Sunday, December 9, 2007
I hope to get back into the swing of things around the new year. Thanks for your patience and understanding (all 6 of you who read my blog).
In the meantime, you can check out my other blog, Garlic is Love, which is all about food and cooking, something I do a lot during the holidays. Non-garlic lovers also welcome.
I will be back, though.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Okay, so it's a little bit cheesy, very 70's and 80's, with the laser light effects, pyrotechnics, and big, big hair. But on the other hand, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rocked out for three solid hours, playing their guts out on the stage
These guys are amazing. If you ever have a chance to go see them, do it. I've seen them twice now, and each concert is a high-energy, superb experience.
They, essentially, play two full concerts every show. The first half is a Rock-Opera story thing, where a narrator guy links the songs together. Around the Holidays it's a story where an angel goes around trying to learn a valuable lesson, and helping others in the process. It's a little heavy-handed and didactic, but it's really good music, and fun to listen to.
Then, the second half of the concert is more free form, where we get introduced to the band, and lots of popular and classical songs are played. Where else are you gonna hear "Proud Mary" and "Carmina Burana" in the same concert?
(Oh, and the Carmina Burana was simply spectacular. It will hopefully be out on their new CD, in Summer of 2008).
I totally appreciate these guys work ethic. They know that they've got a good gig going, and they still bring tons of energy to the show. They have an insane touring schedule, too. But if you can get a chance to see them live, totally do it. It's a spectacle in every sense of the word.
(Addendum: Apparently, in certain venues, like Detroit, they play two full concerts a day--a matinee, and a later show. That means they play 6 hours of concert music in a day. Makes me feel tired just thiking about it. Huge props to the band.)
Friday, November 30, 2007
I had some good inertia going with the practice schedule, then Thanksgiving came up and BLAM! Nothing.
I have very little free time between now and the end of the year, and I was thinking about just saying "screw it," and picking a practice schedule back up after January 1st. But I've decided to try to get back into a practice schedule starting Monday.
It may only be one or two days a week, but it'll be something, and then I can kick it into a higher gear in 2008. I've already found that lunch practice works well for me, and it's an otherwise less-than-productive time of day (other than the days I go out to run errands, that is).
Look for an update on the TSO concert sometime this weekend.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
After about a half a week of rest, doing nothing more difficult than icing some cookies or lifting a glass or two of wine, I hope to be well-rested and ready to come back at it.
Friday, November 16, 2007
1 set of E Phrigyan and cromatic scales, forwards and backwards.
Practiced "Take It Easy" rhythm guitar
Practiced "Day Tripper" lead guitar - first verse to refrain
I made an effort to slow down my practice this time, and I was able to hit the notes in the scales without making many mistakes.
For "Day Tripper" I was able to go through it several times without screwing it up. I even started trying to figure out the part under the refrain.
Was having some trouble hitting chords today, for some reason. My fingers wouldn't go into the right positions, and kept getting in the way of other strings. Perhaps I need to do some finger stretches in addition to the scales warm-ups, or maybe just more scales.
There's several good hand stretches in Aikido that, once I learn them all the way, I'll probably use to warm up for guitar practice (and probably at my desk job when my hands get tired from all the typing).
Until next time,
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
After only one lunchtime practice, I've decided that I love it. It was a great break in the day, a mood-booster, and, frankly, a way to make practice fun. It's certainly more fun than working...
I did notice that I started out playing much quieter, so as not to disturb any co-workers who were still at their desks for lunch. Which was interesting because it seemed to make me a bit more accurate with my scales. As I got into it, though, I started to get louder, and nobody seemed to notice.
The scales are coming along well--E Phrygian is super-easy for me now. I've also noticed I tend to do scales faster backwards (from high E string to low E string) than forwards. Odd.
I continued to focus on songs, changing from chord to chord, and working on some strumming technique. I also discovered that I had a different Web site bookmarked for guitar help at work then the one I have at home. This site, Guitar Noise, is one I may also check out at home.
Still noticing problems with my playing. Like many things in my life, it's hard for me to slow down. I want to speed up and do the song at the "correct" tempo, but to learn it, I need to go laboriously slowly.
Another thing that tends to get me off track is when I want to sing along with the guitar. A lunchtime practice is good to get me out of this habit because there's no way I'm singing and playing where all my co-workers can hear. That's what Wednesday night Karaoke is for.
All in all, the practice was very good. It was rather relaxing to switch gears during work, and I had plenty of time to practice, eat lunch, and do other things (like surf the 'Net, go for a walk, or, write this blog entry).
Unfortunately, I feel like I'm hitting a plateau. I'm doing the chromatic and E Phrygian scales correctly, but slowly, and I've memorized the 6 chords I know so far. However, I'm playing the notes very, very slowly, and I'm not good at switching between chords yet. Perhaps it's time to go to Lesson 3 and learn some more chords.
For my "free practice," I worked on the lead part from "Day Tripper." It's really catchy, pretty easy to play by ear, and uses (at least) four strings of the guitar. So it's a good one to learn the strings and to learn the individual notes on the strings. It's also fun to play.
I also re-tuned my guitar yesterday. Since I don't have a guitar stand, every time I take my guitar in and out of its case, it gets a little more out of tune. But it was much faster to re-tune it now that I've memorized the string names. I can just plunk out the note on my electronic keyboard, and not have to take 2 minutes figuring out which string corresponds to which note.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
The only bad thing: My guitar is getting pretty out of tune. Will need to take some time to tune on Monday. Since I no longer have my little tuning device, I have to tune using my keyboard, which is not a problem, just takes about 5 extra minutes. The one good thing about my (near) perfect-pitch--I can tell that it's my guitar out of tune, and not me getting the chord wrong. I still know what it should sound like, and what it will sound like when it's tuned properly. I do need to work on internalizing the correct tones, though. I'm sure it will come with practice.
A short practice is certainly better than no practice at all. I'm happy with myself. This is a step in the right direction. Will post again when I get my first lunchtime practice in, to let y'all know how that goes.
Friday, November 9, 2007
While listening to Coverville, I heard a version of Overkill (originally by Men at Work) and had an epiphany. We all know the song--
"I can't get to sleep!
I'm tired of all the, something something!"
--It was played so much in the 80’s that we may even be sick of it. We tend to think of the song’s melody, and only a few lyrics stand out:
“Day after day, it reappears,
Night after night, my something, shows the fear,
Something here and fade away.”
As I listened to the cover version, I actually caught all the lyrics for the first time. And I realized that the song is a perfect statement about anxiety, and its obsessive nature. And it has narrative structure to boot!
The lyrics of the song paint a picture of a guy with insomnia.
I can't get to sleep
I think about the implications
Of diving in too deep
And possibly the complications
He knows that he’s only getting anxious because it’s night, and he’s alone. He knows he’s blowing things out of proportion.
Especially at night
I worry over situations
I know will be alright
Perahaps it’s just my imagination
Then we get the end of the verse, which resolves the anxiety. The melody line descends here, which evokes a sense of relaxation and quieting down of the mind:
Day after day it reappears
Night after night my heartbeat, shows the fear
Ghosts appear and fade away
In the second verse, though, it seems the anxiety is still there:
Alone between the sheets
Only brings exasperation
So, he goes for a walk to try to distract himself from the anxieties. It seems to work:
It's time to walk the streets
Smell the desperation
At least there's pretty lights
And though there's little variation
It nullifies the night
Ah. Now we’ve gotten to the crux (and the title) of the song—Overkill. Which is the anxiety he’s feeling about every little thing, that he doesn’t need to worry about, but he’s worrying about anyway.
The end of the second ‘verse repeats the lines from the end of the first verse, showing that the anxiety does, in fact, go away again.
Yet, the anxiety comes back (the very next day—wait, wrong song), and it’s worse this time, which we know because he’s singing the melody an octave higher:
I can’t get to SLEEEEP!
But, the anxiety goes away, at least for a little while. The end of the verse, like the other two, is always the same:
Ghosts appear and fade away.
Even the form of the song evokes a recurrent, unavoidable anxiety. With the short lines, limited rhyme, and repetition of entire stanzas.
The beauty of this song is it’s such a common experience. Everyone’s gone though this at least once in their lives, where the cares of the world get you the wrong way and keep you up at night. You think you’ve got it under control and you’re calm, but then a stray thought sets you off again.
p.s. if this sort of thing interests you at all, I must recommend an amusing analysis of Jailhouse Rock by maestro George Hrab, from his Geologic Podcast episode 22. Unlike my work, his is edgy, laced with profanity, and very, very funny.
1. Started Aikido.
2. Had to finish a job application and walk it over to HR during my lunch hour, when I would have otherwise tried to practice at lunch.
3. Chose to go out to a Guitar Hero event being run by a local radio station. If you played the game, they would enter you in a trip to London to see Led Zepplin in concert. Free trip to London = coool.
4. Rode the bus to work today, did not have room for my guitar on the bus (well, actually, forgot it).
I still feel like a slacker, though.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Now, it's always hard learning something new, but I have no aptitude for this sort of thing at all. I may have some innate musical aptitude (near-perfect pitch, for example)which helps me along with the guitar, but kinesthetic stuff?
Let me put it this way: back in high school, when I was in the musicals, learning the dance choreography for the chorus parts always made me cry.
Aikido is just like that. I'm not a spatially-inclined sort of person, so to watch two people attack and defend, and try to figure out what they are doing, is not the best way for me to learn.
But, thankfully, there was time for one-on-one practice, where I sorta started to learn what I was supposed to be doing. And I did see places where I was improving during the lesson, which was also helpful. The teachers were very gentle, and very encouraging with the positive feedback and corrections. Even so, it was a struggle not to get really, really frustrated. Scratch that. To not show how frustrated I was. Lots of deep breathing to keep the growing anxiety at bay.
The reason I'm learning Aikido (and playing guitar) is not because it's easy, but because it's hard. I know I'm going to totally suck at first, but if I keep at it, I'll continue to get better. It doesn't really matter what it is I'm learning. And learning how to keep my calm when doing something really, really, hard.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
I'm averaging about 2 practices per week. I'm not happy with this, but I'm having trouble finding time to practice. You'd think that finding 20-30 minutes, tops, every day wouldn't be so hard, but it is.
George Hrab, musician and podcaster extrodanaire, says in episode 38 of his Geologic Podcast that, when he practices, he breaks it up into several short sessions throughout the day. So, he'll do lots of 15 minute practice sessions in one day rather than one big session.
I'm wondering if I can apply this to my practice schedule, but in 5 minute chunks instead of 15 minute chunks. Like do scales before work, do chords at lunch, and play around with melodies and songs after dinner. It couldn't hurt to try.
I'm especially enamored with the lunchtime practice idea. Nobody near me stays at their desk during lunch, and without the amp, it should be pretty quiet. Not sure if I should try to ask the brass first, or just go for it and wait for somebody to complain.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I have been wondering lately, though: does Guitar Hero help you learn guitar at all?
I found this salon.com article that says, yes—to a limited extent.
I’ve already got pretty good rhythm, so the game didn’t really develop that skill. But it is rather useful to stretch my fingers out. I am cursed with fat sausage fingers and the inability to do the “Live Long and Prosper” sign. I need all the help I can get when it comes to flexibility. I’ll never be the next Gene Simmons, but I’ll be a passable guitar player, eventually.
Guitar Hero has also gotten a lot of people interested in learning real, actual guitar. Not me, for I’ve been wanting to learn to play for several years now, but a good friend of mine definitely got into guitar after Guitar Hero.
The article leaves out one beneficial aspect for people who play both Guitar Hero and guitar. When you’re struggling with scales or learning a song, you can go straight to Guitar Hero, and pwn a song. Perhaps the same song you are trying to learn on guitar. It’s cathartic, and good for the ego…
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
* Looking at the waveform of the raw file, I could see very clearly which notes I hit clearly, and which ones I did not hit well. Also, could see my tempo issues in scales and changing chords.
* Need to memorize chords better. Need to practice more often so I don't forget the chords.
* E Phrygian scale is much easier for me than Chromatic Scale
* I'm playing chords too fast. Need to slow them down
* I'm playing scales too slowly. The faster I do them, the better they sound.
* Picking and strumming still need a lot of work.
Monday, October 29, 2007
October 29 Practice Approx. 13 minutes.
(this link will take you off-site, FYI. You will need to type in the letters you see in the upper right hand of the screen to prove you are not a robot. Also, this will take a while to upload, so please be patient.)
There is some kind of high-pitched whine on this recording and I don't know why. Sorry, folks. I shall apply noise reduction next time.
My typical practice schedule includes: tuning check, scales, chords, songs, songs by ear--includes melodies, riffs, and chords. Takes me somewhere between 10-20 minutes.
A more detailed summary of today's practice follows.
E Phrygian Scale
Random Riff- In the Afterlife by Squirrel Nut Zippers
Take it Easy by The Eagles
The lack of practice meant that I had to look up chords more than usual. I tried to cut out the dead air as much as possible.
I'll probably record and upload my practices once a month or so, to check my progress. For the future, I'll keep the uploads to 5 minutes or less. I'll pull out the best bits of what I did, or if there was something terribly interesting or instructive during practice. Listening to 15 minutes of crappy practice is unarguably painful, I know.
My hope is that there will be a clear and consistent progress and improvement on my part, and, eventually, this can be used as a resource and motivation for those just starting out. I will get better, and so will you out there who practice a little bit every day. I hope that my short-term embarrassment will be educational, somehow.
Monday, October 22, 2007
I am not a patient person. It makes it hard to stick with things sometimes, like learning guitar.
But I'm keeping at it--the guitar thing and the patience thing.
I'm not getting in practice time every day, but I'm hitting the guitar about two to three times a week. And I'm keeping my practice time fairly short, to somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes. As I get better, I will probably increase that on certain days, especially when I'm trying to learn songs.
It's just such slow going. My good frend said it took her over a year of weekly lessons to become anything near proficient. So, any improvement I can track on a day-by-day basis, even if it's small, is a good thing. Helps me stay motivated.
That's why I tend to end my practice sessions with something I'm good at: playing by ear. Tonight, I ended with The House of the Rising Sun, and Less Talk More Rokk (my husband's been playing Guitar Hero II). Whee. It's always nice to end on a high note, you know?
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
There's one book in particular relating to music that really helped me to "get" scales and chords. Written for the piano, it's called How to Play Popular Piano in 10 Easy Lessons, by Norman Monath. It's a slim book, but it was revolutionary in my approach to piano, and all melodic music in general.
The book teaches just enough music theory for you to be able to learn half a dozen chords, then modify those chords into about 30 total chords, using set rules. This is sooo much easier than memorizing 30 separate chords.
Also, the biggest thing I got from this book was the simple act of how to play a major scale starting on any note. It's all about thinking of notes as half steps and whole steps. Once I internalized the pattern, I could play major scales on piano, and, I just learned yesterday, the guitar.
It really bugs me that most music lessons, whether online, in a book, or with a real live person, really lack any element of music theory or practical knowledge.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
For my own benefit, I have started to record snippets of me playing. My thought is I'll be able to hear what I'm doing wrong, and also hear how I'll improve as I practice. Will probably be a once a month thing.
I'll try to post the Mp3 to this blog, but not sure if I will be able to. I'm still researching how to do that. Besides, at the start, it's going to be extremely amateur. But it may be of interest to, say, my dad. (Hi Dad!)
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
"I had the bread on its side, and I was trying to cut off a little chunk to make bread crumbs," said Celery. "The bread slipped, and I got my finger instead."
The cut was on the left index finger, above the first knuckle and was pretty deep, according to two nurses who were consulted. The cut did not require stitches. However, because the cut is on the hand which Celery uses to form chords, her guitar playing career has been--not cut tragically short, but delayed until the wound heals properly.
"Right now, I just don't have the flexion," Celery explains. If I try to bend the knuckle to hit the string, my wound won't close properly.
This is Celery's second injury to this finger under eerily similar circumstances. Her first injury occured almost exactly 13 years ago, when she was at Girl Scout Camp slicing carrots. That initial injury required a tetanus shot, a nerve block, and half a dozen stitches.
"I knew I wasn't being careful," Celery says of both experiences. "I said to myself, 'this is not dangerous' right before I sliced my finger. I should have known better."
Estimates are that Celery should be able to return to rocking out (and updating her blog) in another 7 to 10 days.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
So, I'll still be rocking out, but just with the voice rather than the guitar.
Speaking of resources for learning guitar and other complicated spacial relations stuff, You Tube is the way to go. I don't know why I didn't think of You Tube earlier. Video is how I learned the (very little) yoga that I can do, specifically the Sun Salute. It's so much easier to see how somebody is doing it in real time rather than somebody trying to explain something three-dimensional and moving in words.
It's like trying to describe a fight scene in a book. Very hard to balance making sure it's a.) clear what's going on and b.) not boring as hell.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
First off, diagrams on how to change strings are piss-poor. I'm not the kind of person who can learn something much more complicated than a chord chart from text and/or a diagram. Those exercise routines in fitness magazines drive me nuts, because I can never grok what the routine is supposed to look like in the 25 words and two pictures they provide.
It looks like the guitar itself has these brackets towards the headstock, which are tightened in place with an Allen wrench. But the brackets prevent one from actually tuning the guitar properly. So here I am, trying to tune up my high E string, and it's not getting any higher in pitch because of this stupid design flaw. Just as I'm thinking to myself, "I'm putting tension on the string--why isn't the pitch increasing?" It breaks on me. Joy.
Will work more on this later in the week. I had to stop for the day or else I'd be out of a guitar, Pete-Townsend style.
On a bright note: I did some pretty nice scales last night. Did a C major scale very, very well, and decided to try to play Ode to Joy by ear. I'm seeing progress in my playing, which is very motivating. It just makes me even angrier that my hardware (and my ability to manage said hardware) is flaking out on me.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I got some new strings, and a new strap for my guitar, and my wrist is feeling better, so I'm now, offically, ready to rock. Again.
Image to the left is my axe. I have not named her yet. Is this a necessary step? Frankly, I'm just happy I was able to Photshop the image to get the color to stand out nicely.
Also, I think I've got the color scheme of the blog more or less finalized. And it doesn't clash with my guitar! Yay!
More substantial info coming soon.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
At any rate, I did get over to Ye Olde Guitar Centre to pick up some new strings, a guitar strap, and some better picks. So I should be all set to rock out either today or tomorrow.
Friday, September 7, 2007
So, I was hoping to hop online and find a cheap electric guitar to upgrade on. Yep. That went well. Everything's at least over $200. Second, I have no idea what makes for a quality guitar. Mahogany, maple, Indian rosewood, humbucker pickups, neck wood versus body wood. Holy crap!
Thankfully, I found a pretty good site that sums it all up. Although it's a commercial site, and therefore a touch suspect on its info (you never know if they're funneling you into buying *their* product), at first glance, this looks very good. And it's all done in a concise, clean style.
I've got to think that anything at all is better than what I'm currently playing, but then again, playing something at all is better than air guitar.
I'm looking for something that doesn't have too wide a neck, has a decent sound, and, most importantly, something that stays in tune. I know this is a super-new blog, but any suggestions? Should I try Ebay? (I'm extremely reluctant to do this for obvious reasons of quality control).
I've got a bit of a music background, mostly singing karaoke and in choirs, have a decent sense of pitch, and can pick notes off a scale and play some melodies by ear and on a keyboard. Back in the day, I took piano lessons, but only for about a year. Other than that, I'm fairly new at this sort of thing.