Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Intertunnel Is A Useful Thing. Now And Then

When I was a little boy my older brother used to painstakingly learn Beatles and Stones songs by dutifully dropping the needle on the lp records over and over and figuring out what was being played as best he could. For the really difficult passages he'd play the record on the wrong speed and transpose the underwater sounding notes after he figured them out. I did the same sort of thing myself later, frantically writing lyrics I needed to sing on Friday straight out of a cassette player on Thursday.

There was always sheet music around the house when I was young. You'd still go to the music store and purchase real sheet music back then. Useless for rock music. You could get Camelot, or Burt Bacharach, or Lulu music or something, but sheet music for guitar bands was always transposed for playing on a piano, and was never in the right key. The piano has never heard of the key of E.

My son is learning to play the guitar, and he just goes on the wondrous and awful Intertunnel and finds whatever he needs laying around. We found this one fellow, My TwangyGuitar, who's a kind of wonder for his simplicity. He plays superclean, and has the good sense to just point a hi-def camera at his strings and play the songs properly. The usual guitar lesson on the Intertunnel consists of a guy who half learned to play using the execrable tablature method --that was once reserved for diagramming chord shapes, but is now used in lieu of learning anything about reading music or understanding what you're playing -- and yammering endlessly into a camera that captures fourteen pixels and has some ear wax stuck in the onboard microphone:

Now put your 3rd finger on the 14th fret and your pinky on the E string... no the skinny one... SOMEONE GET THE PHONE... and then you kind of like wiggle that one...

You have to know a little something about what you're doing to get the benefit out of a video instruction like My TwangyGuitar offers. It just saves you a lot of time searching for things. Or you have to know nothing at all to enjoy it:


Froward said...

It's just like a real guitar lesson: You sit there and watch an uncommunicative guy play stuff that you may eventually go to the trouble of figuring out for yourself. Except this is free, and the guitar is much prettier. And you feel less rude about getting up and leaving in the middle.

On the other hand, with a live "teacher", you can hope to catch him off guard and crane your neck around to see what his left fingers are doing. That way, in spite of the conventions of the teacher-student relationship, you may actually gain some knowledge about playing the guitar. With his video you're stuck with just the one camera angle, which flatters the guitar while letting the left hand mask what its fingers are doing.

With rockabilly, you only have to learn about 2.5 songs worth of licks to master every note anybody ever played in the entire genre, so this kind of thing is has some utility: If you already know every note he's playing, this provides a shortcut for figuring out which fret he's playing them at. A better shortcut would be to find out what key it's in. But to each his own.

But imagine learning anything about real music from a thing like this, where there's more to it than "hammer on the fret above the minor third of whatever". Yeah. Right.

SippicanCottage said...

"You have to know a little something about what you're doing to get the benefit out of a video instruction like My TwangyGuitar offers."

Pastor_Jeff said...

I remember how unusual, fun, and refreshing the Stray Cats sounded in the middle of all the 80s drum machine techno-glop.

Thanks for sharing.

Thud said...

Considering just how much I like that tune I think I'll give it a whirl....thanks for the reminder.

Jim - PRS said...

That was terrific.