Thursday, December 10, 2009

Transcription Milestone 2: Originals and Classical Pieces Done

Posting will continue to be infrequent as I complete the monumental task of transcribing my entire set into Encore, plus it's the Christmas season, so I'm distracted by such things as making peanut brittle with my mom (Mmmmm!). That's what we did today - for the second time this week - and I know everybody says this, but mom's peanut brittle is the best in the world. The recipe is about 100 years old, and you have to get it to 290 degrees so it comes out light, super-crunchy, and the peanuts are deeply browned. Nothing like it, I swear... um, this is a music blog. Alrighty then.

I have now completed two versions - urtext notation only, and right/left hand fingerings - for all of my originals plus all of the standard repertoire classical pieces in my set. That's 112 Encore files in that folder now, and yes, I'm backing it up to every computer and external storage device I have at every step.

Now I'm getting to the, "fun part" as I start in on all of the contemporary crowd pleaser arrangements I play. This will also be the most labor intensive, as some of those arrangements exist only in my head, and ALL of them have evolved since I originally learned them. Not only that, but the sources are scattered all over the place in anthologies, compilations, PDF files, and even a Guitar Pro file (I had to get Guitar Pro 5 just to be able to open that file again!).

This really is the best idea I've ever come up with to improve my playing and memorization, since I am inscribing in granite every little detail about the technical execution of each piece, and I am now using visual reenforcement of my memory when I practice, which makes all the difference in the world now that my set is at about 70 pieces.

While I was at it, I decided to go ahead and enter all of the pieces on my to-do list as well, and so I'll be able to learn new pieces faster and better now to boot. part of me wishes I had gotten this idea a couple of years ago, but another part realizes that I just wasn't ready to do it until now: I didn't have all of the pieces together, I hadn't made all of the mental conceptualization connections... and I hadn't reached the proper frustration level either. LOL!

Speaking of getting all of the material together, after five years of searching, I have at last found the final contemporary crowd pleaser piece so that I have at least one of them in every suite in my set from A minor to A major (Progressing through the cycle of thirds, A minor, C major, E minor, G major, &c.): Theme from M*A*S*H/Suicide is Painless. There are a gazillion versions of it in A minor for solo guitar, but the original Movie and TV themes - there's the film version with lyrics, plus a couple of instrumental versions from the TV show - are all in B minor, which is a very rare key for popular music. After searching for five years, trust me on this.

Well, I was looking at YouTube videos last week, and found a guy who had done a pretty good version in B minor, and he even sells the transcription.

So, I bought it. Of course, I'll just end up using this as a point of departure, but truly, I won't have to change much because it's so excellently done. Just a couple of places where he strums the chord hits I'll probably arpeggiate and I'll probably lengthen it as well. Isn't it cool how it ends up going to the highest note on the classical guitar - the 19th fret B - at the climax? There are so many guitar abominations on YouTube that it's nice to come across cool stuff.

Here's the next piece on my to-do list when this transcription project is over - I fraking love this! - the theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

I got this transcription too - note: it's in handwritten TAB, so you'll have to "transcribe the transcription" if you get it - as I like to put humor into my set, and this piece just tickles the heck out of me.

And now for another segue: Guys who sell their transcriptions like the two above have given me the idea to do something similar, since I will have a TON of them when this project is over with, but the charitable, wizened old musician in me wants to do it a bit differently, because I know just how ridiculous money problems are for musicians. The idea of trying to make money off of musicians who can't afford it rubs me the wrong way, to be honest, and I like to take the "cast your bread upon the waters, and after many days it shall return to you" approach with my teaching. That is almost the entire point of MMM!

So, here's what I've come up with: I'm going to do an epic series of posts next year called, "Ultimate Guitar Arrangements." I have the blog template field set to 700 pixels in width, so poor student musicians will just be able to drag and drop the JPG files of the music notation to their desktops, complete with all fingering indications, position markers, expressions, &c. I expect 99.9% of readers to do this, because musicians are poor... and people suck. LOL! I kid, I kid. I'm also going to post MIDI to M4A (AAC) files of each piece, so you'll be able to save those to put in your iPod or iTunes, or whatever. If, however, you want a PDF and a MIDI file to practice along with, or import into whatever notation program you use - or both - you can hit the DONATE button and send me a meager $1.50 US per piece with a note telling me which piece or pieces you want, and I'll email them to you, since PDF and MIDI files are manageably small. If, for some reason, you just want only the PDF or only the MIDI, just send $1.00 US. That might seem ridiculously cheap, but I want to make being honest easy. That way, when karma catches up to the deadbeats who could easily afford it, they won't have any excuses. ;^)

To get an idea of the level of detail I'm putting into these, here's a very familiar piece to classical guitarists, Bach's Sarabande in A Minor from the 3rd Lute Suite.

This is the second of three versions, so it has the right and left hand fingerings, but not the position indicators. You'll notice that I change meters, because I write out all of the fermatas: Computers can't interpret fermatas, so I write them out. Same with ornamentation; I want them written out exactly as I perform them, because I'm going to be practicing along with these MIDI files. You'll also note that I indicate virtually every right and left hand fingering. It may not make all that much difference in a little one-page miniature like this, but in more complex pieces where there is a lot of movement and rhythmic vitality, I want to be able to very slowly - in non-real time, if need be - work on the fingering choreography with the greatest detail possible. See why I'm calling these ultimate guitar arrangements? I don't think anyone has ever done a project like this before, and I certainly don't expect that anyone else would ever do something like this unless, like me, they did it for their own personal edification.

I've also developed a fingering indication philosophy by doing this project, which I'll talk more about in a later post. But now, I'm going to watch some new DVD's I got from Amazon tonight... and eat peanut brittle.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's cool and all and I'ma gonna let you finish but "define:virtuoso" is one the greatest topics of all time ;)

5:12 AM  
Blogger Hucbald said...

Ha! I agree, and am still working on it. One of the themes I've come up with is the difference between possessing virtuosity and being a virtuoso: The former is primarily a physical skill set, while the latter involves moral and spiritual elements.



10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You ever considered writing multi track guitar symphonies? I'd imagine a mind like yours could do wonders with 24 tracks of (electric? nylon?) guitar tones weaving in and out of each other. Easy enough to record these days.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Hucbald said...

Interesting that you should mention that, as my next big project is a guitar concerto. I have all of it mapped out and many of the ideas written down, but it hasn't reached the critical mass point yet. I plan to do the orchestration with a couple of Yamaha FS1R synths - I'm not going to try to make it sound like a real orchestra - and then record the guitar parts over it. I used to program Synclaviers in the 80's, so I'm comfortable doing it that way.



7:29 PM  

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