Update time is here again
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:
The AM link has a bonus Neil Young song on it 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. 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.