GuitarLog 1.11 released

June 17th, 2007

GuitarLog 1.11 has been released. The main reason for this release was to fix a bug with playback when a custom MIDI file is used for the backing track. Although the symptoms of this bug are varied (I received different reports with different details), the most common was that when the custom MIDI starts to playback, the recorded take would become muted.

Also, auto-update checking was added so you can stop manually visiting the download page 😉

General workflow and a few useful keyboard shortcuts

May 14th, 2007

I’ve split this post into two sections: one for intermediate to advanced players that know what’s going on with practicing and one for beginner players that might not know quite as much…

In future posts, I’m planning to outline some of the planned features to make this workflow even a bit more streamlined.

The Quick Version:

Once you set up your exercises (in the Exercise tab), create a new session (in Sessions) and add an exercise to it. For each iteration (aka: take) of practicing this exercise:

  • hit ‘n’ for ‘new take’
  • hit ‘return’ to stop the recording
  • hit number key 0-5 to rate it
  • repeat until the target is reached or problems develop

Through intelligent use of the auto-increment and auto-start options, you spend much more time focusing on performing the exercises at hand than twiddling with metronomes and writing notes. If you develop a very basic rating system for yourself, this can take on almost as much meaning as hand-written notes, but much more efficiently. Of course, notes are an option as well (for exercises or takes).

The Long and Detailed Version

GuitarLog was designed to help streamline the process of practicing guitar, help save time and help to maintain focus on practice materials. I’ve been playing guitar quite seriously now for about 20 years (of which I spent the first 3 practicing 6 hours or more a day), and I’ve noticed quite a few things about practice sessions that I believe are common to many players.

One of the things that I think creates inertia in a practice session is all the context changes that occur frequently: shuffling references books, changing metronome settings, taking notes about performance of exercises, etc. Some of these things (like taking notes) are something we should do at every practice, but sometimes don’t because of time constraints, because its not convenient (due to practice arrangement), or just because there is not a practice framework and filing system setup to support good practice habits.

The philosophy behind GuitarLog is that the practice environment should be split into two separate tasks: organizing and preparing practice materials and performing practice sessions. The tools used to accomplish this should be as supportive and transparent as possible for maximum effectiveness.

When setting up a new exercise definition (in the Exercises tab of the main window), all of the parameters that change rarely are set. Here we can set things like reference files (attachments), the BPM you’d like to start practicing this exercise, the BPM you are targeting, some personal notes, etc. You can also set two very important options that are essential to good practice workflow: Auto increment BPM and Auto-start new take.

I use these differently for new exercises I’ve recently memorized vs. exercises I’ve been practicing for a while and know cold.

For new exercises, I turn off both auto-start and auto-increment. This allows me to start a new take and practice along with the metronome a few times at a low BPM to work out the obvious problems with my playing. I usually don’t hit the record button until I’ve hit play and attempted the new exercise a few times. Once I can complete the exercise with a low BPM, I enable “auto-start new takes” and start recording takes. As long as a take is highlighted in the Session window, you can hit ‘n’ to create a new take. Since auto-start is turned on, the metronome will start counting and I wait for the 2nd bar to start playing the exercise. Hitting the return key will stop the recording and I either listen back to what I played (‘p’ key), or rate it right away (0-5).

I use ratings as a personal measure of how well I played that take overall:
0: I hardly use – if a take was so bad I don’t want to rate it, I delete it to reduce “noise”
1: Quite bad, but it shows that I was achieving something
2: I kind of kept up, but there were some serious flaws in technique or feel
3: It was an acceptable performance, and I might consider it to be acceptable in a live performance
4: I played well, but it was just short of excellent
5: I would feel good 5 years from now to hear this on tape!

I hit ‘n’ and play again. I repeat these steps (‘n’, ‘return’, ‘rating’) until I’ve got 3 or 4 takes at a rating of 3 or higher (4 or higher if I’m focusing on a particular exercise). Then I turn on auto-increment (usually set with an increment value of 6) and hit ‘n’ to start a new, faster BPM. Usually (for new exercises) I immediately toggle off the auto-increment after recording the new take to keep the BPM stable for a few takes. (enhancement note: I’m looking at viable ways to make these steps even smoother for new exercises. There are a couple of obvious keyboard shortcuts to exploit here!). I generally repeat this process until I feel more comfortable with this exercise.

For exercises that are more familiar, I usually start at a low BPM (between 50 – 80 depending on the exercise), with auto-increment and auto-start turned on. I usually leave these settings turned on and record new takes until I encounter a problem (with phrasing, timing, etc). So then the normal workflow is:

  • ‘n’ (for new take)
  • ‘return’ (for stop)
  • 0-5 for rating
  • repeat until the target BPM or problems start to occur

I tend towards verbose explanations, but when performed the steps themselves are barely noticeable.