Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - chip@chipmcdonald.com: August 2022

Monday, August 15, 2022

Yet Another Kit Guitar?

I've got a new guitar body on the way. ( no, it doesn't look like the picture below. Hopefully...)
I've got enough guitars. Maybe 10? Enough that I have to really think about it to know. The problem is: - most all of them are in various states of repair; - only one I would typify as a "light" guitar; - I've decided to consolidate as much as I can towards vintage Fender bridge string spacing. Lots of guitars laying around that don't work is a waste. They may as well not be in the same room as I am, taking up space (some are not...). They also don't fix themselves (usually). Don't do as I do. I need a "really light" guitar. I have had a guitar slung over my shoulder, or resting on my leg, for many hours a day, every day, for *decades*. This is probably not good for my health. I don't want to wait until I have a problem with my back, so I actually need a light guitar to use "most of the time". The only guitar I'd say is actually light is an '82 Japanese Fuji-Gen built Squier Stratocaster, which would be fine except it has small, worn frets. I may or may not eventually refret it; the problem is that it's value has gone from $200 when I bought it (the second time...) to close to or over $1,000. I've figured out I picked more consistently on Fender vintage spacing. Also that I prefer the sound of vintage Fender strat saddles. Which poses a problem since a lot of my quiver is based on Floyd Rose bridges. So I'm trying to recombine what I think is the best sounding neck I have with a vintage strat spaced bridge, on a hopefully very light basswood body. Which is another revelation: I'm quite sure I prefer basswood. Too long to go into, but if one isn't going to go the heavy/dense route, basswood has the liveliest resonance IMO - enough so that it translates to the saddles, an in turn the string.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it...

Monday, August 8, 2022

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning in Guitar Sims is NOT "Amp Moddeling"

Suddenly, across multiple musician-based forums, as well as social media I've seen people now acknowledging that, yes, machine learning is going to be the Next Big Thing in music. There is still much cognitive dissonance. I see people referencing the Kemper's process of using test tones as being related to "artificial intelligence" and "machine learning". I have also seen people reference circuit modeling as being the same, and again - it is not.
Having the word "Neural" in a companie's name also doesn't mean they're automatically doing something a.i./ML related. On the otherhand, I know that the company IK Multimedia IS claiming to be coming out with a machine learning based guitar sim system soon, that I eagerly await to see how it works. It's not the first ML based guitar sim. On github there are a few, but they're fairly basic (although very useable if one is technically savvy). IK Multimedia though, claims to have put together a package that allows the user to use their own gear (or others) to train the dataset. They also claim what amounts to a hard to believe quick time in doing it as well. Machine learning as a process is "sort of" a way to make the numbers of an input dataset be arranged so that they have characteristics of another dataset. This is commonly shown in visual examples, and sometimes in audio where a person is made to speak and sound like someone else. This is accomplished by "training" the ML process on a dataset of examples you want the output to resemble. This requires a LOT of computing horsepower; high end graphics video cards, and hours and hours at a minimum. The longer you let the process cogitate over the dataset, the better/more realistic the output. As well as how currated the training data is. IK Multimedia claims to have this down to 15 minutes. I'm fairly sure they're taking some shortcuts, and it will probably require the user to upload a dataset to a website, where they might have a "farm" of graphic cards to use to train the dataset. However, I'm also fairly sure it will probably create results that will get guitar simulation out of the proverbial Uncanny Valley. The question will be, will they be able to get this out to the public before some other upstart? I've experimented with PyTorch, and some of the ML things on GitHub but quickly realized I need the aforementioned graphics card - and a lot more time and patience with Java, Python to do what I think needs to be done. It wouldn't be much for most competent programmers to put together a ML based guitar sim package; but to make it work for everyone is the trick. I'm very curious to see what IK Multimedia has come up with...

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

10,000 Steps To Playing Guitar?

What's the most common thing a guitar teacher hears? "I didn't have time to practice this week". The 21st century puts everyone in a time crunch. I always recommend having a "sofa guitar" handy in the living room; you can pick it up in all of those liminal moments one encounters there, or even while casually watching something on tv. Learning to compartmentalize small snippets of things to practice, committed to muscle memory, opens the door for (dare I say it...) "mindless repetition" that can be very beneficial. But here's another thing: A lot of people prioritize "getting their 10,000 steps in". Which is sensible, your health is obviously important. A lot/many/most people walk to do it. What if I told you "you can get a strap for your acoustic and practice playing while you walk".......? No, it's not ideal. As a beginner it might seem very cumbersome at first, you will have to commit to having a low wrist and playing by feel instead of by sight. That's ok, even if you're making mistakes; even if you just hold one chord and strum, you're getting exercise in two different ways simultaneously! And you can practice strumming on beat with the cadence of your walk: "on beat" with each step, or a multiple/subdivision. Or other strategies I might suggest as the guitar teacher.... I'm also going to go out on a limb and say the 10,000 steps will go by faster as well! The distraction WILL make it seem less of a chore - for both the walking AND the "guitar practice". I can recommend certain specific things one could do, but as I said, just strumming a chord might be good enough for a lot of people. You're doing an isometric workout, holding the chord down, as well as rhythmic practice in strumming. The next level up would be to change open chords back and forth "blind", not looking down, not trying to look over the front of the neck to see where your fingers are. Keep it simple and basic. Yes, you may attract some attention in your neighborhood or walking path. But maybe that not a bad thing? And it's certainly not as "strange" as some jogging fads that have happened in the past! 10,000 Steps To Playing Guitar, try it...