Jason Becker Lick Over Jazz Chord Progression (Video) and More

The video above is my first post to my YouTube Channel, Guitar 10000 (https://youtu.be/jS33j5eESHU). It’s the first of many I hope to post, documenting my journey to become a performing musician in fifteen years (when I retire). It’s a Jason Becker lick over a jazz chord progression.  It’s a fun little lick.  It was a great exercise, too, for working with a backing track.

Away a While, But Still Learning!
Despite the fact I haven’t posted in a long time, I’ve remained hard at work learning how to play guitar.  I’ve also been hard at work ironing out a solid practice routine (there’s so much to learn, it’s easy to get lost in the scramble to do too many things).  In addition, I’ve been working hard at learning how to record and edit audio and video.

Last month, I joined a group on Facebook called, Play Jazz Guitar.  It’s helped immensely. The group’s founder/moderator, Matt Warnock, teaches guitar through song.  That may sound like a no-brainer to folks, but it’s not easy to do.  Matt provides a structure and depth to learning a new jazz standard each month.  What’s more, this group is a friendly, safe environment in which to learn with one another. Players regularly post videos and offer positive, constructive feedback.

Updating My Workout Routine and Stats
I’ll take some time tomorrow to update my workout routine and stats. Though I’ve not posted, I’ve averaged 2+ hours of practice on most days. I’m on winter break (I’m a teacher) and have been able to put in 4+ hours on most days. It’s been a productive break!

Happy New Year!

Warm-ups: Getting Started

(Note: I’ve provided links to a vendor in this blog post. I have no affiliation with the vendor and this website is not monetized. I’m simply sharing the links as a means in which to share with readers the resources I use)

Below are some images of warm-up exercises I’ve been doing. These warm-ups are probably nothing new, but I recall that I started acquainting my fingers with the movement up and down the strings and neck with these exercises. I still use them to warm my fingers up and to work on proper fingering techniques.

I created these warm-up exercises in Guitar Pro 7. There may be simpler ways to tackle creation of these exercises, but I like using the tool(s).  I just got started with Guitar Pro 7 today. It’s lots of fun and fairly easy to use, as long as you have some understanding of music and tablature.

In this installment of Warm-ups, I’ve included several basic finger warm-up exercises. Start them slowly (50 bpm – 80 bpm, depending on your experience or the rhythms your working with). How many beats per minute you increase with each iteration is up to you. Depending on the source you read, some people recommend increasing each iteration by 3 bpm while others will suggest 8 bpm. Honestly, I think the increments suggested by many folks are arbitrary.

I actually increase my tempo by 10 bpm with each iteration (if I’m working with quarter note or eighth note rhythms) until my technique gets sloppy, then I dial it back 5 bpm in an effort to achieve perfect technique at the greatest speed possible. If the exercises I’m doing include triplets or sixteenth notes, I’ll increase my tempo by 5 bpm until my technique gets sloppy and then dial it back 2-3 bpm in an effort to achieve perfect technique.

1234 Warm-up
This first warm-up is straight forward. Place the tip of the index finger (1) on the first fret of the low-E string (the thickest string). This will be followed, slowly and in succession, by the middle finger (2), ring finger (3), and the pinky finger (4). Repeat this process next on the fifth (A) string, fourth (D) string, third (G) string, second (B) string, and first (high-E) string. Keep the fingers of your fret hand close to the fret board and make minimal movement from fret-to-fret and from string-to-string. I’ve included PDF and mp3 audio files for each of the warm-up examples below. You’ll find them below each graphic.

1234 Warm-up PNG
1234 Warm-up PDF: Click Here          1234 Warm-up Audio (50 bpm): Click Here

1234 Mix-up Warm-up
This next warm-up is for those of you who are a little more adventurous. It’s not terribly difficult. In fact, after several times through, I have no doubt you’ll find the rhythm quickly. Really pay attention to the fingerings that are indicated on each fret of each string in the diagram below. Also, listen carefully to the sounds of each note played. Make sure to go slow at first.

The pattern is 1234 (low-E string), 2341 (A string), 3412 (D string), 4123 (G string), 1234 (B string), 2341 (high-E string). When you get to the high-E string, slide your fingers up the neck a fret and begin with the 3412 pattern on frets 4, 5, 2, and 3 successively. Your fingers will now climb down the neck to the B string fretting the 4123 pattern on frets 4, 2, 3, and 4 successively.

Try your best to relax. Relaxation is difficult to achieve when you’re first learning any exercise or technique because the hands aren’t capable of moving independently of the brain yet. What’s more, each of us wants to achieve some sense of perfection when we play. This desire for perfection leads to tense movement. We don’t breathe, we move rather robotically, we make mistakes as a result. Enjoy the process and give yourself the freedom to breathe. Also, give yourself the freedom to make mistakes; mistakes are opportunities.

1234MixUpWarmUp
1234 Mix-up PDF: Click Here          1234 Mix-up Audio: Click Here

That’s it for tonight. I hope people find these resources helpful. I know other people out there are doing similar things much better than this. All of these documents and files are just my means of sharing my journey and giving to others who desire to travel a similar journey.

I did get lots of practice in the past several days. Additionally, I’ve worked hard to solidify a weekly routine based on the varieties of resources I have at my disposal. I’m excited to put it to work.

There’ll be more posts related to my progress, general ramblings about my journey, and resources that document my journey.

Make it a phenomenal day!

 

 

Days 16, 17, 18, 19 – Lack of Discipline Equals Little Progress

I wouldn’t say I made little progress the past four days. I didn’t, however, make the kind of progress I was expecting to make. Lots of distractions and no plan of attack took me all over the place. I did play, really I did. A lot! But I didn’t get out of my time what I put into it. Or did I?

I don’t mean to imply that I got 10-hours worth of progress out of my 10-hours of playing. I didn’t. I, perhaps, had a net gain of 1 – 2 hours of progress out of my 10-hours worth of playing. Quantity does not equal quantity and lack of discipline equals little progress.

I decided these past four days (I had an extended weekend due to Veteran’s Day and caring for my wife) to inundate myself with a myriad of distractions, all of which will pay dividends at some point, some sooner than later.

The distractions (in no particular order):

  • Getting my Blues Junior amp situated (I haven’t played on this in a long, long time)
  • Playing around with my Line 6 POD X3 Live effects board (I haven’t played with this in a long, long time and never figured out how to use it)
  • Setting up my Boss RC-3 Looping Station (I haven’t played with this much at all and certainly not for a long time)
  • Figuring out how to best record video until I get adequate audio input devices
  • Introducing new songs/progressions
  • Playing with each of my five guitars (mostly resulted in noodling rather than practice – I did land on my Martin OMC-15E)
  • Trying a variety of new picks to find one I like (I much prefer fingerpicking to strumming, but need to diversify my approach)
  • Tried to teach myself how to use a thumb pick (useful at some point, no doubt, but slow and clunky right now)

There you go, eight distractions in 10-hours results in my net gain of 2-hours progress. I don’t know if that’s a mathematically sound equation, but that’s how I feel. Being a teacher, I should know better than anyone that seat time doesn’t equal learning. Intentional use of time (as well as several other controllable factors) equals learning over time. All of these will pay dividends, as stated above, but need to be strategically built into my practice schedule.

What did come out of this is some quality time with my wife as she sat by my side while I played.

So, what have I learned these past few weeks?

Aside from re-acquainting myself with guitar, I’ve learned that guitar practice is for guitar practice; not trying out amps or picks or guitars. Trying new things is certainly an important part of growth, but I don’t want to sacrifice the benefits of quality, structured time for trial and error. Trial and error should and will have its place, but after I’ve met daily practice goals.

I’ve also learned that I work better when I set goals. My only goal going into this weekend was to practice 2 – 4 hours per day. That’s it. No musical goals. No technical goals. No measurable goals, period!

Moving forward, I’ll structure my time as I had previously structured my time. Monday through Friday, I’ll adhere to a regimen that includes finger mobility, technique, theory, and repertoire. I’ll mix it up to make sure that I’m working a couple of different things in these contexts throughout the week, but not becoming diversified to the point that I’m sacrificing growth at the expense of variety.

Moving forward, barring the occasional unforeseen circumstances, I’ll practice 2-hours per day and spend additional time on Saturdays and Sundays with the further experimentation.

What else have I learned?

  • Slow is best, but I hate slow and am most prone to error when I work slowly (but slow is best)
  • I hate recording video of myself, but it’s been hugely beneficial
    • Beneficial for helping me overcome nerves
    • Beneficial for getting outside myself to see things that I do well and things I need to improve upon
  • I’m dead set on achieving this goal
    • I’m three weeks in and still strongly committed to achieving my retirement dream
  • My retirement goal will only be achieved by setting and working toward smaller, measurable goals

Anyhow…before I get any more redundant, here’s an update on my time thus far (not going to post what I did because it was all over the place).

11/0, 11/11, 11/12, and 11/13 Time: 10 hours

Total Time: 34 hours

Time Remaining: 9,966 hours

Days 14 & 15 – Regression Before Progression (and Stuff)

Got an hour in each of the last two nights. Pretty solid overall, but not great. I don’t know if I had off nights or if I work better when I get an hour warm-up with technical exercises before doing other things. Nonetheless, it felt as though I took a step back. On the other hand, past experience tells me that these bad practices usually mean a gain is soon to come. Gonna look for this to be my reality over the next day or two.

Didn’t get to play today. Well, I got a little bit in before I headed off to school. Noodled around with some finger style blues I’ve been learning. Also worked on creating some melodic runs in the progressions of these finger style blues jams. I love trying to figure out how to make a chord progression more melodic. I often neglect this because I don’t feel I’m very good at it. I should, however, dedicate more time to it so I get better at it. What’s more, the more I play around with it the more I realize I really can do it.

Anyway…had conferences until late this evening so I didn’t get a chance for any prolonged practice tonight. I do, however, have four straight days, starting Saturday, that I should be able to get 2+ hours per day (I’m aiming for 3 – 4 hours each day).

This post is my catharsis for the evening. With that, here’s a run-down of the past couple days.

Agenda for 11/6 and 11/7

  • Warm-ups/Technique
    • 1234, 4321
      • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
    • 1234, 2341, 3412, 4123
      • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
      • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up each string starting at high-E
    • 134, 341, 431
      • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
    • Finger Stretches
      • 12, 13, 14
        • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
        • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) legato up neck
  • Theory
    • Pentatonic Scales
      • Position 1 all twelve roots
        • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
      • Position 1 – 3 with legato and slides
        • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
      • Positions 1, 5, 4 (down neck) with legato and slides
        • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
    • Various blues, rock, and jazz licks derived from pentatonic scales
      • Various scale positions up and down neck
        • 50%, 60%, 75%, 100%
        • practiced until perfected, then 10x each
    • 12-bar blues progressions in keys of A, E, B, D, G
      • Varying strumming patterns
      • 4/4 time at different 80 – 140 bpm
  • Repertoire
    • 12-bar Blues Fingerpicking – Keys of A, E, G

11/6 and 11/7 Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 24 hours

Time Remaining: 9,976 hours

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!

Day 13 – The Profundity of It All

Last night was very profound for me in many ways.

Slow is Fast
Slow, structured practice sessions are paying huge dividends.  While I’ve already elucidated upon this, I must reiterate it. I’m more accurate, more fluid, and feel more musical as a result of my slower-paced, structured practice regimen.  As stated in yesterday’s post, I don’t have a reliance on memorizing tab anymore.  I still use it to get the gist of things as I’m learning, but I’m not thinking: 5 – 8 – 8 (Low-E), 5 – 7 – 7 (A-string), and so on.  I’m hearing the sounds, instead. My fingers are drawn to what I hear versus what number I see.  What a liberating experience.  What a profound realization!

The Power of Support
Last night as I sat here in the office playing guitar, my wife sat beside me (as she does on most days and nights I work in the office).  We have an amazing connection. While we’re fully capable of living life apart from one another, we cherish time together. If what it is we’re doing lends itself to being together, we spend time together. While the time together is nice, what it’s truly indicative of is the level of support she gives me to pursue my playing (and other endeavors).

Michelle, my wife, and I are are each at our second go at marriage.  I’m glad we found each other, as is she. We were meant to have found one another, we most certainly were. We share a love and support of one another that was void from each of our first marriages.

My aim is not to turn this into a sappy love story (though I’m not ashamed to call it that), but to expound on the joy I find in playing as a result of the support she gives me to pursue my retirement dreams of playing guitar professionally. You see, this hadn’t always been my norm — neither the support or the joy.

I started playing guitar well before I met my first wife. I played day and night stealing licks from Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, and Buddy Guy, among others. I had gotten quite good, actually. It was very common for people to hear me playing and ask me who I was listening to. It was always fun to share that it was me who they heard playing.

This period of life, however, was short-lived.

While I won my ex-wife over (in part) with a serenade of a song on my acoustic guitar, her interest in my guitar playing endeavors was short-lived. She saw my guitar playing as a waste of time. She grew tired of me listening to the same songs over and over again in an effort to learn their riffs and licks. She saw my guitar playing as interfering with getting work done around the house, though it never interfered with any of the work I did (time management, interestingly, is something I take great pride in — it’s how I’m capable of achieving the many varieties of things I do). She complained about the noise, despite the fact I often played through headphones plugged into one of my practice amps behind the closed doors of the office that she wasn’t sitting in.

That was a lot of “shes”!

While there’s certainly more I can elaborate on in the context of my ex-wife’s lack of support of my playing, my aim is not to publicly bash her. My aim is merely to present the argument that pursuing one’s passion is challenging when those with whom you share a life don’t support your pursuit of said passion. As a result, my playing became sporadic at best. I completely lost the passion to play and developed the belief that I’d never be able to do anything with it. I started slowly selling off gear. I started preparing myself to move on from playing guitar ever again.

Last night as I was laying in bed reading, I rolled over toward Michelle and said, “Thank you.” She asked, “What for?”  I told her that I was thankful for her support and appreciation of me playing guitar.  Furthermore, I was appreciative of her support of me working to become a professional musician. She responded by saying, “That’s what we do for each other…we support one another.”

When Michelle and I met nearly three and a half years ago, we made a commitment to one another that we’d put each other and our collective relationship first so that we could be the best we could be for our families and friends. This notion was foreign to both of us in the contexts of our previous marriages. This commitment is paying huge dividends for a strong, united relationship in the context of our marriage, our relationships with our children, with family and friends, and in professional lives as educators. This commitment is paying huge dividends in the context of me pursuing my dream of becoming a professional guitar player.

I’ve found a passion for playing guitar again that I haven’t had since I first played some thirty years ago. I could argue that my impending (though still off in the distance) retirement has provided ample pressure to get my act together. While there’s certainly merit to be made for this argument, the freedom and flexibility I’m allowed to be me — to do me — in the context of my relationship with Michelle is more likely the root cause of this inspiration. I’m now allowed to pick up my guitar at any time, day or night and simply play when the inspiration strikes. I’m not condemned or belittled for it, but encouraged.

I never realized the degree(s) to which I could find inspiration and productivity in the context of being allowed to be me. It’s taken a lot of reflection and adaptation these past three and a half years, getting used to being “me” again, but it’s reflection and adaptation that is leading to better outcomes and better experiences.

It’s been a beautiful experience to play guitar again. It’s been beautiful experience to find me again.

What a profound realization!

Agenda for November 5, 2018

  • Warm-Ups/Technique
    • 1234, 4321
      • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
    • 1234, 2341, 3412, 4123
      • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
      • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up each string starting at high-E
    • 134, 341, 431
      • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
    • Finger Stretches
      • 12, 13, 14
        • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
        • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) legato up neck
  • Theory
    • Pentatonic Scales
      • Position 1 all twelve roots
        • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
      • Position 1 – 3 with legato and slides
        • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
      • Positions 1, 5, 4 (down neck) with legato and slides
        • 8th notes (60, 80, 90, 100, 120 bpm) alternate picking up neck
    • Various blues, rock, and jazz licks derived from pentatonic scales
      • Various scale positions up and down neck
        • 50%, 60%, 75%, 100%
        • practiced until perfected, then 10x each
    • 12-bar blues progressions in keys of A, E, B, D, G
      • Varying strumming patterns
      • 4/4 time at different 80 – 140 bpm
  • Repertoire
    • Everybody Hurts – REM
    • Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
    • Take It Easy – Eagles
    • Silent Lucidity – Queensryche
    • Tin Man – America
    • Horse With No Name – America
    • Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
    • 12-bar Blues Fingerpicking – Keys of A, E, G

Today’s Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 22 hours

Time Remaining: 9,978 hours

 

Days 9, 10, 11, 12 – Slowing Down to Go Fast

A long time ago, when I started playing, an instructor told me, “Use the metronome. Go slow! Start at 60 BPM and play 8th notes until you play them with clarity. Then jump 5 BPM per iteration until you can play at 200 BPM with no mistakes.” He told me this would take time. I tried this for about 3 days until I could no longer bear playing slowly. I didn’t feel like I was making progress and I felt like I played with more mistakes than I did when I played by feel. Furthermore, I found myself always tense.Guitar playing wasn’t fun, it was painful.

I felt like a failure despite the fact I could otherwise play the guitar decently. My instructor had convinced me that unless I’d learn to take my time, play with accuracy, and through this slow pace learn the neck (rather than memorize tablature), I’d be a solid guitar player.  Because I could play Silent Lucidity, Stairway to Heaven, Tears in Heaven and several other songs decently, I felt I was a solid guitar player already.  I, however, despite my best efforts, remained stuck.  I refused to do the things most instructors, books, and guitar players would tell you to do — study the guitar!

I didn’t know what study the guitar meant.

As far as I new, it meant slow down.  Slowing down is key to a lot of things, but I’ve come to learn that studying the guitar boils down to getting technique under my fingers and theory in my head so that I can get my hands to do what I want, when I want, and where I want.  I must admit that studying guitar, despite its espoused value, was not something I did well. I spent most of my time learning songs and noodling. There’s some value to this, yes, but because I wasn’t doing right things, I lacked the chops that would otherwise allow me to play the way I envisioned myself playing.

Progress these past two weeks has been better than expected. I’ve been committed to picking up the guitar every day.  With the exception of one day in the past two weeks, I’ve had guitar in hand every day — most days for an hour or more. What’s been crazy is the passion I’ve had for playing. In the past, I could easily walk by my guitar in favor of something else, with the understanding that I’d come back to it later.  Later seldom happened, however.

Not only am I picking up the guitar every day and spending time with it, I’ve become increasingly structured in my practice regimen. Every day I spend time working on technique, theory, and repertoire.  I work on them in this order.  I limit the material I play through each phase of practice so that I can work on it slowly and intently.  I’m very methodical about playing perfectly.  I aim to both pick and fret every note precisely; no buzzes, no missed notes, no muted strings.

This degree of attention has allowed me to become more relaxed.  As a result, I’m playing faster and more fluidly than I’ve ever played — in just two weeks. Because I’m paying close attention to learning the fretboard and the theory that underlies it, my fingers go where my mind and ears tell them to go.  This has never previously been my reality.  I’d always relied on the memorization of tabs over long hours of practice. Now, when my mind hears something, my fingers know how to follow.  I don’t have a seamless ability to do this yet, but the mere fact that I can hear things in my head and put them to work on the fretboard is a major accomplishment.

I can’t express to you how much I wish I had listened to my instructor(s) years ago. To dwell on this, however, would be fruitless and could, in the long run, be self-defeating. I’m simply enjoying the fact that I feel like I understand what I’m doing.  I feel like I know how to shape the path toward becoming a competent, performance-worthy guitar player.

10/30, 10/31, 11/1, 11/2, 11/3, and 11/4 Time: 8 hours

Total Time: 20 hours

Time Remaining: 9,980 hours

Days 5, 6, 7, 8 – Finding Time to Write and Overcoming Motivational Issues

Finding Time to Write
While it’s not been difficult to find time to play guitar, I have found it difficult to find time to write.   I spent this past weekend away from home.  While this didn’t present any hardships finding time to play (I took my Martin backpacker guitar with me), I found it difficult to write — no laptop, no internet connection.

In enjoy the writing.  While I’d venture to guess there’s not a large audience for somebody’s journaling of their guitar learning journey, I still find it cathartic (and necessary) to put my ruminations about the experience in print.  If nothing else, there’s a degree of accountability to myself (and the scant few who come across these pages) to practice (and get better at) playing guitar.

While I’ve not been putting words to print on a daily basis, I’ve been jotting notes along the way.  They keep fresh in my mind the things I’ve practiced and the lessons learned along the way.  What’s more, this journaling has given me a basis upon which to shape the text of this blog.

So, with all of this in mind (assuming anybody is reading these pages), I will make every attempt to write on a daily basis.  However, it’s probably much more realistic that I’ll be posting only several days a week — the bulk of the entries posted during the weekends.

Overcoming Motivational Issues
When I’m deeply passionate about something, I have great capacity to find joy in the process.  A by-product of finding this joy is a deep (and focused) commitment to practicing/learning.  What’s been odd about my guitar journey, however, is the disconnect between my joy of playing guitar and my desire to practice.

Why does any of this matter?  It doesn’t really, though for me it’s been defeating.  You see, my lack of desire to practice stems from a lack of motivation.  Motivation is both fleeting and unreliable.  My lack of motivation can be rooted to some degree in the following:

Practice, on most days, begins with drudgery.

  • Warm-ups suck
  • Dexterity exercises suck
  • Scale practice most often sucks
  • Metronomes suck

I love playing!  But, if I start with playing songs, I get discouraged because I’m not adequately warmed-up enough to appreciate my playing.

  • My hands cramp
  • I’m stiff
  • My tone sucks
  • I make errors in the fretting of notes and chords

What’s a person to do?  Well, I’ve done a few things.  Here’s what they are:

  • I’ve set goals — practice goals, weekly goals, 3-month, 6-month, and 9-month goals.  I measure and adjust accordingly.  I love reaching goals and establishing new ones.  This gives me a feeling of accomplishment.
  • I plan (within some degree of reason) each practice (another topic for another day).
  • Each practice item is a check mark – I’m motivated by check marks, even when I otherwise lack motivation.  Similar to goals, I love checking things off a list.  This gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  • Practicing songs is my reward – good, bad, or otherwise, I love making music.  As much as the preamble to practicing repertoire sucks, I persevere such that I can get to this part of my practice time.

I realize that the aforementioned may be perceived as nothing more than mind games, but they’re mind games that work — for me.

Getting started at guitar practice for me is akin to the days that I’d go on training runs in preparation for marathons and half-marathons.  I loved the marathons and half-marathons.  I, however, hated training runs — at least the first 2-3 miles.  You see, the first two to three miles of every training run were stiff and plodding, kind of like the first 15 – 30 minutes of guitar practice.  I, however, loved the endorphin high and the meditative state I’d achieve after the first few miles.

Now, I don’t get an endorphin high (not yet at least) while playing guitar.  I can, however, reach a meditative state after a while — a state in which things flow with seemingly effortless fluidity.  I get lost in songs.  Calculated movements become less calculated — fingers go where the music tells them to go, as opposed to where my mind had previously strained to direct them.  I feel both competent and confident about my playing when I achieve this state.

As a runner, I overcame the first 2 – 3 mile doldrums by affirming that I was soon to experience the meditative high I so enjoyed.  This often got me out the door in a timely manner and within 15 – 20 minutes of each run I was locked in.  The same self-talk is required of me in picking up the guitar to practice.  While picking up the guitar is not hard for me, picking up the guitar to practice is.  If I don’t pick up the guitar with intention, I know that I’ll soon be noodling on it rather than purposefully growing my chops.

So, prior to picking up the guitar, I run through the following:

  • What my goals for practice are
  • The order of events and how I’ll tackle them
  • The affirmation that after about half-hour to forty-five minutes I’ll be working on repertoire — the part of practice I so enjoy

Mind games?  Perhaps. But, for me, helpful.

Agenda for 10/25, 10/26, 10/27 and 10/28
With all of this talk about practice, I must confess, I didn’t get a chance to practice today (10/29).  I had meetings after school until after 7:00, completed my ballot (it’s election season) and completed the draft of this blog entry.

Nonetheless, I’ve been spending time prior to practice each day honing in on how I want to approach technical development.  The ins-and-outs of this process and its outcomes will be elaborated on in a future post, so I’ll not say too much about all of the exercises I’ve gone through over the past few days.

My repertoire hasn’t changed at this time, so I’ll not be addressing that either.  I have, however, been playing around with a couple of songs I played quite a number of years ago and have been thinking about adding them to my repertoire for no other reason than to broaden my scope and keep things interesting.  The songs?  Silent Lucidity by Queensryche and Tears In Heaven by Eric Clapton.

With that, here are my hours for the past few days:

10/25, 10/26, 10/27 and 10/28 Time: 6 Hours

Total Time: 12 hours

Time Remaining: 9,988 hours

Day 4

Well, got a couple of hours under my fingers tonight.  It was a good night.

I didn’t do anything really technical, nor was I very deliberate in my practice.  I simply practiced a lot of songs, over and over and over.

I did video record myself.  It’s an exceedingly awkward process.  The audio quality sucks and the video lags.

I’m using a Logitech HD 1080P camera of some sort to record the video and the audio. I’ll certainly have to figure out how to better capture video if I’m going to post any of my progress.  I don’t mind being scrutinized for the quality of my playing, but I don’t really feel like getting bashed for the quality of the audio and video.

As I stated above, recording yourself is an awkward process.  It’s not so much that I feel uncomfortable in front of the camera, but I’m distracted by both the camera and video playback as I record what I’m doing.  It’ll take some getting used to, but I’ll manage.  It’ll just take some time.

On another note, I realize why I miss playing guitar.  When I was playing guitar consistently for a period of time some years ago, I would experience these moments when I played that were meditative in nature.  I achieved a state of mindfulness, a state of being present in the current moment, tonight.  It’s an amazing feeling.  I’m sure other people have these experiences when they play.  They’re hard to quantify.  For me, the best way to describe what is going on at these moments is deep connectedness and presence.  There’s an insane clarity and comfort that is achieved.

Anyway…tonight was fun.  I blasted through quite a few songs tonight.  Here’s what I played:

Agenda for October 25, 2018

  • Everybody Hurts – REM
  • Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
  • Take It Easy – Eagles
  • Blackbird – The Beatles
  • Tin Man – America
  • Horse With No Name – America
  • Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen

Today’s Time: 2+ hours

Total Time: 6 hours

Time Remaining: 9,994 hours

Day 3.5

Not really half a day, but I kinda practiced last night and fully practiced tonight.

Last night, I had a FaceTime conversation with my daughter, who’s away at college.  It was great to talk to her, but after a long day of work the FaceTime conversation distracted me from playing guitar.  Sitting here at my desk, however, it was hard to keep my hands off the guitar while we talked.  I didn’t do anything deliberate; mostly noodling.

I found the distraction of talking while noodling on the guitar a rather interesting experience.  Rather than moving up and down the neck with a focused attention, my hands were moving up and down the neck with a sense of freedom.  There was an ease and comfort I felt, having freed my mind from the fretboard and letting my fingers work. Now, to be fair to anyone who reads these posts, I can’t admit that anything I was doing was too musical.

Despite any real musicality, I was playing the varieties of chords and chord progressions with a great deal of accuracy.  In addition, I was playing through my scale patterns (using a lot of legato and slides to accentuate my practice) with a great deal of fluidity.  Needless to say, it was fun.

The conversation with my daughter, while a distraction from deliberate, mindful practice sparked inspiration.  As I chatted with her, the guitar rang in the background. She hasn’t heard me play guitar in six or seven years.  She asked me, “Are you playing guitar again?”  I told her, “Yeah, I just picked it up again this past weekend.” She responded with an emphatic, “Yay, I’m happy for you!”

I was surprised by her happy, supportive response.  She knows, however, how much I’ve loved guitar but how elusive playing has been for me.  Nonetheless, her emphatic response further spurred my resolve to grind on.

I added a couple of songs to my repertoire today: Tin Man and Horse With No Name, both by America.  The chord progressions themselves aren’t difficult.  The strumming patterns, however, are a bit wonky.  I’ve never been much for trying to implement strict strumming patterns per the artist’s original implementation, but play by feel.  I’ve decided, however, that as I learn guitar this time around, I want to play each song with some sense of authenticity…realism.

I’d like to get the six songs I’ve been practicing locked down over the next month or so. In doing so, I’d like to move on to some more challenging material. But, what I’d really like to do is perform these songs somewhere, with someone else on vocals.

Anyway…here’s what practice looked like today.

Agenda for October 24, 2018

  • Alternate picking exercise
    • E harmonic minor scale on the open E string
    • 16th notes (60, 70, 80, 100 bpm)
  • String skipping exercise
    • Skipping strings through the 6th root minor pentatonic shape
    • 8th notes, (80, 90, 100, 112 bpm)
    • C root, G root, D root, A root, E root, B root
  • Legato exercise
    • Hammer-ons through the 6th root minor pentatonic shape
    • 8th notes, (80, 90, 100, 112 bpm)
    • C root, G root, D root, A root, E root, B root
  • Song Practice
    • Everybody Hurts – REM
    • Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
    • Horse With No Name – America
    • Tin Man – America

Today’s Time: 2 hour

Total Time: 4 hours

Time Remaining: 9,996 hours