Inspiration: Paul McCartney – Blackbird

Blackbird is a song I’ve recently added to my repertoire. I’m still using tab to learn a lot of stuff because I just don’t have the time to learn things by ear. A lot of the tabs out there, for purchase and in the public domain, are all over the place in terms of their takes on this song. The fun in learning to play this song has been to use the tabs as a reference point and the recordings and my understanding of chord shapes and theory to make this the most playable for my hands.

I’m learning to play quite a number of songs right now, most influenced by fingerpicking. While I aim to be diversified in my attack of the strings, I much prefer fingerpicking over a pick. I like that my fingers can be in a variety of places doing a variety of things, as opposed to using a pick. I also like the fatter sound I get out of the strings when I use my fingers. I tend to incorporate Travis picking into my playing, but also use my thumb and index finger to achieve an alternate picking technique when I want to play various licks that require a narrower focus.

On another note, I’m hoping to purchase an audio interface soon so that I can begin to document my progress. I currently spend time recording myself with the awful camera mic that comes with my Logitech webcam. While the camera, itself, does an adequate job of recording quality video, the mic leaves little to be desired.

Despite the fact I’m recording for myself right now, nerves get in the way. My brain becomes a jumbled mess and my fingers don’t work as they should – there’s a disconnect between brain and fingers when camera rolls. Ongoing practice and reflection while playing in this capacity will (hopefully) help me overcome the mental blocks I experience.

Anyway, time to practice. I’ve got several days (including today) that I’ll have to document tonight. By the time I’m done practicing today, I’ll have somewhere between 8-10 hours of practice these past four days.  Yay, me!

Masterclass: Tommy Emmanuel – Thumbpicking

I got turned on to Tommy Emmanuel several years ago. In what context, I don’t remember. But what I do remember is being drawn to his high-energy virtuosity.  His playing blew me away. As a fan of fingerpicking technique (I much prefer the fingers over a pick), I appreciate what he teaches in this video. As a re-learner of guitar, I’m more keenly appreciative of what he says between 10:00 and 10:45 of the video. What follows is an excerpt of what he says during these forty-five seconds:

“…keep it simple as long as possible, don’t try and rush ahead to more difficult songs just because you think it might be more exciting, you’ve got to give yourself a chance to build up this technique and to understand it — this is all new stuff…”

-Tommy Emmanuel, Thumbpicking Masterclass

While what he says is nothing new to me, for whatever reason at this stage in my life it finally makes sense. I’ve now touched on the value of going slow to go fast several times. In the past, I used to think I was trading-off the frustration of practicing slowly for the frustration of trying to tackle a challenging song. I always erred on the side of tackling the challenging song. I’m not sure, ultimately, that the fruits born from this tree were more ripe and tasteful than the fruits born from the other tree. I’m beginning to experience, however, that the tree rooted in slow, deliberate practice while grounded in technique and theory is already having a profound impact on my playing.

What I love most about this video, and why I’m sharing, is just how elegant Tommy Emmanuel’s instruction is given his virtuosity. I’ve seldom seen such instructional clarity from some who just “gets it”. Whether you’re a fan of fingerpicking, great instruction, Tommy Emmanuel, phenomenal guitar playing or some combination thereof, here’s something for you to enjoy.

Make it a phenomenal day!