Monday, December 03, 2012

6 pullups today

I was never able to do a single pull-up as a child.  I could even do a chin-up (the variation which has the palms facing me, so that I could use more of my bicep muscles).  I didn't have a very active childhood.  It's a miracle I wasn't as overweight as I could have been from all the exercise that I missed out on.

I did my first pull-up as an adult after discovering the weight-assisted pull-up machine at my university gym.  I started using it at a weight of around 80lbs, so that the machine would allow me to do pull-ups as if my body weighed 80lbs. lighter than it actually was.  I gradually lowered the assistance weight as I progressed.  After several months of use, I was able to do a pull-up with no weight assistance at all.

My previous best was 4 consecutive pull-ups.  After I achieved that, I didn't practice pull-ups as much, especially after I moved into an apartment where my door pull-up bar would not fit into any of the doorways.

About 6 months ago, I finally began regular pull-up practice - minimum of 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions a week.  My max pull-up reps had decreased to 3, with the 3rd requiring noticeably more effort than the first two.  It didn't help that I'd injured my shoulder twice.  After a couple of months, I started doing 5 sets of at least 3 reps per session.  After a few weeks of this, I was able to do 4 reps/set for some sets.

About a month ago, I'd progressed to doing 5 reps/set.  And today, I did a set of 6 pull-ups for the first time in my life.  My shoulder seems to be holding up.  It's not pain-free all the time, but that's because it's a little "loose".  I'm confident it will stabilize over time as I increase my strength.

I wasn't doing just pull-ups.  I've actually been following a program called "Intro to Ring Training for Beginners".  You can get this free program by visiting this page at the Gold Medal Bodies site and scrolling all the way to the bottom.  It comes with a PDF and video.  It could be that the Baby Muscle-Up and other exercises in the program also contributed to my improved pull-up strength.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Foot Controllers for Ableton Live

Guitarists, violinists, horn players, and other musicians who don't have both hands available to trigger clips in Ableton Live need foot controllers, particularly those who record their instrumental playing into Ableton, then immediately play back the recording while recording another track (aka "live looping").

I have a Roland FC-300 foot controller, which I got to select patches and control parameters on my Roland VG-99 processor.  I've used the FC-300 a little bit as a MIDI controller, to send on/off type messages to a synth.  However, I don't see a way I can trigger Ableton clips without changing VG-99 patches, or change VG-99 patches without triggering Ableton clips if I use the same foot controller for both VG-99 and Ableton Live.  So I'll probably use my FC-300 just for VG-99 control, and get a foot controller for transport control of Ableton Live, as well as triggering Live clips.

This is my humble attempt at a roundup of footpedal makers which I'll probably revisit and update from time to time:

Maker: Behringer
Product: FCB-1010
Comments: Very popular because the cost is low.  The main disadvantages are the learning curve involved in setting up the FCB-1010 to work with Ableton, and the size of the unit.  However, there seem to be plenty of tutorials on the web.

Maker: Gordius
Products: Little Giant Module, Little Giant Foot Controller, Little Big Giant Foot Controller
Comments: The Module adds functionality to an FCB-1010.  The two foot controller products are alternatives to the FCB-1010.  The advantages appear to be smaller footprints and bigger feature set than the FCB-1010.  The main disadvantages are higher costs.

Maker: Liquid Foot
Products: LF+ series foot controllers

Comments: Like Gordius' products, these are quite a bit more expensive than the FCB-1010.  On the other hand, the LF+ 12+ and LF+ JR controllers have colored LCD displays next to each button so you know at a glance what each button is assigned to, which alone might be good enough reason to spend the extra cash.  Helps to see which buttons are for enabling recording, start/stop, and for individual Live clips.  No price however for the LF+ JR, which is probably the most appropriate option for me. 

Maker: Keith McMillen Instruments (KMI)
Products:  SoftStep, 12 Step
Comments: Both of these controllers use rubbery foot switches instead of metal switches like the other controllers.  SoftStep looked intriguing at first because each of the switches are sensitive to both direction and pressure.  However, early adopters have reported these switches being harder to "play" in practice - not that easy to play guitar and keep track of in what direction you're pressing your foot on the pedal at the same time.  Also, some users complained of the response of the pedals compared to metal foot switches, which is critical for live looping.  12 Step looks more practical to use - it can be used for triggering clips, and also MIDI/OSC note data with aftertouch and velocity.  Both KMI controllers are light, in comparison to the FCB-1010 and cost only about $100 more.

Maker: X-Tempo Zone

Product: POK

Comments:  8-pedal wireless DAW controller.  The main advantage is the POK being wireless. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Some debate on Chord Scale Theory for Improvising

Berkelee College Of Music has a reputation of being one of the best places in the world to study jazz improvisation.  This is what one Berklee instructor had to say, in response to this article in which the author criticizes Chord Scale Theory:

Being a teacher at Berklee, I hear these discussions all the time. The chord scale concept is meant to give you a series of notes to pick from over a chord while improvising. The problem is that if the chords are moving too fast, you can't really play all the notes in the scale and have it come out musical-sounding. 

The chord scale concept was never meant to be used that way. Just the same, beginner improvisers often try their best to be able to get every note of every scale over every chord. Teachers let them do it because it's a good way to learn. There's a point where it becomes obvious to the student that it doesn't work. It's not about know "all the notes" as much as knowing "the right notes" and putting them in the "right places"

I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news. You can't learn that from any scale. 

Yup. Practice more.