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January 23, 2009

Rockschool Week 12

The heat is on!

Last week we were asked to have a crack at one of the songs in the Rockschool course guide. There are various options for the exam at the end of the year, but as a minimum you need to learn 3 pieces. If you don't want to do the technical exercises (which aren't that tricky) then you can skip them and prepare 2 additional songs.

We're kind of studying in pairs and at the end of the previous session my study partner and I decided to have a go at "All Funked Up". Being away for the weekend then at a play on Tuesday night meant that I didn't have much chance to learn it. I probably spent a total of 3 hours with the song, a large proportion of which was spent trying to get a particularly nasty chord change down. More of that later.

Little did I know that we'd have to actually perform the pieces last night, albeit with the rider that we were expected and even encouraged to make lots of mistakes, but we had to keep playing until the end of the backing track. Clever... very clever... getting us used to the idea that during any 'real' performance you cannot under any circumstance stop.

Anywho, we performed and it wasn't too bad at all. It's surprising how things can come together when the pressure's on. I'd only actually tried to learn the first third of the song because of an issue I was having at the end of the intro. I had to wing it, sight-reading, for the rest of the song.

Okay, so the issue was that in the intro there are 3 rounds of a phrase, followed by a 4th with a modified ending. The tab for the modified ending looks like this:

e ----------------4--4------9---9---9----
B ---9--9--9------5--5------9---9---9----
G ---9--9--9------3--3------10--10--10---
D ---8--8--8------4--4------9---9---9----
A ---9--9--9-----------------------------
E ---------------------------------------

So basically, you're supposed to jam on an F#m9 around the 9th fret then drop down so that the root's on the D-string, though the actual notes you play are identical... IDENTICAL! No octave changes or anything. Same notes, different chord shape.

I tried everything to try and get that change smooth and timely and just about got there by making sure that I kept my pinkie on the B string as I changed position, using it as a reference for the other fingers to play musical chairs around. After an hour or so just practicing that chord change I had to take a break, vowing to come back to it at a later date.

In class we asked Teach how we should be aiming to make the change smoothly. He took one look at the tab and announced that it was clearly a mistake, that there was no reason to change position when you're playing the exact same chord (unless you're a masochist). He suggested that perhaps whoever had written out the notation had used something like Sibelius and that the program had simply selected the wrong fingering for the tab. D'Oh. Once that stumbling block had been removed everything started to get a lot clearer!

The proper way to play it would then be:

e --------------------------9---9---9----
B ---9--9--9------9--9------9---9---9----
G ---9--9--9------9--9------10--10--10---
D ---8--8--8------8--8------9---9---9----
A ---9--9--9------9--9-------------------
E ---------------------------------------

...which makes much more sense!

For next week we have to work on the same song and also have a look at another. We've chosen the blues-rock track "X Blues III". I have a feeling we may also try "Sidewinder" which is very Metallica-ish.

It's funny, but when I first listened to the Grade 5 CD the idea of learning any of the tracks was really daunting. Having spent a little time with "All Funked Up" I'm feeling much more confident about things. It's going to be a challenge, but I no longer thing it's impossible!!!!

In other news, in my ongoing 'search for simplicity' (and to raise funds for my new amp... whatever that might be) I've been having a clear-out of old and unused items. One such item was a Tascam MP-GT1 guitar trainer, which sold so quickly on eBay through 'Buy It Now' that I actually wondered whether there had been some problem with the listing! The guitar trainer was a 'good idea' purchase as you could use it to store songs and slow them down, jam along through the inbuilt amp etc... the problem was that I simply didn't use it. The main stumbling block was that you have to actually rip songs you liked as mp3s then upload them to the device, charge it, blah-blah-blah. Guitarists (me particularly) are lazy. If it's not right there, ready to work for you, you don't use it. I think that's why most people who have the room usually end up building their own home studios with everything at your fingertips, ready to go at a moment's notice...

Mmmm... home studio... mmmm...

Any road up, I'm on my way to raising funds for the new amp through recycling! How green am I?


Furtheron said...

Good one on the tab - although if those are exam pieces you'd have expected a bit better proof reading / QC before they were printed.

Maybe you should try to just read the music - they can't argue then.... :-)

I'll admit I'm lazy and default to tab - but then I sometimes think about it and relearn something with a more friendly fingering for me. Like a Bach piece I play, I reworked several bits of that from the original tab but entirely faithful to the music as I seemed to be up and down the fretboard like a loony

Istvanski said...

And good luck if you ever go down the home recording road. Get yourself a fatman compressor, you won't regret it.

Kenski said...

It was funny, actually, we thought that the tab'd be perfect, but then after seeing that one we noticed that in another location the standard notation showed one less note than the tab! Quality control? Pah!

I'd love to go down the route of having a home studio... but right now we literally have a one room place (bathroom excluded!). It's a big room, but not really useable as a studio...