Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Latest Status Summary (table and fill colors don't seem to be copying in. . . ):

Song Artist Date First Played Event # Qualifying Score High Score Best % Best Streak Play Count
Run Back to Your Side Eric Clapton 23-Feb-2012 6 n/a 197259 100 89 5
Do You Remember - Combo Horrors The 0-Jan-1900 5 61800 132554 88 50 11
Satisfaction, Chord Arr.  Rolling Stones The 5-Feb-2012 n/a 108484 97 155 5
Next Girl Black Keys The 14-Jan-2012 1 0 101993 0 0 5
Breed Nirvana 2-Feb-2012 5 28800 101066 96 122 29
Angela (Combo) Jarvis Cocker 23-Jan-2012 4 4 99946 98 231 11
Satisfaction - Single Note Rolling Stones The 14-Jan-2012 1 0 99647 97 155 45
Surf Hell - Combo Little Barrie 19-Jan-2012 3 0 96365 93 108 70
Outshined - Combo 2 Soundgarden 4 90436 86 59 42
Mean Bitch Taddy Porter 6 86737 89 89 15
Go With the Flow - Combo Queens of the Stone Age 2 n/a 86600 0 0 6
Angela (Single Note) Jarvis Cocker 26-Feb-2012 4 0 86400 95 122 11
I Can't Hear You Dead Weather The 15-Jan-2012 3 85957 91 67 16
Vasoline - Combo 1 Stone Temple Pilots 3 85738 95 138 25
In Bloom - Combo Nirvana 2 82550 0 0 33
Are You Gonna Go My Way Lenny Kravitz 6-Feb-2012 6 16400 79776 90 60 21
Higher Ground - Combo 1 Red Hot Chilli Peppers 2 79013 95 110 52
Rebel Rebel David Bowie 6 19500 76799 91 58 15
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen Brian Adam McCune 74975 84 40 43
Song 2 Blur 6 n/a 74507 0 0 1
Go With the Flow - Single Note Queens of the Stone Age 2 n/a 73384 0 0 1
High and Dry Radiohead 6 25200 72970 90 86 10
Slow Hands Interpol 3 70966 0 0 21
Number Thirteen - Combo Red Fang 24-Jan-2012 4 11700 66064 90 144 22
Use Somebody Kings of Leon 3 n/a 60425 87 98 19
Where is My Mind? Pixies 4 59846 0 0 6
When I'm with You Best Coast 5 31100 58578 95 128 19
Unnatural Selection -  Combo Muse 21-Jan-2012 4 57289 87 105 48
Playing with Fire Rolling Stones The 24-Jan-2012 4 55320 80 42 ??
Surf Hell - Single Note Little Barrie 8-Feb-2012 3 0 41941 88 85 1
Outshined - Combo 1 Soundgarden 4 40728 0 0 2
Boys Don't Cry The Cure 1 n/a 32372 0 0 1
Plug In Baby Muse 5 n/a 29715 0 0 1
I Want Some More Dan Auerbach 4 n/a 23837 0 0 1
Unnatural Selection - Single Note Muse 4 21438 0 0 2
Higher Ground - Single Note Red Hot Chilli Peppers 2 18106 0 0 1
In Bloom - Single Note Nirvana 2 13249 0 0 33
Higher Ground - Combo 2 Red Hot Chilli Peppers 2 7353 0 0 3
Number Thirteen - Single Note Red Fang 4 0 0 0 2

I've split the different arrangements out as separate "songs." Still fiddling with the whole workbook, so that's why there are holes like the Date First Played, etc. You'd probably think that would be easy enough to fill in, and it would, but I'm not just typing this stuff into what you see here - it's linked to other stuff so it's taking some time to get everything dialed in.

"Breed" Master Mode and Frustration with "Angela"

I've been going through my songs to see which phrases are below 100% so I can decide what to work on. Angela and Breed came up next on the list last night.

I was having trouble with the solo (what else?) on Breed, but I nailed it last night after adjusting my tuning. The double-stops with my third string just wouldn't register as hits in Riff Repeater. I messed with tuning until Riff Repeater Free Speed finally liked what I had. From that point, it was pretty quick and dirty to max the solo. From there, it was a short hop to my 4th Master Mode unlock. Barely. Got 101066 (95/70). That was my 29th play through the song with two rounds on Riff Repeater to work the solo.

I have maxed all phrases of Next Girl and have a score of 101,993 - but no Master Mode unlock. I need to double-check the Riff Repeater to make sure nothing has gotten leveled down, but there may be a software glitch here. I'm guessing once you level up to Max in Riff Repeater you have to go back and play the whole song again - even if you have a score over 100,000 before you Max out the phrases in Riff Repeater.

Makes me wonder why the software even allows you to reach 100,000 RSP if you don't have all the phrases leveled up to 100%. But, apparently it does.

Other songs, on the other hand, don't seem to allow you to get 100,000 RSP no matter what you do.

Angela, for example. This is a very easy song. Even the solo is easy. I consistently get 98% accuracy and I've had a couple of streaks in excess of 220 notes. Yet, so far my high score is only 99,946. I cannot seem to get a 100,000 score on this one. WTF? I guess those 2% are holding me back but I cannot figure out which notes I'm missing. In fact, since I get a "Perfect Phrase" message every two measures, it's a little hard to believe that I'm missing 2% of the notes. When I watch the screen, it looks a helluva lot like I'm getting 100% note accuracy. Is there some weird hammer note or something I'm missing here? We'll see.

I've also noticed that the Single Note and Combo arrangements of Angela appear to be identical. . . If there's a difference, I can't see or hear it.

Having a similar issue with Surf Hell. I'm not nailing it quite as well as Angela but I've got all phrases maxed out and cannot seem to reach 100,000 RSP. High score so far is 96,365 (93/90). Weird.

I'm also cleaning up my tracking spreadsheets in preparation for making them available - possibly as an ebook or maybe on CD through an online auction site. I've actually had requests, so I decided to get serious about it. More on this as I get closer to releasing something usable.

I've got to remember to note my play count on songs that I've unlocked at Master Mode. I'd like to track how many times I've got to play stuff before I get to that level. So far I've got 4 songs unlocked. I also need to see how many songs have multiple arrangements and how many for each. Even though you only see 51 songs in the original song list, I'm thinking you get closer to 125 different arrangements altogether. Maybe more.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Killer Guitar Solos & "Do You Remember" Mastered

Many of the songs I've played so far are leveled up to 100% in all phrases except the solos. So, I've been doing a LOT of Riff Repeater work on just solos. Good name for that feature, by the way, since I usually end up repeating stuff at least 30 times!

In fact, on the harder stuff, I end up repeating the phrase 30 times in Leveler, then 30 more times in Free Speed to figure out what I'm doing wrong, and then another 30 times in Leveler again. I only use Accelerator on stuff that I pretty much know but just can't play up to speed. Speed is the last thing I work on.

Warming up with Technique Challenges
To warm up for the night, I decided to revisit the technique challenges. I had gold medals in all of the challenges except for Slides, Bends, Barre Chords, Palm Mutes, and Tremelos. I've got silver in all of those. Last night I knocked out golds in Slides, Bends, and Barre Chords without much trouble. The technique challenges aren't hard, but they're well worth working on. Once I get gold in all 12, I'll go back and shoot for max scores. Max score must be more than 100,000 because I got 125,298 on Bends last night. I don't like the way you have to bend strings all the way to the edge of the frets to get points in RS. I understand why the programmers probably did that, but I don't like it.

Just for fun, I played a few rounds of Ducks, too. Somebody help me out on this. What is the purpose of Ducks? Is it supposed to be a shifting exercise, or what? I mean, it's pretty easy to just watch the screen and slide up and down the neck using your first finger all the time. I can get pretty good scores doing that. But, it seems like Ducks would be much more productive (no pun intended, in case you heard one) if you used all four fingers and tried to shift from position to position. That's what I try to do with it. Which is why my scores suck.

New Video Content?
While I was scrolling around the game and technique parts of RS I noticed that there seems to be a ton of new video content from Ernie Ball. Looks like some good stuff. More later. Anybody know about this?

Riff Repeating Solos and a Mysterious XBox Unlock
Last night the focus was on solos from Are You Gonna Go My Way, Breed, and Do You Remember. After listening to Kravitz's solo I pretty much just told my wife, "There's no way I'm ever going to be able to play that!" This one will definitely be a test of how well Rocksmith works as a teaching tool. (Not a teacher. A teaching tool. Big difference.) But, I did make progress. Not much, but some. I went from 55% to 61% at full speed. Still a long way to go. I don't how how many times I played through this, but I was starting to get very frustrated. That's usually a good sign that I need to move on to something else for a while. So I did.

I'm almost starting to agree with those of you who say that RS needs a way to just slow down the song. But, I don't totally agree with that idea. I still find Free Speed mode in the Riff Repeater to be a good way to slog through parts that I can't figure out at full speed. In fact, I sometimes wish Riff Repeater would break some of the phrases down into even smaller bites. Trying to wrestle my way through a whole song - even at a reduced tempo - is way more than I'm prepared to deal with. Being able to slow the song down would definitely help with transitions between phrases, though.

After beating myself up trying to play like Lenny Kravitz, I moved on to the deceptively easy solo from Do You Remember. This is my kind of solo! There are maybe a dozen notes in the whole thing. It's really more of what we drummers call a "break," rather than a solo. The hardest part about it is the bends. Not that bends are hard to play. It's just getting RS to recognize that you're playing one. Anyway, I took this solo from 45% to 100% in less than 30 lives on Leveler. I Leveled Up 3 times in a row starting out. That was encouraging.

Once I got the solo maxed, I played through the song to go for the Master Mode unlock. The first play through didn't go well. Not sure what the deal was but I got 81,865 (72/18)! Terrible. Especially considering I got 86,357 the third time I ever played this song. But, that was nearly a month ago. I tried it again and got 126,460 (88/50), which unlocked my third Master Mode song. That's enough for a small event. Two more and I'll have enough for a cocktail. . .

Breed was a song from Event 5 which I just played a couple of weeks ago, but I had already forgotten how this song went. Last night seemed like a good time to refresh my memory. There's not much to it - pretty much the riff and the solo. I was able to level up the riff to 100% pretty easily. It's very fast and what you play at 100% is quite a bit different than what you start out playing (maybe a bit too different. . . ), but overall it's pretty easy. The solo would be dead easy except that it's a bunch of tremelos. Not my strong suit. I gave it a good effort before I played the song through and it paid off. I improved from low 70s to 100,217 (95/122).

I also unlocked an XBox Live achievement: "All Rounder"??? Anybody have a clue what that's all about?

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Pre-Verse
My successes motivated me to keep working a bit longer. I pulled up God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Until last night I had never done any Riff Repeater work on this one. Other than maybe the intro, I don't have anything maxed out. So, I just started at the pre-verse, which was sitting at 66%. I probably spent a solid hour getting it to 100%. Well worth it on this one because the pre-verse pretty well establishes the motif for the whole song. If you know the pre-verse, you're in pretty good shape for the rest. When I played through the song I bumped my score from 63,805 to 66,192 (84/25).

Jam Time
I like to wrap up my practice sessions - drums or guitar - by playing something I at least halfway know already. As usual, Surf Hell. I've got everything maxed on this one (which I should by now), but I couldn't break that 100,000 mark. Finally packed it in around 12:30.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Got Some Satisfaction - But Not Completely Satisfied

Playing in Master Mode the other night got me all fired up and strengthened my resolve to slow down and really work on learning each song. Even though I was playing a very easy song (Run Back to Your Side, chord arr.), I felt like I was really playing (which, of course, I was). And, I liked it.

I'm going to keep moving forward with new songs but I'll move forward very slowly toward Event 7. For now, I'm going to spend most of my time working previous songs up to Master Mode level and maybe even play a Master Mode Event. Guess I'll need to add another color to my spreadsheets to indicate which songs are at Master level.

[Side Note on Event 8: The event manager has already created my setlist for Event 8 and I noticed that it includes two of the DLC songs that I downloaded from the store recently (More than a Feeling and Smoke on the Water). Good to know that DLC becomes part of the regular journey!]

Last night I worked on four songs: Satisfaction (single note arrangement), Angela, Surf Hell, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (free Christmas DLC).

Satisfaction is pretty much everybody's first RS song so just about all RS players are familiar with it. Very easy riff, but the verse thing is weird. There are three verses - all very different. Yet, Riff Repeater treats them as if there's just one verse phrase. If you max one verse, you level up all three verses. I maxed Verse 1 after considerable effort and then played through the whole song. I was cooking along thinking I'm pretty cool for finally nailing the verse when - WHAM! - the second verse hits me like a skipped record. Unlike Hen-ery the Eighth, the second verse is most definitely not the same as the first.  The third verse is not the same as the first or second verses.

This, to me, is sort of a flaw in the RS algorithm. You just need to be aware of it. You can max out the first verse but you probably won't make it through the other two without working on each one of them separately because they are so different. I worked each one for a while and played through the song just to see where I was. Missed Master Mode by 533 points! 99467 (94/154) was the best I could do. And, of course, since I didn't quite nail the 2d and 3d verses in the song, I got leveled back down on the verse - even though I did nail the 1st verse. So, I've still got some work to do to get complete "satisfaction."

The next song from the RS song list that I've already played is Angela. It wasn't the second song I played on my journey, but it's the next song on the song list that I've already played. In other words, I was too lazy to scroll through the song list last night to find Next Girl. My son likes Angela, probably because it sounds good but is very easy to play. (I just hope he doesn't learn the lyrics and start singing it around school; I was going to suggest that he work this up for the 5th Grade talent show, but I decided a song about a tease might not be such a good choice.) This song is so easy I sort of wonder why Ubisoft didn't make this the first song that comes up for new players. I'm obviously missing something. 

The only phrase I hadn't already maxed on Angela was - of course - the solo. So, I leveled up the solo to 100% within way less than 30 lives in Riff Repeater. Yet, when I went to play through the whole song, I could NOT get 100,000. I got the Perfect Phrase message every eight beats and as far as I could tell I hit every single note in the solo. I played through with a 96% accuracy and a 224-note streak. But, the absolute best I could do was 99,116 RSP! Frustrating.

One problem I'm obviously having is that I apparently try to push my strings through the neck. Not only does this make my hand very tired, I figured out last night on Angela that this habit is making a lot of my notes sharp. There's a long sustained G in Angela and I kept getting the arrows of death every time I played it - until I backed off and stopped squeezing the string so hard. That was on the low E string. Imagine what I'm doing to the other 5 strings! I would imagine that letting up on the unnecessary pressure will help me move my fingers faster, too (not to mention putting off arthritis).

As usual, I pulled up Surf Hell before I quit for the night. You'd think after playing this one 75 times I'd have it nailed, but I don't. The other night I had worked this one in Riff Repeater and leveled up 6 times in a row to max out all remaining phrases. But, my best score last night for the whole song was 96,365 (93/90). I'm sloppy on the transitions to the bridge chords; I think that's my worst issue on this one. That and the second long slide. Just need to listen and play the song instead of getting my head so deep into the frets and strings.

Not quite done, I pulled up God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and ran through that a couple of times just for good measure. I seriously want to be able to play the three DLC Christmas songs by Thanksgiving this year. Seems a long way off, but I know how this goes - in what will seem like a few weeks it'll be Hallowe'en and I'll be scrambling around trying to get Christmas decorations out of the attic, etc. and I won't have any time to work on guitar stuff. So, I've gotta stay on top of it. Still moving along on this one - slowly but surely. Haven't done any Riff Repeater work on it at all. Just plucking away seems to keep me leveling up at a modest pace. Last night I managed a 63805 (87/31). Not my best streak, but accuracy is consistently improving.

I finally packed it in around 12:30.

I almost bought a new (used) guitar yesterday but I talked myself into waiting. I found a beautiful Ibanez SA with a set neck and a tremelo bar (OEM Ibanez). Not terribly expensive but I've also got my eye on a pair of double-bass pedals and a new throne for my drums, plus a hard case to replace a stand bag I bought and never use. Can't buy everything. The very same guitar, less beautiful and with a bolt on neck is available for about half the price of the one I like. So, I'm torn. Action is nice on both, but I just can't decide if the set neck really gets that much more sustain than a bolt-on. My Epi LP is OK, but it's heavy and I don't like the way the cord sticks out of the body. The cord is fine when I'm standing up, but when I play three-hour RS sessions a 12 lb. Les Paul gets kinda heavy. If I sit down on the couch, I'm afraid the connector is going to get damaged. I guess I could just start playing our pink Washburn Lyon. I've tried it on RS and it works great.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Post-Event 6 Spreadsheet Update

Here's the snapshot of where things stand for my Rocksmith Journey as of 2/23, after playing Event 6:

Song Artist Date First Played Event # Qualifying Score High Score Best % Best Streak Play Count
#Run Back to Your Side Eric Clapton


Do You Remember Horrors The
5 61800 132554 88 27
Satisfaction Rolling Stones The
108484 99 272
Next Girl Black Keys The
101993 0 0
Surf Hell Little Barrie
91274 89 85
Outshined Soundgarden
90436 86 59
Mean Bitch Taddy Porter
86737 89 89
Go With the Flow Queens of the Stone Age
2 n/a 86600 0 0
I Can't Hear You Dead Weather The
85957 91 67
Vasoline Stone Temple Pilots
85738 95 138
In Bloom Nirvana
82550 0 0
Are You Gonna Go My Way Lenny Kravitz 2/6/2012 6 16400 79776 90 60
Higher Ground Red Hot Chilli Peppers
79013 95 110
Rebel Rebel David Bowie
6 19500 76799 91 58
Angela Jarvis Cocker 1/23/2012 4 0 76029 0 0
#Song 2 Blur


High and Dry Radiohead
6 25200 72970 90 86
Breed Nirvana 12/30/1899 5 28800 72334 96 79
Slow Hands Interpol
70966 0 0
Number Thirteen Red Fang
66064 90 144
Use Somebody Kings of Leon
60425 87 98
Where is My Mind? Pixies
59846 0 0
When I'm with You Best Coast
5 31100 58578 95 128
Unnatural Selection Muse
57289 87 105
Playing with Fire Rolling Stones The
55320 80 42
Boys Don't Cry The Cure
1 n/a 32372 0 0
Plug In Baby Muse
5 n/a 29715 0 0
I Want Some More Dan Auerbach
4 n/a 23837

Sorting is a great thing. I've sorted my overall summary spreadsheet in order of high scores to date, from high to low. Also, I left off the 30 or so songs that I haven't played at all yet. I really, really like this sheet because it shows me at a glance what I've done so far. Forgive any minor formatting inconsistencies (fonts, colors, etc.) - I did this latest update at home using Open Office. The original workbook was created using the real MS Excel program. I'll clean it up this week.

I'm thinking of putting my blank spreadsheet forms into a notebook, spiral bound with cover and CD and offering them for sale if anybody is interested in having something like this to track their own progress. Let me know. If enough people respond, I'll make that a priority. (I may use EBay, but I refuse to use Paypal, so we'll have to figure out some other way to make the transactions. Again, open to suggestions.)