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.

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