On 2 February 2006 I took delivery of my first smartphone, or handdator as I called it in my diary – “hand computer”. On the following day I got the machine on-line. It was a Qtek 9100, with a slide-out mechanical keyboard that I still really miss, a tiny screen, a stylus and a crappy camera. Since then I've had portable Internet access.
I was already a self-described “net head”, and a particular reason for me to get a smartphone was that I'd started blogging a few weeks previously: I wanted to be able to post no matter where I was. On 8 February, for instance, I almost managed to blog from a train. On 26 February I blogged while skiing cross-country. On 14 April I blogged about my hatred of aluminium bottle tops while sitting on my haunches in an Östergötland field. And on 1 June I blogged from the top of a tree in the middle of the Erstavik woods. Though I had no way of putting photographs on-line from my smartphone at the time.
Quite apart from the blogging aspect, this constant access to the net has of course changed my whole way of life. Google Maps means I don't prepare for trips anywhere near as well as before. That info can be had on the fly. Even tickets for buses and planes are in the smartphone. And any discussion of factual matters is now simply resolved by someone checking Wikipedia. Ebooks, streaming music and podcast subscription software keep me entertained and my luggage light. And email and Facebook are always with me.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 that I use these days is of course so much better than that old Qtek in most respects. Except for the virtual keyboard and autocorrect. And for the ridiculous fact that phones are no longer made with anywhere to fasten a wrist strap. But what really hampers my smartphone use is a weakness that has been with these devices ever since 2006: I still have to charge the silly thing every night.
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My silly situation is that I use an iPhone 6+, which is really too big and heavy, but I wanted the big screen because I attach it to the dashboard of my car while driving and use it as GPS with Google maps voice guidance - the catch in that is that the American lady who tells you which street to turn into has absolutely no idea how to pronounced the romanised Cantonese street names, and it often comes out as just gibberish. (Piece of trivia for the day - no car comes factory fitted with GPS in Hong Kong. The excuse is that there is not line of sight to enough satellites among the tall buildings (HK has more than 50% of the world's tallest buildings, in a land area of 1,100 square kilometres)) - but I don't drive in those very densely developed areas, I am out in the countryside, such as it is, so Google maps work just fine, now that I have learned the American lady's personal system for butchering Cantonese.
But the real silliness is that, with my Flamenco length finger nails on my dominant hand, I can't use the touch screen keyboard any more - I have to use a stylus. Steve Jobs must be turning in his grave. I don't know how women manage - maybe their fingers are small enough to get around the problem. Mine are not. In fact, I now have some difficulty using a full sized keyboard, because the ends of the nails are angled to present the maximum width of nail to the string when attacking it, and of course each angle must be different.
I've had mobile internet access for a couple of weeks now. I still have a Nokia 3310 mobile phone which I bought about 14 years ago. (Actually, I have several more, for replacement parts, should something ever break.) I bought an iPad Pro. The killer argument was that it is about the same size as A4, hence ideal for reading PDF files intended to be printed on A4. It's thinner than the average magazine and hence fits easily into the rucksack I almost always have with me.
Checking a local train connection in case of delay, as I did this morning, is about 700 kB. That's about 350 pages of normal text. I'm sure that the website (and this is the mobile version!) could be made more efficient. I enter a few dozen characters and need, at most, a few dozen back.
I also have long nails on the right hand and short on the left. On a touchscreen, I don't type much anyway, and the left hand is fine for that. I like the Smart Keyboard as well. I have no problems on a normal keyboard, perhaps because I have very thin fingers. In fact, most women, even those shorter than I, have much broader fingers than I do.
Phillip, have you thought about using a capo to try to deal with some of the impossible stretches in Bach? It's not something a classical guitarist would normally deign to consider, I know. We sneaky Flamencos have no such qualms.
"Phillip, have you thought about using a capo to try to deal with some of the impossible stretches in Bach? It’s not something a classical guitarist would normally deign to consider, I know. We sneaky Flamencos have no such qualms."
Well, I'm not really that good a player; I haven't ventured that far yet. I've learned a few Bach pieces arranged for classical guitar, but relatively easy ones.
Capos are usually not used in hard rock and/or heavy metal either, but I recently did see one in use. (Note that some of the technically best guitar players are heavy-metal musicians.)
Not that I am an expert on guitar playing, but I suspect the biggest factor in determining whether to use a capo is the key of the song your are playing. The standard guitar tuning favors certain keys, such as E minor, and if you are playing in one of those keys, you don't need a capo, because you will always be able to leave at least one or two strings open (e.g., you can play an E minor chord with four of the six strings open). But other keys, such as D flat major, may include one or even none of the open string notes in the scale. Either you capo up, or you rewrite the song in a different key. I haven't done a systematic study, but I suspect most guitarist-composers (which would include many popular music composers) prefer to write in keys that are relatively easy to play on the guitar. Keyboard-based composers, which would include J. S. Bach, are more likely to use keys that are difficult for guitarists who don't use capos--Das wohltempierte Klavier includes pieces in every major and minor key.
It's not just limited to guitar pieces, either. The US national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner", is usually played in G major if an orchestra is performing, but B flat major if a wind ensemble is performing, because the former is easier for string instruments and the latter easier for wind instruments. But if a singer is performing the piece, it will be transposed to a key that fits the singer's range. To sing it without changing octaves requires a vocal range of an octave plus a fifth, which is a large range for an untrained vocalist. I have found that I can sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in B flat but not in G--the low G is too low for my vocal range, while I can easily hit the high F.
Traditionally, Flamenco players use certain chords for specific compas, e.g. Soleas are always played in A Phrygian. Always. I said 'always' for emphasis. So a capo is used to raise the voice of the guitar to suit the range of the singer. If a Solea is just being played as an instrumental piece, a capo is not needed, unless it makes the piece more attractive by raising the voice of the guitar.
But a capo does have the beneficial effect that the higher up the neck of the guitar that you go, the closer the together are the frets, so stretches between frets become easier. So a piece that can be impossible to play without a capo can become possible with a capo on the second or third fret.
Flamencos also sometimes alter the normal tuning of the guitar from EADGBE. Tomatito likes to tune to DADGBflatD. A lot of folk guitarists, and Keith Richards, tune to DADGAD. But I strongly disfavour doing that - the strings are made to be played at a particular tension, and never sound as good played at the wrong tension. Maybe Tomatito gets his strings custom made, I don't know - it wouldn't surprise me, he endorses/is endorsed by Savarez, who make strings especially suited to Flamenco as well as making classical strings.
Technical competence alone is no big thing. It is what the musician does with it that counts. I consider heavy metal to be rubbish. That it is technically clever rubbish doesn't alter the fact that it is rubbish. Guitarists who play just to show off how fast they can shred or play scales leave me cold - what matters is the music. It is meant to be art, not a circus.
Phillip, you do realise that metal stringed guitars are much easier to play than classical guitars, for a variety of reasons? I'm just checking - I don't know how much you know. Classical guitars are the most difficult to play.
Flamenco guitars are a bit easier to play than classical guitars because the strings are set down closer to the frets - in guitar-speak, they have a lower 'action'. That's because we Flamencos like to play fast, and don't mind if we get some buzzing from the strings vibrating against the frets. In fact, often that is an effect we try for, when we play 'azalpua' (which is playing the bass strings both down and up with the thumb nail) - if we can get the top two (i.e. lowest in pitch) strings buzzing against the frets, so much the better, it adds to the sound effect we are trying for.
"Not that I am an expert on guitar playing, but I suspect the biggest factor in determining whether to use a capo is the key of the song your are playing. "
"Flamencos also sometimes alter the normal tuning of the guitar from EADGBE. Tomatito"
Is there more than one "El Tomate" among flamenco players? Apparently the girls in Las Ketchup are the daughters of El Tomate (hence the name), but is this Tomatito, or his father?
"likes to tune to DADGBflatD. A lot of folk guitarists, and Keith Richards, tune to DADGAD.!
Actually, Keef uses open G, but with 5 strings, so G-D-G-B-D.
"But I strongly disfavour doing that – the strings are made to be played at a particular tension, and never sound as good played at the wrong tension."
True. There are different gauges of strings, though, so if a string is tuned lower than it should be, one could replace it with a string from a higher-gauge set to get the same tension.
"Maybe Tomatito gets his strings custom made, I don’t know"
Or mixes different gauges.
"Technical competence alone is no big thing. It is what the musician does with it that counts. I consider heavy metal to be rubbish. That it is technically clever rubbish doesn’t alter the fact that it is rubbish. Guitarists who play just to show off how fast they can shred or play scales leave me cold – what matters is the music. It is meant to be art, not a circus."
I couldn't agree more. However, and I am not exaggerating, there is more variety among music which is classified as "heavy metal" than in the rest of music combined. Again, not an exaggeration. Most of it is lyrically and musically inferior (but, recalling Sturgeon's Law, 95% of anything is trash). However, there is good heavy-metal music. Whether or not one likes it is another thing, of course. For me, music stops around the death of Bach and doesn't really pick up again until the Beatles, but I wouldn't call Shubert "rubbish". (I do call Cage and Schönberg "rubbish", though.) Again, you might not like it, but I don't see how you could classify, say, Nightwish or (despite their goofy image) Iron Maiden as rubbish. Take some time to view some clips on Youtube or wherever (there used to be some really good ones live in the Abbey Road studios, but I can't find them now). Again, maybe not your cup of tea, but not rubbish, and far from the heavy-metal cliche. Check out Thomas Zwijsen who has arranged many Iron Maiden songs for classical guitar.
"Phillip, you do realise that metal stringed guitars are much easier to play than classical guitars, for a variety of reasons? I’m just checking – I don’t know how much you know. Classical guitars are the most difficult to play."
I have both. Classical guitars also have a wider, and flat, fretboard.
Of course, an easy piece on classical guitar is much easier than a difficult piece on electric guitar. :-)
That's it - the neck has to be wider to make it easy enough to insert the fingers easily between the strings. Plus on a steel stringed guitar the tension of the strings is lower, and the action is lower, even lower than on a Flamenco guitar. The first time I played my friend's solid body electric, when I was a teenager who had been learning classical guitar, I couldn't believe how much easier it was to play - it was so easy it was almost ridiculous.
Yes, I realise that 'heavy metal' encompasses a very wide range. In my opinion (again) some things are called heavy metal that do not deserve to be.
But basically any musical genre that relies on being played so loud to a live audience that it sends the audience deaf has ultimately got to be self-defeating. Or maybe that's the plan - it makes people deaf so that they can't hear or appreciate anything else.
Pop and rock concerts have been extremely loud since before I was born. I always bring ear plugs to gigs and often have to use them. Love guitar music!
I think El Tomate and Tomatito are no relation. Tomatito is a Spanish Gypsy (Gitano) who plays in a very earthy style. I don't know, but imagine that Tomatito was a childhood nickname because he has a rather round face (probably with a bit of a reddish flush to the skin.) This clip was from when he was younger; now he is recognised as one of the most eminent of the modern Flamenco guitarists:
(OT but potentially very cool)
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Phillip - I hear what you are saying about music, but I have a suggestion: don't write off the early modern Spanish and South American composers for classical guitar. If you are still working on the easier Bach pieces, they will currently be beyond you technically, but they are worth aspiring to once you strengthen your fingers enough and develop the technical skills. They wrote some truly beautiful music.
Paleolithic bone tools found from South China http://phys.org/news/2016-03-paleolithic-bone-tools-south-china.html
I am told that there are lots of subgenres within heavy metal, but that doesn't necessarily equate to variety, which is very much in the ear of the listener. I used to be in a group that performed a fair amount of late 20th century classical music, and that was all over the map, too--dodecaphonic (which I agree is mostly rubbish, because it's just as formula-prone as a lot of popular music and doesn't even have the accessibility of popular music), polytonic, nonstandard scales, and creative ways of making sounds with instruments. Three or four chords and the truth will only get you so far, musically speaking.
I would like to think this, too, but empirical evidence suggests otherwise. Yes, This Is Spinal Tap was a parody, but not by much.
Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of e -mail has died, at the modest age of 74. Nancy Reagan has died at 94.
And 25 presumably quite young refugees -ten of them children- drowned in the mediterranean when their boat sank.
"don’t write off the early modern Spanish and South American composers for classical guitar"
I'm familiar with Joaquín Rodrigo; there are probably others worth exploring.
Life is too short!
Francisco Tárrega wrote some useful practice exercises, and also some pieces which are suitable for 'medium to advanced beginners', but which are also very pleasant to listen to. They are a little bit challenging. The best thing is that he used the whole of the fingerboard. A lot of learners do something that no student of any other instrument does - they shy away from learning to use the whole fingerboard. You can't imagine a pianist learning to play only one end of the keyboard, it would be ridiculous, but that is what a lot of guitar students do - they shy away from learning to play anything above the 5th fret, to the extent of not even learning the notes. Yeah, learning them all is painful, but until it is done you can't say you have mastered the instrument.
Exercises can be monotonous and boring, but it's like everything else - you can't become fit enough to play tennis just by playing tennis, you need to do fitness and strengthening exercises. Playing the guitar is no different.
Tárrega fixes that - he has you moving all the way up and down the fingerboard, and sliding up and down the strings - quickest way to develop those fingertip callouses that mark a real guitarist.
Yes, life is too short when you are learning and keen to advance. But 3 years from now you will still be 3 years older, whether you put in the time practising or not. The difference is if you keep practising, in 3 years you will be an accomplished player.
Like my online Flamenco teacher said - you get out of it what you put into it.
What I resented about Classical is that you get locked into the 19th Century and earlier, so you are not playing a living, evolving genre. Tárrega survived into the 20th Century, just. Someone like Heitor Villa-Lobos carries you a lot further forward. If you can get as far as playing his compositions, then you are carrying forward a living tradition and can compose your own pieces.
To me that is the attraction of Flamenco - it is a living genre that is rapidly evolving. If only the bastards would write it down, but you can't really write down Flamenco music; the best you can do is write an approximation, and you must learn from other Flamenco players how to play it. The Internet solved this problem for me.
Enough rambling. As one online Flamenco teacher says: Less talking and more playing.
Torroba is another 20th Century Spanish composer who composed for Spanish guitar.
I mean Classical guitar.
"I think El Tomate and Tomatito are no relation. Tomatito is a Spanish Gypsy (Gitano) who plays in a very earthy style. I don’t know, but imagine that Tomatito was a childhood nickname because he has a rather round face (probably with a bit of a reddish flush to the skin.)"
Here is a subject where relying on Wikipedia is not a good idea. I checked some of the languages I can read, and they don't agree.
Apparently the Tomatito you mention had a father and/or grandfather who went by El Tomate. The father of the Las Ketchup sisters is often referred to as a Flamenco player named El Tomate, but it seems to be someone else (though the Dutch Wikipedia claims otherwise).
Well, there were at least two bands named Nirvana, and at least two named Wind, and at least two named IQ, and at least two named The Real McCoys (one of whom changed its name to The Jeremy Days to avoid confusion) and at least two called The Brew, so it is not inconceivable that there is more than one Flamenco guitarist going by the name of El Tomate.
Would you advise me against assuming the pen name El Tomate here on Sb?
"Would you advise me against assuming the pen name El Tomate here on Sb?"
Do you think that you can handle all of the groupies?
I would have to put El Pepino to heavy use, I suppose.
I'm reminded of a film biography that I watched a while back on the late great Paco de Lucia, which was made not long before he died. At the beginning, the interviewer asked him to introduce himself, so he said "My name is Francisco Sanchez".
I have found two guitarists called El Tomaté, but both are too young to be the father of Tomatito - they are both younger than he is.
If there are two, there can be more.
Southern Spain is absolutely full of mediocre Flamenco guitarists. Paco de Lucia's guitar teacher, his own father, was one of them - he commented himself that his father had to work very hard as a guitarist because "he was not very good". Not that he looked down on his father; on the contrary, he idolised him, but he was just making an honest evaluation.