Monday, 15 November 2010

What's happening November 2010

After at least three months of vague pain and discomfort in my left hand pinky when playing stretchy fingering passages, I finally did two things - saw a doctor and saw a physio.   Both did the same test - held their had with opposing force against my pinky, push up, down, left, right - is there any pain?  No, not really.  They also did a joint check - see if there is movement in the knuckles - I guess to check for signs of arthritis.  Doc said I'd overstretched a tendon, rub rubbing cream into it, especially before and after playing guitar, see how it comes up.  Physio said come back next week, she'll do some massage on it and a bit of acupuncture(?!)  But both said - "you need to stretch before and after playing".  You get ten points Roman, I knew you were right sometimes I'm in denial :)

Interestingly, the physio said that with the guitar there is a lot of emphasis on downwards pressure, but very little on upwards pressure so the muscle groups get out of balance.  I'll report more when I've seen her again!

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"Take me Back" is pretty much sorted, just putting the time in to get it more smoothly playable.  Not bad, good fun, won't be popular on youtube but I've taken the responsibility of getting more Australian classic rock arranged for it just needs to be done!

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Still doing saddle work on my guitar pickup.  Every time I change strings I file the saddle slightly to balance out the sound a bit more.  The string type make a difference so you can't go too silly, for example some strings might cause the G string to be really over powered, others won't.  At the moment I'm using hard tension but I think I'll go back to normal tension.  Hard tension just encourages me to play hard, whereas I should be playing with a good dynamic expression - soft in places, hard in others, in the middle for the rest.  Not hard everywhere!

But anyway, there was definite over power in the G string and bass E string.  The E bass string  was dominating the lower strings, which if you were only playing the E would be great, but when the D string is only coming through half as loud as the E when plucked the same way...well, needs adjusting.  I had filed the saddle on a slope across the top, high on the bass E and low on the treble E.  This way there is more pressure directed by the lower strings.  I simply took off some of the slope in the bass to drop down the height thus the pressure and thus the string volume.

G string is different - it's in the middle, don't want to drop that down from the top!  What I had been doing for that one is scalloping out underneath the saddle - basically so less of the string pressure is contacting on the pickup.  It was already scalloped a bit, I scalloped it a bit more.

End result - G is close, still a bit loud, E is better balanced, maybe a tad loud.  D string has dropped off a bit, maybe due to G string scalloping, maybe just the set of strings.  Plugged in sounded really nice mostly thanks to the new strings, I think next set I'll do normal tension and see how it goes without touching the saddle.  As the saying goes, if you fiddle with something long enough you are bound to stuff it up :)

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One last what's happening - over the years I've seen quite a few people play, of all things, Super Mario Theme for fingerstyle.  My oldest daughter loves her Nintendo/Mario, so I thought I'll grab the tab and learn it, she'd love it.  Watched the first one on youtube with a tab - pretty good.  Have a go at the tab.  Hmmm.  Nah, that bit isn't a good resolve.  Euw, awful positioning I'd do it down here.  Right, let's look at the next tab.  Hey, that isn't even the right note!  That bit should be played up higher.  I would put the bassnote for that part here, not there.  I'm not liking this.  I know, Iggy plays a good version, no tab, I'll get some inspiration from him.

...what I'm trying to show here is that I can no longer use tabs.  I just can't play something the way someone else has tabbed it.  No surprises there, I don't even play my own tabs exactly the way I write them out!  It's good, and it's bad.  Good because I'm doing exactly what I tell everyone else to do - take a tab, modify it, make it your own.  Bad because I just wanted to be able to play a little tune for my daughter without going to the lengths of partially re-arranging it! :)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Fingerstyle Database

Go straight to JAW's Fingerstyle Database!

Realised that there are now hundreds of great fingerstyle guitarists posting videos on youtube, but don't know how to find them? Have we got a solution for you! :)

Since a brief exchange of comments on this blog, Roman and I discussed creating a "fingerstyle database", which would contain all the fingerstyle guitarists that we have got something out of listening to, so that we could share our discoveries with others.

The criteria was simply fingerstyle guitarists actively posting videos that the average person would take something away with after listening to. That is a subjective point of contention - what I take away from listening and watching a fingerstyler won't be the same as you. Broad examples would be a fingerstyle guitarist producing their own arrangements - even if they aren't that great - because the next person might be inspired to take the work further. Someone playing a tremendous cover of someone else's arrangement, just for the pure listening enjoyment - that would also be a keeper.

However someone playing a poor video/audio/rendition cover of someone else's tab, well we'd have to say no. We want the database to be punchy, quick and full of great surprise findings - we don't want to wade through hundreds of players that although sure they can play a tune, they aren't adding value to us visiting them.

I'm sure it will be a point of contention, but I think you know what I mean, so let's see how it goes!

What does the database give us? Name, website (usually youtube because it is so prevalent, but doesn't have to be), the style of fingerstyle (on the left extreme is the nylon string classical player, on the right extreme is the percussive tappin' steel string player), whether they are an arranger, whether they have tabs, and a quick description.

What can you do? Everyone who visits can give a thumb up to a player! This way "the public can decide" who is the pick of bunch worth listening to. If you are really excited by this and would love to be a part of it, email me and I will make you an administrator - with the ability to add, edit or delete players.

Features? Aside from the aforementioned "public opinion" with thumbs, and administrator access if you'd love to be a moderator...well, you can sort any column by clicking on the column heading. There'll be a "new" icon next to any players that have been added in the past 90 days, so you only have to check four times a year to keep up :)

Now I'm not really a programmer; this is all hacky perl scripts and the database itself is an imitation XML text file, so the features are limited. On the plus side, if you have some great ideas that Roman and I didn't think of, and it doesn't require too much effort, I can probably hack it in!

Go there: JAW's Fingerstyle Database - feedback and bug reports appreciated!


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Take me back

It's funny how when I'm wondering what to arrange next something comes up and totally takes over any previous ideas. I had the radio on in the car one night last week and was channel surfing, and heard an Aussie rock song from the 80's I hadn't heard in years. Because I can't listen to music anymore without analysing it for fingerstyle worthiness, I detected this one as approachable and the more I listened, the more I remembered how much I loved the song back at the time.

Now for someone who wasn't an Aussie/Kiwi teenager in 1986 you will never have heard of the song "Take me back" by Noiseworks. Sorry, but persist with me, it might be worth it. It's probably Noiseworks most recognisable song, quite melodic with strong vocals from Jon Stevens. The song is incredibly heartfelt, basically a guy who doesn't recognise that his girl is seriously depressed and when she commits suicide he can't believe it, he didn't realise the seriousness of the signs, and wishes he could go back because he is lonely without her. Heart wrenching stuff, everyone take note, depression is more than ever the sickness of the times.

Anyway, as I was mumbling about in a comment on another post the song immediately fell into my default fingerstyle "style", and I had pretty much sketched it out in about two hours (involved a bit of internet examination of previous people's works on chords, tabs and bass tabs - don't reinvent the wheel!) The problem is that my style now feels contrived, predictable and just a bit boring to me.

Briefly, my default style is incorporating the basic rock drum beat into a pattern absorbing a bass line and morphing with the melody. Basic drum beat being 4/4, closed hat on all four beats, bass drum on beat one and snare drum on beat 3. So a continuous Boomp-t-tssh-t-Boomp-t-tssh-t. Translating that to fingerstyle you use the chord root note as a bassnote/bassdrum, flick strum a chord fragment for the snare drum, play the melody on top...the high hat kinda disappears/exists in the melody. Kinda make sense?

When you have a listen you'll see it's pretty obvious in the verse; not to mention the song is basically a three chord blues progression, E, A & B.

So because it was uninspiring I tried to jazz it up a bit, and threw in little bit of walking bass into the chorus, as per the actual song. That made it challenging for me to play, and gave it a less boring feel, maybe a little bit cheesy though.

Anyway, enough blah blah, have a listen to a cut down recording I made last night, you can hear that I struggle with it; it's still in forebrain so I have to "think" about I when I play it. When I've moved it to the backbrain and then can "think" on tempo/timing, clean fretting and better feeling/dynamics.

For those curious, here is what I did for the main chorus riff, quite challenging!


Thursday, 7 October 2010

What's happening October 2010

Things are chugging away slowly on the guitar front, it's been school holidays here in Oz and the family and I managed to get away for a week, nice!  I was hoping during the week my left pinky would get better...a vain hope because it has been giving me problems for a few months now.

Basically when I was transcribing/practising Naudo's "Something", which has a few left pinky stretches, I overdid it and pulled a ligament/tendon/muscle.  About three months ago.  At first it mildly hurt when I played, so I pushed through, but then after a few months it was still there.  I knew I needed to rest it, but I wasn't going to stop playing guitar for weeks!

I did the same to my thumb last year.  I think it was around 3-4 months where it didn't feel right, but it is fine now.  I don't know how many of you out there have had the same affliction, but I'm quite annoyed, and in fact mildly concerned about it.  You think when you play the guitar you'll be able to play like that, and better, forever!  I follow an older chap Ed on youtube, great fingerstyler, but suffers from arthritis and you can see in his playing.  The skills are all there but the arthritis is crippling his playing.  Take note - we should all enjoy it, cherish it, use it, while we have it.  I guess that can be said about many things.

Meantime, "Something" is transcribed/re-arranged.  I know I put a snippet on a while back, the hard part has been the solo.  I first tried to do the original Harrison solo, but it just wouldn't fit.  So I turned to what Naudo did as a solo - it's only about 6 bars - and transcribed that.  When I say "transcribe" in terms of Naudo, that almost means "re-arrange".  It's not possible for me to work out every minute detail of his playing it's just too complex, so I grab the major concepts put them into my style and tab it out.

You know what?  Pure genius.  The guy, well, he is a genius.  I can't stop playing those six bars - it's just so beautiful, emotional - I have to play it over and over again, even though I've pretty much nailed it.  It's hard to explain, but I'm sure everybody understands when you get some bit of a song stuck in your head and have to play it/listen to it over and over like it was some drug addiction.  And it doesn't have to be anything new, it might be a song you've heard many times but you've only just now really _got_ it, and you can't get enough.

I'll probably churn out a youtube vid of it this month, I think you'll all appreciate the song and the tab.  Naudo is best! :)

I don't have anything else I'm working on at the moment...Dark Side of the Moon is on hold at the moment (I get bursts of passion for it). One thing I've toyed with over the past coupla years is some Rolling Stones covers; in fact I can mostly play two Stones arrangements.  The problem is that they really need singing - they are really repetitive melodically and, sorry, _boring_ as fingerstyle.  The answer I've decided is a three song medley - don't play too much of any one song, but expand three into a ~4 minute medley.

Alternatively I have an AC/DC song that I noodled together something that will work about 6 months ago.  "Songs you wouldn't expect to hear on fingerstyle."  I'll keep you posted! :)

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Happy Birthday!

A few weeks ago I did the same winery gig that I did last year, and something happened that I had planned for many years ago, but hadn't kept up with - it was someone's brithday and I got a request to play "Happy Birthday". I couldn't even remember the chords!

Basically if you ever play to an audience you need to keep "happy birthday" in your bag of tricks, because it will come up. Fear not, I dusted off some old notes, did a cross check with other tabs on the net (many had parts that I liked but none were enough by themselves...besides, nobody should ever play a tab exactly as someone else has written it! :))
                                 HAPPY BIRTHDAY

 3/4        C          G                     C

             Fb5   F     C     G     C                   ~~~~~

Here, have a listen to me play it. It's short, mostly in chords, and easily remembered. Only two parts may cause you some frustration: in the first two bars I'm holding a C shape but I bend my second finger backwards to fret the A second fret third string. I do this sort of mini-barre quite often so it comes reasonably natural to me.

The Fb5  chord may throw you -  do it as and F barre chord but don't lay your first finger for the full bar, just fret the low 6, leave the top strings un-barred. Then clamp down the barre for the full F in the same measure.

The rest should be easy for a fingerstyler...don't worry about running up the fret board for the last G and C chord if you don't want to; as with all tabs, make them your own!

...oh and make sure you throw in the heavy vibrato on the end note of "And many more..." I love a bit of comedy in guitar playing, it's not easy to put comedy into guitar playing, so anywhere you can do it you should! :)