Moments of Permanence

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It's time to celebrate your birthday, it happens every year... Dec. 10th, 2009 @ 02:15 pm
It's mah birfday!

Not a big deal to most people, but you know, I've had a hell of a year so I'm trying to feel special about it and look optimistically at being 29.

I bought myself a present - Band Hero! I wanted drums, because part of what's letting me down with my attempts to learn (real) guitar is my sense of rhythm. This will help, and will Make Learning Fun.

(I'm kind of terrible at it. To check whether we had screen lag letting us down, Dean tried it out. It did turn out that we had a 3ms audio lag.)

It came with Guitar Hero: World Tour and I bought Guitar Hero: Metallica. (What I want to come out: Band Hero: Queen. FOR REALS.)

Obviously it also has potential for having fun with others, but I find it's best not to rely on other people's joining in for prospective joy in something - free time and inclinations may not align as you might hope. Whereas I have good feelings about it helping me with my ability to pick up rhythm and to translate rhythm in movement.

I'm also making sure to keep practicing with my real guitar, because I have no illusions that Guitar Hero will somehow make my ability to play a genuine instrument improve. (And, hey, I have a genuine Gibson Les Paul Studio less than ten feet away from me right now that I own and that is beautiful, feels good to hold and play, and that I went through quite a lot of trouble to restring recently. Why wouldn't I play it?)

Snap Review: Red Bear Trading Company Guitar Picks Sep. 11th, 2009 @ 05:31 pm
So, as anyone who Knows About These Things can tell you, the best guitar picks were made of turtleshell.

However - again, as anyone who Knows About These Things can tell you - that's not exactly a cruelty-free source of pick material, and the sea turtles from which they were derived are now an endangered species. Some people still have decades-old picks but they're no longer produced legally.

Naturally, human ingenuity came into play, and you can get fake turtleshell picks. The material is an artificially-produced cellulose substance with properties very, very similar to the turtleshell, but without the "murder of endangered species" aspect.

I recently ordered a couple of faux-shell picks from Red Bear Trading Company. I went with Tuff-Tones, because they're cheaper and hardier, and I didn't exactly have a way to try one before I bought them. They arrived today, and I just tried them out.

They are amazing. They feel good on the strings and they pull a tone out of my Les Paul even more beautiful than I'd heard it make before - and added to that, strumming with a soft hold, as I tend to do when practicing (because I like the more mellow tones), they're very quiet over the strings, where all the other picks I've used click audibly in the strum.

They also feel nice to the touch, secure in hand without needing to be rough-textured, totally beautiful and wonderful.

They're expensive, of course, by guitar pick standards - Tuff-Tones are US$10, the regular ones are US$20 each, where plastic picks are readily acquired for an Australian dollar.

Totally worth it, at least on the assumption that you'll avoid losing them. Comments from guitarists who've used theirs extensively are that they can take a LOT of use without showing much wear. With mine I got one of the pick-holding key fobs Red Bear also sell - with my name engraved on it, which is just nifty.

Guitar, The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, racism, etc Jul. 6th, 2009 @ 02:01 am
Feeling rather sadface at the moment, for various reasons - a list which includes "still feeling sick and exhausted despite sleeping all evening" - so shall talk about some awesome things, and should-be-awesome things. I want to put something about Barack Obama on that, but I suspect that I won't feel right posting about Barack Obama until I can devote the time and energy to explaining why I'm quite frustrated about him as well as still pleased by some things about him, too.

Earlier this evening I took on the guitar tab for Black Sabbath's Iron Man, mostly just the opening riffs - not only are they pretty awesome, but it's also good practice for learning to do hammer-ons and bends. I love my Vox Valvetronic AD50VT amplifier - it has a lot of settings that emulate a range of amp styles etc, so by adjusting a few knobs, I can get it to sound just right for different music styles. (For Black Sabbath: UK 80s amp style, crank the gain a bit, throw in some reverb, and go.)

The guitar practice is a good lesson in patience, actually. I'm enjoying it, and I know I'm getting better - I'm much, much better than I was when I started, and I'm gradually improving over time. But I want to be good at this already, I want to play awesomely, and I can't. I try to believe that I will be able to, but it's going to take a long time.

Usually it's hard for me to sustain interest in something like this - I think it helps that playing guitar is consistently fun, and errors don't persist. I don't practice guitar for a few minutes, then look at what I've done and sigh at how much it sucks. One day I'll probably work on recording music I play, and so I will then have something that persists after I put the guitar down, but right now, it's just the memory of enjoyment.

I find myself reluctant to watch the first few episodes of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, despite having heard good reviews of it. I'm wary of it, I think, because the same people who recommend the series are often people who recommend the books, and I have some trouble with the books. Alexander McCall Smith always seems to write a little condescendingly to me - even when he's dealing with very adult subjects, his African-native characters, up to and including the intelligent and resourceful Precious Ramotswe, seem to be written like children's book characters. Up to a point, they're written like children. It bugs me a lot, and I read the first book, but beyond that, I just couldn't bring myself to get into it.

It weirds me out that so many people give the series such outstanding reviews. I find myself doubting my perceptions of the book - I mean, so many people say it's so wonderful, so am I the one who's wrong when I find the writing so problematic? Am I judging too harshly because I know that the author of this series of books about a black woman in Botswana is a white man?

And yet, the reviewers are generally white non-Africans, and even the non-white reviewers who praise it whose responses I've read have been American, and y'know, not that I want to bag on Americans or anything, but Americans of all races have a tendency to be a tad reductionist in their assumptions about African people, especially African natives from rural areas. (As do people from Europe and Australia and quite a lot of Asia.)

I'm in kind of an awkward position, really, in terms of speaking on this one. On the one hand, I am, in some respects, African, and I care quite a lot about the peoples of southern Africa.

On the other hand, I'm white, and I'm also Australian. I don't have major Authenticity credentials for critiquing the depictions of Botswanan native women.

On the gripping hand, no, really, it read like a children's book, even when the subject matter was adult, and Precious Ramotswe is written like the characters of kids' adventure books. I wanted to love it, and I couldn't bring myself to do so.
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Guitar practice Jun. 29th, 2009 @ 04:27 pm
Having practiced more-or-less non-stop for the best part of four hours, I went to hit a fret and felt this twinge all down my left forearm. And my fingertips are very hurty.

I am concluding from this that I need to take a break from guitar, but I somewhat resent it.

My tolerance for playing electric guitar is much greater than acoustic, because the electric is much thinner, and therefore my bad shoulder doesn't have to stretch at all to get my right hand in strumming position. So I don't have to stop after a few minutes because *that* hurts.

Today I started working on practicing some riffs, among general practice of chord progressions and scales.

Trevor, my main Guitar Dude, said that I was likely to practice more with a really good guitar, because it would just be more enjoyable to play. He's right. But another reason I like practicing with the electric guitar more is that it's less disruptive to my housemates. Acoustic guitars, by their design, are self-amplifying, and playing with normal firmness on the strings produces a fair whack of volume.

My electric guitar, meanwhile, is solid-bodied, a shaped block of wood with no resonating cavity to amplify the sound of the strings. Without an amp, or if I'm using an amp but plugging headphones into the amp instead of using the speaker, the electric guitar is really very quiet. Which means that I can practice, including hitting the strings as hard as I like, without it making much noise around my housemates. (If I go up to my bedroom, it'll be inaudible elsewhere.)

In aid of people-are-around practicing, I'm planning on getting one last guitar accessory: amPlug VOX Mini Guitar Amp. Runs off batteries, no leads or cables - it just plugs into the guitar's jack and you plug headphones into it. Much more convenient than even my small, cheap, rather crappy amp, let alone my big, decent amp which is itself waaaaay too heavy to take up and down stairs. (And is almost guaranteed to have better sound quality - my small cheap amp was VERY cheap, and has its uses, but it's genuinely pretty rubbish. I mostly use it as a secondary computer speaker for downstairs.)

After that, I'm done spending money on guitars for the foreseeable future (except to buy strings as needed, strings being the major ongoing cost factor of guitars - which isn't that expensive).
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oh noes my baby Jun. 28th, 2009 @ 04:05 pm
So, they're closed today, it being a Sunday, but tomorrow I need to call my guitar dudes, because I'm wondering if there's something wrong with the electronics on my guitar.

If the pickup selector switch is in the middle, so both pickups are on, and you turn down the volume control for the neck pickup, it turns off *both* pickups. But both pickups work fine if checked separately with the selector switch.

Meanwhile, I read the owner's manual this morning. Gibson appear to produce a general manual for all guitars - so half of the booklet on mine is about the Robotic Guitar, which is apparently self-tuning.

It looks really complicated, with many, many pages of instructions and so on, and special instructions for restringing the damn thing... all for a self-tuning guitar.

Tuning a guitar is not that hard, especially these days, with electronic tuners. I tune my Gibson by clipping a little widget to the headstock, plucking the strings, and having it tell me what note I'm playing and how far it is from the correct frequency on a cute little display. Certainly it seems an awful lot easier than dealing with this robotic stuff, plus it means you get to pick the rest of your guitar's features at whim. I can maybe see a use for it if you want to get heavy with a tremolo arm (that wah-wah bar that some electric guitars have), which can push the strings out of tune... except the Gibson Robotic Guitars don't appear to have tremolo arms. (Also, Brian May managed to overcome that problem with some ingenuity about bridge design decades ago.)

Hmm, lunchtime. (I slept late.)
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Hmm. MacGyverism fail and win. Jun. 28th, 2009 @ 02:08 pm
So, the gig stand I got yesterday came with a warning that, if used for ongoing holding of an electric guitar, risks burning the polyurethane [edit:] nitro-cellulose lacquer [/edit] finish by reaction between the rubber and the finish.

So, I wrapped the rubber on the gig stand with paper tape I had in the house.

However, today I found that the paper had let glue through, which was marring my guitar.

CAN NOT BE BORNE.

So, I congratulated myself on my decision not to throw away some soft flannel pyjama pants that tore a few weeks ago, in case I needed rags. The guys at the guitar shop use pieces of cloth to protect the guitars. I cut pieces off one leg, and wrapped them around the supports. The tape is indeed tacky, and is holding it in place within reason, and I've got some safety pins (carefully placed to avoid touching the guitar ever) to hold them there as well, just so I don't have to worry about them falling off when I'm trying to put the guitar away.

A different piece of the soft cloth was also useful for polishing off the glue that was already on it.

Sorted!

Money, I spended it. I can has guitar tho. Jun. 27th, 2009 @ 05:01 pm
So! My weird actually-it-was-Chinese-characters problem has been solved, thanks to my google-tastic brother-out-law, who worked out that I'd accidentally hit a keyboard shortcut that switched the inputs to Chinese. Which WAS A PROBLEM FOR ME, since I do not, in fact, speak, read, or in any way comprehend Chinese.

Meanwhile, today I either spent, or promised to spend, more money than I ever have before in my life. Arguably topping the days I bought motorcycles, although in fairness, I bought very cheap motorcycles.

I bought:

- Two bras. I wanted to get more than two, but two was all they had in my size, so I will be getting more in the future, most likely.

- A Gibson Les Paul Studio, wine red with silver pickups.

- A Vox AD50VT Valvetronix Tube Modeling Amp.

- A Tibetan singing bowl from the Oxfam fair trade shop.

- A bar of fair trade chocolate, ditto.

- A DVD.

- A headphone jack adaptor so I can use my existing headphones with my amp, so I can practice guitar without it being particularly loud to housemates.

- A 3/4 size acoustic guitar (child's size). This will be a present for Layanna, if she decides she wants to learn guitar, in which case I'll buy another one to do the other thing I will be doing with a child-sized guitar, which is: taking it to Princess Margaret Hospital for Children to volunteer giving the kids there a chance to play with it.

- A digital tuner.

- A gig stand.

- A guitar strap.

With the music stuff, it's worth noting that I got a bundled price deal on it that saved me quite a bit of money on buying all the bits separately, as it turns out, because my guitar dudes are awesome and will work out the cheapest price they can give you for stuff even after you've already said you're totally buying it.

I did not pay for, but engaged to buy:

- A Canon EOS 50D DSLR, with a couple of lenses, and assorted filters and other accessories; the camera and one of the two lenses were out of stock, so the woman at the shop is ordering them in, and has set aside all the things I want that they did have in stock so I can buy it all as a great big bundle. (Because some things sell out, and a couple of things I wanted they only had one left already.) In theory I'll probably be able to pick that up around Monday or Tuesday. At which point I'll be spending quite a lot of money again.

On the bright side, all of this stuff is awesome.

The guy at the guitar shop showed me all the things the amp can do. Including attempting to show me its volume capabilities, but when he'd cranked it up and was exhorting me to play a chord firmly instead of lightly flicking a single string, I was left to wail: "I can't! It's too loud!" My amp can play louder than I can listen, but fortunately it can be turned down from there.

I am, however, exhausted, because I did an awful lot of walking (including a fair amount I shouldn't have had to do, but the Transperth Journey Planner steered me awry), and, at the end, because nobody was answering phone calls including the friend who had promised he could help me with stuff this afternoon, I carried two guitars, gig stand and cables, my backpack (containing laptop, bras, singing bowl, etc), and an extremely heavy amp to the bus stop.

I had to stop every few metres to rest and now my whole body is aching and exhausted, but I have my new darlings. (I called Chas and he helped me carry everything from the bus stop to the house - he carried the heavier guitar and amp.)

So, an exhausting day, but productive, and I even have bras that aren't old and crap now.

Current Mood: exhausted
Current Music: dean asleep in the chair next to me, boys playing with their computers


I was shocked when my son told me his boyfriend was a homosexual Jun. 11th, 2009 @ 09:44 pm
I worked out this evening why, all of a sudden, the floor of the main room of our house got so dirty - winter's setting in, and we're bringing in muddier shoes and so on. (And I haven't been leaving my shoes in the laundry like I usually do, for some reason, so I track dirt further in.) This evening I vacuumed the floor and the lower half of the staircase carpet, though. Huzzah.

Feeling a little low and demoralised. I want to write, but I'm low on ideas and not really feeling like any of my current fics.. I'll take prompts in Kamen Rider Kabuto, Star Trek (TOS, Reboot only, right now), Veterans of the Psychic War (hey, I should maybe poke at Veterans II), if anyone has requests. Nothing smutty though, I'm so very much not in that place.

So very, very tired. Have concluded that what I should do now in terms of guitar is practice chord progressions with strumming patterns, since I still kind of hesitate too much when I'm trying to change chords without stopping strumming. Important to accept that it's fine to screw up while doing this, it's a learning process.

I also discovered this evening that the reason my guitar's pickguard showed scratches so easily was that there was still one of those static cling plastic pieces over it. The plastic shredded easily. The pickguard is actually still pretty much unmarked...

Until I started watching these DVDs of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, I had no idea that Hugh Laurie plays guitar. Apparently House plays guitar, and this was a suggestion of Hugh Laurie's. I find that rather nifty.

Pros and cons May. 29th, 2009 @ 12:08 pm
My guitar dudes are honest.

Because after I've become enraptured with a guitar, and fallen in love, they still, when they check the price, tell me it's $300 cheaper than the guy thought it was.

I, uh.

Seriously. I've fallen in love with a Gibson Les Paul Studio. I tried out two - the first one was nice. The second one was right, intrinsically, wonderfully so.

*breathes*
I need this guitar like burning.
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'Cause I'm mad as hell and can't bring myself to do what it is you think I should... May. 26th, 2009 @ 07:36 pm
A matter of the acquisition of skills:

My brother-out-law Chas and I were talking about guitars, with general reference to my plans for buying an electric, and Chas pointed out that a good guitar is not necessarily an ideal learning guitar. A learning guitar, for a lot of people (says Chas) should be one that's really easy to play, because a lot of people will, if they're teaching themselves to play guitar, want to be able to play songs immediately, so things like soft strings are a good idea.

Whereas I want a guitar that will require me to learn to do things properly.

This got onto a general discussion of learning skills - like, when most people play basketball, Chas reckons, they will want to do the tricksy awesome stuff, where the way, in theory, one should acquire the basic skills is to practice the fundamentals over and over again until you get the hang of them, then move on.

Me: "... But that was how I practiced basketball, back when I actually did that."

Because I enjoy practicing basics, if I can get into a groove and feel like I'm working on the skill and learning something new. Apparently some people find that sort of thing boring; I find I can get lost in it, and do it until my body tells me it's had enough. Score one for ADHD, I guess. With guitar practice, this means that what I really do is practice chords, and transitions, trying to get the chords and the movement between them perfect.

Discussion continued, until:
Chas: "I wonder if you would enjoy suicides?"
Me: "..."

So, it turns out, "suicides" is a sport thing - endurance training, involving sprints of differing lengths.

Not knowing this, but knowing that I am chronic-depressive to occasionally suicidal, and Chas has made it a major priority of his life for quite some time to keep me as far from suicidal as possible, it produced an amazing moment of cognitive dissonance.

In any case, my plan for buying an electric guitar is to select one with great care, research, and testing of available choices. I'm not aiming for a "cheap just-adequate practice guitar" in this case - I'm wanting a good guitar that will last me for many years. One that I'll know well in its every detail, use and quirk, so I can really get the most out of it.

One day I might buy another acoustic guitar (the one I have is a cheap guitar for learning on), but I'm still undecided on that point, because I'm aware of the extent to which the acoustic guitar I really want is my mother's. Getting one that's equivalent in quality would cost me several thousand dollars for something that still, quite likely, wouldn't be the same - it wouldn't feel right, and it wouldn't smell right. My mother's guitar has a certain scent to it, one that smells to me like comfort and contentment, like the handful of bright, shining memories, spotted here and there amid the general mire that is my childhood.

This doesn't stop me loving my steel-string electric-acoustic, and it won't stop me loving my electric guitar; I love guitars, separate from my love for that guitar, but it will make me reluctant to spend serious money on a classical guitar that isn't that one. (And it will be some time, I think, before I feel the need to upgrade my steel-string.)

*gets distracted by researching electric guitars*

So, yes. Basically, music is awesome, and since a quite good day has turned to a quite crappy evening, I think I shall go do some guitar practice.

Current Music: Dixie Chicks - Not Ready To Make Nice
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More on my mother's guitar... May. 19th, 2009 @ 12:31 pm
I managed, after some swearing, to restring it last night. (Note to people considering taking up guitar: steel-string guitars are a hell of a lot easier to restring, which I would argue is a genuine benefit for new players. Strings break and need replacing, strings wear out, it's the way things are and ever shall be.) Later that evening, I tuned it, as well. The built-in digital tuner on my steel-string doesn't pick up the sound of my mother's guitar at all, so I tuned the low E on hers to the low E on mine, then tuned string to string from there.

Several of the pegs - which, you understand, are ancient - were unbelievably stiff to turn. My fingers ached from the effort, I couldn't get the first string all the way to tune without having to change hands. Finally, finally, I had the last string in tune to its predecessor, and attempted a chord...

... and flinched at the hideous, discordant sound that resulted, because it had taken long enough that the low strings had gone out of tune. (e.g. more than about a minute.) Oh, the wonder of nylon strings: first the slippery little fuckers are a bitch to string on at all, then they're not even vaguely playable. Oh, classical guitar, how you taunt me...

Anyway, after discussing the stiff pegs with my mother, and also noting the dry-looking wood of the fretboard, I called my preferred Guitar Dudes and queried what to do about stiff pegs and dry fretboards on a classical guitar that's around half a century old. The suggestion, to my surprise: get it serviced. (Which they're happy to do, rough cost estimate $35-40.) I discussed this suggestion in turn with my mother, and we're agreed that she'll transfer me the money to pay for it (it being her guitar, etc) and I'll get it serviced by my Guitar Dudes soon. (I shall be taking it in at some point when I don't think it's likely to rain on me in transit; the hard case means I can feel comfortable taking it on the bus, but not getting it rained on.)

Mum says she had noticed the pegs getting harder to turn; I said that it's got to a point where I'm not sure she, with her mild arthritis, would be physically capable of doing it. I'm stronger than she is and not arthritic, and I can only just, barely, manage it at all. (Especially on the high E string. That peg does NOT approve of moving.) If the pegs themselves need replacing, that's a permitted change; they're peripheral to the essence of The Guitar, but it's something we both think would be best done by experts. Who presumably have some kind of liability setup, in any case, but who can also be expected to know what the hell they're doing, and have done it before, and so on.

Oddly, I find it much, much easier to tune Mum's classical guitar string to string than my own steel-string acoustic-electric. I'm not sure why - it can't be familiarity, because I hadn't tuned it in many, many years, and I was tuning it for the first time, where I've tuned my own guitar many, many times now. Maybe the harmonics are just more pleasing to my ear. (I do love classical guitars so - I borrowed my mother's so I can practice fingerpicking and the like because of that very love. It was either borrow my mother's, which she doesn't play at the moment, or else end up spending lots of money buying one that I won't like very much because it won't live up to my mother's unless I spend about five thousand dollars. Spending five thousand dollars is silly when I can just say: "Hey, Mum, can I borrow your guitar for a bit?" and get the guitar that sounds so beautiful and that I love so very, very much.)

While I'm at the guitar shop I may not be able to resist the urge to ask how expensive/difficult it is to get a guitar neck, sans body, from a guitar that's been broken or something, because I have conceived of a deep and powerful desire to build an oil can guitar of my very own one day, but I have Principles and would have difficulty bringing myself to murder even the cheapest and crappiest of guitars just to repurpose the neck.
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Time for trivialities, oh yes May. 18th, 2009 @ 05:32 pm
So, today I went out for a tick under three hours. I went to my parents' house, crammed my backpack with stuff of my own, and found my mother's classical guitar and the replacement strings it needs, and she'd bought, but not yet strung, and wended my way home.

For some reason, by the time I got home I was positively shaking from low blood sugar, despite having snacked only two hours before (usually I can go to not-quite-three before hypoglycaemia kicks in, after a reasonable snack, which I'd had). Thinking about this, it has occurred to me that while my afternoon snack was a normal snack, my "lunch" consisted of an apple, which might have something to do with it. And yet, at lunchtime, I reeeaaally didn't feel like eating. Requires some thought.

After getting home, I sat my shaking self at the table while my brother-out-law made me a sammich, because he is awesome, and looked up how to restring a classical guitar, because the bridges are much, much less restringing-friendly than steel-string guitars. I... I think I can handle it.

Tomorrow, we have a rent inspection, so tonight, there will be much cleaning taking place here. I, being all chronic-pain-y, have exactly one entry on the chore list, but it makes me feel much better than if I had none. (I also may cook dinner, if the BFF lets me.)

Other than my assigned cleaning task, tonight's plan is: rest, restring Mum's guitar, play her guitar and my own, rest, get early night, more-or-less. Am several days behind on LiveJournal, but am too tired to tackle it atm. (Also, before I take on LJ friends list, will perhaps be unfriending several people who always crosspost with DWth.)

Oh, forgot on to-do list for this evening: "retune classical guitar constantly, because new nylon strings have an in-tune lifetime measured in seconds". I'm going to see if the digital tuner built into my steel-string picks up the notes from my mother's okay, for ease, but even if it doesn't, I at least have my guitar to get a tuning note from - for some reason, I remain absolutely unable to tune from a pitch pipe, but I think, somehow, tuning from an acoustic guitar low E to an acoustic guitar low E will be within my capabilities.

I feel... okay. Better than I've felt in many weeks. I think it's just possible everything will be all right, and maybe my suicide is not an inevitable thing that all this stuff we do to improve my mental health is merely delaying.

Current Music: Chas raking leaves outside
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The reclamation of lost childhood... May. 16th, 2009 @ 08:32 am
Recent innovations in my quest to learn to play the guitar:

1) I bought a music stand, thus making it feasible for me to be able to see the music I'm working off without craning my neck and exacerbating my pain issues. (Mostly, I practice with a deluxe anthology of Queen songs, because... I love Queen, I have a book of sheet music for guitar, piano and vocals for 60 Queen songs almost all of which I love, and guitar, piano and vocals are the musical skills I want to acquire... although I don't yet have a way to practice piano. At some point I'm likely to acquire a keyboard. And in addition to chord notations, this book has chord diagrams, but doesn't use guitar tab. I have just about no interest in guitar tab.)

2) I gave up on finding my missing shark fin pick, and bought not just a replacement for that one, but - having discovered I prefer the shape - five of them, in the full range of gauges. I also found a little bag to hang on my guitar stand and hold my picks, so I don't keep losing them (or, in fact, having to find where I left them before I can start playing). They're Dunlop Fins, and the nifty thing about Dunlop Fins is that they're colour-coded for thickness - the darker the colour (in shades of grey), the heavier the gauge. White is 0.42mm, black is 1.07mm, with a range in between. Nice.

3) I continue to practice daily, and am gradually becoming accustomed to life without fingernails. If my fingernails grow out pretty much at all, they make it hard to get clean string pressures. (In theory I could let the nails on my right hand grow a little longer, but that would make typing feel weird. It's already been odd adjusting to having steel-string callouses on my left hand...) My chording is becoming surer and faster. I remain reasonably confident I can continue to improve. (Also, my hands are developing automatic associations - if my left hand is in a C position, say, my right hand automatically skips the sixth string on the strum.)

I need a guitar icon.

People are still being Wrong On The Internet, and I will probably post about it soon, but right now, I don't have the spoons, so I'm going to watch humourous videos and practice my guitar.
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Oh, my. May. 15th, 2009 @ 12:48 pm
I...

you have no idea but

Words can not express how much I want this. If they still have it when I finally get this insurance crap sorted out and actually have some money, I am getting it. There is a very short list of things I'm going to buy when I get the settlement, an electric guitar is on that list, and as far as I've been able to tell Parkers are not easy to get in Australia. (No, really: I do want an electric guitar, and when I get an electric guitar, I want a Parker.) That site also has other cool guitars I just like looking at, but don't feel the need to own, so much.

I kind of want a classical guitar, too, but the problem with that, you understand, is that the classical guitar I really want is the classical guitar that belongs to my mother. I can't bring myself to plan spending substantial amounts of money on a classical guitar, because the one I want is so very, very much not for sale.

Although (back on the electric side of things), the Hofner Shorty is kind of adorable, too.

Current Music: Sheila Chandra - Sacred Stones
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PSA: Client-tastic May. 2nd, 2009 @ 09:16 pm
So, for those of you who, like me, hate using web-based interfaces for pretty much anything? List of compatible clients for Dreamwidth. I found the instructions for setting up Semagic to post to DW and to crosspost, so I'm pretty pleased with that. (So far: editing/deleting doesn't seem to work quite so well, but whatever.)

Home alone for the evening. The boys are at a small impromptu LAN party. I was practicing guitar a bit for a while, but pain has forced me to stop after all of about ten minutes. I do, however, think I'm gradually improving a bit, in transitions and in fingering - I can now get G major and C major fairly cleanly. (D minor is still a little annoying - I think it's a bit harder because it needs the first couple of strings, which, on a steel-stringed guitar, are kind of a bitch when you're still forming your fingertip callouses.)

Still loving my sharkfin pick.
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No sharks were harmed in the making of this post Apr. 29th, 2009 @ 10:55 pm
This afternoon, I spent a whole dollar on buying a new guitar pick - because I have been less than wholly satisfied with using standard picks. I decided to try a shark's fin pick, as they're called. I'm kind of in love with it - it feels better, and I find it esaier to get the sounds I want out of the strings with it. The one I have is a fairly heavy gauge, so I kind of want to try out some thinner ones at some point, but at the same time... I'm distrustful of soft picks. I'm not sure how to keep them from clicking on the strings. (One of the things I'm loving about my slightly stiffer, differently shaped fin pick is that I find it easier to keep it from clicking on the strings than standard picks.)

It's a conundrum.
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The ocean is a desert with its life underground and a perfect disguise above Apr. 18th, 2009 @ 08:37 am
So, it occurred to me, when it came up on my song shuffle, that Horse With No Name (America) has to be just about the easiest song in the world to play on guitar. So I googled some chording for it. I found this, and I'm glad I did, because it gives chords, but it also has an extended music-theory discussion of the chord that isn't E minor.

Horse With No Name only has two chords. I knew this. I didn't realise that the second chord is a crazy chord. (Not in fingering - for fingering, it's simple. It's just... crazy.) The guy on this site has dubbed it Dadd6add9, but:

If I really wanted to, I could call this an F#dim7 (add6). Or even F#m7 (no 5)(add 4)(add 6). But there is a lot to be said for simplicity when trying to write something out. As I mentioned earlier, people can (and do) argue about this sort of thing for ages.


The chord itself: Second fret, third and sixth strings, all other strings open, go.

Current Mood: hungry
Current Music: Right Said Fred - Love For All Seasons
Current Location: sitting on my bed
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I need a guitar icon. Until then, the keyword and text on this one will have to do Apr. 17th, 2009 @ 08:19 pm
So, as it turns out, the string buzz problem on my guitar was caused by the neck having relaxed too much - the strings were sitting too close to the frets. I now know how to adjust a truss rod, and my guitar is now playable without string buzz.

Of course, Learn By Doing being something that includes Learn By Making Mistakes (something my psychologist is trying to get me to embrace), I snapped the third string trying to get at the damn truss rod nut, but fortunately, the third string is not one I had previously broken. First and third strings have now been snapped, and the spare fourth string is on the guitar because I tried seeing if the string itself was causing the buzz; I'm not sure how difficult the old fourth string, which I still have, will be to restring if I need it, but hopefully other spare strings will be needed first.

Of course, I'm kind of hoping to slow my rate of string destruction now that I know what I'm doing with a) tuning (cause of first string snappage) and b) truss rod adjustment (cause of third). And hopefully my truss rod won't need adjustment again any time soon, it's a moderately aggravating process and I hate hate hate trying to get my guitar back to tune from way out. Because the digital tuner doesn't work unless the string is reasonably near, and I can't use a pitch pipe for toffee.

I swear I've tried, but it just... The sounds are too dissimilar, or something. And the pitch pipes are always sound like a different note to me, even if it's supposed to be, say, E, and... no. I can't make any kind of connection between the sounds that tells me what I need to be doing.

Today's method: Listen to a recording of an in-tune low E from my laptop's not-very good speakers, and then tune my guitar's low E until the note sounded approximately the same. From there, use digital tuner, then tune by frets for the rest of the guitar.

The hilarious part: I did this before I'd actually replaced the third string, because I needed Chas to find out where my spare strings were and get them for me, because I don't know where they're currently kept. Which meant tuning the second string from the ninth fret of the fourth string. Except I forgot that the fourth-fret exception on third-to-second would carry over to tuning from the fourth string, and was trying to do it from the tenth fret, but I still did at least get it into the digital tuner's range. Then I realised where I'd being going wrong and facepalmed.

I am working on training my ear, but I still use the digital tuner to verify my tuning, because that way, I'm not getting myself accustomed to hearing sour notes and off-tune chords while I'm learning.

I also, today, acquired an anthology of Queen sheet music. This is very pleasing to me.

Current Mood: accomplished
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I have a GUITAR! (The icon is for my first string.) Apr. 1st, 2009 @ 06:41 pm
Sooo, this morning my guitar arrived. (Was coming via post, because I got it from the internet.) It is awesome and beautiful, but I've already had to replace the first string because I broke it.

See, the digital tuner doesn't work very well if the string is waaaay out. And by very well I mean "pretty much at all". It works great if you've got the string somewhere in the vicinity of right, but not if, for example, you have a brand new guitar with all the strings WAY out of tune.

With the help of the internet (finding a site with mp3s of the correct notes), I got the sixth string into rough tune, then correct tune via digital tuner, and then was able to tune subsequent strings to the previous one. Which was awesome. Of course, by the time I got the first string tuned correctly, the sixth was starting to go out, because brand new strings are like that. I am resisting the urge to spend the whole evening tuning my guitar.
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