Wednesday 22 November 2023

DAW

I'll come clean with you - in the very early 2000's a mate of mine gave me a dodgy copy of Cool Edit Pro, said "hey those recordings you are working on, try this on them". And thus started my foray into the world of DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). By the time I realised I loved Cool Edit Pro and went to buy a license, you couldn't get it anymore, it had been bought out by Adobe. I then spent years using Audacity but I never really liked it, and kept falling back to my dodgy copy of Cool Edit Pro. The shame.

The early DAWs were all "destructive", because computers weren't powerful enough to do real time processing. But once you had your own editing process, destructive isn't really a problem, you would have revisions of the wavefiles and you could step back if you needed to. Obviously real time processing would be much better, but just to pop a bit of EQ on a guitar track isn't going to do your head in.

A few months back I grabbed a copy of a recording from the sound tech at my local church where I regularly play in the band. It was a raw 32 channel single file - straight from mics and instruments, no processing. Yeah...I needed to step 20 years into the future to mix that.

Several of my favourite YouTube artists use Ableton as their DAW, so I grabbed the demo and set about learning it. It was so foreign to me I couldn't do it. I looked up Audacity again, which does support real-time processing, and I very quickly got my 32 channel recording loaded up and started mixing it. It was pretty good! Still felt like the same old Audacity so I felt a little bit uncoordinated with it, but I pushed on.

As a side note, mixing a live mix is a universe into itself. I only know what my ears like, but after reading several articles and watching several videos about mixing, there are some basic techniques, the very first most important one being that mixing is the end of the line - production is the most important part. Let's just say that the band - which changes from week to week as there are many musicians that rotate through - is pretty good, so I'm not wasting my time mixing. But wow, 7 mics on the drumkit, were every drum mic bleeds into the other drum mics, and the drums bleed into all the vocalists mics, and the other instruments...it's a challenge!

While surfing about mixing I came across someone using Reaper, another DAW that I had used years ago but found it unintuitive to use. Because of my frustration with Ableton, and my lackluster desire for Audacity, I gave it another try. I was quickly able to stand up a recording and did some mixing just with the basic real-time processing, and wow, the mix came out sounding so much nicer than Audacity! I think the built in Reaper effects are better than the freeware effects I had downloaded for Audacity. Or perhaps I had already started getting a better ear for mixing.

So I persisted with Reaper, and it was starting to feel more natural. This is good, because I knew that there was some serious scripting power underneath the hood of Reaper, and I knew that a 32 channel mix from a live studio deck could use a lot of automation to simplify the basic tasks you will get every time you explode out the 32 channels for example delete the channels not used, name the rest, group the stereo signals back together (all 32 tracks are mono) and then apply a standard set of effects across them...yeah lots of automation.

The language of choice for Reaper seems to be Lua, which I'd never heard of but is indeed a programming language. I could have used Python, or EEL2, but Lua seemed to be what they were pushing. After working out how to use the script library manager, I downloaded a few scripts to use as an example. The Lua syntax wasn't a problem - I do a fair bit of scripting in my day job - what was a problem was getting my head around all the APIs that Reaper can deal with.

Skipping forward, after about 10 hours of fumbling around, I had built up a nice script that automated all the basic tasks I wanted. It has been enough to make me commit to Reaper, even though there are still a few things that I'm uncoordinated with and seem unintuitive.

Not too pricey either, around (AUD2023)$90 one-off cost (I really dislike subscription model software).

Saturday 28 October 2023

Gretsch G5422G-12

This was one of those moments when you saw something and didn't realise until then you needed it in your life.


A September 2019 Gretsch G5422G-12 twelve string guitar.


For a while now I have been arranging/practising on my electric guitar with custom neck. Mostly because it is quiet...and that comes from both being family friendly and that after 40 years of playing classical and acoustic guitars, even the unamplified sound over a practice session leaves a ringing in my ears.

And I have adapted to it. So still a wide neck for good crossover with classical guitar, but the sound is very hollow...being an unamplified electric guitar. In fact when I play my Esteve it now feels a bit weird.

Additionally, I have always wanted a 12 string.  Not really sure what I'd do with it, but every time I hold one in a music shop and strum it, it sounds amazing.

So when I saw an electric guitar (quiet for practice), but hollow body (so not too quiet, has an acoustic feel), with 12 strings (who doesn't want one!) which brings a wide neck, I realised I needed it.

It was at my local pawn shop, and interestingly they also had a 1981 SG double neck 12/6 string, which had a price tag of AUD(2023)$15,000. Interesting they bought it and think that they will be able to move it. There must be rich people out there who buy stuff like that!

They wanted AUD(2023)$995 for the Gretsch, after a moment of haggling I walked out with it for AUD(2023)$820. You can still buy them new for AUD(2023)$1500, this one was as-new condition so, fair enough. At the time it had only 6 strings wound on it, so on my way home I grabbed a set of Elixirs for it, which I have been really liking for acoustics. AUD(2023)$45 for a set, I figure they will last me many months.

Not much to tidy up on it, I took the strings off it, steel wool'd the frets, oiled the fretboard, polished the metal parts, cleaned the body, put the strings on.  I'd never strung a 12 before, I had to read up about it! I knew that the top E and B were unison, and that the bottom 4 were all octaves, but I tells ya, tuning the octave G, 9 thou, I was wincing expecting it to snap!  After stretching and bedding them in, I was getting a feel for which winder is which, it gets easy pretty quick.  Still a lot of tuning though!

I was impressed with the intonation! I only had to adjust 3 of the pairs, and I thought that since 2 strings are intonated over the same adjustment that you'd never get it right, but no, even the worst was only a few cents out at any fret up to 12.  Besides, it's that tiny discrepancy in pitch and phase and all that which gives the 12 string that huge jangly sound.

After strumming it for a while, the usual fighting you get with 12 strings - even though I had gone with 10-46 guage - very light - I started flatpicking some classic 12 string songs like Wish You Were Here and Hotel California. I then had a crack at just outright fingerstyle.

My first two hours in, I reckon it is possible but it is different.  My right hand index finger already has a "strummy" action when I'm fingerpicking so there was no trouble in "picking" two strings at once. It's almost like you are doing a classical style rest stroke to hit both those strings. My middle and ring weren't really playing the strummy game, but I can see that they will.

My thumb didn't like it at all.  But when I brought my thumb down real low, almost parallel to the string, and "picked" at the point where your nail hits the side of your thumb, that was starting to get the more strummy action you need.  Because the octave string is the first one you hit when you pluck with your thumb, you kinda already have this "slope" of strings you are strumming against.

Early days.  I'll report back!

Monday 16 October 2023

What's happening October 2023

I've been working on arrangement scores. Been updating based on how my playing has changed, and getting them to Musescore 4.  I feel like chasing versions of Musescore is folly, but it makes me feel better. I have realised that I like having a big library of arrangements, that I would prefer to be a human jukebox of a hundred songs played okay rather than a virtuoso of 5 songs played to absolute perfection. I don't think that I could ever learn a song to perfection to be honest.  Rough'n'ready, fake it 'til you make it.

It would be good to be able to legitimately post my arrangements. I'm happy to share all my arrangements with my patreons, but it would be nice to be able to put them in an online store. Yeah, I can already, Hal Leonard does that, but your commission is 10%! Yeah, nah. ("Yeah, nah" is Australian slang, it means "I heard what you said, and I really don't agree.")

So much so that I emailed Patreon a few months back, "Hey I like your new digital store.  But I'd like to legitimately sell arrangements of covers. Could you organise that for me?"  The got back to me, they knew what I was talking about, and they liked the idea, and they put it to the bosses.  I'm not expecting much to come from it, put that would be great, I still think Patreon is good.

If the likes of Youtube can deal with it - upload a cover and Youtube will either block it, do nothing, or call it their own and make money off it - and Spotify - and others - then I'm hoping Patreon can too.

Maybe one day I can sell an arrangement for three bucks, two go to the copyright holder, one to me...maybe? Maybe I'm in la-la land, eh?

JAW

Monday 25 September 2023

What's happening September 2023

Playing for an hour in the lunchroom on a Friday every week is a useful pursuit - it ticks several musical boxes:

  • There are people listening - okay mostly having lunch and not looking at you - but you naturally want to play your best;
  • Nobody likes a half song playing guitarist so you play a song from start to finish, even if it is just an improvised few verses and choruses and omitting the solo;
  • It's just you and a guitar, no sheets music, no gear. Everything has to be memorised and all the sound tone comes from your own two hands;
  • You don't want to just play the same 10 songs every week, so you are constantly developing new arrangements and dusting off old material;
  • You are reinforcing and normalising society with music. Yeah, this is more abstract, but us humans have a deep emotional connection with music which needs to be nurtured. There is a big difference between streaming music phone-to-headphones and someone sitting there, right there, playing music. I'd like to see more live music in society, and more people recognising live music as normal.

So while playing a few weeks back one of the admin staff came in and had a chat. The company was having a family day, and they were thinking of hiring a band, but then they thought "why not just ask our resident guitarist?" Heh. They called me their "resident guitarist". How could I say no to "resident guitarist"?

So for two Sunday afternoons I set up my "playing out" kit - the Esteve, my Behringer Eurolive B112D Public Address speaker sitting on top of a stand to get it up to ear level, my Zoom effects pedal for some reverb sound shaping and a couple of instrument and power leads. It all fits on a fold up trolley so I can do one trip from my car to the venue.

Both Sundays I played 2.5 hours, no repeats, both sessions I got the the end and there were still a few songs I wanted to play! I was quite pleased that my repertoire is still quite extensive - sure, a few songs had rough patches were my brain blanked out and I had to percussively strum a few open chords and hook back in to a verse or chorus - but it wasn't awful.

At an event like that with lots of people walking by you get a chance to say "thanks" and smile and nod while you are playing, and a few people will stop and chat. It's nice.

I wasn't quite getting the tone I was after, there is a a bit too much resonance/boom/chatter on the low E string. That might suit some songs that sit on a bass guitar driven sound, in fact it was cool for that, but for a general pop song it was out of balance. I couldn't fix it on the spot, that's something I will need to look at.

Meanwhile, I have continued to dust of some old favourites. Particularly the difficult songs, like "Something", "Whiter Shade of Pale" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". Wow there is a lot of chords in them, and the different inversions up the neck. I can think in terms of open chords/cowboy chords, but I haven't mastered the neck for everything. If I could send something back to Past JAW it would be "spend a bit more time mastering the chord locations on the neck". There are plenty of chords inversions up the neck I do know, that come natural now, but not everything I need. So quite often when I'm playing a song where the melody has taken my up the neck, I'm completely winging it from muscle memory - I don't actually know what I'm doing... It's okay, means there is still plenty to learn!

Keep playing, keep practising. As I said recently to a coworker who has a guitar but is struggling to stay motivated: "Play 5 to 10 minutes every day rather than an hour a week - so keep the guitar on a $20 stand in the middle of your living room so you can't ignore it. Sure learn from youtube or a book the stuff you need to know, but also learn fun stuff that that attracted you to the guitar in the first place. Check in with a guitarist from time to time to make sure you aren't doing anything silly. And learn to sing...it might sound confronting and out of your comfort zone, but once you can change smoothly between 3 chords you have about a million songs at your fingertips, but only you will recognise them unless you are singing them."

Saturday 16 September 2023

Busking - not me

You do get some of your character from your parents, so it's no surprise that my three kids are all musical. My boy has played the sax for many years, currently on a second hand tenor sax, quite a nice tone, not lacquered so it has that vintage look. He's played in all the school bands for years, has had one-on-one lessons for years, he is quite good for a youngster. A few months back my wife and I were listening to him practise for an exam - he lines up a backing track on his phone and pumps it through a blue tooth speaker to play along with. There is a sheet for the main theme/riffs, but he improvises the majority of it. And while he quite often shreds too many notes, his improv skills are really coming along...waaay better than mine, that's for sure!

So much so that I said "You need to get out and earn some money with this. People will pay to hear this." That's a rule that I mention here on this blog fairly regularly, "you need to play to audiences". He does already play in school bands - but he's a teenager with no job, so if he could get paid to play music, that's a win win.

I got in contact with Hillarys marina which is a twelve minute drive from us. There is live music there from time to time, it's a big place, lots of foot traffic. They wanted a video audition to get started, fair enough. That was an interesting experience in itself...I set up two mics at a distance to capture the sax in a similar way to capturing my guitar, I made him listen to the backing track through headphones, and then I sync'd it all up in post mix. I came out alright, but next time I will try mic'ing up the horn right at the bell, with the gain set really low. Or, get a sax mounted microphone...hmmm... (for interest, this was one of the audition videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Olb5b-DiWuI)

The Hillarys management were happy for him to come down, passed the audition, we went out and met the lady running the admin, to find out where we could setup and all that. They don't seem to get many buskers, because you book in morning or afternoon slots and the coming weekend was completely open. So I booked him in for Saturday.

In the meantime, busking...and coins/cash...in a post cov-id world. Do people actually have cash to throw to buskers? I didn't know! But luckily https://busk.co/ has your back. It's a not for profit organisation to promote busking, like a social advocate for good, and they provide tech in the way of cashless payments setups so with a QR code people can easily tip some cash via Google/Apple pay or Paypal. I set him up and tested it out, nice, works well!

So Saturday comes around, and I push him just crash into it, an experiment, let's just see what happens! We went armed with a small battery bluetooth speaker, his music stand with QR code on it and his reference sheets and his tenor sax. We parked up in a spot on the boardwalk and I sat down and watched. He was a bit nervous, but I didn't really give him the chance to think about it. That's the key, just go, think about it afterwards. It's not like he didn't have the musical chops.

We had two issues, the first being that there was no shade, so he was cooking in the sun in half an hour. The other was the bluetooth speaker was slightly underpowered. Just needed a few more watts. But from a busking point of view, it was ace! In that 30 minutes he had $27 in coins put into his case, and a $3 online tip. He was quite happy with that!

Now we just need to work on the gear, time of day and where to stand - smoothing out the process.  He also worked out that the ballad he played was the money maker, even though he likes to play the jazzier stuff! He needs a money-making busking setlist!

Monday 14 August 2023

AI spam comments

It's pretty quite around here these days. Plenty of visitors, but not many commentors. I think it is a sign of the times, people don't engage anymore. Possibly because they feel they are just feeding a marketing machine? Hey it's not a problem, this is generally a monologue, it's nice when people drop a comment but I don't need it, this blog has always been somewhere I can just rant and rave about music/guitar/other stuff.

So when I saw a comment come in the other day, I jumped to it.

Generally you can pick a spam comment in about 3 seconds. This one had me going for more like 15 seconds. It was pretty impressive! I'm calling it - my first AI spam comment. Here, let's have a look!

What an incredible experience! This article vividly describes the journey through a captivating music studio. The writer's enthusiasm is palpable as they explore the artistic and technical marvels within the studio's walls. The focus on acoustic engineering and its impact on sound quality is particularly fascinating. The anecdotal snippets, from the exquisite Italian Fazioli piano to the mention of music legend Hank Marvin, add depth and context to the story. The personal touch of recording a duet and the writer's anticipation of future concerts adds a sense of anticipation and excitement. A delightful read that captures the essence of the studio tour! To discuss more about visit Sound Engineering Colleges in *******


So it was posted as a comment on my visit to Nunzio's music studio Centre Stage Recording Studios and the AI did a great job of interpreting it and spitting back something that looked like it understood the content.

The spammer needed to dial back a bit on the enthusiasm though, a bit over the top. But how it had scraped key points and used them, pretty impressive.

I fired up the 'ole ChatGPT and tried to get it to rewrite it to not sound like a total spambot. After a few pleas with ChatGPT, nope, it is forever lost in spam:


Rewrite the following to sound less spammy. 

Really tone it down to not sound so enthusiastic. 

Remove some of the spamminess and make it sound more like someone who was fascinated by the experience. 

Keep trying to make it sound more like a genuine experience and not trying to sell something. 

Rewrite in the first person. 

It still sounds spammy. Try to make it not sound like a total spambot.


The article really resonated with me as it shared a journey through a music studio, offering insights into both the artistic and technical sides. The way the author explored how acoustic engineering shapes sound quality was particularly thought-provoking. The personal anecdotes, such as discovering the Italian Fazioli piano and the subtle reference to Hank Marvin, added a genuine touch. Reading about the author's experience recording a duet and their sincere excitement for upcoming concerts made the anticipation come alive. The piece authentically captured the essence of the studio tour. If you're interested in learning more, you might want to check out Sound Engineering Colleges in *******


Yep, fail

So I fed ChatGPT the article and asked it to write a short comment with a link to a webiste. Well it produced nearly the same thing. It's like ChatGPT has been taught by the greatest minds of spam on the internet... but it ain't fooling us :-)


What a captivating glimpse into a world of musical artistry! Your account of Nunzio Mondia's studio showcases a harmonious blend of meticulous design and artistic passion. The immersive acoustics and exquisite instruments, like the Fazioli piano, truly make it a haven for music enthusiasts. The studio's connection with Hank Marvin adds an exciting layer to its allure. Your personal musical experience and anticipation for upcoming concerts beautifully round out the story. Cheers to Nunzio Mondia for crafting a space that resonates with the heart and soul of music! For those intrigued by this musical haven, you can learn more atSound Engineering Colleges in *******

Monday 17 July 2023

Rusty Songs

Most of my songs I need to play once a month or they go a bit rusty. Where I'll forget a chord or a section and I'll have to fake it through it. The problem is further exacerbated - if a song is already rusty, I'm less likely to play it in a performance situation, so I avoid it making it rustier still.

The solution to rust is to spend five to ten minutes in quiet practise time to polish it up.  If I haven't played a song in six months I might need to refer back to my sheet and spend half an hour.

How to stop it rusting again? I'm still playing for an hour in the lunch room at work on Fridays. Since my set list is around three hours long, what I'm thinking is, have a setlist sheet and play in order.  And then next session pick up where I left off.  Until the sheet is finished, and then restart.  That will give every song a play through once a month minimum!

For even better skillz, I'll give the sheet to an active listener and ask them to pick songs.  I'll have to know my songs well for that.  I plan later this year to stop in some open mics, I reckon if I have 70 songs in good condition and ask the audience to pick, that will be a good party trick πŸ‘

In the meantime, play, and polish.  I reckon currently 40 songs are rust-free, 10 are rusty, 10 need some more serious sanding, and around 20 are almost a lost cause πŸ™‚

Saturday 1 July 2023

Noodling with Stairway to Heaven

We've all played Stairway to Heaven. Such an iconic rock song, it's the same age as me!  We've all mangled it, never playing the whole song just little bits and pieces for our own amusement. And then got tired of it and stopped playing for while.  Well for some reason it jumped into my head again a bit over a week ago and I started noodling with it again, taking some creative license from Naudo's cover, and I started tabbing it out.

Because it is a "precious" song it's important not to upset people with your cover - and I'm not talking just butchering your playthough, we all do that anyway - I'm talking your choice in arrangement.  So with my "campfire" guitar I keep stashed under a desk at work I played through some concepts to some work colleagues, both laymen and musos, for some feedback.  There were some flourishes and motifs I added (after all these years I have developed a certain style I almost cannot escape) some were universally panned, and some were approved.

The feeling I get (when I look to the West) is that people want it as close as possible to the original.  I'll give a little sigh here, and at least to some part obey the people.

So in my borderline obsessive arranging and considerations and testing, after fretting Am and adding the g-string A as the melody so many times, I injured my left hand index finger.  I actually stopped playing altogether for a few days, but it is a bruise in the top joint, the last time I did this was more like a fortnight to heal.  The moral of this is that don't keep playing through pain even if you are in the middle of some obsessive arrangement.

But this morning, I tested my finger, yeah, it is still bruised, but I persisted long enough to at least record a little section of my current thoughts, for your consideration.  It's on a telecaster copy I keep near my computer because it is quiet and soft on my hands, and even though I don't like the narrow neck and the sound is incredibly unforgiving with fingerstyle with fingernails, it sounds nice enough when recorded through my computer.

Just the first verse and a bit of chorus, there is plenty I've sorted out, but I hurt my fingy :-)
JAW

Saturday 24 June 2023

Creators in the hands of YouTube

Ah YouTube, what a game changer it has been! My motivation for posting remains mostly the same as it was a decade ago, slightly more emphasis on sharing arrangements I'm excited about than playing for audiences. YouTube has changed over the years, but the last video I posted really rams home how much you are in the hands of YouTube. Not that you weren't ever not in the hands of YouTube. Let's get straight to a chart:

So this is the first two weeks after posting We Will Rock You (which I was obsessively playing with for several weeks). Points of note:

  • The thin grey line is the normal band my videos follow
  • Initially there was a slightly higher uptake than normal, and by the end of the first day there was a little kick up
  • At around the second day there was exponential growth which abruptly halted
  • After the halt, the video returned to typical performance, following the grey band just offset

Note that the grey band is pretty accurate, have at look at the previous three videos I posted:

So, what's going on? The answer is pretty clear in this piece of information:

  • The vast majority of views was referred by YouTube recommendations
  • The recommendations is mostly YouTube Home, so, the videos that appear on the default page when you go to YouTube.
  • I have 11k subscribers, but between the Subscriptions feed and Notifications, this represents only 8% of views.

What it means is that most people on YouTube are letting the algorithm do the work of finding videos they should watch rather than watching their subscriptions feed. And to be honest, that is how I work. I will check my subscription feed once or twice a week, watch the videos that catch my attention, but  after that I aimlessly watch videos that the algorithm sends me. Then it comes down to how much time you spend on YouTube - if I don't spend much time there then I will generally be watching subs only, if I spend more time there I will watch a lot more algorithm videos.

The algorithm is pretty clever too, it already understands what videos you will actually watch from your subscriptions and suggests them, so YouTube Home is almost better than watching your subscriptions. Which means it is pushing your confirmation bias while surreptitiously changing your bias...

But the upticks in this particular video, why did they happen?

After using Google products for many years, I have noticed they "experiment". My guess is that when a new video arrives, initially there will be be subscriber views, and if it getting good views, YouTube will try it out as a suggestion on the home page for a period of time across the people it thinks it will work on. If that does well, it will do another experiment for a period of time. I suspect although this video looks like it was going exponential, at the end of that YouTube experiment, it didn't meet the algorithm criteria and that was it. No more experiments. It went into Standard Holding Pattern.

The bottom line here is that a creator is at the mercy of YouTube. For sure the creator can tailor their content to be What The People Want...and in this case, who doesn't love a minute and a half of "We Will Rock You"? There will be a lot more subtleties in The Algorithm I am blissfully unaware of, but overall, creators are in the hands of YouTube.

But don't let that stop you, it is not about gaming the system, it is about sharing what you love - get playing, get posting videos!

Saturday 10 June 2023

What's happening June 2023

I like the AI text to image generators, I have been using them recently to create interesting pictures to go with these words. While sitting at the table typing this out, on a cold wintery day but with the sun magnificently shining in on the table, I thought I'd challenge the AIs to draw the scene.

This isn't the first time I have tried this, to describe the scene in front of you and see how the AIs go recreating it. I'm starting to get a feel for it, flexing my prompt engineering muscles. For this I used bing.com/create which is a slightly newer version of Dalle-2.

If you start with a basic general prompt, you get  what I would call "a default trained picture". You can get it to redraw and it will have a seemingly infinite possibilities and combinations, but it sticks to a basic theme, "the sum of all pictures ever taken". It's unbelievably clever, but it's not the so of creative you are thinking, you start to see through it. If you now throw in more specific details, the picture will start going your way. Slowly you will over-detail it, pushing in too many directions and the results become worse than the first generic prompts. You can back off in certain details to recover, but too much detail pushes it into a corner where it doesn't really know what to do next and you will get the same not-what-you-wanted picture over and over.

So after all this I pulled out my actual camera, and took a photo, which is that first picture up there. I wasn't going to go to too much effort so the lighting is awful...yeah, it needs foreground lighting as the background is light oversaturated. "What's a poor camera to do?!"

I made the AIs make 50 or so attempts, and I while I liked the feel of some of them, most were not quite getting what I was after and there is always weirdness. Just objects and people that aren't formed correctly. Some is weird, some is funny, some can get creepy and fall into the uncanny valley.

Here are a few I saved, just for fun.

The key features I were looking for were man sitting at table typing on laptop, sun shining into room, miniature schnauzer sitting on mat, guitar in background.

Meanwhile, I still haven't recorded anything new, I'm just playing. More than usual, so I'm going over stuff I haven't played in a while.  Which means that there are parts of songs I have forgotten, which means they aren't at performance level.  Seeing as I have around 90 songs kicking around in my head, it's actually a big ask to keep them all in tip top condition.

I'm thinking I shortlist the ones that are at performance level and make sure I play through them once a month or two, to keep them fresh. And re-introduce older ones as they "come back" again.  And to really challenge myself, give that list to people when I'm playing out and ask what they'd like to hear.

Wish me luck! πŸ‘
JAW

Saturday 13 May 2023

What's happening May 2023

Sitting here with Covid-19 again, I can't complain it's only my second time and it has only kept me in bed for two days, now I just feel, well, sick. So a good time to sit in front of a computer and peck at the keys. In fact I fixed up and posted for my wonderful Patreon supporters my tab of Collective Soul - Shine. How that came about is when I'm playing on Fridays, I often switch to Drop D tuning, and then play a bunch of songs in that tuning. I could only remember 5 or 6 songs in Drop D off the top of my head, so I needed to add some more back in.

It's actually been a real blessing playing in the lunch room on Friday lunch at work. There aren't many people there, somewhere between none and 10 at any one time, but a lot of people walk in and out over the hour I play. 

The main point is that having anyone there puts you in performance mode. You have to play well, and when you are purposely trying to play well, the sound you can make can be so good. And the more weeks I play, the more I'm dusting off old songs and enjoying them again. I find I need to "practise" an old song that has gone rusty for 15-30 minutes at home to clean it up, and then it is good for around two months before I need to clean it up again. Or if I play it at least once a month, it stays good. Funny how the brain works!

I have a couple of songs to record, but I'm not inspired to record at the moment, it just feels like a burden. Trying to play without a single error, setting up the recording equipment, editing the video...I recognise this feeling of burdenedness from my past - when I play out regularly, I get my fix. When I'm not playing out regularly, I lean towards recording videos to get my fix. But, I do want to record two Queen songs and two Cream songs. I will get there, bear with me!

In the meantime, keep playing everyone - either to an audience or to a video camera πŸ‘

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Tempo

A couple of weeks back someone on YouTube mentioned that I was a great guitarist and made really good arrangements, but my tempo is a serious weakness. He was very kind and apologetic about it - but I was grateful because it is true and I should do something about it.

This is where I insert my standard joke "I would use a metronome but I haven't found one yet that works properly."

Background: yes I had some group lessons when I was in primary school, but by the time I was around 11 I'd stopped having all lessons and I haven't had one since. When you teach yourself, you only concentrate on what interests you and you end up with big holes in your musicianship. One of my biggest shortcomings was that playing by myself I never bothered to develop an internal clock. If I had have played with others, or against a backing track or even metronome, I could have fixed this a long time ago.

Fast forward, I now play pretty regularly at my local church, and I tell you, it was SO HARD to begin with, I couldn't track a beat whatsoever! Even now, a few years on, if I start a song solo I am sweating bullets trying to hold a steady tempo. Once the drummer kicks in I'm not too bad at following these days.

All three of my kids play instruments, and I made sure they all played in ensembles, and they continued to for years. Their tempos are all thusly impeccable.

So after the friendly YouTube commenter nudge, I pulled out my phone and browsed up a metronome, and I played several songs... on beat! An actual metronome that works! To be fair, every now and then the metronome was slowing down, so I would also slow down to let it catch up, but really, it wasn't awful. A lot better than the maximum 30 seconds I've ever put up with a metronome before.

Moreso, I have been playing at a fixed tempo slower than how I would normally play, which is hard indeed! And I have played with that metronome at least 4 times over the past two weeks!

So to my fellow DIY musos out there - if you aren't going to play with a band, at least force yourself to play with a metronome or backing track. Easy to say, hard to do, but it is worth it πŸ‘

Sunday 16 April 2023

We Will Rock You

Naudo played "We Will Rock You" recently and I couldn't leave it alone. Since it just Em all the way through, then 2 bars of C, then A until the end, how hard could it be?

But now I'm beating myself up about it a lot.  Because it's now all about the touch.  Let's discuss.

Naudo plays the two bass notes E+B, more of a strum for most of it. I didn't want to hold onto the B the whole time, and my right hand position is more of a thumb fingerpick than a thumb strum, so I resolved to just the bass E for the Boom Boom...then I felt the CLAP! needed top three trebles filling out the Em...if I was to play just the top two strings it would be a pure (abiguous) E5 which is okay but hey, I'm playing a classical guitar - Em gives it a great Spanish feel doesn't it?

So now playing the verse words you really want to keep that big "Boom Boom CLAP rest" going, it is a pivotal part of the song. The clap just becomes the "usual flick" on the 3rd beat, but wow, Boom Boom and rest are so hard to play like clockwork.  After years of playing melodies over basslines, my fingers just want to naturally fill the space where the rest is, and quite often want to take a break from the second Boom.

What's going on in my head is a really unusual fight but if I relax into it, while concentrating hard then it flows nicely. I'm singing the words and playing the melody in my head, but letting the clockwork happen underneath. Did I mention it is really unusual? And, as mentioned the touch needs to be just right, this arrangement is about the feel not so much the notes.

Naudo improvised some great jazzy stuff  in it, but this is me, and I want the studio solo at the end.  I'm picturing Mike Meyers as Wayne playing it on the white Strat.  A good resolve fell out, than can be played on the Boom Boom CLAP rest...if you have >14 frets available. It was possible to bring it down so that the highest note is only the 14th fret, so playable on the classical, but it makes the fingering less natural, and to get the pull-offs right I had to drop a note in the essential chord and make sure it doesn't ring by lightly leaning on it during the pull-off.  Look, it works, but again, see: unusual.

Alright, this is all very cryptic, I need to record it so you can see it don't I!

As an aside, I'm still playing with text-to-image AI as you can see.  It's so cool, so brilliant, and yet so awkward and misses the mark.  The first picture up there, which is Bing Image Create (a version of DALL E, April 2023) really captures the text I put in "music we will rock you".  It channelled Brian May, got the dimly lit smoky stage feel, the rocker clothes and the triumphant rock hand held high in the air...wait - what is THAT?  Ha ha, so close, and yet just comical.  I won't show the other one that had me rolling in stitches, suffice to say, a giant three fingered fist with the middle finger raised.  Ah, the AIs, so good but that tiny last detail not quite understood changes everything.

The second picture is also funny - the prompt was "music we will rock you outdoor". And there you go, some sort of amplifier fused into a rock. What a work of art, I want one, my very own "WH Sowtur iWuck".

The text-to-image is improving so fast from just a few months back when I first posted one - I'm imagining there won't be much to laugh at soon enough...

Sunday 12 March 2023

Make a Nut

This is a my definitive "how to make a nut" article, and I will continue to edit it as I make more nuts, improve my technique and take more photos.  Let's get started!

What you need

1. A flat surface to sand flat surfaces. I have an offcut of polished granite - a piece of glass would do, but anything really flat.

2. Sandpaper, used flat for grinding on your flat surface, but also for rounding off.  Have several grades, 150 grit will remove bulk material fast, then work through 240/400/800/1200 to polish if you like that sort of thing!

3. A right angled piece of something, mine here is a lump of steel. If you run your nut/saddle along it to file the narrow end, you stand a better chance of keeping it at 90 degrees.

4. A caliper with a digital display.  The cheap ones on Aliexpress around $15 are good for +/-0.02mm which is way better than my eyes, so that will be fine.

5. Some nice sharp pencils.

6. These are actually welding jet nozzle cleaners, but can double for rounded nut slot files. They aren't as good as a real nut file, but they at 1/100th of the price. There is no cheap solution for nut slot files, yet.

7. A pencil cut in half longways...use your sandpaper and flat surface to achieve.  Used for a specific marking technique.

8. Guitar neck support.  Another cheap item on Aliexpress.

9. Guitar winder. Optional, but handy to speed the process along.

10. Nut (and saddle) blanks.  I like bleached or unbleached bone, measure all your guitars with your caliper and order bags of them from Aliexpress in dimensions the same as or slighter bigger.

11. Cheap nut slot files, this set is about $15.  Used for the initial shaping.  They make fast work of the bone but use the round files for the finishing touches.

12. A basic vise to hold the bone in while you shape it.

Process

1. Remove the old nut, you might need to have a swift blow from a hammer with a well placed chisel. Don't damage anything, but be prepared to be brutal.

2. Clean out the slot, use whatever you have, box knife, files, get it nice and flat/smooth.

3. File down the length of your blank so fits into your nut slot.

4. Cut the width of your blank so it is the same width as the neck.  It should feel nice to the touch - no "edges" that you will run your left hand over.

5. Mark the blank so you will put it in the same way every time.

6. With the blank in place, put your "half pencil" across at least the first two frets and mark the nut.  What you now have is a hard limit line - you won't file the slots below that.

7. Shape the top of the nut using your pencil line as a guide, you want to leave enough bone above the line so that when you cut your slot the string will sit around half to three quarters of the way into the slot.  So you will leave less on the high strings, and more on the low strings. Shape the top angling backwards at about the same angle the headstock angles away from the neck.

8. Decide on the edge distances for your strings slots. I like my high E around 3.5mm from the edge and my low E around 3.0mm. But use your caliper (the depth measuring "spike" on the back end) to measure a guitar you really like the feel of and go with that. Note that the distance is to the edge of the string, not the centreline of the string.

9. Do you string spacing calc.  I like this calculator. Find the specifications for your favourite strings - the width of each string is generally given in "thou" ie thousandth of an inch. Feed in the nut width, the  two distances to the edges that you like and the string specifications. It will spit out a list of numbers that represent the centrelines of your required slots.

10. With your sharp pencil and caliper, make a mark on your nut for each of the string spacing measurements.

11. Use your thinnest slot file and make an initial cut at each marking.

12. Continue to file out each slot, use the slot file that is closest in width to the string going into the slot. Head down to near the pencil line but don't go all the way to it.  Angle the slot towards the back at the headstock angle like you did when you shaped the top.

13. Use your round files to get a nice round slot shape.  Measure the string that is going into the slot, choose a round file that is the same or slightly bigger than the string.

14. Put the nut in and string up the guitar, have the strings tight but you don't need to go to full tension.

15. Put your finger at on the third fret, and with your other hand, lightly touch the string over the first fret. The depth of the slot is about right when you get a slight "plink" as you tap the string.  For nylon, which doesn't really "plink", just look for some deflection.

16. Tune up. Play the open string with the tuning perfect. Now play at the first fret - fret super close to the the fret and don't push too hard - you will always be able to "bend" the string by pushing hard increasing the pitch.  What you want is the intonation to be pretty good at the first fret.  Do a comparison at the 12th fret - how sharp or flat is that?  If the intonation is bad at the 12 fret and it not adjustable then take that into account.

17. Push the string off to one side and continue to file with the round files at the same angle as the headstock angle.  We are aiming for the string to be seated perfectly in the slot the whole length of the slot.

18. For the G and D strings, if they are breaking out of the back of the slot at a sharp angle, file a bit of relief to the outer edges.

19. Keep going until you are satisfied!  But don't push the depth...if you go too far when you pluck the string at full volume you will hear buzz as it rattles on the frets.  You only really want the action to be low at the nut so that the intonation is correct.

20. Take the nut out and give it a final polish.  Round off all the harsh edges, work through sandpaper grits and even use a bit of car/metal polish to finish it off for a mirror finish.  Put it back in and enjoy!

Here are some inspirational photos:


Step 6 - the half pencil for marking

Step 10 - Measure off and mark the string spacing

Step 18 - Give G and D some breakout relief

Step 20 - Not terrible :-)

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Missing Notes

Yeah, I missed some notes.

In hindsight, it is pretty obvious, so it's a wood-for-the-trees moment. But some other notes I missed weren't quite like that, they were more about not having a good ear.

Let me explain.

In my recent cover, which I'm still pretty happy with, for the melody, "Ev-ery breath (you take)" I played "Ev-ery breath" as B-B-B.  Whereas, of course, it should be B-C-B. Maybe not so much "missed" as "got wrong".  But, they don't specifically sound wrong, in fact you could sing it B-B-B and it would sound fine, it just lacks colour.

I put that one down to wood-for-the-trees, because I was so focussed on the chords, and the left hand fingering, and the timing, and the tone/touch - the trees - that I didn't notice I had missed a key note to the song - the wood.

Those subtle 7ths, and 9ths, and the rest, which bring so much depth to music, I haven't trained my ear to recognise enough.  I'm still stuck in the beginner's land of recognising basic chords, not the added spices!

A prime example of that is I only recently noticed that in "Us and Them" from Dark Side of the Moon, starting from a Dsus2 - ie it has an octave E in it (Dadd9?) then goes to an Esus2/D - ie move the first chord up two frets but keep the D bass, and then continues the tension on a Dm major7 - ie has an F instead of an F# (minor) and a C# (major 7th).  I had played that forever as a D major with the major 7th rather than minor with major 7th! While the dissonance of the major 7th already gave the chord some spice, I should have heard the minor coming through rather than the major.

So basically, more ear training required.

While we are still talking about missed notes and Dark Side of the Moon - I have dusted off my arrangements in celebration of 50 years of DSoTM.  I came across some sheet for Breathe, and noticed the very first note in the slide guitar at the start isn't just an octave E - it is an octave B as well.  Not sure why I was only hearing the fundamental E, and it sounds fine when I play it, but adding the octave B - and then playing two note "chords" for all of the slide guitar work - sounds so good!  I look forward to sharing more with you!

Sunday 29 January 2023

2023 arrangement stocktake

This is more a message to Future JAW... I just recorded two songs, but sometimes I lose track of what I'm mucking around with. Shout out if you would love to see one of these songs done and recorded!

Ready to be recorded:

Cream - White Room
Dexy Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen
Queen - I Want to Break Free
Queen - We Will Rock You

Tidy up, get tab finished so they can be recorded:

America - Horse with No Name
The Beatles - Blackbird
The Animals - House of the Rising Sun
Dragon - Rain
Bob Dylan - It's All Over Now Baby Blue


Back list - some have work done, some are wish list.

The Eagles - Hotel California
Jimi Hendrix - The Wind Cries Mary
Adele - Rolling in the Deep
CCR - Bad Moon Rising
Daddy Cool - Eagle Rock
Tame Impala - Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Steve Miller Band - Fly Like an Eagle
Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks
Eric Clapton - Tears in Heaven
Bach - Toccata (Sky Version)
Bob Dylan - Knocking on Heaven's Door
Gorillaz - 19-2000

Songs that I need to get Tabs done onto Patreon for my wonderful Patreon supporters:

Lipps Inc - Funky Town

Sunday 15 January 2023

ChatGPT and DALL-E 2!

The internet if full of interesting stuff and sometimes it finds me.  So when ChatGPT and DALL-E 2 found me I got it to create some text and a picture. Yep, it is interesting and I laughed while selecting my favourite generation - pretty safe to say that I'm not redundant juuust yet.

ChatGPT: "write an article in the style of Jawmunji about a recent experience playing guitar in a pub"

DALL-E 2: "digital art of a bald middle aged caucasian man playing a classical guitar in a brightly lit pub"

(Note that DALL-E 2 did not know who jawmunji was hence "bald middle aged caucasian man"

(Everything that follows from here is generated by an A.I.)


It was a typical Saturday night at the local pub. The crowd was lively and the drinks were flowing. I had just finished setting up my guitar and was ready to take the stage. As I strummed the first chord, the room fell silent and all eyes were on me.

I began with a classic rock song, "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses. The crowd immediately began to sing along and I could feel the energy in the room rising. As I transitioned into a more upbeat song, "Wonderwall" by Oasis, the crowd began to clap and dance along.

The night continued on with a mix of classic and modern hits, each one bringing the crowd to new heights of excitement. I even took a few requests, playing everything from "Hotel California" by The Eagles to "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran.

As the night went on, I could feel the chemistry between myself and the crowd growing stronger. We were all in the moment, lost in the music and the energy of the room.

As I played my last song of the night, "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin, I could see the crowd swaying and singing along. I couldn't help but feel a sense of accomplishment and joy as I finished the song and the crowd gave me a standing ovation.

Playing guitar in a pub is truly a unique and special experience. The energy and connection between the musician and the crowd is something that cannot be replicated in any other setting. I can't wait to do it again soon.

Rock on, Jawmunji out!