Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

An evening with Mark Knopfler

Monday, June 1st, 2015 | Music, Reviews

Mark Knopfler is an amazing guitarist and it was his work shredding the licks in Dire Straits that inspired me to pick up the guitar. So I was quite excited when he announced he would be touring with his band, including a stop in Sheffield.

We were in Nottingham in the morning, and I had training, so we had to drive all the way back to Leeds and then drive right back down the M1 to the gig that evening. We did get lucky though – I assumed there would be a support band on, so I didn’t set off until 6:40. Turns out he did start at 7:30, but due to sheer luck we got straight down the motorway and into the car park, ending up right next to the entrance and got in just as the lights went down.

Critics might say that the two hours and fifteen minutes they played for was fifteen minutes short of The Who. Lazy even. But I was pretty happy with the length!

He played Sultans of Wing, Romeo & Juliet, Telegraph Road and So Far Away, as well as a load of new stuff. He actually has more new stuff that I have actually listened to, as I only recognised one or two of his solo tunes even though I thought I had listened to most of it. His new stuff is so-so. It’s good, but it’s little guitar riffs, and doesn’t show off his skills as much as when he does a full song like Sultans or Telegraph Road.

I have never seen someone change guitars as much a Mark. It’s odd because in Guitar Stories he said he got the Pentair made because he didn’t want the hassle of switching between his Strat and his Les Paul. Yet in the gig he switched guitars every song, and in many songs, in the middle of the song as well!

mark-knopfler-1 mark-knopfler-2 mark-knopfler-3 mark-knopfler-4

Sunday Assembly Leeds April 2015

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 | Humanism, Music

In March we totally rocked it with the first performance of the house band at Sunday Assembly Leeds. In April we strutted our stuff once again with an expanded line-up.

Bad Moon Rising was probably the most exciting for me as I was leading the vocals on that one. The other songs worked really well as well, though due to unfortunate camera placement, I’m mostly invisible in the other two.

Bad Moon Rising

The Monster Mash

The Time Warp

Cut Out Shapes at Wharf Chambers

Friday, May 1st, 2015 | Events, Music, Reviews

cut-out-shapes

Wharf Chambers is a new venue located where the Common Place used to be. It’s a members-only club, though membership is just £1 and we just went in. With a good reason of course, we were there for a gig. We got there just in time to see one of the warm-up bands, Secateurs.

They were very good. At first they were just irritatingly loud but as our ears adjusted I began to really enjoy their set.

Cut Out Shapes put on the usual high standard of performance, even doing an encore of a song they claimed they did not know how the play.

The new house band

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 | Humanism, Music, Video

As I mentioned recently we have been working on forming a live band for Sunday Assembly. We rolled it out at the March event.

Here are the videos:

Bill Withers – Lean On Me

Ben E. King – Stand By Me

The Beatles – With a Little Help From My Friends

There is a lot we can improve going forward. Having enough space so allow me to turn and face the audience for one thing! Looking a bit less sour-faced would be an improvement too, though in my defence, my current ulcer makes it very painful to smile. Alsol, a set of stage outfits in the style of Lordi or Kiss would definitely add a touch of class. As an opening gammit though, I think it went really well.

SAL band practice

Monday, March 30th, 2015 | Humanism, Music

Over at Sunday Assembly Leeds, we’re putting together a band. Actually, by the time this blog post is published, we will have hopefully already done our first gig. We ran our first practice session recently and things went rather well.

band-practice

I did not get any action shots but here is one after we had just finished.

Pedaltrain Jr review

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 | Music, Reviews

Recently I was looking for a pedal board and settled on the Pedaltrain Jr. If you are not familiar with a pedal board, it is exactly what it sounds like – a board that you put effects pedals on so that you can wire them in to your power supply and transport them around easier when you’re going to jam sessions, gigs, etc.

pedal-board

I went for the Pedaltrain Jr because everyone seems to be recommending. However, I have found the build quality rather poor.

power-sockets

It comes with two holes to connect the power cables through. However, the wholes are slightly too far apart. In the photo above, you can see that you can barely get the power cables through.

Of course you can argue that it is not their fault because my power supply is made by Voodoo Labs which is a separate company. However, the runners are another matter.

braces

You get two braces that you screw into the side of your power supply and then you screw those braces into the frame. However, they do not fit properly. This is Pedltrain’s own braces screwing into Pedaltrain’s own frame, there does not seem to be any reason why these would not fit without having to bang them into place.

velcro

Finally, after only a few days, the velcro has begun pealing off the top of the board.

Bird In Paradise

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 | Music

I was in a pub last week when I heard a song Snowy White – Bird In Paradise. Here it is:

If you are a Dire Straits fan, you might notice it sounds uncomfortably similar to Brothers in Arms:

Bird In Paradise came out in 1983, beating Brothers In Arms by two years.

Fender Telecaster

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 | Music

When I started the Rocksmith Challenge I put some money aside and told myself that if I reached the end of the challenge successfully, I could treat myself to a new guitar. The motivation worked well.

Having played a couple of guitars in the shop I spent a week thinking about it only to decide I was equally in love with the Stratocaster, Telecaster and Les Paul Junior. They are all super guitars. In the end though, I opted for the Telecaster. It looks beautiful and plays like a dream.

telecaster

It really is a nice step up from my Squier Stratocaster. That has been a great guitar too, and I intend to keep playing it. But the Telecaster is so much easier to play. Of course, I could have paid for setup on my Squier and it would have been probably a lot better, but also cost as much as the guitar.

Very happy with my choice so far.

Rocksmith in review

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 | Music, Reviews

Now that I have never to play Rocksmith again (I have been doing anyway, but I do not have to which is a big psychological difference), it is probably time to express my overall thoughts on the game. As Sherlock Holmes would suggest, it might be best to know the worst of each other and see if that is tolerable than being sold on the shiny veneer.

Here is what I found annoying:

Automatic difficulty
This is not perfect. Take American Idiot. I did it with the full chords and got 58% mastery. But then the next time I played it, it had downgraded me to single notes. Not even the two note in-between stage, just all the way down. I hit 95% accuracy, but only got 28% mastery. Why would it do this?

At the end of a song a voice tells you how you did. But it is a bit silly. For example, if you do something really easy it will say “brilliant performance” even though you have not improved your skill. Fine I guess, it was pretty accurate. But when the game makes it harder and your accuracy drops to 70%, even though you might move your mastery of the song up 10% it will still say something far less encouraging like “needs more practice”. Again, true, but you have just got to the higher difficultly, what does it expect?

Learning
The lessons are of very little use. They are just too difficult. I cannot do the riffs they introduce – even if it is about something else. For example it might be a hammer-on lesson, but you have to jump around the fret board at the same time. This would be fine except the game is throwing me this stuff in the songs, so I have to go look it up elsewhere.

It cannot tell you what you are doing wrong. Take bends for example. I almost always miss my bends (apparently). But I do not know what I am doing wrong. Too much? Too little? Wrong pattern? Wrong speed? Oddly, on some songs I get “miss” followed immediately by “late” and these only come up after I have finished playing my bend.

Documentation
The chord book included in game is not much use. Nine times of out ten, I cannot find the chord I am looking for. I am fairly sure it is not in there. Of course there are a huge variety of chords, but it is not difficult to include lots of them. If you can build an entire game, you can stick a few more chord diagrams in there – indeed they must be in the same somewhere.

Bugs
It crashes from time to time.

The recommended song list is strange. At first, once I played a song it would move down the queue and give me some different recommendations. Then, 45 days in, it started making me play a song twice before it would move it down the list. No indication as to why.

Also the R.E.M. song pack appeared in my list, even though I had not bought it. This could be a commercial feature rather than a bug, but it only appears randomly. One time I turn it on and they are there, the next time they are gone, the next time they are back, etc.

Conclusion
I would totally recommend Rocksmith. It has its problems, but there is nothing else out there like it to compare to so they might be really difficult issues to overcome. Ultimately, it kept me engaged for the whole two months. The hardest part of learning an instrument, indeed some research suggests the only part, is committing the time to learning. Rocksmith managed to get me to do that.

Guitar lessons

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 | Music

Recently I started guitar lessons in an attempt to improve the speed I am progressing at.

My teacher, Chris, who spookily has the exact same initials as me, was immediately able to start improving my playing. For example, I can now get to the end of Green Day’s Oh Love without my hand falling off in pain. That is nice.

Time will tell if it is worth the investment but after my first two lessons I am feeling reasonably positive.