Hi, my name is Andrés. I am from Cali, Colombia, but I have lived in Canada for 20 years. I live in Kitchener, Ontario (one and a half hours west of Toronto by car with good traffic).
Here is my guitar journey; hopefully my story is not longer than it should have been for an introduction to the community.
I have been a beginner guitarist for 40 years.
I remember the first two occasions that I had the opportunity to grab a guitar.
One was during a school trip to an archaeological park. There was a guitar in the lounge of the small hotel where we were camping and I started walking around the pool at night, kind of strumming it although I did not know anything about how to play a guitar.
The other one was because a cousin asked my mother to drop off a guitar to a friend of my cousin in our way home. I got in charge of holding the guitar during the short trip and I started to pluck the strings without really knowing what I was doing. From that short trip my mother got the idea of paying me some guitar lessons.
My mother convinced a retired guitar teacher friend of her to give lessons to her, my sister and I. My mother bought me through the teacher an inexpensive but good enough nylon string student guitar. I think I was fifteen at that time.
My mother liked to sing and wanted to learn how to play the guitar but she got one of her hands hurt cooking when we were starting the lessons. It was nothing permanent but unfortunately she lost interest in trying with the guitar.
My sister struggled with the size of the guitar but followed the advice of the teacher to play a Colombian instrument called tiple that is a smaller guitar shaped instrument with twelve strings grouped in four tripled courses. It is played mostly strumming.
We received lessons for about two years until I finished high school and went for the mandatory military service and also for a short period after my military service. We had with us in the lessons the son of a neighbour of the teacher and later also a high school classmate.
The classes were traditional Colombian and Mexican songs. The teacher played the melody using the bandola, a Colombian style mandolin, and we, the students, played the accompanying rhythm part. We had the lyrics and the chords written by hand in our notebooks. Some the songs had a finger style introduction written in chromatic scale ciphering that is a simplified tab notation. The guitar rhythms were played using a combination of main bass, secondary bass and chords played plucking the three thinner strings. One of the rhythms included arpeggios. We gave it a try to a couple of instrumental finger style pieces.
We, the students, joked that our musical group should be called “The Independents” because each one was playing his or her own piece. At the end we were not doing that bad and one day the teacher made a cassette recording of our repertoire that I still have. Here is one piece of that recording:
I would say that I am not completely tone or rhythm deaf but I struggle with identifying notes and rhythmic patterns. I have never been able to tune the guitar by ear. Electronic tuners in the 80s were out of my budget so I had a pitch pipe tuner. Once I tuned the strings using that device and the teacher told me that all the strings were half tone above the standard tuning. Luckily the guitar survived the extra tension.
My second nylon string guitar was a birthday gift of my mother while I was taking the lessons. It was nice because I was not expecting it although my student guitar had a split top, even after being repaired, due to falling to the ground. I started opening the gift wrap and I thought that I was getting a case for my student guitar but to my surprise there was a new guitar inside. Both my guitars were from local luthiers.
My third guitar was an electric one. I am not sure of the brand. The name Teisco comes to my mind. I searched through the internet recently and some vintage Teisco ones if found look similar to that one, four knobs and two big, somewhat strange, pickup switches just below the strings in between the bridge and the neck. I bought it second hand and it was highly modified. I requested a third, supposedly distortion pickup to be removed. It was painted black with some white tape placed to resemble Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. I had it repainted all beige. Most of the time I did not play actual songs with it, just played to explore the sounds. I did not have an amp so I connected the guitar to the hi-fi that had two mic inputs and one of them had a guitar mode. I had to make my own cables for the guitar and for my Casio VL-1 mini keyboard.
My second phase of guitar learning was with the help of a magazine called “Canta Guitarra” (Sing Guitar [Sing]). Each issue included songs with lyrics and chords and one or two fingerpicked songs using the cipher method above mentioned. Each issue also included a song in English. I never mastered or memorized the songs, just played and sung them the best I could one after another for up to two hours. For some reason some of the kids of the condominium I was living liked to hang around on the ground level near the master bedroom balcony of my second floor apartment while I was playing (I could hear them below). One of them asked me for some lessons. Unfortunately not too much that I could teach him at that time but I gave him a couple of lessons anyway.
After getting busy with parenthood and having some employment setbacks that put me in Canada working seven days a week to meet ends and without a guitar, my guitar playing and learning got paused for several years.
One day my then brother in-law let me make some noise with his electric guitar and after that he and my sister gave me an Art & Lutherie Cedar GT steel string acoustic guitar as a birthday present. It is still my acoustic guitar.
About four years ago I was hanging around in a mall and I bought a Hal Leonard guitar method and started following it with a beginner’s mindset. I still have not completed Book 1 of the method but I do come back once in a while over some of the exercises for practice. This guitar method has given me a certain level of sight reading that I did not have at all before.
Three years ago my wife told me that her Christmas gift for me was an electric guitar. She did not buy it, just gave me a budget and let me look for it. After reviewing my options, I went for a Yamaha starter kit sold by Costco. There were some complains about the tone in the product comments but after checking with Yamaha that the Costco reference was equivalent to a Pacifica 012 and watching a YT video comparing a Pacifica 112 to a Squier, I went for it. So far I am very happy with this guitar.
I expanded the tone possibilities of my electric guitar with a NUX MG-200 modeller that includes also a built-in drum machine.
After getting my electric guitar, I started to look for YT videos to help me with some songs that I wanted to play. Between those videos, some Justinguitar videos started to pop up and grabbed my attention. After some hesitance, I started going to the website and finally signed up and started using the tools. I am currently at Level 8 of the Beginner Guitar Course [Classic]. My overall playing has improved a lot due to the structured practice the lessons and the tools facilitate. My progress has been slow but steady. It has not been faster just because I have not put more time on it. I am able to practice only a couple of hours during the weekend and an occasional short session during weekdays.
My breakthrough moment after practicing with the Justinguitar lessons was opening one of the Hal Leonard songbooks I had and never been able to use and taking a look to the “Yellow Submarine” tab and understanding how it could be played.
So far I can play from memory “Blowin’ In The Wind”. I have a video of my current playing and also a video compiling three previous videos of my progress. I am working on “Don’t Be Cruel” but I can only play and sing it if strumming with quarter note downs. If I try to do a strumming closer to the original record I cannot keep the rhythm and sing. I have to revisit “Yellow Submarine”.
Last December I took my acoustic guitar for a much needed setup and the playability improvement was significant. The lower action it now has, has allowed me to get a better sound with less finger pain that in turn has sped up my progress. I also bought two Justinguitar books to improve my sight reading skills and the Justinguitar/Hal Leonard “Easy Guitar Songbook”. So far I have practiced two songs of the songbook. I had never heard them before but, after hearing them a few times and practicing them a lot more times am getting a hold of them.
Nothing else for now. I expect to be as active as possible in the community.