Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Where did I put my flares?

The Six String Bliss podcasts have come to an end (unless the hosts have a change of heart), but the community lives on. We're going to try and keep producing albums for our own enjoyment. There are actually two projects in progress at the moment. One was proposed as a 'quick and dirty' 'EP' of songs from the 70s, but seems to be growing into more of an album based on songs people have reserved. The other is to cover songs from the original Woodstock festival.

I plan to contribute to at least one of these. I have a couple of ideas for 70s songs. They are songs that I know pretty well and have wanted to record anyway, so this could push be into getting that done. One will be a stripped-back acoustic version whilst the other will be a full band arrangement where I aim to play all the parts. I usually shy away from programming drum tracks, but will give it a try this time, with a MIDI file I found as a back-up.

I've not decided on anything from Woodstock yet. There are loads of possibilities, but I need to do some listening to make up my mind. I'll see if anyone wants to collaborate.

Forum stalwart JMan is blogging about his recording process, without giving away the actual song(s). This is very useful as many of us are not too organised in how we record and could do with some tips to make it run smoother. I could do with a bit more structure to how I work, but I don't know if I will ever be as organised as JMan.

I'll be using my usual toolset of Ardour and Hydrogen (from the KXStudio repos) plus various plug-ins. I may use my Zoom G3X for effects and amplifier emulation, but I need to check in on the state of Guitarix again soon.

Meanwhile, I'm still working hard on the Paul Gilbert guitar course. I've had two video responses from him now that were spot-on for what I needed. He puts a lot of emphasis on muting as this is vital for playing loud without extra string noise and is also fun for 'chikka' noises. I was working on an exercise using this last night that was crying out for some wah. I've only gained a wah fairly recently on the G3X and am slowly learning to use it.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Star struck

A while back I posted about taking some private guitar lessons. The lessons were good, but getting to them proved to be a pain. It was only a few miles from the office, but getting there after work could take a ridiculously long time. Regretfully I had to give them up, but Stuart left me with lots of material to keep working on. We did an extended last session about chords.

I had also been looking into some of the on-line courses available. I liked the look of the Paul Gilbert school from +ArtistWorks. I like Paul's teaching style. They had some special offers at the end of the year, so I treated myself to a three month subscription that started last week.

The school consists of lots of lessons grouped as Fundamental, Intermediate and Advanced. In his introduction Paul recommends that everyone work through from the start and I can see why. He includes lots of good tips in each video that are applicable to most players on basics like tuning and holding the pick. The latter is different to what I have always used. He uses his thumb and two fingers. I'm giving that a try and finding that I need to use a lighter pick to get smooth strums.

Fairly early on he introduces muting, which is a vital skill for electric guitar. Some of the exercises are fairly tricky, e.g. playing left-hand muted strums between each note of a pentatonic scale.

One of the big selling points of this site is that the instructor will give feedback on videos which you submit for specific lessons. I've sent in my first one and have another ready. I used Cheese to record the first one, but then had to convert the video (using Handbrake) to a format that they accept. GUVC offers more options, but I still had to convert the file. This is my second video. I can't send it in until Paul responds to the first. That seems to be taking a while.

I can't post Paul's response as it's locked into the site, but if you join then you can see all of them. He gives different suggestions for each person, so that makes for a lot of extra material to learn from. It's actually overwhelming how much there is.

The site has various social aspects including a forum and 'shout out' board that Paul participates in. There are also some interviews including this one with Dweezil Zappa. The whole thing is eight parts and they cover a lot of ground.

There is a free acoustic school you can join to see how it suits you. This is fairly basic stuff and I have only looked at a few of the early lessons. There are lots of other schools for different instruments and genres. Everything from classical to bluegrass.

ArtistWorks has an affiliate scheme. If you join with this link then we both get a free extra month. I think the prices are pretty good as you are only paying the equivalent of one private lesson each month.