Monday, 25 January 2016

D'Addario EJ45FF strings

A few months ago when stocking up on strings (I'm sorry Local Music Shop, but I buy my strings online, because I always get exactly what I want and it is half the price even with delivery) I noticed my normal string of choice - D'Addario EJ45 - now come in a "Carbon" version. I finally wound them on and observed a few points:
  • The trebles are transparent. For some reason I thought they be non-transparent!
  • The trebles are thinner. In fact the 3rd string is about the same thickness as a normal 2nd string. But then on the basses, the 4th string is a tiny bit thinner, the 6th string is a tiny bit thicker, neither enough to notice, the 5th string remains the same:
String     | Nylon  | Carbon
1st string | 0.71mm | 0.61mm
2nd string | 0.82mm | 0.69mm
3rd string | 1.02mm | 0.84mm
4th string | 0.74mm | 0.71mm
5th string | 0.89mm | 0.89mm
6th string | 1.09mm | 1.12mm
  • The thinner trebles are noticeable, but did not cause me any issues.
  • The trebles a brighter tone than nylon. Note the "carbon" in carbon strings means that the filament is made from fluorocarbon, which is essentially a hydrocarbon where all the hydrogens have been replaced with Fluorine. The Carbon-Fluorine bond is apparently the second strongest bond known next to Silicone-Fluorine. Interesting. Nylon on the other hand is a synthetic long-chain polymer which makes more sense as a fibre, but we've just run out of my chemistry knowledge.
  • The basses are about the same tone as the standard EJ45's. Maybe slightly brighter, hard to say, you'd have to do a control test.
  • The trebles feel "silkier", maybe "slipperier" might even be a better way to describe them. The basses have the same touch and feel as nylon wound, I didn't detect any difference.
  • The trebles bedded in faster than nylon, as in, they stopped stretching and held their tune[1] in less time. The basses maybe the same too, I find the nylon wound basses bed in reasonably quickly anyway. Note that I have been re-stringing the same way for a while - basses one twist at the bridge, 2nd/3rd treble two twists, 1st treble three twists. At the tuner I pull the string tight and loop it over itself so a minimum amount of turns to reach tune. This has always been the best way to get a fast bed-in for me.
  • The tone lasted long enough, not double the time considering the double the price.
I played a few long gigs on this set of strings which deadened them quicker than if they were just in a practise rotation.  So the dynacore basses have a slightly better tone than the standard basses, and the tone hangs in there a little bit longer.  The carbon trebles have a nice bright tone that lasts but over time I found I disliked the thinner strings.  Will I use them again?  No, but in the future I will try the "dynacore" and the EXP coated sets. There's a web page showing all the D'Addario string variants here
[1] No classical guitar ever holds its tune. Just you holding the guitar for a few minutes is enough to put a bit of body heat into it which changes the tuning...which you re-tune compensate...and then when done pack away...and then next time it is out of tune again because it is cold again...


Sunday, 10 January 2016

What's happening January 2016

Warm wishes for 2016, and warm it certainly is, summer is sure heating up Western Australia.  This year is my 10th year anniversary of being on Youtube, how times flies. Youtube had been around for around for about a year when I created my account in May 2006, so I felt like a late comer, but it seems now like I'm an early adopter.

Meanwhile, whilst practising one of my latest songs I injured my hand again. Argh. Same as last time, left pinky. It's some sort of strain, only hurts when I use it...I've mentioned before that when you are practising it's not a good idea to do the same movements over and over again.  I should listen to my own advice.

I stopped playing for a week or two which coincided with Chrismas so it was not too bad, but I was very disappointed with my boo boo.  I started doing some research into what it is, and what I can do about it. It seems that it is an over-use injury, somewhere between tendonitis and carpal tunnel but not arthritis...nothing Dr Google could fully diagnose.  I did however come across much interesting and useful stuff.

Did you know your ulnar nerve is the "largest unprotected nerve in the human body (meaning unprotected by muscle or bone), so injury is common" (Wikipedia).  The reason I mention this is because it is connected primarily to your pinky, via your elbow.  It is your "funny bone" - when you whack your funny bone it is your ulnar nerve you are whacking. Since both my pinkies suffer from the same problem I'm pretty sure my left hand pinky is only aggravating an existing issue at my elbow.  Cubital tunnel syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome except rather at the wrist it is at the elbow, entrapment of the ulnar nerve.  I don't think that is what it is, except it made me realise I've had elbow issues for years.

Anyway, what was the most enlightening was what to do about all these finger, wrist and arm issues - stretching!  After watching a few Youtube videos, I couldn't believe how flexible some people's hands are - and how stiff I am.  In fact, I sat down with my wife and we did a ten minute video doing a bunch of different hand stretches, and my wife's hands are far more flexible than mine!

So I've been doing a bunch of stretches daily, or more, things like bending my hands back and forward, stretching fingers apart, pushing thumb against the wrist and backwards. Very quickly I noticed my hand flexibility improved. It didn't make my problem go away, but it's early days, I'll report back with findings.


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

What's happening October 2015

This month I created an opportunity to sit down and record some songs.  Okay, I did it twice.  The first time was outside and I was so displeased with the recordings that I ditched them.  The video was just awful.  The second time, inside, was tolerable.  My lighting still sucks.  I generally turn on all the lights in the room, and put a lamp facing me.  The videos end up full of excessive highlights and shadows, and the not-enough-light makes the camera recording noisy.  I tweaked the balance later in software, but you need a good video source to start with, you can't make a silk purse from a pig's ear!

So, I played three songs, recorded the video with a Canon EOS-M and the audio with a Zoom H1.  Around 3-4 play throughs on each song.  Post processing the video consists of choosing the best play through and putting on a watermark, tweaking brightness and re-encoding.  I then take the audio from the winning take, and if there are any really horrible mistakes I will punch them out with audio from one of my other takes.  I have to do this, because I don't feel like you, as the audience, are receiving what I'm trying to give you if there are obvious horrible mistakes in there.  I'm happy to live with small (but noticeable) mistakes, hey I'm only human - perfectionism is a life destroyer.

I only ever run a graphic equaliser across the audio, usually boosting the high and low frequencies and scooping out the mids.  Any reverb you hear is actually from the room, but there is very little reverb.  The room has a big woolly mat on the floor, and three cloth loungechairs I'm playing into which soak up the sound nicely stopping it from turning to mush.  The room is quite long anyway, so reflections straight back are minimal.  The then synchronise the resulting audio and video by eye "that looks about right" in virtualdub and job done!

Rather than dump all three videos on youtube at once, I uploaded them all as private, and over a week (whilst organising the tabs) switched them to public.  There is only so much JAW anyone can take at once.

So all good, but I'm going to buy some lighting equipment.  I've read up about "three point lighting" and what I need to do; I've seen you can buy some pretty reasonable lights from ebay for a reasonable price.  I'll let you know how I go!


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Memories, and a ukulele is the same thing as a guitar

While talking with Dan, one of the guys that I work with, my guitar and Youtube and all things Jawmunji came up in discussion. While I was laughing at his amazement at how many views I had, I mentioned I took some screen captures of "special moments" on Youtube and he convinced me to dig them up. Sadly I didn't take anywhere near enough screen captures of special moments, but here are two ones that still get a giggle from me.

First up, on the most subscribed of all time in Australia, page 2, 26th September 2008, look, I'm ahead of Delta Goodrem. Take that Delta! This was page 2 so it put me #21 in Australia overall. (Fun fact: my peak most subscribed rank in Australia was #19)

Second up, on the 6th November 2008 when I uploaded "Jealous Guy" I was the Top Rated in Australia on that day. Not the most views overall, but #1 Top Rated. Kylie Minogue and Keith - beaten! Natalie Bassingwaighte - beaten! Ha ha! (Fun fact:Youtube used to be 1-5 stars rating system before it went to thumbs up/down).

* * *

During my discussion with Dan he revealed he had bought himself a really nice ukulele, but hadn't got very far learning it. I bought a fairly nice non-toy ukulele last year - for the kids - and I had learnt a few chords but hadn't really understood it. Talking with him about it inspired me to think about it, which I did, and I realised...


See, the tuning for a standard uke is GCEA, but that bottom G is higher than the C and E. That threw me as a guitarist. But when I learnt the G chord on the uke, which is the same shape as a guitar D chord, I realised something was going on. And in thinking, those ukulele CEA strings...if you transpose the top 3 strings of a guitar, GBE, up four get CEA! No wonder a D shape is G on the uke!

But that high G on the bass, how does that work? Hang on, 4th string D on the guitar, go up 4 steps, it is a G! Oh I see, it is the same note, but an octave higher! So, a standard ukulele is a guitar with a capo on the 5th fret, the 4th string up an octave, and the bottom 2 strings removed! Suddenly it all makes sense.

To prove this, I set about attempting to play a fingerstyle song on it, one that I had already noodled with discovering the D->G chord.  And I recorded a quick vid to show you:



Tuesday, 4 August 2015

What's happening August 2015

So I cold-emailed five hotels near me searching for a gig. A month later and no response. I went with hotels because they generally have a lobby, and the idea of "piano lounge/piano bar" to play some tunes works for me. I all but said in the email "I'll come down there and play for free"; I guess cold-emailing is low expectation, and we all get so much spam "too hard - delete", but I remain a bit disappointed. I still would like to play somewhere, I guess I'll leave it for Shaun to get me some corporate gigs as the weather turns brighter and end of year functions start happening. Well, maybe I'll do a few more cold-emails - that's how I got my last gig.

Meanwhile, I've had to step up and get teaching the kids music. Day job is slowing down so less money coming in so paying for lessons had to slide. When the day job perks up I'll see if I can get proper lessons again, our music teacher actually understands music and can teach it unlike me...I'm all just technique. I've decided to teach songs to play as an ensemble. I've got the oldest daughter on bass, son on drums, and youngest daughter on piano. I'm inspired from their last term of lessons, where they had a music concert with our music teacher, and she convinced me to accompany my oldest daughter (solo bass guitar is kinda, well, it needs accompaniment). I dragged the boy in too, and it worked out well, here's one snippet that was caught:

Of course now I need to have the littlest involved, so I need to have a piece for piano, bass, drums and possibly me on guitar, and hopefully I can convince one of them to sing. Now this is trickier than it sounds - something that can suit the various skill levels between the kids - something achievable and fun. Of course, there is nothing on the internet that specifically fits that bill, but after some googling I decided that they could all do "Stand By Me". Some arrangement thereof of course. And where do you get such an arrangement?

In true JAW style I make my own. I have started using Musescore which is quite a well written piece of open source free music scoring software. It works differently to my tried and true Powertab so I was initially quite frustrated. I took deep breath, did their "getting started" tutorial which was very helpful, and away I went. I can create a score for the instruments I want and so far all the features I expected I have found. I'll talk about it more as I use it more, I believe it may replace Powertab as my go-to for recording dots (it does tabs too).

As for me and fingerstyle, I have three pieces ready to be video recorded, I'm just not setting aside the time to do it! Must get on with it! Soon! :-)