Friday, December 23, 2022

Easy Muscle: Week 5 and 6

Week 5 was my first full week doing 2-arm swings with the 32kg kettlebell. I've been feeling more post-workout soreness in my lower back muscles, compared to 2-arm swing sessions with the 24kg kettlebell. Otherwise there seem to be no ill effects from the load increase, as of the completion of Week 6

I rewatched the videos of Geoff Neupert performing chinups and dips and noted that his eccentric movement was nowhere near as slow as the 4-6 second eccentrics I've been doing in those exercises. Neupert also clarified that slow eccentric is not recommended for Easy Muscle. The eccentric should be performed under control, but not too slowly. So, for my push-pull session, I aimed for not more than 2-sec. eccentric. My heartrate was faster with the faster eccentric. My exercise volume increased as expected.

My shoulder continues to heal, with pain-free ROM gradually increasing.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Easy Muscle: Week 4

I completed Week 4 of the 8-week Schedule C in Easy Muscle. I did Week 3 twice because I took some time off for Thanksgiving.

I switched to the 32kg kettlebell for my 2-arm swing sessions. My body felt ready to handle the increased load. There was a little more soreness in the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings on the day following the swing session, compared to what I'd been feeling after swing sessions with the 24kg KB. There was also some soreness in my left forearm. If I want to eventually train under Easy Muscle Schedule A, which is the Clean-And-Press only schedule, with double 16kg kettlebells, I need to make sure I can swing a 32kg load.

I have admittedly not been exercising the forearm extensors with the Ironmind Expand Your Hands bands that I've had for years. The Simple And Sinister book advises exercise with these or similar elastic bands, including the ones that typically come with vegetable produce, to balance out the work that the forearm flexors get from kettlebell swinging, and help prevent elbow pain. So this week, I started doing 3 sets of about 12 repetitions with the blue bands after my Easy Muscle sessions.

I like keeping my thumbs turned out for the dips on the NOSSK trainer. This seems to allow more ROM on the bottom of the movement, and keeps enough muscles of the upper back and shoulder external rotators engaged to keep my shoulder and elbows comfortable, even with the front delts and chest getting a stretch at the bottom. While the Easy Muscle instructions say to perform the eccentric/negative of movement under control, it does not specify how long the eccentric should be. I take about 3-4 seconds on my dip eccentric. This Bret Contreras article says fast eccentric may actually stimulate more hypertrophy than slow eccentric if the load is high enough, although it also cautions against speeds high enough to risk injury. This research article indicates no difference between 2- and 4-second eccentric for stimulating muscle growth. I'll see what info I can find.

I bought the Duonamic Rings set, which is designed to replace the stock handles on the Duonamic Eleviia doorway pull up system. It took a while to figure out how to set up the rings as high as possible for pull ups, but it was worth the time and effort. Pull ups on these rings feel much more comfortable for my elbows and shoulders, compared to the stock handles. Palms facing each other at the bottom position and supinated palms at top position seemed most comfortable for me. I still could not drop all the way to an active hang, but I felt I like I had just a little more pain-free ROM restored in thei movement compared to when I started.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Easy Muscle: Week 1

I chose Schedule C because of a shoulder issue limiting my range of motion when reaching overhead with a straight arm.

Following Schedule C, I did the pullup-dip session on Wednesday. Because of the shoulder issue, it hurts to get into the hang for a pullup, even with depressed scapula, because the hang pulls my arm... overhead. So for a workaround, I started each rep by positioning my body as if I were going to do a row, with feet on the floor in front of my hips, then pulled myself off the floor.

I hadn't done dips for almost 2 years, and my ring dip rep max, even with both shoulders feeling healthy, is well short of 10. So, I set my NOSSK suspension handles about hip height. Then I warmed up with 2 sets of 5 dip shrugs, then 2 sets of 10-second top position holds. Then I started the 20 min. timer, doing the dips with feet on floor to lighten the load. Turning the palms slightly out helps to engage the shoulder external rotators, which help stabilize the shoulders.

I should try some knee raises as part of the warmup next time.


Dip shrugs for warmup


I studied this video to review how to do assisted dips

I found doing the dips after the partial pullups - done carefully - stretches my shoulders nicely enough to wash away any irritation from doing the partial pullups. So going forward, I'll make sure my last set on Pullup-Dip sessions will be the Dip set.

The schedule for this week had Monday and Friday as my 2-hand swing days. I tore some skin off of my ring finger when I tried 2-hand swings on the 24kg kettlebell last week. This particular kettlebell has a handle that does not allow a comfortable fit for all my fingers, so in the past I had to squeeze my hands a bit. The tear happened because I was gripping the handle too hard. So to avoid reinjuring the finger, I tried leaving out the ring fingers when gripping the handle, and instead rest the ring fingers on top of the middle and pinky fingers, and not grip the handle too hard, just letting the fingers be hooks

I think it's a decent first week of Easy Muscle.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Akai MPC One

While I've enjoyed using the Roland MC-707 groovebox, I've always been curious about the Akai MPC (Music Production Center) platform. From the introduction of the MPC-60, the first MPC model, and onwards, the Akai MPC became known for its impact on hip-hop and electronic music. My only previous experience with the MPC platform was trying out an Akai MPC Keys 61 at the store, along with a friend who had previous MPC experience. Having a friend show me how an MPC could be used to build up a song - drum track, bass track, etc. - was helpful.

The MPC workflow for building up a multi-track song, under the hands of an experienced user, looked pretty fast to me. Another appealing thing to me was the drum pads. The MC-707 drum pads feel fine. The MPC pads feel nicer - I'm not sure exactly why, but maybe the very slightly lower height of the MPC pads as well as the materials have something to do with it. Also, no matter how much I tweaked the MC-707 settings, I could never get its drum pads to be as responsive to light finger strokes as the MPC pads.

Another attractive feature is the autosampling feature, for easy sampling of my Moog Matriarch or Moog Subharmonicon - both synths that do not have patch memory, but do have MIDI input.

So when I realized the Akai MPC Live 2 and MPC One models were on sale, I decided to buy an MPC One.

First impressions:

The drum pads feel just as nice, and are just as responsive to light finger strokes, as the MPC Keys 61 drum pads. The feel is so pleasant that I'm motivated to work more on my finger drumming. The default color-coding is red for kicks, yellow for snares, amber for hi-hats, etc.

Volume knob is in the back of the unit instead of the top panel, which is a strang location for those of us used to the volume knob being the top panel on synths, drum machines, competing grooveboxes, etc.

The level meter is very useful for gauging how loud drum parts might sound in a mix. I've often been fooled before, by recording something that sounded loud in my headphones, but then it sounded soft in the mix when played back through monitors.

It was easy to learn how to load a preset drum kit for a track on the Roland MC-707. The process is less intuitive on the MPC. For a while I started to believe that preset drum kits do not exist on the MPC, and that if I wanted a new kit, I had to manually assign samples to each and every drum pad, every time. Then I learned that in the MPC world, a drum kit is called a "drum program".

This 5-hour tutorial for beginners is really good. Besides the generous amount of content, there is a lot of useful details like which buttons do what, the default colors of the drum pads and what they represent, etc.



The MPC One reportedly has bugs related to using external MIDI controllers. Video with advice on avoiding the bugs:

Some advice from a more experienced MPC user:

Sequences are your best friends on the MPC! Use them! Get an idea moving in one seq and duplicate it 4 or 5 times, have fun going in different directions with each Seq, then move between them to experiment and get used to this way of performing. This stops you getting locked in one loop, which is the fastest route to feeling irritated and frustrated IMO.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Easy Muscle and Manly Mobility

I was pondering what exercise program to do after the 3 Days On cycle on Isochain. After 2 cycles in a row of Isochain training, I wanted to do a dynamic exercise program again. I enjoyed Accommodation Resistance calisthenics as taught by Mindful Mover, but my shoulder injury showed me that my body is not ready for that. I'm not sure if the injury was caused by not allowing enough time to deload and/or rest, because I did transition from high-load isometrics on the Isochain to Accommodating Resistance calisthenics without taking at least one week off.

Easy Muscle is a training program created by Geoff Neupert, who is a respected fitness coach, especially among kettlebell training enthusiasts. The title "Easy Muscle" implies that it is a training program for stimulating muscle growth, but it also promises fat burn and strength gains. I put off buying Easy Muscle at first because I thought it was mainly a program built around the kettlebell Clean-and-Press, and my shoulder felt painful whenever I tried to reach overhead.  I then realized it actually contains 3 different training schedules, including Schedule C which was designed for people like me, who currently have trouble pressing weight overhead. I figured any hypertrophy-friendly progra is not going to subject my body to as heavy a load as a strength-focused program. So I went ahead and bought it.

Schedule C has you practicing the 2-hand kettlebell swing on one day, and two other exercises on the other day. Those 2 other exercises are the chinup and dip.

When I bought it Easy Muscle, I was given the option of also buying Manly Mobility, also created by Neupert.  I went ahead and bought it. It's billed as a mobility program for guys who hate stretching. Inedeed, there does not seem to be any emphasis on holding a stretched position for longer than a second or two.

For the Tuesday session, I focused on Manly Mobility. I tried all the Phase 1 exercises taught for each of the 3 body positions. Since I'd already used up time taking measurements to get the results of my Isochain 3 Days On training, I limited myself to 10 reps of each exercise. The exercises are simple to learn, as promised, and I did notice some reduction in tightness, although I don't remember which muscle groups because I didn't write dowm my impressions right away.

For the Wednesday session, I tried the chinup and dip workout. I tested my chinup, which is pullup with supinated palms, but I felt some unwanted tightness in my previosly injured forearm - the "Golfers Elbow" arm, so I substituted pullups (pronated palms). Because of my problem reaching overhead, I could not start/stop a pull-up in the dead hang or the active hang (scapulae pulled down). I trained pullups by beginning and ending each rep with my arms straight and in front of me, at around a 100-120 degree angle to my torso, smy legs stretched in front of the torso and feet on the floor. This may not be the ideal range of motion for gains in strength/muscle from pullups, but it was the best ROM I had without irritating my shoulder.

I used my trusty NOSSK Twin Trainers for the dips. I set the handles fairly low so that my feet on the floor could reduce the load. I turned my palms forward in the bottom position to try to add a bit of stretch for my chest, but I was careful to not do anything to the shoulder.

I took Thursday off from training. Because I hadn't practiced pullups or dips in a while I had some DOMS in the pecs lats, and triceps.

For the Friday session, I tried the 2-arm kettlebell swing workout with a 24kg kettlebell. I took it easy since I hadn't practiced this exercise for almost 3 years. Afterwards, I practiced the Manly Mobility exercises. The following morning, I had minor DOMS in the hamstrings and calves.

Next week, I will begin Week 1 of Easy Muscle, Schedule C. I suppose the 2-hand KB swing day is for fat-burning, and the pullup-dip day is for hypertrophy. It will be interesting to see what the results will be after Week 8.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Isochain 3 Days On Results

The goal of the 3 Days On program is to stimulate hypertrophy - muscle growth. Before I started the program I took some measurements of various body parts, using a sewing tape measure, so I could measure any changes in size that may be due to muscle growth. I watched this video to see how bodybuilders have their measurements taken:



I tried not to squeeze the tape measure, and avoided flexing the muscles. The results:

Forearms - No change
Left Arm - About half an inch for 4.167% increase in diameter
Right Arm - About 3.2% increase in diameter
Shoulders - No change, despite training the Shoulder Press. This was a tricky measurement, seemingly impossible to take properly
Chest - No change. I did not train the Chest Press or any other exercise that could have stimulated chest hypertrophy
Calves - Actually shrunk a little.

There were other measurements mentioned in the above video, but I didn't take those because I just didn't care. Going forward, I'll probably just measure my forearms and arms for tracking hypertrophy progress, because they're easy. I'd like to see my shoulders grow but there's no easy way to measure them. Just about everyone measures only the shoulder-to-shoulder width, which does not take into account the size of the deltoids, which grow in multiple directions, not just outward.

So ends my 3 Days On training cycle.

Isochain 3 Days On: Weeks 5 and 6

I lowered the bar again for the Drag Curl, which lengthened the biceps more than before. The increased muscle length seemed to allow for stronger contraction. My grip muscles (forearms) still fatigue before the biceps do, but at least the biceps feel like they're working harder.

I've found body positioning for the Triceps Kickback that feels comfortable for the low back. With only a slight bend of the knees and hips, I would not doubt that mechanical advantage allows me to produce more force in this drill, but safety to the low back outweighs using mechanical disadvantage to increase load on the triceps. Being able to produce more force also imposes more load on the triceps anyway.

For my latest Zercher Lunge session, I increased the number of sets from 3 to 4. Perhaps bumping up the volume will lead to improvement in endurance at this position. Simply holding the position without hardly any force output is already a challenge for me.

My strength in the Rear Shrug jumped.

Rear Delt Row with torso perpendicular to legs is getting a little uncomfortable for my low back. I might try leaning back a little.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Isochain 3 Days On: Week 4

A couple of weeks ago, I started getting sick with what felt like the common cold. I took a COVID test and got a positive result. So, I didn't do any exercise as I rested up and waited for my already-vaccinated body to fight it off.

This week I felt good enough to start working out again. Despite about 2 weeks of no exercise, I was still able to perform each exercise for at least 20 seconds at the same target loads as before, or even higher. I lowered the bar for the Drag Curl to get the biceps a little more elongated, which allowed me to work at a higher load. I was able to raise the target load for Calf Raise as I got better at relaxing my wrists to let the lifting hooks take on more load - will try holding the bar behind the back next.

Wrist/forearm fatigue seems to be the limiting factor for my Seated Row. I don't think there's much I can do about that other than hope that repeated practice will stimulate some muscle growth in the wrist/forearm, so that it stops fatiguing before my biceps or lats do.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Isochain 3 Days On: Week 2

I did not feel like the high position deadlift or the middle position Zercher Squat worked my glutes as much as the Zercher Lunge. So I replaced both exercises with the Zercher Lunge. This exercise is a unilateral exercise, and thus takes up twice as much time as a bilateral exercise since it has to be done on each side. So my Day 3 routine just has the two exercises - Zercher Lunge and Calf Raise.

My Calf Raise sets on Tuesday were cut off by my grip wearing out. I understand why some people think that lifting straps/hooks should never be used. However, I think that if my grip is getting a decent enough workout from the Drag Curl, shrugs, and rows already, then it's ok to use my lifting hooks for the Calf Raise. The objective of the Calf Raise in the 3 Days On program is to stimulate calf growth, not target my grip. How can I stimulate calf growth if I let my grip prevent me from training my calves to failure? So for Friday I decided to use the lifting hooks

In this video, this trainer claims that most people do not need to do the Front Raise, because they target the front delts, which are active in most pressing exercises anyway. He also mentions that a front delt vs. rear delt imbalance could lead to more shoulder injury.


I was thus convinced to eliminate the Front Raise from my Day 1 routine. I moved the Tricep Kickback out of the Day 3 routine into the Day 1 routine. To work the rear delts, I added the Rear Delt Pull to the Day 3 routine.

Monday - Day 2

Zercher Lunge
Calf Raise

Tuesday - Day 3

Rear Shrug
Hinged Tricep Kickback
Seated Row

Wednesday - Off

Thursday - Day 1

Shoulder Press
Hinged Tricep Kickback
Drag Curl

Friday - Day 2

Zercher Lunge
Calf Raise

I tried a variety of chain settings for Hinged Tricep Kickback. I searched for a position that would minimize the load on my lower back. I settled on a setting that puts the bar fairly close to my butt and below the butt. This allows me to lean forward only a little, which does not seem to make my low back work as hard as a more pronounced lean.
For the Friday session, I used the lifting hooks with the Calf Raise. They do not totally removed the load from my grip but did decrease the load enough to let me perform the exercise for a longer amount of time, and at slightly heavier load.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Isochain 3 Days On: Week 1

I realized that "3 Days On" means 3 days of training, then at least one day off. That's why in the book The Ultimate Isometrics Manual, the schedule has workouts for Days 1-3, then Day 4 as an off day, before repeating the cycle of days. The book does say that if training 3 days in a row is too hard to recover from, then add one or more rest days to your schedule. With that in mind, I scheduled 4 workouts for this week.

Monday - Day 1

Shoulder Press
Front Raise
Drag Curl

Tuesday - Day 2

Regular Deadlift (high angle)
Zercher Squat
Calf Raise

Wednesday - Off

Thursday - Day 3

Rear Shrug
Hinged Tricep Kickback
Seated Row

Friday - Day 4

Shoulder Press
Front Raise
Drag Curl

This week was more about learning all the exercises that were new to me, than training hard to stimulate muscle growth. I spent more time and effort searching for good chain settings and body positioning than really burning the muscles. It's the first week, so it can't be helped.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Isochain: Transitioning to 3 Days On Program

In the book The Ultimate Isometrics Manual, the Burn Count program is purported to build strength by holding a load for a progressively longer amount of time. It is also purported to build muscle. I tried it last year for about 6 weeks and gained some strength, but as noted, I forgot to measure my biceps with sewing tape. Tape measurements at the start of Burn Count and at the end would have provided useful data for measuring gain in muscle size (hypertropy). I did not observe obvious hypertrophy in the mirror.

The book has a page entitled "Pro Tip: Isometric Bodybuilding". It mentions research indicating that stress to the muscle and depletion of ATP-PC energy system in the muscles are strong triggers for muscle growth. It also mentions research indicating that muscular fatigue/failure - not load or volume - is the key factor in triggering hypertrophy. The page concludes by referencing Burn Count as the program based on these findings. However when I compare the Burn Count guidance to the guidance for another Isochain program called 3 Days On, the latter program seems to match the research more closely, with 3 sets of 20-45 second holds per exercise, and a shorter rest period (20-30 seconds). Burn Count recommends 60 seconds of rest between holds, which seems like a rather long rest for a hypertrophy-focused routine. If the goal is to drive the muscles to failure - deplete APC-PC as much as possible - shorter rest between reps makes more sense. So, for the goal of stimulating muscle growth, I decided to try the 3 Days On program

The 3 Days On guidance in the book is to set Isochain to Feedback Mode, and try to apply enough force during the 20-45 second hold so that muscle failure is achieved within this time frame. One issue with Feedback Mode is that the Isochain timer is not available in this mode, so I would have to use an external timer. I feel like I would struggle to coordinate using the external timer, with executing a proper rep of the exercise. Also, I'm not really sold on relying on my own imagination/perception to regulate the force output during the exercise. Thus, one modification to the program is to use Load mode on the Isochain instead of Feedback mode. Load mode does have the timer function, which will start as soon as I reach the target load. Being able to set a target load would help me ensure that I am applying enough force to induce muscle failure within the 20-45 second timeframe. It should not take long to find suitable target load values. This week I tried some of the exercises and was able to identify target loads for them. For the rest of the exercises, I'll work with an arbritrary target load, and use the average force reading to help find suitable values.

Another modification to the book guidance is the exercise selection and order. This is the lineup I'm envisioning:

Monday

Shoulder Press - same as book
Front Raise - same as book
Drag Curl - A Red Delta Project favorite because the biceps work harder than on the regular curl, especially if the bar is at a lower position than what the video shows.

Wednesday

Hack Deadlift/Behind The Back Deadlift - Doing first instead of last because it wears out the forearms if mixed grip is not used.
Zercher Squat - does not demand extreme wrist flexibility like Front Squat and works the abs more
Calf Raise - Doing last instead of 2nd because the grip will need a break after Deadlift

Friday

Rear Shrug - Front Shrug stimulate upper trap growth while Rear Shrug stimulate increased thickness.
Hinged Tricep Kickback - Another Red Delta Project favorite because it involves shoulder extension which lights up more muscle mass of the triceps. Also, weak shoulder extension was found to be one of the strength deficits that may cause more stress on the elbow.
Seated Row - much safer for lower back than Bent-over Row

There's one more thing that needs to be done before starting 3 Days On or any hypertrophy program: Measurements! I got a sewing measurement tape and measured the widths of my arms, shoulders, chest, and calves, with the muscles in as relaxed state as I could get them. Accurate measurement is impossible because it's way too easy to squeeze the measured body part just a little too tight, because of the pliabilty of skin, muscles, etc. However, if there's any hypertrophy at all after 6-8 weeks of 3 Days On training, there should be a difference in measurement, even if there's an error of plus or minus half an inch. I don't believe looking at myself in the mirror is a reliable means of assessing progress in muscle growth. Tape measurements, even if not 100% accurate, should give me data that is more useful than simple visual judgement.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Last Session

Another Monday brings another 1-Rep Max Test day. Results:

Zercher Lunge - 90.1 (based on weaker leg scores)
Shoulder Press - 75
Seated Row - 138.4667

Zercher Lunge performance gain so far has been minimal, when comparing to the 81.9 lb. result that was recorded end of 2021. Most of my progress in this exercise has been in mobility - being able to get the the thigh closer to parallel to the floor thanks to improvements in hip and ankle mobility.

Shoulder Press performance, compared to the end of 2021 score of 57 lbs, is almost a 32% strength gain for the current year.

Seated Row 1RM was not tested end of 2021. Strength gain compared to the start of the current 6x6 cycle was only about 8%. I'm ok with that though, as I rarely put in as much effort per rep as I did on the other exercises. I was wary of possibly hurting my low back, even though I was also aware that the body positioning should put the low back at much, much lower risk than the standing bent-over row.

Before the Monday session, I was thinking of training under 6x6 for 8 weeks, then switching to the Geoff Neupert Easy Muscle program. Easy Muscle is said to be adaptible to any equipment, and the clean-and-press is one of the featured exercises. I intend to use a kettlebell for clean-and-press. That all said, my shoulder still does not feel good when reaching overhead, or when I press the kettlebell overhead.

One option was to continue 6x6 for two more weeks, then see if there is any improvment in the shoulder's pain-free range of motion. The 6x6 program for Isochain has received positive reviews from fellow Isochain users for both strength gains and hypertrophy. However, 6x6 by design is meant to deliver mostly strength gains with some hypertrophy. Another option is to switch to a hypertrophy-focused program on the Isochain, and see if 6 weeks of training under that, combined with RMT Club swinging for shoulder rehab, will increase the pain-free ROM. One thing we know for sure is that isometrics, with or without Isochain, poses practically zero risk of further joint damage compared to any dynamic form of exercise.

I chose the hypertrophy program with Isochain. I'm not convinced that I will achieve the necessary pain-free ROM for overhead pressing within 2 weeks, even with RMT club swinging. I think there's a better chance that I'll achieve this goal in 6-8 weeks on another Isochain program plus RMT Club swinging. I think the longer period of favoring isometrics over dynamic training - for strength and muscle - will be more of a factor in shoulder healing than adding muscle mass in and of itself. That said, adding muscle mass is a priority for health benefits such as maintaining blood pressure at healthy levels.
Some finds:

Neck extension against wall for improving posture
Ring face pulls for improving posture
Trap-3 Raise (Y-fly) for improving shoulder mobility and posture
Mobility exercises for preventing/relieving pain from computer slouching

Monday, August 29, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 6

Monday session began with a Zercher Lunge set that felt a little tougher than usual. I gradually realized that I had left the Isochain set to the same length as for the Seated Row, which is only 2 links away from the carabiner assembly attached to the Isochain handle. This is the shortest chain length I've worked with yet for Zercher Lunge, which in turn demanded a little more mobility in the ankle, hip, etc. The 1RM scores were surprisingly high despite the slightly more demanding positioning, with a PR of 92 lbs. for the left leg. Shoulder Press performance took the usual Monday dip. Seated Row performance was average.

Wednesday session performance was surprisingly worse than the Monday session's. Seated Row force in particular dropped from 142.2 lbs to 127. Shoulder Press force dropped under 70 lbs. for the first time since the switch from high angle to medium angle.

Friday session performance was improved. Zercher Lunge right leg force was back in the low 80s. The left leg max force was 14 lbs., which makes no sense becuase the target load was set to 63 lbs. - the beeper would only start beeping if I hit the minimum 63 lbs. of force, and only continue beeping until the long beep signaling the end of the 6-second hold if I had maintained that force. I don't know if it is because I pressed the Max button too soon. Seated Row force was again lower than expected at 129 lbs. I don't know if it's because my body was still exhausted to a degree from the Zercher Lunge set. Before this week, the exercise order was Zercher Lunge (alternating legs), Shoulder Press, then Seated Row. This week, I changed the order so that Shoulder Press would be last, because the chain setting is the same for Zercher Lunge and Seated Row. Not having to change the chain setting saves some time. The primary purpose of the Zercher Lunge is to train the squat muscle chain, but it also works the upper back, because upright posture is required to support the load in the elbows. It could be that the upper back and perhaps even the lats had not recovered sufficiently from the Zercher Lunge set, by the time I started the Seated Row set. So, changing the exercise order to save a few seconds of time to change the chain setting does not seem to be working out. The Shoulder Press force was back in the low-mid 70s.

I have a lingering issue with my right shoulder, which I suspect was caused by training Pike Pushups with Accommodating Resistance on the parallettes. I remember some sessions in which I really strained to push myself up, even with the attempt to shift body weight to my feet to reduce the resistance (accommodating resistance) so that I could push. I did not feel shoulder pain during the exercise. However, my shoulder started to feel sore sometime after the workouts. Over time, the soreness started to accumulate, to the point where reaching outward or towards my opposite armpit started to hurt. That was when I decided to stop practicing Pike Pushups with AR, but it was too late.

Shoulder Press on the Isochain under the 6x6 protocol seems to be helping. However, since I already have an RMT Club, I thought I would try this exercise to see if it helps

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 5

Monday session was the latest 1RM test session. Results:

Zercher Lunge - 90.2 (based on weaker leg scores)
Seated Row - 135.8

I set the chain 2 links lower for Zercher Lunge, because my hip and ankle mobility improved enough to get into the lower position, with the thigh closer to parallel. The chain was also lowered for Seated Row, by one link, because I felt confident enough to position the elbows a little further forward without curving the lower back. I don't think these chain setting changes affected my 1RM scores that much. The scores show improvement over the last 1RM test session. I did not test my 1RM Shoulder Press becauase I already did that last week. Instead I just practiced a normal 6x6 session for that exercise.
Wednesday session performance was my strongest for the week, with a PR of 76.4 lbs. in the Shoulder Press.

Friday session performance was, of course, not as good as Wednesday's but it was a solid session.

Youtube find of the week - what Dan John thinks are the exercises nobody does but should:

I understand that not everybody agree with Dan John, but his reputation as a fitness trainer is well-earned.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 4

Monday session - Zercher Lunge performance was decent, despite one failed rep on the right leg. Seated Row performance dipped from Friday. My right shoulder felt fine during the 1st 6-second hold of the Shoulder Press, but immediately felt sore as soon as I released pressure.

That afternoon, I decided to test my 1-rep Max in the Shoulder Press at the middle angle, following the 1-rep Max protocol from The Ultimate Isometrics Manual. My official score, after recording the 3 attempts and calculating the average, was 69.9333 lbs. Compared to my official 1RM of 57lbs. which was recorded on 12/31/2021, the strength improvement is about 22.7%.

The reason I was training the Shoulder Press at the high angle was to see if it would relieve the pain in my right shoulder that can appear when reaching overhead at certain angles, and sometimes when I try to lie on my right side in bed when I'm going to sleep. The verdict so far is that it doesn't seem to be working as a pain reliever. I felt some shoulder irritation after some reps at that angle. I did not feel any irritation in my shoulders, after any rep at the middle position. So, I'm going to train at the middle angle for the remainder of this 6x6 cycle. It's a more satisfying angle to train at as well, because I can feel my muscles working harder and applying more force than at the high angle.

I forgot to set my alarm clock for the Wednesday session. I woke up just in time to get ready to go to work. So I did the 6x6 session in the evening instead. As part of the warmup, I practiced ATG-style split squats to try to improve my Zercher Lunge technique, as the Zercher Lunge is basically the same movement but with a load supported in the crooks of the elbows. I scored 79.6lbs max on the last rep for my right leg on the Zercher Lunge. I was not able to record a max force score for my left leg because I forgot to press the Time button to activate Timed Mode. After a few seconds of effort, I pressed the Time button, then pressed the AVG button by mistake. When I pressed the MAX button, the display read about 14lbs. The target load was set to 60lbs, so I should not have been able to initiated Timed Mode with only 14lbs of force. Hopefully I won't screw up next time! The Shoulder Press and Seated Row sets went better for me. It just felt good to feel my push chain working at 6x6 intensity for a full set.
I felt like the Friday session was a strong finish for the week. Right leg Zercher Lunge performance was ok, but my max on the last rep for my left leg was 90.6, which is a PR. I also hit a PR on the Shoulder Press with 73.8lbs on the last rep. My Seated Row performance was relatively more modest, but the max force was still nearly 10lbs. over the 1RM.

I've been trying a variety of hand placements for the Shoulder Press. I've settled on setting the hands at roughly shoulder width. Part of the technique is protracting the scapula, which activates the serratus anterior muscles. This hand placement seems conducive for the serratus anterior contracting harder and contributing more to the Shoulder Press.


Friday, August 05, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 3

6x6 program guidelines in the The Ultimate Isometrics Manual say to re-test 1-rep max scores every 2 to 4 weeks. The test results would set the target loads to work with until the next 1-rep max test session.

So Monday session was the 1RM test session. Results:

Zercher Lunge - 84.9333333 (based on weaker leg scores)
Shoulder Press High - 42.4
Seated Row - 131.2667

The lower numbers for Zercher Lunge and Shoulder Press, compared to the 1RM test before the start of the program were not a surprise, because of the switch from the longer, lighter tension spring to the heavier spring that was shipped with the Isochain. Applying the 70% of 1RM guideline, the target loads for the Zercher Lunge and Seated Row will be a few pounds higher. The Shoulder Press target load will remain at 30lbs.

For the Wednesday session, Zercher Lunge was down for the right leg, with the target load being 3lbs higher. Left leg performance was more solid. Shoulder Press performance was about the same as last week. I beat my 1RM score in the Seated Row, but I've been careful about not straining too much, for fear of hurting my lower back, even though this exercise is known to be safer for the back than the standing Bent-over Row.

Finished the week with another decent session. No breakthroughs, but the results for the legs were closer to even in the Zercher Lunge. After the session, I did some drills from GMB Recovery, and some Elmements-inspired locomotion practice with emphasis on hamstring mobility and shoulder rotators.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 2

Monday session - performance was weak, with multiple failed reps. I still worked through the 6 reps per exercise, being mindful of technical cues such as not leaning to the side or forward during Zercher Lunge, squeezing the butt and straightening the legs during the Shoulder Press, and pulling towards the belly button and locking the knees during the Seated Row.

Wednesday session went much better, with the best left leg performance yet in the Zercher Lunge, a max force score higher than tested 1-rep max in the Shoulder Press, and a Seated Row max force 20lbs higher than the tested 1RM score. One change I made for the Shoulder Press was to use a slightly narrower grip, having been influenced by Red Delta Project videos like this one:


Switching to a narrower grip for the Shoulder Press resulted in greater force output. The force output was confirmed by the Isochain, but I could also feel that I was applying more force too. The narrower grip makes it easier for me to engage more muscle along my push kinetic chain.

I finished the Friday session feeling stronger, even though the 1-rep max testing session this coming Monday may not reflect that, due to the first test session being done with the longer and slightly lighter tension spring for the Shoulder Press and Zercher Lunge

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Week 1

Sometime last year, I bought a porch swing spring with 700lb capacity. Isochain ships with a high load capacity spring to solve the zero loading reflex (aka "cortical inhibition") problem - your CNS (central nervous system) will allow you to exert more force on a moveable object, but will limit your force production if it sense that you are exerting force against a solid wall or other immovable object. I'm not sure what the exact load capacity of this spring is but I read it may be around 1000lbs. Some fellow users have observed that it stretches when you apply at least 110lbs of force. Thus, there has been speculation that if you're not strong enough to make the spring stretch - you cannot produce 110lbs of force - a spring with a lower load capacity should enable the load reflex at a lower threshold of force. I have noticed that I made the fastest strength gains in Isochain exercises in which I could generate more than 110lbs of force - such as Hack Lift and Bent-over Row.

So that's why I bought the 700lb load capacity spring. I thought I would use this spring for the shoulder press and Zercher lunge, because my max force is less than 110lbs for both exercises. Unfortunately, I don't appear to be strong enough to stretch this spring either, for either of those exercises, based on my Monday performance. Whatever the minimum force is to stretch this spring, it's higher than 90lbs. If I can't stretch the spring, I won't benefit from load reflex.

So for the Wednesday session, I decided to use the spring that was shipped with Isochain for all 3 exercises, to save the time I would have spent switching springs. I tried to compensate for the greater length of the porch swing spring compared to the factory spring, by setting the chain length accordingly. I think the Isochain bar was still a little lower for Zercher Lunge, despite the attempt to compensate, so the difficulty was greater than with the porch swing spring. The greater difficulty caused my muscles to fatigue more quickly. Thus, I failed to complete the full 6-second hold for 2 out of the first 4 reps of the set. Per 6x6 guidance, I lowered the target load by about 10% - from 63lbs to 57lbs - and was able to complete the set at the lower load. No shame in working at the lower load until the next 1-rep max test session. My shoulder press actually went up after the spring switch. My seated row went down a little, because I was a little spooked by the cracking sound I heard from my spine during the Monday session. I finished the seated row set without issue, paying attention to not letting my lower back round and pulling towards my belly button, which seems to activate the abs.

For the Friday session, I tried to apply a bit less force in the Zercher Squat, so that my muscles would not tire as quickly, and I could concentrate more on my body alignment. The lower 57lb load helped. my last-rep max force readings were actually higher than for the Wednesday session. I was similarly conservative with my force output for the Seated Row, although of course I was just being protective of my lower back. I focused on straightening my legs to stretch the hamstrings, pulling towards the stomach to engage the abs, and keeping the chest up to prevent rounding of the back.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Isochain 6x6: Planning and 1-Rep Max Testing

After several months of calisthenics, with the last several weeks focusing more on hypertrophy stimulus, then a couple of weeks of rest, it's time to go back to Isochain for strength focused training, with my favorite Isochain strength training program, 6x6. The book Ultimate Isometrics Manual, citing the work of Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky, states that 6 repetitions of 6-second isometric holds is most ideal for strength gains. 6x6 is built on that. I like it more than the Promethean programs. Under the Promethean protocol, the trainee is always trying to work towards ever higher target loads, and will eventually achieve a target load that is so high that they will not be able to do 6 reps of 6-second holds, or even have enough strength to hit the target load for a 4th or even 3rd rep. . In 6x6, the trainee tests for 1-rep max for each selected exercise, then trains at target loads that do not change until the next 1-rep max test session. The target load does not get as high as in Promethean, so that the trainee can concenntrate on good alignment, technique, etc. without the temptation to sacrifice those things in a desparate attempt to make at least 4 reps.

The 6x6 exercises in the book are Front Squat, Shoulder Press, Bent-over Row, and Shrug. However, the consensus among the Isochain user community seems to be that you can select any exercises you want, as long as you follow the general guidelines for 6x6. Going by Red Delta Project's chain training terminology, for this program I have elected to select one exercise for each of the 3 movement chains, and none for the 3 support chains - flexion, extension, lateral. Some members of the Isochain community have found creative solutions for working the support chains with Isochain. However, in the interest of saving time, I will focus only the movement chains. Time will tell what free gains I might make on the support chains by strengthening the movement chains under 6x6. The selected exercises are:

Zercher Lunge - The squat chain exercise, which may also carry over to all 3 support chains.. It's one of Red Delta Project's favorite exercises for Isochain, and the linked video explains why.

Shoulder Press High Angle - The push chain exercise. I've continued to have intermittent shoulder issues while reaching overhead. Working at this position should help shore up my weaknesses there, and improve shoulder stability.

Seated Row - The pull chain exercise, and yet another Red Delta Project favorite. I also prefer this over the Bent Row as it is much safer for the low back. I'm working out of a low angle on this one, so that my elbows are in front of my ribs. The biceps seem to get more activated here than at the high angle with my elbows behind my ribs and the bar very close to my stomach.

About 2 weeks ago I tested my strength using the 1-Rep Max protocol from the Ultimate Isometrics Manual, and got these results:

Zercher Lunge - 90.3 (based on weaker leg scores)
Shoulder Press High - 43.2
Seated Row - 127.7

There seems to be some carryover from practicing assisted pistol squats, and maybe the suspension hamstring curls and hip extensions which work the glutes and hamstrings; to my Zercher Lunge. When I last tested my Zercher Lunge 1-RM this past January, I scored 81.9, so this is almost a 10lb improvement.

I have not worked on Shoulder Press at the high position since winter 2021, so I don't have any recent data to compare. I last worked on overheard pressing this past April, when I decided to switch from Accommodating Resistance Pike Pushup to Accommodating Resistance Pseudo Planche Pushup. In retrospect, I think AR Pike Pushups strained my shoulders. I would have been better off training my overhead pressing kinetic chain more for hypertrophy, for at least 6 weeks, before subjecting the shoulders to the very high intensity of AR Pike Pushups. We will see if there is any carryover from the recent hypertrophy-focused training I did on my chest and triceps.

I have not done Seated Row under 6x6 or Promethean, as my pull chain exercise of choice before was Drag Curl. This exercise with pronated palms poses the least risk to my Golfer's Elbow. I can already do Front Lever Rows with the knees partially untucked, so I know this will be my strongest pulling exercise on the Isochain. It will be interesting to get even stronger here, and see how this carries over to my pullup performance.

Random find: GMB Movement Flow for hamstring flexibility

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Today's Music Discoveries


Some background info on Love Info and Takako Mamiya found on Reddit.




Some cute "music for studying" videos featuring Anya Forger from Spy x Family



Monday, July 04, 2022

M8 Tracker: Probably better ideas for randomization for varying drum hits and other instrument behaviors

In an earlier post, I tried an approach for adding randomization for varying the loudness and timbre drum hits. Then I was advised of a cleaner-looking approach. In, say, the FX1 column of the Table, put these commands:

VOL00
RAN0F
HOP01

In, say, the FX2 column, put these commands:

CUT00
RAN0F
HOP01

These ideas come from Impbox. They also offer this definition:

Unlinked = all parameters are randomised individually. Linked = one random choice controls multiple parameters


So the above technique is for "unliked" randomization. See below picture for "linked" randomization.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

M8 Tracker: The Stickerbush bundle and other studies related to working on my own cover tune

Stickerbush Bundle and what I learned from it so far

This is a cover of Stickerbush Symphony from the game Donkey Kong Country 2, by Princent Vice, one of several prolific and knowledgeable members of the M8 user community.


Princent Vice also offers a bundle, which includes the project file, as well as instrument files used in the song. He says it can be used for studying basic M8 Tracker techniques like chord tables, REP bass line, and bootleg sidechain
  • In Table 40, RET is used to play a repeating bass note, increasing the volume with each repeat.
  • In Phrase 40, which is one of the bass phrases, the instrument table is set to 40 on the first step, then changed to 41 for the last couple of steps. Tables 40 and 41 look identical, but it was interesting to see the possibility.
  • Also in Phrase 40, the first step also has LFO retrigger commands. One retrigs the LFO assigned to volume and the other retrigs the LFO assigned to filter cutoff.
  • One chord technique is used in Track 2. This works with FMSynth. The technique is to use the FM1, FM2 and FM3 commands on the Phrase to set the operator pitches. The MOD parameters for teh FM Synth instrument should be mapped to PIT (pitch).
  • Another chord technique is used in Track 3. This technique is to use the FM1-3 commands on a Table instead of on a Phrase. Not sure what trick was used for the rhythmic behavior.

Notes from continuing to work with the M8 Tracker

Both of the above chord techniques, as well as other techniques, are covered in Impbox's tutorial here:


SHIFT+PLAY in the phrase screen plays the song from the phrase position. This way you don't have to start from the beginning of the song all the time. This is useful for things like figuring out where to insert transitions between song sections. But what if you want just loop one row of a song, so you can hear how your changes to one Phrase in one Track sound with the other Tracks?

This is done by hitting PLAY (or in the case of inside chain or phrase, SHIFT+PLAY) while in selection mode to have the song loop the current selection. For review, selection mode is activaed by SHIFT+OPTION. Alternatively, if the rows before or after the song row you want the loop are empty, it will loop on itself. you can copy the song row you want to loop and paste it somewhere else where it is isolated, that way it'll loop if you play that row.

To add randomized variation in the loudness of FM drum hits, one technique is to go to the Table for that instrument, and enter VOL values in one column. Then in the Phrase where you want the variation to happen, enter THO00 in an FX column for the first drum hit, and for subsequent drum hits, enter RAN commands, in the same column where you put the THO command. The THO will hop to row 0 of the Table the first time the Phrase is played. I think the RAN that follows it will reset the THO so that the next time the Phrase is repeated, the hop will go to a different, randomly selected row.will, I think, Set RAN to 0F (16 in decimal) if you entered VOL values into all 16 rows, if you want the . Now I see it hitting pretty much anywhere in the whole table set a table position on one note (or in an earlier phrase) then put ran on following notes with the range of steps you want as the value on the same fx column VOL00 RAN0F HOP01
Tip from Ess (FM synthesis guru) on drum synthesis from Meetup 9 - use the highpass filter which fairly low cutoff (25) and high resonance (AF) to add some low end. The FM oscillators do not reset on new notes, but if you do want the reset, use a KIL command before the next note. May need to automate filter cutoff



A tip about managing instrument volumes

I never use the mixer. I keep everything at E0 and use individual instrument volumes (the DRY parameter) to mix. This way, my track layout can be a bit more fluid, especially if I have to squeeze other instruments into, for example, the track usually used for the snare.
Snare drum roll technique from the song SLSKERS DEMO: Use the RET command which the manual describes as: Retrigger the current row with volume ramping at a given number of ticks.

NTH command can be used for setting a drum hit to appear only on, say, the 4th repeat of the pattern. Reuse the same pattern in the same change for the NTH command to work as expected
Try assigning an LFO to volume - can use the drunk or random oscillator shapes.I use this for high-hat phrases a lot. Low amount, high frequency, with the random shape
If you need more resolution, say 24 ticks-per-step, just change the 0x06s in your groove to 0x18s. Then, in addition to finer resolution for DEL FX and the like, you can get a very subtle swing with a 0x19, 0x17groove. One thing to add though, changing the ticks per step also changes how some phrases and tables on instruments sound, e.g. when using a RET command. So going back to older projects and changing the groove tables and adjusting the bpm accordingly might play the song in the correct tempo as before, but it might still sound different because of that. The cover tune I am working on is Wow War Tonight, which was a hit in Japan in the mid-90s, and has been covered several times. My cover is inspired by the cover version which appears in D4DJ.

One of the decisions to make is what approach to use for the chordal riffs in the D4DJ cover. Also, keeping everything at E0 means I can use a MIDI controller to mute/unmute by setting buttons to toggle between 127 and 0, and scaling it in the MIDI control screen.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Roland MC-707: Drum programming, Gotchas, Updated Features

You work with one drum kit at a time. A kit can have up to 16 instruments (samples). Each instrument is assigned to a pad. Next to the pad area, there is a row of 16 buttons that represent the sequencer steps. The MC-707 reference calls a drum sequence a "Clip".

The MC-707 lets you choose between selecting one kit for the entire Track (this is the default) or selecting one kit per Clip in your Track, which allows you to change drum sounds from Clip to Clip. Note that if you pick a kit for your first Clip of the Track, then later change your mind and change the Track settings to allow for each Clip to have its own kit, you may have the preset reset to "Init Kit" for some Clips. 

One downside of the MC-707 is that a lot of settings must be accessed by button combinations that may require many of repetitions to memorize. The Measure settings for the current Clip is one such case. The magic combo is Shift and either the "<" or ">" buttons which are both labeled "Measure". The settings are:
  • Step Len - The length of the Clip, which can be 1-128 steps
  • Scale - The value of one step within one Measure, which can vary from eighth notes to 16th note triplets
  • Mode - The order that the steps will be played(forward, backward, random, etc.)
  • Shuffle - The manual just says it adjusts shuffle/bounce. Seems a bit subtle to me.

To edit the current drum kit, press Shift+Sound to access the Kit Edit screen.

If you already know which pad in your drum kit you want to edit, just press Shift and the pad, then press Enter. This takes you to the Instrument menu, where you can choose to edit the instrument in various ways, or replace it with another instrument.  If you want to press a pad to select an instrument but don't want to hear the instrument being played, for some reason - like being onstage; just hold down Note while pressing the pad.

 Unfortunately, if you want to add the Instrument to a Mute Group, you have to remember to select Pad Edit instead of Instrument Edit.

The MC-707 provides 5 Total Effects, which include Reverb and Delay, for the entire Project, one MFX effect for the drum kit. The FX settings for the Drum Kit are accessed by entering the Kit Edit screen then navigating to the MFX and Set screens. If the Track type was set to Drum+Comp, there will also be a Comp screen. The Set screen lets you set Level, Pan, Reverb Send, and Delay Send for the entire kit. The latter two control how much of the kit sound goes to Total Reverb and Delay - note both default to zero. The MFX option lets you switch on/off the "master" effect for the kit and select the effect - you have a choice of about 90 effects.

You can edit effects levels for individual instruments in the drum kit, so that you can, say, set the kick to be totally dry, set the snare to have some reverb, run the clap through some Auto Wah (with MFX set to Auto Wah), etc. If the Track is a Drum+Comp type, you can set up 6 different compressors, and set individual instruments to go to any of these 6. Confusingly, if the Track is set to just Drum type, you still have the option of sending instrument outputs to any of the compressors - it's just that nothing will happen because there won't be any available, unless you select a compressor in the MFX settings.

The length of a drum pattern - aka a "Clip" in the MC-707 reference manual - can be 1-128 steps. Hardcore music theorists may dispute Roland's definition of "measure" here, but as far as MC-707 sequencer programming is concerned, one Measure is 16 steps. Thus the MC-707 shows one Measure (16 steps) at a time in the step button area If there are more than 16 steps in the pattern. If the Clip is longer than 16 setsps and the sequencer is not playing, you can use the Measure "<" and ">" buttons to page through the Measures.

A new Clip defaults to a length of 16 steps, which is one Measure. If, however you have Clip that is already playing on a new track, and that Clip happens to have more than 16 steps, your new Clip may default to a different number. For example, I had a 4-Measure Clip playing on a bass Track when I selected an empty Clip on a Drum Track, and it defaulted to 32 steps in length.

There are multiple ways to change the length of a Clip. One way is to duplicate the measure by pressing Func and ">". Another is to halve the measure by pressing Func and "<". Another is to access the Measure settings screen by pressing Shift and either Measure button. There, the Clip length can be changed.

The basic ways to program a drum pattern:
  1. Real Time - Record yourself playing the pads (assigned to drum instruments) in real-time.
  2. Step Sequence/Step Record - Tap an instrument pad, then pressing the step buttons to indicate when you want that instrument to be played within the current Measure.
Real Time recording is ideal for entering drums with the velocity and time-feel that you want, if you are willing to practice your live-playing. Quantize can be used to automatically adjust the timing of the drums. Step Recording is ideal for entering drum parts that you are sure will be playing regularly, such as a classic "four on the floor" pattern in which the kick plays on every beat of a 4-beat measure.

Each instrument in the drum kit effectively gets its own sequence pattern, regardless of what method you used to create the pattern, although you cannot set its pattern length to be different from that of the overall Clip. For example, if you created a pattern for the kick (instrument) in which the kick plays 4 times per Measure at an even beat, if you tap the pad assigned to the kick, you will probably see the buttons for steps 1, 5, 9 and 13 light up. If you created a hi-hat pattern in which the hi-hat plays on the even-numbered step, you will see all the even-numbered step buttons light up when you tap the pad assigned to the hi-hat. Press Shift and a step button to edit the settings for the step, which are:
  • Vel - The velocity (loudness) of the drum hit
  • Start - Controls when to actually start the drum hit in relation, time-wise, to the step. So you can program the drum to play a little early or a little late.
  • Mute - The probability, in percentage, that this step will be muted. This is useful for drum hits that you want to play occasionally, but not all the time, which in turn is useful for adding variation to the drum pattern.
  • Sub Step - When set to any value other than OFF, it seems to introduce a kind of drum roll or flam. Extreme Shuffle settings for the Clip, however, may reduce this behavior .
You probably want to exit out of the Edit Step screen if you want to resume adding or removing drum hits. If you forget to do so, you'll get confused.

The way I build up a Scene is to create a one-measure Drum Clip first that will play main beat, then create the Tone Clips for the bass, chords, etc. I am too lazy to calculate how long the Clip for each Track should be, so I just skip the calculations and increase the Clip lengths as I go along.
Press the Shift and Motion Rec buttons to access the First/Last Step screen. This is where you can shorten a Clip by setting the First Step to something greater than 1, setting the Last Step to something smaller than the Clip Length, or both. First Step/Last Step manipulation probably works better for a secondary Drum Track or a Tone Track than for the Drum Track providing the main beat. It's a quick way to introduce variations to the Clip

Behavior of cursor buttons and the C1-4 knobs is not consistent. For example when you delete a Track - usually to change a Track from a Drum Track to Tone Track or the other way around - you have to press the C4 button to delete, because the Enter button does not work here.

Gotchas

Before you attempt to change a sound preset for a clip, be sure the clip is actually highlighted in the grid display. Otherwise you'll change the preset for a different clip

Notable Features added in from OS 1.02 and up

Total number of Scenes was increased to 128. You have a choice of Type1 and Type2 workflows for saving and recalling Scenes. Select Type1 or Type2 in system settings. Type2 looks more intuitive to me because the step buttons are used for accessing Scenes, and are lined up left to right. It does require an extra step or two, compared to Type1, in that you have to select the Bank where you will save your Scene, before you select the slot for saving your Scene. On the other hand, this may help prevent you from overwriting an existing Scene by mistake.

System Settings include Count-In, which can be set from 1-128 steps, and Metronome Level.

Copy/Paste Step which is handy for quickly laying down repeating chords. You do have to make sure the Edit Step screen is showing before you start.

A lot of operations on the MC-707 are like this - you have to memorize the right button combos to get to the settings that you want to edit
While holding the FX button, you can use the encoder to select PCM waves. This works also in conjunction with SHIFT in steps of ten.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Calisthenics: Week 17

Monday - Squat Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Lateral Chain Complex (minus dynamic side plank), 3 rounds

Tuesday - Push Chain Complex, 2 rounds. Flexion Chain Complex, 2 rounds

Wednesday - Mobility session influenced by GMB's Shoulder Prehab video.

Thursday - Pull Chain Complex, 3 rounds.

Friday - Squat Chain Complex, 3 rounds.

Calisthenics: Week 16

Monday - no workout

Tuesday - Pull Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Extension Chain Complex, 2 rounds. Switched back to clutch curls. Forearms/elbows felt ok.

Wednesday - Squat Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Lateral Chain Complex (minus dynamic side plank), 3 rounds.

Thursday - Push Chain Complex, 2 rounds. Flexion Chain Complex, 2 rounds

Friday - Pull Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Extension Chain Complex, 2 rounds.

Random finds of the week:
He Shou Wu (Fo-Ti - Chinese medical herb): Benefits, Dosage, and Side Effects
Top 6 Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements

Monday, May 30, 2022

Calisthenics - Week 15

Another week of Micro Workout Complexes:

Monday - Push Chain Complex, 2 rounds. Flexion Chain Complex, 2 rounds. Shoulder still feeling sore, so did only 2 rounds of Push Chain. Was able to do 6 reps of Body Saw by working a very sort range of motion. I did not have much left in the tank for knee tucks or mountain climbers.
Tuesday - Pull Chain Complex, 2 rounds. Extension Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Tried regular bicep curl but that movement did not feel better than the clutch style. Was able to do 5 hamstring curls during one of the rounds.
Wednesday - Off.
Thursday - Squat Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Lateral Chain Complex (minus dynamic side plank), 3 rounds.
Friday - Push Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Flexion Chain Complex, 2 rounds

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Calisthenics Week 14

Continuing Suspension Micro Workout Complexes, as shown in this video:


Monday - Pull Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Extension Chain Complex, 3 rounds.
Tuesday - Squat Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Lateral Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Did not have any energy left for dynamic side plank, so I left that out.
Wednesday - Off.
Thursday - Push Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Flexion Chain Complex, 2 rounds. Worked at too intense a level with body saws, which left me little energy for the knee tucks and mountain climbers.
Friday - Squat Chain Complex, 3 rounds. Lateral Chain Complex (minus dynamic side plank), 3 rounds

I neglected to rest at least 30 seconds between rounds. Hopefully I'll remember next week.

Interesting articles:
Unilateral vs Bilateral Training for Vertical movement
These Researchers Reveal The Right Way To Train For More Muscle Mass

Friday, May 20, 2022

Calisthenics: Week 13

According to Dan John:
A complex is doing an exercise for a given number of reps, then moving on to another exercise without ever putting the bar or bell down.
The "bell" of course is a kettlebell. Dan John has a long history as a kettlebell coach.

Anyway, Red Delta Project put up a video of calisthenic micro workouts applying this complex concept, using a suspension trainer. Interestingly, both RDP and Dan John mention the problem of complex training with a fixed load - it might be a good load for one exercise in the complex, but too light or too heavy for another. John came up with a solution particular to using double kettlebells as the exercise implement. RDP's solution is of course specific to suspension training - adjust your body angle and the strap angle to dial in the appropriate load for the suggested reps for each exercise.

For Monday, I tried the push chain micro workout. I had the suspension trainer handles set to about waist height, because the space where I set it up imposed a limit on the length of the straps for the chest fly. There was some tightness in the Golfers Elbow area of my forearm during the chest fly sets, but I think that can be fixed by paying extra attention to pulling the scapula together first, to initiate the eccentric, so that at the bottom of the movement, the scapula should be squeezed together. I had better luck with the tricep press, because I've gotten better at maintaining enough upper back tension to prevent too much load from going to the elbows. I did 3 rounds of the complex. Overall, the workout felt pretty good. As I continue to practice these complexes I'm sure I'll get at dialing in just the right amount of load for each exercise.

I took the rest of the week off because I visited family. I could have squeezed in a micro workout here or there but my body welcomed the rest.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Calisthenics: Week 12

Monday session: 5 sets of 3-4 Assisted Pistol Squats

Tuesday session: Warmup with 2 Planche Lean holds for about 3 seconds per hold, with knees tucked and toes pointed back so I could test for my Tuck Planche readiness by attempting to pull my toes off the floor. Then one set of floor pushups, and at least 4 sets of 7-9 RTO pushups on NOSSK suspension trainer. I set the angles of my body and the NOSSK straps to reduce the intensity of the movement. I focused on allowing the shoulders to be pulled back and the chest to get a decent stretch at the bottom of the movement, then using the chest muscles to pull the elbows away from the ribs - so that most of the work in the push up is done by the chest. For the finisher I did a drop set of suspension tricep extensions, to try to stimulate tricep hypertrophy.

Thursday session: Antagonist Pair Day

4 sets of Accommodating Resistance Archer Pull Ups
4 sets of 11-12 RTO pushups
Finishers: Suspension bicep curls and tricep extensions

I attempted an AR Mixed Grip Chinup and the Golfers Elbow threatened to flare up, so I decided to do AR Archer Pullups instead. I cannot find any reason to favor the One-Arm Chinup over the One-Arm Pullup. The only difference seems to be in the grip at the top of the movement. The grip is supinated at the top of the movement in the One-Arm Chinup and the biceps might work a little more. What seems to feel more comfortable for me is a neutral grip. I added the suspension bicep curls as a finisher to work the biceps more.


Sunday, May 08, 2022

M8 Tracker Beginner Tips

The following are notes from this video
  • When starting a new project, set up an FE Chain of four FE Phrases.  You can then use this Chain as a placeholder/spacer.
  • Also set up an FD Chain, as shown.  The FD Chain can be used to stop any holdover from a previous Track or reset any commands that might have been incrementing.  This will be your kill/reset Chain.
  • Number your Chains by Track, as shown
  • Phrases within a Chain can be thought of as variations of a musical phrase.  In the video, Read Means Recording says they tend to work with 8-bar patterns but instead of putting 8 Phrases in one Chain, they prefer 4-Phrase Chains because they feel this organization gives them more control.
  • Phrases are not numbered by Chain or Track.  It's just quicker to use Edit-Edit to number a new Phrase, based on next available number.
  • Clone can be used to copy a Phrase so that you can edit the copy to make a variation.  The procedure is a little tricky, however.  The exact steps:

    1. Hold the SHIFT button by itself
    2. Continuing to hold SHIFT, press OPTION then release OPTION
    3. Still holding SHIFT, press EDIT, then release EDIT

  • Deep Clone is for cloning not only a Chain, but also all the Phrases in the Chain. The exact steps:

    1. Hold the SHIFT button by itself
    2. Continuing to hold SHIFT, press OPTION then release OPTION
    3. Still holding SHIFT, double-tap EDIT, then release EDIT

  • Use the DRY and effects send settings on the right side of the Instrument for most of the level settings for an Instrument.
  • One way to use the Instrument Table is as an arpeggiator.  Just enter notes under the N column - these will be offsets in relation to the note in the Phrase triggering the Instrument.  
  • He shows HOP, which is one of the commands you can select in the FX slots.  HOP tells the sequencer to jump to the specified row number, and loop from it to the end a certain number of times.  The built-in help system explains it pretty well.
  • The Table can be used to introduce a polyrhythm, since it can run independently of the sequencer tempo.
  • Interpolation shortcut:

    1. Hold the SHIFT button, tap OPTION to activate Selection.
    2. Use up/down arrow buttons to Select the column values
    3. Press and hold SHIFT, tap EDIT - the selected values will be interpolated between the first and last values of the selected area.
    4. Tap and release EDIT

  • Table can be used for side-chaining.  The example in the video has a bass line on Track 1, and Track 8 playing kick drum.  Go to the Table for the kick drum, and enter the VT1 command in the FX1 slot for all the lines in the Table.  VT1 controls volume for Track 1.  Set the first line to the lowest volume you want, and the highest value to E0, which is the max speaker volume.  Then use the Interpolation shortcut above to automatically fill in the values between the lowest and highest.
  • REP command can be used for ramping up Snare timbre and color over time.
  • He duplicated a kick pattern to introduce variety. An alternative approach is put a CHAnce or NTH operator on that last kick<
  • Other topics covered that I won't study much at this time:  Sample slicing, making up for lack of onboard compressor, using instrument filter modes for mixing
More tips not covered in the video:

  • For automating filter cutoff, in Phrase view, use CUT command followed by a REP to have cutoff repeat
  • At the bottom of the Project screen, there is a Clean/Pack command which is useful for deleting duplicate Phrases and stuff if you run out of slots.
  • Cut/Delete function on the Tempo in the project screen resest Tempo to 120. Useful if you load an instrument that messes with the tempo.
  • Chord Tutorial Check out THO command when using Tables too
  • Tap over to the blank Input column in the Mixer page, hold Edit and tap up, you will activate dual mono mode. When recording you can change the input to be left or right
  • For somewhat random melodies, you can use a table, where you write the notes of the scale that can be triggered,. Use the RAN command in all the steps, but the first one where you have to write the HOP00 command. This way everytime the note is triggered a different note of the scale will be choosen.
  • M8 Meetup Video Timestamp List

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Calisthenics: Week 11

Monday Session:  Assisted Pistol Squats: 4 4 4 3 3

This week, I decided to drop the Hamstring Curls, so that I can replace the time I was spending on that exercise with more sets of Assisted Pistol Squats. After I get strong in the Pistol Squat movement, I will resume hamstring-specific work.

I waited until Wednesday morning to decide whether or not to continue practicing Accommodating Resistance Pseudo-Planche Pushups. My shoulders were still sore, with the right shoulder being sensitive to reaching out to the side. I decided to drop that exercise and replace it with a less intense pushup variation. For this session, I did GSC-style RTO pushups. When RTO pushups are done properly, more of the load is on the chest, and less of the load is on the shoulders and triceps.

I was shocked how hard my abs were being worked during the Accommodating Resistance Archer Pull Ups. It's as if the abs had not recovered from last week's training.

For the Thursday session, I decided to try Assisted Pistol Squats using one arm, instead of two, for assistance. I just wanted to get used to single-arm assistance so if I travel, I can just use a table top for assistance.

For the Friday session, I did several sets of RTO pushups.


This video has great tips for hanging as an exercise

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Calisthenics: Week 10

Monday session: Assisted Pistol Squats: 4 4 3 3 Suspension Hamstring Curl: 4 4 4

I used less assistance from the suspension trainer and focused on making my lower body work harder in the pistol squat, so the reps went down.

Wednesday morning: 3 antagonist pair sets of Pseudo Planche Push Ups and Archer Pull Ups, both with Accommodating Resistance. Performance was about the same last week, except for some reason my abs worked harder. I did the finisher pretty much the same as last week.

I had trouble getting up early enough to do any exercise on Thursday and Friday. As of Friday night, my abs were still sore from the Wednesday session. Both my shoulders continue to be sore as well. If by Wednesday morning I still feel soreness in the shoulders, I may switch back to regular pushups.

New idea from Mindful Mover for rest-pause reps in unilateral exercises with Accommodating Resistance. The idea is to perform the concentric part of the movement on one side, then on the other side. You would then pause for a few seconds, then perform the eccentric on each side. Someone asked about applying this to Mixed Grip Chinups. The suggestion was to use a chair. After performing the concentric on both sides, use the chair to lower yourself so that you won't have to do the eccentric. After your pause, you step up on the chair to get into position for the eccentric.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Calisthenics: Week 9

Monday session: Assisted Pistol Squats: 6 5 4 4 Suspension Hamstring Curl: 4 4 4

Wednesday morning: 3 antagonist pair sets of Pseudo Planche Push Ups and Archer Pull Ups, both with Accommodating Resistance. I paused for a about 10-20 seconds between reps, and rested 3 min. between sets.

I felt a little stronger in the AR Pseudo Planche Push Up than I did last week, though for one rep I did lean a little too far forward out of the isometric hold and started to actually fall, so I pulled up my knees and feet to stop the fall, shook my body a bit, then restarted the rep.

If I had really split the load 53-37 during the concentric of the AR Archer Pull Up last week, this week the split felt more like 60-40. I felt the working side of my body taking more of the load, and the assisting side really just assisting. I was also relieved and happy to be able to load up the left arm more, to force the eccentric to start, without aggravating the shoulder or Golfer's Elbow. I was also able to sink further down into the bottom position, and even hang with elevated scapula for at least 10 seconds, which is another improvement from the perspective of pain and range of motion.

As I reached the top of the Archer Pull Up, I increased the amount of assistance from the assisting side to help me get my working elbow as far back as possible and contract the bicep as much as possible to get the working side ready to take the weight shift that will force the eccentric to start. For some reason, my knees went up when I put in the most effort.

I finished the workout with drop sets of incline pushups on NOSSK suspension trainer. I decided not to do any pulling exercise as a finisher. I want to see what gains in strength and muscle will be stimulated by practicing the AR Archer Pull Ups, without a finisher, as Mindful Mover reported that Accommodating Resistance might subject the muscles to enough time under tension to stimulate hypertrophy.

Thursday session: Did GMB Recovery session, emphasizing reaching and twisting. Abs were sore, probably from the Wednesday session.

Friday session: Assisted Pistol Squats: 5 5 6 Suspension Hamstring Curl: 4 4 4

For a finisher, I did assisted shrimp squats, then cossack squats for some lateral mobility.

Cool lower body flow for hip mobility and strengthening muscles around the knee
Lower body flow for hip opening and spine twisting

Friday, April 15, 2022

Got an Arranger Keyboard

The Yamaha PRS-SX600 is the second arranger keyboard that I've owned.  My first was a 76-key arranger from Yamaha's DGX series which was in production around 2003, but I only used it to practice piano material that I learned from my last piano teacher.  I did not use its arranger features at all, because I didn't understand what an arranger could do for me.   I eventually learned over time about arranger features and started to get more and more interested.  


This post is focused on my first impressions of the PSR-SX600.  Yamaha did not pay me to write it. It is not intended to be a thorough review of all its capabilities.

 

An arranger keyboard is typically set up so that notes that you play with your left hand will influence the bass line and other harmonies being played by the auto-accompaniment.   The typical way to play an arranger is to manage the auto-accompaniment with your left hand and play the melody with your right hand.  Your virtual backing band will play their harmony parts in a given key until you play a different set of notes with your left hand.

 

Thus, the arranger keyboard will typically be split into 2 zones with the left zone designated for style management - the manuals calls this zone the "chord section" - and the right zone - "voice section" -  for melody.  Some arrangers, such as the PSR-SX600 will let you set this split point between the style side of the keyboard, and the melody side.  The PSR-SX600 gives you two split points - the Style Split Point for splitting the chord and voice sections, and the Left Split Point for splitting between left hand zone and right hand zone.  These two points can be different, although I believe they default to identical positions.

 

Many songs are built out of song sections such as intros, verses, choruses, bridges, outros, etc.  Arranger styles typically include song sections that are intended to match the style - thus a bossa nova intro, R&B intro, and rock intro will sound different from one another.  A lot of songs are also played with variations of how instrumental parts such as the drums and bass line are played.  Arranger keyboard styles typically include at least one variation.  PSR-SX600 styles have 4.

 

Arranger keyboards are designed to allow for easy real-time arrangement of a song, so they typically include buttons that trigger these song sections, so that players can decide on the fly when the auto-accompaniment should, say, switch to another variation, insert a fill, or finish the song with an outro.  Easy real-time arrangement of a song is what distinguishes arranger keyboards from other types of keyboards.

 

Arranger keyboards are well suited for people who want to explore unfamiliar musical styles - and thus, would struggle to create song sections in those unfamiliar styles - people who want to play cover tunes with the greater flexibility that an arranger offers over a backing track player or just pressing play on a sequencer in song mode; and people who want to write an original song in a recognizable musical style.  These users would probably appreciate not having to program all the song sections and variations from scratch.

 

Key features of the Yamaha PSR-SX600 which attracted me:

 

3 Intros, 4 Variations, 4 Fills, Break, 3 Endings

Style Creator

Half-bar Fills

Style Section Reset button

Style Unison (eg. the horn section unison riff in “Sir Duke”), assignable to pedal

Style Accent - velocity values from left-hand input can affect Style performance by adding/removing notes

Multi Pads - can trigger audio files as well as MIDI clips

73 Super Articulation Voices (vs. 14 Super Articulation Lite voices)

 

There are more expensive arranger keyboards which have specs and features that can justify the additional cost.  There are less expensive arrangers which do not support as many song sections/variations and do not provide any onboard editing of styles.   I chose the PSR-SX600 because it had the specs and features that looked like the best match for my interests, and appeared to have a good price-performance ratio.  The Style Unison and Style Accent features are not found in the more expensive PSR-SX models, or even the top-of-the-line Genos.

 

Chord Tutor

 

The PSR-SX600 is not designed to recognize every piano chord voicing of G13Alt known to humankind, or any other chord.  It is only designed to recognize certain voicings, and this is where Chord Tutor can be a handy tool to look up what those voicings are.  Pick the key and chord type, and Chord Tutor will show you the chord in standard notation, as well as what it looks like as a shape on the keyboard.  It should be noted some chord shapes shown are for rootless voicings, which may be confusing to beginners.  For example, the Fmin9 shape does not include F (the root).  I think I get why Yamaha implemented Chord Tutor this way - if you aspire to play keyboard with a human bass player, you'll have to learn rootless voicings sooner or later, because bassists will be playing the root and might get annoyed with you competing with them for the root.

 

In any case, beginners will appreciate using Chord Tutor to learn more chord shapes.  Experienced musicians without experience in arranger keyboards could use Chord Tutor to help figure out which chord voicings they can and cannot use effectively with this arranger.

 

Chord Fingering Types

 

For the auto-accompaniment to play in the desired harmony, you play certain notes in the chord/auto-accompaniment zone of the keyboard.  When you want the harmony to change to a different chord, you play another set of notes in that zone.  The Yamaha PSR-SX600 manuals refer to this as “specifying the chord”.

 

The notes that you have to play so specify a chord depends on which Chord Fingering Type (CFT) you select. .  Some CFTs are meant for people who want the auto-accompaniment to play more notes in a chord than they are comfortable playing with the left hand.  Some allow more direct control over the harmony but require a greater vocabulary of chord shapes.  Below is a listing of CFTs that I tried, and corresponding comments:

 

Single Finger

Fingered

AI Fingered

Multi Finger 

Full Keyboard

AI Full Keyboard

Smart Chord  

 

Single Finger lets you play major triads with just 1 finger,  minor triads and unaltered dominant 7th chords with just 2 fingers;  and minor 7th chords with just 3 fingers.  It’s a good CFT for users who want to play 4-note chords but aren’t comfortable playing all 4 notes at once.  It’s really good for users who want to hear major and minor  triads but are not comfortable with those yet.  Yamaha seems to assume whoever uses this CFT doesn’t know what diminished or augmented triads are.

 

Fingered is for specifying the chord by playing 3 or more notes, which you will have to do anyway if you want chords that are more sophisticated than the ones available in the Single Finger CFT..  A chart of chord shapes that the arranger understands is shown in the reference manual.  These shapes are root voicings in the key of C, such as C6, CMaj7, Cm7b5, C7sus, and so on.  A table of chord spellings is provided, for those who want to extrapolate what the shapes should look like in other keys.   The manual also suggests using the onboard Chord Tutor for looking up chords, although beginners may be confused by the Chord Tutor shapes in the key of C being different from the shapes shown in the chart in the manual. So, in exchange for having to learn more chord shapes,  this CFT gives you a lot more control over the harmony compared to Single Finger.  Note that you may have to move the Style split point, because the default auto-accompaniment zone may not have enough room for chord shapes in certain keys, such as A.

 

Fingered On Bass works a lot like Fingered, except the lowest note of the chord played is always the bass note.  The name of this CFT might make you think it will let you play a bass line with your left hand without triggering a change in key for the auto-accompaniment.  If this is indeed the case, you might prefer to just flip the chord and voice sections, so that you can specify chords with your right hand, and play the bass line with your left hand.

 

AI Fingered is basically the same as Fingered, according to the Reference Manual, except you may be able to just use 2 fingers to specify a chord, based on the previously played chord.  Yes, I find this description vague.  You're giving up some control over the harmony because, as implied by the AI, some artificial intelligence is trying to guess a good harmony to play.  This CFT might be worth exploring for happy accidents, as it may be annoying if you have a clear idea of how you want the chord progression to go, and it doesn't make the right guesses.

 

Multi Finger is the default CFT.  The arranger is generally smart enough to  detect whether you are specifying a chord in Single or Fingered CFT as you play.

 

Full Keyboard works like the Fingered CFT, except chords are detected in the entire key range.  It seems to detect most of the two-handed chord voicings that I learned from the Jazz Chords for Beginners course on the Open Studio Jazz website, except the dominant 13th, which has left hand playing  root and 7th, and right hand playing the 3rd, 13th, and 9th.  It also does not detect the altered dominant shape that I know, in which the right hand plays a flatted 9th and 13th.

 

AI Full Keyboard works like Full Keyboard, but like AI Fingered requires less than 3 notes to be played.  9th, 11th and 13th chords cannot be played - according to the manual.  This might also have happy accident potential.

 

Smart Chord CFT  lets you play a chord with your left hand, by only using one finger of your left hand.  You set the key signature and the Smart Chord Type.  For example, if the key signature is C Major, and you want to hear a C Major triad, you just play the C note - you don’t have to play the other 2 notes.  Similarly if you want to play a B diminished triad, you only play the B note.  If you have some music theory knowledge, you might recognize Smart Chord as an implementation of scale harmonization.  This feature would appeal to players who want to play a chord progression in a given key signature, using only one finger at a time, as it is much easier than having to memorize the keyboard patterns for various chords in different keys.  Smart Chord Type settings include Standard, Pop, Jazz,  Dance and Simple.  The Jazz Type setting generates the most sophisticated chords, as expected.   A disadvantage of the Smart Chord feature is that it is not suited to blues, as dominant chords are frequently substituted for major chords in blues styles.  The I chord in a C Major blues, for example, could be a C Major triad, or it could be a C7, which includes a Bb.   Bb is not part of the C Major scale, so if you use only chords from harmonizing C Major, you won’t have C7 available.  For similar reasons, this CFT is ill-suited for chord substitutions and reharmonizations in general.

 

Voices

 

PSR-SX600 sound presets (“Voices”) are built on instrument multi-samples, which is standard for arranger keyboards.  While the sound design capabilities hardly rival those of, say, a Yamaha Montage or Waldorf Quantum, there is some flexibility for tweaking the Voices.  You can edit settings for envelopes, filters, and even LFOs.  

 

Super Articulation (marked as S.Art) Voices produce sonic effects like trumpet fall-off, guitar hammer-ons, etc. depending on how you play.  These effects can also be triggered by a button or a pedal.   Each comes with an Info screen that you can look at for hints on how to play them expressively. For example, most of  the guitar S.Art Voices have Info screens that advise trying piano legato.  I am more used to the so-called “legato” on guitar, not piano legato playing.  I think I’m starting to get the hang of it though, as I can occasionally get that “guitar legato” sound.  Thankfully the PSR-SX600 has 2 pedal inputs, so one could be used for S.Art playing and the other used as a more typical piano damper.

 

The non-S.Art Voices generally sound like I would expect out of a $1000 keyboard rompler in this price range.  This is neither criticism nor praise - just setting expectations for whoever might be reading this.  The specs say that these include 27 MegaVoice, 27 Sweet!, 64 Cool!, and 71 Live! Voices but I don't really know at this time what makes a Voice Sweet!, Cool!, Live!, or MegaVoice.

 

UI/UX

 

I did not have to read the manual to select Styles and Voices or to activate song sections such as Intros and Outros.

 

I did have to dig into the manuals to learn how to change the CFT, Split Points, and other settings that require menu-diving.  I also needed the manual to get some idea of the intended usage of each CFT, although the manuals fell short in their attempts to explain the AI CFTs.  

 

The Info screens for the S.Art Voices are a very nice touch.

 

Next Steps

 

Explore Style Unison and Style Accent

 

Continue exploring unfamiliar styles, like 90% of the ones in the World category, and all the Entertainment ones.  There are also Voice and Style Expansion Packs like  Indonesia 3 that I want to check out as it appears to have gamelan stuff.

 

Sketch out a composition and save it as MIDI (SMF file).  I will probably use the multi-track recording feature.  Real-time recording is also possible, for those who can manage the auto-accompaniment with one hand, play something with the other hand, and also press the auto-accompaniment buttons to change song variations, insert breaks, etc. without missing a beat.

 

Load the SMF file into Ableton Live or hardware groovebox for further development of the piece.

 

Import an SMF file created on other gear (software or hardware) and see what can do with it on the PSR-SX600