Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Major Scale: CAGED System

Every since I started playing guitar back around 1987, the only scale I ever learned was the minor version of the Pentatonic scale and I know all five patterns of it. Yes, the major version is the same thing with different root notes, but I never really played it and had difficulty making anything sound good when I did.

Anyway, the point of this post is to report my dissatisfaction with attempting to learn the Major scale (not Pentatonic) and all of it's patterns using the CAGED system. My issue is that every where I look on the Internet, they show different pattern blocks. One site will show pattern "A" starting with the "X" note, and the next will show it starting with a completely different note. While when playing and knowing the entire scale it doesn't matter, it does initially when I'm trying to learn it for several reasons. First, is consistency of the basic pattern! Consistency is important when learning things on the Internet some people are poor teachers or just poor at explaining some things. One person may have a very good explanation of something, but have poor examples that it is applied too that make it very difficult to understand. While another site may have very nice examples, but the person who posted it is very poor at explaining things.

Matching mixing and matching quality content of the same thing can make learning much easier. Except when they describe what you're learning completely different! I saw a nicely drawn out picture of the five different major scale patterns. It even listed the fret the first note started on (from the low E, not the root note) so you would know where each pattern started for whatever key it was in. The problem was, were it started on the G note on the low E string (3rd fret) didn't match up when it reached the G note of the higher octave. (15th fret of the low E string). As a matter a fact, it skipped right over the G note without even touching it!

I've memorized three of the patterns now to the point that I can use and mix them together and actual make something that sounds decent. I must say, since I've started learning these, I feel like I've opened so many more possibilities that I didn't have only knowing the minor Pentatonic. Everything had a big time blues sound to it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Linux, Moonlight, and MLB.com

The state of the Linux desktop has been improving quickly over the last few years, but was still never quite there. I'm a big Texas Rangers fan. (can't accuse me of being a bandwagoner!) One thing I really hated was I couldn't watch MLB.tv on Linux. If I was able to get it to work, it stunk, and then they switched to Silverlight which I really had issues with.

Well, with the baseball season revving up, I headed over to TexasRangers.com to see whats going on. Usually, I just check it out on my Blackberry during the offseason. Well, I run a dual boot at home. Ubuntu and Windows XP Pro. XP Pro when I run Windows only software or visit websites that just don't function in Linux. (ie, any MLB website when I wanted to watch video) Well, I clicked on a video and it said I needed Silverlight and ask if I wanted to install it. Sure, I said, and it started installing Moonlight which is Linux's Silverlight counterpart. Once it completed, the video ran perfectly! There was no moving plugin files, no symbolic links, no tweaking of anything, and best of all. No pop-out video player!

I can't tell you how excited I was when this happen. Combine this with Compiz / Beryl / Compiz Fusion looking like they are going to settle their issues and work together not to mention what exist looking pretty good as it stands now. I am very excited with progress of the Linux desktop. Sometimes I still have issues with sound in Linux. Not that it doesn't work, but with apps locking up during operation and locking out all sound until I kill the frozen process with the kill -9 command. That is something that must improve along with 3D on Linux. It's a shame OpenGL failed to keep pace with DirectX especially since it was created and released well before DirectX existed. Yes, you can run DirectX on Wine, but Wine is a stopgap for a bigger problem, not the answer to the problem.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't purchase guitars online!

So, I've made this post to vent about a guitar I puchased on the Internet. Yes, yes I know. Like many things, a guitar may not be something you want to purchase on the net due to what you might end up with. The guitar I was purchasing was brand new from a reputable retailer. (Amercian Musical Supply)

I puchased an 2007 black Ibanez RG370DX. The guitar was beautiful to look at, but it was completely out of wack when it arrived. It had clearly sat in a warehouse or something with severe temperature changes. I'm guessing it was in the warehouse during the Summer months and here in the Winter months before I purchased it.

Anyway, I worked on it the best I could (I'm not a pro guitar tech) but while I could get it playable, it was still not right. The low E string had a nasty buzz on it and even the A string had more buzz that it should have. Not even close to my current guitar. So, I took it to one of the best guitar techs in the NYC area and had him work on it. He made it even more playable, by more adjustments and even leveling a few frets that while weren't really bad, were a still not perfectly level. After all that it still wasn't right.

Needless to say, I shipped it back and got a refund for the full price of the guitar. Of course, I didn't get a refund on the tech work I had done. One thing that seems to be true among all guitar makers though. The newer the model, the more poorly it's crafted. I had a 1987 Fender Strat Squire II that I paid $160 for in 1987. I saw that same guitar on Ebay for almost $600 now. A new Start Squire today on Ebay is like $80.

So, after that nasty experience I don't think I'm going to test the waters of buying a guitar online anymore. The only reason I did this one is I got a pretty good discount on it, and you cannot find that specific model at local retailers anymore.

The whole reason for it was I was going to replace (though not get rid of) a 1997 green Ibanez RG270DX that I bought used from a local music store for $170. It had some electrical shorts, but I fixed them in 10 minutes with a soldering gun. The RG270 plays great otherwise except that it had the low end stock pickups in it. Since I do like the RG270 so much I've decided to take part of the money from the RG370 and just upgrade the pickups in it. I'm replacing the stock ones with Dimarzio ToneZone in the bridge, Dimarzio HS-3 single coil in the middle, and a Dimarzio PAF Pro for the neck. I wanted the Dimarzio Area '61 for the single coil, but it only came in white and while I love the sound, I could bare having an really odd white pickup in the middle.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

KDE 4.2 Review

KDE 4.2 has come out and word out there is that it has finally caught back up to KDE 3.5 in features. So, I upgrade my Ubuntu to 8.10 and then installed KDE 4.2.

First I would like to say that I do like KDE 4.2. It's fresh and I can see a lot of potential in what it can become. It has a lot of flash to offer and ability to customize different aspects to make it the way you want it.

Now, the downside of KDE 4.2 is that I was forced to switch back to Gnome because it crashed so often. Just adjusting the task bar caused it to crash at least ten different times. Using it to copy some music to my Blackberry cause corruption to the filesystem on my 8GB SDHC card. Then it froze my entire system causing corruption to my root filesystem. Needless to say, I had to boot from a rescue disk and fsck my root filesystem. Once I fixed the filesytem damage, I log back on with the intension of switching back to Gnome and it freezes again, this time corrupting the current kernel making my default boot corrupt. Lucky, I keep the last three kernels bootable.

I booted from an older kernel and from the login menu I chose Gnome and logged in. Removed the newest kernel and then reinstalled it. Everything now runs fine. I still have the KDE login menu, but it logs into the Gnome desktop.

With what I saw in KDE 4.2 I can't wait for KDE 4.3, but KDE 4.2 just isn't usable.