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.