Friday, April 27, 2012

Barracuda Solo1 and Interlude Maxed! More Riff Repeating in Rocksmith

Barracuda - I'm Biting Back Now
At last! I started off last night with the first solo phrase from Barracuda.

First I ran through it in Free Speed at 78% mastery. I got 100% speed in 10 tries. So, I bumped up the mastery level to 100% and ran it 30 more times reaching 97.5% speed. Not 100% but close enough to try Leveler.

I started Leveler out at 85% mastery (forced up from 71% which is apparently the level where I've been playing this phrase when I play through the whole song). I leveled up twice in Leveler and Maxed it out! Finally.

Inspired by that success, I moved on to the Interlude. I thought I'd already mastered this phrase, but when I went into Riff Repeater last night it was not fully levelled out. It's possible that I maxed it out recently but then leveled down when playing through the song. . . Anyway, it only took 8 tries in Free Speed to reach 100% speed at 100% mastery (forced up). Then I Maxed it out in Leveler in 2 tries.

After this progress, I played through the song twice.

106,625 (92/102)
111,385 (94/155)

The first time I did alright but was well below my previous high score of 110k. I just wasn't quite prepared to work in the solo and the interlude, so when they came up I really just sort of blew both of those phrases. The second time through, though, I actually played the phrases I'd been working on and got a new high score. Barely. Accuracy was slightly below my best of 95% and the streak was well short of my best (182), but I was in the ballpark on both.

That just leaves Solo 2, which I can actually play. I worked on that some last night but my guitar is really buzzy up at the 15th fret which is where most of Solo 2 takes place. RS was having a tough time scoring me with all the fret noise. I hate to raise my action, but I need to make some adjustments before I pursue that phrase.

Damn Volume Knob!
I also had another volume knob malfunction last night. Was playing along and suddenly I was getting nothing - even though I know I was playing the notes. Check that damn volume knob and - sure enough - I had inadvertently pulled it around to 0 with my pinky. I'm seriously considering ripping that knob off of the pot.

Carol of the Bells
Just to keep from totally forgetting this one, I ran through Carol of the Bells twice. No Riff Repeater work or anything - just two straight-through plays.

80725 (88/59)
82137 (90/108)

Again, accuracy and streak were slightly below my all-time highs, but I got a new high score (by a mere 135 points). Still, it's progress.

I Still Want Some More
It was getting close to 1:30 AM when I pulled this up. Just planned to run through it once and then knock off for the night. But, I jacked it up - 94,846 (93/158). My streak was actually double my previous best, but my score was down by 4k and I wasn't happy with that. So, back to Riff Repeater to refresh my memory of the damn pre-choruses. I got the first one back up to 100% in Free Speed in 13 tries. Then I got the second pre-chorus up to 100% speed in 17 tries. Played the whole song through again - and my score dropped again.

93,892 (94/192).

I was pissed. WTF? But, now that I look at the numbers, I realize that I actually increased by accuracy by a percentage point AND I totally blew away my next highest streak. So, not that bad, I guess. Still, even though I had just worked the pre-chorus (both versions), I really dropped the ball on those phrases when I played through the whole song.

No problem. I'll get it. And, when I do, I'll master the song. I'm close and sneaking up on it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Working Free Speed and Leveler to Max Phrases

I've now got 3 songs over 100k and 6 songs over 90k which I have not yet mastered. I've got 6 more songs over 80k. It's sort of a pile-up waiting for me to master something. Anything. As usual, when I look at each song to see what stands in the way of mastering it, it's almost universally the solos. But, not always.

I Want Some More - Points!
I started working on I Want Some More recently just to break up the monotony of Barracuda and Carol of the Bells. I also figured I might actually be able to master this one relatively easily since it has no solo. I'm within a few thousand of the 100k threshold, but there's a "pre-chorus" that's slowing me down. Actually, although Riff Repeater seems to treat them as one, there are really two distinct pre-choruses (similar, but in different keys or something). I leveled the first pre-chorus up to 93% and reached 98.2 speed at 100% mastery in Free Speed. I figured out that the second pre-chorus is different from the first one when I went to play through the whole song and got to that part. Still some Riff Repeater work to do there.

Barracuda Biting my Ass
Lots of Riff Repeater work on this one last night. But, I'm down to just Solo 1 and Solo 2 phrases.

After working the Interlude in Free Speed (100 @ 70% in 5 tries), I leveled this phrase up to 100% in Leveler. Like having an Easy Button.

Then I worked Breakdown 2 until I finally maxed that phrase. I ran it in Free Speed and got 100% at 88% mastery in under 10 tries. Then I forced the mastery up to 100% and got 98.4% speed in 30 more tries. When I went to the Leveler, I maxed the phrase in 10 tries on the nose.

[NOTE: It's possible to level up to 100% in Leveler without actually Maxing a phrase. However, outside of Riff Repeater, RS seems to treat 100% unmaxed the same as 100% maxed. I'll find out if that's true soon.]

Despite my improvements on individual phrases, I still fell short of my all-time high score when I played thorugh the whole song. I ran through it three times, increasing my score each time but still 4k short of my high score of 110k. That strikes me as sort of odd. . .

Symphony of Destruction
As Megadeth songs go, this one seems relatively easy. Good thing because I'm not exactly tearing it up. I've played it several times this week (four times through last night) and I have yet to break 30k. I'm not really working on it seriously - just playing through and seeing if I can keep improving. Usually I get a much higher score before I hit the wall and have to dig into Riff Repeater, though!

I'm very grateful to the forum member who turned me onto the fact that you can force the mastery level in Riff Repeater up or down as needed. (Just hit the Start button on your controller once you get past tuning and then scroll over to Set Mastery. Click A or the PS equivalent and adjust the mastery level just like the audio lag correction tool.)

This has been a working strategy for me on mastering phrases. I highly recommend it. Just play through the troublesome phrase in Free Speed and keep forcing the mastery level up until you have it at 100. Even if you don't get to 100% speed at that mastery level, you'll be able to level the phrase up much faster than by just working step by step. I really think working with ALL of the notes in a phrase as opposed to just a few of them helps. You can run as fast or slow as you want in Free Speed, which is what so many people complain about not being able to do in Rocksmith. You can. Just not the whole song at once. But, I don't see working the whole song being a very practical approach. One phrase at a time works for me.

I don't, however, recommend Accelerator for this purpose. Accelerator tends to accelerate me faster than I want to go. I only use Accelerator when I just can't seem to get a phrase up to speed even after I know all the notes .

The Easiest Rocksmith Songs - An Unscientific Analysis

** This post has been updated to include a bunch of DLC that I've bought in the past year. Please check out the new updated post on this topic posted March 27, 2013! **

Somebody on the Ubi forum posed a question recently which got me thinking. Basically they asked what the other forum members thought was the easiest song on Rocksmith. Much subjective discussion ensued. Since I've been keeping data on my own Rocksmith progress, I figured maybe I could use my data to come up with a somewhat less subjective ranking of the songs in Rocksmith. Of course, ranking the songs also answers the converse question: what is the hardest song on Rocksmith?

This is by no means meant to change anyone's opinion. Nor do I pretend to have any particular expertise in statistical analysis. I passed my required Stat 110 course in college and that's it. Because nobody seems to truly understand how Rocksmith scoring really works, the equation I came up with is purely intuitive.

How I Did It (free lifetime membership to this blog to the first person who can identify the movie in which a book of this title appears)
I've been tracking my high scores, play counts, accuracy, and streaks since I first started playing Rocksmith. I threw all of these numbers together into a made-up equation designed to sort of reflect how hard or easy each song is. Basically, I divided my highest score on each song by the number of times I've played the song. Reasonable, right? If it takes you 50 times to qualify a song for an event at 30k RSP, that's obviously a harder song than one which you score 100k RSP on the third time through.

Then I multiplied that resulting number by the my best accuracy percentage. If I get 30k RSP with 100% accuracy, that's probably a pretty easy song. But, if I get 30k RSP with only 50% accuracy, that song was a little harder. Easier songs get a higher multiplier. I'm not sure this is a valid manipulation of the data. It really depends on how RS takes accuracy into account in its scoring paradigm. So, I also tried dividing by the accuracy percentage. The results were not significantly different. I was tempted to just leave accuracy out of the equation altogether, but I think it's a valid factor.

Finally, I multiplied the whole mess by the amount of my longest note streak. To make the numbers more digestable, I simply divided by 100,000 and rounded to one decimal place to get a ranking number. The higher the value, the easier the song.

Of course there are almost countless other ways to fiddle this data. I also tried simply adding my high score and longest streak values, multiplying the total by the accuracy percentage and then dividing that by the play count. This yielded roughly the same results. So, while I wouldn't submit this for my PhD dissertation, I'm perfectly comfortable submitting it as a blog entry.

Songs That Aren't Included and Why
To lend at least a little credibility to my equations and the resulting rankings, here are the limits of my "research." First, I've only ranked the songs I've actually played. (Duh.) There are several songs and alternate arrangements of songs in the original RS song list as well as a ton of DLC which are not included here. By the same token, several DLC songs that I have bought and played are included in my ranking.

I also omitted the alternate arrangements of some songs when the arrangements are very similar. For example, on songs like Angela and Surf Hell once you learn the combo arrangement you pretty much know the single note arrangement and vice versa. In fact, my scores on the different arrangments of these songs are within a couple of thousand points, but the play counts are significantly different, which would skew the ranking either way.

I also left out a few songs that I have played so many times for fun that my play counts would skew the calculation and make those songs look a lot harder than they are. Surf Hell also falls into this category. I don't know how to eliminate the high play count effect except possibly to do the calculations using an estimated play count from when I mastered the song. I may try that later.

There was a handful of songs that I never tracked accuracy or streaks on, either because I hadn't refined my notekeeping at that point or because the songs came up as encores. At least one of these, Song 2, was mentioned in the forum thread as being one of the easier ones. On these I just plugged in some reasonable numbers to make the equation work (since you can't divide by 0).  Also, I don't manually track my play counts. Due to a minor coding glitch, RS doesn't provide a play count for Play with Fire, so I have no value to plug into my equation for this song. I had to just take a wild guess at how many times I've played each arrangment.

A Comment on Chord Arrangements
One of the first things I noticed about my ranking is that a lot of the easier songs are the chord arrangements. I know some people have trouble with chords, especially really new beginners. My equation doesn't take that into account. If you aren't comfortable with chords yet, just ignore the chord arrangements in this ranking and look at the rest of the list. I've identified the Chord Arrangements with italics.

Now, on with the show! In order from easiest to hardest, I present my ranking of Rocksmith songs:

Beyond Easy:
Go with the Flow - combo

Rebel Rebel - chords
Song 2 - combo
Satisfaction - chords
Freebird - chords
Next Girl
Boys Don't Cry - combo
Plug in Baby - combo
High and Dry - chords
Angela - combo

Run Back to Your Side - chords (obviously)
Do You Remember - chords
Do You Remember - single note
Where is My Mind - combo
Number Thirteen - single note
Smoke on the Water - combo
I Want Some More - combo & single note
Breed - combo
High and Dry - combo
Barracuda - combo
More than a Feeling - combo
Unnatural Selection - single note
Vasoline - combo1

Satisfaction - single note
Number Thirteen - combo
When I'm With You - combo
Do You Remember - combo
Mean Bitch - combo 2
Use Somebody
Go With the Flow - single note (slides make this one much more challenging than the combo)
Rebel Rebel - combo
Slow Hands - combo
Carol of the Bells - combo

Hard: (keep in mind that this ranking is from easy to hard, so the hardest song is at the bottom)
Play with Fire - combo
In Bloom - combo
Higher Ground - combo2
Are You Gonna Go My Way?
Play with Fire - single note
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - combo
I Can't Hear You
Outshined - combo 2
Higher Ground - combo 1
Symphony of Destruction - combo

I divided the songs into groups mainly to make the list a little easier to read and then I felt obligated to give each group a heading. However, Go with the Flow is sooooo far out in front based on my "Easi-ness Calculation" that I had to give that one its own group and heading.

Even if my equation is way off, Go with the Flow scores so high that I'm pretty sure it would come out on top in any analysis. By my estimation, Go with the Flow is the easiest song in the original Rocksmith songlist and Higher Ground is the hardest. Of the DLC that I've actually downloaded and played, Symphony of Destruction is the hardest, but there's a lot of DLC I haven't got yet.

You are free to disagree. I'm not even sure I agree with the results in terms of hardest songs. Unnatural Selection seemed harder for me than Higher Ground, although I've not mastered either one of them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rocksmith Tracking Spreadsheet Project

I am close to releasing my Excel spreadsheet for Rocksmith progress tracking. I'll probably just make them available on Amazon or something like that. They'll be cheap. I plan to offer a hard copy version in a spiral binder as a rehearsal notebook that you can manually enter your scores and other notes in. You can transfer all that data directly to identical Excel workbook pages on your computer if you choose to do that. If you enter the scores, you'll get nifty charts that show your progress on each song automatically.

If you've followed this blog and looked at the Progress Tracking pages you've seen what I've got.

Basically, the spreadsheet workbook has one page per song where I enter my scores, accuracies, and streaks along with rehearsal notes. For each song, there's also a graph which automatically plots the scores to give a visual representation of progress. I may add lines for accuracy and streak, but I'm still messing with that idea.

Right now I have lines and entry pages with automatic graphs for the Event versions of all of the songs that came with RS originally. I've also completed lines and pages for all variations of most of the songs (i.e. all the single note and combo and chord arrangements for songs which have them).

I've got 23 songs left to do alternate arrangements for, so probably about 45 more pages to add to my workbook.

I've also got a bunch of DLC songs to do. I've only done tracking pages for the DLC songs that I've actually downloaded myself at this point, so I've got 28 DLC songs left to do as of today. If they add any DLC this week, that'll just add to my workload.

Hopefully I'll wrap this up very soon and have copies ready for anyone interested.

Playing, Listening, & Refresing Memories

I haven't played through God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen much lately and I can feel my memory slipping. Figured it was time to give this one a little more attention. I didn't want to just jump right into it though because I had a pretty nice high score of 209k sitting on the scoreboard. I didn't want to mess that up with a cold run, so I eased into it through the back door.

First I played through the Combo arrangement five times just to get the feel of the song back in my head. The two arrangments of this song are really two parts of a duet rather than "Combo" or "Single Note" arrangemens. So, the Combo arrangement is quite different from the Single Note, but, since it's really just the second part of the duet, I think playing one part helps me "hear" the other part better. (More on listening in a minute.)

After 5 runs through the whole song, I increased my score from 56k to a new high of 62,070 (86/38).

Then I felt like I was ready to tackle the Single Note part that I mastered a while back. I had a couple of bad starts, so I cheated and hit the restart button. Now that I've figured out how to restart a song, I do it a LOT. Why not? I might have restarted two times before I got it together. At that end of my full run-through, I actually improved on my high score with a 210,466 (95/81)!

After that I ran through Carol of the Bells a few times. No Riff Repeater or hammering on the solo - just playing through. My score was off of my high by less than 1k and all three scores were 79k's (79129, 79964, and 79632). In gun talk, that's what you call a tight shot-group. I suppose musically you'd say I'm getting more consistent. Still, that's consistently 21k shy of mastering the song.

Wrapped up with a run through Barracuda which also seems to be settling into a fairly consistent 103k range with 93% accuracy and 132-note streak. I levelled up on the part with all the chimed notes, but I still have 5 phrases to max before I'll have the song mastered. I may start working that a little harder this week.

Lately it seems like the accuracy and streaks tell me more about my progress than the raw scores.

You might not think playing high school marching band percussion would teach you much about playing guitar. And, I'd say in most high school bands (at least when I was in school), you'd probably be right. But, I played at a high school where the band director was willing to support motivated players. We had a highly motivated percussion section when I was at good ol' SHS, so Uncle Al hired a percussion major from a local university to give us some extra instruction. This guy (Tom) was a drum corps guy, so we were introduced to a whole new level of playing.

Four snare drums were supposed to sound like ONE snare drum. Every note was precise in duration, timing, and dynamics. No more beating on drums like a troupe of trained apes.

One of the biggest aspects of this whole new corps-style approach was LISTENING to each other.

That habit has bled over into everything else I've ever played. Unless you plan to play alone as a soloist for your entire playing career (like many pianists I've known), you have GOT to learn to listen.

I've heard it suggested that you should turn down the volume of the backing track on RS so you can hear yourself better. I would argue that you should turn down your guitar and listen to what's going on in the backing track. Of course, you need to hear what you're doing, too, and I'm not discounting the advice of a fellow RS Forum member (especially since that advice was offered in a slightly different context). But, if you plan to ever play guitar with real people, you need to get used to turning down your amp and listening to what everyone else is doing.

That's my soapbox for the day.

The Long, Hard Road to Playing Solos - Soldiering on in Riff Repeater

It was a good weekend. I'm sore as hell from edging and trimming my lawn, but I had three pretty productive practice sessions. My motivation is increasing with progress. I'm moving forward slowly, but I AM moving forward.

The brief summary is I bumped up my high score on Carol of the Bells to 80,924 (90/88), which represents a 2000 point increase over my previous high score as of last Thursday. Friday and Saturday nights I only managed a few hundred points, but by Sunday I was doing much better with the solo.

Friday Night
I started each night warming up in Riff Repeater instead of trying to play through the whole song. Friday I got the Outro back to 100% in Accelerator within 21 tries. Then I maxed it in Leveler in 5 tries. Moving on to Solo 4 in Free Speed, I managed a 93.5% with mastery forced up to 65%. Then I played through the song five times:

76,847 (87/52)
75,146 (87/39)
78,799 (90/55)
78,924 (90/75)
77,754 (89/63)

As usual, my first score dropped off a bit from the previous night's high score. That's just something I've come to expect, even if I warm up on something else first. But, the drop was only 2k - not quite as much as I've dropped off in the past. However, on the other end, my last play through dropped off, too. Getting tired? I don't know.

I've now played through the song 71 times. This doesn't count several times that I've started the song badly and then restarted it. And, of course, it doesn't count the hundreds of Riff Repeater runs.

Saturday Night
I picked up with Solo 4 in Riff Repeater and worked it hard without a lot of success. I ran through Free Speed 60 times at 50% mastery and got 89.9% the first 30 and 98.4% for my second 30 tries. Leveler was a total fail - after 30 tries, I didn't level up at all. So, I forced the mastery level to 65% and ran through Free Speed another 30 times reaching 97.3% (with a high of 98.9%).

[Still a little irritated that Free Speed only registers your FINAL attempt rather than your highest percentage. But, I still wouldn't want it to change. It's just frustrating when you have a bad final run and end up with a lower posted percentage.]

Ran through the whole song just three times gaining less than 1000 points:

77,705 (90/95)
77,353 (restarted from end)
78,998 (92/95) 

Note my starting score only dropped off slightly from the night before. Also, accuracy and streaks steadily improved over the course of two nights. So, while the scores weren't improving dramatically, they weren't dropping off dramatically from night to night, and other indicators actually continued to improve.

Sunday Night
I continued with Solo 4 in Riff Repeater and made significant gains. I ran Free Speed 30 times at 65% mastery and got as high as 99% of full speed ("official" percentage from my last run was 97.9%). Then I forced mastery to 100% and after 30 more tries had my speed up to 94.1% (with a high of 96%). This time when I went to Leveler I increased my phrase level from 50% to 90% within 30 tries.

Played through the song 4 times:

80,116 (88/88)
78,077 (87/83)
80,253 (89/55)
80,924 (90/88) New High Score

Note that the first run through on Sunday night did not drop off. In fact, that was a new high score. I dropped off on the second run but then increased the score two more times.

I think the Riff Repeater is working.

Other Stuff I Worked On
Of course I continued playing Barracuda when I was finished hammering on Carol of the Bells. I didn't make any significant progress on overall scores, but I am seeing an improvement in accuracy and streaks. I've actually dropped off of my high score (105k), but accuracy is up in the 95% range and my best streak increased to 182.

I did some Riff Repeater work on the Breakdown Sunday night. Ran Free Speed three times (30x each) at increasing levels of mastery - first at 77% then at 88% and finally at 100%. Got up to 98.8% speed at 100% mastery. After that I played through and scored 103,647 - best score for the weekend but off of my all-time high by 2k.

Sunday night I also decided to work up another low-score song that I've played at least once before: I Want Some More, which I got as an encore a month or two ago and hadn't really played since. Played through 5 times, increased score from roughly 26k and qualified the song for events with a score of 70019 and unlocked the Rust Belt Rules tone. Total play count to date: 6.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Very Annoying Habit which Costs me RSP Points!

My newest axe is a strat-styled model with a volume knob very near the bridge pickup/bridge. When I play, I apparently rest my hand near the bridge (even when I'm not playing palm mutes) and somehow occasionally "hook" the volume knob with my pinky!

The other night this happened again during a song. I was playing pretty well when suddenly I was getting "Missed Palm Mute" and "Phrase Level Down" messages, no notes lighting up, and my score sat still. What the hell???

Turns out I had hooked my volume knob again - turned the volume output of my guitar to ZERO. This had an obvious and immediate effect on my RS score.

So, if you're playing and suddenly everything seems to have fallen apart on you, it might not be your playing. It might just be that RS isn't hearing you. Check the volume knob!

Not sure how I'm going to address my hooking issue. I'm not inclined to move my hand - where I keep it is comfortable for me. I'm leaning toward installing a different type of knob or even a different pot that is either harder to turn or possibly just isn't very comfortable to touch with my pinky. Suggestions are welcome.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fun with the Wilson Girls and Why does a Drummer Play Rocksmith, Anyway?

Despite the fact that I've scored over 100k on Barracuda, I still haven't mastered it. I've still got FIVE phrases to master before I'll master the song, and two of those phrases are solos. Naturally. I'm pretty sure I can do it but I'm in no hurry on this one.

Last night, after a pretty tough work-out on Carol of the Bells, I just played through Barracuda because - as I've said before - it's FUN! I really don't care about mastering it (although it would seem silly not to go ahead and do so). I play it well enough to enjoy it and that's good enough for me. Playing Barracuda sort of represents my whole reason for playing guitar at all.

I've never aspired to be a great guitar player or even to play guitar for money in a band. That's what I play drums for (not that my phone is ringing off the hook on that count, either). But, I didn't buy Rocksmith because I needed a fresh, new video game. I'm not really even into video games. In fact, I bought an XBox just so I could play Rocksmith. Clearly I have some motivation to learn to play guitar. So, if my goal isn't to become a great guitar player, what is it?

Well, one thing I think I figured out this week driving home from work is that I'm sort of a jealous musician. Over the many years I've played drums, I've encountered I don't know how many guitar players and singers and pianists and bass players who think they can play drums. It seems like everybody who can clap and has access to a set of drums and a pair of sticks thinks they're a drummer. Some of them actually can sort of carry a basic beat and some can even throw in a fill or two. I find that very annoying for some reason. Like drums are just some kind of noisemaker that anybody can just sit down and play? Or, that drummers are just the suckers willing to hump all that gear around? Bullocks to that. One of my motives for learning guitar is simply a compulsion to be able to play guitar at least as well as your average guitar player can play drums. 

But, there's more to it than that. Otherwise, I'd have to learn to play just about every single other musical instrument there is, plus learn to sing. And, frankly, if I were to do that, I'd just learn to play the piccolo and be done with it. One case that you could practically stick in your hip pocket? That'd be awesome. I could ride a motorcycle to gigs and be the first one out the door at the end of the night. Say what you want about dragging an amp around, unless you're playing soccer stadiums most guitar players could fit their guitar and amp into a Cooper Mini. If you are playing soccer stadiums, you aren't dragging your own amp around anyway. When I decided to be a drummer, I doomed myself to a lifetime of driving station wagons or vans or at least pick-up trucks. Actually, I could fit a six-piece set into the 71 Volvo 144 which was my very first car. And, I could get a five-piece kit into the 84 Jaguar XJ6 I drove overseas. Those two cars had surprisingly large trunks! They don't make cars like that any more.

[I may have to do a whole separate blog piece on good vehicles for drummers. . . ]

I don't know that I really chose to be a drummer. I've always felt that I was sort of born to play drums. My experience with guitars sort of supports that belief. I don't have to work all that hard at playing drums. I just do it. I've had to work at guitar. Hard. I know at least a couple of guys who worked pretty hard at playing drums and just didn't have it. So, I think some people are just naturally inclined to play certain instruments and not others. But, dammit, playing guitar looks like a lot of fun. I want some of that!

Until Rocksmith came along, I just fiddled around blindly on my guitar with no real direction. I wasn't going to pay for guitar lessons because I really never felt that I had enough potential to make it worth the expense. I never even bothered buying or even downloading free tabs and trying to learn songs. I figured if I couldn't learn guitar the way I learned drums - by just playing along with songs I really liked - I just wasn't meant to play guitar. So, my guitar mostly gathered dust for years at a time. When I did play it, I didn't really have much fun because I couldn't really do anything with it. It was like having a really cool toy that you can't find batteries for - it's still a cool toy and you pick it up and mess with it occasionally, but it's just not much fun.

Rocksmith has pretty much put the batteries in my guitar playing. Barracuda happens to be one of those songs from my younger years that I probably cranked up on the radio when the parents were out. I may or may not have also totally rocked out in front of the bathroom mirror on my fretless/neckless/pickup-less Les Paul Air to this song. Now, I can actually pretty much rock that song on a REAL guitar. Will I ever play in front of a thousand real fans? Probably not. But, I could. And, knowing that is worth every penny I spent on Rocksmith.

Not only am I finally getting my money's worth out of the Epiphone Les Paul Special II that I bought a few years ago, I've learned enough from Rocksmith that I can take my 35-year old Alvarez acoustic to the ballpark and play at least a few songs from memory on it, too. I've bought 8 more guitars since I started playing Rocksmith! I'm not looking to put any guitar players out of a job - and I don't think anybody has anything to worry about there, but I'm having a blast.

Always wanted to jam with Ann and Nancy. Now I can.

Breaking Down the Rocksmith Solo Wall and Improving my Attitude with Riff Repeater

Yesterday I started to write about hitting The Solo Wall. Last night's practice session sort of brought me around from feeling like I can't play solos to believing that just maybe I can.

Still, solos don't come easy for me. It took a LOT of work to get to where I ended up last night - MAXING out the first part (of four) of the solo in Carol of the Bells! To say I felt pretty good about it would be very English of me. I was stoked. And, it has really improved my whole attitude.

My attitude has frankly started to decline these past few weeks specifically because solos have stood in the way of mastering any more songs. That's all I've been working on lately - mastering the songs I've already played. So, understandably, not being able to master any songs has had a pretty negative impact on my motivation. Still, I have soldiered on, with a long break a week or so ago and a couple of nights off here and there.

Last night I got a slightly earlier start than I usually do, despite the fact that we had a baseball game to attend. I got right down to business. Here's my rehearsal note page from last night:

As you can see (but may not be able to decipher), I started off in the Riff Repeater ("RR" in my notes) and worked the second part of the solo and then the chorus. Then I played through the whole song a few times. Oddly enough, scores went down each time I played through it. But, my streaks generally improved. The outro leveled down on me the third time, so I went back to RR and worked on that some. Didn't get back to 100%, but I did work my Free Speed score back up to 95.4% (with a high of 97.1% for the 30 attempts). Then I played through the whole song again. Well, actually, I started the whole song again several times, but either my scores were bad or my streaks got cut off or something would piss me off and I'd restart it. When I finally played all the way through, my score dropped AGAIN.

This was NOT going well, but I was not quite as angry as I usually am when things go like this. I just went back to RR to do the work that needed to be done. And, it worked.

I ran the solo (part 1) in Free Speed at 100% mastery and got that up to 92.7% of full speed (with a high of 96.6% for the 30 tries). Then I worked Solo 1 in the Accelerator and Mastered it. Well. . . ! Now we were getting somewhere. Encouraged by that success, I decided to try actually earning the 100% mastery level. Don't remember how many tries it took, but it was less than 30 before I actually MAXED out Solo 1.

Inspired, I pulled up Solo 4 (relatively easy compared to Solo 2 which I still believe will take a miracle for me to ever play even half-way well). Worked speed up to 99.2% in 30 runs through Free Speed and then got to 100% with one more run. Of course, that was at a pretty paltry 35% mastery level. So, I went to the Leveler and managed to bump up my mastery two notches to 50% which seemed like enough work on that for the night.

Played through the whole song one more time just to see if any of my improvement would actually stick, and it did. Wrapped up with a new personal high score of 78,822. Accuracy and streak were nothing to get excited about but they weren't bad and I qualified the song - so I guess I can expect to see it show up in an Event at some point.

Fine by me. My whole intention is to play this song LIVE by Christmas this year.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Rock 'n Roll Multi-Player Easter Weekend

Did a lot of playing this weekend including quite a bit of multi-player with my son. My son and daughter did quite a bit of multi-player playing, too.

Ubisoft Forums & Weekly Challenge Song
I haven't been able to log into the Ubisoft/Rocksmith forums since at least Friday night. Not sure if it's just me or what. Seems like new comments are still being posted by a few people but not many. Perhaps their website is down? At any rate, I can't log in, so I can't post anything there. Which means I couldn't post a final high score for the weekly challenge song, Smoke on the Water. I worked on this one Friday night and managed to bump my score up to 99782 (90/85). Best score but, again, far from best playing if accuracy and streaks mean anything. My accuracy has only gotten slightly better - up to 92% at best. But, last Thursday I had a streak of 309 which is FAR better than my high score streak of 85.

Rehearsing Smoke
I played Smoke 5 times Friday night. Strangely, I started right off with an improved score. Thursday I ended with a 93161. This was not my best for Thursday night. My final play through on Thursday had actually dropped off from a high score of 94386. Friday my first go netted a 93487. And, my scores improved continuously for five straight play-throughs.

93487 (88/75)
93845 (90/177)
97414 (91/89)
99549 (92/112)
99782 (90/85)

I still find it strange that my scores often improve as my accuracy and streaks go down. I know this is partly (if not totally) due to the dynamic difficulty feature. As you level up phrases, you get more points. Fine. It doesn't keep me up at night, but it just strikes me as odd that my scores improve while, in a way, my playing gets worse.

Killer Carol (of the Bells)
Since I couldn't post new scores to the Weekly Challenge thread on the Rocksmith forums, I focused my real rehearsal time for the rest of the weekend on Carol of the Bells. This one is coming along, but it is testing both my skills and my patience.

The main riff is simple and easy to play although I do sometimes still get what I consider an erroneous "Palm Mute Missed" message, which seems to cut my streaks short. Another issue I have is that a couple of phrases require quite a bit of finger stretch and I end up bending strings where there's not supposed to be a bend. This invokes the Yellow Arrows of Death - which also appear to cut off a streak. Haven't quite determined if the dreaded chevrons actually end a streak or not, but it seems that a "Streak Over" message generally follows the appearance of the sharp/flat arrows.

The biggest issue with this song, for me at least, is simply the shear speed. It MOVES. Especially the Outro. So, I have spent some time in Accelerator on the Riff Repeater. That's not really helping. Back in the 70s there was a book called The Peter Principle. Basically it said that managers are always promoted to their lowest level of incompetence. In other words, if they do something well, they'll be promoted until they reach a level in the company where they are no longer competent. Then they won't get any more promotions - they'll just stay in a job that they can't really do. That's how the Accelerator works. I'll start out around 85% speed and without really trying to do so I'll quickly find myself getting "promoted" to 92% and then to 100% - which I cannot play.

To get around this, I have started simply playing the troublesome licks on my acoustic guitar. I have them memorized and I can play as slowly as I want for as long as I want. And, I think the thicker strings and slightly higher action on my acoustic is probably building a lot of strength in my left hand. (Eventually I fear I'll look like a deformed Popeye with a bulging left forearm but a relatively scrawny right one.)

I've also used Free Speed to work the solo. I forced the phrase level to 100% and managed to get the solo up to 96.2% speed.

 Progress has been slow and hard. I had ended Friday night with a new all-time high score of 75,319 (91/94). Not bad. Saturday night I started off very slowly with a couple of runs topping out in the low 60s. I should probably warm up with something a little less challenging. When I finally found my groove, I moved from a 70970 (85/92) to a 73475 (89/63) in 8 plays. This was around 2:00 AM Sunday morning and I was pissed. I could not seem to improve but I was damned if I was going to quit with a 71k. Eventually I settled for the 73 and packed it in for the night.

Sunday evening followed my usual pattern. Scores dropped (started with a 69274) initially and then picked up fairly steadily with one bad play in the middle. I worked the chorus in Free Speed to get the transition into the solo figured out; I managed to bump up to 95.7% speed at 100% difficulty with a high speed of 99.1%. (NOTE: I don't really like the way Free Speed saves your last effort rather than your best effort, but it's probably a good idea to keep it as is.)

Solo Success
I also worked the solo in Leveler with amazingly good results. I started out at 35% mastery and, including a stretch where I leveled up 5 times in a row (!), I leveled up to 80% mastery within 30 lives.

Dialling in the solo probably contributed heavily to my new high score of 75,940 (89/94). This also represents new highs for both percentage and streak. That seemed like a good place to stop on Carol.

Multi-Player with Kids
Friday evening and Sunday afternoon my son and I played a few songs together. For him it's a total all-out competition. If I outscore him, he gets mad. If he outscores me, he doesn't exactly gloat but you can tell he's keeping score. It's a genetic character flaw which he's unlikely to outgrow completely, I'm afraid.

Still, despite some minor moping (on my son's part), we had some fun playing some oldies from back in my day. It's really cool that my son has some appreciation for the music I grew up with. He seems particularly fond of Boston's More than a Feeling. We ran through that one a few times and he is definitely playing this one at a higher level than I am. Next we had a couple of runs through Heart's Barracuda which I think is just one of the most fun songs in the whole RS playlist.

For some bizarre reason, my son is a fan of Unnatural Selection - probably one of my least favorite songs in the whole RS repertoire, but we ran through that one together once. Since I've had very little success at mastering the combo arrangement, I played the single note version. Can't say I've missed playing either arrangement.

Sunday we did some more time travel and played Smoke on the Water, another old, old, oldie that my son has taken a real liking to. (Keep in mind, he's 11.) An unfortunate side-effect of his competitive nature is that he sometimes turns multi-player playing into a race. Something about Smoke on the Water makes him want to play faster than I, so I opted to play the single note part. Can't say we sounded very good on this one but we had fun. The solo tripped him up, but right up to that point in the song he our scores were almost identical. We had another few runs at Barracuda before dinner. This may be the next song I master; I had a few more goes at it Sunday evening at the end of my regular practice session and got up to 97k without even really trying very hard.  (I need a song like that after working my ass off on Carol of the Bells.)

Not sure what my son and daughter played over the weekend. They've all but stopped keeping track of their progress. My son did have an event over the weekend and advanced to Level 5. My daughter makes some progress when she plays, but she just really doesn't care that much about it. She has decided that she likes playing my new LP Junior more than her Washburn Lyon even though the Lyon is MUCH lighter.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Revisited
It had been a week or so since I'd played this one but I was already starting to forget the solo when I tried playing it from memory on my acoustic. I wanted to be sure I didn't forget it, so I pulled it up Saturday night for a few quick runs. Got a new high score of 209,238 (94/56) using my Epi LP Special II, which I think really needs fresh strings. Makes me wonder what I might get if I played this one again on my EG112. Since I was in the mode, I decided to have another go at the other single note arrangement of this one. The alternate arrangement is quite a lot different from the other one and I haven't quite got the feel for it yet. Still, I moved from 37878 to a new high score of 56407.

Next Level
It looks like I'm just about 150,000 RSP from promotion to Level 8. I have played the entire Level 7 without doing a single event. My original strategy was to spend all this "non-touring" time getting more songs Mastered. But, I haven't mastered a song since March 20/21 (Surf Hell single note and Go with the Flow combo - and Surf Hell doesn't even really count since I had already mastered the combo version of that one). Not that long ago, really, but it feels like forever since I've had that feeling of accomplishment.

I was also planning to avoid playing any new songs so I could focus on mastering ones I'd already played, but I was really getting tired of playing the same stuff over and over. So, I started Smoke on the Water which ended up being the Weekly Challenge song anyway, and I started a few others that my son wanted to play when we did multi-player. Still, I have not done any Rocksmith Recommends numbers and have put my Journey on hold. Now I have 5 events lined up waiting to be played.

Now I'm debating whether to carry on with my Journey when I make Level 8. Or, should I stick with my goal of mastering more of the songs I've already played from previous events (plus the songs I've picked up on the side)? In a way, the Journey gives me some sense of direction. Without it, I feel like I'm floundering around without anything to propel me forward. When I first broke off the Journey to concentrate on mastering songs, I was pretty focused and motivated, but as I encounter solo after solo that I just can't seem to ace my motivation seems to fade away. Now I feel like I'm digressing into random jamming, with the exception of my still rather determined work on mastering the three Christmas DLCs. Perhaps I just need to go ahead and master Barracuda to give myself a little shot of motivation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cannot Log Into Ubi/Rocksmith Forums. . .

I had some trouble logging on to the Ubisoft Rocksmith forum for a few days. When I hit "Log In" I got a "Connection was reset" error.

I use Firefox as a browser.

The solution seemed to be clearing all the cookies using Internet/Options and then restarting Firefox. Once I did that, everything worked normally again.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Aha! I WAS Playing It Wrong! Smoke on the Water Mistake

Last night worked on just two songs: Smoke on the Water for the weekly challenge and Carol of the Bells (single note arrangement).

Christmas Songs
If I'm going to have all three Christmas songs performance-ready by Thanksgiving, I'm going to have to work on them pretty much every day from now until November. I've got one arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen down pretty well, but I've heard the solo in Carol of the Bells single note and I've heard the guitar work in We Three Kings. . . I've got an uphill battle ahead of me on those. But, hey, three months ago if you had told me I could play God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen from memory and make it sound half-way decent I'd have told you that you were delusional. I'm still no Seth Chapla, but I'm doing damn well for a drummer!

Smoke on the Water Streak Over Problem Solved
First of all, I figured out what was going on with the Streak Over thing on Smoke. I was playing it WRONG! Go figure. For some reason, although I could read the tabs, I wanted to play something on 3d and 5th frets which is supposed to be played on just the 3d fret (5th and 4th strings). I'll figure out a way to do graphics for this sort of material from now on. For now just accept that I was playing it wrong which explains exactly why my streaks were getting cut off at the same spot every time!

3-5-3 vs. 3-3-3

A little hard to see, I know. I may redo the graphic. Basically, I was playing a note on the 5th fret, 5th string when I should have been playing that note at the 3d fret. So, I was actually making things harder.

Not suprisingly, as soon as I figured this out, I noticed an immediate improvement. Streaks went from 69 starting out last night to 157 after I realized what was going on. And, my overall score improved as well. Went from 84199 starting out to 94860 last night in five plays through.

Lesson: If you can't make progress, you're probably doing it wrong. The question is how to realize that you're doing it wrong when you think you're right. Clearly I thought I was playing it right. I mean, I obviously wouldn't deliberately play something wrong and expect to get points for it, right? Right. Yet, it took several times playing through the song to realize that I was playing these 3 notes wrong. . . Anyway, got that figured out and now we're cooking with gas.

I'm cooking with gas until I get to the solo(s). I jacked the solo on my first play through and got leveled back down to 54%. I had to go back into Riff Repeater to max Solo1 again, and I was able to do that within 18 tries. Solo2 wasn't as successful. I worked that in Free Speed and maybe moved up a notch or two, but there's a lot of bends in that phrase and I'm having trouble with them.

I do wonder on the first solo phrase why RS has us playing a 3d fret G-string instead of an 8th fret D-string. But, fortunately, RS can't tell one from the other when I play them, so I play it my way and it works.

Carol of the Bells - Reached 70k Benchmark
Started out as usual - my score dropped from the previous session's ending score: 60477 (82/43) down to 56996 (77/31). It dropped even more the second time through to 56509 (76/36)! But, on the third pass I managed to improve on my best - 62952 (81/66). Still far from my best streak (which was 148 a week ago after taking a break from this song) and still not my highest percentage.

The chorus is a tough phrase and I wasn't making any progress on it by just continually playing through the song, so I pulled out and worked on that in Riff Repeater. I managed to max that phrase with some effort. Lots of notes and moves pretty quick! Then I worked on the Outro which is also sort of tricky. I stayed in Free Speed for the Outro and bumped up to 82.6% of full speed.

When I went back after the full song, my riff work paid off. Scored 67446 (82/72) and then 71057 (86/80).

But, for all this progress, I find myself exactly where I usually find myself on just about every song which has an extensive solo. I've pretty much maxed all the phrases in this song except the solo. Time to start hammering on it in Riff Repeater, I guess, and see if that strategy works.

The Mystery of Forcing Levels Up - Why it Probably Works
The night before last I successfully maxed a phrase by forcing the level up in Riff Repeater, which seems totally counter-intuitive. But, I think I've figured out why it actually will help in many cases.

RS's note highway doesn't really give you any firm sense of note duration like you'd get with traditional musical notation or good tablature. How long you're supposed to hold any given note is sort of left to your ear with a slight hint provided by the relative spacing of notes on the highway. This causes me a lot of trouble, especially on solos. I need to see rests if I'm not seeing notes. Otherwise, I don't have a rhythm structure to work in.

On lower phrase levels, you are often looking at huge gaps between notes, often with just one note appearing in a measure. At least RS does divide notes into measures - that helps a lot. But, whether that one note should be played on the downbeat of 3 or the "uh" of 2 can be a little difficult to guess. Which can keep you from leveling up for 30, 60, 90, or more runs through Riff Repeater. Frankly, after 30 runs, if I'm not leveled up at least one notch, I'm pretty much done.

But, by forcing the level UP, you fill those huge empty spaces with the notes you expect to hear in the song. Still very imprecise, but when you are forced to fit a bunch of notes into a limited timeframe, there's a much better chance that you'll get them right. (Fortunately, RS doesn't seem to be able to distinguish between four sixteenth notes played in a beat and an eigth-note followed by a sixteenth-note triplet.)

I'm not suggesting that RS should add rests to the note highway. That would clutter things up too much. And, I'm not sure putting flags on the eighth and sixteenth notes would help much without including rests. But, perhaps something could be added to Riff Repeater to help dial in the exact rhythms that we should be playing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Riff Repeater Oddities and Some GAS Cramps

Finally seem to have gotten back to a regular practice mode after a week of Spring Break. I had a hard time getting back into the groove after taking so much time off. The first night back toward the end of last week went great (see previous post), but then it was just hard to really get going again after a very busy weekend which included playing drums at two different locations. But, I'm back. Last night was my second night in a row after taking practically ten days off.

Went pretty well - I unlocked the Dry Acoustic tone and the Bay Academy venue. Worked on Smoke on the Water, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (Single Note arrangement), and chord arrangements for Do You Remember and High and Dry. Admittedly, the last two were sort of shameless RSP-mongering efforts.

I've made a few observations about my practice results and using Riff Repeater.

First of all, solos are clearly not my strong suit. I have about four songs that are very close to reaching the 100k score and I have all phrases mastered - except the solos. So, I clearly need a strategy to learn and master solos. Riff Repeater seems to offer what I need for this, but Riff Repeater can be a little strange and I've had to sort of create my own approach to using it. Here's how I'm using Riff Repeater to master solos for now:

(For any non-RS players, Riff Repeater is sort of a game where you get 30 chances to play a section of a song correctly. If you succeed within 30 tries, the game increases the level of difficulty by adding more notes or speeding up the tempo, depending on what part of Riff Repeater you choose.)

Last night I worked on Smoke on the Water for my entry in the Ubi/RS forum Weekly Challenge. As usual, the solo was a speed bump for me. Actually, there are four solo phrases in this song; I just picked the first one to work on. First I went to Leveler and hammered on this phrase for 30 attempts. I started at the 54% difficulty level and managed to level up to 63% within my first 30 lives. But, that's as far as I got in 30 tries. Just one level up.

So, I went into the Freespeed mode and forced the difficulty level to 81% (two more notches up). I reached 100% speed at 81% difficulty within 12 tries! Odd, huh? If I could play two levels above where I had been playing and get up to 100% speed in less than a dozen attempts, you'd sort of think I could level up in the Leveler. . .

[Note: You can force up the difficulty level in Riff Repeater by pausing - hit the Start button on XBox system controllers - the game. Four menu options pop up. One is "Set Mastery." Choose that and you can bump the mastery level up or down. Very handy. One reader told me they do this to get levels to 100% in Freespeed so they can transcribe all the notes into tab on paper! Lots of work, but that would be a great way to learn and memorize songs.]

After working on Freespeed, I went back to Leveler and forced the difficulty level to 81%. Guess what? I maxed the Solo 1 phrase in less than 10 lives. Very weird considering that I had played it through 30 times just minutes earlier at 63% difficulty and could NOT level up beyond 63%. At any rate, this will be my new strategy for mastering solos. Force the level up and work on them in Freespeed! Then come back to Leveler to max out the phrases.

Now, here's another oddity. Once I maxed out the first solo phrase, I went to play the full song through again. When I got to the solo, not only was the first solo phrase maxed out, so were the other three! No big deal, but I certainly wasn't prepared for that and had to just muddle through the rest of the solo phrases the best I could.

And, that's not all! I noticed as I played through the whole song that I got a lot of Streak Over messages when I felt like I was hitting everything right. And, since I have maxed out the levels on all non-solo phrases by just playing through the song, clearly I AM playing the notes right. So, what's the deal with my streaks? No idea. But, somehow when I'm playing through the chorus, that part where you go from 6th to 5th string at the 3d and 5th fret back and forth a couple of times, my streaks seem to end prematurely. To investigate, I went into Riff Repeater and pulled up the chorus in Freespeed. Played through as I normally do and got 100% ON THE FIRST PASS. . . So, I have no freaking idea what's going on when I play through the song. All I know is that I'm getting damned irritated by the Streak Over messages and by my relatively weak 50-88 note streaks.

How Many Guitars is Enough? One More? How About 6 More?

Here's the latest addition to my collection. Mind you, the two electrics are just cheapies, but the acoustics are all pretty nice. I'll let you know how nice when I actually get my hands on them. My brother-in-law is graciously picking them up for me and keeping them in his garage until I can go get them later this month. Most of these will be for sale, I'm sure - I can't afford to put strings on all these every couple of months!

The electrics may end up being part of my new charitable effort to provide instruments to kids who want to play but can't afford an instrument. Since my son is an aspiring trumpet player, my main focus is going to be the repair and restoration of old brass instruments, but I can do a couple of basic guitar repairs. If I can organize funding, I'll take any guitar repairs that are over my head to Shepperd's shop and pay him for the work needed.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Long Break and the Benefits of Time Off

It's Spring Break and we took the opportunity to leave town for a few days last weekend. When I got back, I had too much catching up to do to play right away, so I went nearly a week without playing guitar at all. No Rocksmith, no guitar, nothing. It seems to have paid off.

When I picked up my guitar and booted up RS for the first time after a break, I was refreshed. I felt no pressure to play anything I didn't want to play. I felt no pressure to master any solos that I didn't feel like hammering on. I felt no pressure to compete in a weekly challenge. No pressure at all, actually. I just scrolled through the songs and picked out a few things that I felt like working on or just playing.

Oh, and the soreness in my left-hand index finger was virtually gone. I can still feel a little tightness in the joint when I make a tight fist, but it's a LOT better than it was.

So, here's how things went:

When I'm With You - Hadn't played this one for quite a while and wondered how it might go on the new EG112. Slight improvement - brought high score up from 58k to 66k.

Carol of the Bells - Still working on this one but making good progress toward mastery. This is one of my experiments in working on multiple arrangements simultaneously. This time I just worked the single note arrangement trying to catch up with my combo score. Feels like I've gotten to the point where I can't make any more progress by simply playing through the whole song; I think it's time to go into the Riff Repeater on this one and really tighten up some of the phrases. I made very little progress (just a few hundred points) on the single note version by playing through three times.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Gotta keep this one in memory banks for Christmas! I could definitely feel this one getting rusty, especially when it came to remembering the solo. Managed to set a new high score (208k) on the second play through.

Rebel Rebel - Used to have a ton of trouble with all the string skipping in this riff. Now it's much better and much easier. Still rough as a cob, but far better than when I started. Very monotonous song, but for some reason I seem to just spaz out at random times and screw up the riff completely. Still, managed to reach a new high score on this one, too.

Surf Hell - This was a true test of the value of laying off and letting go. I nearly burned out on this favorite of mine when it was the Ubi forum weekly challenge song. I was pissed when the best I could manage was a 205k score! First time after laying off for nearly a week - 230k+! I just played it. No worrying about scores or early groove bonuses or any of that. Just jamming and digging the crowd at the 3d Street Lounge.

I played everything except Surf Hell about 3 times through. Generally, the first play through yielded a lower score than the last time I played. The second scores were all better than the last time I played. And, the third scores were significantly better yet. (Surf Hell just blew everything away right out of the chute, but I've had that one mastered for a while now, which makes a difference.)

I also downloaded some new stuff. I've visited the DLC store a few times lately and noticed some stuff that looked fun. Then, of course, everybody on the Ubi forum has been raving about the Blues DLC from last week so I had to check that out.

I picked up:
Symphony of Destruction
Born Under a Bad Sign

Now I'll have to add these pages to my spreadsheet workbook so I can track my progress on all this new material.