Somewhere in the midst of my distractions while writing last night’s post, I got in my head to look up a chord chart for ‘Normal Like You’ by Everclear, which is sort of more of a rarity than one would expect.

(This is off their ‘So Much for the Afterglow’ album, which I admit I played to death for a large chunk of the late 90s, early 00s.  It was released in ’97. I think it was at the top of rotation most of the way through college, and it’s aged well. I don’t think I ever actually got tired of it. It just somehow got buried under the weight of my ridiculous music collection.)

The song came up on my shuffle driving to the open mic last night and I thought ‘that one might be good to learn. I wonder what chords it uses.’

In the process of that, I came across this cool site: riffstation.com.

What riffstation does, essentially, is play a youtube video, and underneath it run the chords as they change, so it shows you chords, and the duration of them, in real time. To the right, it shows the chord chart (options: guitar, ukulele, piano. Though, I imagine you bassists, given the guitar chord, can figure out what sort of bass lines would work, so while it doesn’t cater to bass players, you can still at least see the root in real time, which is probably enough to give you a jumping point if you have half a clue about what you’re doing).

You have access to that much for free. There is a plug in to slow down the chords (to a max of half speed) which will cost you a pretty penny if you want it, but in theory, you can use the free riffstation in conjunction with a chord sheet grabbed from whichever source makes you happy, to first learn a song and then check your timing in a reasonably accurate way.

It’s definitely not entirely accurate. Some of the chords are off. I decided to check it against a song I know the progression on pretty well, that’s easy. (Yep. ‘In My Mind’ by Amanda Palmer) And, I can  be pretty darn sure there is not a random single strum of an Am chord one time in the beginning of that song for no reason, never to be repeated again.  I’ve noticed similar discrepancies between their progressions and the chord charts on other songs, though I’ve only checked two or three. Still, it’s definitely close enough that, once you’ve learned the chord changes on a song, you can follow it in real time, and it will tell you when to change your chords.  It won’t tell you what your rhythm should be, and it won’t tell you if a chord’s duration is one strum or 8 strums, but it will tell you when the next chord starts, and you have ears so you can figure out the rest. That is pretty darn handy, if you ask me.

I am pretty big on attempting to play along to the original tracks on songs I’m learning, so I’m constantly pulling up videos and fumbling along with them, but even so, with varying volumes of youtube videos, I often can’t hear them well over my own playing, so a visual play along is a pretty great tool, even if it’s not 100% accurate.

Riffstation uses a listening algorithm to figure out the chords, so it’s the nature of the beast that that’s just not going to be 100% accurate 100% of the time. A tiny eff up in an original recording will definitely be noticed by the program, so it will misread chords based on what it sounds like, rather than, perhaps, what the recording artist might have originally intended. No algorithm is perfect, as we all know. It’s definitely close enough to be functional, though, if you have a basic understanding of what the chords ought to be.

In other news, I was kind of excited to hear about this collaboration between VAMPS and Apocalyptica, which was released today:

I have a weakness for VAMPS, okay? When I have had a shit day, there are only a handful of bands I turn to for a guaranteed detox, and VAMPS happens to be in my top 5 for that. And, while I haven’t explored Apocalyptica much (yet), I do think they’re pretty cool. Metal Cello? WTF kind of mad genius is that?!

Sooo, while I’m totally broke this week (seriously, I hate the end of the year. Between birthdays, holidays, insurance and bills, it’s a miracle I can feed myself between October and Feburary. Pay day can not come soon enough.), things would be dire if I couldn’t afford $1.29. I’m adding it to my collection as I type.

We are in a world right now that I constantly get looked at like an alien when I mention buying music. Why would you buy it if you can use spotify/pandora/insert service here? Why would you buy it if you can download it for free? Because, guys, I believe in supporting the artists that I love, in what teeny little way I can. I believe in giving my tiny little pittance of support, to be one of the voices that say ‘yes, we still want this, so let these musicians keep doing the cool shit they do.’  A huge percentage of the time, I’m supporting little DIY groups who can’t survive without that kind of support, or who can’t support themselves on their music and are just doing it for the sheer love of it, but even if it’s a famous band that’s probably not hurting for cash, what’s the difference, really?  I don’t think there is one. I think if something brings you joy, you should show your appreciation. When it’s music, or art, that means buying it, or sharing it with others who might buy it, or, if you are lucky enough to be able to do both, DO BOTH. So yes, I spent $1.29 on a song on a week where I’m genuinely hoping I’ll be lucky enough to not need gas or groceries for the next 7 days, and I will make that same decision every time for my favorite bands.

I’m totally preaching to the choir, I know. Even so, when we’re feeling down, it’s the arts that pick us up and dust us off again. It’s our favorite song coming on at just the right time, or a painting that somehow says ‘you’re not alone’ when we need to hear it most. It’s not fair to think those things don’t have a value, or are somehow undeserving of our support, just because you can get them for free.

Anyway, I’ll get off of my soapbox now. lol. Somehow, I end up on that tirade every time I talk about some new piece of music that I’ve purchased, but roomie literally just asked me ‘can’t you just download it?’ Yes, I can, and I chose not to. And, I’m not going to deny for a second that a lot of my music came to me for free or dirt cheap. I can not count the sheer volume of music that entered my collection off of the dusty shelf of a thrift shop, or as the free album I got from one of those old music services that used to ship out CDs for a penny (ah, the olden days). But, I also can’t deny that I’ve discovered a lot of artists off of a 50 cent thrift shop purchase that I wouldn’t have known existed otherwise, so it’s all relative. The point is not to devalue music; the industry does a good enough job of that without our help.

And, yes, this totally should not all have been lumped into one post, but I don’t care.

Until Next Time, getting my new song on my phone, deciding what song to learn next, and learning several different ways to play an A chord on the ukulele because…well, I have my reasons.

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