Tuesday, 28 February 2017

REVIEW: "Game Love: Essays on Play and Affection" by Jessica Enevold, Esther MacCallum-Stewart

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Game Love: Essays on Play and Affection
by Jessica Enevold, Esther MacCallum-Stewart
Copyright January 2015
Paperback, 284 Pages

A mostly interesting and decent book exploring the theme of love in videogames. This book compiles a miscellany of material in varying styles and approaches in service to the subject matter of the book. The inclusion of moderate amounts of descriptive and general content makes the book seem most useful to non-gamers; The Sims and the Mario franchises are examples of well-known games approached rather ordinarily in the book. Gamers familiar with the Dragon Age series on the other hand might find the abundant descriptions in the book somewhat redundant. 

Whilst not an ideal resource for scholars—this book fluctuates between somewhat scholarly to more casual works—those who peruse this book with academic intent will still stand to gain and be inspired by nuggets of valuable and interesting concepts. Considering that this book is mostly easy to read and generally entertaining, interested gamers of course could pick up the book; the gamer will be engaged intellectually and critically on occasion and possibly be acquainted with a wider repertoire of games. 

The better chapters in this book are especially fascinating. The essay discussing the virtual pet game Kinectimals and the function of its Kinect natural user interface is one of the most riveting chapters in the book, also bolstered by intriguing citations including that which referred to games as “iOpiates” for “emotion junkies.”

One of the most entertaining chapters in the book spotlighted a darling of the Mario franchise, Princess Peach. Reading about the various romantic narrative angles featuring Princess Peach in the realm of fanfiction—specifically ‘het’ fiction—was certainly enjoyable, be it a narrative setup reminiscent of the “beauty and the beast,” that which deals with the idea of class disparity, or most interestingly the notion of Peach exercising meta awareness by “complaining about her in-game life.”

The chapter examining “Suspended Fulfillment in Fallout: New Vegas” is an absolute gem. The dexterous, creative expression and candid exploration of internal conflicts arising from romantic attraction to a non-existent in-game entity is beautifully complemented with analytical considerations of and intriguing distinctions made between ideas of “vicarious love,” “fictional love,” and “love in bad faith.” The reader can only imagine the depth of self-awareness the author possessed that facilitated such a nature of self-discovery. Amidst the discourse, the author also seamlessly interjected a citation of a really fitting analogy relating to the psychological state of one upon reaching the ending of a game—unemployment. Some avid gamers might find this chapter especially relatable and even comforting to a certain extent through mutual understanding of the emotional complexities associated with the bittersweet phenomenon of “pixel crush.”

Other rather remarkable content in the book includes an analytically fascinating essay which explored the seeming pathology of game addiction from the intriguing dual perspectives of ludophilic versus ludophobic, and 2 chapters which investigated the games Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 respectively in terms of in-game narrative and Non-Player Characters, and ideas of “romantic bleed” and the contrasting identities of “projected” versus “explorative.”

One of the chapters in the book rather laudably furnished an interesting taxonomy of hearts as found in videogames, namely Regenerative Hearts, Emotive Hearts, Consumptive Hearts, Narrative Hearts, and Decorative Hearts. This chapter falls short however with its rather brief descriptions of each type of Heart which only sufficed in helping the reader differentiate between each; the dramatic lack of depth and detailed exploration or more extensively elaborated examples arguably failed to do justice for such a supposedly promising theory. 

The very last chapter of the book “Bad Romance: For the Love of ‘Bad’ Videogames” generates mixed feelings on the part of the reader with regards to its appeal, relevance and overall fit with the rest of the book. As the title might imply, the chapter spotlights substandard videogames otherwise known as kusoge. Considering that an appreciation of kusoge could be a cultivated taste and necessitates progressive immersion, the brash start to the chapter in extolling the “beauty” of abysmal games coupled with successive name-dropping of such an assortment of bad games potentially turns off the typical or even serious gamer. 

The unpropitious positioning of this chapter with such a negative and eccentric outlook as the very last chapter of this book seems only to further reinforce negative parallels between kusoge and the book itself, thereby perpetuating a less-than-excellent impression of an otherwise already flawed book. Whilst the discussion of kusoge followed by a decent critical treatment somewhat justifies its inclusion in this book, this chapter along with a few other chapters in the book however gave the impression of being forcefully molded just to appear relevant to the overarching theme of love. The mere declaration of appreciation and pleasure in engaging with bad videogames to be equitable to the manifestation of “love” for these games is not convincing, and only further draws attention to its tenuous link with and thus general irrelevance to the theme of love in the book. 

The chapter “NPCs Need Love Too: Simulating Love and Romance, from a Game Design Perspective” is particularly flawed. One’s feelings of eager anticipation at the onset of the chapter gives way to mild disappointment. The reader is titillated with promises of being let in on privileged, or at least targeted, content geared toward game designers—“we,” inclusive of the reader, were addressed as game designers—only to be inundated with multiple superficial repetitions of the idea of “as game designers, we should be cognizant of our own mental model of what falling in love involves, and how we want to communicate that model to the player.” The glaring lack of in-depth analyses or apt illustration furnished in support of the statement is disappointing, and that was before taking into account possible expectations of more vigorous treatment in a chapter that purportedly attempts to address practitioners in the game industry. 

This chapter is unfortunately also problematic as a whole. Another seemingly promising subsection assuring the reader of a “Case Study” on the game Redshirt fell short with its rather brief coverage and lack of in-depth analyses and work. On a probably more minor note, there was no reference as well to the screenshot image “Redshirt Relationship Code” to explicitly tie it in to the prevailing discussion or to better assimilate it into the established context. 

This lackluster chapter could have seized its final chance to redeem itself, but opted instead for its modus operandi in presenting its final point before the conclusion. The idea of a “diverse” game development team not being able to preclude the occurrence of “subconscious decisions and assumptions” that “undermine that diversity” is an interesting finding that surely could be further fleshed out. Such fleeting treatment of multiple great ideas in a chapter lacking in a unifying focal thesis or study merely fortifies the impression of the chapter as being incohesive. 

As for a separate chapter discussing Tabletop Role-Playing Games (TRPG), the reader unfamiliar with a specific game might experience some difficulty making sense of several minute details. The tabletop format of these games do make it slightly more challenging to find “gameplays” of them on online platforms such as Youtube in contrast to digital games. 

This book is unfortunately additionally flawed, for being guilty of one of the publishing sins of poor editing. Examples of misspellings include “customization” spelled as “custimization”— “custimization of one’s avatar”—and “appreciation” spelled as “apprecation,” in the phrase “express their apprecation of.” Other editing mistakes present include that which “where” occupied the rightful place of “were,” as in the following, “long before the pervasiveness of digital games, concerns where raised about the computers on which they run.”

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

REVIEW: "Playing with Religion in Digital Games" by Heidi A. Campbell, Gregory P. Grieve

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Playing with Religion in Digital Games
by Heidi A. Campbell, Gregory P. Grieve
Indiana University Press
Copyright April 2014
Hardcover, 314 Pages

A phenomenal critical work guided by a patently cogent intellectual vision. Engrossing from the beginning to the end and uniquely cohesive as a collective whole, this book is the commendable result of rigorous examinations of compelling issues intersecting the realms of religion and videogames. 

Perspectives, arguments and hypotheses in the book are conspicuously presented in incredible lucidity, effectiveness and accessibility. Along with adventures into the intertwining territories of religion and videogames, this book incorporates traces of religious studies, immerses the reader in various games’ rich narratives and intriguing fantasies, and emphasizes the versatile ingenuity of videogames. With delightful examination of videogames through the lens of religion, the avid and ambitious gamer can expect to level up his or her gaming vocabulary.

This book is great for religious, atheist and secular game scholars alike; the topic of religion is rather professionally, sensibly and neutrally handled. Scholars and students of all faiths would feel equally invited to engage whole-heartedly and academically with the contents of the book. I consider this book to be an excellent model for scholar-researchers, -writers and -editors venturing to publish a collective scholarly work; the structuring of and strategic role of each chapter in this book in contribution to the overall subject matter is strikingly ingenious. The nonbelieving general reader is encouraged to peruse the text with an open mind, and to guard against involuntary surfacing of cynicism and skepticism that might arise from reading content related to expressions and behaviors of religious faith.

Arguably the most excellent academic material in the book pertains to distinctions between various typologies of religious games, the look at the audiovisual, narrative and procedural layers of videogames separately through comparative examinations of American versus Arab games, and the practical application of the concept of “spiritual efficacy”—“an essential aspect of the implicit religious potential of games”—fascinatingly and methodically illustrated through the analysis of the videogame The Path

The clear distinctions established between the likes of allomythic games—that presuppose new religious landscapes—, theoptic games, digital didactic or praxic games and more are made all the more compelling with the range of examples provided. It is absolutely enjoying, the way Chapter 5 explored Islam through unpacking the narrative of the “European medieval travelogue” of the American game Age of Empires 2 in contrast to the “Arab prophetic literature,” the game Quraish, and thereafter explicating the elements contributing to for example, the humanization of Islam. The analyses of the elements forming and somewhat quantifying the notion of spiritual efficacy—flow, meditation, empowerment, disempowerment and morality—of The Path is astoundingly fascinating, achieved through meticulous consideration of factors such as the presence or absence of in-game moral systems, moral feedbacks, predetermined goals, elements generating “meditative states,” or availability for an avatar’s abilities to improve.

Comparably captivating and exceptional includes content dealing with ideas of religious “transcendent horror” explored through the games Silent Hill and Fatal Frame, of neomedievalism in fantasy role-playing games, and of the outstanding intellectual concept “mechanistic bias” as purportedly perpetuated to religion by the videogame medium. The very human fascination with supernatural horror makes the heart thumping investigation of fundamentalist Christianity in Silent Hill, and of the signifiers of Japanese Shintoism and Buddhism in Fatal Frame really captivating indeed. Another excellently argued hypothesis is the idea of the precise, reductionist and mechanistic approach of videogames in rendering religion, as manifested in the forms of “formulaic deities,” technological gods, the “strategic” religion, and the quantifiable faith, and which is eloquently said to result in “an impoverished vision of what religions mean to their adherents.”

Some religious controversies stirred by the gameplay or the virtual environment of certain videogames are compellingly covered. For example, the game Resistance: Fall of Man which was sued by the Church of England for purportedly desecrating the Manchester Cathedral in England through its virtual depiction of its ruins, and the game Hanuman: Boy Warrior based on Hindu mythology which instigated furor for supposedly empowering gamers to “control and manipulate” the Hindu deity Hanuman and thus “disrespect[ing]” and “trivializing” the deity. This book flawlessly boils down this topic of contention to the seeming irreconcilability of the notions of “interactivity” and that of “theological inevitability.”

Other ideas in the book are distinctly transformative and therefore precious. The positive empowerment of the gamer is absolutely valuable, for one to guiltlessly and whole-heartedly embrace videogames, by liberating the self from the mainstream stigma and condemnation of videogames as frivolous. With one’s consciousness being imbued with the alternative perspective that games and the act of gaming can be viewed as a “religion,” and as a medium simultaneously warranting fun and serious treatment, the gamer is freed to boldly accept that gaming can be an earnest venture and a meaningful pursuit in life. The book contains ideas for example, that indicate games to be not “unreal,” but instead to be “human worlds revealed to be symbolic universes accessible through a machine.” 

Another extraordinarily unconventional, convincing and fluently constructed perspective is as follows, “One could even argue that from the player’s perspective computer worlds are superior to reality in some respects. The example of Manchester Cathedral in the game Resistance: Fall of Man makes this clear. For players, the cathedral was more ‘real’ in its virtual representation than in the actual building in Manchester, because the game allowed the players to work in it in the Schutzean sense and thus make it part of their life-world. The building in Manchester had no reality for most of the players.”

Whilst religious purists and zealots likely might not peruse this book, it could still be necessary to highlight the rare statement or so that could potentially be taken wrongly by this demographic of readers. Atheists might nod their heads in agreement to statements proclaiming the close resemblance between religion and gaming, for example that religion is potentially as “unreal” as videogames, religious purists however might not take such insinuations amiably. The same could be said with regards to instances such as when the spiritual and virtual worlds are noted as “close cousins,” and to be “equally isolated from the material world’s play and prayer.” 

Hardline religious adherents might also not appreciate or even downright reject respectful and scholarly considerations of religion as a game, in the sense of “the game of religion” or “religion, as a game.” Other potentially problematic statements communicated the possibility of religion “devolv[ing] into assumptions of certainty where certainty does not exist,” and expressed notions that “we are increasingly enchanted with computers because they do what our religion has always done for us, but in some ways they do it better.” 

Though probably inconsequential and barely noticeable to the average reader, the book at one juncture however could possibly furnish an additional sentence or so to contextualize an example provided on game localization. In Chapter 8 “Filtering Cultural Feedback,” it was cited that the movement speed of the U.S. version of The Dirge of Cerberus to be “reportedly 1.2 times” faster than that of the Japanese version. The curious reader however is left wondering the rationale, whether cultural, technological or otherwise, which explains the disparity. Whilst the lack of an answer here is hardly tragic due to the introductory nature of this material as preceding the comprehensive core of the chapter, any refinement in the attention to detail in the book however could certainly leave distinct impressions in the minds of attentive readers or book reviewers. 

Considering the masterly fleshed out premise of gaming as “implicit religion” in the book, as an atheist, I just might adopt the religion of gaming from this moment on. 

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

REVIEW: "Parables of the Posthuman: Digital Realities, Gaming, and the Player Experience" by Jonathan Boulter

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Parables of the Posthuman: Digital Realities, Gaming, and the Player Experience
by Jonathan Boulter
Wayne State University Press
Copyright December 2015
Paperback, 168 Pages

Posthumanism and videogaming probed through the lens of philosophy and phenomenology. This episodically challenging read provides rather interesting and unique insights into the “machinic, posthuman” phenomenon and its play experience in digital play. Very well-written, this book structures its analyses and arguments through examinations of representative videogames such as BioShock, Crysis 2, Half-Life 2 and Fallout 3.

Parading its scholarly style of writing reinforced with rather substantial use of jargon, this book surely appears to primarily target philosophy scholars and students, game scholars, and potentially the game student. Though relatively short and compact, this book could be a challenging read for the non-philosophically educated reader, and likely formidable or even downright inaccessible for one without higher education. Readers of diverse professional backgrounds and especially avid gamers not repelled by the academic prose are absolutely encouraged to read this book. Certain nuggets of insights will preciously enhance the gamer’s understanding and even affinity for videogames. 

Some material in the book strike one as being marvelously excellent. The intriguing analyses of the element of the posthuman in Crysis 2, the rigorous examination of the idea of melancholia, and the exploration of the significance of the catastrophe and the apocalypse in posthumanism are absolute gems. The author asked distinctly thought-provoking questions such as “Is posthumanism grounded in the devastation of space and place?”, shrewdly highlighted the posthumanist irony of and contrast between the “devastated” and “torn down” virtual world against the “enhanced” game protagonist, and very aptly verbalized the notion of the unpleasant limitations of humanity and “lessness of this [real] world” as opposed to the virtual world.

Other ideas raised are positively and pronouncedly profound. The idea for example, of identifying the “true” narrative of a videogame, whether the “explicit” or the “hidden” narrative or otherwise, is truly fascinating. Similarly stimulating include the discussion of the application of the concept of “deterritorialization” in conceiving hypotheses pertaining to the avatar and the player-avatar relationship, and indication of the incorporation of “a morality system” into BioShock’s gameplay. The comparison of the “fantasy” videogames offer to “a kind of virtual tourism” is certainly intriguing, whilst attributing the constituent of the “faceless” and “voiceless” protagonist in a first-person game for successfully “placing the player in the closest psychological proximity to the agency of the avatar” is surely convincing. 

To his credit, the author beautifully vocalized factors that elucidate the appeal of videogames and the posthuman gaming experience. A diverse range of fantasies were noted—to transcend limitations of the biological, gravitational, physiological and even psychological; to enjoy a freedom from “singularity, the singularity of a limited and static subjectivity” of real life; and even to embrace “pleasurable” threats to one’s own identity or to fulfill one’s supposed “fantasy of loss.”

The reader might not agree with every statement or assessment made by the author; the analyses remain interesting nonetheless. The idea of the “very human desire to alter our ways of being, the very real desire to become other, and permanently” might be thought-provoking but not necessarily persuasive. The book is occasionally dry, with not all philosophical approaches discussed and elaborated upon to be equally engrossing, prompting one to sporadically skip ahead. The density and extent of jargon found in the book also seemed to make the text less accessible than necessary, thus potentially curtailing readership by excluding a certain demographic of readers who otherwise would have eagerly devoured the fresh and incisive perspectives offered. 

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

REVIEW: "Understanding Minecraft: Essays on Play, Community and Possibilities" by Nate Garrelts

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

Understanding Minecraft: Essays on Play, Community and Possibilities 
by Nate Garrelts
Copyright September 2014
Paperback, 232 Pages

A piercing intellectual discourse on Minecraft and its identity as a videogame. Beautifully written, this scholarly book provides a multifaceted analysis of Minecraft—its mechanics, aesthetics, features, value and applicability—and theorizes the game’s appeal, popularity, uniqueness and success. Organized in compact chapters, discussions in the book are adroitly interweaved with the fields of education, psychology, literature, sociology and technology. The inclusion of interesting comparative assessments also allows the reader to gain additional understanding of a variety of other videogames. 

This book is accessible even for researchers, scholars and students who have never experienced or played Minecraft firsthand. Examinations of the game within the videogame canon is built upon the provision of foundational details of the game—its basic features, the idea of mods, the game’s developmental narrative, and its developer’s policies and vision. This book will also be a delectable treat for ardent gamers who enjoy engaging with critical and theoretical texts. Videogame neophytes can expect to be blown away by the expansive world of Minecraft, and be stimulated and inspired by the immense creativity and talent existing within the Minecraft community. For those who earnestly scrutinize the book’s contents, he or she could surely gain satisfaction from continuing to hone his or her game analysis skills and the ability to verbalize the virtues of videogames and the virtual world the games reside within. 

The book contains a sizable amount of content that spans from being magnificently fascinating to positively interesting. The discussion of Minecraft University as a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) in educational settings is one of the most engaging topics found in the book, along with the bold attempt to critically relate Minecraft’s virtual environment mechanics and gameplay dynamics to ideologies and issues of the natural environment in our world. Whilst some may dismiss the relevance or even prudence of relating the environmental discourse to Minecraft—where Minecraft was referred to as a “failed ecological game”—it is however incredibly refreshing and intellectually compelling to be exposed to the perspective indicating Minecraft as being antithetical to highlighting important issues of environmental exploitation and its consequences due to the state of its virtual world—as “a theoretically infinite world with inexhaustible soil and virtually waste-free resource conversion.”

The idea of the growth of the community of Minecraft animators and fan producers such as The Yogscast being spurred on by the game’s “narrative silence” or “blankness” is interesting, and the contrast established between the concepts of authenticity versus validity in videogame design is astounding. Observations on the correlations between player personalities—labelled “Curiosity,” “Tranquility,” or more—and their virtual behavior in Minecraft is another outstanding piece of information found in the book. The book is also bolstered with additional interesting content such as the role of Procedural Content Generation (PCG) and the necessary concept of “operational radius” in Minecraft; the range of tools and features of the game which reinforce the player’s autonomy, enhance the game’s universal accessibility, and reinforce its dual creative and survival modes. 

Going beyond expectations, an analytical portion of Minecraft was even corroborated with an intriguing literary citation, namely the book Eunoia by Christian Bok where “every chapter is written using only one vowel,” an example being the first line of “Chapter E” which went, “enfettered, these sentences repress free speech.” In line with the book’s literary qualities and as an instance of its beautiful writing, a sentence went, “In Minecraft, the player character literally spawns on the grounds of an imaginary and abstract wilderness that has been designed for colonization and exploration.”

The chapter “Look What Just Happened: Communicating Play in Online Communities” is rather lackluster, with its lack of academic rigor especially pronounced in contrast to other chapters in the book. Whilst the mention of the Player-Game Descriptive Index (PGDI) and simple demonstrations of its application in the discussion was somewhat interesting, the predominant discourse in the chapter about social dialogue in online communities was mostly descriptive and painfully lacking in insightful syntheses and analyses. Some of the cosmetic descriptions went, “Many responders provided mostly unhelpful comments. Some challenged or denied the validity of a question, without answering it or providing a contrasting remark. In response to a question of what others do to keep from being bored, one responder simply said that he didn’t do anything because Minecraft never got boring for him.” 

Though not perfect, this book as a collective and cohesive whole has surely convinced me that Minecraft is “indeed every nerd’s dream.”

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated to the publisher nor the author of the book. This book review is the result of my personal reading and honest opinion.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Sapphire Ng | Berklee Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz (Week 14) SPRING 2016 [Class Materials & Concepts]

Guitar Styles Skills - Jazz

Berklee College of Music
SPRING 2016 Semester

Class Teacher: John Baboian

[Week 14]

The tune we are jamming over today is "Freedom Jazz Dance" by Eddie Harris. John broke into a groovy rhythm and there we go. We played the melody and then as usual, every student had a go at improvising to the tune. And yes, John reinforced that our improvisations to this tune would be to utilize and play with "out" sounds and then resolving them appropriately. 

I noted however when I was learning the tune for the class, the version of the tune I found on Youtube by Eddie Harris was not notated the way it was in the lead sheet in terms of the number of bars a form of the tune occupied. I learned by matching the melody to his version of the tune. Right before the class, I actually listened to another version of the song by Miles Davis, and this one actually matches the lead sheet given to us with the approximately 2-bar rests between the first two licks of the melody. 

I was yet again surprised that after our first round of solos, John mentioned that some rhythm thing I did during my solo was cool/nice (I don't remember the exact word used LOL). And then he went on to say to the class that in cases where we could hear some repetitive rhythmic lines, in accompaniment it will be good to catch on to the soloist and match accordingly. 

Concepts/content covered in class:

~ We are given the lead sheet of "Freddie The Freeloader" by Miles Davis. It is observed that this tune is a 12-bar blues. At bars 11 to 12, the Ab7 chord is the bVII(b7) in the key of Bb. An option is to play the Ab Lydian b7 mode over the 2 bars of the Ab7 chord in the progression. It is noted as well that the Lydian b7 mode is the 4th mode of the melodic minor, and it is also equivalent to the D altered scale. 

[Interestingly, John mentioned certain things we can apply into this new tune from previously soloing to the tune "Freedom Jazz Dance." With the "out" sounds we were playing, we can similarly incorporate them when playing over the Bb7 chord in the progression, and then resolve them aptly. John emphasized though that despite we have relative freedom in the first 4 bars of the tune to play with "in" and "out" sounds the way we want, it is very preferable that we play the "in" sound when the Eb7 chord comes by in the 5th bar in order to "catch" the sound of the chord change, thereafter we also have the freedom to play "out" sounds in the 6th bar of the tune, which is the 2nd bar of the Eb7 chord. 

[We played the tune through together as a class, through the melody, improvisations, melody again, and then a tag ending. Haha I have to admit that when we were playing the melody through the first time, it sounded like I was the only person playing an octave lower than everyone else LOL. I'm glad I soon corrected that and started playing in a higher octave that matched other students in the class. As usual, we also ended the tune by repeating the last 4 bars of the tune another two more times, in the case of the melody, we would include and play as well the pick up note that was not technically included in the last 4 bars.

[John also mentioned a difference we may want to take note between "Freddie The Freeloader" and "Freedom Jazz Dance." Whilst the entire progression of "Freedom Jazz Dance" is made up of the Bb7 chord, "Freddie The Freeloader" on the other hand is simply a Bb7 "vamp" with a time limit. Haha.]

~ We were given "More Moving Lead Lines", and this handout focuses on comping. John mentioned that the notes notated simply referred to the top notes that we should incorporate into our voicings of the chords, i.e. "top note voicings." It was really awesome when John guided us through the voicings for the first section in the handout, the "Chromatic V7 > I"

[For "Chromatic V7 > I" we start with the C7 voicing right at 1st fret of the guitar fretboard that has the "C" note at the top of the voicing. We then moved a note to get the C7b9 chord in the 2nd fret with the "C#" note at the top. Next we yet again moved a half step up for the top note, playing a C9 chord with "D" note at the top, and so on. 

[At the 6th bar of the first example, John drew our attention to the alternative chords that he placed beneath the stave. He said that the Db7 chord would function as a chromatic approach to the C7 chord in the following bar, whilst the G7 would function as a dominant approach to the C7. 

[When we reached the last chord of the example, the Fmaj7 chord in the 9th bar, John showed us a "large" voicing. The voicing is played with a finger holding the 8th fret on the 6th string, holding the 10th fret on both the 5th and the 2nd string, and then the 12th fret on the 1st string of the guitar. Thereafter we had a short and quick exercise,  we were to move the exact voicing all the way down the fretboard to the 1st fret of the guitar. As expected or not, it could be way more challenging to play it there at the 1st fret because of the stretch involved. John said we could try to play it by maybe lifting our guitar necks more vertically, though he said that if we were to feel pain in our hand/wrist, we should stop holding that voicing immediately. Then we also moved the voicing where the bass note would be the "A" note on the 5th fret of the guitar.

[It sounded really good when John demonstrated all the three examples of top-note-voicing progressions for us, the "Chromatic V7 > I", the "Chromatic - Contrary Motion", and the "Cycle of Fifths - Contrary Motion". The sounds are really interesting. We should note as well the descending root motion for the progression in the second example/section of the handout, the "Chromatic - Contrary Motion."

[It was definitely fascinating when John later demonstrated playing the progressions in their minor versions, instead of major. He showed that we could "rhythmicize" the chords, playing them in interesting rhythmic patterns and timings that instantly made the progressions sound much more melodious. He also commented that learning to comp like this is important so that we guitarists can play like piano players, and ultimately to take the jobs away from the piano players hahahaha!]

~ The very last solo transcription available for us to choose to play for the final exams, and given out today is John Scofield's solo for "Stompin' At The Savoy." John briefly mentioned that when he heard the tune played on the car radio a very long time ago, he remembered being surprised to find out that it was John Scofield who played that solo, and he referred to it as being "un-Scofield." He also elaborated that it is always amazing to hear the more contemporary guitarists playing standards. And yes, we listened and enjoyed the audio together as a class. 

Class Homework:

~ "Freddie The Freeloader" by Miles Davis - Melody, Comping and Improvisation

~ "More Moving Lead Lines" handout

Class Materials/Handouts:

"Freddie The Freeloader" by Miles Davis

"More Moving Lead Lines"

 John Scofield "Stompin' At The Savoy" Solo Transcription