Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Going with the Flow - To Master or Not to Master

Rehearsal Notes - Go With the Flow
Last night was another good one with the new EG112. (Not sure if I'll even call it a Yamaha anymore now that it has a whole new neck on it. . . ) I pulled up Go with the Flow for the first time since I first saw it as an encore at the end of Event 2. That was around January 14th. Looks like I got 76,920 on this song the first time I ever played it, so it's obviously fairly simple - at least the combo arrangement. Apparently I played it a few more times after the encore performance, but I only recorded two scores in my rehearsal notebook: my very first score and a score of 86,600. I didn't remember the song at all, but I took one run through it last night and unlocked Master Mode with a score of 104,284. Only 7 plays total. It's just that easy to play.

After that success, I pulled up the Single Note arrangement of this song for the first time ever. Again, pretty straight-forward piece to play. I played it through 6 times and, with one exception, improved my score each time starting at 82,211 and working up to 107,515. But, I didn't master it because I hadn't yet maxed out the intro or verse phrases. With a little work in Riff Repeater, I maxed the first verse easily. The second verse is a little trickier and the intro is even a little trickier still. The intro has a whacky back and forth slide thing going on that I just wasn't getting.

I think the awesome sustain on the EG112 really helped on the Single Note arrangement. 90% of the song is sustained notes high up on the fret board (between frets 12 and 19).

Rocksmith Scoring Quirks
Of course, once I max out the remaining two phrases of Go With the Flow, I'll have to replay the song to unlock the Master Mode because not only do you have to score 100k or better, you have to do that AFTER maxing out the phrases. That's right. As I've pointed out before, to unlock Master Mode, you have to max out all the phrases and you have to score 100k or better - and you have to do it in that order. So, oddly enough, although I have a higher score on the Single Note arrangement than on the Combo, I have Mastered the Combo but not the Single Note arrangement. 

Another quirk I noticed is that I got 95% accuracy on both arrangments, but there's a huge difference in streaks. I have a streak of 230 on the combo with a score of 104k. On the single note arrangement, I have a higher score - 107k - but a much, much weaker streak of only 36. This sort of suggests to me that the streaks don't contribute to your score at all. 

It's a little odd to me that you can "master" a song but still have a lower score than you have on an unmastered song. I tend to think of the score as an overall indicator of mastery. Clearly that's not how Rocksmith sees it. I intend to get a better handle on the scoring algorithm and attempt to explain it here in the near future.

The Progress Spreadsheet - Play Counts Updated
I've created a separate page to post the progress spreadsheet on, but since I've updated my play counts I figured it would be easier to just post the latest version of the spreadsheet right here. This is everything I've played in Rocksmith. Purple fills at the top indicate songs I've unlocked Master Mode on. Gold fills indicate songs that came up as encores (once I master those, they become purple, like Do You Remember and Run Back to Your Side).

Song Artist Date First Played Event # Qualifying Score High Score Best % Best Streak Play Count
Do You Remember - Combo Horrors The 26-Jan-2012 5 61800 250645 88 50 14
Satisfaction, Chord Arr.  Rolling Stones The 5-Feb-2012 n/a n/a 217479 99 272 11
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen Brian Adam McCune 28-Jan-2012 n/a n/a 206823 94 102 143
Surf Hell - Combo Little Barrie 19-Jan-2012 3 ? 205787 98 181 118
Next Girl Black Keys The 14-Jan-2012 1 ? 205498 98 158 6
Run Back to Your Side - Chords Eric Clapton 23-Feb-2012 6 n/a 204506 100 89 10
Angela (Single Note) Jarvis Cocker 26-Feb-2012 4 n/a 203555 97 264 13
Breed - Combo Nirvana 2-Feb-2012 5 28800 202526 96 122 33
Angela (Combo) Jarvis Cocker 23-Jan-2012 4 ? 202435 99 302 30
Satisfaction - Single Note Rolling Stones The 14-Jan-2012 1 ? 202003 97 155 65
Go With the Flow - Single Note Queens of the Stone Age 1-Feb-2012
n/a 107515 95 36 7
Go With the Flow - Combo Queens of the Stone Age 14-Jan-2012 2 n/a 104284 95 230 7
Outshined - Combo 2 Soundgarden 22-Jan-2012 n/a n/a 96609 91 88 48
I Can't Hear You Dead Weather The 15-Jan-2012 3 ? 95739 95 80 40
Mean Bitch - Combo 2 Taddy Porter 6-Feb-2012 6 41000 86737 89 89 19
Vasoline - Combo 1 Stone Temple Pilots 15-Jan-2012 3 ? 85738 95 138 25
In Bloom - Combo Nirvana 15-Jan-2012 2 ? 82550 0 0 33
Are You Gonna Go My Way Lenny Kravitz 6-Feb-2012 6 16400 79776 90 60 22
Higher Ground - Combo 2 Red Hot Chilli Peppers 1-Feb-2012 n/a n/a 79735 88 66 21
Higher Ground - Combo 1 Red Hot Chilli Peppers 15-Jan-2012 2 ? 79013 95 110 54
Rebel Rebel David Bowie 6-Feb-2012 6 19500 76799 91 58 15
Smoke on the Water * Deep Purple 5-Mar-2012 n/a n/a 75592 92 127 7
Song 2 Blur 23-Feb-2012 6 n/a 74507 0 0 1
High and Dry Radiohead 8-Feb-2012 6 25200 72970 90 86 10
Slow Hands Interpol 15-Jan-2012 3 ? 70966 0 0 21
Number Thirteen - Combo Red Fang 24-Jan-2012 4 11700 66064 90 144 25
Use Somebody Kings of Leon 22-Jan-2012 3 n/a 60425 87 98 19
Where is My Mind? - Combo Pixies 24-Jan-2012 4 29300 59846 0 0 6
Play with Fire - Combo Rolling Stones The 24-Jan-2012 4 22280 58677 80 42 ??
When I'm with You - Combo Best Coast 2-Feb-2012 5 31100 58578 95 128 19
Carol of the Bells - Combo* Seth Chapla 17-Mar-2012 n/a n/a 57807 83 35 5
Unnatural Selection -  Combo Muse 21-Jan-2012 4 ? 57289 87 105 48
Freebird - Chords* Lynyrd Skynyrd 17-Mar-2012 n/a n/a 46782 86 95 1
Surf Hell - Single Note Little Barrie 8-Feb-2012 3 n/a 41941 88 85 1
Outshined - Combo 1 Soundgarden 10-Feb-2012 4 ? 40728 0 0 2
Carol of the Bells - Single Note* Seth Chapla 17-Mar-2012 n/a n/a 39194 88 100 9
Boys Don't Cry The Cure 22-Jan-2012 1 n/a 32372 0 0 1
Plug In Baby - Combo Muse 5-Feb-2012 5 n/a 29715 0 0 1
I Want Some More - Combo Dan Auerbach 26-Jan-2012 4 n/a 23837 0 0 1
Unnatural Selection - Single Note Muse 30-Jan-2012 n/a n/a 21438 0 0 2
Higher Ground - Single Note Red Hot Chilli Peppers 1-Feb-2012 n/a ? 18106 0 0 1
Play with Fire - Single Notes Rolling Stones The 24-Jan-2012 n/a n/a 14660 78 24 ??
In Bloom - Single Note Nirvana 1-Feb-2012 n/a ? 13249 0 0 7

A New Policy
Looks like I master songs that I'm going to master within about 17 plays. (I didn't count Surf Hell, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, or Satisfaction in that calculation since I've played those songs many times since mastering them.) Or, put another way, if I haven't mastered a song within 17 plays, chances are I'm not going to master it.

I've played Outshined (combo) and Unnatural Selection 48 times each and I'm nowhere near Master Mode. I've played I Can't Hear You 40 times and despite a 95% accuracy I haven't reached the magical 100K mark on that one yet, either. In Outshined, it's the solo that's killing me. The other two songs I have no idea - seems like I'm playing everything right, but obviously I'm not.

After 54 plays, I've only got 79,013 on Higher Ground, combo 1. Yet, with only 21 plays (less than half as many), I have 79,735 points on the other combo arrangement of this song. And, again, the lower scored arrangement actually has a much better accuracy and streak.

So, my new policy is if I haven't mastered a song or arrangement by 30 plays, I'm putting that arrangement aside - if not the whole song. I will try In Bloom (combo) one more time before I start this policy since I've played it 33 times and haven't played it for quite a while. Maybe I'll get it. But, if I don't master that one by 40 plays, it goes "in the vault," too.

I'm not quitting or giving up, but this gives me a definite point at which I can cut bait on certain songs and move on. For example, I don't even like Unnatural Selection - it's not a very pleasant melody, not really any fun to play, and it's extremely long. But, I've played it 48 times trying to master it. Enough! As one of my friends here pointed out during my recent funk, perhaps I'll have more luck with it if I lay off for a while and come back to it later. Some of these songs I really just don't care enough about to bother coming back to. Especially if RS keeps piling on the new DLC.

Future Plans and Goals
I'm still working toward having the 3 Christmas DLC songs (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells, and We Three Kings) live-performance ready by Thanksgiving of this year. I'm well on the way. I've mastered and memorized GRYMG already. I'm better than half-way to mastering one arrangement of Carol of the Bells and I've got a good start on the alternate arrangment. So, I think I'll be able to pull that off. We Three Kings looks like it could be a real challenge, but that'll be a good test of RS's dynamic difficulty system.

My broader, long-term goal is to master/memorize a dozen songs so that I could play them at least passably with a live band. I sort of settled on this goal while watching the Metallica Big Four DVD. They played about a dozen songs. That's it. I'm sure James and Kirk could play a thousand songs from memory, but for a huge concert in a soccer stadium filled with fans they only needed about a dozen songs. So, there's really no reason that I need to memorize all 51 RS songs. Ever. Especially songs that I don't even like. If I could play a dozen songs that I really like and enjoy playing, I'd be good. Anything beyond that would be gravy.

I appreciate that RS picked particular songs for their level of difficulty, techniques, and general suitability as teaching tools. And, I'll give all of the songs in RS a fair shot when they pop up on my RS setlists (except for California Brain which I wish I could just delete). But, if I don't have them mastered in 30 tries or less, they're done. In fact, I wish RS had a more robust way to organize songs so that we could pull songs that we just don't want to play out of the line-up and move them out of the way. At the same time, I'd love to be able to group the songs I really like together for easy rehearsal access.

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