for $AU100 (2013).  I ditched the strings and went to take out the saddle for a looksee...which I discovered was glued in (sheesh) and when trying to pull it out shattered in my hands.  Lucky I have spares!  I cleaned up the saddle rebate, filed a new one down and popped it in.

Although the neck is ever-so-slightly bent in giving an ever-so-slightly high action, it plays fine and sounds great.  I think my audience is surprised when I tell them it is a $100 banger that I'm going to leave up here forever!

(Note, if you are interested in old yamaha guitars - when they were made, out of what - Yamaha's excellent "Guitarachive" Guitar Archive was closed but has found new support here:

I'll let you know of my progress.  It's overwhelming what to tackle first!  One of my mates who'd like to learn to play said "can you play Lean On Me?"...quick internet search for the chords, quick improvise...then an hour or two later in my room and I have made a really nice fingerstyle version.  I think you will like it but I didn't bring any recording equipment...this time.  But since I mentioned it, here, have a quick look at the main riff:
Note the strum/finger flick indications on the bottom of the tab section.

Anyway, I'll be in touch! :)

Monday 29 April 2013

What's happening April 2013

Another poll finished, I tried to predict the results on this one, let's see how I went...For "Is this your first visit to this site?" I said:
75% Yes
15% No
10% I don't know

The actual results:
63% (87 votes) Yes
35% (48 votes) No
1%  (2  votes) I don't know

It would seem that most people know where they've been and I have more regulars than I thought - thanks everybody, okay, I should write more!

I've still got my Thursday night gig, I'm still enjoying it. With the colder weather I'm playing less outside and more inside, and the number of patrons is shrinking. Maybe it might soon end for the season, I'll see what the boss is thinking.

I volunteered for a gig at a different place Sunday afternoon, this one was part of a fundraiser for Teen Challenge (an initiative to help people to get out of bad places - drugs, alcohol, self harm, those sorts of bad places.) It's a good cause and I was happy to be part of a lineup of 8 different performers. This gig came about through a friend mentioning me to a friend.

Since I've been gigging for a while I'm pretty comfortable with any sort of gig "at my level", that is, somewhere between 1 and 50 people in a small venue. This venue was another cafe style place. So I just grabbed my guitar and amp and headed in. It was all inside, with a lot of concrete, although a lot higher roof. I was concerned that the acoustics would be poor, I was in for a surprise!

The organiser had a PA setup - two very big speakers and a little 2-channel mixing table. They saw my amp and said "ah, okay, you bought your own gear" and I said "Whoa, yours looks heaps better, I'll use that!" I fumbled around with the mixer for a while and got a sensational sound out of their system. So clean, clear, true to the sound of the guitar and full, solid. It is hard to describe - the sound from my little amp is clean but it doesn't have the "presence", that big solid sound this thing had. Not loud, just solid. That represents a I am very dissappointed with my amp!

I had previously tried a modular PA system in a music shop and I knew that is the next step, but whoa, yeah thanks for the reminder, I don't need reasons to spend more money!

The guy who brought it down for the event wasn't there to set it up, which is a shame, he is a sound engineer apparently and I would have loved to talk to him. It also was a problem because the two speakers were pointing away from me so I couldn't "hear" what the audience was hearing. I needed a little monitor speaker pointing at me, I was playing mostly on the acoustic sound I was getting just from the guitar being in my hands. I was aware that there was a solid soung being projected, but the lesson is you need to have some of that sound coming at you. At my normal gig with my little amp I sit myself so that the amp is pointing a little bit at me, so I can hear the sound being projected. That wasn't possible here.

I also noticed the bass E string felt overly boomy - out of balance from the other strings. As if someone had wound up the bass EQ way too high. When I thought about it, I suspected the resonance of the room was causing that. The room happily reflected deep bass but mids and trebles didn't reflect. That's I guess what sound engineers are for - listening and tuning the sound. Even when you have a monitor speaker pointed at you you won't know what the sound is like for the guy in the back...when you are by yourself you just have to suck it and see, hope for the best, go with experience (which is low for me!)

(I asked the audience a few times "Is it too loud? Is it too quiet? How is the equalisation, does that bass sounds boomy? It the response flat? How are the dynamics? Do I need to ease off on the soundboard pickup and stick more to the undersaddle transducer? Do you think I should switch the pickup to phase invert between the two pickups?" Okay, I didn't really ask those questions but I wanted to. I need to play a venue where a sound engineer is in control - and see what they do! :))


Saturday 2 March 2013

Talk me through a night at the gig JAW!

Thursday afternoon, 28th Feb 2013, as per usual I leave work early so I can have dinner with the family and still get to the gig on time.  After dinner, and giving the wife and kids a kiss, I put the guitar and the amp in the car.  I leave two instrument cables in the car at all times, and one power cable, but I always take the guitar and amp out at the end of the night.

I wear the same as what I wear to work, nice trousers and dress shoes but keep it casual with a polo shirt up top.  This time of year (summer) the trousers can get a bit hot, but I don't want to be seen in shorts :)

When I arrive about quarter to seven (I'm always on time), I can lug the amp and cables in one hand and the guitar in the other to the gig, no trolley needed, one trip only.  The amp is just a buskers amp so it isn't big, but it is heavy because it has a big battery in it.  I run it plugged in however.  It has a very clean and crisp sound, very true to the natural sound of the guitar, and has enough oomphf for the venue.  I play outside, the maximum capacity is about 50 people, I want there to be enough volume that people can hear me, but they can still have a conversation without having to shout.  Next amp will be a PA...a subject for another story...

There are regulars on Thursday night - Steve, Barry and Ian are there almost every time.  Steve and Barry both love Whiskey and pour me two or three...I think they use me as an excuse to have a drink :)  Not a problem though, they are educating me on whiskey and are very generous with it!  They often invite other blokes down for whiskeys, Ian would be there every second time and he always puts some cash in my guitar case.  Great guys!

The shopping centre "caretaker" loves to come and listen, I often ask her what is the favourite song I play, she always says "any of them, I'm not fussy!"  I must learn her name.  I make it a habit to learn as many names as possible.  This is a good life skill for anyone for anything!  Mal is the owner and his wife Liz is often there.  They have a friend Vivian, who is often there, she calls me "Jason the engineer".  Mauricio runs the kitchen and is a really friendly guy.  He and his wife came over from Brasil and just a few months ago he had to spend some time in Bali, out of Australia, waiting for a new visa.  He's back now, which is great, he cooks me a fantastic wood fired pizza every Thursday!

All of the staff are great - sweet baby voiced Hannah...Milli, Korina, Troy, Das, Adam - staff do come and go, but it's good to get to know them.

I plug in, I put the amp on a limestone wall that borders the venue, I've learnt that having the amp more at ear height is better than on the ground.  I like to have it pointing towards the crowd and having me sit off to the side, but slightly in the direction the sound is coming from.  That way I can easily monitor the sound - you want to be able to play to the sound.

I tune up, have a bit of a chat to the regulars, and start with a few warm up songs.  Something easy, but catchy.  Retune after the first song as your body will have warmed up the guitar and put it out of tune.  There after, tune every now and then, but mostly if you've been playing hard and can hear it is out of tune!

I play a few crowd pleasers, I generally stick to themes. I'll play a few rocky songs, then a few quieter ones; or I'll play a few Beatles, then a few Pink Floyd.  I get a feel for the crowd, which changes week to week.  I get a few return visitors (for me or the cafe, who knows?! :))

A mum comes over with a young daughter, about 9, for a photo.  A mature aged lady, passes by and then sits down for an hour and a half listening and talking occasionally to me.  A younger couple stays to the very end; surprisingly, the maybe 20 year old girl knows almost every song I play.  A dear old lady as she is leaving comes up to me all smiles and thanks me for the music.

I play a few "work in progress" when I'm down to about 10 people left, I try to keep the tempo constant so even if I muff it, which I do, it still holds together for the casual listener.

I generally don't stop, except to pour myself another glass of water.  I've got more than 2.5 hours of material with only around 2 hours of gig time.  My fingers don't hurt, but my butt can get sore so I stand up every now and then.  Yeah, I know, playing non-stop isn't very professional, but I want to be able to play as much as I can, for me it is practise!

Since I'm a Pink Floyd nut, I always want to go through all my floyd...but if I detect that nobody is "getting it" I ease back on too much floyd.  Probably 45 mins of my set would be floyd.  But, play to the crowd!

By nine pm the staff are packing up, most of the customers have left, so I pack it in for the night, collect some money and a pizza, all done until next week!

* * *

Look, it took a while to find something like this that was "compatible" with me.  I didn't want a big wild gig, something cosy and small is what I wanted.  I didn't want a weekend gig, although they would prefer to have me on the weekend they let me go on a Thursday night.  It took about 15 potential places before I stumbled on Mal who wanted to "liven" up his cafe with live music.  Good on him.  He now has me on Thursday, Ben plays Friday and a Jazz trio plays Sunday.  I think it probably costs him money, but he is looking long term - to try and establish his venue as a place for live music.  I'll tell you what he pays me if you want to know, you might not be impressed though.  Some nights there might only be fifteen people all night, some nights there might be seventy.  You have to charge, you can't work for free, even if like me you have a day job.  There are too many struggling musicians out there.  Okay, he pays me $60, and pretty much as many pizzas as I want.  It is cash, I'll let you decide what that means.

Nervous?  Nope, after more than six months of doing this gig, I don't get nervous.  Bored?  No, it is still a highlight of the week.  Time consuming?  Only if you want it to be.  Most weeks, I don't even take the guitar out of the case between gigs!  I'd like to add some more songs to the set, but my life it already too full.  One day.

I think it is a great gig, it was a bit of effort to get it established (35 years of playing guitar and a year of talking around) but it is doable.  Give it a try!


Monday 4 February 2013

What's happening February 2013

Results from the "confirmation" poll, "Do you play guitar?" are in. From 185 votes we had:

139 (75%) Yes
45  (24%) Just Starting
1   ( 1%) No

Well this is a guitar site after all, so not surprises there. But the ratio of Yes to Just Starting, of one in four people are "Just Starting" tells us something. Okay, maybe it tells us nothing. What one person considers "Just Starting" will differ from the next. And even then, if we said that once you can swap fluently between strumming G to C to D you were no longer "Just starting", there is still no real information in that statistic. One of the trickiest parts of polls is that your information is already in a subset of people who click on polls! :)

One day I might have enough information from polls to deduce something; for now it's just kinda fun.  I've popped up another simple poll - let me predict the results right now:  "Is this your first visit to this site?" Yes will be 75%, No will be 15% and "I don't know" will be 10%.  Let's see how I go!

On the guitar front, I'm in the steady state of not much going on at all.  I'm still playing for 2-2.5hours at BBar every Thursday night and am still enjoying it.  I have a few regulars that I see every week or every second week, and a few people that I've seen before once or twice.  Mostly they are all new people, when I chat to them the common response is "I really enjoyed that!" It might be true, or it might be standard Aussie politeness.  Us Aussies aren't very good at criticism, which isn't good, we need to learn how to say what we feel.  Aussies criticise with their feet - that is, they leave, say nothing, and never return.  Nobody gets to learn from that response!

I'm comfortable enough at BBar now that given the right "mood" (both the audience and my mood) I will play stuff I haven't perfected.  Yep, that's right, practising!  Even if I'm fumbling around with it.  Not much though, I still want to seem professional, but a bit of "raw edge" isn't scorned upon.  The trick seems to be to make it look like you aren't practising - so play through your mistakes, don't pause, if you are going to repeat a section because you muffed it up and what to try again, do it, but on beat.  A few new pieces and some old forgotten ones are finding their way back in.  My set is now 2.5hrs long, so I normally don't get to play the entire thing.  This is good, it means I can tune the set to meet the crowd.  It's also bad, because I don't freshen up my songs every week.

What gigging does mean for my guitar life (which is still very limited due to work and family commitments) is that the gig is everything at the moment.  In the last three weeks I have only played guitar three although I'm enjoying the performing (and polishing/practising my set list) I'm not creating anything new.  Which is all I used to do.

Times and seasons.  The season at the moment is performing to audiences, and seeing as I haven't spent much of my guitar life doing it, I'm happy to keep it just at that for now!