Paul's LL

Learning Log

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.

Songs

A couple of old fingerstyle videos from back in the day

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_BuNzf3TyA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOK5m5TsHbo

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

2024 goals

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 …

  1. 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!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Blues - hoping to get on Justin’s new Blues Immersion course this year.

January 2024

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.

Picking mechanics…

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.

Transcribing…

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.

Blues…

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!

9 Likes

Paul @mathsjunky
Very interesting read, you sound like many in the community off and on over many years. But at least you seem to be well back on.
Michael

1 Like

Lovely write up Paul and sound objectives for the coming year.

As to OMs ? Nothing like some mainlining adrenaline to keep you on your toes ! :rofl: Does it get better ? Heck no but you learn to channel it. Look forward to some more live performances sir, your debut was a pleasure and makes organising these events so worthwhile !

:sunglasses:

1 Like

So today I felt I needed some new ideas to play blues over a IV chord. So I wheeled out BB king for some transcribing practice and inspiration!

I was listening to Sweet Little Angel and there’s a nice little lick at 1.47 over a IV chord, that I think goes something like this …

There’s not actually rests before the lick starts, but I think there’s a little 3 note pick up at the end of the previous bar and wanted to include it.

The recording is in Db, so the IV chord is Gb and the lick uses the 5th, b7, root and 2nd of of the IV chord, although these are all notes in the Db minor pentatonic.

Anyhow, just my ramblings, and I might be way off (and my notation/rhythm very likely is!) but I thought I’d share just in case anyone else was interested.

1 Like

Hey Paul,

Good to hear some of your backstory mate. Some partial overlap with mine here and there.

Your rendition of Dont Let the Devil Ride really got me when you first started posting stuff. As someone who’s making blues their focus, it was one of the coolest Blues AVOYPS I’d heard on this forum, and I quickly realised, "this guy can play. I can learn a thing or 2 here; steal some ideas even :sweat_smile:. "

Re the picking mechanics. Wondering if you are following a course, pathway here, as I’ve been on a similar mission the last 6 months. I’m following 2 books by Chris Brooks called “Alternative Picking Guitar Technique”, and " 137 Guitar Speed and Coordination Exercises". Finding them very helpful, with noticeable results.

Cheers, Shane

Thanks Matt - hoping to stick at it this time, I’m just starting semi-retirement so I have more time on my hands these days!

Haha - thanks Toby, we’ll see if the next one is channelled any better :slight_smile:
Appreciate all the work you put in to provide the platform, it’s a wonderful element of the community.

Thanks for the kind words Shane! On the picking I have looked at Troy Grady’s material, which is incredibly detailed (perhaps even too detailed!). I do worry a little that trying to change something that is so deep rooted is going to be impossible, but I’ll give it a year. I might take a look at your book suggestions though, cheers!

1 Like

Ok - so it’s been a while, time for a quick update on the goals …

Playing in front of others…

Well, I got my 2nd JG OM under my belt. Does it get easier? Perhaps, but knowing you are going to feel nervous helps when it happens. I don’t think it’s ever going to be easy or stress free for me to play live in front of others but understanding that you’ll be nervous and ‘that’s ok’ helps.
Working on a new piece for the next OM in a couple of weeks. Pushing my comfort zone on this one, so we’ll see how it holds up. Grab an audience seat if you want to find out :slight_smile:

Picking mechanics…

I’ve been doing mindful practice with picking mechanics really concentrating on trying to get a consistent in/out motion for alternate picking. I think I’m slowly making some progress, but I’m not sure it sticks when I’m not thinking about it. I always knew this was going to be a long haul!

Transcribing…

I’m pretty happy with how transcribing is going. I’m still doing some each day. If I hear a song on the radio then I’ll have a go at that (chord structure, lead lines, vocal melody etc). Today I transcribed ‘Dreams’ by the Cranberries. Mostly a very simply I, IV, V chord structure, with an interesting little riff over the top based on the I and V chord tones. However the bridge is diatonic, so I was pleased that came pretty quickly.
If I don’t do a song, then the fallback is blues licks - been doing a bit of Peter Green recently. One thing I’ve found with him and Clapton in particular is how they can make so few notes sound amazing, there are loads of licks with just 3 different notes, so simple but so effective.

Other stuff
I’ve been playing a lot at higher volume levels recently and really working on string muting to try and keep things clean. The volume really highlights things when muting is sloppy.
Been working on getting a light touch and added some new exercises into my mindful practice (thanks @sclay Shane). This will be another long haul.
I’ve been working on Joe Robinson’s version of Freight Train. Fingerpicking with palm muting is getting a little easier, but there are a couple of challenging changes for me on the acoustic for this one. I can get though the song really slowly now, but it’s still a bit choppy and some of the changes aren’t at all smooth.
On the electric I’m spending a lot of time on mixing rhythm and lead, working on some new dominant 7 shapes and partial chord shapes / triads - mostly blues improvisation, loads of fun.

3 Likes

Good update Paul. Alot of great stuff you’re working on there. Fair bit of overlap with what I’m up to.

Ah, Peter Green. What a player he was. I can listen to ( and learn from) his early years all day long.

Cheers, Shane

1 Like

Improving picking … transcribing … string muting … mixing rhythm and lead … partial chords and triads. Paul, you’ve written part of my learning log! :slight_smile:

You’re first JG OM was awsome - I could see you were nervous but your performance was really good. Be more confident, you really got this! Looks like I missed a second one - I try and get an audience seat for the next JG OM.

Curious to hear more about how you are working on partial chord shapes and triads. I realised last year that I have to learn them like new chords to find them quickly enough when playing. So I have been looking for songs that use them either the whole way through or in second guitar parts. Transcribing helps here as you know :slight_smile: I’m now working through all the songs I have found so far.

On your picking change: keep practising. A few minutes every day and it will come. I’ve been working on a bum-chicka I like the sound of for over a year now and finally have hope I’ll get somewhere. These things take time but they always come eventually.

1 Like

Thanks Molly.
On the partial chord/triads, I mainly focus on blues improvisation here, so I have a clear structure, although I play in a lot of different keys. I mix rhythm playing with a variety of different shapes (mostly major, dom 7 or 9) with some simple lead lines - so a bar of rhythm followed by a bar of lead for example. The challenge here is keeping in time and finding all the different shapes quickly enough and there’s the secondary challenge of thinking about the underlying chord structure and hitting chord tones. There’s so much going on there it takes a lot of concentration right now.
It’s a lot of fun though!
Cheers
Paul.

Oooh you are going for the holy grail! Good luck and keep us posted about you progress!

1 Like