Creating a new thread on the advice of the mods since the other one was getting too big.
I just recently finished Grade 2 of Justin’s course and am currently consolidating for the next 3 months. In Justin’s video about consolidation, he warns about how to avoid a rut. After watching that video, I decided that I needed some structure to make sure that I move forward so I decided to have a long-term goal of playing and recording all of the songs in Justin’s Rock song book.
I’m calling this a study instead of a challenge as I really want to suck out as much knowledge as I can from each song and make sure I’m learning something however small from each one I tackle.
As I said I need structure, without it I get lost very easily! So, here’s how I’m structuring this study:
Each song I’m going to try and take at least a month to get right and post. This is because I’ll be working on other songs and books as well, so I want to give myself as much time as possible to get through even the easy songs. For the harder ones I may take even longer. The point is to get to the songs to a point where I feel like the quality is good enough to post and I’ve learned as much as I could from each song.
I’m going to try and find backing tracks to as much of the songs as possible. I’m not a singer (interest is there but not yet ready to pursue) so I’d like to play with backing track for it to sound as good as possible and also to help make sure I have to rhythm right. I check and found backing tracks for most of the first 15 songs. So it doesn’t seem to hard to find, especially since many of the songs in the book are really popular.
Each post I’ll give some details on what I’ve learned and how I’m getting the sound I used. This is for me to chronicle what I’ve learned and just to give context to those who are interested.
Then I’ll post the song and move on!
I’m hoping that I’ll keep going and eventually post every song in the the entirety of Justin’s book, but that will take years as I am not at the level to be able to play all of these yet. So, with that in mind I’m going to be doing one section of 15 at a time (Exactly how his book is set up).
Song 11: Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
When I first started to play the guitar I made a list of songs that I wanted to eventually get good enough to learn. Smells like Teen Spirit was one that was on top of the list. It’s one of the reasons that I spent a lot of time trying to get this one right. I also felt like it was time to try playing a little bit of lead and since this song has a simple solo I went for it.
What I’ve learned/techniques:
Rhythm. I originally got the rock songbook about a year ago. I was only 3 months into my guitar journey, but the first thing I did was flip to this page and tried to learn Smells Like Teen Spirit. I did not do a good job. So when I came back to do it again I noticed that I gained a really bad habit of playing it wrong. I took my 5 minute time practice and slowed the strumming down to a crawl. I think I mostly have it right now after 3 weeks of slowly speeding it up.
Each riff has it’s own little quirk with the timing so I practiced each one individually and spent a lot of time just trying to put it all together.
Playing clean. I originally wanted to use a foot switch and switch to the different tones with that but there is just too many switches for me to do it right. I ended up recording the whole thing clean and using my DAW + Tonelib gfx plug in to get the different sounds in.
Solo. I’ve been working on my lead playing for about a month now. Specifically, string bending, vibrato, and muting when playing single note lines. It’s tough, I don’t think I’m comfortable yet playing lead. I’m pretty sure I’m not bending in tune either, lol. Buuut, I figured I would get it out there and try my best with this one. The more I play the better I’ll get at it. The solo starts at around 2:50 for those interested.
Tonelib GFX, progressive rhythm default for the rhythm parts and progressive lead for the lead ones. I also just used the clean preset with a chorus effect on it, plus the plain one clean one for the other parts.
Woohoo! I was excited when I saw this pop up! That was super cool, Alexis! Nice tight playing as always and nailed the solo - great job tackling that! I watched it through a couple of times whilst sitting with my guitar and found myself playing along!
Feels great to achieve these milestones eh?! Congrats!!
Yeah something to work on, can be pretty tricky to hit the timing on the switch and maintain flow with the song, I have struggled with this too. Just practicing it slowly and building up is the way forward, as it is with most things
Tone sound good, Alexis! My only comment would be that I felt the distorted rhythm was a wee bit low in the mix and needed boosted to get that punch I was looking for. Other than , sounded great, well done!
Congrats on another milestone on your trip through the Rock Song Book, Alexis.
The project is surely an inspiration to many. My maths and your intro tells me you are about 18 months in, for me the level of what you can play and achieve after that period of time is pretty remarkable. Maybe others may feel the same and some would find it inspiring, others may want to trade in the guitars and find another hobby. I am quite sure that what you have accomplished it through many hours applied in a deliberate approach to learn and practice. Maybe share some of that, which may be equally inspiring (or off-putting)
I’m not into Nirvana and the song nearly enough nor have a built-in metronome and pitch meter to comment on your accuracy. Can only say it sounded good to me and you are doing well on your vibrato at the end of the solo.
Totally, I used a footswitch for in bloom and it did not go as well as this lol. Slowly and consistent is the way to go. For song 2 I do want to use my foot switch since it only has 2 (I think tones), we’ll see how that goes!
I did notice that the distorted part was a little low, maybe that has to do with what you’re hearing LBro? I always notice things like that hours, maybe days after I upload and post. I’ve been trying to force myself to wait for a day and listening/watching before I post so that I catch these, but I can’t help myself, lol. The mixing, video editing, uploading take so long that I wanna put it out there to get that sense of finishing something and move on. I do have the original garageband file and could probably adjust and repost but I like the idea of these being a snapshot of my skill level at the moment I post them, warts and all. So hopefully that reminds me to check on it next time
Nice of you to say David, I do hope that some don’t find my progress as off-putting.
I’ve been playing since January of last year, so maybe ~15 months? (feels like I’ve been playing longer though). Many hours of deliberate practice is a great way to describe it. I think my success (if you could call it that) is due to consistent practice and focusing on 1 or 2 genres (rock/metal). In all those months, I think I only missed practice when I was sick or traveling. There were many days sprinkled in where work kept me too busy to keep to my schedule, but I would still pick up the guitar and noodle a bit. Working from home helps with all that too.
That said, I still have sooo many other things that I’m not so good at and need to practice. I can’t sing or play + sing at the same time, I can’t play much standing up, and the big one, I can’t play in front of others to save my life! It terrifies me and my hands start to shake just thinking about it (weird cause I’m usually not an anxious person).
All to say, I’m good at some things, bad at others. I do feel proud of the progress I’ve made so far, but there is still so much further to go.
Hi Alexis. I love what you’ve been doing so far. Having watched all your previous videos in a row, there’s no denying you made a lot of progress. If I look back at what I could(n’t) do after barely 15 months of playing, I’m really impressed with your performance. Introducing dynamics, switching tones, playing solo lines - not sure many ‘beginners’ could do that.
I’m curious to see you tackle the intermediate section of the book, which should be pretty soon if I’m not mistaken.
Excited to get there too! Though these take a lot of my guitar time to do; so, I’m considering taking a month or 2 break to play a couple of other songs I’ve been wanting to learn that aren’t a part of the rock song book. I’m still not 100% sure yet though. I also love the rock song book songs too and I can tell that the intermediate songs will be a great challenge. Specifically, to get my barre chords up to snuff. I could always alternate between rock songbook songs and others, but I can get crazy about structure so that sounds like insanity!
That sounded great, Alexis. I think @DavidP summed it up quite nicely. Your progress is a true testament of your smart practice routines.
Structure is great for ensuring that you have the right balance for warm ups, learning/practice and playing, and ensuring that you are practicing the right things to achieve your goals. It’s working very well for you, so why change it.
I find your progress motivational. I’m sure others feel exactly the same.
Absolutely. As people are approaching the plan your own practice routine I think they will find it both insightful and inspiring reading your process of setting your goals, planning and adjusting your approach to learning and practicing.
Wow, Alexis, that sounded awesome. Really great stuff .
I don’t have a clue about most techniques you’ve used, but it looked and sounded fantastic. So I guess, it must have been right . Thanks a lot for sharing .
(I’m already looking forward to no. 12 of your rock study. I love Song 2 .)
Really smashed it Alexis and man that solo you played like it was Cobain possessing your fretting hand tones were great, your rhythm as usual is impeccable and I really enjoyed this solo section, I think it’s a great one for stepping slowly into impro chapter of your playing routine. Well done!
I feel the same about so many other community members videos including yours James so that’s a relief to hear. The last thing I want to do is discourage anyone.
Me too! It’s such a great and fun song to learn. I’m experimenting with the tone right now and getting that really distorted fuzziness that’s in the song is both challenging and cool.
It totally is. I admit, I’m completely out of my depth when it comes to lead playing. After practicing a month on it I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m sure I’m bending out of tune and I def have some timing issues on this one, but it’s simple enough that it’s a good stepping stone to more lead playing. Eventually I want to get good enough to tackle something like Black Betty (your cover was awesome by the way). But, as they say, one step at a time.
As a next stage you might want to try using the volume control to manage the tone rather than a footswitch. At the riff/power chords on this song the guitar is so distorted it is on the verge of feeding back so set everything to that and use the volume control to clean it up including the solo. I don’t think Kobain was bending in tune either so no issues there…
I think bends were pretty much in tune haven’t heard anything massively off (if at all) in your lead play, at the end you might have gotten a bit out of time but probably because you haven’t flicked off with your fingers which is where you lost a split second to pick and got out of zone. But it was minimal!
From my point of view not at all off putting! The complete opposite - it’s inspiring and helpful to understand the approach you’ve taken to arrive here. It gives context - and context allows the rest of us to work towards it!
Thanks Peter, didn’t even think about this. One of my issues is def not remembering all the tools I can use for this kind of thing.
That’s a relief, I don’t have a developed enough ear to know for sure and I trust yours much better than mine. You’re exactly right about my timing too. I was out of zone for a split second in the end there.
Thanks @Sound_Bound, this whole thing started as a way for me to bring some structure into the less structured grades in Justin’s course. It’s nice to hear that some are getting something out of this as well.