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


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.




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.




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

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Calisthenics: Week 8

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

Wednesday morning, my shoulders felt fine enough for resuming upper body calisthenics. I did not feel as much soreness when reaching out to the side or reaching up and to the side.

I did 3 antagonist pair sets of Pseudo Planche Push Ups and Archer Pull Ups, both with Accommodating Resistance.

I think I did ok in leaning forward into the planche lean to start my Pseudo Planche Push Ups, at a sufficient angle for a 3-5 second isometric hold - not too easy, and not too hard to hold for the minimum 3 seconds. I might be tending to reduce the leans as I go down, which would make the eccentric easier. I did have one rep in which I leaned even more after the isometric hold to force the involuntary eccentric, and that felt more intense than on my other reps. This is probably the correct way to do the exercise.

I call my chosen pulling exercise "Archer Pull Up", but I am really practicing it as a variation of the Mixed Grip Chinup. I practice pullups on Duonamic Eleviia, which are a pair of pullup handles that clamp onto a wide variety of door frames. The handles can rotate, which is great for protecting the elbows. I followed the guidelines for Mixed Grip Chinups with AR as much as I could in my practice of the Archer Pullup. I practice Archer Pullup with my working palm facing the side at the top position, and pronated in the bottom position. In the Mixed Grip Chinup, the working palm is supinated at the top position and may turn out at the bottom position. The reason I went with Archer Pullup instead of Mixed Grip Chinup is it seems less likely to cause reinjury to my shoulder or elbow. My shoulder does not feel good when the arms are extended overhead with supinated palms, although it does feel better when the palms are rotated more to the side. Any position from the bicep curl movement, with the palm supinated, can trigger Golfer's Elbow unless I am being very mindful of using the spiraling action from the back to reduce load on the elbow.

The Mixed Grip Chinup guidelines stipulate full range of motion - from elevated scapula at the bottom position to working elbow pulled back as if you are trying to hit someone at the top position. Both shoulders still feel uncomfortable when the arms and scapula are pulled p past a certain point. So, I worked within the ROM that was comfortable for me. I may not get the same gains as I would have gotten with full ROM, but any gains will be better than nothing.

One point where I need to improve though is initiating the eccentric. The guideline is to shift so much weight to your working arm, that the added weight forces you to start sinking. What I did instead was voluntarily start sinkng, then shift weight to the working arm as I was sinking. I was afraid I'd shift too much weight and thus cause an accident. Oh well that's part of the learning experience.

Mindful Mover feels the One-Arm Chin Up is the best calisthenic (bodyweight only) exercise for pulling strength, because of the intense load on pulling muscles of the arm, back, etc. It makes sense to being the journey towards the One-Arm Chin Up by first achieving the pull up, then progressing beyond that by redistributing the load, so that one arm takes more load than the other. I feel like I was able to split the load maybe 53-47 - 53% on the working arm, 47% on the assisting arm - on the concentric and maybe a 60-40 split on the eccentric.

I finished the workout with drop sets of incline pushups and rows on NOSSK suspension trainer.

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.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Strandberg Salen Jazz NX review

I had been fascinated by the Salen Jazz model since Strandberg first announced them, as it was their first semi-hollowbody model with an F-fole. It may have also been the first to feature a mahogany body and neck. Recently, Strandberg introduced the Salen Jazz NX. When I saw they had a Salen Jazz NX on sale in the Refubs section, in the burgundy color, I bought it.

Improvements with NX Concept

The Salen Jazz NX incorporates design improvements that Strandberg describe on their NX Concept page. I have a Boden OS7, which is an older Strandberg model. One design improvement in the Jazz NX that I really appreciate is the EndurNeck is more rounded, which feels much nicer to my hand than the sharper edges of the Boden OS7 EndurNeck. The quality of the setup is better, although that might be because it was refurbished and set up by the Strandberg USA team in California. The tuning knobs on the EGS Rev7 hardware require noticeably less effort to turn than on the older guitar.

Pickups and Sound

There is a 5-position pickup selector switch. The sounds by position:
  1. Neck Humbucker
  2. Neck  single-coil (inner coil of humbucker)
  3. Both Humbuckers
  4. Neck inner coil and Bridge outer coil 
  5. Bridge Humbucker
Position 4 has quickly become a favorite for rhythm guitar. The sound is similar to that of my Tele with its pickup selector in the middle. Pickup designer Michael Frank worked in his magic to make it hum-free too, despite it being a single-coil sound. The humbucker tones are comparable to those of the Seymour Duncan 59s on my D'Angelico guitars, which is not surprising as all these pickups were designed to sound like PAF humbuckers. The neck humbucker sounds a little brighter with the tone control high, compared to the Seymour Duncan counterpart at a similar setting, but that might be because of the Salen Jazz NX's small body. The bridge humbucker has the expected bite, but with a pleasant roundness.

With a clean guitar amp, I have found that notes can be made to pop out more on semi-hollow body guitars and tend to have rounder tone, compared to solid body guitars. The responsiveness of semi-hollows to variations in playing technique with clean guitar amps attracts me to this type of guitar. The Salen Jazz NX has those semi-hollow characteristics, although they are more subtle compared to my D'Angelico Deluxe SS and Excel Mini DC. I think the smaller body of the Salen Jazz NX reduces the unplugged string volume and makes it sound a little less airy, and more focused than the D'Angelicos. Some have compared its tonal personality to that of a Telecaster Thinline, but I've never played one so I can't compare the supposed similarity myself.

Some Strandberg owners/fans feel they can get the same tones on any dual-humbucker Boden model that has a chambered body. It would be fun to do a side by side comparison with one of those people. The Salen Jazz NX has a mahogany body and neck, with rosewood fingerboard and maple body top. The majority of Strandberg models do not have this wood combination, so there should be some tonal differences, somewhere.


Most electric guitar bodies have a curve at the bottom for resting on the player's thigh. The Salen Jazz NX, like other Strandbergs, have two bottom curves instead of one, so you could rest it on your thigh in the more common playing position, or raise the angle of the neck, and let the other curve sit on your thigh.

The combination of the 20" radius fingerboard, rounded EndurNeck, balance of the guitar for standing, and the extra sitting position make the guitar very comfortable to play - if your playing style is a good match. I generally prefer a light touch and don't dig hard into the strings, except for an occasional accent. The string spacing is comfortable for fingerstyle and hybrid picking. The neck is very comfortable for hammer-ons and pull-offs - very little force is required. Some song arrangements for solo fingerstyle Even notes and chords on the first fret are easy and comfortable to play.

The combination of the 20" radius and 25"-25.5" multi-scale design on this neck allows me to play the double-stop bend that starts the "Peg" solo, which I cannot play on any of my other guitars that have .010 gauge strings.

The sustain is excellent. It might have the best sustain of all my semi-hollowbody guitars.

Verdict: It's a keeper. It has taken over as my #1 guitar to practice on because it's so comfortable and is the least likely to cause the return of my Golfer's Elbow. The selection of tones and responsiveness to playing techniques are also excellent.

Monday, April 04, 2022

Calisthenics: Week 7

Assisted Pistol Squats have gotten easy to do, so it was time to progress by lowering the assistance of the suspension trainer. This was done by standing a few inches closer to the anchor points of the straps.

Monday: Assisted Pistol Squats: 5 5 5 Suspension One-Leg Hip Hinge: 8 8 8

Tuesday: GMB Shoulder Prehab (elbow rotations, Twisting Bear with emphasis on shoulder rotation, Crab Walk); then Weighted Cossack Squat and unweighted Jefferson Curl.

On Wednesday morning, my shoulders still felt sore, especially when extending the arms to the side. So for Wednesday morning trainng, I decided to do another Leg session:
Assisted Pistol Squats: 5 5 5 Suspension One-Leg Hip Hinge: 8 8 10

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

The one-leg hip hinge was getting easy to do, so I progressed to suspension hamstring curl, which is quite a bit harder.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Calisthenics: Week 6

I have to admit my calisthenics training is is neither totally freeform nor tightly structured. So I'm just going to log my calisthenics training as "calisthenics". My rough plan for this year is 12-16 weeks of calisthenics, alternating with 6 weeks of Isochain 6x6 training.

Monday: Assisted Pistol Squats: 7 7 7 Suspension One-Leg Hip Hinge: 7 7 7

Tuesday: GMB Shoulder Prehab (elbow rotations, Twisting Bear with emphasis on shoulder rotation, Crab Walk); then Weighted Cossack Squat and unweighted Jefferson Curl.

Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, my shoulders were still feeling a bit too sore for Pike Pushups. So for Wednesday morning trainng, I decided to do Pike Pushups with Accommodating Resistance instead. Pull Ups: 7 7 8.

Wednesday: Pseudo-Planche Push Up with Accommodating Resistance and Pull Up antagonist sets. Did 3, with Pull Up results: 7 7 8.

Friday: Assisted Pistol Squats: 8 8 9 Suspension One-Leg Hip Hinge: 7 7 7

Lower body loosening flow
Adding Pauses to Front Lever Rows
Exploring your ranges during dynamic stretching