Monday, October 26, 2020

Casio Digital Piano (CDP-S150)

So we normally play on our Kawai KG2 Baby Grand which is really an amazing instrument.  We've had it for over 20 years now, and it still sounds really nice for the most part.  The hammers are hardening a bit making higher notes sound a bit off but other than that it is still pretty great.  It's a bit heavier action especially when compared to like a Yamaha.

So why a Digital Piano when we already have a nice piano?  Mostly it is to have a portable option.  We wanted something we could bring to the parents house and our kids could still practice if they wanted to.  My youngest is now much better than  I am.  We also wanted something that could be battery powered so that limited our options much further.  If the power ever goes out you can still play!  Also, having headphone option so as not to disturb the rest of the house is great too.  No need to tune it every year either so that's quite a nice maintenance cost savings.

We first tried a Roland GO:PIANO88.  It sounds good and has some great modern connectivity options like bluetooth midi and speakers.  It has semi weighted keys and well if your are intermediate or better I would say that's just not going to cut it.  The weight and action all just felt way light, cheap, and plasticky.  Remember, we are coming from only really ever playing on that Kawai so for a beginner who hasn't had much play time with a particular piano this might not be that big of a deal.  So I returned it and grabbed this Casio.  It has fully weighted scaled hammer action keys and they feel SO MUCH BETTER.  I really like the texture on the keys too.  Everything felt so much more premium.  It costs and weighs quite a bit more than the Roland but I feel it is definitely worth the money.  Also, it can run 6-13 hrs on 6 X AA batteries.  I didn't like the sound quite as much and I felt the samples were way too short but those are pretty easily fixed.  The one thing you can't fix/upgrade on a digital piano are the keys so I think that is where you should spend the money.  The short pivot point does make it bit harder to play deep into the keys but it wasn't that bad and with a bit of practice you get use to it.  

Full Setup:

  • Casio CDP-S150: $479.
  • M-Audio SP2 Sustain Pedal: $25.  The included pedals on all these cheaper pianos are hot garbage.  Definitely get an upgraded one.
  • PageFlip: $90.  A must have if you use an iPad for all your sheet music.  I use my left foot to turn pages with this incredibly handy bluetooth device.
  • Yamaha UD-BT01 - Wireless MIDI Adapter: $55. This will convert the standard usb midi on the Casio to wireless bluetooth midi to easily work with iOS devices.  If you have a newer iOS device then this is must since you will need to use a lightning to headphone jack adapter.  Works well with GarageBand and Ravescroft 275.
  • Piano Stand: $119.  Built for this piano model.  Pretty sturdy though there is still a little bit of front to back movement.  Side to side is very stable.  Uses 4 big oversized thumb screws to attach the piano to the stand so it's very easy to remove by hand.
  • Piano Bench: $45.  Cushioned, lots of height adjustments.
  • ForScore: $15. Amazing iOS app for all your sheet music needs.
  • Ravenscroft 275: $36 Amazing sounding piano samples.

So to overcome the short samples and sound of the Casio (which really isn't that bad to begin with) I use the Ravenscroft 275 app.  It can run in the background.  I have an iPad Air 2 connected to the keyboard using the bluetooth midi adapter.  Just go into the midi settings in the ravenscroft app and connect to the UD-BT01.  Then, make sure you tick the checkbox.  If you don't check the device after pairing it won't actually use it.  This had me stumped for a while.  After that just use a standard stereo 3.5mm cable to connect it from the ipad headphone jack (or lightning adapter) to the aux in on the keyboard.  Turn the volume all the way down or change the midi setting on the keyboard so you only hear the sounds from the iPad which is then piped into the keyboard aux in and out the built in speakers.  I leave everything at default settings in the app. It sounds really good especially on headphones and the samples are nice and long for much better sustain pedal use.  It does occasionally glitch in sound with a bit of crackle but it's very rare.  It could be it's because this is a pretty old model of iPad.  Overall, it's a very noticeable improvement over the built in keyboard sound.  I use around 10% iPad battery for about an hour of practice.

I spent around $760 total for this setup (some things I already had and are also really useful with the real piano).  I've done a few long practice sessions with it, and no it's still not the same as a real piano but it's darn close and really quite good for the money.  Any practice on this setup will translate very nicely to a real piano.

UPDATE 10/31/2020:
So for the ultimate low latency solution you can go all wired:
  • a cheap usb sound card like this one.  I haven't tested that particular model but I had a logitech one lying around and it worked fine: $8
  • USB 3 camera adapter: $39
  • I had this cheap little unpowered usb 2.0 hub sitting around but I'm sure any usb hub would work: $8
So lightning to usb (didn't need to add power.  worked fine without).  Then the usb hub and finally connect the casio and usb sound card to the hub.  Then headphones to the sound card.  It all worked great and I was able to use my newer iPhone XS which I'm happy to report produced a clean glitch free sound.  I still use my iPad but only for forscore now.  It's a little less convenient than the bluetooth midi dongle, and really it's still only one lightning cable you need to plug into your iPhone, but overall I feel the results are worth it: Zero lag and cleaner sound!

Monday, October 05, 2020

Getting to Legend Glory rank and Not Forgotten in Destiny 2 (survival freelance)


So I just got NF 2 days ago pretty much all freelance.

  • It was a long road for me. I use to be a fabled person but over the last say 6 months and playing with purpose I slowly raised my glory ceiling every season. 2700-3000, then 4200, and then finally this season I've been bouncing around 5000. This Saturday I fell back down to 4850 and then hit a 7 win streak to end at 5498. It wasn't easy. There were some real close matches at the end there. Several games went to 7 rounds.

  • Get a feel for the size of the pool of players is. I like it when the pool is larger. If it takes a long time to queue and you keep getting matched with the same players and losing a lot I would call it a night. Saturday afternoons worked well for me (xbox).

  • I stayed away from PC which is where I usually play PvE. It's just way faster pace, sweatier, and there is always the threat of cheaters.

  • Get comfortable carrying and having to pull off clutch final 1v1 or 1v2 wins. Get use to playing well under pressure. In solo queue it's going to happen.

  • I watched a lot of youtube videos and streamers and of course read this subreddit. It helps to some extent but try not to focus too much on just their mechanical skills. Yes, I can sometimes pull off some of those moves but never as fast or smooth. I'm just flat out old at 49 and my reflexes are no where near where they were at 20. Instead I focused on their game sense, map awareness, radar, positioning, always having the right weapon out, etc. These are areas I knew I could make much bigger strides in.

  • I'll bring up positioning and right weapon out again since I think this is pretty critical. Being able to read the radar and the player and predicting what they are going to do next is huge. When I die it's usually because I expected them to do one thing or be in some spot and they weren't.

  • Stick close enough to your teammates that you can help with team shooting in a moments notice but not necessarily holding hands. Learning to support your teammates without voice is huge no matter how good or bad they are.

  • Get comfortable with 2 different loadouts and practice, practice, practice with them. Don't keep cycling through like 20 different weapons. One for close range/aggressive teams and another for bigger maps/more passive teams. After a while you should know which loadout you prefer based on which maps. I pretty much stuck to mostly meta: hunter - suros, felwinter/beloved, hammerhead, stompees, middle tree void, 100 mobility, 80 recovery, 80 int.

  • Learn to recognize EARLY when you are going to lose a 1v1 and immediately get OUT (slide, dodge, dash). Survivability is key....well in survival.

  • So with shotgun I really don't ape. I know I don't have the mechanical skills to really pull it off consistently. But I did get good using it defensively. I got pretty good at judging distance, baiting, let apes come to me, backpedal and finishing them off with suros if they were far enough way or quick swap to felwinter to kill them first.

  • That was key for me. My style is generally defensive. I don't mean passive either. I'll push when I see the advantage but I don't often if ever go for those big montage clip type of plays because I know I would most likely be just throwing my life away or a trade at best. Learn to recognize and pick fights or create situations you know you will win.

  • I grinded out the last 1000+ points in longer sessions. I like to set limits like ok if I'm down 300 points I'm out for the day or if I've been playing a while and starting to feel a bit fatigued (say 4+ hrs), and I'm on a solid win streak I will say I will keep playing until I lose.

  • The worst is AFKers and a close second is people who drop. You can kind of work with people who NEVER use their super, don't understand playing life advantage, feed like crazy (love it when you get knocked out after your first death), don't play for heavy, doesn't challenge the overtime capture point, try to 1 v 3 instead of regroup with your respawning teammates, don't sit passively when it's a 1 v 3 (or worse) and you are the last guardian letting 3 enemy team members charge their supers, but man AFKers are the worst in this mode. (The tip here is make sure you are NOT one of those people!)

I know everybody says it but really if I can do it almost anybody can. I'm old and not all that fast, my aim isn't too bad but nothing amazing. My lifetime glory stats are .92 KD and 42.1% win rate. Jump to the current season and I have a 1.10 KD and 55.2% win rate. Nothing amazing but apparently good enough.