Dave911’s Learning Log

It is time for me to go ahead and start my Learning Log. I’m going to start with a brief description of where I am on my journey so far, I’m not as organized as some folks here with regards to detailed goals, at least not at this point.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, although I had a few lessons when I was about 12 years old, I really decided to try to learn to play guitar in about October, 2019. I picked up an inexpensive Jasmine acoustic guitar — actually it was free, I got it through a rewards catalog at work — and signed up for lessons at my local Guitar Center. I took weekly lessons for about 3 months. I was not especially impressed by the quality of the lessons, but my goal for the lessons was really just to get started and learn the very basic stuff with hands-on tutelage so that I could then proceed with online self-directed learning, so those lessons were “adequate” for that task.

I joined Justin’s site in December, 2019. I was very enthusiastic and enjoyed Justin’s style right off the bat, but life got a little busy and there were some health issues, etc., and I got knocked off the beam for awhile. I didn’t stop playing completely, but I stopped advancing for the most part.

I renewed my commitment to learning and improving in mid-December, 2021, so I have been back at it for about a month this time. I discovered the NEW Community almost right away, and it is amazing!

So, Learning Log - most of that stuff fits more with “Introduce Yourself” than LL, but it’s part of my learning history so I’ll leave it. This may be a bit of a diary style LL, hopefully that’s ok.

After the initial burst of enthusiasm from mid-December to mid-January, I was starting to feel a little frustrated because my practice is so up-and-down. One day I feel like I’m almost making music, the next day I feel like I’m absolute rubbish. I took a few days off from structured practice.

This afternoon I went back and started watching Nitsuj’s last few practice sessions at the end of Grade 1 and playing along with his practice. For the first time in about 3 weeks it felt good! I was able to play along quite well with Get Lucky, Mad World, Eleanor Rigby, and even This Year’s Love. The 6/8 of This Year’s Love had been just eating me up every time.

Before I did the Nitsuj I had made one change to my practice routine that I think paid off. I had been doing lots of One Minute Changes and was able to do 50 - 75 bpm, depending on which chords, but like so many others I was having trouble making smooth changes during songs. I also didn’t like the quality of the chords. So I spent about 30 minutes doing Perfect Fast Changes instead of OMCs. I had been trying to combine the two and improve the quality during OMCs, but something about consciously focusing on PFC seemed to relax me a bit. I found that I was able to land all of my fingers on the chords pretty much simultaneously with PFCs and it wasn’t all that much slower than OMCs - at least 70 good changes / 2 minutes for all changes.

So I was feeling a lot better about the quality of the chords I was playing and then found myself doing really well just mirroring Nitsuj while he did his song practice.

Then I decided to see if I that newfound confidence would carry over into playing songs with the app, without being able to watch Justin/Nitsuj. I ran through some of the basics like Hey Joe, Black, and 3 Little Birds, and also played Get Lucky, Mad World, This Year’s Love, and Eleanor Rigby again without Nitsuj. It was by no means perfect, but it was relaxed and fun and felt really good. The mistakes were minor, I was able to change chords cleanly and keep that strumming hand going up and down steadily, and I didn’t get flustered when I did make a mistake or two.

So looking at the criteria for passing Grade 1, I am very confident that I pass on all except for memorizing 5 songs. At this point, I will continue to work on memorizing songs, but I am ready to give myself an overall passing grade with Grade 1.

Aside from the memorization, my biggest areas that need improvement from Grade 1 are rhythm and riffs. I can play the riffs well enough that they are recognizable, but not with any real fluidity. I also struggle to memorize the riffs (theme here, my musical memory sucks!).

I have already started working on Grade 2 a little bit. I like the “stuck 3&4” chords and will have to start working on them in songs. I have started on the dreaded “F” barre chord. To be honest, I never thought I would even be able to do the mini-barre F, but I have managed to do that — not particularly well, and not in a song yet, but I can form the chord and make it ring clearly some of the time; it will get better. I feel like I am close to being able to play barre F, or as someone pointed out to me, that’s the same as saying I am close to being able to play E shape barre chords since it is a moveable shape.

I’ve mostly been playing on my Taylor Academy 12e (picked up about a year ago), so steel strings, 7/8 size, on a guitar that’s designed to be beginner-friendly. I’ve also got a Yamaha Pacifica 112v electric (Boss Katana 50 Mk ii), but it feels completely strange to me. Finally I have a Yamaha nylon string acoustic. So, 4 guitars, just graduating from Grade 1! As I move more into Grade 2 I suppose I will start working with the Pacifica more often since it is more suited for the barre chords, power chords, and blues trajectory.

As I said above, this is more of a diary entry than a real learning log, so we’ll see how it evolves. I wanted to get it started.

Next up, I will record myself and post some recordings so that I will have a document that I can refer back to periodically. Hopefully I will be able to see definite improvement that way. If not, perhaps it will motivate me to work on the areas that need the most improvement. I will get some recordings posted here within a couple of weeks.

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Hey about time ! :smiley:

Sounds like you are doing just fine to me and enjoying the journey…!

Barre chords are a pain at first for sure…

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What a great story Dave, and well done on passing Grade 1! What a moment to celebrate, give yourself some pat on the back as you fully deserve it.

We all sometimes feel like we are rubbish one day to flourish another, it’s like anything with life - sometimes you burn a microwave dish and the other you will make the best meal there is yourself. Same at work one day it can go worse and the other can be a lot better. Remember those good days and enjoy your journey, try not to contemplate too long over those bad ones, accept mistakes and just work them over and over again - wash, rinse repeat or something like that :grinning: I am sure you are doing great :slight_smile:

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Thanks for sharing that Dave. A lot of what you wrote mirrors where I am at the moment and its good to know i’m not alone. For the last few weeks or so its felt like i’ll be consolidating grade 1 forever. I’ll be sure to try all the things you mentioned which helped you get through grade 1 :slightly_smiling_face:

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Indeed and because it is, it’s often easier to learn higher up the neck, where the frets are not so far apart. The other trick is to put a capo on the first fret, reducing the action so you don’t have to press as hard. Once you have the E/A shape barre chord under control tons of songs open themselves up to you :smiley:

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Good job on starting the Learning Log, Dave, and you sound to be making excellent progress.

I view the Log as very much my personal journal. So feel free to use it as you like, in whatever way will be most useful to you. And as we’ve seen inspiring and encouraging for others to read.

I look forward to enjoying recordings soon.

Keep on keeping on

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Hi Dave,
Exactly what he said above me…
Greetings

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Hi Dave, great job on starting your learning log. I can relate very much with it. The 6:8 of this years love was also doing my nut in. The key thing I picked up on your log was the “relaxed and having fun.” To me, this is very important when playing the guitar. So I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying yourself when playing the guitar. I can also relate to you when it comes to memorising songs. What I’ve found that helps is listening to the songs I’m learning every day whilst practising them. It sounds like you’re doing very well with Grade 2, so good work, mate. I look forward to hearing your recordings soon, and I’m sure they will help you in the process of memorising your songs. Keep up the good work mate.

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Just out of curiosity, what didn’t you like about the lessons at Guitar Center?

Hi Joe, you ask a very fair question. The instructor was competent, but she wasn’t especially invested in teaching guitar. She was a music student at UMass-Dartmouth and teaching was just a part-time gig to earn a little money. A couple of times she was unable to be there at my lesson time, so they shuffled someone else in as a substitute. So their instructors were just 20-somethings with some background in music, but not really vested in building any in-depth understanding of my goals and capabilities. Perfectly adequate to teach me how to finger chords (open chords, power chords, barre chords, whatever), how to play scales (major, minor, pentatonic), and even basic music theory. They were knowledgeable enough, but it was a purely transactional situation — the instructors were generic commodities to me, and I was a generic commodity to them as well.

One thing that wasn’t too difficult to pick up on is that the instructors weren’t especially enthusiastic about the GC lesson materials or proscribed training sequence. That had a bit of a corporate feel to it.

So, perfectly adequate for teaching someone at my level. Not sure what more I would have wanted.

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Gotcha. That makes sense.

Great back story Dave, so many familiar feelings going on there. I think no one ever gets an easy ride at this or we all hit the road bumps now and then. You are making good progress, so stick with the programme its serving you well !

Cheers

Toby
:sunglasses:

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