Sunday, 29 March 2020

What's happening Mar 2020

The Virus. Ah, The Virus. It was supposed to be a big month for my day job that would have me in the remote Northwest of Western Australia commissioning.  I was there for 4 days, and commissioning went well, but during our support coverage we were called back home, and I'm now working from home for the foreseeable future.

It does give me more opportunities for practicing my latest arrangements though!  I've finished arrangements for "You're So Vain" "If You Leave Me Now" and "Band On The Run".  They all still need practice though. I normally don't have 3 arrangements on the go at any one time, it's too much to try to push into my brain all at once...

I've noticed a lot of fingerstyle youtubers putting out "isolation" videos of their latest arrangements. I guess if you can't gig in public, it's a sensible thing to do!

Oh, I re-learnt how to solve a Rubik's 3x3x3 cube. Knew how to do it as a kid, had forgotten. It's like memorising a complicated fingerstyle piece, I'm sure it's good for our brains to mix it up a bit. One of my kids is keen to learn and we are halfway through the training. One is kinda ho-hum about it, trying but not very hard. The other one laughs at the very idea of learning how to solve a cube...

Stay safe everyone!

Thursday, 27 February 2020

What's happening Feb 2020

I've got a few arrangements cooking at the moment, "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago, based on a video from Naudo, "Band on the Run" by Wings, based on a video from Jake Reichbart, and "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon, which I heard on the radio and it got stuck in my head. The ones where I see one of my mate's videos and then have a crack are often "more or less" what they did. These days I don't attempt to completely transcribe, but since they have done most of the heavy lifting I leverage off it!  I'm also continuing to re-arrange and re-learn "Never Tear Us Apart". It's getting a bit smoother now.

I find if I play through my learning pieces at least once every second day - not trying to nail it, just trying to push it into my brain - it works well. If it's just fingerpicking in chords, easy. I remember chord progressions pretty quick. If it is chords put you then pick around out-of-chord notes, not too bad. But when it is non a normal chord it is hard to push into my brain. For instance imagine F, thumbing the bottom F, but change the top F to a G. Or a C# maj 7th but with a G# bass. Or the worst one I have at the moment, it's a G7 but put an A on the third string.  I really struggle to get the brain to suddenly switch to those crazy shord, the 'ole CPU glitches for a bit before it throws the fingers out.

Maybe if you were a master of the fretboard, and every jazz chord out there made sense, you'd be fine. It's the bane of teaching yourself - you only focus on the fun stuff, leaving big glaring holes in your musicianship!  Oh well. One of these years I'll get around to it.

Oh, I've been playing my Esteve for 10 years now.  Time flies!  It's actually 18 years old now, being a 2002 model. Yep, it sat around for 8 years before I purchased it. It is still a great guitar and remains my main weapon of choice.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Did I inspire Sammy G?

I find Sammy G quite an engaging internet personality and quite often watch his videos when they pop up in my feed. I was watching this one and he mentioned he'd seen a cover of "Here Comes The Sun" when he was in grade 11 or 12, and then played a bit of it. It sounded _a lot_ like my cover, the timing is about right (I posted it in 2006), and that video has over a million views as it was featured back in the day.

The arrangement is basically a copy of an arrangement by John Keans, I changed very little. But he never played it on youtube as far as I know (I wish he had!) So... maybe I was there just at the right time for Sammy G and I didn't know it. There sure were a lot of other players who were there at the right time for me...the universal cookie jar continues to supply cookies! :-)

Check it out below, I've set the relevant start times for you.


Monday, 20 January 2020

Tabs into Musescore backlog

For years I have been tabbing out my arrangements and transcriptions. It's part of my music arrangement process. I don't need to do it so much anymore, especially on songs that aren't complex. So I have around 70 tabs from the last 15 years of effort. In the early days I used PowerTab version 1. It was fast and I knew it well. But it had known bugs, was no longer in development, and as Windows moved through versions it was increasingly less supported (I have a Windows XP virtual machine I use if I ever need to make PowerTab changes).

So I switched to Musescore a few years back. It is fully featured, I'm talking fully. So fully that I barely remember how to achieve all the different things I want. I'm constantly googling it, and saying "oh, that's right". Which says to me that it is a tool that you need to use regularly, and it is not completely intuitive. I still struggle with the hotkeys, I find myself pressing escape a lot and "starting again". Its concept is great (it is more "strict" than powertab) and the flexibility is outstanding and the scores are beautiful.  So I'm sticking with it.

But now I want to convert 50 of my old tabs from PowerTab to Musescore. Musescore does not support old PowerTab, but GuitarPro5 supports both. So I managed to PTB->GP5->MSCZ. Unfortunately I need to spend at least 10 minutes on each to standardise templates, fix errors, that sort of thing.

"JAW, why haven't you been using Guitar Pro all these years?" I have tried each version, but I always liked PowerTab more. Maybe I was being a bit anti-change and too used to PowerTab. I've scored out a few multi-instrument parts in the last few years and I have more planned, Guitar Pro is very guitar oriented, so it suits me even less these days.

So there you have it. I've got probably ten hours of effort to get all my tabs into Musescore up to a standard I will be happy with. It's only my OCD that will eventually drive me to do it - I don't need those tabs anymore, and I don't get paid for producing them, so I don't need to!

But it is really nice having them all up to date :-)

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Live stream rig

I've been building up hardware and software so that one day I could live stream to the tens and tens of people out there who would want it! Moreso, it feels like a good skill, and I love to ramble on about all things guitar, even better if someone was live and asking questions!  I'm not playing out at the moment so I miss audience interaction.

The gear:
2x Logitech C920 webcam (one is actually a C922, I don't think there is much difference). These are the current (2019) cheapest decent webcams for a live rig the google tells me. A better solution is DSLR cameras piped via HDMI into a capture card, but the cards are quite expensive $500 or so, and I don't know if I'm going to even enjoy live streaming. Put the cameras on tripods and have one capture full frame and one up close for guitar.

My usual Zoom H1n can go into USB live stream mode. All good there.

Lighting - I've got a couple of fill lights but just one with only half the bulbs on lights me up so there aren't distracting shadows. I should have been recording videos when I was young and good looking, those lights just make me look old :-) (I don't feel old. Well, most of the time.)

Computer - my trusty old Dell Latitude E6530. She's dated and clunky, but has 8GB RAM and two dual i7 cores running at 2.9GHz, and enough USB3 ports to deal with the large bandwidth that HD webcams throw at it. I bought it at an online auction 5 years ago and haven't found a requirement to upgrade it yet.

The Software
Musescore. I'm not as fluent in it as I was the original Powertab, and the revised Powertab from a few years back didn't grab me, they changed it too much. Musescore frustrates me somewhat, but the scores it makes are beautiful, and it has _everything_ you could possibly need for scoring.  Since I also arrange these days for multiple instruments, which is does really well, Musescore is my go-to.

OBS Project. Apparently the gamers streamers choice, it's freeware and it's really good! You can tell it about your cameras and microphones and the application you are running, and arrange scenes. and hotkey between those scenes. It even let me put a live bandpass filter on my  microphone (I dislike prominent mid frequencies, I want a solid bass and high frequencies, it has that "professional" sound).

Windows 7. Yeah, I'm still living in the past, I use Windows 10 and all the variants of Windows Server at work, but you know what, I plug in the webcams and the mic as USB and Windows 7 instantly knew what they were, and it all just worked.

I ended up making 5 OBS Project scenes:
1 - one line of music, a small full frame thumbnail and the close up for the majority of the screen. I can kinda fit all this together so you get to see everything at once.
2 - mostly music and two thumbnails of the webcams. To talk about music.
3 - Small full frame thumbnail and close up filling the screen but no music. For when the music is getting in the way.
4 - just the close up
5 - just the full frame.

I hotkey'd this to 1,2,3,4,5 on the keyboard, so I can quickly click between the scenes. Musescore is running side by side with OBS Project so as I move around that you get to see it too.

The Delivery
So then it is up to me to make a compelling video! Got the tools, can I do anything with it? Ha ha, the more you do it the easier and better it becomes - well that's my thoughts. I am prone to waffle and I forget to mention important things, but being able to speak about a subject on the spot is a good skill to have. I recorded a test, up on youtube already at, let's see what the tens and tens of people who watch it say.