These learning logs are a great idea so I thought I’d share mine and hopefully keep it updated to log my progress.
How it started
About 3 years ago, just before covid, I got a Slack message from the company I was working for. It said they were forming a band and looking for people who sang or played any instrument. The plan was to play a Christmas gig in 8 weeks.
Now, I had a guitar, but I did not play the guitar. It was a gift from my friends almost 20 years ago (I took some lessons then but learned almost nothing and forgot what little I knew) and was sitting there untouched.
I do not know what made me reply to the message but two weeks later I had 12 songs to learn in my hands, to play live in 6 weeks’ time, without knowing how to play the guitar. Hmm.
I practised like 6 hours a day until the gig. We had a few rehearsals at a proper rehearsal studio prior. Although I sucked in every single one of them, it was OK, because the drummer, the bass player, and the singer were gigging/touring professionals (who happened to be working at the same company by coincidence, yes). There was one other guitar player who was somewhat experienced. But the pros were sounding so good that we did not matter much. There is a lesson to learn here but I did not understand it by then.
The gig was a resounding success, I felt like I played well (I was wrong, I have video evidence) and it boosted my confidence a lot. Then I decided I won’t stop and promised to practice every single day, with no exceptions, which I have kept. This is where the Justin Guitar came in.
We did the gig two times more in consequent years and although each time I got better, I felt I sounded worse. I think that’s because my taste and expectations of myself grew faster than my ability.
How it is going
In 2022, I discovered the “Rock and Pop Band” course at Morley College in London. It is a course but they do not teach anything. Instead, they form bands from students, each lesson is a rehearsal and at the end of the term, the bands play a gig at a pub. It is a great entry point to playing live with other people.
We did the gig, and boy was it a wake-up call. Before, since the others were professionals, I sounded a lot better among them than how good I actually was. This time, I sounded like myself, and that was a lot worse than how I thought I sound.
In parallel, I discovered how much more practical knowledge I had before doing the course as opposed to other students, who tended to be better at their instruments and had more knowledge but were lacking in practical elements.
I love playing live. I do not intend to make money from music ever, but I love when I’m on stage. I want to be on stage.
I completed Justin’s Course until about mid-intermediate level but this was before he revamped the website and renewed the videos. I no longer follow the site in structure but I pick and choose lessons.
Problems, more accurately:
- I have a full-time job which greatly limits my practice time.
- I can’t make good noises. This is hard to express. I feel confident that I can learn and play many songs that are commonly played around as long as they do not have virtuosic parts. But I can’t make them sound good. Either my rhythm is off at times, or I can’t quite play smoothly, or I can’t jump onto that further note seamlessly, etc. etc. And this is not changing easily with practice. For e.g. I played a solo in one of the gigs, I practised it for 2 months, every single day, and although I could play it without mistakes, it did not sound good and I’m not quite sure how much more I would need to practice to get it to a decent level, neither I know how and what exactly to practice for it.
- I’m living in London and London is already full of incredible guitarists who have many, many years of practice and much more free time on their hands. A few weeks ago, someone posted on a local Facebook group that they were looking for a replacement guitarist for a gig that night with a list of 28 songs, each in a particular key. In like 1 hour, there were more than 20 guitarists who signed up for it! No band ever looks for a guitarist here, great guitarists are dime a dozen, and realistically, I will never be as good as those players. That makes it very tricky to find a band to play live gigs as a guitarist. Why would a band pick me when there are so many people with so much more talent, looking for an opportunity? This does not discourage me from practising and improving, but it is a puzzle I did not quite solve yet.
Next is blues jams. I did not really listen to blues before I picked up the guitar. But I discovered these jams, where players showed up and signed up to play, just like that. And that was possible thanks to the nature of blues music, where it is possible to play a song without necessarily knowing how exactly to play it in advance, I learned. I did not quite understand how it was possible at the start but I listened to a ton of blues music (and I love it), and have been practising. Now I understand.
I’ve also been going to listen to these jams to see what they are like. I quickly figured out, it is not as easy as people on the internet are making it out to be. I never saw a beginner or even an intermediate (whatever that means) player there. The average level of talent is astonishing and although I’m sure they will be welcoming to new players, it is quite intimidating and I could not quite build up the courage to bring my guitar to one yet.
Thank you so much if you read this far. This has been my journey and I’m hoping to share a few videos of me playing and join the next open mic to hear what people think and hopefully get some feedback which I’m sure would be very useful.