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Posts from the ‘Personal’ Category


TXBA Speed Workshop Level 6

Even though I went back to Level 1 and redid all my exercises I was able to finish Level 5. It was tough and I had to adjust my practice routine to sit down with a metronome, start slow and build up speed to get the rhythm right and keep it.

The highlight of this week was that I was able to build up speed way quicker than I expected although with higher speeds my rhythm problems became prominent again.

Exercise 29 was especially challenging requiring me to go down to 40bpm and slowly build up speed. At the beginning I had to switch on triplet indicator to get an even rhythm.

Level 6 now turns the dial on high and even the repeating exercises are a nail biter and practice sessions are getting really intense both mentally and physically. In the evening I often have to stop because my fretboard hand is exhausted from all the repetitions.

This course is so much more than just getting speed. I would say that speed it just a side effect of building up muscle memory, finger dexterity, hammer on / pull offs, sliding and a focused practice routine.

Now that I am at the end of the basic track I can say this is a must attend course for any aspiring blues player. If done properly it will lay a rock solid foundation for playing the blues.

Cheers – Andy

P.S.: Since the start of the course I was thinking about the passing criteria of an exercise. For level 6 I set a goal of passing each exercise at the given speed with just the metronome and playing it cold.


TXBA Speed Workshop Week 4

Wow, I thought Week 3 was though with the faster speed and quicker timing but boy Week 4 is even bigger step.

The exercises are not only faster but the final sequence we learn is way longer and moves over the fretboard. The timing of the notes are not even anymore forcing beginners like me out of our comfort zone of equally spaced notes.

This week after some noodling around with the spider drill I realized that if I can relax my finger enough that I can do them at a nearly 50% higher speed. Sometimes I have to do them blind (closing my eyes) to be relaxed enough to get through them.

I have to confess that I am not following Anthony’s instructions very closely and changed my practice routine:

  1. Do all 16 combinations of the spider drill every day
  2. Repeat all exercises of the week no matter if I crossed them off or not. If I am confident then I start at the highest speed and slow down if I run into problems
  3. Watch all the instructions. It is interesting for me to see how many different ways a lick can be played

Now that the speed, the amount of notes and the timing changes have increased there are times where my brain cannot handle all the instructions. More and more I find myself in situations where I lost my train of thoughts, my brain wants to throw in the towel but my fingers just finish the job like on auto-pilot. Finally muscle memory starts to kick in giving me a breather so that I can enjoy making music.

By the way Anthony released all 6 parts of the Speed Workshop for the locals (online members) but I will still try to keep the weekly reviews of each level until the end of Week 6 if I can handle that schedule.

Cheers – Andy Schaefer Sr.

Update: just a day later I was able to play all but the full sequence and exercise 1 at full speed. Seems like that practicing the guitar for 3 1/2 years was not in vain.


TXBA Speed Workshop

A few days ago I was surprised to see that I had only started to play the guitar 3 1/2 years ago. Considering that I started nearly on ground zero I came a long way for a person my age. Still listening to guitar players like Steve Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, Joe Bonamassa I feel inadequate to say the least. Trying to play along is like running with concrete boots and my playing has either little variation in speed or I cannot apply licks I’ve learned.

Anthony Stauffer from Texas Blues Alley is currently rolling our a Speed Workshop for the Locals (his online subscribers). The day he released it I obtain the material and started to work on it. The lick as well as the spider drills I was already familiar with but what was new was the step by step approach which starts you on a beginner level and improves your speed, dexterity and endurance. After a week in I can say I started to improve quite a lot. Some of that is due to consolidating / refining my technique but some is because I took the time every day to practice the drills and the exercises.

This course by itself is worth the membership and can help an aspiring beginner or intermediate blues guitar player to increase his/her speed but it requires hard work with a ton of repetition. The course comes with all the check lists for tracking, the instructions for both the drill and the exercises, animated tabs and the benchmark videos which are videos of every exercise at each milestone speed to check if and when you reach a given exercise milestone.

The only thing I am really struggling with are the hammer on and pull offs which are used quite a lot. I think the course should got a little bit deeper into the technique and the proper execution as this is pretty crucial. It is especially challenging for players with smaller hands like me.

This course has my two thumbs up and I wished it would have been there two years ago. The first week of the course is now the start of my daily practice routine and it will stay there for weeks to come. It already improved my playing and I am now comfortable to deal with TXBA’s Texas Flood Intermediate level course.

Cheers – Andy Schaefer


iPad Pro and Learning to Play the Guitar

Since I left school I wanted to learn playing the Guitar but for various reasons it never clicked. After Rocksmith I had issues progressing but eventually my new iPad Pro became the way to go. Read more »


My Long and Winding Road back to Redemption in Destiny

After 11 months of playing Destiny and a lot of frustrations lately with Skolas I finally realized that I failed myself and my fellow Guardians and became corrupted by the Darkness.

Rev. ‘No Cheese’ Datto: “Do you see the Light, Do-you-see-the-Light”.

Me: “I, I, I see the light. I-see-the-Light. Let’s bring the True Fireteam together”

(Upbeat blues music in the background). Read more »


Dear Hillcrest Board of Trustees

It came to my attention that you sent out an email yesterday stating this:

We understand that there is a parent meeting being called tomorrow night by some families to discuss the organizational changes happening at Hillcrest, under the guise that the changes are going to be harmful to the school. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Personally I find that statement troubling in many ways and I want to use this opportunity to respond to it here in public:

Read more »


Xbox One and Digital Content Issues


After a long discussion with the Xbox Support I finally could resolve the issue by getting a refund for the digital Destiny Guardian Edition. Now I can buy that with my wife’s account and then it will run on her XB1 with her Xbox Home. This way any of our family members can play Destiny on any of the two consoles.

That said this does not solve the underlying problem of a house hold with multiple Xbox Ones especially if they are kids. With a Game Disc they can just take it and play it where the disc is put in but not with a digital download. If my kids want to have their own XB1 and one wants to play with me and my wife then we cannot be logged in in that console. Does this now means that I need to create a 2nd Xbox account just to buy and manage Games on that XB1?

Read more »


Cheese in Destiny

Datto and others started to call certain hiding spots in Destiny cheese spots meaning that it safer but less exiting way to handle a fight. When Bungie released the first DLC called The Dark Below the word cheese started to morph into the description for exploiting a glitch in the system to change the mechanics of the game so that it is easier to handle. In the raid Crota’s End warlocks could use self-resurrection to pass the bridge without having a sword or to deal with sword bearer or using the host’s quitting of the Game to make Crota kneel “forever”.

Update: Later I say that DLC gear is not giving Radiant Shards / Energy when dismantled. That is not true for Raid Gear though but for any DLC gear (Lvl 36 for Armor) that is obtained otherwise.

In my book a cheese is the exploit of a glitch to change the game mechanics to make it easier and faster to beat. Read more »


Rocksmith 2014: Bass and Shortcomings

Two weeks ago I finally could pick up my shinny red Ibanez Bass and started to play on Rocksmith with it. Having played the Guitar for over half a year rally paid off and many of the songs I could play quit well from the get go. I went through many of the lessons and played all the song at least once. With one or two exception I mastered all of the songs over 50% and that all within 7 days. So far so good. Now if that sounds too good to be true then you are right. Unfortunately for the Bass RS has a big shortcoming. It does not mark a note played too many as mistake and so if you pick the strings fast enough then you will hit all the right notes if they are on the same string. This is not very helpful to learn rhythm patterns.

Afterwards I went back to the Guitar which suddenly felt small and short. Here I finally have to conquer chords which I for most part tried to avoid because my hand tenses up and my hand and arm start to hurt. Now applying less pressure is easier said then done and after a while I am back to my old habits. With that in mind I started to play the parts with chords slower so that I can focus on the pressure and try to apply as little as possible. Especially on chord changes to barre chords I tend to apply way too much pressure to avoid half-pressed or mute strings. Guess practice makes perfect and for me it means even more practice.

RS has another shortcoming because it does not give good hints on why chords, bends or slides are not good. For example in Billy Idol’s White Wedding there are two chords played back and forth and I failed to play them right. Eventually I figured out that one chords has to be kept short (lifting my fingers are playing it) and to play the other chord slightly faster. Later there are two chords that are easy to be done because there is enough time to prepare aka breaks in between but most of the time it does not take it. Even though this is frustrating at the end I have to feel good which also applies when RS thinks I was perfect but I know I was


Rocksmith 2014: Six Weeks In

Slowly but surely I get the hang of Rocksmith 2014 (RS) making it easier to work around issues but also get good enough so that I can play parts of a song play at full speed and difficulty and even managed to play a song (The Kinks: You got a Hold on Me) at Master level where the notes are not displayed but still there are a few cues where I am within a song.

That said I did not play any lessons for the past 3 weeks because with issues by the guitar detector. Currently I am away for six days – still took my accoustic guitar with me to keep up with playing and to further strengthen my fingers. Even though my fingers are still not fast and precise enough for many difficult cord changes like to a Bm or doing the full F chord I am slowly getting better and sometimes I am surprised that some chords work without looking.

After working many hours in the Session Mode where one can jam alongside a virtal band I am now back learning songs. Before the brake I was working on Queen’s We are the Champions which was simple but for the full complexity it suddenly becomes very diffiult. Many additional notes requiring quick finger changes on the left as well as right hand side are tricky and making it very difficult to keep up especially when I play the entire song.

For most parts RS works well and is fun to use but some parts of the playing a song is not very user friendly and can limit the fun or sometimes be just frustrating. I do understand that detecting what notes especially when played in a chord or special techniques like a pull off is hard to do but at least the program should mitigate this. I would suggest the following enhancements to Riff Repeater but also to the Lessons and Song Atack:

  • Add a fly-over over the song so that the player can move forward and backward on its own pace and inspect difficult parts and seqences
  • Add further information about the previous mistakes made into the fly-over to see if the note was played late, early, to low or high, wrong string, wrong chord etc. Make the mistakes visually more visible as well.
  • Use the additional buttons on a Joystick like the XBox to provide shortcuts into the Riff Repeater (increase / descrease speed and difficulty, toggle level-up and auto-continue). Preferably let the player select the button layout.
  • Provide interactive tutorials on the various aspects of the game. For a multimedia game the old-style textbook tutorial are out-dated and hard to understand.
  • Remember previous settings in the Riff Repeater so that I don’t have to set them every time when I go back to learning that song.

I am looking forward to go back playing with RS again and hope that some of the things will be improved over time. As soon as I am progressed enough to be able to play the songs I like I will go ahead and buy additional songs or even packages. For example there is an Albert King song that peeked my interest. I also want to play around with the Rythm Guitar mode as soon as I am done with my 60 days challange (I think I am around 40 days).

Cheers – Andy