Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Jawmunji Wordle 2013

Since one of my readers did a Wordle for me a few years ago, every now and then I like to do another one. It's both interesting and amusing. I try to keep my writings here interesting and amusing - my aim is always that you will go away either entertained, or having learnt something, or even better, both :)

I love the "just play guitar" main words, particularly with a little "well" in front of it. Although, I use "just" too much in my writing...hmm...must remember to back off on that.

I'm obviously a positive sort of chap too: "good, great, right, well, like, really, much". You can tell what this blog is about: "play, guitar, playing, songs, sound, hear, bass, music, video." There's little phrase gems hidden about too: "still got years need songs"..."now music stuff really".

"Song fingerstyle something good!"


Thursday, 3 October 2013

Hey man, tune your guitar!

I get that every couple of months.  Someone on my youtube channel will tell me my guitar is out of tune.  I listen back, umm, yeah, maybe?  Ever so slightly?  One or two of my videos are indeed slightly out of tune, but the recent ones are not.

Here's my thoughts on the matter.

Some people have an _amazing_ ear for pitch.  A _really amazing_ ear.  My ear is pretty bad so I tune using a pretty accurate digital tuner, and always tune in very carefully before recording.  However, the intonation on the guitar is only so good.  In fact when I was hunting for my Esteve, that was high on my list of what I was looking for in a guitar - good intonation.  I used my tuner to check the intonation on many guitars, and the Esteve is pretty good.  But generally, if you are playing up the fretboard, she's gonna be a bit out of intonation (tune).

Furthermore, when I fret a chord, I'm usually bending the strings out of "the correct place" a small amount.  On unusual shaped stretchy chords I'm bending the strings quite a lot out of the place where they should be to sound in tune.  Even the simple act of fretting distorts the intonation slightly (but guitars do compensate for an amount of fretting intonation).  Not that you or I could hear fretting intonation distortion, but some people can.  It's especially noticeable on nylon because they have lower tension strings.

Even the guitar heating up slightly after me playing it will put it out of tune - you should be constantly adjusting your tuning while playing.  But since I don't have an amazing ear, by the time I notice, my pitch perfect mates were already wincing in pain five minutes ago.

I have developed a very healthy respect for fretless stringed instrument players.  They have to hear the intonation and play to it.  They train their ear.  Us guitarist, well, duh, we ain't so bright, see, we don't need to hear intonation, duh, the frets dun do that for us.  Okay, I'm being a bit harsh there, slide guitarists, even pulling bends, you need to have an ear for pitch, but I think you get what I mean.

The bottom line - no matter how hard I try to have good tuning, there will be a percentage of the population who will cry out at my "terrible tuning".  And they are right.  Luckily, the other percentage of the population and I won't hear it.

(It's all relative though, I have been known in the past to very politely and with great tact mention to players on youtube that perhaps their guitar was a bit out of tune.  For me to notice - that's got to be a long way out of tune.  With that said, my ear for pitch is now a lot better than it used to be.)


Sunday, 15 September 2013

What's happening September 2013

I ran another poll a month or two ago, this time I asked "If Jawmunji made a product it would have to be..." Here are the results, from 37 responses:

54% a music DVD of songs with interesting booklet, tab data and other cool stuff
27% an instructional DVD, c'mon man!
10% an Audio CD of songs with an interesting insert
8%  just high quality 99c downloadable mp3s

There weren't nearly as many voters I would normally have for a monthly poll, less than half. Either the traffic to the site was down, it was a boring question, or a Jawmunji product is not really called for. But hey, I liked the results! A video DVD with cool stuff appeals to me the most and it was the most voted. It would be a large amount of work, but not as large amount of work as an instructional DVD. I didn't mind the idea of an Audio CD, but, they seem to have passed their use-by date. Thanks for confirming the 99c downloadable mp3s though - I don't like that either. One song might be a cash cow for an artist, but the amount of art you are buying might be the tip of the iceberg from that artist. They might have so much to offer, good stuff you'd enjoy, but all you did was download "the most popular song".  Buy the album!

I'm still working away a lot - 2 weeks on site, 1 week in Perth. While in Perth I get the weekends off and only work a 40 hour week, but up here on site I work a 12 hour day 7 days a week. Sure, all my meals are catered for in the mess, my room is regularly cleaned, all I do is work...but I get weary. Hence I haven't been doing as much writing to you as I thought. I'm still playing the '74 Yammy a heap, it's just not "productive" playing. Generally I will sit and just play my regular tunes, most nights with the lads over a few beers. I've done a little bit of working out new tunes - in the pipe I've got "Without You", "Lean On Me", "Bright Side of Life", "Something So Strong", "Bad Moon Rising" all basically ready to record. But I'm not recording while I'm here, and when I'm back in Perth I don't set aside the time to do it either.

Someone commented last month "you should do a Tame Impala cover"...and I youtubed a song of theirs or two, discovered they are a local band, and my favourite genre - psychedelic rock.  Closest sound would be early Beatles and Pink Floyd.  I enjoyed them so much I bought the album and I have listened to it a lot.  I might cover "Only Going Backwards" or "Mind Mischief" to pay homage, it would be lost on 99% of my listeners, so it would have to be a quick and easy cover.  But alongside Dark Side of the Moon (I listen to it about once or twice a month, to keep inspired...as well as "Dub Side of the Moon") it is what I'm listening to.

In fact, what do I listen to?  Kinda nothing.  I'm totally out of touch with modern music, and I don't feel the need to constantly relive the past either.  I'm not a headphones-all-day sort of guy, it just makes me further deaf. I do listen for 70's and 80's music if I'm driving somewhere, songs that I might be able to cover, and I do listen to other fingerstyle guitarist covers, but I'm just not a regular listener.  Does that sound strange?  It does seem a bit rude of me to not pay attention to new music!

Well a quiet What's Happening this time, I do have some stuff in the bag waiting, I just need to get some long term rest so it can come out in flying colours :)


Thursday, 15 August 2013

How have you kept playing guitar for so long?

A good question.  Although it doesn't surprise me when beginners give up playing guitar (another topic), it does surprise me that players who play well, and have done for a long time, give up.  Does it come down to character traits - applicable to more than just playing the guitar - commitment, and persistence?  I think it is more than just that.

There are many things in life that people will do passionately and they won't enjoy it in the slightest, it will be hard work, expensive, painful, but they carry on.  Why?  The satisfaction of completing something challenging.  Doing something not because it is easy, but because it is hard.  There's your commitment and persistence right there.  But hey, those guys who did play for ten years and then stopped, they must have had the commitment and persistence to get that far, right?

Habit.  Ah but aren't we all just creatures of habit?  Once you form a habit, it's hard to break it.  If you have a habit of playing the guitar, then you basically never stop.  And yet, they still do.

Priorities.  For sure, as life progresses you travel through different phases.  Some things are very important, then they aren't so important.  Apparently it takes six weeks to form a habit.  Well, when priorities change, it only takes six weeks to un-form a habit.

I'm going to throw opportunity into the mix.  If playing the guitar is a privilege - it's rare, you don't get to play as much as you would like - for whatever reason - then playing is a tantilising treat you eagerly wait for.  Being able to play as much as you want whenever you want will increase the risk of losing the sense of satisfaction...changing your priorities...and breaking the habit.

I think all these things play a part while traversing your guitar life, but there is something else.  And look, I believe once you are a player, and you've had a taste of all this, you will always be a player.  You might go a few years without playing, but something will come up again and you'll get back into it. That something is...delight.

Yeah, delight.  In all your opportunity, priorities, satisfaction and formed habit, it is delight that rises above it all.  Just when you think you've done it all, you've climbed every mountain, overcome every obsticle, something comes along and blows your mind.  You can't believe you could have possibly missed the song, the technique, the concept, the something - something that simply delights you and you just can't get enough.  You can't stop.  Shifting from delight to delight.

If you are constantly exposing yourself to new avenues of delight, the passion will stay with you.  This is with everything in life.  Seek out delight.  And delight doesn't mean amazement or awesomeness or some huge gratification.  It can mean a hammer-on where you used to to pluck the next note.  I could mean slipping in a 7th on the last beat of the bar instead of staying in the major chord.  Just enjoying a new song that you never even thought about before.

I think I may have just gone all new age hippy on you just then, but The World seems dissatisfied with you just smelling roses.  You aren't living if it's not Bigger and Better.  Well, bugger that :)

Speaking of which, here is my current delight.  Naudo played it years ago, I heard it on the radio last week, decided to transcribe (more or less) Naudo's version, and I'm delighted.  So many "Oh wow!" things that happens in this song, can't believe I didn't tackle it when I first heard Naudo play it.  It's a window into his playing (I can see how he has re-used phrases from other works I have transcribed before) and it's just a really nice song.

Badfinger's "Without You", made famous by Harry Nilssen, and later by Mariah Carey, but let's just stick with Naudos version :)

Apologies about the recording, it was made via my smartphone. And I'm still developing the song, I haven't committed it to muscle memory, and I'm not playing on my normal guitar, and blah blah blah...JAW "warts and all" Munji strikes again, enjoy.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Cape Lambert Recordings 1

Well here I am at the end of my second two week stay in the tropics.  I thought I should upload something, so here you go!  I did bring up my video camera, but the room is too small, and the internet is too slow so it is audio only.  In fact I'm lucky to have internet at all at the camp - I use my netbook tethered to my mobile phone!

Anyway, some tunes and some stories perhaps?  These are all demos of what is to come, played on my $100 1974 banger, in a room I can nearly touch opposing walls, so be kind :)

First up, Lean on Me.  Pretty close to ready for production.  Tab is made, I play it ok, just not so smooth.  While I was sitting with the lads one evening have a beer with guitar in hand, Lisey said "can you teach me Lean on Me?"  I flicked the chords up, went the improvise, and behold, it was very simple!  Only about half a day invested in this one.  It is my "default" fingerstyle strummy drummy flicking pattern - beat 1 is a bass note, beat 3 is a flick/snare drum feel, the rest is squeezed in the gaps.  This is going to be a nice easy and reasonably popular tune.

I'd already played the intro to "Something so Strong" about a month ago and decided that would be a good candidate too.  My default fingerstyle feel again.  It's okay, I don't have too many songs that are this formula, so if I disperse this sort of feel throughout my setlist, nobody will write me off as a one trick wonder.  But for you, here is the same feel applied to a different song.  Note that I have worked out the solo and tabbed it, it just isn't into muscle memory yet so it was a bit off in this demo.

This I've been playing for a while, I've mentioned it before, Ulli Boegershausen's fingerstyle cover of "Mad World".  Excellent, haunting, highly recommended.

"Albatross" by the Peter Green version of Fleetwood Mac is an excellent chillaxing tune, Hansel Pethig did a super-cool improvisation on it a while back on youtube, I have had it noted for a while.  You will notice that I...just...can't...play slowly...consistently...  It's like I have a fixed speed and I always come back to it.  Sorry, but song is still in practise mode!

And finally, the start of "Money", one of the last songs to tackle in my epic Dark Side of the Moon project.  This is really raw, concept only.  Firstly I wanted something that said "fingerstyle" but also was cash registers/coins clinking.  I tried a few tings until I settled on something that flowed, in 7/4 timing, which is achievable and has a "feel".  Tap soundboard under soundhole, scrape upper soundboard, fingernail taps on top side, scrape again, clunk base of bridge, scrape up bridge, fingernail tap bottom, repeat.  I need to work on the "mesh", I don't want it to sound contrived, it must flow into the song.  But it still needs to be obvious what it is!  It may yet morph, and my playing of the song is very stiff, you can tell I've only just started...enough excuses, I don't mind sharing my half-baked concepts with you.  There's a few edit/cuts in this to make sure it was at least vaugely coherent.

There you have it.  Next swing is 3 weeks away, so nothing doing for a while.  Hope you found something interesting in my very hacky fingerstyle song concepts on my $100 banger.  Sorry about the G-string not being in tune, I only noticed when listening back, bleurgh...okay, enough with the excuses already :)