Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Grave of Bonaparte

Greg PC has done some excellent research on this traditional song, and found some original (primary) documents, starting with:

a set of alternate lyrics (not the Know-Nothing ones) that preserves the theme of the song but which is really different. [Here's] an Italian blog that actually has the musical notation to the song! One thing I've found interesting is the fact that the second and third verses swap places in different versions. Most of the older versions I came across have it 1-3-2 which made me assume that maybe that was part of the arrangement Norman Blake had done, to switch the two. It makes more sense to me the way we sing it but it also made me question if we were getting it right from a tradition point of view. I need worry no longer. This version is in the order we're used to. 

Also, Greg found the lyrics at the Library of Congress, and a chord chart with lyrics. Nice work on the research!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Rockband 3 Drums: Getting Started

I believe it's possible to learn how to play drums by starting on the standard Rockband ("non-pro") drum set. In fact, I have the Guitar Hero drum kit (3 toms and 2 half cymbals), but it works with Rockband 2 and 3 as well. I always have fun when I play Rockband drums, even though I can only finish songs consistently on Easy. I've found that when I play drums, afterwards my guitar playing (real guitar and bass, not the Rockband kind) is much tighter; meaning, much more accurate rhythmically.

It seems that the best way to learn anything in Rockband 3 is to start in Career mode and pick the appropriate challenge; in my case, this means starting with the 11 simplest songs, and trying to reach three stars or more on each song. I just couldn't pull it off on Medium difficulty.

Once I got started, I could immediately see my improvement from song to song. I started off earning three stars, and scoring in the low 90's for accuracy; by the end I earned five stars on one song and four on several others, and put together some nice long streaks, where the drum highway lights up with a neon blue swirly pattern and the streak badge glows with the same neon blue. Also, I was scoring 95% accuracy or better, although I never finished higher than the top 90% of the leader board.

I learned how to hold the sticks loosely, so they bounce off the heads, and how to relax through my arms and shoulders, instead of trying to really hammer away. Of course, it's fun to really bang away, but to put together a decent streak, I found it best to try to relax into the beat, and not force it.

Some other tips:

  • when the track starts, bang your sticks together, or tap your foot (not the one on the pedal, the other one) in sync with the click track at the beginning of every song, so you are ready to make your first hit right on the beat.
  • Setting up the drums "righty-style" means I can cover the red tom with my left hand, and then drum the other pads with my lead hand (my right).
  • Try some rolls, in rhythm, during your drum breaks, when you trigger Overdrive. As with the rest of your drumming, focus on staying relaxed and staying on rhythm, instead of trying to bang out the wildest drum solo you can. If you come out of the drum break on the beat, you keep your streak alive, and the points mount up quickly. Plus, it feels great!