Wednesday, 7 December 2016

What's happening December 2016

A few musical things have happened since I last spoke, been an interesting few months.

The year 11 student, let's call him "Dave", we managed to get one session in before exams and holidays hit in.  I got him to play me some stuff, and tell me about himself and what he is doing.  He plays some really nice fingerstyle, funny how those young hands/muscles/fingers are so dexterious and nimble.  Not too many songs in the bag just yet, but good quality what is there.  A few half-songs, so I had to pull him up on that - no half songs allowed!  Interestingly, he's not even a guitarist, he's a drummer!  Self taught on the guitar, he just loves it and is very motivated.  And that's the key - self learning and motivated.

Like my son, who was doing recorder this year, being year 4 (age 9).  I remember doing recorder about that age.  He was taught from a book "black belt recorder" or something like that, the idea that you get "belts" as you progress, aiming for black belt.  He took it on as a challenge and had another boy he was in competition with.  I thought "whatever keeps you going is good", and although the competition got unhealthy at some stages, he was playing the recorder all the time.  Why watch TV when you can play the recorder?  My wife and I were impressed at his abilities, I printed out some recorder sheet off the internet "here play this" and much to my amazement, he sight read it, a little clumsy, but he basically saw a note on the page and it immediately turned into a note on his recorder.  Fantastic!  That's what you want!

Played the piece that is until he abruptly stopped.  "We've never learnt that note." "Oh.  Let's look it up!" Turns out it is one of those half thumb high notes. "Oh, Mrs Davis told us about them, but we didn't learn them.  But I see how it works, I'll practise it."  And within a week he played that song for his class.  And just today, at last day of the year school assembly, he won the award for highest achievement for year 4 music.  Got himself a scolarship to play Alto Sax next two years to boot.

Okay, proud Dad there a bit, but my point is that my son, like Dave, are self motivated and keen.  That gets you wherever you want to go.  That leaves natural talent behind.  That keeps you playing an instrument for life.

Meanwhile, plenty of Sunday afternoon gigs at the cafe.  As Summer is rolling in, the place is getting quite deserted.  Last week I played for 6 people.  Quite a way down from the 30-40 in Spring.  The owner is still keen, he's swapping between me and a singer/guitarist; I'm not charging as much so I've been getting the gig a bit more recently now the number of patrons are down.

The problem with the gig is that I play for 2 and a bit hours, pretty much non-stop, and then I put the guitar away when I get home...and don't pick it up again until next Sunday.  I like the gig, I like the interaction with people, I like to play through my sets.  But I must get enough of a fix that I don't work on new arrangements, or anything else during the week.  It's almost like playing the gig turns it into a job...

Now I've spoken about hand/finger pain a bit over the last few years, and how my current stretching and daily shot of turmeric keeps it minimised.  Well I've got a new one for you.  I'm calling it Oldmanitis, but after 2 weeks of pain which included visits to the doctor and physio, it's been identified as Cervical Radiculopathy, likely at the C7 vertebrae maybe 8th.  Also known as "pinched nerve", it radiates pain into your shoulder and pins and needles down the arm and into the hand.  Mine is getting better and the physio is not concerned. I still have full muscle strength.  Daily anti-inflammatories are helping, "it should be gone soon."  Before you ask, no, it's unlikely that it is guitar playing related, most likely from cycling.  I try to do 80-100kms a week commuting to work, which I've been doing for 5 years now, to keep fit.  I recommend it, but don't get yourself a pinched nerve in the neck. Fortunately it doesn't hurt to play guitar!

Until next time!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

What's happening September 2016

I am still playing from time to time at Deli Chicchi on a Sunday afternoon/evening. The owner Glenn believes in live music and good on him. Sure you can have your home theatre big screen blasting out a blu ray recording of The Eagles live, and you will get a great experience, but you weren't there "in the moment" and even though live music at a pub/cafe won't be quite the same grand experience, you will get "in the moment". Both experiences are great but here in my small city of Perth, people, as a generalisation, haven't (re-)discovered the joys of live music. So get out there!

I haven't recorded anything lately even though my computer game tune arrangement is ready to go and I have already played it several times in public. So nothing to report on that front.

A few times over the past few years I have spoken about finger pain, last year; in 2011, all the way back to 2010. The sad conclusion I've had to draw is that yes, if I go to hard on my left hand doing awkward fretting I am going to cause myself pain. Is it arthritis setting in? I don't think so. Am I managing the pain? Yes; just. It's a sad thing when you know you are capable of doing something but you shouldn't do it. So pulling back is a hard thing to do.

Stretching fingers/wrists and hands helps but it isn't a cure-all. I have some regular stretches I do while I'm at work and they increase how far I can do without busting into pain-and-damage land. Stretching during a long playing session, especially simply pulling your hands back at the wrist is a good idea. I have also been taking turmeric pretty much every day for more than a year now. Yes, the yellow spice; it is a natural and cheap anti-inflammatory. Mix a quarter of a teaspoon with water and down it, once a day in the morning. I've become accustomed to the taste, it grows on you. When I have forgotten to take it for more than a week I notice that I get into pain-and-damage land much sooner. So I'm giving it a tick and sticking to it.

I am going to catch up with a year 11 student at my kid's school sometime soon. I saw him once at a music show belting out some pretty good fingersyle; he has skills. I thought "I could show him some stuff, and save him from having to learn the hard way the past few decades what I have learnt." So I spoke to the music teacher and he introduced me. He seems keen, I will find out what his goals are and see if I can help him get there. It would be nice to be a "guitar mentor", I feel like I've got stuff to give. Life is big, and wide, and varied, and everything isn't about guitar. But at least the parts that are about guitar can be as worthwhile and fruitful as possible :-)


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Powertab to MuseScore

I've finally decided to move out of the 2000's and into modern day - I'm switching from Powertab to MuseScore. Why? It creates really nice scores to play from. I'm still transitioning so I might still do the grunt tab work in Powertab and then import it into MuseScore to finish it off. The tab entry process for MuseScore, which I have tested previously, is a bit different than Powertab, so it's going to take some getting used to.

What has finally won me over is how beautiful - and useful - the score sheet is. Here's an example, the current piece I am arranging, click on it to show detail. How good is that!
Now proper musicians will rightly balk at this, but here are my random thoughts about this presentation of the score:
  1. Clef notation is great because it gives you note duration. Tab does not normally give you note duration, but this "full tab" presentation does!
  2. Clef notation doesn't give you left hand fingering positions (unless specifically marked), Tab, by its very nature, does. Fingerstyle tends to wander all over the fretboard to get the fingerting resolves needed, so knowing that you need to play a C on the third string rather than the second string is important.
  3. Clef notation is hard to read when the notes go too far above and below the clef. Tab doesn't have that problem.
So in this score I reckon I have the best of all worlds - string, fret, music tails to show note duration as well as duration spacing - and it's all presented in an easy to read fashion, with plenty of score per page!

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

What's happening August 2016

Recently I was working away again, and took up my main guitar.  Managed to get a lot of playing in, nothing new, just practise on the old stuff.  This turned out to be fortuitous; when I came back Glenn at Cafe Chicchi got in contact with me and I've been playing out there around every two weeks.  It's great to be out there playing and chatting to patrons again.  If you are ever in the Mount Claremont area, check on their webpage if I'm playing on the weekend, and stop by. Make sure you say hello!

I still have "The Chain" to record, I need to get the motivation to get on with it.  When you aren't recording, it gets easier to keep not recording.  If you know what I mean.  Great song, I've done a pretty good job with it if I do say so myself, I'm looking to get it out to you.

I also need to finish making my little guitar USBs.  Did I mention it to you?  I get asked from time to time "where's your CD?" Well, CDs are pretty olde school, I decided I could do better than that, so I bought a batch of USB sticks in the shape of a little classical guitar.  They were around $5 each, 8GB flash, they are a very cool shape although it would have been better if they were hard plastic rather than flexible plastic, but no matter.  I plan on filling them with all my MP3s, sheet music, videos, lessons, and anything else I've ever created.  Most of it is available here, but not the raw videos, so you are getting something you can't normally get.

I was thinking $20 each, and the offer that if you ever see me again, I will swap it with the latest revision.  Each time I make new stuff I will update it.  And I will sign/initial each one.  And you get to talk to me when buying it! :-)


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Why Can't This Be Blog?

Not much activity recently but two songs are ready to record - Shine and The Chain.  Pretty happy with both; I'm going to get my wife or daughter to do the recording rather than just tripod up a fixed camera position.  So:
  • Record video from varying changing angles, doing a few play throughs,
  • Record an audio track through condenser microphone in a separate session,
  • Punch out errors in audio track for a nice'n'clean('n'fake) "studio" recording,
  • Chop and paste video bits from my favourite angles to match the studio recording.
So it's more of a "music video" for the song than a recording of me playing the song.  If you know what I mean.  I did it previously for Get Back and I reckon that is one of my more memorable videos of recent times.  Next time I will go hand held camera rather than various fixed position angles, seems to have been a popular style of videography for a while.

Meanwhile, true to form, I stumbled across another song "I just had to do".  Van Halen, "Why Can't This Be Love", classic 1986 right when I was into popular music.  During the late 90's I made my engineering team listen to this song non-stop for about 2 hours during a pretty intense phase of a project, partly because I still loved the song, partly because when I pressed stop they would realise that intense work is better then intense work + non stop Van Halen, and partly because of the bestest stupidest line in a song ever: "Only time will tell if we stand the test of time."

First song after Lee Roth left, by Sammy Hagar.  I've still got the bridge to finalise but the rest is mostly done, just gotta get it playing cleaner.  Here is me Hagar'ing it: