Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Me Me Me Me

No, not warming up for an opera.  Just some things I feel like writing about. 

From time to time, I've mentioned that I've been studying guitar since around the end of 2010.  I picked it up after a long hiatus from playing as a teen and 20-something.  Basically, it was longer since I played than I played and I started over with DVD based courses from Learn and Master.  I finished the second one around last March and since then have been playing around with various books of music trying to occasionally make inoffensive sounds.  I have not yet crossed the home recording studio threshold that Robb at Sharp As A Marble has, but I'm thinking of it.  Still, with more hobbies than I can keep track of, I wonder if it's worthwhile to even start down that road.  

Funny thing but it turns out that I don't find the goal of "trying to occasionally make inoffensive sounds" very rewarding in the long term.  Running the basic pentatonic scales in major and minor key variations gets rather boring, but on the other hand not playing those scales seems to lead to a decay in my ability to play things.  Playing some sort of chord based rhythm guitar produces a fuller sound around the house than just playing a melody one note at a time which can sound pretty thin.  Going down the recording road gets around that by allowing you to play multiple parts of a song yourself and play along with what you played before. Add a drum track and you're a one man band without walking around with a bass drum strapped on. 

Being of that certain age group who got their first transistor radio around the same time the Beatles crossed the Atlantic, I have a soft spot for their music.  One of the books I've been playing from is a Beatles songbook with written melody for voice and chords.  Last week, I got an ad from a music shop for a book with note by note transcriptions of every Beatles song.  It's an 1136 page hardback book.  Every part is transcribed in both standard notation (treble and bass clefs) and "tab" for guitar and bass.  Tablature, or tab, has the advantage for a guitar of showing the exact voicing the player used.  On a guitar, a given note from the staff is available in several places on the neck, and a given chord (arrangement of multiple notes on different strings) is usually available with different fingerings in three or more places on the neck.  A properly transcribed tab version makes you sound more like the original, if that's your goal.
I've been playing with a couple of songs from the White Album; Revolution 1 and the Savoy Truffle.  I'm getting more out of them, playing along to the recording which I listen to on the iPhone.  All in all, it's a bit more fun and interesting than what I've been doing.  One thing I've concluded, though, is that as a musician I make a pretty good engineer. 

On  the other hand, I played with that goofy personality , er, #Brainchild test Borepatch linked to a couple of days ago, and find that it fits.  I don't seem to be descended from anyone with a musical background. 
No... I don't particularly take that seriously like I didn't take the political leanings test seriously.  Sounds too much like a horoscope.  BTW, Mrs. Graybeard tested as Isaac of Arc.  Isaac Newton and Jean D'Arc. 


  1. " a musician I make a pretty good engineer. "
    Heh. Back in the 60's, I played guitar (I think it was mandatory). Everything I did was mechanical, i.e., this finger there, on that string, etc., until I got it right.
    One day the drummer in our garage band decided to give the axe a cruise, & after fiddling with it a bit, launches into some serious Led Zep or suchlike.
    Jaw on floor, I ask, "how'd you DO that?"
    " I dunno, I just played it the way it sounded."

    I became an engineer.

  2. Couple ideas for you:

    1) Get a teacher; a good one in whatever genre interests you. I found an old studio jazz musician that taught and never regretted it. Not only will you get an experienced observation of your faults and progress, but you'll also likely be offered discounts on books & gear. These guys have industry contacts, so you might even get access to stuff that never shows up in stores.

    2) Pick up some Melody In Chords to play. If you're not familiar with the term, here are the first two search hits I found:

    It's much more challenging than playing a simple one-note melody, and the sound can be rich and subtle. If you can't readily find them, you can write your own. I have written exactly one, and I love the way it turned out. My teacher handed 'em out like confetti, and I loved that too.

    3) More Fake Books, like the book you mentioned. Lots of 'em on the internet, a CD/DVD full of tabs for little money. If nothing else, they'll improve your ability to sight read. Besides, who doesn't love to hear some old standard? I'll bet the Mrs. will love to hear you play 'em. Maybe she'll even pick up an instrument herself.

    Be bold. Find someone to play with, even if it's only a couple times a month. You can always dump (or be dumped) if it's horrible. Good luck with your studies.

    73, Jim

  3. Correction. Fake books tend to be either tabs or ... uhm, whatever the regular notation is, frequently mixed on an individual song basis. Sometimes both for the same song. Regular notation will test your sight reading skills. Tabs, not so much.

    73, Jim

  4. Might dig this then:

  5. I'm in the same boat as you, except for the starting again part.

    In my 20-somethings, Blackbird was one of the things I could do of the Beatles that went beyond inoffensive to something I actually enjoyed.

    Keep leading us, Herdmaster!

  6. A little amp that can be plugged into the computer will allow for much happy improvising to music videos.
    Something like a Yamaha THR 10 or similar.
    Tremendous fun- and sounds good enough, and loud enough,to make
    jamming with friends fun also.
    I keep a guitar and amp handy in the shop, and play music all day on the stereo- when there is something I like, put down the work and pick up the guitar- good practice for rapidly figuring out what key they are playing in ,also.

  7. What a great bunch of comments!

    Doubletrouble - the way you describe your playing is like mine. I strive to hit the right strings and the right notes. I have no idea how to emote and I don't think I'd know it if I heard it. For example, Steve Krenz, the DVD instructor, tells the story of being in a studio with another guy playing the lead solos. This other guy is wailing and wailing, really into it; eyes closed, face clenched, and just playing, when the producer comes up to him, takes him by the collar and yells at him, "for God's sake, say something coherent. I've heard a lot of solos I love, but I'm not sure I've ever gotten any meaning out of them. Hardly ever even any emotion.

    Jim - anon - the method of creating melodies extracted from chords on that Jamie Holroyd page is something I've been working on. I can do a fairly decent job of taking the chord progression from a fake book and building the sound by playing notes out of the chords; arpeggios of the notes I want to emphasize, say.

    Getting a teacher or playing with a friend or two is also something I'm thinking about. That, of course, means being sociable, which brings to mind Tam's piece.

    I have fake books for the Eagles, Beatles, Steely Dan, and a few more. I do need to spend more time trying to get some songs into pure muscle memory. I have some, just need more. I have no desire to play publicly like at a club or something. (Actually, completing the sentence "I want to play because..." is something I struggle with.)

    Did you take any of the courses from Jamie Holroyd? Are the books any good?

    Anon 1148 - good idea on that THR10. For playing MP3s to accompany on guitar, or for trying to learn them, I have a Roland eBand JS-8. These take SD cards which will more songs than you'll ever find again.

  8. Prior to pointing at the Melody In Chords page, I'd never heard of Jamie Holroyd. Like you, I started decades ago, but never seriously got back to it so YouTube music instruction is an unknown. I never played in a club, or for money. I started out with an axe, a chord book, some fake books, and an instructor. I kinda crewed for a local band, but more in an electrical/electronics way than anything else.

    Ha, I like Tam's description. Strange the things that pop into my whirring mind. She says itchy, I think itchy, swollen brain. Ouch. BTW, Tam you don't really have to go out for necessities: As far as sociable guitar instructors, mine mostly stuck to the topic and nothing else. OK by me. I paid him, he worked, I went home. Maybe I got lucky with my selection; I had the recommendation of a professional musician as guidance, and the two knew each other. Oh, wait a sec. I was in High School and he was retired. Aside from music, we had almost nothing in common. I had the honor of seeing my instructor play at a New Year's Eve party. More wonderful than I imagined, and my imagination was pretty good. First rate; skill, talent, discipline, showmanship, and downright fun. They played Stump The Band with the audience and won. Small intimate venue, a private party for all I recall.

    The kind of fake books I was thinking about are just collections of various artists' relatively well known songs. Mostly just a simple chart with single notes or chord notations and/or lyrics; frequently poor photocopies. Typically hundreds of different artists in one book, many Classics and Standards well out of copyright. For example:

    73, Jim ... uh, I need a nym. Sorry, I'm basically lazy. Ideas?

  9. uh, I need a nym. Sorry, I'm basically lazy. Ideas? Nah - I had enough trouble thinking this one up.

    Thanks for that link. I think I've seen a Real Book of jazz standards before. The Learn and Master online community does live lessons and Steve sells things like that when he works out some sort of discount.

    I played some stuff from the iPad through the guitar amp last night. It sounded like one side of the stereo, so it must have a mono input and need a stereo to mono adapter. "Vee haf vays to get around zis"

  10. Vincent van Voltaire