József's Learning Log

No renaissance lute music or classical stuff, that’s for sure :smiley: At least not right now. So it will be something completely different.

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Great stash of material to fuel continued learning, Jozsef. YOur shares are always interesting and well played.

Will be great to have you at the Open Mic. Keep in mind anything musical is just fine. You don’t have to perform a play and sing song. Clint played lead over a backing, you could perform that instrumental Pink Floyd song, or any of your classical studies.

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Yesterday I changed the strings on my electric guitar - so far so good. Then I had the brilliant idea to tinker with the action height. I thought I would lower it just a little bit, i.e. 1/64 of an inch on the bass and treble side alike. I’ve got a D’Addario action gauge that I used for this task.

Lowering done, tuned the strings again, then played each string at each fret to hear if there were any issues. And there was string buzz at fret 8 on string 1. Nowhere else! :exploding_head:

Of course, I set the action back to factory specs according to the booklet that came with the guitar, but it didn’t help. Then I raised and lowered the action a few times without any effect on this problem (fortunately, no other notes started to buzz), so I went back to factory specs again. I found that if I fret the string at that given place and dampen the part of the string behind my fretting finger, the buzzing stops altogether. Also, if I bend that note a tiny bit, it “clears up”. :thinking:

So it seems either I messed up something that affects one and only one fret under a lone string, or my adjustment fiasco uncovered some issues with that particular fret. Strange, as nothing has been out of the ordinary since I bought this guitar in 2019.

Today I’ll give it another try but I don’t have high hopes. It seems I’ll have to take it to the luthier to sort it out.

Hey Jozsef,

Buzzing is an annoying issue. Had it once and it drove me mad. Checking everything endlessly, measuring, adjusting, re-measuring, swearing etc.

You’ve probably done it, and a long shot maybe, but have you checked the tuners to make sure they’re nice and secure. Others here with alot more experience will surely be along soon to give some advice.

Cheers,
Shane

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Hi Shane,

Thanks for your reply. Actually, before putting the new strings on, my first move was to tighten the nuts on the headstock and around the output jack.

I’ll tinker a little bit with it today and see what happens.

Cheers!

That bit of string buzz didn’t stop me from a bit of freeform “jamming” tonight, especially with headphones on :joy: The results of the past week or so:

– Song practice for OM8 - singing is not so sure. In fact, I might not be loud enough as I can barely hear my voice over the guitar (acoustic). Got to be braver.
– Got the chord progression of Bob Marley’s Jammin’ down (though primarily on my 12 string)
– Jammed to some Black Sabbath songs :v: My power chord technique still needs some refinement, but I managed to figure out the chords/licks of the following songs by ear:

  • The Wizard
  • Iron Man
  • Sweet Leaf
  • Snowblind - this one is loads of fun :nose:
  • Under the Sun - I managed to get the riff-melody played in the outro after 2 or 3 attempts

But my electric guitar will have to go to the luthier this week. :crossed_fingers:

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It’s been more than a month since the last update but it feels much less… let’s see what happened since.

30 April, 2022: I bought my coveted Epiphone Casino. I had it set up last week for free; I was going to buy an EC Coupe, as it turned out, from the store by the luthier, but it had some aesthetic issues, so it came to the “real” Casino from another dealer but the free setup that would have been part of the deal remained. It was quite interesting to see a professional do it and the mechanism of the tailpiece isn’t a mystery to me anymore, either.

So I’ve had a few new guitar weeks already. I really like it so far, and despite its size it’s quite comfortable to play.

On 30 May it will be my Epiphone LP’s turn at the luthier for a check-up.


In the past month I managed to decipher the bassline of Herbie Hancock’s “Ostinato (Suite for Angela)”. It’s not as difficult as it seemed at first, though I started out a semitone higher than the original, for some reason. It’s a pity I can’t make my guitar sound as sneaky and furtive as the bass clarinet, though.

When I was a teen I used to listen to King Crimson somewhat regularly, but later on I kind of forgot about them save for their debut. Last week I rediscovered their 1972-74 period (call it nostalgia) and managed to sort of jam along to the main riff of “The Night Watch” and “Starless”. The middle section in the latter is something I want to explore further. I also managed to pin down those weepy string Mellotron chords based on G and A# but I’m not yet sure if they are minor or extended chords. In the near future I’ll tackle the bassline as well.

And this week during a practice session I got the idea of trying to play the riff of “Stay” by David Bowie. Granted, it’s still quite choppy and less than funky under my fingers, but at least I found the notes quite easily. Not a bad start, I think.


Today I did the Grade 4 music theory exam and made only 1 mistake on the 1st attempt, so I’m pretty satisfied with my theoretical progress. I’ll stop and consolidate for a bit, and then continue with Grade 5.


Lately, I’ve had to work quite a lot and haven’t felt very good so I didn’t have a lot of time for practicing or playing. For almost a month, the tiny muscles around my eyes which cannot be moved voluntarily kind of cramp or vibrate. It’s not painful but quite annoying after a time. Tomorrow I’ll have an MRI scan done on me which I think is more of a safety measure on the doctor’s part, so I hope nothing will be out of the ordinary and that the whole things is “just” a symptom of stress and tiredness.

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Discovery of the day: the angle between my electric guitar with the P90 (single coil) pickups and the amplifier determines the degree of hum, and if there’s a 45° angle between them, the hum almost completely disappears. :open_mouth: :relieved: :v:

I looked up this topic on the internet and it definitely seems to be a thing. I learn something new every day. :slight_smile:

Also, the MRI scan this week showed nothing wrong in my head, so those muscle twitches are likely to be caused by stress. One more reason to somehow increase my guitar time…

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Great news Jozsef, especially on the health front. Must be a great relief, as my wife experienced a similar situation just last week. Very stressful, but a good outcome.
All the best.

Cheers, Shane.

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Thanks for the kind words, Shane. Honestly, I wasn’t very worried about the outcome but I’m still relieved.

This was my first time in an MRI scanner. From an audio aspect, it was almost a musical experience, sometimes with Kraftwerk-ish vibes :slight_smile:

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Update time is here again :slight_smile:

Luckily, the Epiphone Casino became firmly attached to my guitar family, so much so that in the past 3 months it was the one I played the most. Not that I don’t like the other 3, but this one being a hollow-body electric, it is the best of both worlds (acoustic/electric).

As my 3rd guitar anniversary is approaching, I thought of making a note of some thoughts on my progress, learning habits, and other bits and pieces of whatever that crosses my mind tonight.

Just one more thing: as a means of sharing a bit more trivia about myself, I added 2 links to my “practice playlists” on my profile page:

Songs I have practiced or played along to at one time or another:

Spotify
Apple Music

The AM link has a bonus Neil Young song on it :grin: This post is a bit long-winded, so why don’t you play a few tracks from them in the background?

1. The past year of my guitar journey in general

Honestly, since this Covid madness has been around, my ability to keep accurate time for periods longer than a few weeks diminished somewhat. :unamused: Apart from a few events, the last 18 months since my mother’s death is largely a blur.

The most important change in my “guitar studies” is that I more or less broke loose from Justin’s beginner course somewhere during Grade 2. What I want to say is that I still use the lessons/courses on the website, but I think I reached a level where I’m able to cherry-pick the topics I’m interested in or consider useful for the things I’m focusing on at the moment. Also, there’s the freedom of revisiting certain topics whenever I need it.

However, I’m still diligently following the music theory course which, as I have probably mentioned earlier, is one of the greatest discoveries of the past few years for me. Currently, I’m in Grade 5. Since I’ve started to use the various types of 7th chords, I’ve felt my grasp of the fretboard opened up in ways I didn’t really expect when I started out. I really regret not having more time to devote to it as I have a 9-to-5 job which is sometimes spiced with overtime. But that pays for this hobby, so I shouldn’t complain.

In the name of being honest to myself, I must admit I have a tendency to turn into a lazy b*****d playing-wise from time to time, mainly when I have a lot of work and just lack the mental energy to pick up the guitar and do something meaningful with it. I mean, this activity deserves more than strumming randomly and looking in front of me like a brain-dead zombie on a Wednesday evening after work. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often.

So my current learning path may be a bit less structured than it ought to be, but this way I have sufficient room to accommodate the topics I’m interested in at a given time.

A few random thoughts related to learning/skills development:

  • OMC: while useful early on, I’ve never been very keen on tallying how many of whatever I can do in a minute. Sure, it’s a nice frame of reference and gives a quantified account of one’s technical development, but the more “experienced” (what an overstatement) I become, the more I feel the need to be at leisure with what I do. I mean, I want to have fun in the first place when playing, and if it means I’ll take 2 days longer to master a chord change, so be it.
  • BPM: I couldn’t care less about it. Of course, a metronome is indispensable, but I’ve never got a kick out of the “let’s play it 10 BPM faster than before” approach. When I practice a scale or a chord change, I try to settle on a tempo I’m comfortable with and try to keep it steady. If I practice it correctly often enough, I’ll pick up speed anyway.
    Even though I like a fair bit of uptempo music, shredding gets on my nerves quickly (I’m looking at you, Mr McLaughlin, even though you’re obviously a gifted player but you were so much better as a sideman to Miles than as a bandleader playing 1000 notes a minute, sometimes in unison with an electric violin to boot), so I can’t relate to the “I can already play this scale at 200 BPM up and down” mindset. Strange, I recorded myself playing a few rounds of the major scale pattern 1 at a not so fast tempo and it was c. 200 BPM. But it was never my intention to get to x BPM and increase it by y% every day.
  • A-shape barre chords: I tried them for the first time about a year ago, and I sort of have them under my belt. I can use them with much less “planning” than in the beginning.
  • Permanent education: I purchased some classical guitar sheet music and a few others intended for drummers (for my rhythm playing). An item on my bucket list is to make good use of them.
  • Ear training: I find it easier to get intervals right when I hear them “in context”, as parts of a melody. Recognizing them in isolation is definitely not for me.
  • Singing: not really.

2. What I have been up to since my previous post

After OM9, we had a really interesting discussion about the songs app, and the others were interested in what I thought of the recent issues with the song selection. Actually, I’ve never used the app before, and I’m not planning to. I may be old-school, but using the website on my laptop is much more comfortable for me. The screen is bigger so it’s less tiring to look at it than at a small phone display. Also, as others agreed, the course material on the website has a lot of extra content, like the written descriptions under the videos. It was not only my feeling that a fair number of our fellow students asking for advice on the forum do not seem to even know about the existence of the website. This is both surprising and very sad. I won’t even mention the books. Also, you won’t always have someone to show you a board with the next chord written on it.

Referring back to the playlists, what I usually do “fur fun” (i.e. when I don’t do course-related practice) is to play along to real recordings. Or at least trying to. Actually, there are some I can play along to pretty much all the way through (e.g. Born Under a Bad Sign, Wiggle Waggle, Summer Sketch, Jammin’, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), No Sympathy, Naphoz Holddal, Your Love Is So Doggone Good), while others are more of a long-term goal.

Some of the new items/achievements:

  • Eleanor Rigby vocal melody transcription. I got the idea about a month ago and while I needed a little time to get into it, I got it together surprisingly quickly. I’ll try to post a recording of my “rendition” in the near future (a good opportunity to whip the Casino out). Bucket list version: being able to transcribe the strings parts as well and overdub them. Yeah, wishful thinking.
  • Lead guitar line for I Want You (She’s So Heavy). This is so much fun to play, though I have yet to figure out how to tone down the open D string in the Dm arpeggios somewhat. Maybe Macca played the root note on the bass and the guitars did the Dm triad only? Who knows.
  • Well Well Well. Oh well. The mixing on the recording is a bit weird as the notes don’t have much sustain (and it was either double tracked or a bit of delay was added to it). But it’s pretty groovy anyway. This one also largely follows the vocal line. Found out totally by chance that F# and A power chords fit it pretty well. My ears may be developing, after all.
  • Medley: Ike’s Rap III / Your Love Is So Doggone Good. The piano motif in the first half has bugged me for quite some time. I always missed a semitone here and there, but about 2 weeks ago it fell into place. I managed to solo over the second half using the horn ostinato as the starting point. With the wah pedal it’s even more dramatic. I’ll try to make a recording sometime and make sure that my part can be told apart from the original.

3. The good old GAS attack

Well, not an attack, really, given the current rate of inflation in Hungary, but I’ve been thinking. Thinking about 2 things, actually.

  • EBow. I think it would be a cool addition to my guitar tools. I’m not much of a pedal/effects person but this one seems interesting.
  • Electric 12-string. Yeah, practically no chance in the near future given the financial prospects of the country are a tad less than rosy.
    The Fender XII is practically “out of print” and the prices of used ones (even without the shipping cost) give me an instant heart attack.
    Rickenbacker has several models available (even hollow-bodies), but even the new ones are hopelessly expensive. I mean, I have that amount of money and it would be a lifelong investment, but still. Used ones even more so.
    The Gretsch G5422G-12 Electromatic looks very stylish and is about 2/3 cheaper than a Rick, but still a bit over my budget.
    Danelectro has the 59X12 and the Vintage 12 String but I haven’t researched them very much yet.

So yeah, maybe I’ll celebrate my 5th guitar anniversary with an electric 12 string, unless something happens until then.

Well, this is probably enough for today. Sorry for writing so much, and thanks if you’ve read it.

Cheers :slight_smile:

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What a fabulous update, Jozsef. I look forward to hearing more of your recordings when you get time.

Many points you shared resonate with me. I’ll keep my reply short by not re-quoting a bunch, just pick two …

Your observation about the use of the website and the app is important. How to position the app as a support tool rather than the primary learning resource is something to think about … @larynejg, something for us to discuss when Justin is back from holidays.

I too experience the ups and downs in energy and also become ‘lazy’ at times. In fact compared to some of what you are busy with, I feel even more lacking in dedication to developing my guitar skills, spending too much time just learning songs and having fun. I think it’s OK.

Now, recordings of you playing the Casino, yes please!

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Thanks @DavidP :slight_smile:

I’ll try to get to the recordings eventually.

As for the app, I wonder how many references to the website there are. Maybe it could be highlighted somewhere in the app description that it’s not the full “Justinguitar experience” but only a fraction of it.

Yeah, there’s no such thing as spending too much time having fun nowadays.

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@Jozsef What a read! Very inspirational journey so far and thanks a lot for introducing me to some new great bands in the proces!

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Hi József, very interesting learning log. Keep on working on developing your musical skills and also having fun

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My 3rd guitarversary is only a week away, so I thought I’d post an update on the state of things.

Since the previous post, my practice routine hasn’t changed much. What is new is that I started the transcription lessons in Grade 3 and finished the first one without any hints. I added these songs to my practice routine. So far, Black Night received the most repeats, it’s pretty fun to play along with the recording. I decided to write down all the other riffs I know into tab + standard notation (at least for the key signatures and the pitches) - like my own book of riffs.

The intro to Glowin’ by Dr John has been bugging me for quite some time, so this week I sat down to get it down on paper. Well, I don’t know if I’m deaf or what, but the intervals just keep on eluding me. I always seem to get it almost right but not quite. Maybe it’s because the original is played on a tuba or something like that and the range is below that of the guitar. I really don’t know, but it’s a bit annoying.

In the past few days, I’ve been thinking about goals for the remainder of the year (or thereabouts), and I’m planning to do some technical woodshedding (mostly with a metronome, especially when I’m tired for creative stuff) and tackle some song lessons from the website which are not terribly difficult and can be accommodated to my free time after work.

Last week I bought some vinyl LPs again, including a recording by Segovia which is pretty cool:



Today I made some interesting discoveries on YouTube:

  1. Friday Fretworks by Chris Buck: I haven’t heard about him before, but his videos seem to be quite informative and entertaining. Check him out!
  2. Rob Scallon: found his channel by chance. He has some interesting and funny videos featuring less common instruments, e.g. the sitar, about which I posted earlier today.
  3. Emily Hopkins: I found her by way of Rob Scallon’s video about the harp. She’s a classically trained harpist who uses a lot of effect pedals, so it’s pretty unique. Plus her videos can make anyone laugh easily.

So that sitar video gave a bout of GAS that I managed to conquer (so far). But I got an idea and did a Google search, and found that there is a sitar course at the Indian embassy in Budapest. To be honest, it was quite unexpected. I requested some more details from them and I’ll see if I can fit it in my schedule. The lessons would be on Friday afternoons and somewhat far from home and my workplace, but I hope I can arrange this at work.

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Anniversary update

I bought my first guitar 3 years ago, so I’m in a celebratory mood today.

This was a good opportunity to change the strings on all my 4 guitars (unless I count the 12 string as two). It took the better part of 6 hours including checking for any loose nuts and screws, cleaning the guitars, a good amount of messing around with trying to leave no spiky little string-end at the tuning peg, then giving up on it and do everything as usual, taking a well-deserved dinner break, and god knows what else. But I wasn’t in a hurry anyway.

A few months ago I ordered this Music Nomad work mat (the luthier I go to is quite satisfied with their products) and this was the first time I used it. It’s indeed pretty handy. The mat has a rubbery feel to it so it doesn’t slip on the surface under it and the guitars also don’t slip on the mat. It comes with the blue neck rest that can be used with various neck designs. The “rubberiness” (if such a word exists) and the texture of the mat also prevent the pieces of strings from being accidentally swept off of it. The guitar detailer was also recommended by the luthier. It is pretty good, took the dirt off the frets as well, but parts of the metal pickup covers have some other kind of stains that could not be removed. Not that I’m particularly bothered about them, but I’ll keep on doing some research if they can be removed with anything. If not, they will attest to the fact of how good and playable my guitars are. :joy:

:scream: I almost messed up twice; first with the very first string I put on the 6 string acoustic (direction of the hook over the tuning peg), and then on the Epi LP when I tightened the G string an octave higher than it should have been (fortunately, it was easy to correct as the last two strings were not on yet). Overall, I consider this undertaking a resounding success, although next time I won’t do all 4 of them in one go.

:bulb: It was a good opportunity to test a new strategy where I don’t go from the thickest to the thinnest string but from the “outside” towards the “inside” (i.e. E, A, D, E, B, G). This way the positioning of my index finger that holds the string down for the windings is much more comfortable. Even on the 12 string. :slight_smile:

:bulb::bulb: I found that if I tighten the new string just taut enough so as not to rattle against the fretboard, it’s roughly 1-1.5 octave lower than the target tone. This is a good opportunity to cut the slack off so that it doesn’t interfere with the turning of the tuning pegs anymore, and to clip the tuner on and check for the pitch while tightening the string. Also, when you’re done with a guitar, that one can be used as a reference for the pitches.

:bulb::bulb: :bulb: It seems that different strings (even within the same set) require different amounts of stretching-in; some of them were pretty stable right from the first tuning whereas others needed 4 or 5 rounds to stabilize. This was the first time I changed strings on my Epi Casino; I was curious how the trapeze tailpiece worked and it turned out to have a clever design, hardly more complicated to work with than with the Tune-o-matic bridge.

I took a few photos during the operation:

So what have I been up to during the past year? I can’t say I remember each and every little detail (and I’m just too lazy to re-read my previous posts tonight), so I can only mention the most important things.

:writing_hand: The biggest new thing for me seems to be transcription. I think that my “musical hearing” improved quite a bit and I’m less afraid to tackle melodies that sound more difficult than the level I’m currently at. I’m super proud of having been able to transcribe a whole trumpet solo (by Chet Baker, you can find my post about it) and of course various other shorter melodies. I hope I’ll get to a level where I can play something by my main man Miles.

:notes: I started to play along with original recordings which is a good way to test and improve my transcription skills. My go-to “single-note” jam in the past 2-3 months has been Ike’s Rap III/Your Love Is So Doggone Good by Isaac Hayes. As the original has a very subdued guitar part, my “contribution” (including some improv) is quite easy to tell apart. I’m planning to make a sort of playalong recording this year. Another favourite single-note jam of mine is Born Under a Bad Sign by Cream that can serve the dual purpose of practicing pattern 1 of the minor pentatonic scale. Black Night by Deep Purple is the latest addition, though I still need to conscientiously decipher the little variation on the riff that is played during the transitions to the chorus and between the guitar and organ solo. My staple “strumming jam” is a long version of Jammin’ by Bob Marley (a fitting title that is). It sounds pretty good on the 12 string as well.

What about the future?

I have a few things on my mind, in no particular order:

  • Do some proper song lessons from the website for the sake of some structured learning if nothing else.
  • Revisit fingerstyle playing as it got sidelined by other things I’ve been doing.
  • Explore the possibilities of DADGAD tuning as the drone effect is quite nice.
  • Continue transcribing
  • Continue the Practical Music Theory course (+ @Richard_close2u’s extracurricular tips here in the Community)
  • Find some opportunities to jam with others, though it’s not something I can’t live without. And I’m not hell-bent on doubling as my roadie on public transport, either.
  • Recently I became interested in the sitar. I found out that there’s a regular course at the cultural centre of the Indian embassy in Budapest and that the next beginner course starts in October. The fee will be c. 12 USD/EUR for 3 months with a lesson every week. I figured it’s a good opportunity to try it out without any long-term commitment and see what happens. I mentioned this plan to a few of my friends and I saw some bewilderment on their faces.
  • Make use of the classical sheet music I collected so far.
  • GAS: as the rate of inflation isn’t likely to decrease, I don’t think I’ll buy any new instruments for quite some time. What I have on my shopping list, though, are a tuner pedal, a volume pedal for swells, and maybe a hum eliminator though I still have to do some research on it. Fortunately, I’m not a gear nerd so equipment is something I can cut costs on.

Well, that’s about it now.

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I don’t have much to say because your much farther ahead than me but sitar lessons in Budapest sounds like a great way to have some good lifetime memories! :smiley:

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Yeah, I’ve never taken a selfie but one of me with a sitar in hand will have to be done or it didn’t happen :smiley:

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Good string choices. For a long time, I was using Martin SP Extra-Lights on my 12-string, but after some experimenting, I’ve found Martins to be a bit stiff. But then again, I don’t tune down. The D’Addario Nickel Bronze have been on my 6-string since March. They’re resonant without being too bright, and are excellent for fingerstyle. I’ve tried Rotosound on my 6-string and loved them.

Sitar lessons sound like a bargain, and because your hands are already strengthened by playing guitar, you should sound pretty good on sitar after a few lessons. Go for it!