Mal’s learning log

Well, this has been a long time coming, after reading through some of the other logs I am not sure mine will be of any interest, but here it is:

My guitar journey started long ago, now 73 and the first time I was introduced to the instrument was when my sisters then husband played in a band. being somewhat in awe, he showed my some chords. However, at the time being around 12 or so and already having experience of singing in bands and so on, it never stuck, preferring my role as a front man.

Many bands and other experiences, art school, marriage too young, Morocco for three months, Spain for two, and onto London for a year, to name a few: Cut to 15 years later and we, my good lady Helen and myself were in Germany after walking into the country from France owing to missing the Vandage. We secured a temporary job in an hotel where we also had accommodation. There in one of the rooms an old beat up classical guitar was found, and here I am still playing, not that particular instrument but others as some of you will have seen.

So the learning began, bought a copy of ‘Teach Yourself Classical Guitar’ by Alfred Noad and off I went. Being in Germany and not knowing many people we had a lot of time to ourselves and I persevered with my new found passion, though knowing little of classical music and what to learn. Understand this is long before the internet and so my own devices sufficed. It was eclectic to say the least, my good lady put up with my noise though and eventually it began to sound less like cats fighting to something resembling, an attempt at playing an instrument.

Then more life happened: we departed from the Black Forest, a beautiful area, and headed for Amsterdam, where in those days it was referred to by many as the ‘enfant terrible’ of Europe, and we had fun! To the extent of remaining for 10 years, Lara was born there. Consequently guitar was not forgotten, but no real attempt was made to learn much of anything.

So after some time and many more experiences, we moved back to the UK and opened a restaurant. Not much guitar again, as that was hard work. So we fast forward to another life becoming involved in Youth Work, and returning to an interest in guitar. by this time Justin Guitar had been found, I still have DVDs of some of his courses, and I was finding something to hold onto in terms of guitar teaching. But still not enough dedication to the process.

More life changes and back up North nearer to family, which was a good thing as it happens as my son from the first marriage was consumed by cancer. Three years prior to this event, Lara was married and at the time Justin had mentioned a book he had read in a newsletter, “Bounce’, wherein it was posited, is talent innate or is it learned? The figure of 10,000 hours was said to be the point at which one is able to call one a something, musician or ??? Anyway, at Lara and Johns wedding I decided to try to play 10,000 hours and see if in my case I would become a musician.

I honestly do not know the answer to that question: I have calculated that my playing thus far in total amounts to 8,742 hours so far, now playing daily for around two hours. I am aware of many failings and my brain does not do structured learning well. Playing guitar is hard, but without having the means to express myself or simply lose myself in music would, I feel render me insane, no joke. Guitar has enabled me to sustain some semblance of sanity through some dark times, for that and Justin I will always be thankful .

So that is it for this instalment, but please do not hold your breath for the next one yet. If this brings any form of support in any way, I am pleased, play guitar, or any instrument, life is too short, live it with music.


Hey Mal, thanks for the log. Sounds like very good progress.

Hi Tony, yes progress is good, not here yet though.

A good read Mal, thanks for sharing. Sorry to hear about your son, I am assuming that was a while ago now, but must have been very hard.

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Thanks JK, yes, it is now 5 years ago, and something I would not wish for anyone.

Hi Mal. Thank you for sharing your guitar life story. Good you have had the guitar around you to help you deal with some hard times. Sorry to read about the illness and passing of your son.

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Thank you Andreas, yes my music and guitars are important to me.


An interesting read, Mal! Thanks for sharing your story. I feel very sorry about the loss of your son.
I always enjoy your performances, one can see and hear all those hours of playing and practicing. 10000 hours or not, I like the way you play and I wish you a lot of happy hours for the future!

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Thank you Andrea, pleased you enjoy my performances. I do intend to play long after reaching 10000 hours, perhaps I will go for 20000. Although buy then I possibly would lose count. :smiley: :smiley:

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Hello Mal, thanks a lot for granting us some insights in your life story and your guitar journey :hugs:.

I can very much relate to this. I particularly love that when I’m playing guitar, I’m so concentrated and focussed that my brain is absolutely unable to bring up all the worries which are normally circulating in my head :smiling_face:.

You definitely are a musician. Thanks for all the great songs, you’ve already shared with us and will hopefully continue to share in the future :hugs:.

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Hi Nicole, Yes, I feel when playing it becomes a meditation where the focus is on the instrument and what is being produced from and through the fingers. As you say, a place away and free from trouble.
Still trying to become a musician, yes I can now play, but so many things on guitar I cannot yet accomplish. There is always something to learn and that is one of the beauties of learning an instrument, in my case the guitar. :hugs: :grinning: :grinning:


Well the Justin Guitar Livestream came and went. Wow, what an occasion. It was an incredible opportunity to shine.
The build up was slow, the OM we were scheduled to perform in did not include us as we had to pull out at the last minute due to tech issues, weather and internet connectivity or lack thereof. We decided to play the same songs for the livestream. This of course meant that more rehearsal was done, and subtly more pressure to get it ‘right’.
All was good, we rehearsed a lot and it did sound performance ready. Now, I am not a sound tech, although I do try to stay abreast of technological advances. However, it occurred to me that my sound setup was not adequate and required adjustment and so replaced the Scarlett 2i2 with a 4i4, thereby muddying the waters by a considerable degree. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ syndrome, ah well.
So, many adjustments to the sound output later, it sounded ok to my ears. It sounded good on the test done on Stream Yard. It sounded so good: however, when hooking up in real time to Stream Yard no one else could hear us. We could hear everyone, but no sound was incoming. Oh my!. Remember the subtle pressure mentioned earlier? That pressure instantly became 'OMG what am I doing!!!
Prior to this, on the day, it was business as usual, Lara came round and we ran through the songs and all was good, sounding good together, levels sounding good and all was set to go.
Then time to join the sound check was upon us and although we could hear Justin, he could not hear us. I was already jittery by now as the adrenalin was coursing through my body at a rate of knots, and could not work out what was going on, press this button, no not helping, press this one, no still nothing.
So we had to wait until show time when Justin would signal that we were ‘on’.
In the meantime I was frantically attempting to ‘right’ what was ‘wrong’, even though I was not fully cognizant of how it all worked. Finally I reset to default on the 4i4 and could hear and vice versa.
Although, not before starting the show and as one was introducing ourselves the audience were telling us that no sound was coming through, refer to the preceding paragraph.
By this time, my nerves and adrenalin had reached overdrive!! When the time came to actually sing and play my mouth was so dry I could have been back in the Moroccan desert without water for a week.
However, the show went on, we performed and were well received.
Wow, what an experience, it was amazing, fraught and traumatic, but what fun, so much fun.

Sign me up for the next one.


I’ve just caught up with your LL, Mal. I guess the first post came when I was away from the Community.

Quite a story, ups and downs.

Firstly, after I came across the 2nd entry as a unique entry which I moved to your LL, I found it duplicated so deleted that.

I’ve not read Bounce but if you are interested in the theories and thinking about learning, then Anders Ericsson is a good source introducing the concept of ‘deliberate practice’. I think the idea of the 10000 hours may be more figurative than absolute and became popular through Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’. Another idea to digest is Carol Dweck’s ‘growth mindset’ vs ‘fixed mindset’.

Glad you managed to figure out the blocker at the Live Stream. You and Lara always deliver an enjoyable set.

Thank you David. Bounce is a fascinating book, one that Justin had read and suggested. I am at present looking at ‘The Inner Game of Music’, and may check out the ones you suggest, after the David Byrne one I have yet to read. Music and the effect it has on the brain is an incredible subject!
I agree about the 10000 figure, but then it is an objective to achieve and cannot hurt ones progress, as I have found personally. What will be done when the figure is reached is another matter, perhaps stop counting.
Thanks again for the tidy up, still have not sussed out this website properly.

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My pleasure, no worries.

Anders Ericsson’s Peak is worth a read (according to my brother who has made a bit of a study of learning and pursuit of mastery.

Brainjo by Turknett was pretty good with direct applicability to learning guitar (not specifically about banjo playing)

I also enjoyed Zen Guitar by Phillip Toshio Sudo.

I’ve heard that is excellent.

I will check these books out, and put them on the list.
I keep toying with the idea of a banjo, but the complexities of the guitar always draw me back, and as we all know, there is a lot to learn.
Thanks again. :smiley:

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