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!