Rocksmith – Learning to play Guitar.

24 03 2016

Late last year I finally did what I had been thinking of doing, for years, but had not, because it seemed silly or superfluous, I didn’t have the cash for it either, so why would I buy something I would probably never use properly?

I bought a Hagstrom Viking P, Electro-Acoustic Guitar, Cherry red.

I’d been talking about it for quite some time, with friends who had either sold guitars earlier in their life, or had played them once, or were playing them now as part of their job description.

I’d started looking around, I didn’t know what I wanted or at least knew that Fenders and Gibsons were way out of reach, as they sold for over $3000.

Knowing next to nothing about Guitars, I thought “Well I want something that looks like a proper electric guitar” found one through Google images, and then sorted through YouTube for a review.

I found Mike Bradley’s review to be very helpful, He said that while it wasn’t a Gibson, that is was almost as good, and a great bang for your buck, as it was a lot cheaper.

Based on that, I bought one, though that was another story, it was difficult, Hagstrom had no retailer in Australia and having it shipped here by anyone, was near to impossible.

Two weeks later I was talking about the Guitar on Facebook, and a friend mentioned Rocksmith, He said that it was a game that taught you how to play the guitar.

Apparently it was like Guitar Hero, which I had dismissed based on the idea that someone had spent their time learning how to play a thing that is a toy, when they could have spent the same amount of energy learning to play a real instrument.

I looked up Rocksmith on YouTube to see what it was, and it seemed to be just what I wanted.

I have particular difficulties getting out and about, so going to a teacher once a week was out of the question, If I could buy this and learn at home, then it might just do the trick.

There were a set of videos that Rocksmith had uploaded about a 60 day challenge, and while that did get me in, the problem with that idea is that if you’re not progressing as the ads suggest, you can end up feeling quite upset with yourself, and I did.

Rocksmith shouldn’t be taken as the ultimate teacher, it simply gets you started, and it’s quite effective there, I did end up playing the guitar for the full 60 days, with a slight drop off at the end because I got discouraged.

It reminds me of the Suzuki method of violin playing, where you are encouraged to play the instrument even if you sound terrible at first… you will improve later on.

I don’t want to be too hard on Rocksmith, most of the problems lay with me rather than the software, you may or may not be like me, and may or may not experience the same problems.

Once loaded up, I was confronted by a list of songs… many of which I didn’t know.

Many seemed to be of the Metal, Indi Rock variety… a genre that didn’t appeal to me in the least, but there were a few (very few) gems in there, and although extras could be downloaded later, there wasn’t much there either.

If you’re a Country fan or a Reggae fan there is nothing there for you at all.

The kind of music I like the most is radio friendly rock, I listen to a 70s – 80s rock station called Gold 104 at home, and while they play a nice range of hits, there’s a lot of stuff that I like that they don’t play.

I grew up at a time when there was a lot of synth pop around, and that is my genre.

Still, there was enough there to get me started, I did enjoy playing Bon Jovi and Def Leppard.

Rocksmith, for those who haven’t seen it, reminds me of an old pianola piano, which are self playing. rather than displaying a bunch of notes, it shows you where your fingers should be going, and this method really does work.

You select a song from a list, the guide scrolls towards you and you play along, and that’s basically it.

After a few months of playing, I found myself listening to songs on the radio and feeling that I knew where the guitarist was playing, as a result my air guitar improved no end.

The only hurdle I hit was that my brain is too slow, or I imagine it is, I can’t shred, and I can’t work out chords… but I can play with one finger.

I cannot physically spread my fingers to play a chord and while people have provided solutions, I know my limits and I cannot progress past it.

A friend suggested playing Bass instead, as there are fewer, if any chords.

But I didn’t want to shell out for another instrument.

Then he said that Rocksmith alters the sound of your guitar for you and lets you pretend that you have a bass guitar.

Well I’ve been trying that, and while not the path I originally wanted to take, I’ve been a lot more successful, and happier.

I recently scored 100% on “Pour Some Sugar On Me” which is a fairly easy tune, but still, considering that a few months ago I knew nothing about guitars, this is quite something.

A while back I felt quite defeated and wanted to give up, and I blame the ads which promised something worthwhile in 60 days… I did initially feel I was heading there, but when the chords started showing up, I hit a brick wall faster than a crash test dummy.

I gave up for weeks, but have now come back, not to beat myself up over my inability, but to give myself a break from social media.

It’s just a toy for me now, but it’s a nice toy to have.

There are people who are using tutorials on YouTube along side Rocksmith, and are going a lot further than I ever will, but it’s just a pastime for me.

For those of you who wanted to play guitar, even a little, Rocksmith will get you there.

Wolfie Rankin

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A Money-less Society

8 03 2016

I’ve been thinking of this for a while, and have finally thought I’d sit down and write it out for your entertainment.

The first part of this post might sound as though I’m talking about popular science fiction, although that’s not what it’s about, but I’m going to raise sci-fi for a moment, as a guide.

Star Trek was one of the few stories about the future which seemed to have got a few things right, communicators in the show became real life flip phones, and The Enterprise had a multi-cultural crew, which was a remarkable idea at the time.

2001 A Space Odyssey had crew using something like iPads too.

But it’s the money-less society that has me thinking, could we ever get to a point where we had a world where money wasn’t used, and somehow everything is for free?

Well I began thinking about what money is, and most of us think that it’s an enabler, it allows us to pay for things we need.

But what if it’s actually a brake, in that it stops you from over consumption?

So when you go to the supermarket, rather than putting ninety frozen pizzas in your trolley, you buy two… because that’s all you really need, and it’s all you can afford anyway.

But it also limits your medicine, your education, your communication with others. Money causes constant worry, people worry about taxes and jobs.

Not to mention that people who destroy the planet often have more money they need, while those trying to preserve it are always begging for funding.

So consider now that there was some sort of public uprising, people were sick of money limiting their abilities and policies were changed, and somehow, money was abolished.

I think, mostly because people are greedy little shits, that on the day when everything became free, there would be people buying eighty tv sets to put in every room that they could, including five in the lavatory.

But, eventually, if this hadn’t killed the planet via over-consumption, there would come a time when people realised that there was no keeping up with the Joneses anymore, that everyone was equal, and could have whatever they required… and suddenly things would have far less value than they did previously.

Jobs would change, any business worthy of our time would survive, these would be jobs that we’d enjoy doing, while jobs which felt like a hard slog for nothing, would die off.

Working, would be the economy… or providing a service to others, in whatever small way we could. Many of us who don’t have an official job, do work in small ways which are not considered work by our standards.

Products would simply go where needed, it seems laughable now, but in that type of economy it would work.

I do your hair, you do my teeth, I wear your clothes, I produce books, you design my home… not directly, indirectly through the community, and I think it would work.

You might think this is silly, but the economy as it is now, if far more destructive to our health and our planet than this idea would be.

Wolfie Rankin

 





Feeling Low

5 03 2016

I had struck up a conversation via YouTube comments about David Bowie.
A Woman in England, who was still upset over losing him.

I’m at a loss to explain it.

Grief is a weird thing, if writing about it or watching characters on TV dealing with it, it’s usually described as collapsing and crying.

But it’s not always like that.

As disease worsened in my dogs, I cried a lot, and more so after their loss.

With my Dad, who had prostate cancer which had spread, I cried mostly before he died, and simply felt numb afterwards.

With Mum, who I was closest to, I couldn’t feel anything much, I still haven’t let the grief out, I think it’s too big for me to grasp.

When it was my Sister, I think I simply felt exhausted.

I had felt things for people I didn’t know, but meant something to me, you might think I’ve been here before, grieving for musicians, but no.

John Candy, I grieved for him, because he was a comedian I loved, and yet there have been others, and there was no special feelings for those.

If it happens to Billy Connolly I’m going to take it pretty hard.

But this singer, Bowie, What was it about him that when he left I felt this enormous hole?

I wasn’t that big a fan of his, which might seem an odd statement from someone who claimed to be “haunted” by him (when alive).

I’ve told friends that unintended Bowie related things just sort of popped up in my life, as though a director was hiding easter eggs in their movie for fans to find, frame by frame once the DVD came out.

I wonder how many I haven’t noticed?

And I started collecting records again, and suddenly I have all this Bowie stuff, it wasn’t planned, it just sort of happened.

This Woman in England, who I hadn’t met before, describing the same kind of grief that we’d all felt recently, and many of us are still feeling.

That amazing tribute by Lorde was another trigger.

Life on Mars, what a bizarre song, it’s complete nonsense, and yet instead us mocking it, it elicits this emotion. I think I’ve worked it out. When you’re dreaming, daft things make perfect sense. While in the waking world the dream is laughed off as illogical. I think the song tapped into that vibe.

And Blackstar turning up at my home that morning, it could have been delayed or earlier, but it had to come that day.

I often think I dwell too much on grief, I’ve had my fill of it and would much rather be happy, perhaps I’ve just reached that age where people drop off the perch, it’s expected though unwanted.

I’m only trying to understand.





Denial of Service

29 02 2016

About a week ago, I woke up and did my usual routine which includes breakfast and checking social media, which is something we do a lot of these days, often with the former being skipped.

I read messages that people had left me on Twitter as I slept, mostly responses to things I had posted the night before.

Then I went on to reading Facebook, except I couldn’t.

Instead of seeing my usual timeline, I had been greeted with a banner which suggested that I have apparently posted “underage nudity”, and had been blocked for 72 hours.

Now while I have been known for posting some outrageous items, underage nudity is not within my range of interests, so after reading the banner I had wondered what might have set things off.

Nudity itself doesn’t bother me at all, as far as I can tell, we all have bodies. Guns bother me a lot more than nudity ever will. and also the fact that gay people can’t marry in Australia, The TPP, War, Religious nutcases and people who shoot animals because they lack a decent sized cock.

I’m a (left-leaning) activist at heart, and I suppose that posting a story on something I detest causes certain heartless Facebook users quite a lot of angst.

And somewhere along the line, someone has worked out that they can “game” Facebook.

If you cheese someone off, there’s nothing stopping them from reporting your photo as underage nudity, even if it is just a photo of a three day old kitten.

The system seems to be automated, and once you’re reported, you’re done for three days.

And worse, how many further reports and suspensions will have your page removed permanently?

Nobody seems to check to see if you had actually posted anything offensive, the system simply trusts that you had.

But surely you can get in touch with Facebook and report this?

Well no, you can’t. If You’ve ever tried to contact Facebook, you’ll find┬áthat it’s an almost impossible task, can any other company do as well as Facebook without active customer service?

There is also no indication of which post was the culprit, not that any were offensive and certainly none would fall under the description of “underage nudity”.

Last week the suspension was lifted, but early Friday morning, it happened a second time.

All it amounts to is a denial of service attack by, most likely, someone who doesn’t support my views, and rather than dispute me directly, would rather act in a cowardly fashion.

The only hint I have of anyone feeling grumpy with my posts, is one comment about my banner image being offensive. It’s a poster of a cartoon wolf holding a microphone… He has pants on.

When I went to the person’s page, there was nothing there, no title, banner or anything.

Wolfie Rankin.

* Not that it stopped me, multiple accounts are definitely the way to go.

 

 





Second star on the right

28 02 2016

Lay down in the back yard at night and look up at the sky, find the faintest star that you can see.

Ponder on the thought that there’s a Planet circling it, a good sized Planet, with an atmosphere sitting right in “The Goldilocks Zone” where it’s not too hot, nor too cold.

And there are Aliens, keeping in mind that We are Aliens to them too.

Perhaps they aren’t ugly to us, like they often are in movies, perhaps they’re beautiful, but even if they’re not, maybe they’re not horrible inside like Humans often are.

Perhaps they have families, and the same sorts of problems and frustrations that we have.

Their technology might be better, or worse, it doesn’t really matter.

There’s one Alien, Let’s call him Fred, They might have Freds, Who knows.

Fred is a kind hearted, soft spoken person who’s having a rough time. His mate isn’t well, Her health has been up and down recently. Let’s call her Mabel, Mabel is the Mother of two kids, and one only recently started going to their version of School. Like all Mothers, Mabel had to cope with that and her problematic health.

But She’ll be ok, really, Fortunately their medicine is the best, it’s just that Mabel has something that isn’t seen that much, it’s curable.

And her Child, Ben, Will love School, and meet someone who will be a lifelong friend of his on his very first day.

Unlike us, they have multiple sentient species, who mostly speak the same language, and get on well with each other. They would find our hatred of another skin colour or sex very strange.

If they knew you or I, they would invite us to their home and offer us food and drink which would be something like what we have here, and the flavours would be amazing… sometimes the taste may not agree with us, but Fred and Mabel won’t hold it against us.

Fred and Mabel, and their Children could be our dearest friends.

They would send us cards during holidays, or send us photos of places they’ve been. We would send them gifts at Christmas and phone them now and then for a nice long chat.

Except we can’t.

Fred and Mabel live so far away that we could never know them, even if we wanted to.

Science has told us how vast space is, but even science doesn’t know what’s way out there, perhaps we only know a grain of sand, when there’s an entire beach.

Fred and Mabel are out there somewhere, it’s mathematically implausible that they’re not.

I think of my versions of Fred and Mabel quite often, and my heart aches for them.

 

Wolfie Rankin.

 

 






Tribute

26 02 2016

It’s late here, and I have rested and got up to eat when I probably should have fallen asleep for the night.

A thought has been popping up now and then, and I had considered writing about it, but had just been letting it go, as late as it is, I think I should type it out.

When David Bowie died, quite a few people rushed to pay tribute, most notably Nile Rodgers and Lady Gaga at the recent Grammy’s and Lorde with Bowie’s Band at The Brit Awards.

Some heaped scorn on one, and praised the other.

I have a story.

My Sister, Janice (No, it’s not pronounced like that), Was, unlike Me, The traditional sort.

I love my Sister, never “loved”, She’s not with us now, She died of ovarian cancer in 2010.

But she was so traditional, and patriotic, She was a bit like Margaret Hoolihan from M*A*S*H, Say the wrong thing and there’d be a scream, and on another level she was Mrs Bucket (Boo-kay) from Keeping up appearances.

She loved bagpipe music, and she kept her house spotless… totally spotless, and her eyes would travel around the house here, looking at the great piles of dust or dishes or what have you.

Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t totally hopeless, we laughed a lot and in many ways she was a lovely person, she just had her… things.

When she died, I was sitting behind her Grand Daughter at Jan’s funeral

 

 

who had asked to play a song for her, and when I heard it, I was a bit miffed. it was some teen pop idol from the noughties.

And while it wasn’t bad, it was totally unsuitable for my Sister, Speaking more about my Grand Niece.

It seemed like she hadn’t put much thought into it, but then she was only a kid, there was that.

But recently I wondered if they had listened to the song together. My Mother and I had listened to Pop music that I had bought into the home, she liked some of it, she loved a bit of it too.

The day before Mum died, she thanked me for bringing music into the home, and now I try to keep the music going, even if I don’t really feel like it, it helps me too.

Funerals are awkward things, we attend them with the best of intentions, but emotions rise from nowhere, and sometime cause regret.

There are the slips, the faux-pas, the feet sliding into mouths while some would like to slide theirs up the backsides of others.

It’s a delicate balancing act where everyone tells their side of the story, and it doesn’t always sit right with some.

I have come to a realisation which is to allow things to be at those moments, to be less critical, and to be patient with ourselves if our feelings lead us astray.

Everyone’s a critic when we hear music, watch a movie or read a book… and you might be silently critical of what you’re reading now, which is fine.

When a musician dies, other musicians will pay tribute by playing music, playing music is what musicians generally do best.

They know and understand that they are merely the imitator, and fervently wish they were in the audience watching the original artist or performing along side them.

They’re doing their best, and should they not live up to the standards of the original artist, we should not punish them for it.

Wolfie Rankin








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