DavidP's Learning Log

I do love the Road Case section of the old Justin Guitar Forum. I love the stories, the journey, the gear. So I shall be migrating my Road Case updates over to this new Community Platform. If you read it all before, just ignore all the history. If you are new and enjoy hearing other people’s stories, well here’s mine

#1 Discovering a love of music

Before the dream to play the guitar was born, came the love of music. So I decided to start my Road Case there … I guess a bit self indulgent as a novice … if I was Keith Richards people would be interested and one might make a documentary … oh yes, he did … Under the Influence which is worth a watch. Be that as it may, my story begins at age 8, living in Rickmansworth, England, the year was 1974.

The first song I remember loving was ABBA’s Waterloo. I taped it off the TV to play on a small red cassette player. Closely followed by Paper Lace’s The Night Chicago Died and Spark’s This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Both of Us.

And just as TV’s Top of the Pops show became interesting, the family emigrated to South Africa, where there was no TV at all.

Music remained big as I became old enough to be entertained by my parents and their record collection, mostly jazz with a little folk. I remember Cleo Laine as a favourite, guitarists like Ike Isaacs and Tal Farlow, big band of Benny Goodman (with Charlie Christian), Oscar Peterson, Modern Jazz Quartet and Django Reinhardt with Stephane Grapelli and the Hot Club of France. And among all this … The Beatles … the Red and Blue double album compilations. Plus the local radio station.

A chance conversation with a school mate midway through high school led to him making me cassettes of things he felt I really ought to listen to. I still remember those first cassettes … Fleetwood Mac Rumours, Supertramp Breakfast in America, Pink Floyd The Wall, Queen Night At the Opera, Jethro Tull Songs From The Wood.

Eventually my mother tired of the terrible quality and so the first vinyl LPs were acquired … along with me being given license to use the HI-FI. Night At The Opera was the first and somehow, I forget, Deep Purple Made In Japan the second.

By the time I went away to university I had a small tape collection. There I shared a room with a fellow who had an enormous (at least 100, seemed enormous) collection. The next year I had my own room and he got a new room mate … who had a guitar, played the harmonica at the same time etc etc etc. I loved to listen and watch but no desire yet …

And that’s enough for now …

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#2 Starting the guitar adventure

One Friday night, that second year of Varsity, the old room mate asked me to join him with a group of guys to go watch a movie … a concert film … who? … The Rolling Stones.

I’d heard Satisfaction on the radio back in the school days and Ruby Tuesday (a song for my “want to play that someday” list) and recall a magazine article all about Keith, Anita and drug addiction. Didn’t know much more that but opted to go along anyway … a change from a night of beer and darts.

Cut a long story short, that film lit the fire. I woke up the next day and wanted more of the Rolling Stones and to learn to play. And in particular it was Keith Richards that really got my attention … just so cool, sitting on the edge of the stage with the bourbon and the connection with Ronnie.

I got my guitar. As I recall it was a Hondo, which was probably fairly unplayable beyond the 5th fret, such a high action. The class mate who could play was my guitar tuner, showed me chords and after I’d copied down the lyrics of songs I might want to learn, he’d listen a few times and write down the chords.

As I recall the first songs included Hotel California (starting in Am and OK until the F), Like A Hurricane (why did I keep picking songs with F but had got into NY via the triple album compilation Decade), As Tears Go By (no F but Bm), Jane S Piddy and over time lots more … most of which I never managed to play with any reasonable measure of success.

And I kind of kept at it on and off for the rest of my time at Varsity. On the plus side, I did get to grips with F and playing E and A shaped barre chords … not the 7th, since lifting a finger would leave a muted string behind. But never ever open B7 … that was just impossible …

After Varsity I did two years national service (that’s another story) and at the end of it my girl friend of the time decided I deserved a really proper present … for getting through the two years and a few other things (yet another story) and she brought me a guitar of much better quality … not spectacular but way better than the Hondo … and I don’t recall what happened to the Hondo. There she is … a Celebrity CC67, obtained in Dec 1988 …

image

I continued to try and learn simply by playing through a set of songs but never really felt satisfied with my progress. There were a few that I considered OK … Jane S Piddy being one, Hotel California and Like A Hurricane, American Pie but many, many, many more that I could just never get to sound OK, even though the chords were playable. And truthfully how good was my “OK” … not that good.

And so this led to short bursts of enthusiasm, quickly followed by frustration and then long periods were the guitar remained in its case. I moved cities, houses, relationships and through it all the guitar stayed around … a wish that I believed I couldn’t achieve.

In 2006 I worked with a lady who played base in a band etc … it triggered the familiar pattern. But somehow I connected with another friend from a previous company who gigged in restaurants. He gave me a few lessons, introduced me to a metronome and I learned to play Knockin on Heavens Door with (I think) the ‘old faithful’ strumming pattern. I stuck at it a few weeks and made progress. But lessons stopped and practising on my own didn’t work so well … guitar back in the case.

And so it continued until Dec 2016 …

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#3 Starting Justin’s Beginner Course

In December 2016 I was chatting to a colleague, Daniel, about music in general and somehow the subject of guitar playing cropped up. I told him my tale, culminating in this unfulfilled dream to play due to my lack of talent. Try JustinGuitar.com he said.

So on 16 December 2016, as I started annual leave with a few weeks of rest and relaxation at home to enjoy, I took out the guitar and looked at the BC. I decided that I would do it methodically, so started with Getting Started and Stage 1. I wanted to eliminate bad habits and trusted that the steps laid out in the lessons would work magic if I followed them.

So everyday I played … 10-15 minutes at first and slowly got back into it. Then picked up on some of the stage 1 BSB songs. Three Little Birds, Love Me Do.

My strategy was to play A along with Justin as he taught the song … those slow, steady down strums. After a couple of weeks I thought right, now it’s time to play along with Justin as he plays the song through as the intro the lesson … and I couldn’t. And then a while later I could … a big moment to play Three Little Birds with Justin.

At that point I decided it was time to pick up on the chords of stage 2 and 3. I knew these chords from the years before and felt comfortable to work on the basics of rhythm, the foot tapping, strumming with the metronome etc while pushing OMCs and practising songs.

By this time I was back at work and telling Daniel about my progress … and anybody else who’d care to listen.

I’d also started to browse posts in the JustinGuitar Forum … looking at videos, reading feedback about Beginner’s posts, silently celebrating the progress and slowly started to wonder if I could ever do the same …

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#4 First time playing in public

Decided to post this here as I do consider it a success story … another moment I never imagined when I started the BC on 16 Dec 2016. As it is not a full performance I decided not appropriate for AVOYP.

Oh and seeing as I nagged Rick about singing, which he has more than delivered and he asked about a video of me, I felt obliged to post it once I had it. I think it was you, Rick, if not, my apologies :grin:

I don’t feel ready to perform for an audience but when I knew I’d have time on my hands, I thought I could play for myself and if anybody paid attention, then so be it. A colleague enjoyed a few of the songs and recorded a couple of clips on his phone.

I’m still getting over some of the facial contortions :roll_eyes: me and that :yum:

So careful what you ask for Rick, here it is (recorded about 7 months after starting the BC) …

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#5 Joining the Community and my first recordings

One of the things I decided would help my focus was to share what I was doing, ups and downs, and progress with friends, primarily at work … but now I tell everybody … it helps to hear myself saying what I am doing and have a achieved.

One of those influential people is danmaree, who you of course now all know after I finally persuaded him to join the Community and share his original music.

Another, Verna, is also musically inclined and earlier in the year she was taking some singing lessons. One evening she messaged me after her lesson and imagined her singing to my accompaniment … she believed more of me than I did of myself … the song … Hallelujah. Could I play that?

I had no idea but quickly discovered Justin’s lesson. So I started to try it … damn that 6/8 time … one evening it just clicked and I found myself managing to fit the words and changes together in a way that sounded OK to me. So I thought, why not try and record it and share that with Verna … I was very pleased with myself :blush:

I made this first recording using a USB headset and Audacity. I positioned the mic of the headset in such a place that it was picking up both my singing and guitar and made the recording. I shared it with Verna and Daniel (danmaree). They were both so encouraging.

As an aside, Daniel then shared his song (the one entered into the competition). I don’t know what I expected, the deprecatory way in which he framed it. I was astonished, not what I expected at all … a song that I think is a small step away from being radio ready and sounded like the work of a signed up band to me.

Anyway, then I started humming and hawing … should I or shouldn’t I … become visible and active on the Community. And I made a great decision … to join. I posted my Intro, discovered the need to post 5 posts and finally decided to post that first recording … a seriously scary moment.

[ I have subsequently deleted the recording from SoundCloud and can’t find it on the PC … probably for the best ]

And of course the comments were so encouraging, some suggestions about capos and playing then singing to give both attention.

And by that time I’d decided that I’d probably changed the time signature (apologies Leonard), Richard aka Close2u confirmed that for me, but in such a gentle way … I felt OK … sure it was not right. But it sounded OK and I was up and riding so to speak … onto the wave (ooooh lovely mixed metaphor on wave … surfing … music) and haven’t looked back.

The next recording I tried the “play first/overdub vocal” approach. I could position that headset mic closer to the guitar. And then stuck the headset on to hear the guitar and add the vocal. Much better I think. As I recall I also played this with a metronome going in the background. Still on Audacity.

[ That recording is also lost … thankfully. Rest assured, later there’ll be more than enough examples of recordings made that reflect where I was at the time ]

And that’s enough for this post … the story is long, hopefully at least a little interesting, maybe even entertaining and most hopefully a little encouraging to those of you out there wondering about recording and what is possible …

Next time we need to talk about the early onset of GAS …

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The @DavidP story! Dig it. You are the man!

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@CT1

Thanks Clint. 5 episodes ported, 20 more to come.

Now can I get that all done and dusted so that episode #26 My 5th JGversary can be posted in sequence on the day?

Luckily if it ends up being a belated post there are no consequences at all :grin:

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#6 The onset of GAS

One of the things I always dreamed about when dreaming about being able to play guitar was to have a 12 string just like my friend at varsity who showed me my first chords. He played an Ibanez 12 string that sounded beautiful … warm and rich.

Looking back it was a fanciful dream and perhaps naïve in terms of a deeper appreciation of tones and 12 vs 6 strings, be that as it may …

So I decided to incentivise myself … if I stuck at the BC for 3 months and made progress … I know that is a bit of a loophole in terms of progress being subjective … then I’d level-up my guitar and get a 12 string.

One afternoon I dropped in at a music store on my way home from delivering some training at an off-site venue, which was conveniently at the point where I get on the highway to head home. I played a few 12 strings, all of which felt marvelous to play and sounded better than my Celebrity 6 string. At least based on the quick little noodle which was all I had time for as the shop was closing up. But I felt I had direction and the money seemed OK. I was ready …

And then I came across the specific 12 I was looking at in one of our local online shopping sites … came across … OK, I was looking to see if they were available and at what price. Cut a long story short they were and the price was better. Then one day those clever online marketers dropped the price and pushed me an email … and availability was low.

So I said “what the heck” and bought it.

To give you an idea … justifying my actions … it was about 45%-55% cheaper than what you’d pay in a music shop, depending on which one you went to (gotta shop around down here). Still more than if I do a straight comparison with what you pay over in the US or Europe based on current RoE and there’s not the same second hand market, judging by some of the discussions I’ve followed here. We definitely pay a premium on gear down in SA, our economy, demand, import duty policies … have sympathy.

It arrived within a couple of days, looked beautiful, played easily but … and here’s the big lesson … when I strummed the first chord I did get an immediate WOW … it was OK, sounded good … better than the Celebrity … but there was no spark of immediate love and connection. And knowing what I know now, I should’ve re-packed it and returned immediately. But I was new to online buying of anything other than commodities, second-guessed my feelings, didn’t want to lose face with the family (embarrassing one to admit that one) so I hung on to it.

And here it is …

Later I did more research and learned about woods and tone. It is a maple body, solid wood so bright and clear and beautiful, a big sound, lovely sustain on every note … just not the warmth I was looking for. Now I know why. And when I thought … hmmm … maybe I should return it, I was just outside the window … lesson learned, fortunately not too much money and not a bad guitar … just never going to be the “love of my life”

At about the same time, early March 2017 3 months in, I’d got hooked on the recording. And the messing around with the USB headset was annoying. So I started researching home recording. I’d learnt my lesson so did a whole lot more research this time. All about what was involved, the gear, the options. Not enough to be an expert but more than a vague awareness. I also consulted with Daniel. Ironically after the first conversation on this topic back in January, I’d said I couldn’t see myself buying this stuff … famous last words ;)

Anyway, cut a long story short … I settled on either FocusRite or Presonus and that a starter kit would make most sense. All dependent on what was available. Finally purchased a FocusRite kit, with DI, mic and headphones. Then went back to the store the next day for a mic stand … they ought to have asked me about that … service isn’t always top notch … hmmm, often actually dodgy. Anyhow, here it is …

Set about setting it all up and downloading the free DAW … Ableton Live 9 Lite. And soon as I was ready to make that first recording.

Here it is, played on the Ibanez and the vocal overdubbed as per suggestions received after posting my first two attempts.

Love Me Do

Daniel and Verna had a good laugh at my change from “can’t see me needing that” to "hey, check out my latest recording in my “home studio”. And just like that the original wish to be able to play a little had become playing, recording, and more was to come.

But have to say, for all those of you wondering what is possible. I’m 51 years young and would’ve told you that you were taking something cool in January if you’d told me what I would be doing in March …

So have faith, practise, enjoy the ride and you may astonish yourself … I know I have :sunglasses:

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#7 Consolidation, Forum Contest, and starting BC Stage 6

At this point I was starting to get quite carried away. I’d been checking out the monthly competition entries (probably commenting) and decided why not enter … nothing bad could come of it and the feedback from Justin was a big incentive.

So I entered the April Competition with a another go at Walk the Line. I also decided it might be fun to explore what could be done with the DAW in terms of creating a MIDI percussion track … undeterred by lack of knowledge, I made a four track recording: guitar recorded simultaneously with builtin pup and mic, MIDI percussion and an overdubbed vocal.

Walk the Line

Good feedback as always from the Community but in the end didn’t get feedback from Justin. I’d have to wait for that.

Somewhere around this time I also decided I’d consolidated adequately on stages 1-3 and should commence stage 4. This was a bit daunting as in all my years of dabbling chords like B7 and C7 had always been a bridge too far.

I concentrated on B7 (maybe a mistake not to work as hard on C7 at the same time…not sure). And after my practice drills I’d work on stage 1-3 songs.

During this time I was back and forth between overdubbing the vocal and playing and singing together. I also continued to learn more about mixing and for one of the songs posted a straight and mixed version, with general feedback confirming the mixed was a better version.

Mad World was a significant moment … I overdubbed the vocal and as I recall it was @redrhodie who encouraged me to just trust myself and rather just play and sing together. So a few days later I gave it a go and made a better recording for it.

St James Infirmary was another where my first version was an overdubbed vocal and I really struggled with the phrasing. A couple of weeks later it somehow clicked and I made a second recording playing and singing together that was significantly better. Still not perfect, but much better.

At that point I decided that posts to AVOYP should be simple recordings of me playing and singing, with light touch on the mixing.

BTW, I learnt a tremendous about mixing watching videos and reading on this site https://www.recordingrevolution.com/ If you are getting into this aspect of music then I’d recommend this site.

In May I continued my experimentation with the DAW and MIDI tracks to record and produce a version of Stand By Me for the Competition. This recording had more percussion plus a short MIDI piano track for the instrumental interlude between choruses with the usual dual recorded guitar and over-dubbed vocal. There were a few moments where the timing was off but by now my policy was this:

No bad mistakes, like missed or incorrect chord changes … flaws in the vocal timing or delivery, the odd messy change … well that was acceptable. I also decided that I’d not get into editing tracks and splicing multiple takes etc to fix errors. I’m opting for a more faithful record of where I am, warts and all.

But I was really pleased with how this recording of Stand By Me turned out.

Seems like a good point to take a break … almost up to date

Then you’ll be glad to know that updates will be more frequent and much shorter

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#8 It’s not a linear journey

As time passed I found that I had gone from B7 is impossible to being able to start using it in a couple of songs. I picked Killing Me Softly and later added Dock of the Bay.

But I was starting to feel that things were a little too routine … so decided to start on BC Stage 5, even though I considered myself not done with Stage 4.

I found the new chords quite straight forward but this triplet rhythm … that was another story. After reading some posts I settled on counting at as 1 tic toc 2 tic toc which felt better than 1 trip let … no idea why. But it felt really wooden. What eventually helped me to get it was playing along with the lesson … seems obvious … but once I understood it I’d practiced with a metronome. It clicked into place all of a sudden playing along to the lesson.

Later in May I felt ready and finally declared Stage 4 done by recording the two songs. Given the historical struggles, it was a big deal for me to play these songs.

The next struggle was finding a song to play with the triplet strumming. Sure, lots of options in the BSB but just couldn’t get them to sound right.

And while I was struggling away at that I figured it was time to start Stage 6.

Now I am fortunate … the one thing I did get right in my earlier attempts along with basic open chords was F … the full barre chord. I’d also managed to get the “Old Faithful” rhythm when I took a few lessons with a work colleague. So Stage 6 was not a major stage for me. Stage 4 and 5 were far more challenging.

And then it was June Competition time. I picked a song that showcases Stage 6 skills, Neil Young’s Like A Hurricane. It was another multi-track projects with some backing created with the DAW’s MIDI Editor plus two guitar parts. One playing more of a riff than full chord rhythm pattern which I applied an amp effect to, aiming for it to have a rock feel and sound.

I was pleased with the results, despite finding getting everything to be in sync a big challenge … two guitars plus synth backing and the vocal … so it is a bit messy.

And to cap my month, I got wonderful feedback from Justin.

A fitting moment to end this episode…

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#9 A severe attack of GAS

In early July my wife and I went to a Music Expo. A most enjoyable day out looking, listening and a little playing … resisted the urge to buy anything more than a foot stand.

But I did pick up a business card for a shop that deals in collectibles and used guitars … that got me to thinking … maybe a used electric? Then another thought occurred … maybe such thoughts should be branded as dangerous and kept under lock and key … what if I sold the 6 and 12 strings? Maybe I’d be able to get a 6 for an affordable price that was a guitar that I could fall in love with … I wonder. Risky thing that “I wonder”.

So the following Saturday I went off to a Guitar Shop … well shop doesn’t do this outlet justice. I’d been to the local shops, which was fun but not spectacular … this place is spectacular. More guitars under one roof than I’ve ever seen before, even a stage to test out big sound systems for performing bands.

I got chatting, explained what I was thinking, the kind of sound I like and soon the lady was bringing me guitars … just sit, play and give me feedback. Really exciting, lots of fun and it was wonderful to play so many guitars that sounded better than 6 or 12 and were also easy to play.

And then the lightening bolt moment … just one strum and I was in love. A warm beautiful tone and even the chords that have never sounded that pleasing to my ear … specifically open D7 … sounded wonderful. I kept comparing but knew that if I was to upgrade this was the one for me.

During the week I researched selling the others … no deal … market to small and the used dude is smart … he doesn’t build up inventory and our market is small, not liquid. But by then I was decided, I would buy the new 6 and look to sell the others buy other means.

The next weekend I came home with the new 6 string. My missus took one look “not another guitar”. Luckily she can also play (is busy when time permits learning the bass). Quick as a flash I put the new guitar in her hands … phew … same response … “what beautiful tone and feel to play”.

Here it is … a Fender Paramount PM-1 Deluxe …

Playing wise I kept plugging away at stage 5 and 6 songs … I confess more playing than practising. And I kept making recordings of songs. As @Richard_close2u always says “Play songs Play songs Play songs”

I also decided that it was high time to look into stage 7. Lots of interesting stuff … strumming with a bass note, power chords and minor pentatonic. Power chords in particular a challenge … finger tip applying pressure but not a full barre … kind of confusing … but I know I’ll get it!

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#10 RC up to date, 8 month reflection

And that’s my journey … from a first Em in 1984 to starting the Justin BC on Dec 16th. Now I’m 8 months in and playing, singing and recording in ways I never believed would be possible for me.

It shows again that with disciplined practice, the right teacher and a willingness to try, get it wrong and try again learning an instrument does not require divine or genetic talent.

And this Community was equally unexpected and invaluable in the learning and experience.

There are too many people to list by name, who have encouraged me and offered sound advice … people who feel like friends even though we have only met here, sharing our common love of music and desire to be musicians.

As @LBro would say ROCK ON !!!

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#11 September songs and success

Couple of months since my last update and September was a big month for me … a month to remember and celebrate.

In August and September the Monthly contest returned to an open format.

In August I had a crack at David Gray’s This Years Love. For the contest I again dabbled with multi-tracks, over-dubbed vocals and use of effects in the DAW. Let’s say the results were mixed! But having spent a Sat producing the contest submission, I decided on Sunday to just do a “live & unplugged” version. I was quite pleased with how this turned out, a few mistakes but managed to get the time signature feel, a little more dynamics and accents.

One Sunday morning I was doing what I enjoy doing … checking out what was new in the JG Community before getting up and into the day … and there was Mari and her partner playing Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. Mari was playing it in the EC Unplugged style. It sounded great and I wondered if it might be another option to explore to work on the triplet bluesy strumming.

I found some simple chords and surprised myself by being able to fit the vocal into the rhythm pattern (other than occasionally adding an extra half a bar in at one point) relatively quickly.

It is pleasing to feel that I appear at times to be able to learn to play a new song that sounds OK far more quickly than was the case earlier in the year. I recorded it and one day I intend to be able to play it like Mari does … that would be quite delightful.

Now in between working on the techniques of stage 5 & 6, I tend to be working on a couple of songs. At this point I was concentrating on Tom Waits’s Chocolate Jesus. But as they say, variety is the spice of life. So some evenings, I end up just flipping through my copies of the BSBs and noodling around with whatever catches my eye.

One particular evening the book fell open on Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl … hmmm, I thought … earlier in the year I’d worked on playing the song, one I really enjoy. I went from struggling with the chords to being able to more or less play along with Justin when he showcases it at the start of the lesson. But the “pumping 8s” build up was a big problem and just couldn’t fit the lyrics in at all … hmmm, I wonder …

And on a second play through it was starting to come together … nobody more surprised than I was, given that I hadn’t given it any attention for months. Anyhow, the tempo is a little slow, the “pumping 8s” aren’t really pumping smoothly yet and I did have a moment in the best take where I almost choked myself, but all that aside I shall celebrate my progress as evidenced by being able to play it through in an OK way.

Back to Chocolate Jesus …

I’d been plodding away at trying to develop a way to play it that sounded OK. A bit tricky for the Beginner given that the Tom Waits version is an arrangement that isn’t one you can easily try and replicate on your acoustic and, of course, the classic Beth Hart rendition backed by Joe Bonamassa may be awesome and inspirational but not totally educational …

Again, better cut my long stories short … finally figured out a way to play it and decided to approach the September contest a little differently … deliver a “live & unplugged” that was representative of me at my best. Now that sounds fine, but somehow it was easier to submit entries that were stretch projects, more experimental … criticism of flaws easy to swallow.

But this one sounded really good to me … variation, accents, pauses, even some different chord voicings in the outro … what if my self-assessment was way off the mark?

Luckily the feedback confirmed my own self-assessment and this rendition serves as my personal best, something that I feel I can play for people with apologising for mistakes and flaws. And make no mistake, I’ll play it for anybody who shows a hint of interest

And on that note time to sign-off this episode …

Watch out for the next episode … the story has taken me to places I never imagined already, but little did I know what was coming next when I uploaded Brown Eyed Girl …

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#12 Going beyond my dreams

October was a month to celebrate in my guitar journey…three big memorable moments.

First up I thought it was time to have another go at Neil Young’s Like A Hurricane. For this go I played and sang simultaneously, at least that way my out of time singing and playing will be reasonably in sync. Using my condensor mic gives me a track that is both guitar and vocal … ideally I’d like vocal with a little guitar bleeding in but what I get is way beyond bleed. At the same time I also record just the guitar using the built-in pickup. Mixing this track I made some duplicates of the solo guitar, panned hard left and right with some amp sim plugins. I was aiming to have some of that NY distorted rock sound behind the acoustic. I was really happy with how the overall song turned out, evening throwing in a couple of melody lines. Sure, a few missed notes, changes and beats but that’s OK.

But October was really all about the collaboration project … beyond my wildest dreams and guitar fantasies …

After posting Brown Eyed Girl, I got a PM from Roman aka Schlaffenwagen … the master producer and deliverer of many awesome songs made with many different folk. He liked my cover and suggested a collaboration.

Goodness I thought … he’s losing his mind … I can’t play like the people he produces. So I politely thanked him and said one day maybe …

Then I got to thinking … what would my coach say to me … what would I say to somebody … be brave, be bold, trust his judgement.

So cut a long story short we started exploring the idea, picked a song and you’ve heard the final result … I was astonished … My My Hey Hey

It has to be said that I am very much the junior in this “band” … what a treat to be part of this with Roman and Kasper. I learned a lot and grew a lot through working on a song which had some parts beyond my play grade … OK, I never managed to play those parts well enough for the final mix but I can play them “badly” which is better than I could play them before … in due course I shall inflict my David beginner attempt upon a now forewarned community.

I also experienced first hand the wisdom of what Graham@Recording Revolution says in terms of producing a radio-ready song … cause my friends tell me this is radio ready. It is a 6 step process …

  1. Write a good song … we picked Neil Young’s classic … can’t go wrong
  2. Arrangement … this was interesting. After much discussion we agreed how we’d like to marry NY’s acoustic and electric versions into our cover … making it something different and interesting
  3. Record … getting a quality recording is a challenge, especially acoustic guitar
  4. Edit … I shan’t go into the details, but suffice is to say that Roman with some help from Kasper did significant work editing the various tracks to ensure a tight performance
  5. Mix … again loads of effort to get that song sounding the way it finally does. Now I am inspired to try and mix my own vocals to sound at least a little closer to how Roman made me sound
  6. Master … more significant when publishing a number of songs on an album and for different media.

What can I say, this project is a highlight and memory that will stay with me for the rest of my days.

And I can only say, an enormous thank you to Roman and Kasper … they were special in so many ways.

And I wasn’t done for October …

When I realised that it was approaching 8 months to the day since I made my first recording … verse 1 plus the chorus of Hallelujah, I though it was time to have another go … exactly how much have I learnt and improved.

The answer was clear … enormous. I’ve never set any long term goals or had any particular expectation … just want to be better and be able to say I can play. I never expected to get into recording and mixing and I have now dipped a toe or two into that ocean. My ears are also better … I can hear subtle difference between my straight and mixed versions of the song … at least in my mind I do. And after posting it I enjoyed the confirmation of my own opinion from those who listen and share their thoughts over in the AVOYP section of the Community Website. And being able to throw in some of the walk ups from C to G was cool.

OK, so still not got the tempo right. In fact my friend Verna told me that it sounded good but after listening to Bon Jovi’s cover something seemed not quite right … yeah, playing it in 4/4 when the rest of the world plays it 6/8 will do that. But it’s fine … next time …

So next episode may reflect on take 3 of Hallelujah. Back to a fuller arrangement with MIDI tracks, guitar and vocal … and using the DAW metronome and backing will make sure I play it in 6/8.

Also closer to another blues classic …

As always, thanks to all of you who listen, comments, read and generally encourage me that I am getting better

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#13 My 1st JGversary

The avid reader will recall that I started BC Stage 1, Lesson 1 on Dec 16th, 2016 after decades of picking up, putting down and generally making next to no progress at learning to play.

A year has passed, in which I have practised and played in every week … some weeks more than others … no worries about that.

I started being unable to play in time with Justin as strummed through the chords of Three Little Birds … I mean the slowed up version when he is teaching the song, not the showcase version at the start of the lesson.

I finished the year posting recordings of Auld Lang Syne and Before You Accuse Me … both were significant to me.

I didn’t plan on submitting an entry into the Dec monthly competition. Then Mari encouraged me to try Auld Lang Syne … so typical of my experience of this Community: encouraging and helpful. As I began to learn to strum and sing it, I thought I picked up on a couple of notes of the melody. That lead me to try and transcribe it … another first. I got most of it and Mary filled in the gaps. I got a little more creative in the “arrangement” of this, including a play through the melody as an intro after starting the Big Ben chiming midnight … this being the traditional song to see in the New Year.

I’d been working on Before You Accuse Me for a while. Now I don’t post anything that is flawless … I can hear errors in everything I post, not to mention knowing that I have a long way to go to be really tight and solid on my rhythm playing. But the postings reflect progress, give me a goal to work towards and generate a sense of accomplishment.

But I was struggling with this song to get the quality of performance up to my usual (imperfect) standard. Then decided just to record it anyway … it is what it is. AVOYP is not about perfection, its about progress and learning. And if I am to be true to that message then a recording of this song was long overdue. So despite some flaws that were more more serious that usual, I posted it.

Trust the Community … they’ll hear it for what it is and be appropriate with the feedback … and I got some of my most encouraging feedback … despite the errors, the sloppy timing and some phrasing problems.

So I encourage you all … be brave to be vulnerable enough to post recordings of your playing once you get to the point of playing songs … which ideally is right there in the BC Stage 1 as soon as you can play those ADE chords. It’s been a big part of my achievements of this year.

Now what …

Well, I am busy in stage 7, concentrating on adding in the picking of a bass note into my strumming and the minor pentatonic scale. I’m on holiday again with more time and energy to devote to guitar. So working up a couple of recording projects.

Then I decided that this is my learning journey and should not be too rigid in how I work through the BC. While I have more time I decided that it was the ideal time to start in on finger-picking. So I’ve checked out the lessons and started last night.

Meanwhile, those more familiar with the BC may be wondering … “what about the power chords?” One of the things I got from my pre JG years was the ability to play full barre chords in E and A shapes from 1st fret up the neck. So this power chord thing of fretting the 6th string and muting 123 is proving awkward. I play only acoustic and decided for now, I’m not moved to master this. So I shall defer focus on power chords till later … maybe when I have an electric and want to start rocking a little harder … who knows … but that’s OK … not skipped, just delayed for a while.

Year one was an amazing journey. I went beyond what I imagined might be possible when I started. What is possible in year 2 … time will tell. But I know for sure…it will be fun and this time next year when I celebrate my second JGversary the player I will be then will be completely unrecognisable to the player I am now, who is unrecognisable to the player I was on Dec 16th, 2016.

Wishing you all the best, in life and in music … let’s rock on !!

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#14 18 month update

My Road Case has not been updated for quite some time … the system tells me more than 120 days. I had planned to update it last weekend and just didn’t get to it. So brace yourself, here’s a summary of the last 6 months.

At the start of year 2, I decided to focus on three elements from the orange grade of the BC: adding a bass note into my rhythm play, the minor pentatonic scale and finger-picking.

In a nutshell, I’ve made good progress on all, reflected in a number of recordings made.

I was quite anxious about starting on finger-picking. In my pre-Justin moments of trying to learn I’d tried once or twice and it felt so foreign that I just went back to bad strumming. To my surprise the very first night I tried I made more progress. It seems as if all the other learning has formed new neural pathways that already helped me to get started with finger-picking. Encouraged by that I stuck at it and now have posted three songs with finger-picking, two of which include singing while finger-picking.

One of the first songs I used to try to play previously was As Tears Go By. I made a multi-track recording of this song for the Contest. Three guitar parts being played differently over a drum beat. To my delight, my timing was good enough that it sounded OK, unlike attempts last year where I was so far out that it was just a mess. One part was finger-picked. I also decided to try my hand at a simple solo. Used the approach in which you follow the chords tones through the progression and I think it came out OK … my wife was astonished when she heard it the first time … completely unexpected.

Made a start on recording with bass notes added and would like to do better, but a good start made.

And most recently tried a recording approach to most closely simulate playing live and recorded two songs, knowing up front that however they came out on that first take is how they’d be posted.

During this period I suffered a couple of bouts of GAS …

While in the USA for work, I found the opportunity to buy an electric irresistible. Prices are far more reasonable as a rule but throw in a President’s Day sale … who can blame me. I came home with an Epiphone LP Pro in a quilted finish. Shortly after that I was able to sell my 12 string acoustic which funded purchase of an amplifier.

Just before my birthday I was looking at a FaceBook page of a shop that sells used … yup, risky business doing such a thing without anti-GAS medication. I spotted a resonator and it was already in my mind that I would need such a guitar one day … well why wait until later when you can GAS today. Came home from the recce with a Hohner resonator. My luthier (ok, the luthier that I use), gave it a good service and declared it to be in fine condition.

While enjoying my time out in this treasure trove of musical goodies, I spotted vintage mics and more current models. Cut a long story short, picked up a Shure dynamic mic in the hopes that I’d be able to record vocals more effectively.

That worked out well. The last few songs were recorded using a condensor mic to record the guitar and the dynamic to record the vocal. Now I have a little bleed of guitar on the vocal track and vice versa but able to mix the way I want when recording “live”.

My mixing has also kicked on and acquired some commercial plug-ins that have made it much easier to mix in vocals and to record the electric guitar directly and add amp, cabinet and pedal effects in afterwards.

And I think that is pretty much it. Continue to enjoy the journey. I feel like I have made huge progress over the last 6 months or so.

If you stuck it out to this point … I hope that reading about my progress is encouraging to you. Yes, I still play a number of days a week, but am not (and have never) practised 2 hours a day, 7 days a week … which shows how much progress can be made with a very reasonable amount of practice.

So go to it and you too can live your musical dreams…no worries, keep fretting

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I hope you are taking a breather Mr P. Let me know when #20 gets dropped and I’ll go back for a longer read. Always good to see how old fiends got to where they are today and my aging braincells have purged much of this. And yes that was a deliberate typo. :sunglasses:

Look out, David’s gonna break the new website before it’s launched :rofl:

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Yup, doing this in stages, Toby. “Old fiends” :rofl:

:rofl: In the trade we call it stress-testing, Maggie :grin:

But maybe your approach to produce a single consolidated first RC post was a better one. I’ve just gone the simpler, copy & paste route. And the fiend hopes that the story will be encouraging to similar folk getting started.

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#15 My first two original songs and winning the Community Contest

I have continued with the same practice routines focused mostly on finger-picking and scales. Since the last update I recorded a version of House of the Rising Sun, singing and finger-picking.

Continuing in the vein of recording songs that could be played through in a single take, even if not recorded with a first single take, I recorded Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changing.

But the big steps forward in this period are the producing of my first two originals. The first Song For Lesley was entered into the Community Contest and I was fortunate to win the Contest … an unbelievable moment with the privilege of a lesson with Justin.

The second Dear Johnny Blues was a simple 10 bar minor bluesy tune that featured rhythm double-tracked, one played with my acoustic and the other with the resonator, which made it interesting, bass and drums plus a short guitar solo.

Speaking of lead, when I was away in the South Sudan on business, I spend spare time on music theory and have made a start on Grade 3. I am now at the point there and in the Beginner Course, where the focus shifts from learning the scale patterns to trying to make some music. Or as Justin would say, using the scale alphabet to make up words and string those words together to say something musical.

So when Omar posted a first backing track to kick off a weekly jam, I decided the time was right. Since the first post I have now recorded a jam every weekend for 5 consecutive weeks. Posting the jam involves getting the track into the DAW, studying the relevant scales, some exploration to develop some feel for the time, rhythm and harmony to be able to produce something melodic that sounds good.

When I returned from South Sudan I downloaded Justin’s backing track in G. But trying to use the letters from G maj to say something was beyond me … the track just seemed so “busy”, I couldn’t make sense of it. Now, a month later, my latest jam was over that track.

This shows that with a combination of theory study, practical application and doing it regularly … which for me was weekly, not even daily … progress can be made.

And apart from all that, I have to say that playing lead over the backing track, expressing myself in what I play and the tones I choose, is great fun and somehow makes me feel more of a musician than playing covers does. Not that playing covers isn’t fun, it is and I will continue. But this addition plus writing a couple of songs, has been another giant leap forward.

I can only say what an amazing experience it was and gave me a the confidence to take a step forward into starting with the IM. According to Justin my E and A barre chords are already looking good, as a Beginner moving into Intermediate. So I’ve started work in a deliberate, disciplined way on 1/16 note strumming.

[ As I port across my RC, have to say that focus on 1/16th note strumming didn’t last long and RUST 2 is still on the to-do list]

We also discussed this matter of “talent” and long story short, agreed that for greatest majority it is about study and practice. I don’t consider myself talented, if I were then surely back in 1984 when I was shown the basic open chords and some songs I would have mastered playing them and been sounding good. But I didn’t. But in the last 22 months, through study, practice, playing songs and recording I have progressed to be able to play a range of songs, sounding OK, write a couple and play some lead.

If I can, you can … so dig in, have fun and keeping making music

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