Dino convinced me otherwise by bringing Guitar Hero 2 over last night. The Easy and even Normal modes looked like what I suspected - an oversimplification of what playing any instrument is - as holding down one note causes the guitar to magically generate a whole series of other notes - something no real instrument will ever do. Then I kicked it into Hard, and never went back - and not because it was necessarily easy, but because it was actually fairly realistic, based on the various string instruments that I've played. Key changes started to matter, and in a very realistic way.
In Expert mode it is clear that they consulted guitarists for this game, because certain key combinations did start to represent real chords and notes, and were consistent throughout the song. And yes, in Expert, you have to play every single note - and a combination of not really knowing the guitar solos in these songs that well and not having the instinct of which exact button goes with which note makes that very hard!
As we passed the guitar around and I got better through the night (managed to complete 2 songs in Expert without getting booed off the stage!) of course I start to wonder if I'm acquiring muscle memory on how to play a toy 5-button guitar. Last night I made the decision not to ever buy this game - I need to buy a real guitar if I really like this so much, and get one of those play-tracks or something to play along with. But then at work today I found myself singing those 2 songs I mastered last night and strumming with my right hand - this is an addicting game. Of course many instrumentalists will tell you once you learn a piece on one instrument you've already done most of the work in learning it for another. Violinists who have played the same piece on 1st and 2nd violin parts can definitely relate this.
Learning a piece should be more than just learning your notes, it's learning how the piece or the song goes. And I've certainly learned how the song goes by playing it in Guitar Hero, and I can play them on violin or mandolin for you right now. Yeah, I definitely have Surrender in my head.
So my conclusion is Guitar Hero has a lot of real musical value - it's a really fun and low-stress way of learning songs, and how to play rock music in general since a lot of patterns and chord progressions get repeated everywhere. I mean, I could sit there with a recording and listen carefully to the band play it and either learn the song or write out the chords and fill in the rest - but that is like, work!
And while a lot of songs have chords written out, the burden is on you to figure out the rhythms and strum patterns by listening to a recording - and I haven't played a strumming instrument for long enough for that to be completely natural yet. I'd rather be provided the rhythm and figure out the chords by listening - which is actually kind of what you're doing in Guitar Hero.
They also have 2-player mode where you plug in two guitars and one person plays bass. Yet another reason why I should pick up the next toy PS2 guitar I see in a store.
Maybe I'm trying to justify something silly - but the point is, it's fun, and I'm going to have to get that and Karaoke Revolution soon! (Wait - I have an idea, what if you combined the two...)
Sunday, 22nd of April, 2007
Saturday, 21st of April, 2007
It was also interesting driving by the places I used to live. Interestingly, both the house on Maud and Kinzer were for sale - and have been in neglect along with the other houses on the block for a while. You wouldn't want to live in those houses now primarily because you would have nothing but abandoned houses next to you. Driving out on 5th street I also discovered the new Black River "Coliseum" - a new sports stadium/facility/convention center.
Friday, 20th of April, 2007
Wednesday, 18th of April, 2007
The hall brings back all sorts of high school memories of YPSO. We even played excerpts of Carmina Barana in YPSO, if I remember correctly. I don't know if it's the large hall but the chorus seems smaller this year - which is not really a good thing for Carmina. We have a problem with the percussion and timpani being way too loud. First of all, if that can ever be a problem at all, it should be solved with increasing the size of the orchestra and chorus. But I'm definitely being an idealist here, and definitely biased. Hehehe.
Sunday, 15th of April, 2007
While Graham Chapel at Wash U is a horrible place to have a sing-a-long due to the acoustical delay, Rayburn Chapel was a perfect place to have a sing-a-long. Following what you hear actually works in an intimate place like that, and parts of that piece definitely had me buried in the music. There were particular choruses I have never sung before at the Wash U sing-a-long, like Surely He hath borne our griefs and Lift up your heads. In fact, this was a nice, comprehensive sing-a-long - we did Part 1 without skipping a movement all the way to Rejoice greatly. And of course we took advantage of having a trumpet player there, and did The trumpet shall sound in Part 3.
Saturday, 14th of April, 2007
Now I know a lot of us musicians like to laugh at Kimball as a piano company, since their main business is making furniture. In fact, they don't make pianos anymore, only furniture. Our particular Kimball seems like it could be from around the 1970s-1980s, and somehow it sounds significantly better than any other used console piano we've come across (we're ignoring that Steinway I saw @ the Yamaha gallery), and it even sounds better than those base model brand new console pianos shipped over from China.
I was kind of surprised, until a knowlegable person informed me that Kimball bought Bösendorfer in 1966. Bösendorfer, though not quite as famous as Steinway, is still one of the elite piano manufacturers and is the oldest company still making pianos today. They're probably best known now for having a couple crazy concert grand models that feature 92 and 97 keys. They also have always had available some extremely ornate pianos. While Kimball probably never outright shipped a Bosendorfer over to the US from Vienna and stuck a Kimball logo on it, one has to wonder if they learned a few things from their European friends. Bösendorfer is no longer part of Kimball as of 2001, by the way.
And perhaps there is some value to having knowledge of furniture when making pianos - even after moving it from South County in the sleet that we were getting this morning (yes, it was sleeting in the middle of April), it didn't get out of tune. I mean, it was never perfect at the previous owner's house (they haven't tuned it in 5 years), but I know I've got a durable piano when it has sat for 5 years, moved, and is still about as in tune as that Steinway concert grand at church, which I assume gets tuned regularly.
Thursday, 12th of April, 2007
The only blunder worth talking about is that we didn't set up a damper pedal for Katie. But she's such a great pianist, and compensated for it really nicely! Sorry Katie - I ran back to grab a piano bench when I saw it was missing, but didn't check to see if they set up the pedal!
Tuesday, 10th of April, 2007
Perhaps they're thinking the cars need a refresh - even before people get a chance to look at the '07s. Not that the Tribeca's odd front end is new - for 2008 we finally get something more conventional, though it joins the Forester in looking like a Ford SUV. While the Forester's last grille makes it look like an Explorer, the Tribeca is definitely looking like an Expedition to me. For more Ford references, take a look at the rear end of the 2008 Impreza sedan - a little bit of Ford Focus meets Korean compact car. The front end is pretty hip though - the 5-door especially looks like a combination of Honda compacts. Though I'll admit even the Legacy is not exempt - the rear end of that sedan reminds me of the Taurus.
Enough of the styling - it's what's inside that counts. The biggest shock here is that the Tribeca is getting a huge bump in displacement, from 3.0 to 3.6 litres. Though you'd think a car of that size would have no problem with a 3.6L engine, since it is based off of the Legacy platform they did have to get a little creative. In fact, the EZ30 3.0L engine really is the biggest engine they can get in there. They had to take the 3.0L engine's block dimensions and find the displacement a different way.
Their solution - an asymmetrical connecting-rod design, so that when the piston goes down (or, I guess, sideways towards the crankshaft) it travels farther towards the crankcase and you get more displacement. Of course, even after you engineer this to be strong enough to be a mass-produced consumer engine, the electronics must be a nightmare. Timing, dwell times, wow, forget any aftermarket turbocharging on this beast.
The average consumer won't care, though - this ought to help sell Tribecas. 3.0L was pretty puny for a 7-seater SUV - everyone else had at least 3.5L, even Suzuki. The small 3.0L V6 in the Ford Freestyle was a big contributor to that vehicle's failure too. (How is it that I've now mentioned Ford for the 4th time in a journal entry on Subaru?) Now that they've got their engine statistics up to par, with the high quality interior and AWD performance, you can begin to argue again that it's a decent and significantly cheaper alternative to a superior SUV, like the Acura MDX.
Monday, 9th of April, 2007
How I wish I was there the day that the Washington Post had Joshua Bell do that as an experiment. But they did it without telling anyone, of course, as part of the experiment, to see how many people passing by would recognize a good musician if they heard him, or a good piece when it is being played. Check the article out, if you're curious. As for me, I am now inspired to nail down the rest of the Chaconne, instead of quitting after the first 8 minutes. Maybe I'll try playing at a subway station.
Sunday, 8th of April, 2007
"...In those days, a Chicagoan always had a $20 bill paper-clipped to his drivers license. When an officer pulled somebody over for speeding, the driver handed the officer his drivers license, and the officer removed the $20 bill and handed it back. That was the system, and it worked. No lawyers, no court dates. A person just paid his fine on the spot. It was said that a cop who worked hard never had to cash a paycheck. He could support his family on those $20 bills.
Although most people approved of the system, there were occasional abuses. Shortly after my friends and I began driving, one of my friends was stopped at a red light when a cop pulled up behind us. The light turned green, and my friend slowly accelerated. The cop put on his flashers. Soon, he was standing at the driver's window.
"Didn't you see that red light?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," said my friend.
"You ran right through it," said the cop. "A youngster like you, I wonder what your folks are going to say."
We pooled our money and came up with about $15. The cop took it. So it always seems to happen. Discretion slides into abuse. Generally, though, the system worked.
One time, my father took us to visit somebody in LaGrange, a western suburb. He was pulled over for speeding. The cop asked for his drivers license and my father handed it over. The cop slowly turned it over and looked at the $20 bill.
"What's this for?" he asked my father.
"Buy yourself a drink," said my dad.
"I'm on duty," the cop said.
"Buy yourself a cup of coffee," said my dad.
The officer handed my father's drivers license back to him.
"I'm going to ask you for your license again," said the cop, "and if there is any money attached to it, I'm going to run you in for attempted bribery."
My father said not a word. He took the $20 bill off of his license, and then handed the license back to the cop. The cop wrote up a ticket and handed it to my father.
When we got home, Don came over. My father told him what had happened. My dad was livid. "He threatened to pinch me," my father said. "He was going to run me in, me, an honest citizen."
Don tried to calm him down. "You can't trust those suburban cops, Art. They're crooked. Everybody knows that."
We never went to LaGrange again.
It is with this kind of background that I view the scandal about the World Series tickets. Were the officers wrong? Yes. And while I am not outraged, I suspect my father and Don would be. After all, those tickets were worth a bundle, and the St. Louis cops gave them away. That sounds like something the LaGrange cops might have done."
Story sounds familiar, except I didn't hand the U City officer a $20 bill. I had to go to court and fight it and hand the court the $26 court fee instead.