I’m a Star!…well almost!

I’ve come so far since picking up that guitar from my sister’s house nearly 11 weeks ago! I have gone from knowing pretty much nothing about guitar to being able to play a whole song and it actually totally sounding like that song!

In between then and now I have learned how to hold, tune, pick, and strum my guitar, I’ve learned a whole lot of chords too…well, about 10, which is a lot for a beginner! I have learned how to read chord charts and TAB music, and all sorts of other little tid-bits that I’ve picked up along the way.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been focusing on just one song to see how a little practice can go a long way. I’ve been learning “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt, and I have loved learning to play this song! While there is no app or technological substitution for good ol’ fashioned practicing, I’ve continued to use my GuitarTuna app, and watched more videos of some expert guitar players for tips.

My first week of recording the song was pretty…interesting. I used iMovie to make a slideshow, and had used Voice Memo on my iPhone to do the recording. Last week I tried out Moovly to make a little animation to go along with my Voice Memo recording of my playing, and the music was certainly improving. This week, I’ve broke out all the stops and have created a MUSIC VIDEO! That’s right, I directed, produced, and starred in my very own music video for this song. Now, I tried watching a bunch of music videos for some inspiration, but it was almost overwhelming to think that I could possibly create anything comparable.

I did seek some advice from my brother-in-law who actually does create music videos for local artists. While he said it would be rather difficult to make my own video, he gave me some suggestions, including taking LOTS of video, as most music video clips are only a few seconds long. Many clips are also what you’d call “B-roll,” because they are typically shots that depict real action/emotion/movement, rather than something scripted. He also warned me that it would be really difficult to sync up my playing with the audio track.

I kept thinking, how hard can this really be though! I got my husband to record a wide variety of shots of me playing from far away, up close, and a few silly things too. We even went outside when it was about -22C with a nearly -40C windchill…ya, it was so cold! But hey, I did discover that you can actually play a guitar outside in that kind of weather…although it does change the key of the guitar!

So after recording probably about 30 minutes worth of video I figured I had enough to work with for my 3.5 minute song, but as I began piecing it together I realized that I actually needed more and ended up shooting another 10 minutes or so of footage to work with.

My brother-in-law was totally right about timing though! It was quite difficult, and I certainly did not get it perfect, but I think that it is pretty close for an amateur try! I also found that I wanted to use clips that were a little longer for some sections as I wanted the clips to match up with the verses or chords or changes in the music. I think had I had even more footage to work with I could have switched more often, but I like the result!

Screen shot of Camtasia

Screen shot of Camtasia

This week I chose to use yet another program to create my video with. I chose to use Camtasia 2, a program that I had heard about from a friend. It’s  a pretty powerful program, and has a free 30 day trial with no restrictions that I can tell, which is great. The program is similar in many ways to iMovie in that you can import video, images and audio into the program and drag and drop them into the timeline to create your video. The additional things that are fun in Camtasia are the types of transitions and the animations that you can use. While iMovie has similar options, Camtasia lets you have a little more control over the actual movement of a zoom motion into a video or photograph, and also more control over the transition of volume in the audio. This is great for videos filmed with just an iPad, which is what I used, as you cannot do any zooming when filming. Changing angles and zoom on an image is a lot more interesting to watch than just a static position, so I found that I used this feature a lot in creating my video.

While recording I learned a few tips also: play the recording in the background while filming so that the strum patterns can be synced easier, and get more “B-roll” footage! While I really like how my video turned out, I think it would have been even better if I had more candid types of shots to include (similar to the Mariah Carey video). I will certainly remember these if I ever make another video like this or have students do something similar.

Camtasia screenshot of my video

I did like that I could have multiple music tracks though, so that I could layer my playing on top of the actual recording! I recorded my guitar playing with a free app called MicPro. I was able to sync my guitar playing with the recording by listening to the recording through an earbud connected to my phone while I played and recorded. I had seen and used this idea for Eric Whitacre’s virtual choirs, and it made so much sense! By recording my guitar track separately it allowed me to control the volume of my track and the original track, which was great as I was able to make sure that both were clear.

The bottom line is that I have LOVED learning how to play the guitar and plan on continuing my journey and this blog! I have already started looking at some Christmas songs that use a few other chords I have learned along the way, so stay tuned for that!

But, here is my fabulous music video: a cover of “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt

Thanks for joining me so far! Any tips for improving my playing or music video directing?







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