Friday, 24 February 2012

What's happening February 2012

Well the day job is taking up a lot more time than it used to, and unfortunately that's not going to go away for quite sometime.  The mining boom in Western Australia seems to be boundless, even with a lot of the world on shaky ground.  Make hay while the sun shines eh?

I've been chipping away at "Any Colour You Like", it's coming along well but slow progress.  Nothing new is happening on the arranging front...just general playing and practise.

In more exciting news, at least for me, I noticed the café down the road was extending out into an alfresco area, which made me wonder if they would be interested in a guitarist.  After previously doing a lot of door knocking "We'll call you" I gave up on trying to find a gig, but there was no harm in trying out one more time.

I discovered that the owners were very keen - they had planned for music, ad had even started enquiring at booking agents - I contacted them just in time!  I went down for a "sound check" and played for about an hour; the place has a nice feel, acoustics are nice and I was quite comfortable. In  previous gigs I'd sometimes get a bit tense, which causes your arms to pump up like rocks, making playing hard.  Don't be tense, relax.  A glass of red wine or a beer helps.  Just one, maybe two, to loosen up :)

My playing was a little rough, no catastrophic failures, but quite a number of fumbles.  Some songs I hadn't played in months I struggled with - but casual listeners don't notice, unless you actually outright stop - and perhaps only a serious listener would detect anything, but they generally forgive you.  To err is to be human.  But it's okay, because now once a week I will have a chance to practise!

Now I doubt if anyone who reads this lives in the Northern suburbs of Western Australia - ha, my own country doesn't even rank in the top ten for readers/viewers - but if you do, I'm playing Thursday nights, 7-9pm at Bbar Café in Gwelup, come down and have one of their rather delicious wood fired pizzas (I recommend the Bbar special), a glass of wine, but most importantly say hello - I'd love to talk to you!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

JAW - Can you arrange (insert song name here) into fingerstyle for me?

No.  Sorry.  But that's a good thing.  Let me explain.

I won't arrange for you for several reasons - I'm already arranging the songs I want to arrange, I think there is a 0.01% chance that you have picked a song I'm already arranging or one that I want to arrange in the future.  Arranging takes me a long, long time.  Very long time.  If it were my business...well let's just say nobody would want to pay the price I'd have to ask.  Arranging is "personal" - I put my own flavour into them, in the style I'm comfortable with.  There aren't many songs I arrange these days that are "universal" - that someone else could or want play the same as me - normally people who do tackle one of my pieces will change them into their own style, which is great, I love seeing what other people do.  My mate Naudo, who is a huge inspiration to my style of playing, I can play at least ten of his arrangements, and none sound like the way he plays them.

But all is not lost with that arrangement you seek!

Now if you are asking this question, and you do have the skills to play a fingerstyle arrangement, there is hope.  If you are asking this question and you don't have the skills to play a fingerstyle arrangement...well don't ask the question until you have already learnt a bunch of other fingerstyle arrangements.  And even then, well...

First up get guitar skills.  Maybe you already have some skills, are keen to get into fingersyle and want to know where to start.  One of the most important things I believe you need to develop, which doesn't often occur in other styles of guitar, is thumb independence.  Go and play the riff I mention here and you will suddenly understand what thumb independence is all about.  At this stage, learning lots of songs from good quality well thought out tabs from good fingerstyle arrangers isn't bad for you at all.  It's even better when there is a video corresponding to the tab. And really push your skills - to be a great player doesn't mean just being able to put your fingers in the right place at the right time, it means doing the hard work and getting to those last little things that make the difference, like holding on to that bass note even when you "don't have to".

Next, start transcribing fingerstyle songs you enjoy that no tab exists for.  I recommend transcribing from a video.  Look at hand positions for clues to chords, loop sections in repeat while trying to play along until you get it.  Type it into tabbing software such as tuxguitar or powertab (the days of pencil and paper for that sort of thing are over, you get so much more flexibility and functionality from tab software). Get all computer nerdy and try out programs like Transcribe! to help find those tricky notes (I don't use it myself) and slow down the video.  And don't necessarily try to play it exactly the same as the arranger, simplify sections, change parts, mix it up.  You're starting on the path to arranging now!

So now, armed with playing skills, and having a good understanding of what other fingerstyle players are doing from your transcribing efforts, arrange!  I've mentioned concepts on arranging in the past a just a primer, there would be books devoted to it, it's a huge area not just limited to the guitar. By the stage of arranging you are into your own realm, you do what you want to do.  Arranging is where you let your style and feeling come to the fore, you are making the music become your own.  Of course it's good to read about tips and techniques such as how to work a bassline into your arrangment, so research!

Now there is a good compromise between just using tabs, transcribing and arranging.  I live in this area a lot:  use music score and midis to base arrangements on.  Music score (such as piano music) and midis are both already arrangements, but are for instruments with a lot more flexibility than the guitar.  With the piano, all the notes are laid out in front of you and you have two hands to attack them with.  Midis don't even have that as a limit!  Armed with the wealth of musical data both (can) contain, you can chip away on the guitar re-arranging into what is possible, here's a video of me pulling apart a midi for clues.

And a final note on transcribing and arranging - by the time you have come up with a full arrangement (depending on how far you take your arrangement) - if you haven't already learnt to play the song reasonably well, you will be pretty close!

So you sure you still want me to arrange a song for you?  No way?  Good for you, that's the spirit.  Get to work!

...and who knows, after all the playing and tabs and transcribing and arranging, perhaps you will want to go to the ultimate in musical expression; cast off the non-original - and write your own songs.  Let me know how you go!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Argh! Pre-rolls!

Hey, why didn't anyone tell me there were adverts you are forced to watch before seeing one of my youtube videos!?!

A while back, when I signed up with Broadband TV, I opted out of InStream/Preroll/Annoying ads. I really dislike being forced to watch an advert before I watch a video - and I wouldn't inflict that on you either.

But something changed on youtube somewhere since, and I only just now noticed that all my videos (except the latest one?!) were ticked to show InStream adverts.

You will be pleased to know that I went through them all and unticked it. Enjoy!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Video Blog: Any Colour You Like (how to look inside a midi for clues)

You didn't know that I love Pink Floyd?  That I've been working for, um, let's say a decade on a full fingerstyle cover of the album "Dark Side of the Moon"? You must be new here then, welcome :)

In this video I talk too much as usual, but I fumble through what I've done so far on "Any Colour You Like" and how I dissabled a midi to find out what is going on it because my ear isn't all that good...



Thursday, 1 December 2011

A "spare" guitar, just a banger...but something interesting

I decided I should buy a guitar.  Nah, not a fancy new one, just a spare "banger", which I can hide in a cupboard at work and pull out when I need a lunchtime fix.  "Normal" people would say "just take in one of your other guitars", but my only choices are my old Maton steel string, which is a steel string (I'm 100% addicted to nylon at the moment); or my thin body cutaway nylon, "but the neck is too narrow, that's why I stopped playing it!"  My first fullsize guitar, from 1981, I still have; it is a proper classical guitar and would do the job but I keep it at my place down South.

Obviously I don't want to spend a lot; but at the same time I don't really want to buy a just a new beginners guitar (although when I take my oldest daughter to piano lessons while I wait I play a beginners guitar from the shelf, it plays and sounds surprisingly good.  Basically, I think with modern day construction techniques and cheap overseas labour, you can make a pretty reasonable low cost nylon string guitar).

So I want something "interesting".

I started looking in the local classifieds.  I have a theory that pretty much every second house has a nylon string guitar in it that nobody has played for a decade.  But nobody sells them because guitars are, hmm, I don't think there is a word to describe it.  They make you feel good even if you can't play them, and "one day I'll learn how to play it" (that won't happen (but it's good for the soul to think it will)).  So they generally don't find their way into the classifieds.

But when they do; well, they are interesting!

You'll see a whole lot of near-new beginners guitars - it didn't work out.  And then there are the really good guitars being sold by players who are upgrading.  But then there are the decades old ones, maybe the owner has died, someone is just getting rid of it.  *Those* ones got me interested.

There have been a few 1970's classical guitars, one interesting one made by Fender.  I did a little bit of research, umm, okay, it is a beginners guitar from the 70's :)  So I'll have to watch out for that - old, interesting, but essentially just beginners guitars.  Then I saw something _really_ interesting.  The seller listed it as a circa 1940/1950 Japanese classical guitar, made by a company called "Tempo".  Researching it online was difficult, very little information available.  The company existed from 1948 to 1975, but only made electric guitars for the first few decades or so.  Looking at other classical guitars from the 60's they seem to generally have that, umm, "folky" look to them, whereas late 60's and from 70's on they have the "standard" "traditional" sort of look.  This one looked "traditional", so mostly uninformed, I decided it must be early 70's.

I haven't been to look at it yet, but I might.  The thing that puts me off is somebody has strung it with _steel_ strings.  Sheesh.  How many classical guitars do you reckon have been broken by steel strings?  Judging from the photos though there is no big bend in the soundboard (they usually concave in under the extra tension) - so if it has taken steel strings for a while, it must be tough guitar!  (which also means it might be too stiff to get a good sound).  Only way to find out will be to give it a whirl.

Or, keep looking.  I never considered vintage guitars, but now I'm intrigued.  Guitars with history, and even guitars made before I was born!