When I was a nine year old boy in Beirut, I recall being transported to another world, reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I loved chocolate (still my favourite food) and Roald Dahl tells a riveting yarn. At about the same time I received the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper which opened a wormhole to yet another universe for me.
When I came across Justin’s website nearly a year ago, I felt like I had discovered a secret doorway into the chocolate factory of how music is made. I’ve been running around the factory ever since, flitting from room to room, sniffing different chords, having a taste of this strumming or that picking, as well as leafing through some of the recipe books of music theory.
I even had a go at making some chocolatey music inventions myself, which some of you have kindly tasted.
You can imagine my surprise and excitement when one of the chief Oompa Loompas (sorry Richard :P) informed me that I had received a Christmas present of a GOLDEN TICKET to meet Willy Wonka himself- a Skype session!
What would I like to ask the great man?
Only having commenced my journey, I am painfully aware of what I need to work on; and between the excellent lessons and helpful forum, I had serious difficulty thinking of what I wanted to ask Justin that I didn’t know already, or at least know where to find it.
For me, the answer to most questions lies behind that door named ‘Practice’.
Out of respect for him as a teacher, I did prepare some questions/areas to go over. But as in the above book, it’s all about the relationships. I wanted to meet this man, thank him for the enjoyment he has brought me and if I’m honest, feel like he got to know me. (Self-centred yes, but there you go)
The lesson began by me serenading him with a slight re-write of one of my previous competition entries, ‘Just a minute Justin’ (now ‘just an hour’), to give him a general idea of my playing abilities.
We then had a longish session of general chit-chat about his recent ski-holiday and I gave him a bit of my background, explaining how I ended up learning late in life. Lots of fan-boy praise from my side.
I think he was a bit taken aback when I told him about my brother having a heart attack just as I was launching into the Christmas competition and how helpful I found having an enjoyable distraction at an emotional time. He was half-expecting a funny punchline- not a personal story ending in death, so maybe I over-shared there…
We moved on to discussing how to go about writing simple fingerpicking style for songs. He noticed I had drifted off the alternate base plucking, which he stressed was of utmost importance. I hadn’t realised the thumb takes care of all three lower strings so the other fingers don’t have to shift.
We talked about the minor pentatonic scale and how it relates to major scales. He talked about using notes like words and putting them together in licks to make sense to others.
He suggested it was time for me to move on to barre chords (which I have just recently started practising).
He seemed happy enough with what I was doing. I find my index finger often protrudes way beyond the fretboard, but he was less concerned with what it looked like as long as the sound was clean.
I wasn’t sure the A-shape barre chord was for acoustic guitar, but he assured me again- just more practice.
We finished up talking about two Aussie gigs I’m going to in the coming months: Nick Cave in Liverpool in June and Tommy Emmanuel in Manchester at the end of March. I told him I’m thinking of bringing my guitar with me to see if I can get it signed by Tommy. If I’m not going down the GAS route yet, I might just pimp my current 6-string.
Are you still here?
Well, in summary: Believe the hype. Justin is a really engaging, sound and chilled dude.
Even if he thinks I’m a plonker- mission accomplished:
Mr. Wonka is aware of this plonker now!
Thank you all
(p.s. In playing terms, I had already benefited immensely before the lesson, as I had been practising much more to reduce embarrassment levels. See- practice! ;))