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Musical Weekend - F*cking with Clusters

About Musical Weekend

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My Internet access is down, so I suppose I have nothing better to do than actually write this post.


Saturday, inferno0069 and I stopped to listen to several sets of street performers as we wandered through downtown Santa Cruz. Only counting the instruments that were being played (worn, carried, or even temporarily put aside didn't count), the final tally was:

16 + epsilon guitars
4 bongo drums, 1 set of drumsticks with a guitar case, and one drum kit with a suitcase as the bass drum.
3 mandolin-like instruments.
3 banjos
2 tambourines
1 flute
1 recorder
1 upright bass
1 accordion
1 set of maracas
1 violin
1 saxophone
1 trumpet
1 steel drum, playing the Godfather theme
And 1 bunny (doubled as head-wear)

The man with the bunny was singing that he had a rabbit on his head. I like songs that resonate with current events.

One of the bands was particularly interesting: they were a family who were playing on the sidewalk for charity. The band had an older man on the guitar, woman on the upright bass, and younger boys on the banjo and mandolin. They had a rustic, twangy sound and a whole lot of energy. The other more organized band ("The Pasties", from Washington) also featured a banjo player, but they had a much more poppy/indie sound. They get mad props for being a predominately male band with a female drummer and a pink drum kit :-) Also, I'm beginning to think that its hard to not look bad-ass playing a banjo.


In the evening, we saw Serj Tankian basically run through his new CD. The opener, Fair to Midland, was alright but not something I'm looking to hear more of. Serj was a lot of fun to watch. He has a very expressive face, and several of the the songs lend themselves to exaggerated expressions. The last song in the set was "Elect the Dead", a slow song I hadn't heard before and quite liked. Also, it made me happy that lighters far outnumbered cell phones in the audience.


In the morning, I went over to stalkingmsd's place for amazing crepes and Rock Band. Almost everyone wanted to sing! It was great! I finally got to try the drums, which were a lot of fun. C and I discussed how they could work a keyboard in a while ago. I think the trick is in fooling people into thinking that they're not reading music (music could probably be better coded anyway). Also, with a keyboard, some in-game skills could transfer to a real piano. I'm looking forward to more games like Guitar Rising coming out in the future as the industry realizes that people like learning from their games.


Current Location: Santa Cruz, CA
Current Music: Red Hot Chili Peppers -=- Dani California
take a penny
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From:garlikmongere
Date:March 10th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
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I agree that it'd be pretty awesome if the game skills translated to real instruments.

I think figuring out the rhythms would be easier if they actually did have music, or partial music (someway of marking whether a note is part of a triplet vs a 16th pickup). But that may just be me and my music background. As it is, I can't figure out anything offbeat in RockBand; I just randomly hit notes if its between lines, and hope that the fudge factor is enough for the game to think I'm right. For the singing portion, I'd probably even be willing to sing songs I don't know if they had a normal staff so I could tell what the interval jumps were supposed to be (as poor as my sight singing skills may be).
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From:ejwu
Date:March 10th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
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The background in rock band has bars that show where the beat is. Having extensive DDR experience almost certainly helps a lot in figuring this stuff out.
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From:ejwu
Date:March 10th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
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If you picked weekends where I wasn't deathly ill to play Rock Band I'd be a little more willing to sing. I've seen the keyboard bemani game before, and it translates pretty directly to one handed keyboard skills, although reading it is really confusing to me. Also, thinking back on it now, I can totally see how Guitar Hero and related games must really suck for people who actually play the guitar well. I'm pretty sure anything I could play on a keyboard bemani game I'd much rather just learn to play in real life. I really don't think there's much future in tightening the mapping between games and instruments - after all, playing instruments is hard. It took me a couple weeks to be able to play most of the guitar games on the hardest difficulty, but it would take me years to actually be able to do so in real life. There's a reason why we all suck at the drums.

Unrelatedly, IMing me at my work address at 6pm on Saturday is pretty much doomed to failure.
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From:avani
Date:March 10th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
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I really don't think there's much future in tightening the mapping between games and instruments - after all, playing instruments is hard. It took me a couple weeks to be able to play most of the guitar games on the hardest difficulty, but it would take me years to actually be able to do so in real life.

If you practiced the same amount, do you really think it would take that long to just get the correct notes and rhythm? Do you think you could pick up the hard songs so quickly if you hadn't put in all that time on GH1 and GH2 or even DDR? My intuition says that with the same practice/mini-reward system, instruments wouldn't be so hard to play correctly (you obviously can't use a game to teach someone to play pretty / stylistically).
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From:ejwu
Date:March 11th, 2008 12:16 am (UTC)
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I meant the first time I picked up a guitar game - obviously rock band is plenty easy after having gone through various guitar heroes. DDR certainly helped as well, just in the surprisingly nonintuitive ability to discern rhythm through vertically scrolling notes. The point I was trying to make is that there's a wide gap between guitar game skill and real guitar skill (and I'd argue also in the vocal games), and that gap is lessened significantly in the keyboard and drum implementations, and that's why the guitar games are more popular - it's easier to pretend you're a rock star in guitar games faster than in drum games. I've tried to play acoustic guitar in the past, and I'm horrendous at it. 6 strings + 24 frets + actually physically strumming the strings is a huge step up in terms of combinations and physical dexterity from 1 string, 5 frets, auto strum.
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From:bobbzman
Date:March 10th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
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I'd like to see a game make the jump to something close to sheet music notation, or at least have an option to use it. Scrolling colored dots are easier to explain to someone, but they lack clarity and actually make rhythms harder to follow.
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From:avani
Date:March 10th, 2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
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I would be interesting in exploring systems in between traditional encoding and the colored dots. Reading key signatures is scary for someone without musical experience. Trying to remember what all of the little symbols mean is also probably not easy. Like, I'm all for taking out rests given that you have the video display keeping tempo by moving the notes forward.
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From:amoken
Date:March 10th, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC)
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Tabs!!

That Guitar Rising thing sounds pretty sweet. When do they release Bass Rising?
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From:amoken
Date:March 11th, 2008 12:00 am (UTC)
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And actually, I'd be interested in a learning system crossed with a (preferably PC) video game, so that I could still score points, but minimally:
(1) it could show me both the "tabs" (or whatever simplified music notation it used) and the straight music notation. It might have different modes or levels where you play from the notation without the benefit of the tabs.
(2) it would give me summary feedback of more than just my overall score at the end, like % scores on rhythm, tones, tonal quality, etc. The number and complexity of items on this list might increase with the level in the game.
(3) optional: I would be able to add my own damn song packages to it. It's retarded to release a "new game" that's the same game with different songs. Someone still has to have both the song rights and the means to convert it to the right format, but it'll happen a lot faster that way, and the learning game software will be very popular once people find out they can get their five favorite songs, rather than 30 random tunes.
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From:ejwu
Date:March 11th, 2008 12:25 am (UTC)
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(2) is a feature on various music games, depending on what game it is. Guitar Hero breaks down score by sections, various singing games have score difficulty affect how close your tone and rhythm need to be, DDR obviously is very rhythm based. Sadly, tonal quality is not a requirement for any game yet, which leads to some pretty horrible singing being able to score well. I'm not absolutely sure on this, but I think it's a lot easier to automatically detect pitch and rhythm than it is to do any other sort of analysis on sound waves.

(3) is, as I understand it, pretty difficult to do. The DDR homebrew community does a lot of it, but most of it involves people manually writing out step charts. I know at least one guy was working on autogenerating step charts by analyzing music (I think the project is called Dancing Monkeys or some such), but from what I heard it was mediocre at best. It's possible it's made its way into one of the later DDR releases. The developers of Rock Band have made some noise about being able to generate levels from sound files, but it's apparently very difficult to automatically separate out vocal/guitar/bass/drum tracks and then generate charts for each one.
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From:amoken
Date:March 11th, 2008 01:17 am (UTC)
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I know these things can be hard, but I still want them. ;)

Measuring tonal quality against a sample wave form isn't too hard. The problem is fielding complaints from musicians with differently good waveforms. Hehe. Imagine Billy Corgan's singing score on a Sarah McLachlan tune. Or a heavily distorted guitar on a Flamenco tune.
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From:ejwu
Date:March 11th, 2008 03:00 am (UTC)
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Oddly enough, Serj Tankian has one of the songs (Beethoven's Cunt) on this week's Rock Band update. Can't say it excited me enough to pay for it, even if it is only a buck. If not for this post, I could say that I'd never heard of any of the groups in this week's content.
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From:avani
Date:March 11th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
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That's not one of the better songs on the album. It wouldn't surprise me if it's just in there for the title.
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From:csn
Date:April 4th, 2008 06:29 pm (UTC)
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"The man with the bunny was singing that he had a rabbit on his head. I like songs that resonate with current events."

Word.

I had a brief idea for some kind of map-app/website which would list all the regular street musicians in SF and where and when they play, sort of free publicity for the starving artist if you like, but I think that might take out a lot of the serendipity inherent to street performance.
(take a penny)
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