Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The "Rocksmitheree" continues...

Still playing Rocksmith. Still enjoying multi-player with my daughter.

It surprises me how much she remembers from some of the songs we've been playing. She seems to have a knack for it. Her small hands make some of the chords pretty tricky though.

One song in particular that we both enjoy is "Use Somebody" by the Kings of Leon and she plucks away some of the notes even when the game isn't on. I thought I was nearing the complete chart for this song since it hasn't change in a while, but then I found a video on YouTube that shows quite a few more than I've seen so far. I guess I'll have to get better at what I have before they'll show up. Looks like a lot of fun though.

When I'm not playing, I'm surfing the web for more knowledge. I found these two:

http://www.chordbook.com

http://all-guitar-chords.com/

A friend sent me this one that he uses: http://guitaralliance.com/

Today one of my co-workers (who also has Rocksmith) sent me a couple of YouTube links to videos showing some 12 bar blues that look like fun. From there, I found the creator's web site: http://www.justinguitar.com/

There is a wealth of information on that web site, and it's ALL FREE. Of course, you can make a donation or buy one of the many books he also wrote, but all of book content is from the web site.

I've only been reading some of it for about half an hour and I already want to buy the book. :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rocksmith Progress Update

It's paying off

I played Rocksmith for a few hours last night.

While I really enjoy playing this game, I sometimes feel like I'm struggling with it and that I'm not making any progress toward getting better.

I know this is normal. I keep telling myself to be patient. It will come. (see previous post about my Rock Band experience)

Well, last night -- for a brief moment -- something clicked.

I was playing a new song for the 4th or 5th time, to achieve the minimum score to continue, and at one point in the song I didn't look down at the strings to find my next fingering position. I instinctively moved my fingers to the next string and fret position, and my picking hand found the right strings to pluck.

It felt so natural.

Then I realized what I had done, got a little too excited, and screwed up my moment of happiness. :)

It was a cool feeling though and it confirmed what I had posted previously.

Persistence and patience.

It's nice to know that the callouses on my finger tips are not for naught.

Multi-player

I felt bad for my daughter last night. When she came home from her cousin's house and saw me playing, she picked up the Fender and sat with me, and followed along as I played. Unfortunately, because we only have one cable for the game, she played "unplugged". She still seemed to enjoy it, but she's not getting any real feedback about how she's doing aside from hearing the guitar's own unamplified sound. Also, for one song, the tuning was Drop D and since she wasn't plugged into the game, she couldn't tune down the guitar for it.

I decided this morning that we're going to buy another "Real Tone" cable, so my daughter, or my wife, can also play at the same time. $30 for the cable is a little pricey, but I think it'll be worth it if she continues to remain interested in learning to play.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rocksmith similar in some ways to Rock Band

I am coming to the realization that learning Rocksmith (aka, learning to play a real guitar) isn't much different than learning to play Rock Band or Guitar Hero. That's not to say this is as easy, but the learning process is similar.

I still remember years ago thinking "I can barely play 3 damn buttons, I'm never going to learn to play 4... or 5. This is insane." Yet, about a year or two later, I was playing some songs on expert and gold starring them. With that in the back of my mind, I push on with this real guitar thing.

I know that things that seem impossible aren't impossible, with a little patience and persistence.

I have frustrating moments, like I did with Rock Band. Probably more so now. With 6 strings and so many frets, the combinations seem endless. It's really tricky trying not to look at the buttons strings so I can concentrate on the TV instruction. It's easy to get lost.

Another thing I recall from my Rock Band experience was that when the frustrations were too great, put down the guitar and take a few days off before trying it again.

It's the same thing with Rocksmith and a real guitar.

This afternoon I finally felt like I was making some real progress. Not just with my in-game score, but actually feeling I could do this, eventually.

I got hooked on a seemingly simple song, "When I'm With You" by Best Coast. I was really getting into it. Rockin' it out. It's a fun song. My daughter actually said "Was that really you playing that?" I felt like a rock star. I played it five or six times. I then decided one more time before calling it a night.

That's when I discovered just how dynamic Rocksmith's difficulty can be. Seconds into the song, it looked foreign. "WTF? More notes?!" *panic* I struggled through the tough parts and it wasn't long before it started to look a little more like I had been playing previously. Maybe it should be called Dynamic Reality Check. Yeh, I still have a long way to go.

I finished up the night with playing one of the mini-games, "Scale Runner". My daughter even took interest. She got a small acoustic guitar for Christmas a year or two ago, had some interest for a while and it has since been gathering dust. She brought it out, I tuned it up the best I could, and we sat playing/learning scales together. :) I might have to pick up an extra USB adapter cable once my new guitar arrives this week so we can play multi-player.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bucket List update, Nov 7, 2011

Overdue for an update...

  • Weigh 210lbs or less — This was originally 200 but was revised months before achieving it at the end of October, so I'm marking this as complete.
  • Quit smoking — Completed almost 3 years ago.
  • Visit the UK — Still to do.
  • Visit my Dad's grave site in Louisiana — Still to do.
  • Own a Ford Mustang — Probably a long way away from getting this one done. :)
  • Visit every province in Canada — Still to do.
  • Cycle 1000 kms in one year — Done mid summer 2011.
  • Cycle 2000 kms before the end of the summer 2011 - Done
  • Cycle 3000 kms before the first snow fall — Done. Can't recall the exact date... maybe I blogged about it?
  • Ride in a hot air balloon Still to do.
  • Ride in a bi-plane — I see one taking off and landing at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum all the time, but I think it's a bit pricey.
  • Learning to play at least one full song on guitar — New! :)

Gonna be a rock star

Ok, maybe not. :)

I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was in my late teens, along with a beginner book and some guitar picks. Weeks later, after building callouses on my fingers, I set the guitar aside.

Every few years after, I'd pick it up, with half-assed determination to learn how to play. I replaced strings a few times.

To date, I still cannot play the damn thing, mostly due to frustration, lack of patience, and no lessons I suppose.

Years ago my wife and I developped an addiction to the Guitar Heros and Rock Bands. Yeh, plastic instruments and all. Spare me the "pick up a real guitar and learn" crap. It's tiring. Thanks to Rock Band, my nephew bought a drum kit and took lessons.

Anyway, when Rock Band 3 came out with its "Pro Mode", my interest in learning guitar was renewed. Maybe this was what I needed? But the real Fender Squier Strat designed for it was a little expensive. However, when I heard about another upcoming game called Rocksmith, that used REAL guitars without anything more than a special USB cable included with the game, I was able to justify the Fender purchase. It would serve two purposes. Rock Band 3's Pro Mode, and to use with Rocksmith.

Rock Band 3's Pro mode was a tad frustrating, but mostly because of the "hybrid" Fender strat requiring tweaking to get to work properly with the game. It still isn't 100% good with the game, but to be honest, it was enough to make me set it aside.

In the meantime, I picked up a small 10w Fender amp to accompany my guitar, for real play. I should have held off on the amp purchase.

Enter Rocksmith.

After reading a couple of early reviews, I was a little hesitant. Latency seemed to be the issue. After reading a few positive reviews, I bit the bullet.

This "game" is awesome. It connects your electric guitar via a special USB cable to your console (PS3 or Xbox 360), and then connects to your home stereo, which acts like your amplifier, and also provides a whole whack of pedal effects to accompany game play. It turns out that my system configuration is the recommended best at minimizing latency. After tweaking the in-game latency setting, I think I've pretty much eliminated it.

I put the word "game" in quotes because it really is more of a teaching tool. Perhaps it doesn't go into as much theory as a guitar less might, but it teaches people like me enough so that one day they may be able to pick up a guitar and rock out a song or two.

I live for that day. :) Perhaps I should add this to my bucket list...

The game is not without some frustrations though, and I suspect it's mostly due to the Fender that I'm using. For one thing, the specially designed frets (for Rock Band 3 Pro Mode) sometimes make the strings catch when string bending. I also think that it doesn't stay in perfect tune, possibly due to the inntonation being a little off. That could be due to the weak neck because it contains eletronics for Rock Band 3 Pro Mode. I followed some instructional videos on YouTube for adjusting inntonation and it's a little better, but still not perfect.

Last week I decided to look into getting a new guitar; one that is designed 100% for real play. I emailed AxeMusic.com, where I bought the Fender and the amp, for any recommendations. They're Canadian, and I like their service. I told them looking for a decent beginner guitar in the $300 price range. After a few email exchanges, I settled on a See Thru Black Cherry ESP EC-100QM. I even checked out a few youTube videos of people playing this guitar. I liked the look at the sound.

I called late Friday and placed the order.

Maybe once I get a little better, I put up a video. Maybe. :)