Background / How did I get here?
I got my first guitar (a cheap acoustic bought in Moscow hotel gift shop) in around 1980 when I was 11 or 12, and it sat in a corner for a little while until I bought a small paperback teach-yourself book and learned my first few open chords and classics such as Puff the Magic Dragon and Mull of Kintyre.
I remember being pretty obsessed with it at the time and after a year or two I got a cheap Strat copy from a catalogue along with some unbranded amp for a Christmas & Birthday present.
For the next 40+ years I played on and off - I had some pretty big breaks of many years when I didn’t touch a guitar at all, then something would bring me back to it.
All my early learning was pre-internet so I would make occasional trips to Chappells in London or a more local music shop to buy sheet music of songs I’d like to play. I was strictly rhythm (Guitar George!) lead seemed too difficult so I stuck to just strumming chords.
I found JG about the time it launched and I have some of the very early DVDs that Justin made with Jedi, I also started to get more interested in acoustic fingerstyle and spent a few years dabbling with that.
Another long break ensued until a few years ago when my daughter came downstairs one day and said she wanted to learn guitar and which point I dusted down the old things and swiftly pointed her in the direction of the JG website as while I had the basics down I was also very rusty and had built up many years of terrible habits. That was the catalyst for me returning to the fold however, and it brings us mostly up to date.
A couple of old fingerstyle videos from back in the day
More recent uploads to the AVOYP section
Don’t let the Devil ride - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgz_RxuPEsQ
Kathys Song - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmK9FREDdiU
Every year I like to set out goals - not resolutions, but objectives that are somewhat measurable. I do it for various aspects of life, but I haven’t done it for guitar previously. This year I am semi-retired, working just 2 days a week, so I have a lot more time to focus on my other interests.
This year’s top 4 guitar goals are …
To play more in front of other people. - This is the big one I guess. I suffer quite badly with nerves playing in front of others and it really affects my ability to play and sing. I’m fine speaking in public, I’ve done plenty of that in my career, but guitar is just different. Anyhow this is the goal - to do it more and hope it gets easier!!
To re-work my picking mechanics. I’m left handed, but I play right handed. All those years ago, it just seemed more natural as my left hand was doing all the ‘difficult bits’ back then and the right hand just had to strum. As I am getting more engaged in lead playing, I’m finding that the style I have developed really isn’t that efficient and I’m looking to re-work to an ‘in & out’ rather than ‘up & down’ technique, and also really trying to focus on downstrokes on the beat.
Improve my Ear training / Transcribing. I’ve always been in awe of those who can pick out melodies or chords from a piece of music easily, Rick Beato is insanely good at this, and while I’ll never be anything like that good, he inspires me to keep at it. This year I’m trying to do a little transcribing every day.
Blues - hoping to get on Justin’s new Blues Immersion course this year.
So as we get to the end of January, here’s the goal update …
Playing in front of others…
Over Christmas I made a point of keeping a guitar around and playing a bit in front of close family and friends. Nothing fancy, just a few carols and popular songs - just strumming and singing. No-one died, which is good.
Community OM. Well this was the big one I guess. I signed up to do this and almost instantly wished I hadn’t! Picked a pretty simple song and a simple acoustic set up to try and keep the whole thing as easy as possible. My rehearsals were going just ok and I felt pretty confident I could play the song, but on the night the nerves were pretty bad, I think it affected my singing more than my playing as the guitar part was very simple. However we got through it and I have to say the whole OM community was wonderfully supportive - If anyone is thinking of doing it, then I would highly recommend it. Of course it’s scary, but you will get so much encouragement and support from the community. Anyhow, I have now signed up to perform at the next one with a song that I’ve never played before - I’m working on an arrangement now.
Good grief, it’s back to square one. I feel so inept, everything feels foreign and strange. I’m trying to spend 15/20 minutes a day focused purely on slow deliberate picking mechanics. I’m really trying to think about this when working on any new material, but for songs or licks I already play, the old ways are too ingrained. Improvisation is probably the hardest right now, as I’m thinking about so many other things (chord changes, licks, scale positions etc) that throwing mechanics into the mix really screws me up. I think changing these mechanics is going to be a slow burn.
Well so far this year, I’ve managed at least 5 minuted a day. Usually much more. I’m working on both leads lines and harmony. During the day if I hear a song I like, I’ll make a note then the following day try and transcribe the chords. To be honest I find this harder than lead lines, but theory helps a lot (little plug for Justin’s Theory course here). If I’m not working on chords, then I’ll play through some blues recordings and find a lick or solo I like and work on that. I can generally get the slower stuff sounding mostly right, although I suspect I’m not always in the right position on the neck. I can sometimes find it hard to hear when a note is repeated which amazes me - that should be the easiest surely! Anyhow, it is getting easier although this will be something I will be working on forever I suspect.
I’ve been listening to a lot of the old masters, transcribing licks and doing plenty of improvisation, trying to incorporate new licks into my vocabulary. I’ve been really enjoying the Blues Clubs and that’s inspired me to really focus on learning licks and incorporating those into my playing.
Still waiting for the new course to be announced!