Mega-Project: Transcribing My Entire Set into Encore
Well, there aren't any books on how to do this, so I was on my own, which is fine by me. I knew I could figure it out by experimentation, and I had many years of playing under my belt previously, so I just went to it. The first thing I did was to re-memorize all of my own compositions for solo guitar, which number over 40 now, and while I was doing that, I broke the monotony by re-memorizing all of the classical standards I'd known previously. All I was doing was memorizing and playing the music, nothing else: No exercises, no scales, nothing.
I took my first gig exactly six months after I got started with the project, which was probably too soon, but it was a friend's art opening, so it was a zero-pressure first gig. A month later, I took my first restaurant background music gig, and did that for a few months and got comfortable in front of an audience again.
Then I got the idea to re-learn some more contemporary pieces that I used to play on steel string, as well as to make my own arrangements of other "crowd pleasers," to broaden my appeal and increase my marketability. Within two years after I started, I was getting into some complex syncopated stuff, so I realized I'd have to do more than just memorize and play the tunes, I'd have to practice them slowly with a metronome as well. That's when I first got back into some technical work.
I realized at that point that I'd learned too much music too fast, and in a haphazard manner, so I eventually had some memory failures and had to go back and re-learn sections. As my set got larger and larger, this started to happen more and more, and I was unable to memorize new pieces as fast as before. So, I started getting my practice routine more and more organized and efficient, and I also got to the point where I realized I needed some regular scale practice to improve my right hand accuracy for some pieces, so I added that in too.
Well, by the end of last year, when I moved, I had over 60 pieces memorized, so my pace was more than one per month, but I was constantly consulting many different sources - books, compilations, &c. - when I wanted to refresh my memory on some pieces. Then it hit me: I should put every piece in my set into Encore so that I have everything in my four computers - two laptops and two desktops - and can access them at any time whether I'm home or on the road.
Of course, as I got more and more into the contemporary crowd pleaser thing, I was putting my arrangements into Encore anyway, but when I actually looked at my set, I was amazed by how many of the pieces existed only in my memory: Stairway to Heaven, Classical Gas, Desert Song, and Spanish Fly. I actually learned Desert Song from an ASCII TAB I found online.
Needless to say, I can't do anything half way, and so I decided to make fresh copies of all of my own pieces as well. Some of those files date from the late 90's, and Encore has been through several major revisions since then, so some corruptions have crept into the files as the program's parameters have been redefined (Especially as regards to MIDI playback). By doing this from scratch - as a virtuoso Encore user now - I can finally get all of my music into a publishable form. I actually have some guitarist friends bugging me to do this now, so there you have it: I'm making fresh files of over 70 pieces of music.
I'm doing several stages of each as well: An Urtext version of the notation only, a second version with the notation and r/l hand fingerings, a third version that ads the position and string indications, and then a fourth and final version with expressions. This is a monumental task that will take months, but at the end of it I will have rebuilt my set from the beginning better than ever, and when I do metronome practice I'll be able to play along with the MIDI file. I actually exclaimed, "Woah!" when that realization hit me.
So, the technology that I've picked up gradually over the past years is now going to be completely involved in my new practice method, just as it has been in my composition method for many years. And, I might add, when I decided to master counterpoint back in 1986, it took me exactly seven years to get to what I considered a virtuoso level with it: I could compose a J.S. Bach Art of Fugue style piece by 1993. When I got to that point, by the way, was when I was using my first version of Encore. Well, I figure two more years and I'll consider myself a virtuoso performer as well. It's a good feeling, because I now know and have control of all of the elements I have to master to accomplish my original goal: To have 3.5 hours of music residing perfectly in my memory, and the ability to efficiently maintain that, and to be able to play it all with a solid level of technical mastery.
BTW: I've worn out my old Kensington Orbit Optical Trackball, and so I've had to replace it.
I've used trackballs exclusively since 1993, when I got my first version of Encore and was trying to enter notation with a mouse. Total insanity. I had an early Logitech then, and got an Orbit mechanical version when I switched to Macs, but this is the best trackball ever made for music notation entry. You don't need a dozen little buttons, just two big ones, and it fits my hand perfectly. Plus, the optical tracking with the Mouseworks utility software is adjustable to an amazing level of fineness, all very intuitively. The old one on the left lasted about four years. You can see that the paint has been worn off by my fingers! Eventually, the clicking got spotty, so it had to go. Not bad for a device that costs less than $25.00! yes, I've tried more expensive ones. They suck because there are too many buttons and they are too small. This is the most perfect trackball ever made, IMO.
As of now, I've completed the Urtext and Fingering versions for 31 pieces, so I'm ripping through it, but after I have all of the first two versions in for all of the pieces, I'll go back and do the final two versions for each piece. What I'm doing is, I'm reading the music as I practice for the completed pieces as I go through my four-day practice routine, and each time through I'm adding the new ones I complete. I really only need the fingerings, so that's why I'm not worrying about the position and string indicators or the expressions at this time. Of course, I'm also catching and correcting errors. I found a notation error in a fifteen year old piece the other day! Fingering errors I can understand, but how that wrong note survived for so long is beyond me. By the time I get the music entered, I will have re-memorized my entire set. Tres cool, non?
One of the readers I communicalte with via email set me a missive the other day with the title, define: virtuoso. That's what I'm working on for my next post.