Back to the PC

It has been a bit difficult the last few months trying to figure out the system of choice for gaming. Do I pick the PS4 Pro for the comfy couch, amazing soundbar, and 55″ 4k HDR TV? Do I pick the Switch for the sweet handheld experience? Or do I pick the PC for the ultimate experience?

Up until recently, it’s been the PS4, and I’ve actually had to rebuy a few games (and play them from the beginning again…ughh) because I already had them on Steam. Honestly, most of the time I just prefer to chill on the couch and play games…and not sit on a desk, which I already do 40 hours a week.

Well lately, things have changed. Steamlink is available on Apple TV and iPad, and I couldn’t be happier. With my new home mesh network I’m now able to play all my PC games on the TV in 1080p quality. Additionally, Remote Play for PS4 with Dual Shock support is also available so I’m now able to play my PS4 games on my iPad or my PC. I also have a Switch docking station connected to my PC so I can play Switch games on my desk as well. It’s the best of all worlds.

Other than that, it’s been a rainy week in Seattle. Some big positive changes are going in life that I’d prefer not to talk about in a public space…at least not yet.

I haven’t done a lot of piano practice as I should. The difficulty lies in the type of music I can play, and how I should practice. I’m focusing primarily on the music the teacher gives me (which is just one or two easy songs), so after I “master” those songs, there’s not a whole lot for me to go off of. So I’m doing my own thing, which is a bit difficult as I don’t have the right guidance for that.

The difficulty lies in matching the music to my level. There are three big programs out there for learning: Flowkey, Simply Piano, and Playground Sessions. They all have their pros and cons. Flowkey has a nice selection of music, but it’s very basic as far as teaching how to play it. Before you know it, you’re thrown into some really complicated songs and no idea how to play them. Simply Piano is really good, but can sometimes be too forgiving when I make mistakes. Playground Sessions is okay, but it’s not forgiving at all with mistakes, and it lacks…something?

So I’m just going to stick with my books and teacher for the moment. Just let it be I suppose.

Music Progress

It’s been about two weeks since I started playing piano again. Where am I at?

I’m pretty much over trying to learn through apps and software. It can be done, but I feel can only go so far with it. I decided to get formal training and I’ll be taking lessons for half an hour a week, starting tonight!

In the meantime, this weekend I’ve been tinkering with the more popular iPad app, SimplyPiano. It’s game-like, but I like its training structure over other apps and software. I find as a supplementary tool, it’ll be nice to work with along the side of my actual formal training.

As cheesy as it sounds, it feels like this is a new stage in my life. I think with the amount of music I listen to each day, moving towards actually making music seems like a good positive step in the right direction. Both of my doctors really suggest it as far as getting ahead of my anxiety and depression issues I’ve had on and off for the last few years.

Ch…Ch…Changes

Since my last update, I finally purchased a piano.

To put in perspective, why did I get a piano when I already have a guitar? Well, I’ve always been a big fan of piano. My grandmother is a pianist and always bragged how I had pianist fingers. I simply love it, and I listen to a lot of piano music daily and watch pianist streamers on Twitch/YouTube.

In fact, I originally purchased a piano about 6 years ago during deployment. It was a small portable keyboard, but it was really limited to what it could do (4-note polyphony) and only went up to two octaves. It honestly was more for synthesized/electronic music than it was for actual piano playing. I ended up trading it for my electric guitar for the next deployment (though in retrospect an acoustic would have been a better choice).

The idea was that I’d practice guitar, and when I get my own bigger place, then I’d get myself an 88-key digital piano. That never happened. I wasn’t playing guitar, so why would I buy a piano, again? Even if I could, I had no space in my house for one.

So going back into guitar, I’m finding myself asking two questions: Can I learn two instruments at once; can I find a spot for a digital piano?

Learning two instruments at once shouldn’t be an issue. It’s more about motivation and time. Both of which I have, it simply means I need to cut back on anime/gaming time. Space, however is another issue. I could squeeze it into my room, but it would be rather uncomfortable.

Anyways after a few weeks of thinking things over and rearranging the house, I cleared away some old stuff around the house to put my piano and acoustic guitar in a nice spot.

As far as learning, however, that’s a bigger issue.

With guitar, I’m satisfied with where I’m at in learning. Justin Guitar is a great free online resource that I’ve been utilizing. Guitar Tricks is another good pay resource, though I’m not a big fan of the progression so far. I’m at six chords right now and trying to utilize at least 15 minutes daily to work on transitions.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many similar resources online for Piano. For the iPad there are a lot of “games” that look like educational tools such as Simply Piano and Yousician, but they are quite costly and I doubt I could learn something as complex as piano through a simple format such as that. There’s also Flowkey, which is affiliated with Yamaha; the problem is that the training is a bunch of videos of some guy’s hands, I can’t print out sheet music, and it feels like I’m not progressing far as I’m just reciting Jingle Bells three times in a row with no consequence if I don’t play it perfectly.

On Mac, there is a program that I’m using called Playground Sessions which seems pretty legit. I’ve clocked in about 8 hours and learned more than any other resource so far…though I feel like I’m missing something? Maybe it’s because I’m more focused on looking at the finger positions than I am on the notes of the sheet music.

I could turn off finger numbering, which solves that problem. But I still feel like my progress is moving a bit too fast.

I’m considering taking formal lessons. Not sure who to talk to, where to go, or what level they will put me at. I’m just afraid of going from playing Game of Thrones with two hands back to Twinkle Twinkle on one hand.

So a lot of decisions to be made.

Back to Normality

This entire week, my focus has been entirely on guitar practice. I’m getting better at A, D, and E chords. Now on to Am, Dm, and Em. I struggle most with Dm as it requires a bit of a stretch, so that’s going to take me a few weeks to get used to.

Finally ordered Astral Chain. I didn’t purchase it earlier simply because I wasn’t in the mood. But with my fingers sore from practicing, it’s a good time to get into it. With that said, gaming is still taking a backseat. My focus is entirely on practicing guitar when I get the opportunity (i.e. not when my neighbor is here).

Sports-wise, I’m all about Formula 1 this week. Great race this morning that I’m looking forward to watching the whole race later on today.

Last week I put up my steering wheel as I desperately need space in my room. Yet lately I’ve been really in the mood to play iRacing with my VR setup. Not sure how that’s going to work. Probably best to keep it up for now as I’m not in the position to pay for circuits, a monthly fee, and additional cars to qualify for certain races.

Picked up some expansions for the War of the Ring board game. One of those expansions went out of print and was selling for $300 on eBay. Finally went back into print for $30 and I snagged it almost immediately. I’ll be setting that game up later today.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today. Probably will go practice after this post. 🙂

Weekend Blues

Unfortunately, working overtime this weekend, making it a 50 hour work week. At least I have tomorrow and Tuesday off.

Can’t sleep that much tonight, I suppose. Been thinking a lot about what’s going on in life lately. So far everything has been focused around going to work, and coming home and playing guitar.

Put in perspective, playing guitar, makes everything I’ve done in the last few years seem rather trivial. I’m just amazed I’ve had my guitar locked up for nearly 5 years unplayed, mainly due to lack of direction in learning how to play it, and now the only thing I can think about is playing it.

What I mean about “trivial” is that in the last few years I’ve been seeking a form of escape through means of entertainment. I’ve looked at simulators, video games, board games, comic books, TV series, figure collecting, anime, etc. I’m looking for some thing. A certain zest in life.

Video games particularly are a money pit, for me they provide a temporary thrill that lasts a few weeks before I move on to the next game. I can find myself spending $100 a month on video games, easily. That’s $1200 a year. When you include other forms of entertainment, you can see why I’m just barely breaking even in the bank each month.

With music, however, I don’t feel trapped in this endless loop of constantly keeping up on new forms of entertainment to keep me from being bored. I’m actually creating something. It takes a lot of hard work, daily practice, and determination…but with the progress I’ve made in the last couple of weeks I’m actually seeing improvement. That improvement is what’s driving me to keep moving on.

It certainly helps to have the right resource, however, to keep at it. I’ve tried practicing through several different resources and now finding one that works. The first resource I tried was simply through reading a book. It’s okay for learning simple melodies like “Ode to Joy” or “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”, but quite frankly it’s boring as fuck.

The other resource I went to was Guitar Tricks, which is not bad, but not particularly what I want either. Basically I’m going through the training and wanting more than just practicing single strings. Yet the instructor will go through something like six-string melodies, sing a simple song she made (which isn’t really my taste), and she’ll play this boring song extremely fast. I’ve been feeling really discouraged as I not only can’t keep up with her, but I’m simply just bored and not sure at what point I should give up and move to the next lesson.

The last resource is Justin Guitar, and I’ve seen a huge amount of progress in the last three days, than in the last two weeks through the other two resources. He’s started off with three chords: A-D-E, gives you training exercises, listening exercises, and plenty of real songs that utilize those chords that I can practice with. Already I’m getting better at the transitioning between those three chords, and I can play Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds rather well. That’s huge.

So yesterday I ordered one of his songbooks and a beginner course through next-day shipping. I also ordered an old-school metronome as well. I really want to support his efforts (given that he gives his training for free), and I also would like physical copies I can utilize offline for guidance and training.

I’m also playing with an acoustic now. It’s no replacement for the electric but it’s a nice beginner guitar that I can play in other rooms without lugging around a giant amp.

I think there’s a bit more of an added benefit of music than just relieving boredom. It’s somehow therapeutic. After dealing with that I’m calling “passive depression”, in which I am constantly looking for an escape from the mundane life…constantly feeling dissatisfied…bored…unmotivated. I’m actually doing something that challenges me physically, mentally, and stimulates me in such a way that no video game or TV show ever has.

With that said, what are my plans for the week?

With TV, there are only three things I want to watch: Soccer, Formula 1, and Wrestling. These three sports I’ve always enjoyed, and it makes sense to get back into something live and unpredictable other than just browsing through Netflix looking for the next show to watch.

With gaming: FIFA 19, F1 2019, and WWE2K19. Obviously because of the above…but also because I’m just simply burned out of games. I’m just not in the mood to run around, shoot things, or go through some obtuse JRPG mechanics. I just want to sit down and enjoy something that’s simply fun.

The rest of my time, I’m just devoured in learning music and guitar. I just don’t need to do anything extra at this time. And I’m okay with that.

More on Hobbies

It’s interesting when I look at the past few years at the types of hobbies I’ve been hooked on to: Flight Simulators, Racing games, Board Games, Card games, Figure Collecting, Anime, JRPGs, Strategy Games, Illustration, and now Guitar.

I’m not ashamed of it, though there are times I wish I could be invested in one hobby as it’s simply expensive to keep up with everything else.

I admit though, I ended up ordering an acoustic guitar online, but put in perspective, it’s still far cheaper than what I usually spend on video games. The acoustic is mainly because I like the classical natural sound, plus it’s more portable than the electric + amp that I have.

So, I’m just starting on my weekend (I’m off Sunday-Tuesday). What will I do for the next few days?

Anime/TV

I’ll probably watch another episode or two of Stranger Things, and I definitely would like to catch up on Demon Slayer, I hear Episode 19 is really good.

Gaming

I haven’t played Fire Emblem in the last few days. I’m instead working on the demo of Dragon Quest XI. I’d like to get the Switch version, but I already own the (inferior) PS4 version and invested about 20 hours into it. I can’t see myself playing all over again when there are so many other things I’d like to put my time toward.

I resubbed to iRacing, though not sure how much patience I’ll have for it. The multiplayer is fantastic, has great VR, and feels like a simulator. It’s just I don’t have the time to set up my wheel, my VR headset, go around practicing around a track for an hour, then qualifying, then racing. Sometimes I’d just like to jump in and play.

Being a big fan of Formula 1, I convinced myself to pick up F1 2019. Instead of getting the superior PC version (for my wheel setup) however, I picked up the PS4 version on sale. Why? Because as with the issue to iRacing…I just want to sit on the couch on my day off, play a race for 20 minutes or so, and call it a day.

Likewise I redownloaded FIFA 19 and will be playing that this weekend as well. I’d play it now, but unfortunately the TV is tied up.

Hobbies

This is the big one. I’m really engaged in guitar. It’s difficult, but feels rewarding at the same time. When I’m not gaming or watching TV, I’d like to use my time to practice every day this weekend.

Weekly Update

When you take meds every day for years. It’s easy to forget why you take them. A week off my ADHD meds and I was an unmotivated and disorganized mess. A week off my anxiety meds and I started freaking out over nothing. Back on my meds now and the best I can say is that I’m “Normal”, whatever that means :).

Anyways, back to business. After watching some K-On and Sound! Euphonium, and playing BanG Dream! on iPhone, it’s urged me to go back into music. So this week I’m focusing on music. So I dropped off my electric guitar in for maintenance yesterday. Should be back today.

I’m seriously considering picking up an acoustic when I’m there. I like the sound, the simplicity (no amp or pedals required), and I like the extra layer of difficulty in pressing down on the strings, which will only improve my electric guitar performance. It’s also pretty cheap compared to what I put in for the electric.

The downside? Well, I haven’t practiced on my electric in over five years, and nearly sold it a few months ago. Now I’m thinking of an additional guitar? Where will I put it? Will it collect dust for another five years?

At the same time, one of the reasons I’ve been discouraged from playing the electric for the last five years is primarily the setup. Purchasing it was a great idea at the time, but as I had less and less time to do stuff at home, I realized sometimes I just want to pick up something and play without adjusting knobs and dials. I also just want the simple sound of the strings, without having it amplified/modified by the amp. My tastes have also changed, I’m less into rock as I used to be and more into classic country, blues, and folk-style music.

So it makes sense to get an acoustic. I wouldn’t dare trade in my electric however. It’s a beautiful instrument, and even the guy at the guitar shop suggested that when I nearly sold it a few months ago, it would have been a great loss since it’s a well-made Fender Stratocaster.

They also brought about taking lessons. This sounds interesting. Having to take lessons is much more motivating for me than just saying “Hmm, should I play a YouTube training video today? Nah I’ll play Star Wars Battlefront II instead”.

I’ve also been weighing in getting a keyboard for years now. But that’s primarily an issue of space. I literally have no place to put it. An acoustic guitar is portable, a keyboard…not so much. So that’s a thought for another day.

So there you have it, another hobby to add to the list of hobbies I already have. It’s an ADD thing (so says my doctor), but at this stage in my life, I learned not to fight it, but just live with it.

Which brings me to another point. Balancing hobbies and activities during my time off. While I was unmedicated yesterday I ran into overwhelming anxiety issues with having too many things to do and not sure where to even start.

Last week, I was determined to focus on one activity at a time, and this week it’s somewhat the same. However, I’m not going to be as strict in my approach, since it makes my hobbies becomes a chore.

Still, I like my lists. Here’s what I’d like to do this week:


TV/Anime

  • K-ON! – Finished up Sound! Euphonium last week and now on K-On. I’m only on episode 4, but I’m enjoying it. It’s a good comedy, though a bit too Shoujo for my tastes. I’m still interested in it though.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimitsu no Yaiba – I love the art direction in this, the music, and the storyline so far. It can be a bit dark however, so it’s not something I can watch entirely in one sitting.
  • Stranger Things – I’d like to at least watch one episode this week. Enjoying Season 3 so far.
  • Formula 1: Drive to Survive – This is one I’ve been watching off and on Netflix. I plan to finish this in the next day or two. A great behind-the-scenes look at the last season of Formula 1 and brings the drivers and the teams behind the drivers into a greater perspective that you don’t see during the race.

Gaming

  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch) – I’m about 12 hours into it. I try to put in at least an hour each day. Basically run through the school grounds and put in a battle or two to level up my class. But it’s not really something I can play for hours on end in one sitting.
  • Deemo (iOS)Picked this up again. They added a lot of new songs and features since I last played. Going to try to get through all the new songs at least once.
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (PS4)- I nearly forgot about this game until this morning while trying to decide on what to play next on the PS4. When I played last month, I was about 1/3 into the game, but I’m enjoying it a lot so far.
  • iRacing (PC)- Since I’ve been watching Formula 1 on Netflix, it’s got me thinking about doing some online racing. I had a lot of fun with this last year, and it feels more like a serious simulation than a simple game. Works great on my wheel and VR headset too…though I’ll need to do some reconfiguring on my VR Headset which I’m too lazy to do at the moment.

Hobbies

  • Practice on my guitar – Whether or not I get an acoustic, I’ll be practicing guitar this week. Already queued up some videos on YouTube to practice along with.
  • Study Japanese -I’d like to spend maybe an hour this week catching up on my vocab list.

Also to add, visited Victoria, BC last week. Had a lot of fun there. It was nice to take a break from sitting around the house all day and to clear my mind up a bit. Though next year I might settle for somewhere a bit closer to home.