Man, I feel like it’s been such a long time. I’ve been tied up with all sorts of stuff, one being my new adventure with the guitar. I’ve been at it now for just over two months. I have been practicing every day between a half hour and an hour and fifteen minutes. It was fun and easy in the beginning, but that changed rather quickly. Now it’s work. It’s fun though and I’m having a good time.
I am trying to see how many days I can go without missing a practice. I haven’t missed one yet and I am sure I’ll be ridden with guilt when I miss my first one. There have been times when I practiced at two in the morning, but I got it in.
The course I purchased is called, “Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar” and it’s really awesome. I’m thrilled that I chose such a highly ranked and favorably thought of guitar course the very first time. I’m sure there have been many budding guitarists who have made some unfortunate choices early on.
I’ve been logging my practice sessions and some general thoughts in this post. Since the course is broken down by session, I decided to organize my entries that way as well. If you care to read, please be my guest.
I have been meaning to take some video of my early playings, but it’s been kind of busy. I want to do it, so I’ll have to make a special effort to. One of these days.
But anyway, count on seeing some guitar entries from me in the future. It looks like this thing might be around for a while.
Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar Practice Log
I’ll be using this entry as my practice log for my learning the guitar.
I first picked up my new guitar and began learning on May 15, 2012. Since then, I’ve been practicing between a half hour and an hour per day. I haven’t missed a day yet. My goal is to practice at least an hour a day, but sometimes I don’t make it that far. Apparently my brain gets in the way. More on that later. For now, let’s get a bit of history.
I think I held my first guitar in 8th grade. Somehow, I was pushed into guitar class with a few other unsuspecting souls. We had a teacher and her name was Ms. Jones. Sweet lady, but she truly enjoyed Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” far too much. Throughout the grading quarter, Ms. Jones attempted to teach the others and me how to play – and for our final exam, she wanted us to sit across from her in the hallway and perform none other than the song I mentioned above – with lyrics. I remember that so well – I didn’t do a thing. She encouraged me and egged me on, but I gave her nothing. I hadn’t learned a thing throughout the entire class and it’s no wonder why. Guitar is tough. I don’t know what they thought was going to happen to a bunch of us trying to learn together – for a few minutes each day – with little to no interest.
I really hadn’t thought much of guitar until a few weeks ago. I mean, sure I get jealous when I hear or see a talented guitarist do their thing, but I never really thought I had that in me.
So what happened a few weeks ago? Not sure, but I think it may have something to do with looking for my next challenge. I use this example far too often, but I constantly talk about my flying an airplane by myself. You can read about my first solo here – if you’re interested.
I did that and I succeeded. If you think it’s a small feat, I suggest you try it. I remember that morning today and I will for the rest of my life. I still feel good about it. I had seen them every day, but actually flying one, now that was something.
Since I was a kid, I wanted to learn how to fight. Some friends and I tried a free class at a local Karate school in town, but it didn’t stick. We were too young. Too immature. Just a tad over three years ago, I began learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and about two years ago, I began learning Muay Thai. I am now creeping up on my Jiu Jitsu Purple belt and practice Muay Thai regularly.
I am doing that and I am succeeding and it feels great. I think I’m at a point in my life where my mind is finally allowing me to learn the way it was always intended to. I’ve been accomplishing extremely difficult and sometimes nerve-wracking challenges and have been doing a really good job at it. But there are a few that remain.
I can try to get all philosophical on you about how achieving my individual goals helps me, but I won’t. I’ll just say that it’s extremely rewarding seeing something materialize before my eyes – something that seemed impossible to achieve, or even impossible to approach just a short time ago. I’m getting close to forty years old and these things are starting to matter. As I reach this milestone, I have a desire to define myself. Not just as a person who took up space on this planet for a few years, but as someone who knew something. Someone who became great at something – all for myself. When my time is up, it won’t make much of a difference, but until then, I am steadily working on the things I never thought attainable.
I really didn’t want to write a lot in this post, but it seems that things got away from me. It’s really only meant as a log of my practice sessions. I did the same thing during my flight lessons and during a few first months of Jiu Jitsu. It kind of helps to write things out.
Let’s get into the guitar thing.
When I found my interest just a few weeks ago, I knew I would need a few things. I knew I would need a guitar and some sort of a learning apparatus. Regarding the learning, I looked online for some local guitar teachers, but wasn’t attracted to their long hair and metal band history. These are the ones I found. I know different types exist, but not in my area. So I had to find alternatives. As I moved away from the face to face instruction, I began hunting for some type of virtual training or self teaching. I figured this would be more aligned with my style anyway. I can do things fairly quickly and I really don’t trust local people to steer me straight. So I filtered through all the guitar learning courses I could find and settled on one. It’s called “Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar.” Very highly rated and it seems as though people are thrilled with it. From my own experience, so far so good. And as Steve Krenz oftentimes says, the online community is invaluable.
Regarding the guitar, I did some shopping around. Online that is. Since there aren’t any good guitar shops locally and since I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what I was looking at anyway, I decided to purchase a fairly straightforward, middle of the road “Epiphone AJ-220S Acoustic Guitar.”
After I received both, I practiced a bit. I then discovered I needed a few more things. Namely a music stand, a stool and a metronome. So I purchased the:
– On-Stage SM7211 Professional Folding Orchestral Music Stand, Black
– Farley’s StagePlayer II – Guitarist Stool and Stand with Footrest
– Korg TM-40 Large Display Digital Tuner and Metronome
I am now discovering that I need a very thick cushion for the stool, because, well, the half inch of foam they gave me makes my butt numb. So I’ll handle that.
I’ll leave the first few weeks of detailed guitar practice to the imagination, but I will say this – the finger pain went away fairly quickly. I thought it would take longer to get the calluses I was looking for, but it actually only took a few days. I have heard horror stories about finger pain from guitar and I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous for those first few days. The pain was certainly there.
Okay fine, I’ll quickly list what I went over those first few weeks, just for memory’s sake:
– The parts of the guitar
– The names of the strings
– Proper right and left hand technique
– Tuning the guitar (luckily, my guitar came with an electronic tuner)
– How to read guitar tablature
– Finger exercises
– How to read chord blocks
– How to read music
– Notes on the “E” string
– First string exercises
– Notes on the “B” string
– First and second string exercises
And that’s where I am now. I moved into section three and covered more ground, such as eighth notes and notes on the “G” and “D” strings, but have moved back some. I really want to master and become comfortable with each section, no matter if the following section covers some of the same material.
I’ve put together a few techniques when it comes to learning guitar. If you think about it, I’ve already gotten at least a good 20 hours at this stuff (as of June 4, 2012), so I think it’s appropriate that I throw some tips out there:
– Don’t practice what you already know. (I just warm up with it)
– If you have trouble with something specific, focus on that specific item – then expand to the notes or strings directly surrounding it.
– Always stop practicing on a high note. The mind then can digest something positive on its downtime. (I make this a habit)
– Keep the repetition going strong and focus on those trouble spots.
– And just for motivation’s sake – think of how good you’ll sound one year from now – if you keep at it like you are right now.
I’d like to begin logging my practice sessions here. This is primarily for my own use, but you are welcome to read and pull from it what you will. I plan on taking some very rough and unedited video of me playing some of the songs at the end of each session. This is also for my own use, but again, take what you will from it. At the very least, you can get an idea of what someone at such and such a week sounds like.
Begin reading my practice session logs.
June 19, 2012
I was browsing around the Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar forum last night and discovered someone had asked a question regarding their place in the sessions. They were curious if they were going too fast or too slow. A few people responded. In many of the responses (and I have been seeing this here and there), people kept referring to the “Bonus Material.” Now, I purchased the expended version of these lessons, so I thought the bonus material was included in my lesson book. Guess not. At 2am, I found myself printing 189 pages of bonus exercises and songs. Awesome.
June 20, 2012
Just wanted to mention that I received my new “Epiphone Case for Epiphone Jumbo Acoustic” guitar case today. It’s pretty magical. I was wondering if the padding inside was going to be plush like some pictures showed or if it was going to be more foamy, like I saw in some others. I’m happy to report that it’s soft. So soft, like my old car seat covers I used to have in my ’79 Camaro.
June 4, 2012
Practice time: 4:30 – 5:00
I warmed up with “More First and Second String Exercises” in Session 2 a few times. I felt comfortable with that and moved on to a few rounds of “Ode To Joy” and “Jingle Bells.” I am good at playing both of those songs at 90bpm and could probably do faster. I haven’t tried yet because I am anxious to move further into Session 3.
After I warmed my fingers up, I moved into Session 3 and reviewed the “Eighth Note Exercises.” I am finding that even though there are minor mistakes, I am choosing to ignore them, simply to move on. I feel that if I can gather a bit of practice in new material each day, I can always go back and review. This is becoming detrimental, so I think I am going to stop this approach – especially after reading this article on how long to practice each day.
I am okay at the “Eighth Note Exercises.” Just okay. I need to go over them more systematically in the future. I plan to really focus on what I’m doing. Moving on to the notes on the third string – I am marginal at best. While the first two strings have become quite simple, incorporating the third string is tough. That second string seems to get lost in the shuffle. Will work on that too. Today, I played through the “Third String Exercises” a few times and called it quits.
Practice time: 10:00 – 10:45
I wanted to focus much more on left hand finger placement, so I slowly went over “First and Second String Exercises” in Session 2. I also wanted to really hammer the right hand string picking. I am getting better and I think with time, my accuracy rate will increase. Instead of simply practicing this exercise at 40bpm, 60bpm and then 92bpm to see how I do, I set the metronome to 92bpm and played at my own pace. At times, I would let two ticks equal one beat and at other times, I would play at regular pace. If I hit a trouble spot, I would repeat each measure until it was smooth at 92bpm. I can tell this is going to be a daily thing. I also want to say that I feel really good after this practice session. I feel as though I focused well and hit that sweet spot in what I was doing.
I do want to mention one thing though – I am finding that the harder I play, the better I do. I am able to hunt the strings down and I almost stop thinking about what’s going on. It feels fluid and eerily reminds my of typing. If I don’t think about typing, I can do it without looking. If I think about it, I have to look. Strange. There is one thing though – I want to work on finger accuracy, so I think the faster “pushing” through is going to have to sit on the back burner for a while.
June 5, 2012
Practice time: 7:00 – 8:00
What a frustrating practice. I started off going over Ode To Joy and Jungle Bells to warm up my fingers. I played them slowly and then at 92bmp with no mistakes. I also focused on proper finger placement. Everything went smoothly, so I moved on to Session 3.
For about 15 – 20 minutes, I went over the Eighth note exercises. Everything was fairly smooth, so I again turned on the metronome. I practiced at 40bpm and then every other beat at 92bpm. If there was a mistake, I repeated the measure until I got it. I think I am doing everything correctly. I mean, I couldn’t practice more “correct” if I tried (which I am).
Then came the Third String exercises. The first two were very simple. They basically went over the G and A notes. In exercise two, I practiced G and A eighth and quarter notes. Not a problem. Then came exercise three – someone snuck in B, C and D, so it was B, C, D, G and A. This actually wasn’t too difficult, so I moved on exercise four. And this is where the issues began.
As you can see, this starts off with a low G and then goes to two high Gs and then to a C. I know it seems small, but I am having a heck of a time transitioning from the G to the C when my mind is on the low G. I continuously hit the an A instead of a C.
I am thinking that I have a practice threshold of about 45 minutes. anything after that, I really start making mistakes. With this last exercise, I couldn’t seem to get anything right. When this happens, I usually start shifting on my stool and moving the guitar into a more comfortable position. I’ve trained in enough things to know that when this is the case, I should wrap it up. So I proceeded very slowly, just so I could end things with something other than mistakes.
My goals for tomorrow’s practice are to work on the third string exercises so I can walk away with a smile on my face. I really want to focus on slow, steady accuracy.
June 6, 2012
Practice time: 3:00 – 3:30
I’ve been wondering all night what would happen with today’s practice. In the past, if I was having trouble with something during my previous session and I tried again the next day, things would miraculously heal themselves. I was anxious to see how my fingers would handle going from high G to C. I’m here to tell you that my theory holds true – practice, screw up, think about it overnight and go in with a goal. The next day is always brighter. That’s the way it was today.
I stopped after a half hour. Maybe later on I’ll do it all over again, but for now, I am happy with how I focused on the Third String Exercises in Session Three. I spent the entire half hour slowly going over them while paying extra attention to finger placement and pick placement. I’ve been suffering from pick misfire with these B and G strings and things went very well today.
I’m not sure if it was because the sun was beaming through the window or what, but I just felt “on” today. I even used the metronome for a few minutes towards the end. 60bpm threw a slight curve ball, but overall, I feel I did very well.
June 7, 2012
Practice time: 4:00 – 5:00
I am thrilled. I wanted to write this update before the feeling wore off. I’m simply astounded at what the mind can accomplish.
If you read back a few days, you’ll see that I was having trouble hitting the B string when coming from the G string. That issue seemed to resolve itself yesterday. Then yesterday, I found that something clicked and my fingers were having an easier time. Well, today, I played “Yankee Doodle” at 120bpm. It took an hour of repetition (while focusing on proper technique) to do it, but I did it. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but being able to run through the song at that tempo three or four times without major error is something to write home about.
My fingers seem to have woken up. I can now direct them where they need to go with much less effort than I used to use. Also, during this practice and before I really started working on Yankee Doodle, I worked a bit on the D string and the low D, E and F notes. They are challenging, but if I can get this comfortable with G and A so quickly, I have high hopes for that string as well.
And get this – just at the half hour mark of this practice session and just as my butt was really starting to turn numb from this terrible stool I purchased, the UPS man came down the driveway with my new “Essential Medical Supply Memory P.F. Sculpture Comfort Seat Cushion.” Couldn’t have come at a better time. Well, I guess if he showed up a half hour earlier, that would’ve been better.
June 8, 2012
Practice time: 5:15 – 6:30
I don’t think that went very well. I may have gotten a bit to confident yesterday and decided to sit and chill this afternoon. I figured I would let my fingers do the walking instead of really trying. I thought I would just brush up. It didn’t work that way.
I started off going over some G string exercises and then move into some E, B, G and D string exercises. I don’t know. I just wasn’t feeling it. I then tried going from low D to high G a few times and wasn’t feeling that either. Lastly, I played Yankee Doodle a few times and guess what? I wasn’t feeling that.
I may do another half hour later on tonight. It may be my mood getting in the way.
June 9, 2012
Practice time: 7:00 – 7:45
Today was better than yesterday. I went in much more humbly. I think the issue people like me have with trying to learn guitar is impatience. We constantly hear music and all we want is to make it like they do. Obviously, that isn’t going to happen any time soon, so I figure we should probably sit back, relax and let our fingers learn new things. That’s what I plan to do.
I went over the third and fourth string exercises in Session 3. I then played Yankee Doodle, When the Saints Go Marchin’ In and Aura Lee a few times over. None of those songs quite sounded like music, but I made it through.
Tomorrow I plan to turn on the metronome again. Slowly that is.
June 10, 2012
Practice time: 6:30 – 7:15
I think I did well today. I turned on the metronome and set it to 60bpm. Although I feel this was a short practice, I am happy with my steady successes through the exercises and all three songs. I plan on increasing the rate of the metronome to 92bpm and working on the same material for the next few days. Then, I am going to turn back to the DVD to go over the new chords for this section.
June 11, 2012
Practice time: 3:15 – 4:00
I am finding that I can only practice for about 45 minutes per session. It’s like a buzzer goes off in my mind. My fingers start making mistakes and I become frustrated at the world, even if I’m doing well. Surprising how mental learning guitar can be. My fingers seem to be doing fine, it’s my brain that gets in the way.
I still practice for a good 45 minutes though, and I’d say that’s fair for just starting out. Steve Krenz suggests 15 minutes a day – with 30 being even better. I suggest 45, but I’m not a guitar teacher. And I think 45 might burn some people out. If I were practicing one song or something – and got lost in it – I can see myself practicing for over an hour. But exercises and short practice songs, no way.
Today I went over the same thing I did yesterday, with one difference. I increased the beats per minute to 92 from 60. I seem to be doing okay, with one exception – exercise four in the “Fourth String Exercises.” I’m not sure I’ll be able to get that one, ever. But then again, less than a month ago, I didn’t know one note on the guitar. Now I am playing songs. So there may be hope yet.
I did well today. Again, if I increase the beats per minute, I excel. My mind works a bit faster than average, so I think I can nail the speed thing. It’s when the tempo slows down that I have the trouble, but I know that’s part of the game. I need to respect the stops and the longer notes. I keep reading that rushing through those two things is a nasty habit to break later on, so I am really using effort to play by the rules.
On a side note, I had a thought yesterday. I looked back at all the things I’ve tried to learn throughout my life and discovered that the ones I stuck with – I stuck with for a reason. Jiu Jitsu being the primary one. I’m almost at three and a half years with that. And that’s because virtually every time I go to practice, I get to fight someone. The challenge lies within that. I don’t know how I’ll do in that fight. Other activities haven’t fared so well – those with no enemy. flying planes, working out, etc. If there’s a nebulous goal, it doesn’t last.
So what I need to do is to find my enemy within guitar. And I think that may be the metronome. If it beats me, I lose. If I keep up with it, I win. Let’s just see if I can make that last the rest of my life.
I do want to share a tip with you though – something I picked up today. It’s not really mine because Steve already went over this in the DVDs (I think), but I’ll share it nonetheless.
Take a look at these notes:
From the beginning, if I had to play a D, then an A, then a D again and then a C, I would use independent fingertips. Meaning, I would play the D by placing my third finger on the third fret of the second string. Then I would lift it off to play the A and so forth. Today, I would cruising right along and didn’t even realize that as I was practicing the measure above, I was holding the D, not lifting the finger and then playing the A, releasing the A to continue on with the D. After that, I started experimenting. I held the C and the D and placed the finger on the A when the time came. After that, I played the D and simply lifted that finger. Since the C was already there, I moved on with that.
I have a strange feeling that people already figured this out, but for me, it was a small breakthrough.
June 12, 2012
Practice time: 6:30 – 7:30
I had planned on ramping up the metronome to 92bpm for this practice session, but I never got to it. I used up almost 45 minutes playing through all the material in Session Three, along with playing two songs from Session Two. I wanted to make sure I still “had it” from the previous session. I do.
I really focused on finger placement. I know one area that will challenge me forever will be finger placement, so I am carefully taking my time. I think I’m doing alright because I haven’t fallen into one of the classic bad habits, such as looking at my hands. I haven’t ever looked at my hands, so I guess that’s good. I’ll tell you this though – when I look down on purpose, life becomes easier.
For some strange reason, high D torments me. It is my most often missed note. I’m not sure of the cause, but when I am picking around, I’ll either hit the G string or the high E string. Anything but that B string. I have to take extra special care when playing, so I need to work through that too.
After I was finished with my 45 minute warm-up, I turned on the metronome and set it to 60bpm. I did well. I even gained some accuracy in exercise four in the “Fourth String Exercises.” I can do what sounds something like a scale. My fingers are moving much more in tune with my mind.
Goals – hmmm. I would say that I am going to work on increasing the speed to 92 bpm and continuously run through these exercises and songs until I feel comfortable. Then I will work on the chords for this session. I am also going to purchase the “Hal Leonard Guitar Method, Complete Edition: Books & CD’s 1, 2 and 3” that Steve Krenz suggested. On Amazon, I was able to browse through a few pages and it seems like music I can handle.
June 13, 2012
Practice time: 3:45 – 4:20
First off, I’d like to mention that I just ordered the “Hal Leonard Guitar Method, Complete Edition: Books & CD’s 1, 2 and 3” set. There were other options available, but one book went for around $7. All three went for double that, so I figured it would be wise to buy all three. I am excited to start playing some songs from them.
Today I went through Ode To Joy and Jingle Bells at 92bpm. Those songs are no longer challenging for me. I also warmed up with all the material in Session Three and then went over it at 92bpm. While I was not perfect, I played a heck of a lot better than I did a week ago. I haven’t practiced any chords in this session yet, so tomorrow I’ll be playing with Steve on the DVD again. I’ll practice with the DVD for a day or two.
I am trying not to fall into the trap of attempting to perfect something too much. I wasn’t perfect at the notes and material taught in Session Two, but I am damn near close to that now. I attribute that to my constant looking back and warming up with older material. I am confident that I will continue this trend as I continue on.
Here are my strengths at this point: I can read music like it’s nobody’s business. I think I may have picked this up from my six years of playing the trombone as a kid. Whatever the reason, reading music is not a problem for me. I don’t use the TAB and I don’t need to write the notes in on top of the measures. I can also play notes just fine. I am able to look ahead in the music to prepare my fingers for where they will be in the future. As far as learning new material, I think I am rather strong at that as well. Once I learn a note, I need only go over it a few times before I memorize it. So I think what may traditionally hold people back when learning guitar doesn’t have that much effect on me. The only thing that challenges me is finger placement. I misfire here and there, but that’s simply because my fingers haven’t adapted to their new environment yet.
I think I will spend a few days with the DVD and then I’ll move onto Session Four. If what I think is correct regarding my learning abilities, I think I’ll be fine.
I do want to talk about learning method for a moment. A few weeks ago, I was sitting on the mat during Jiu Jitsu practice, talking to one of the younger players. I explained to him that I enjoyed learning everything at once. I wanted to be presented with as much material as I could handle and then spend the rest of my life perfecting it. I don’t like surprises – and luckily, Jiu Jitsu caters to this type of personality. We oftentimes have new students who are thrown into the mix. Their first class may contain techniques intended for more advanced students. They are merely introduced to it and then continue on with more basic material. When they reach the advanced techniques, they do just fine because they’ve seen it before. I think this is what’s happening with guitar and that’s why I am comfortable with moving ahead soon.
June 14, 2012
Practice time: 3:20 – 4:15
This is too funny. Listen to this – I was working with the DVD today, playing “Aura Lee” with Steve when I realized that what he was playing sounded like a song and what I was playing didn’t. I said to myself, “Something is up.” I paused the DVD and turned to my handy electronic tuner that’s built in to my metronome. I tuned the E, B and what I thought was the G strings. Then I continued on and tuned what I thought was the D string, the A and the E. Strange thing is – when I tuned all the strings, minus the G and D, the tuner meter held strong, facing straight up. When I tried to tune the G and D strings, the needle bounced all over the place. Those strings sounded funny too.
For the fun of it, I decided to twist the key for the G string one whole revolution. Like magic, the needle corrected itself and held strong. I did the same for the D string and the same thing happened. Also, those strings now sounded like they should.
So what was going on? Well, when I opened the guitar from its packaging way back when I bought it, I guess it was really out of tune. I have been playing those two strings all this time tuned to a different note. Beginners mistake? Please don’t answer that.
Anyway, today I played along with Steve in the Workshop section of Session Three. I did okay. I misfired some notes, but overall, I think I am ready to move on to Session Four. I know, I know – some out there may think I’m rushing it, but let me tell you, 100bpm is no longer crazy fast. I actually did that scale I thought I would never do at that speed. Somehow it just worked. I’d like to learn the notes on the A and E strings now, so I can get that sense of completion and play all the songs in the books I ordered.
Lastly, I was looking at Steve’s wrist today while he was playing and I discovered that his was held somewhat lower than mine. I lowered my wrist so it wasn’t “hugging” the neck so much and I believe my accuracy improved just from this slight adjustment. I am going to focus on this more because it actually made me more relaxed and will help a lot with those lower strings.
June 19, 2012
Practice time: 2:00 – 3:00
I mentioned on the Guitar page that I recently downloaded the Learn & Master Guitar bonus material. I decided that it would behoove me to reverse course to go over some of the “More” exercises and songs in Session 3. I did that today and found some interesting results.
First, my neck is hurting. For some reason, when I play new material, I get a real pain in the neck. My posture must be off or I may be tightening some muscles. I don’t know, but it’s annoying. Second, I found that it really does take a few days and many repetitions be become competent with new material. The going was really slow today, especially with “Amazing Grace.” I mean, that song is tough, especially for something with so few notes. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” was much easier, but still very choppy. I spent about 15 minutes on that and got the hang of it later on.
I am going to spend two more days on this section and be done with it forever. Later sections incorporate the same notes, so even if I’m not playing these songs at 120bpm, I can still practice all six strings. I do feel comfortable with the material though and will speed up the songs in the next two days.
June 20, 2012
Practice time: 4:00 – 5:00
Today was very satisfying. Unlike yesterday, I limited myself to only the four Third String Exercises in the bonus material. Man, what an hour can do for a person when they focus. By the time my hour was up, I had almost perfected something that sounded horrible not long before. Over and over and over. That’s what seems to work. Start the metronome at 60bpm, increase to 80, 100 and then 120.
June 21, 2012
Practice time: 3:35 – 4:25
I just finished going over exercises 1, 2 and 3 of “More Third String Exercises” of the bonus material. It really does take a while to get things to a comfortable level. In the forum, I am reading that people complete this Session (3) in just a few weeks and then move on to Session 4. They then get frustrated with the material introduced there. The reason for that frustration may be that they haven’t really completed Session 3 (like I haven’t). While I thought, for a brief moment that I had mastered the third string (G), I hadn’t come close. I’m glad I turned around and began practicing the way I am. Slow and steady. Focused. It’s paying off because I am playing more accurately and more smoothly than I have until this point. There are many mistakes, but I can feel my fingers taking on a life of their own.
Here’s what I do – I first warm up with going up and down all the notes. I can do this at speed now. It’s not a problem. I know all the first position notes on all six strings. By warming up this way, I loosen my hands and keep the notes fresh in my mind. I can also say the letters to myself if I want.
When my fingers are ready, I begin going over new material. The exercises I completed at speed the day before are now complete. I don’t get over them again. If I didn’t make it to 120bpm, then that exercise isn’t completed yet and it stays on the “to do” list. I go over just what I can get to 120bpm in an hour. If it’s only one exercises, then it’s only one exercise. If I don’t make it, I continue with it the next day.
This works for me. It trains my mind and my fingers. It let’s me dream about it and I wake up with skills I didn’t know I had.
Today, I finished exercise 1 and 2.
June 22, 2012
Practice time: 5:15 – 6:15
Today, I worked on Exercise 3 under the “More Third String Exercises” bonus material. Exercise 3 is somewhat challenging, but I managed to make it through at 100bpm. I took a full half hour to work on that. For the remainder of the hour, I played three songs from the Hal Leonard Guitar Method book I received in the mail this afternoon. You can read about that on the Book 1 page I set up to log the songs I play from that source.
June 23, 2012
Practice time: 7:10 – 8:20
I had a pretty decent practice today. I went over another exercise – number 4 of “More Third String Exercises” in the bonus material. I really like my method of learning guitar. If I am facing a challenging exercise, I focus on only that one for my entire session. Well, at least a half hour of it. After that, I play some songs from the Hal Leonard Guitar Method. I’ve done this for the past two days and it feels good.
Exercise 4 was a handful. There’s a lot of range and the finger positions in a few spots were difficult to manage. I played at 60bpm the whole time and when my half hour was up, I was happy to move on. I have a feeling I wouldn’t be able to make it to 80 and 100bpm today. I was feeling the fatigue after what I did.
It’s funny. You can really feel fatigue playing guitar. Especially if you are getting frustrated. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but after about 45 minutes, I start to get antsy. I make more mistakes than earlier on and I just want to finish. I am training myself to push through this though because I’d like to eventually practice more than an hour a day. I don’t want to have to think about the time, but my internal clock seems to know what it likes.
I played for about an hour and ten minutes this afternoon. When I started making mistakes, I played a quick scale or two. In between songs, I played a scale again. I think that kind of breaks things up a bit.
June 24, 2012
Practice time: 6:00 0 6:45
I think I just had one of those stupid days of guitar practice. I feel so guilty. I don’t know what happened, but I couldn’t do anything right. Starting out bad began the downward spiral until I said enough was enough.
I did manage to finish up the third string exercises in the bonus material though. I played through 5 and 6 and then went over Aura Lee once more. Exercise 5 was somewhat challenging to play with the metronome. I think eighth notes are the issue and in Exercise 5, there are tons of eighth notes. It’s that “down – up” that throws me (in one beat). Reminds me of patting my head and rubbing my belly at the same time. Coordination that I’m sure I’ll get one day.
Aura Lee didn’t work out so well. I knew I was tired when I started screwing that song up. I’ve played that song through without issue so many times that I knew something was up today.
Ahh, learning guitar. Nothing but hard work and a lot of ups and downs.
Practice time: 11:40 – 12:00
Note to self – never practice guitar on an empty stomach. It doesn’t help the cause.
I work all day and oftentimes forget to eat. Don’t ask, it’s been happening for years. Sometimes I don’t have my first bite until 5pm. Unfortunately, I tend to practice guitar around 4, so I am lightheaded most of the time. Today’s first practice was terrible because even though I ate around 2, I had a lack of food in my system. As I mentioned above, it made for a lousy result.
I just gave it another 20 minutes to redeem myself. Things were much better. I knew I couldn’t fall asleep like I felt earlier, so I had to do something about it. I decided that going over Exercise 1 and 2 of the “Fourth String Exercises” in the bonus material would help things along. And they did. I practiced both of those simple exercises at 100bpm and called it a day. Smooth.
June 25, 2012
Practice time: 4:50 – 5:20
I decided to make today all about accuracy. Since Exercise 3 and 4 of the “Fourth String Exercises” in the bonus material are a bit more challenging, there wasn’t much more I could do. I’ve been having issues trying to make my mind compatible with playing eighth notes to the metronome, so this was a good time as any.
I played Exercise 3 a few times through and then set the metronome to 40bpm. I got down the tapping pretty quickly. One and a two and a three and a four…If I keep the beat in my head to the taps of the metronome, I do okay. I raised it to 52bpm and did well again. Then 60 and started to lose it. It’s a speed thing and I didn’t want to push it because if you recall, today was all about accuracy. So I stopped that exercise.
I then moved onto Exercise 4 and was totally lost the first time I played it through. I tried again, only this time crawling like a snail. I played it measure by measure at about 10bpm and then at 20. Within a few minutes, I had the rhythm in my head enough to play at 40bpm accurately. I did that a few times and left it there.
I am going to play these two though for another half-hour tonight to see if anything sunk in between now and then.
Practice time: 12:45 – 1:15
There, I just put in another half hour on Fourth String Exercises 3 and 4. I am through with 3 now. I played it quite handily at 40 and then 60bpm. At 80, I lost it. And now that I read back to what I wrote earlier today, I see that I lost it at 60 last time. I suppose that’s an improvement now isn’t it? I think that’s pretty good.
I played through Exercise 4 again and did well. I am going to turn on the metronome again tomorrow to see how I make out. I have a feeling I’ll do well at 60bpm. I am quickly getting better at playing eighth notes with the metronome and am happy to make improvements every day.
June 26, 2012
Practice time: 5:45 – 6:15
I took it easy today. I have been running full steam for over a month now and decided that it was high time to put in only a half hour. It worked well because I stayed relaxed and worked on fairly simple exercises.
I moved into the “More Fourth String Exercises” and worked on Exercise 1 and 2. They were both very straightforward, but gave me a chance to work on finger placement on the fourth string. Every time I pick up the guitar, I think I discover something new, even if it’s tiny. I guess that’s what they call learning.
I did discover something that made me quite pleased today though. I was reading through the forum again and found a post written by someone who was having issues playing eighth notes to the metronome. I would say that I fall into this category as well. I’ve been working on it. In the past, if I wanted to play an exercise with eighth notes at 40bpm, I would set the metronome to 80bpm. This would eliminate the strain from my mind and let me focus on the music instead of the timing. Over time, I felt like this was cheating and forming a bad habit, so I set the metronome back to 40bpm and continued on.
Well, today I found that my metronome has an eighth notes setting (from the response to the post in the forum). Hmmm, I guess I wasn’t cheating after all. The setting does exactly what I was doing – basically injecting a half-way click in between each beat. I played through Exercise 3 in no time flat like this. I have a feeling this is going to make things much easier.
June 27, 2012
Practice time: 4:00 – 4:50
I felt good today. With my new metronome eighth note setting, I was able to push through Exercise 3 of the “More Fourth String Exercises” with no problem. I believe I made it to 80bpm before things came apart. By that time, I had already played that exercise about 30 times, so it was understandable.
I was talking with someone about playing these exercises this afternoon. I said that it’s interesting because I don’t have much of an issue playing them the 4th, 5th, 6th time, but when I get to the 20th, I begin to have issues. I think there’s a point of diminishing returns with these things. That’s why I stop playing each one when I feel that I’ve played it all it can be played. If I make it between 60 and 80bpm accurately, I’m happy.
I also played through Exercise 4 a bit, but decided to wait until tomorrow to tackle that one in earnest with the metronome. My fingers were getting tired today and when they get tired, I have difficulty finding high D. It’s weird how that works.
Tomorrow, my goal is to finish up Exercise 4, 5 and 6, so I can move on to some additional exercises and 4th string songs.
June 28, 2012
Practice time: 5:45 – 6:45
While my goal for today was to complete Exercises 4, 5 and 6, I actually spent some extra time to not only meet that goal, but to complete Exercises 1 and 2 of “Ties, Dots and Rests.” As you can imagine, those last two exercises, while simple, proved to be somewhat challenging. Towards the end of my hour, my fingers get sloppy, which in turn causes me to make mistakes, which in turn frustrates me, which in turn causes a vicious cycle to occur. It’s a terrible thing, but if there is a silver lining, I get to learn how to push through it to finish what I set out to do.
I am not working on these exercises for speed. I keep reading that speed will come over time. I know I can play faster than I am. I’ve done it before. I don’t want to spin my wheels trying to play as fast as possible – accurately. I’m sure that years down the road, when I’m not thinking of where my fingers go and which strings to strum, I’ll play as fast as I want. For right now, I want to be as careful as I can be while focusing on where things go. And it’s working because I’m getting better. I can feel it.
June 29, 2012
Practice time: 5:00 – 6:00
I have to say, I am rolling right along. I finished up the “Ties, Dots & Rests” section of the Session 3 Bonus Material today. Exercise 4 was easy. Exercise 5 became slightly more complicated with the eighth notes and rests and Exercise 6 was the most difficult of all. But it really wasn’t difficult because I played the exercise through at a snail’s pace a few times before I set the metronome to 40bpm. It’s quite simple when things are broken down and practiced slowly before showtime. I gradually increased the metronome to 50 and called it a day. I then played a song I’ll mention in the Book 1 Section.
All I have left for Session 3 is two songs in the bonus material and seven songs in the Hal Leonard Guitar Method book (which I hope to get through tomorrow and the next day).
June 30, 2012
Practice time: 6:00 – 9:45
No, I didn’t practice from 6 to 10. I began at 6, got frustrated playing every single note incorrectly on Amazing Grace and quit. I think my blood sugar was low or something. All I had eaten up until the point I started playing was a bagel. I know something is up when I do stupid things. I decided it was better to stop, get something to eat and then try again. So that’s what I did.
I think I gave it about an hour when I started playing again. I decided to go ahead with We Wish You a Merry Christmas this time. It’s a bit easier than Amazing Grace. I did well too. I started at 40bpm, then raised in incrementally to 100bpm. I played okay at that speed. There were mistakes, but I played the song.
Something strange happened when my hour was up. I lost it. I just lost my playing ability. Strange. I think my brain tells me when it’s had enough. I think it may have been because I was plowing through with full steam. I suppose I ran out of it along the way.
July 1 & 2, 2012
Practice time: 5:45 – 7:00 & 4:15 – 5:15
These two practice sessions were all about songs. I only have three more to go before I move back into Session Four, so I wanted to take a bit of time to get these right. Going was a bit slow yesterday, but today came through somewhat stronger. I’ll talk about them more in my Book 1 page because the songs I’ve been playing were from the Guitar Method book.
July 3, 2012
Practice time: 5:45 – 6:45
Today was a really good day. For some reason, I felt loose and playing came easier than it usually does. I felt like I am actually starting to play guitar. My wrists seem like they want to move and my fingers are really beginning to develop a style. I know, hard to believe with only a month and a half under my belt. I haven’t missed a day yet though, so that gives me approximately 45 hours worth of practice. Funny, because you need fewer hours than that to fly an airplane.
I am now officially moving into Session 4 (again). If you remember back, I had to return to Session 3 because I hadn’t completed the bonus material. Somehow, that escaped me. But now that I’m finished with and proficient at all the Session 3 exercises and songs, I can move on. Today was my final play of Amazing Grace, unless it pops up again in the future. I must say, I played the song quite well. I was having some trouble with it the last few times I played it, but the mind works on things wonderfully in its off time. Surprisingly, I plowed through all my trouble spots this afternoon.
I also worked on a few songs from my Guitar Method book, which I’ll mention over here.
June 15, 2012
Practice time: 4:00 – 5:10
Good news – last night, after I finished writing my update on this blog, I started fooling around with my tuner again. Apparently, my guitar was wildly out of tune. I had to adjust every string a pretty huge amount. Now, it sounds completely different and actually plays music. Needless to say, I’m thrilled. It has also made playing much easier. I don’t have to compensate so much anymore – I don’t have to do a lot of things I used to do. Playing has become less stressful.
I’ve read advice that says beginners should try to purchase the best guitar they can afford. I’ll tell you that I didn’t agree with that advice when I read it. I thought that when first starting out, people should lean towards the inexpensive side and then when they get better, go for it. I’ve modified my view on this. I now think that beginners shouldn’t cheap out. The guitar needs to sound good or else the player may quit. I got lucky with my guitar. After I tuned it last night, those notes really ring out. It’s incredible. It really is a great sounding guitar.
Well, I moved into Session Four this afternoon and I’m pretty excited about it. I learned the 5th and 6th string notes. E, F and G on the 6th string (same as the 1st string) and A, B and C on the 5th string. My fingers don’t seem so repellent to these strings, as they did to the rest. I have to say that moving from the 1st and 2nd to the 3rd was the most challenging. After that, my brain started getting the hang of it.
Now, I am still terrible at these two new strings. Let’s make no mistake. But at least I now know what to expect. The learning curve is much less steep at this point and with my awesome sounding guitar, I think my playing future looks bright.
At this point, I would say the most challenging areas are learning where these new notes fall on the staff. The D, A and E strings are still tricky. I was practicing “Minuet in C” and had to write the notes in. It was still difficult. I would say I completed the song at about 10bpm. Not so hot, but tomorrow is a new day.
Also, left hand finger placement is getting better, but still needs improvement. As I practice, I notice the challenge less and less though. I’ve been giving my guitar training between 45 minutes and an hour and 10 minutes per day since I started, so I don’t think it will be long before I shrug these things off.
Oh yes, by the way – today is my one month-iversary for playing the guitar.
June 16 & 17, 2012
I missed yesterday’s blog update. I practiced and then went outside to drink some wine and forgot all about it. Then, I practiced again today and here I am.
It’s not such a terrible thing though because both practice sessions were basically identical.
During both sessions, I spent time going over the fifth and sixth string exercises. I usually warm up with scales anyway, so this kind of accomplished the same thing. These practice exercises really get the fingers moving and focus on repeatedly going over the notes. I rehearsed these exercises for a good half hour.
Both yesterday and today, after working on the exercises, I moved into my attempt to play “Minuet in C.” I’ll tell you, it’s not easy. Most of the challenge for me lies on the 4th (D) string. That string kind of hangs out there in the middle of a sea of strings. By this point, my fingers finds its way onto the G string 90% of the time, but the D string is going to take some getting used to. I’ll get there, I suppose that’s what these exercises are for.
Today was better than yesterday though. I was playing the scales with much less of an issue and while Minuet in C was still very slow, I feel as though my accuracy picked up a bit. Getting started is a bit rough though. It’s like I have to sit there for a little while just trying to remember which note I am supposed to play. My fingers work the strings better than my mind works the music at this point. All these notes on all these strings. For some reason, I don’t have a problem remembering low C and D, but some of the others are going to take a while, especially the notes on the low E string. They are pretty low in the music.
I was reading a comment on the Learn & Master Guitar Community where an individual was concerned about his being able to play better at speed than at a slower pace. He wanted to know if this was okay or at the very least normal. While I am not an active participant in the forum, I do want to mention my response here. Or what I think a decent response would be, because I have encountered this issue as well.
I think it is easier to play faster than slower. And that’s fine, if the tempo is quick. The thing is though, playing slowly (I have found) increases accuracy. If I am playing along and make all sorts of mistakes at 40bpm and then increase to 100bpm and make no mistakes, have I succeeded? I don’t think so because I merely trained myself to play one way. I need to be accurate as well as fast. That’s my take on it. When I found that I had this issue, I played through it and really focused on what I was doing and why I was having the issue.
Lastly, I wanted to mention that my fingertips are getting a little sore again. It’s because of these heavy strings. If I don’t push them down in that sweet spot, I get fret buzz. Needless to say, I have some tender fingertips.
June 18, 2012
Practice time: 4:45 – 5:30
I can tell I’m getting the feel of all six strings. The scales are becoming faster and more accurate and Minuet in C is taking form as a song. I may be memorizing the notes though, which is troubling.
I’ll tell you one thing that I am finding interesting – when I write the notes in for a song, and then try to play that song, I find that I am looking at the written letters instead of the notes themselves. This throws everything off. When I play like this, I can barely complete the song. If I choose to ignore the written letters and strictly focus on the music, it’s like magic. I actually visualize where the music is headed as opposed to trying to play a choppy one letter at a time. I wish that I didn’t write the notes in for Minuet in C because it’s making the playing difficult. I may use some white-out. Although, today I was able to ignore my markings this afternoon and things were much smoother.
I read a post on the Learn & Master Guitar Forum last night where someone was asking about how to learn the notes on all six strings. They were lost in a mess of what seemed like endless direction. I guess all six strings was becoming a challenge. A few people responded. They encouraged this individual to keep at it and to go slowly, etc…I’m not sure anyone gave a decent answer though. I have an opinion.
When I sit down and try to work through these new notes on the D, A and E strings, I focus on what I know. I know where low C is. I also know where low D is. I have no idea why. I just found a liking for those two. So I use those notes and a few more familiar ones as my “home” keys. If you are into typing, you’ll know what home keys are. I work the other notes from those familiar ones. So, if you’re typing something and know that the left home key is the F and you want to type a D, you need to train yourself that the D is only one key to the left of the F. Later on in life, you’ll remember where all the keys are, but for now, use tricks.
I also play the scales slowly and say the notes out loud when I’m trying to remember. It might not seem all too effective at the time of playing, but I’ve found that I remember quite well a few days later.
Alright, that’s enough for now. Till tomorrow.
July 4 & 5, 2012
Practice time: 6:00 – 6:45 & 9:05 – 9:50
Welcome me back to Session 4. It’s been a while. I’m glad I went back and spent time on the Session 3 bonus material. Much needed practice. Little did I know that the meat of the course was over there in that bonus stuff. Well, now I know and I have everything printed out.
For the past two days, I’ve been working on the first four Fifth String Exercises in the Session 4 bonus material. The first two exercises were cake. The third exercise took about half of yesterday’s practice session, but I got it done. The fourth exercise took about fifteen minutes of yesterday’s practice and all of today’s. It will take at least half of tomorrow’s as well until I am happy to put that big ol’ check mark next to it. It’s somewhat challenging to say the least.
July 7, 2012
Practice time: 4:15 – 5:00 & 6:15 – 7:00
This is becoming extraordinarily difficult. Take a look at this photo:
I’ve been going over Exercise 3 & 4 of the “More Fifth String Exercises” in the bonus material for two days now. Well, I guess it’s only been about an hour and a half, but still, am I still supposed to be terrible at both of these things? Here’s where I excel: I am getting pretty good at eighth notes and rests. Even quarter rests. I can do them if I focus on what I’m doing. It’s the jumping strings that really challenges me (low B to high B, low E to high E). I suppose that’s what these exercises are for – to help practice notes, rests, finger position on strings, etc…I have to start these types of exercises out very slowly and build from there. Up until this point, I’ve been able to learn and speed up rather quickly. Let’s just say that I can kind of learn these two exercises and the speeding up part of moving very slowly.
Quick note: I’m not going to be posting my practice times any longer. I am also not going to be focusing on them as I play. I think I’ve trained myself to practice for a certain length of time by now and trying to remember them, simply to post them here is getting cumbersome. Sometimes I write these entries hours after I play and I forget the exact time. I think my basic reason for keeping these logs will remain though – to remember what I did and when I did it.
July 8 & 9, 2012
I’ve been continuing to work on Exercises 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the “More Fifth String Exercises” of the bonus material. Yesterday, I thought I would never get it. For the first part of today, I thought I would never get it. Towards the end of today’s practice, I turned the metronome on to 40bpm to give me a push and I played through, imperfectly, Exercise 3 a few times. Then, at the very end, I played through without any mistakes. I couldn’t believe it. I stopped there. I was on a high note and I wanted to run before I screwed anything up. Tomorrow I’d like to hit that exercise again and again to really nail it down. Then, I hope to check that off my list. What a confidence boost.
July 10 & 11, 2012
Both yesterday and today were spent working on the “More Fifth String Exercises” in the bonus material. I popped in the DVD as well (last night) just for some pointers. I wanted to see how Steve was handling the rests in Exercise 4. Still don’t have that squared away, but I am getting better.
Today was a big day for me because I crossed Exercise 3 off the list. I played this at an imperfect and inconsistent 60bpm today. 50bpm was much better, but I feel that 60 was good enough for a cross off. Especially since I must have played that exercise at least 100 times. I mean, I played it a lot. 60bpm isn’t bad considering the fact that I played it at about 2bpm just a few days ago. I absorbed what the exercise was about as well. Eighth notes on all five strings, a few octave jumps thrown in for good measure. It was challenging.
I didn’t do anything else today. I just focused on that one exercise and it paid off. Either I practice more tonight or I practice again tomorrow. Either way, I want to finish up Exercise 4. With that complete, I’ll get through the last two exercises and move onto the sixth string.
July 12, 2012
I just had another terrible practice session. I swear I played for an hour and towards the end, I couldn’t hit the right note at all. It’s like I progressively got worse the entire time. I did finish Exercise 4 in the “More Fifth String Exercises” though. That feels good. It wasn’t a great show, but I have had enough of that one. I’ve gone over it way too many times.
I gave Exercise 5 a shot for about 15 minutes and just gave up. It’s easier than all the other ones too – and that’s what gets me frustrated. It’s so simple. I suppose that when I you start swearing at your guitar, you really should pack it up for the day. I’ll finish that one up tomorrow and hopefully finish Exercise 6 as well.
July 13, 2012
Let’s talk about how difficult and frustrating it is to learn guitar – just for a second. Learning to play guitar is very difficult and frustrating. There, I said it.
It’s no wonder so many people quit. Learning to play guitar is really hard. It’s also full of ups and downs. It’s a very sensitive endeavor because it’s quite mood based. Last night I was hungry. That totally put me in outer space and made for a horrific practice session. Today, I ate a few hours before I played, so I was alright. I’ll tell you one thing – it requires a ton of patience and perseverance. If you don’t have those two things, and you want to learn how to do this, you are in for a rough ride.
Good thing I have both. I was browsing around the Learn & Master Guitar forum last night and read a nice line. Someone said that Session 4, if nothing else, teaches you how to be patient. I’ll agree with that, because if you aren’t patient, and if you don’t realize that you need to be patient, you may just say forget it. Thing is, every time I play horribly through an exercise one day, I do fine the next day. It’s knowing when to say when.
Today I finished up Exercise 5 of the “More Fifth String Exercises” in the bonus material. I really thought I would fly through these exercises like I did previous ones. Wrong. I have been spending days on this stuff. And it’s not perfect. I thought I would finish up Exercise 6 today as well, but that didn’t happen. I played through that exercise for about 15 minutes and knew I wasn’t going to get any better. I’ll hit it tomorrow and hopefully put it behind me. I’m pretty excited to get to the Sixth String Exercises.
I was discussing how frustrating the whole guitar thing is with someone this afternoon. I was telling then that one of the main reasons might be that we, as people, have been listening to guitar for pretty much ever. And the guitar we’ve been listening to is good. Not the lousy stuff. The good stuff. Then, one day we get the idea that we want to learn that good stuff. So we buy a course and have at it. BAM. Frustration because we realize that we are absolutely terrible and will be for some time. It’s just like that, but if there is a common thread I’ve been reading over and over, it’s that if we stick to it, it will get better. I’m a believer in that. Jiu Jitsu, remember?
July 14 & 15, 2012
Well, I made it through the last exercise for the fifth string and moved in to the new sixth string exercises. Yesterday was my first day.
I am trying to relax with this whole thing. In the beginning, I was pretty gung-ho. I was kind of strict with myself because of some (I’m sure) self imposed time frame. I now see that I should simply be having fun with the whole thing. Which I am. So that’s what I’m doing now – having fun.
I played through the first two quite simple exercises in the “Sixth String Exercises” in the bonus material. It’s a bit challenging to get used to the sixth string again, but nothing to write home about. I then began working on Exercise 3 and stopped after a while. That exercise is going to take me much more then a day to get through, so I’m biding my time with it. Exercise 4 is a challenge as well, so I am going to soak these up.
July 16 & 17, 2012
For the past few nights, I’ve been limited to a mere half hour of practice. I have to tell you though, they’ve been some good relaxing half hours.
Things have been kind of hectic, but guitar practice must prevail. Last night, I practiced well after midnight. Today, I practiced around 11pm. I make a sincere effort to keep the ball rolling, no matter what I do.
I’ve been working slowly and steadily on the “Sixth String Exercises” in the bonus material. Exercise 3 is coming along nicely, but is still far from fast and even further from perfect. I have some pretty hairy exercises coming up, so I want to get these octave jumps down pat.
I played a few older fourth string songs as a warm up this evening. It was fun because they were really smooth and simple to play. As I was playing them, I remembered back to the very first time I looked at them and chuckled at the difficulty they once gave me. Learning guitar and seeing the change that happens truly is awesome.
July 18 & 19, 2012
I’ve been still trying my hand at the octave jump exercise (3) in the Sixth String Exercises. I am getting better at them, but am still quite horrible. I’m sure I can get better if I put my mind to it – and I plan on doing that soon. Future exercises turn the quarter notes into eighth notes and that seems fun, so I want to get to them.
I also opened up the Hal Leonard book and played some fifth string songs over there. I’ll mention them here.
July 20 – 28, 2012
Yes, believe it or not, I’ve been working on one exercise for about two weeks. It’s the first of the dreaded octave jumps exercises. But, I have good news. I finally finished it and that’s why I am celebrating with an update to this page.
When I first began this exercise, I didn’t think I would be able to do it. Little by little, I began to get it. Then, I thought I lost it and then found it again. Needless to say, there have been a few ups and downs, but I didn’t give up. I kept my routine and pushed through it and today I can announce that I can perform this octave jump exercise at 60bpm with no mistakes almost every time and at 80bpm with a mistake here or there. I’d say that after all this time, I need to move on to new exercises. If for nothing else, for my sanity.
During this time, I had passing thoughts of me actually getting worse. Frustration set in and my fingers didn’t do what I wanted them to do. Each day though, incrementally, I felt my hands doing more work and my mind doing less. I also felt and heard the exercise becoming smoother. I began to realize that each note was sinking into my long term memory, as opposed to me simply bursting through from sheer rhythm. It felt great today when I finally put my check mark next to the exercise.
I want to mention something quickly though. During my warm ups, I recently began playing songs from older sessions and even from the current Session 4. Surprisingly, these songs have become quite simple. I am attributing this to the tougher exercises I’ve been working on. They make these songs seem much easier.
July 29, 2012
I have turned the page on the “Sixth String Exercises” in the bonus material. Now, I can look forward to the “More Sixth String Exercises.” I thought that would be funny.
Exercise 6 was a breeze. The majority of the exercise focused on timing. There were a few “dots” thrown in. Once I played through the notes a couple of times, I simply turned the metronome setting to eighth notes and went to it. A few mistakes here and there, but everything turned out quite nicely. After what I just went through in Exercise 5, anything seems easy. Well, that’s not counting what’s to come in these More Sixth String Exercises. It gets very hairy. I’ll take a picture of what I’m talking about once I get to them.
Also, I just wanted to mention, I am over two months into learning how to play guitar and I haven’t even touched chords yet. There have been a few chords thrown in here and there, but I think that was just to get us used to what they look like. In Session 5, the real chords begin, so I am saving myself for that Session. I am really working on the notes in first position and strings right now, so I don’t want to overwhelm myself.
July 30 & 31, 2012
Yesterday was very simple. I completed Exercise 1 of the “More Sixth String Exercises.” The exercise focused on eighth notes and rests. Once I got the notes down, I turned on the metronome and it guided me through. It didn’t take long, so I went over and played a few songs in the Hal Leonard book.
Today, things picked up a bit, but surprisingly, I didn’t have much trouble. I worked on Exercise 2 and since I play all the notes through (in scale formation) between 10 – 20 times daily, things fell right into place. Using the metronome, I got up to 50bpm. There were some sticky spots, so I decided to leave it there and finish this one up tomorrow. I worked on a few songs in the Hal Leonard book before I played today as well.
Hal Leonard Guitar Method – Book 1
My copy of Hal Leonard Guitar Method arrive in the mail today. I decided that I’ll log my activities for that as well. The series is comprised of three books, bound as one, which keeps things nice and clean. Since this is in no way as comprehensive as Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar, I’ll be using this guide merely as a source of additional songs to play. You can follow along with my progress below.
June 22, 2012
Practice time: 5:15 – 6:15
Since I am currently working on the third string (G), I decided to skip the first and second string songs and jump right into something that is more aligned with where I am in the other course. With that in mind, I worked on Rockin’ Robin, Yankee Doodle and Surf Rock. I started out playing all these songs at 60bpm and within a half hour, I was playing them at 120bpm. These are fairly simple songs, but really help with finger movement. I’ll tell you one thing though, by the time the third song rolled around at 120bpm, my head was sort of spinning. My hour was almost up and my mind was somewhat numb.
June 23, 2012
Practice time: 7:10 – 8:20
This afternoon, I played Au Clair De La Lune, Aura Lee and He’s a Jolly Good Fellow for about forty minutes. All three were fairly simple songs and it didn’t take me long to crank things up to 100bpm. I believe I made it up to 120bpm on one of the songs, but I was getting tired again, so I stayed cool for most of what I did.
Funny thing – the simplest song was He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, but I had the most difficulty playing it. For some strange reason, that tune is so ingrained in my head. I had such a tough time playing the subtle differences in the notes from what I’m used to. I wish they put more notes in the sheet music because I really would like to have done a better job. Stumbling through a song like that because my mind wants to do something different than what’s written down is annoying.
Otherwise, I had a great practice session today.
June 29, 2012
Practice time: 5:00 – 6:00
As an extra bit of practice, today I played the melody of “Worried Man Blues” on page 18. It only took a few minutes to get the hang of it because the song only consisted of quarter notes, but it was a nice way to wind down from practicing Session 3 exercises.
July 1 & 2, 2012
Practice time: 5:45 – 7:00 & 4:15 – 5:15
I described what I’ve been doing recently on the Session 3 page, but specifically, the songs I worked on for the past two days are “Tom Dooley,” “Pay Me My Money Down,” “12-Bar Rock,” “Amazing Grace” and “Riffin’.” Believe it or not, Amazing Grace was the toughest. This song has a measure where an A goes to a high D. Throws me off almost every time. I tried working on it over and over with marginal results. I got better at it as time went on, but it’s still so unnatural for my fingers to move in the required direction. I’ll keep working on it because the L&M bonus material has another version of the same song, only they use eighth notes a few times. Makes things a bit more entertaining. I’m getting those eighth notes down pretty nicely.
July 3, 2012
Practice time: 5:45 – 6:45
I remember not too long ago when Steve Krenz said that our goal is to play such and such a song at 90bpm. My jaw nearly hit the floor when I heard that. Well, today 120bpm wasn’t fast enough for me. Strange how time works and the mind learns.
Anyway, I finished up the two final songs before the fifth string section. “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Will the Circle be Unbroken.” They weren’t difficult songs at all and were a nice finish to a somewhat lengthy session.
July 18 & 19, 2012
Sometimes I need a break from the increasingly challenging exercises in the Learn & Master Guitar course, so I turn to my Hal Leonard Guitar Method book for some songs. I’ve been doing that over the past few days, just to keep my spirits high. I don’t know yet if this is taking my eye off the ball, but I suppose time will tell.
I’ve been working on the fifth and sixth strings, so I tried my hand at “Blues Bass,” “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho” and “Greensleeves.” These are fairly simple songs, but they really go a long way in putting a smile on my face as I struggle with more difficult exercises on the other side.
July 30 & 31, 2012
Since the exercises I’ve been working on in the Gibson program haven’t been too tough, I decided to warm up with song songs over here. Specifically, over the past two days, I played “Doo-Wop,” “Give My Regards To Broadway” and “Bass Rock.” I didn’t necessarily enjoy any of these songs because they all consist of quarter notes and are quite simple – meaning slow with not much rhythm. But they were okay to warm up with.
Octave Jump Exercises – Session 4 Bonus Materials – Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar
Ahhh, the dreaded octave jump exercises in the Session 4 Bonus Exercises. I’ve been reading the Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar Forums regarding these and they are by far, the most difficult skill to master so far.
I did well with the first octave jump exercise in the “Sixth String Exercises” (bonus materials). It took me almost two full weeks to get it, but I did and now those quarter notes aren’t even an issue. I could easily warm up to the exercise. I also did well with exercise 2 and 3 in the “More Sixth String Exercises” (bonus materials). Now, by “well” I mean it only took me a few days to master the exercise and now I use them as warm ups. Each time I play them, I think less and less about what I’m doing.
The challenge, and I’ll say “challenge” here because it is indeed a challenge, but much less of a challenge than the first octave jump exercise, is exercise 4. You can see it in the photos above. The same exercise from the previous page has morphed into a new beast. The quarter notes turned into eighth notes and instead of only going up the scale, now we have to go down as well. I’ll tell you that this threw me for loop the very first time I looked at this, but it’s much better now. I am plan on working on this exercise for a few more days.
I’ll tell you something – I really don’t mind spending my time on these exercises. They require me to use all notes learned thus far on all six strings. It’s not like I’m missing out on something. I mean, I’m playing guitar, which is what I wanted to do. And it feels great. Just to let you know, my record runs strong – I haven’t missed a day yet.
I read a post on the forum last night where someone was venting about how they feel as though they are regressing in Session 4. There was a lot of support in the responses that followed, which was really good to see. Quitting guitar is really easy to do. Support is crucial and when I start feeling the frustration, I head over to the forum simply to remind myself that I’m not alone. I haven’t responded to any posts such as these, but I would like to offer some advice here. And this comes from what I’ve experienced so far and it’s regarding motivation and progress.
First off, (I know I’ve mentioned this before) make sure you eat something before playing. When you need to dig down mentally, you need energy. If you do this on an empty stomach, you’ll play like an idiot.
Second, use the metronome as a tool. Practice playing through the exercise in chunks and then practice playing them through. Then turn on the metronome to see where you are. Turn it off and practice again. Then turn it back on. Keep doing this until you’ve done all you need to do. Give the exercise a check mark and go have a beer. Enjoy.
Third, learn how to read music. If you don’t know how to do this yet and you’re months into learning how to play the guitar, I don’t know, you really need to do this. All you are going to have is issues going forward. It’s really one of those things in life. Get it done. Stop what you’re doing and just practice that.
Before I started going through this course, I thought that reading music was a given. As I play and read, I am finding out that there is a large population out there that is trying to avoid learning this skill at all costs. I wonder about this. The other thing I wonder about is the population that has decided to only learn chords, but that’s something for another day.
Anyway, I’m creeping up on three months here and things are rolling right along. I have my good days and I have my bad days. But, I’m using all six strings in first position and I’m feeling good. After I finish up these octave jump exercises, I move into sharps and flats and then I get to try my hand at “Fur Elise” and “The Entertainer,” which I have heard stories about. Man oh man.
Guitar Sharps, Flats & Naturals
I have great news – I am officially moving on to the Sharps, Flats and Naturals section of Session 4 in Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar. This is pretty exciting because it means that I am comfortable with everything up until this point, which was a lot.
Now, I’ve heard that it’s quite common to wander around in Session 4 for months. I’ve been working on it for a bit over a month now, so I’m a little nervous. I know I’ve mentioned that I haven’t worked on any chords – and that may pose a problem because there are two songs in the bonus material that require use of the Am and the E chords found later on in this section. I’ll have to go over them to play “The Entertainer.” Also, I wonder about using Sharps and Flats. I have a funny feeling that these two little words are going to throw things into disarray. I’ve been working to hard so get things one way and now the guitar gods want to tell me to do it another. We’ll see how that works out. I suppose I’ll just have to put things on hyper slow and deal with it.
This also means that I have to pop the lesson CD back into my computer and work with Steve Krenz again. I haven’t worked with him in a long time, so that should be fun. The way I operate is like this – I hear what he has to say and then I go off on my own for as long as it takes to learn what he had to teach. Then, when I hit the next section, I head on back to him for some more teaching. I’ve gotten this far like that, so I plan on doing it for the duration.
I’ll let you know how these sharps and flats are working out when I get into the nitty gritty.
Working Through the Sharps and Flats
I am pretty excited right now. For weeks, I have been looking ahead in the material and had this sinking feeling that something terrible was on the horizon. I think it was those sharps and flats I told you about yesterday.
Well, as it turns out, they aren’t so bad after all. They are actually kind of fun. Sure, it’s going to take some time getting used to using my pinky for some notes, but really, it’s all quite logical and what I learned today filled in some gaps I was wondering about.
I think I’ll do fine with the exercises that follow. I’ll also learn the chords I’ll need to play “The Entertainer” and “Fur Elise” and then I’m sure I’ll be practicing those songs, along with the others in this session for quite a long time.
Must-Have Guitar Instruction Resources
I remember back when I was a kid in my old neighborhood. One of my neighbors used to sit on his back porch and play various Metallica songs on his electric guitar. He wasn’t great or anything, but it was fun to listen to him navigate the strings and chords for those songs. He was musically inclined, his brother was and their friend, the music teacher down in the middle school was as well. What a cool hobby for all of them to have – playing music.
I’ve thought about learning how to play guitar for a long time. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I actually did something about it. I guess the problem I faced and the reason I waited so long was that I had no idea where to begin. I didn’t think I’d appreciate shelling out all sorts of money for an instructor and I really didn’t know any anyway. It wasn’t until I found the mother of all guitar instruction – the Gibson’s Learn & Master Guitar DVD set. I bought that set in 2012 and have been staring at it ever since. I think I mentioned in my previous post that I played for a few months and gave up. Today, I’m back and I’m stronger than ever.
Since I began this endeavor in 2012, I’ve had an open ear when it comes to eavesdropping on how others go about their own process of leaning this instrument. Surprisingly, I haven’t come across too many folks who follow the book and study method. Ninety nine times out of a hundred, students pick up a music book that simply tells them how to play a few chords to get through a handful of songs. Very few people know how to read music, much less know which guitar string is which and what notes are what. I was really shocked when I discovered this because quite honestly, guitar is an extremely difficult instrument to become even slightly proficient at playing and like anything else, the basics are absolutely critical.
I have tons of resources to help me learn. As I mentioned above, I have the Gibson package. That’s my home base; my primary learning source. That arrived with 20 DVDs that cover playing the very first string all the way through barre and power chords to fingerstyle guitar. That resource is absolutely jam packed with good stuff, methodically laid out and presented in such a way that if failure occurs, it’s only the student’s fault. Gibson even offers a web forum to visit for motivation. Personally, I wouldn’t even try to learn guitar any other way. And I haven’t even mentioned the supplemental materials yet. The additional resources are more in depth than the primary ones.
Here are a few of the DVDs.
Here are additional jam along DVDs, which are helpful when students get to the point of playing with others.
And here is one page out of the supplemental materials. I just happen to be up to practicing the third and fourth strings.
Beyond that, I have the Hal Leonard Guitar Method 3 in 1 book that offers all sorts of guitar instruction coupled with lots of exercises and songs. Because I want as many places to turn to as I’m practicing, I flip between the Gibson and the Hal Leonard books. This method is encouraged by both.
A few days ago, I got all jazzed up and ordered three books that are stuffed with various popular songs. Again, these songs were put out by Hal Leonard and are called Easy Pop Melodies. Each of the songs in the books correlate with a section in the Guitar Method book I just mentioned. These extra songs can really open up anyone’s game and make learning guitar some serious fun. As a matter of fact, I was just playing the beginnings of Fields of Gold by Sting. There are incredible songs in these books (that become increasingly more challenging to play towards the end).
When it comes to learning an instrument, music theory is a very important aspect to become familiar with. While both the Gibson and Hal Leonard resources cover pretty much anything I’d want to know regarding music theory, I decided to pick up some additional books. I just ordered:
Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask (Guitar Method) by Tom Kolb
Guitar: The Circle of Fifths for Guitarists: Learn and Apply Music Theory for Guitar by Mr. Joseph Alexander
I’m really psyched about these two additional books because I’ll have the opportunity to study theory any time I wish. I won’t have to wait for the related section in my instruction books. I find this entire area so interesting and I’m especially motivated because of the simple fact that so many people quit shortly after they begin playing. I love to separate myself from the crowd by becoming good at things and if this is another way to do that, so be it. I’m fine with it. I guess the actual playing will be fun too.
Anyway, I just wanted to share some information about what I do for an hour every day. Engaging in something like this is a lifelong challenge, but one that’s so very rewarding.
I’ve Decided to Try to Learn How to Play the Guitar Again
I’ve been down this road before. I understand that playing the guitar is a true challenge, but I also understand that it’s one mighty satisfying reward. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone can even learn how to do it. Way back in 2012, I failed. I’m going to give it another try.
What do you think of the above photo? I just took it about 20 seconds ago and ran it through Photoshop for a bit of editing. I was going for that nostalgic look. I like it.
So anyway, yes, I failed at learning how to play the guitar back in 2012. When I began thinking about my previous experience a few days back, I was under the impression that I played for about eight months. The thing is, I wrote a bunch of posts right here on this blog about my learning and after looking through them two evenings ago, I realized that I had only played for about four. That was a disappointing discovery, but it was also heartening because it helps explain why I’m so horrible today. While I do remember some notes and I picked everything back up relatively quickly, my chords remain sounding like a dying hippopotamus. It’s not good. Although, I will tell that you just last night, I had a major breakthrough with playing those cords. It appears that the lighter I strum the strings, the more those same strings sing. And sing is the only word I can use to describe how pretty they sound. I”m just hoping it’s not one of those techniques that’s similar to a tennis swing or a golf swing. I was never quite able to master those.
I’m learning the proper way. When I first picked the guitar up all those years ago, I bought the best home learning course I could find. It’s the Learn & Master Guitar program put out by Gibson and taught by none other than Steve Krenz. Steve is a rather talented guitar player and a fantastic teacher. I have more than 20 DVDs that cover just about everything I would ever need to know. That set, combined with the wonder of the internet’s many instructors and how-to videos should bring me to a stage near you in no time. It should be fun.
I have about a week in so far this time. I’m really trying to stay positive and to put the hours in. It’s frustrating, but as long as I focus on those chords, which were the things that brought me down last time, I should be okay. I do see an improvement every single night I play. Plus, I’d like to get to the point of purchasing an electric/acoustic guitar, like I wanted to do in 2012. That’s the carrot dangling in front of my nose.
I’ll keep you updated, but don’t expect any video any time soon. Perhaps in about a year. It’s really embarrassing right now.
One quick note. I’d like to thank my good friend Seth, who, back in 2013, convinced me not to sell my setup. When I asked him, “Why do I need any of it?”, he replied, “Dude, every house needs a guitar.” Wise words from a wise man. Thanks Seth.
Upgrading My Guitar to the Martin DRS2
As I sit here and type, I am so excited about playing the guitar tonight. I have never actually played a high quality guitar, so today has been a first. And what’s even better is that I have an entire story to go along with the purchase of my new guitar, so I’ll tell you all about it now.
Today, we had to head out to Bangor, Maine for some running around. One of the places I planned on visiting, among others, was a guitar store called Northern Kingdom Music. I have never actually been in a real guitar store before, besides the time I went to the East Coast Music Mall when I was much younger. I’m going to say that that far back doesn’t count. Anyway, today’s guitar store was really nice. It was chock full of all types of guitars and I was sort of overwhelmed. Along the back wall were all styles of electrics and along the side wall were the acoustics. I was looking for a new acoustic, so I only briefly scanned the electrics. I’ll have to save that whole thing for another day.
Over the past two months, I have been salivating over a Taylor 114e. This guitar is what’s called a Grand Auditorium and it features a more narrow body than more traditional looking guitars. The reason I was interested in this particular model so much was because of it’s “brighter” resonance. Because of the narrow center of the body, the sound really jumps out. I must have watched at least a hundred videos which really sold me on the whole idea.
The thing is, as of late, my Epiphone has been treating me pretty well. All the buzzing the strings have been doing has all but disappeared. I made a few adjustments a while back and things have been good. It still needs to be set up in the worst way, but as far as practice goes, I can’t complain too much. So basically, I really didn’t know if I was going to purchase a new guitar today, even though I had been planning on doing so for months. I think my real goal was to simply touch some and try my best at playing them. I wanted to see what was out there.
I entered the store, looked around and started talking to a very nice sales guy. After asking, he pointed me to the Taylor 110e, which is the dreadnought version of the grand auditorium (larger body, more bass). I asked him what someone who hasn’t been playing for that long does to try one of these guitars out. He told me to sit down and start playing. No one judges when it comes to guitars. So, I sat down and did just that. I played what I knew and believe it or not, I played for over 15 minutes, just with that guitar. Then, I got up and tried a different guitar and played for another 15 minutes. And then I did that again, with a different guitar. I played four guitars in all for over an hour. I completely lost track of time, but I did discover that I wasn’t a fan of the Grand Auditorium body style. I also discovered that I absolutely adore the Martin DRS2. It comes with a Dreadnought body and it sounds just perfect. After playing it in every variation I knew, I admitted to myself that I loved it and that I had to take it home with me. I was calling my name. It’s just so damn nice and so solid feeling in my hands.
There really is a difference between guitars out there and I’m happy that I got a chance to play some of them. What I thought I would like, I actually didn’t like and what I thought I didn’t want, I actually wanted. Also, guitar stores are the best. No one cares how new you are and how terribly you play. I just sat on that chair and played like I was at home. I went through some scales and played all the notes I know and then I played though all the chords I know. I did that about a dozen times on each guitar until I settled on the one that sang to me. What a fun experience.
I think what I’m most pleased with is that I now have two guitars. If one has to go into the shop for a repair, I can still play the other. Also, I’m happy to now own a real guitar. I feel like it’s somehow an investment. This one is solid wood, so there’s no laminate. It’s got great parts and hardware and I’m so pleased with it. It also came with a hard case, which is an incredible perk. I was going to get this guitar anyway, but that put me over the top.
So, if you don’t here from me for a while, it’s because I’m busy playing. Don’t worry, I’ll get tired sooner or later.