Saturday, 23 November 2019

What's happening November 2019

I'm currently obsessed with a song. Well, two actually, one was about 3 weeks ago, the other from a few days ago. It's hard to be properly obsessed with two songs at the same time, so one moved into the other. Fortunately I'd nearly finished the first before the second arrived.

(I have a lot of other things I should be doing. My poor wifey deserves better.)

The first is ELO Telephone Line. Not sure why it came back into my life, loved it as a kid, love it when I hear it, must have been a "heard in shops 'I can fingerstyle that'" usual thing. Own arrangement, it's pretty good, I just can't play it well yet ;-) Here's bits of it in a demo:

Telephone Line demo:

The second was a Naudo, posted a few days ago. Chicago "If You Leave Me Now". He absolutely nailed it. Had to do it. When a song is sung high/falsetto it works really well as fingerstyle, because the melody sits nice and high above the bass and mid fill. This particular song has some nice complex chords in it. In fact so does Telephone Line. I must be getting in touch with my inner Jazz musician; the one who appreciates more than just basic rock. Here's bits of it in a demo, it is much rougher than the previous:
If You Leave Me Now demo:

There you go! Busy!

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Guitar YouTubers and what videos to post

I noticed that one of my favourite fingerstyle guitarists, Jake Reichbart, has started live streaming. I'm always interested in what the professional fingerstyle guitarists out there have to say so I've been watching him (not live though, timezone issues).

Note: the guitar YouTubers I particularly follow are:

  • Naudo Rodrigues. Just plays fingerstyle covers. "Just". The guys is a genius. I have modeled my playing on his style for more than a decade now from just watching and transcribing.
  • Jake Riechbart. Just plays fingerstyle covers generally with a jazz feel. "Just". Recently streaming.
  • Paul Davids. Talks about many interesting guitar topics, very knowledgeable and has a nice presentation style.
  • Sammy G. He's quirky, interesting, a true musician and he talks about stuff in that vein. I don't think he is a fingerstyle player at heart, but when I've heard him fingerstyle, he's pretty good at it.
  • Allen Mathews. Professional Classical guitarist. Hugely generous with his instructional videos, so much good stuff, and even though I'm not a classical guitarist I was born from classical guitar, and I can relate to almost everything he talks about.
  • Kelly Valleau. Just plays fingerstyle covers. "Just". But his attention to arrangements is outstanding. I love it when he takes a minimalist approach and every note counts. I'd like to be like that!
  • Adam Neely. Bass player, quirky, but another true musician. Talks about proper music theory which I generally don't understand, but just enough for me to have an idea what he is talking about.

There are many other guitarists in my feed, but these listed are the ones that post most frequently and generally with something I'd like to see. Now Jake Reichbart will post a song, and has recorded an instructional video on it, so you can pay him some cash and he will provide you with it. So the more views he gets, the more sales he would get. Jake mentioned during one of his streams was how his viewership has dropped off, which affects his income stream. How previously he would post something and have thousands of views in a short period of time, but now it's more like hundreds of views.  I have noticed the same with the other guitarists I follow. They have many subscribers, they release a quality video, but after a week maybe a few thousand views. No more million views in a week!

I think the days of targeting youtube views is probably over. As in making a video specifically for people to watch because you think that is what they want to watch and will get lots of views. If the people who are really good at it are running out of reach then it's all over. I love to make a good video, I won't settle for poor quality audio, and I only ever posted what I thought people might like to see. So generally just a song, not me nattering. But now, I think it's okay for me to put stuff out there I hadn't previously done in the past. That slow motion video I posted the other month - generally not liked. But I wanted to do it, so it doesn't matter! My "Jawmunji Talks" videos, which I used to post elsewhere but now post on my main channel - they are generally enjoyed, I look forward to posting more in the future...and I want to try live streaming. Maybe over the Christmas holidays.

YouTube - tough, but also liberating!

Saturday, 12 October 2019

What's happening October 2019

I posted a video of me playing a quick fast phrase on YouTube, recorded in slow motion. I found it quite fascinating, I was going to post in on my "other" YouTube channel but I made the decision a while back to put everything on the one Jawmunji YouTube channel. Knowing that most people subscribed only really like the cover arrangements, not me nattering on about stuff. Well, not unsurprisingly, had quite a few dislikes, more than normal. Fair enough. Gives me second thoughts about live streaming on there, but, my channel, my choice :-)

OBS Project seems to be the way to go for live streaming. I have done some tests with it, nothing actually live yet, it's good, possibly not as good as I was hoping. But that's because I want things done how I want them done...when you don't fit into a mold that's when you make life hard for yourself.

Now yesterday I had 2 hours to kill while my son was at a party, across the road was a music store. I've been into music stores before and just played guitars and I  have been a pest, I'm wary of doing that now, so I was super polite and up front, "hey I've just got some time to kill, do you mind if I play some guitars?" They weren't busy and didn't seem to mind, they were busy repairing and restringing guitars, so off I went. I've always had a soft spot for https://joondalupmusic.com.au/

I first played something that I hadn't seen before - a Taylor dreadnought looking classical guitar! It was a cross over hybrid, similar to my hybrid Yamaha but big bodied. I should have taken some photos.  Next time. I was excited to see what it sounded like...and sadly I was disappointed on all levels.

The neck was narrower - I realised years ago I don't like narrow necks. Not the Taylor's fault. I can adapt to the narrowness, my main issue comes from the top and bottom strings being too close to the edge of the fretboard. I'm sure you'd get used to it, but I can't deal with it immediately.

The action was set incredibly low - I'm pretty sure it has a truss rod so you could adjust - but coupled with very low tension strings I was getting fret buzz even at my lightest touch. I was thinking with the big body I could get a big fat sound out of it, nope. The moment I tried to open it up it was noisy and grating. Higher tension strings and action adjustment would help.

Finally, I was playing it through an amp, and I didn't like the pickup. I spent a bit of time working out what I like and don't like in a pickup, and this was the sound I don't like. A single undersaddle piezo transducer has a sound that has too much fundamental frequency causing an "electric" sound. Only ever once have I played a single undersaddle piezo and it sounded okay, think it was a Baggs, or Fishmann. I need to pay more attention.

I mentioned these things to the store guy and he said "Hmm, we might have to have a look at the setup, it has been on the shelf for a long long time."

Second guitar was a Yamaha NTX, I hadn't played one before, it's another hybrid crossover, they must have come about after I had bought my CGX hybrid. I immediately felt at home with it and it had that "Yamaha Nylon" sound to it. The dual pickup is still good, although the neck is narrower I adapted. I messed with the EQ and, it might be confirmation bias, but, even unplugged, I found the same issue which eventually turned me away from my CGX. There is a hole in the sound profile. I can't quite pick it. They have a big strong bass sound, and clear trebles, but somewhere in the middle it is missing a tone. The 6th string is too boomy in comparison to the 5th string, the 3rd string "classical guitar problem" is quite prominent...the sound lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

I liked the Yamaha - I don't think I've ever played a Yamaha classical I didn't like, from 70'smodels  through to current. Although if you buy a C40 today I would smile through gritted teeth at the sound, they need a decade to mellow.  Please buy the cheapest CG instead of the C40, or better, a 10+ year old CG. Convince your kid that new isn't always best.

At this stage there wasn't anything else nylon of note on the shelf.  I still had half an hour, so I tried a Brand K classical with no pickup. I say Brand K because I don't remember the actual name and I hadn't heard of it before, except it started with a K. (Found nothing about it on Google either.  Just another Chinese guitar.) The shop guy told me they are competing quite well with Yamaha these days. The one I played was a true classical (shape, neck, look) valued around $AUD450(2019).

Wow. Okay, its shape was exactly like my Esteve playability wise, and it had fresh strings on it which is always a good start, but it sang out, and I dug into it to really push the tone and it didn't crack. It wasn't missing "the Yamaha hole" in the sound (one day I should do some spectral analysis of the sound, broadly I would compare these as "Japanese sound" versus "Spanish sound"). Maybe I'm bias, okay, I *am* bias, but it punched out a sound similar to my Esteve, played easy, looked nice, it was basically just a great guitar. Possibly the best value for money for its price sticker.

Hmm, this review was kinda long, and without photos and model numbers doesn't have much value, but I think I would like to review more guitars. I have played quite a few over the years, not enough, I know what I like, maybe next time I am killing time in a music shop (with permission from the owners) I should _properly_ review some :-)

Thursday, 3 October 2019

1979

I've got a couple of songs to record but I'm not making the time for it, still over-committed. But there is always time to have heard a song on the radio and thought "I think that one could work". Normally I like to do songs nobody else has done, but when I looked this one up it had been done plenty of times. Oh well. Smashing Pumpkins, 1979. Classic alt rock from 1995. Some arrangements I saw were a bit over the top, I wanted something easy.

Fell straight into a bass-on-1 snare-on-3 style boom chick/finger slap, sadly, that's my default style. I try to get an additional bass note on beat 4 (which requires concentration), not just on 1 all the time. Especially when beat 4 is down a tone, or a fourth, or something interesting. But this song is mostly three chords - D, G, Em.

Billy Corgan played this song with the guitar tuned down a semi-tone, I don't do that sort of tuning. But what I am happy to do is Drop D and then put a capo on 1. So the D shape chord become Eb, same as the original song. And I still love Drop D even when it is Drop D up to Eb :-)

The song almost didn't need arranging. Play the cool Dmaj7 to D shape (I love maj7) - but in strange but cool inversion - bottom note is D (I'm talking no capo) and the next note up is C#...that's major 7th but normally you wouldn't put the C# in the bass. But it really works. Up to the G, remember the 6th needs that extra two frets.

Then it's just the melody on top which is pretty easy to pick/flick your way through.

It's mostly ready to record, and it sounds really good for not much effort in learning. I think it will be a recommended-for-beginners type of song. Slight bit of stretching in places for the left hand but otherwise easy, the hard part is in the right hand. Like all good fingerstyle :-)

I put a mic in front of me and recorded a demo...Apologies for the strings being totally dead (I've got plenty of new string sets but I don't want to spend the time breaking them in.) This is a very cutdown demo, just the main concepts.

1979 demo:

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Gold

So I'm walking around Bunnings yesterday and I hear the classic 70's rock song "Gold" by John Stewart playing. Stevie Nicks backing vocals, Lindsey Buckingham-esque guitar solo, in fact, if you didn't know better you'd say it was a Fleetwood Mac song. I still remember when my dad brought it home on 45 and played it non-stop on the turntable for hours, 1979. During the formative years...but it's funny how some stuff sticks in your head.

So I'm thinking, "there's some stuff going on in there like I did with a previous song, I think that one will come up easy as fingerstyle. And I might even try wrist pumping to get bass drum/snare, that might be my avenue into that technique."

I looked up the chords, it's just Am, F with an occasional transition through Em. I initially thought I would run drop D tuning, so that root note plus perfect 5th/major 6th/minor 7th rollicking bluesy feel isn't too much of a pinky stretch. It didn't really fit, so I left it at standard tuning. Besides, from Am the stretch to put your pinky on the 4th string F# isn't too bad, and rather than trying to then hit the G on the 4th string, just drop the A off the 3rd string, careful left hand muting and right hand picking will make it work.

The melody wrote itself, I think he only sung four notes for the whole song - C, down to A, down to G. And B during the Em transition.  The synth "walking progression" during the first part of the song hurt my head, I couldn't find the starting note. I've often said my ear is bad, but I'm starting to think it is that my brain gets a preconceived idea of what I'm hearing and then won't let go of it, pretending it is right, fighting my ear. Once I worked out what the end note of the synth progression was - by playing notes and listening to it looped - it got easier after that.

So within an hour I had everything sussed and was playing it okay. But it's a simple song so it needs some flair so it doesn't sound like the same thing over and over again.  The structure has the synth predominate at the start, then favours the blues progression from the middle forward. I ran that variance, and threw in a "reset/quieter" part, and then some "chorus" repetition to finish it off. I should attempt the solo, it's only short. I didn't put in the wrist pump, I should!

But wow, that was a fast and groovy song to arrange. You would have heard it, but not known what it was, it charted quite high for a short while and then was lost to the annuls of history. Except it was burnt into my brain as a kid :-) Check it out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPjhHcLpfr4

Update: so two days pass, I noodle on it for around 40 mins each day. Discovered some more things to do with the bass line, and realised that the bar when he says "turning music into gold" is actually only 2/4 - so two beats dropped. I turned on the mic just now, and got this very rough capture:

Gold demo:

JAW

Sunday, 23 June 2019

What's happening June 2019

So busy, mostly with volunteering for kid things.  It's nice, I have a netball team and I am the chairman of a kids orchestra organisation, but it's left no time for me! No gigging, no youtube, no blogging...but I'm not sure I could ever stop playing. See previous blogs about obsession.

So quick one in between work/family/commitments (must remember to so "no" next year) - a few weeks back I happened across an Ennio Moricone piece, which I have always loved, and always wanted to play.  I checked a couple of fingerstyle versions on youtube, the only one I liked was by Luciano Renan, but some of the ways he was approaching it didn't fit my style, and more importantly I wanted something "quick and easy". So in true JAW style I started making my own arrangement based heavily on his one.  Still needs work and I'm not sure if I like the structure just yet, but here's a demo :-)

JAW


Ecstasy of Gold demo:

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

What's happening April 2019

I may have said "yes" to a few too many kid things this year. I'm on the netball committee, and coaching a team, Was coaching a basketball team, but that season has ended. I'm on the executive committee for a youth strings orchestra and that one not only takes time but is kinda exhausting. So I've dropped all gigging, and am not focusing on any new arrangements. Kids are only kids for a short while, so I've being involved while I can. I'd still play through DSotM once a week though...the addiction runs deep...

But with Easter, I took a week off, and had a look back at what I was working on. I'd forgotten that I'd been doing an arrangement for Dragon "Rain" and Dylan "It's all over now baby blue"! And I hadn't tabbed anything.  I'm glad I mention what I'm working on here! My obsession with "Monty on the Run High Score" continues and I'm going to fit in a time soon to record a video. Oh, I did have a look at two phrases in "Pumped Up Kicks" which has some fascinating syncopation, the work is based on Kel Valleau's work, I will talk about that later too.

Until next time!

Saturday, 19 January 2019

C64 High Score with Rob Hubbard

A while back I arranged and played Rob Hubbard's "Commando High Score". If you were born circa late 60's early 70's and had a Commodore 64 you are probably just started humming it in your head. Danny over at No Reason got in touch with me - another fan of the song - he was doing a podcast on this obscure little song and wanted to interview me! Of course I said yes!

During the interview he mentioned he was interviewing Rob Hubbard, the composer. I was dumbfounded and awestruck...yes I am a huge fan of Rob's chiptune work in the 80's, he was a monster in the scene, so many terrible C64 games but with fantastic soundtracks. His music had an impact on my life that remains to this day.  What he could get out of the 3 channel SID chip in a C64 was simply incredible.

Now "Commando High Score", circa May '85, has what I consider a sibling tune in "Monty on the Run High Score" circa June '85. Both have the very familiar doo-wop 50's chord progression I-vi-IV-V (eg Stand By Me), albeit in different styles, but the "feel" is very familiar between them. I mentioned to Danny to ask Rob if after creating "Commando High Score" (which apparently he did very quickly) if he then took a bit more time and expanded it into "Monty on the Run Game Over". I look forward to the answer!



Both songs feature a soulful melody but it's what else is happening in there that is really interesting. The doo-wop chord progression is found in the bass note. But there is a mid ranged arpeggio that plays exactly the same notes throughout the progression, so those notes move between being minor/major/7th/etc in the underlying changing chords, a very clever "trick". The internet tells me this trick is called "ostinato" derived from the Latin for "stubborn" which is both apt and funny. The melody also stays in its own same notes, also creating fascinating chord sounds.

Anyway, I then was inspired to arrange "Monty on the Run High Score" as well, it's much longer and as per usual I have made it very difficult to play.

...but I also arranged it for my kids to play as a trio. My kids primary instruments are double bass, cello and alto sax which is perfect for this arrangement. They have been on holidays and their brains have turned to mush, but I've made them play it through in 3 separate sessions, it needs plenty of work but I'm loving the sound of it. Dare I say I like it more than when I'm playing it myself! The part for the girls is very easy and they pretty much nail it, the melody is on the edge of playability for the lad, he's getting there though. Decided to record an "early version, warts and all" so that one day we can all look back and laugh :-)

JAW