Thursday, December 31, 2009

Back to Electric!

I yesterday had finally a chance again to grab my own guitar and see how my progress was there. I logged into the website again, grabbing my guitar with a good mug of hot tea, as the winter has attacked in full fury here with snow showers and give it a go.

Playing the electric guitar is a bit easier, I quickly found, as the neck is much less broad, which is why I have a more stable grib and better and wider reach then on the semi-acoustic guitar I practised with in the past days. However, on the semi-acoustic guitar, the chords sounds somehow more natural? Let It Be actually sounds like the original there, while on the electric, thru the overdrive, it sounds much different. Maybe I need to save for a semi-acoustic model as well?

I guess it is more critical on the electric then to play it really correctly and in the right pace to make it sound like the original. Anyway, I moved on with the Internet Course, checking already again Class 5 of Master Ben...L took off where I left it the last time (around half-way), after the major scales. However, the video stopped at 8.42 three times in a row, so I missed the last 3.5 minutes and a new chord (D-major), I think, as he refers to this in the next class (number 6), which I also checked. This class number 6 works fine again, so it is not really a problem for me anyway.

He keeps the pace quite high, which works really good for me, when explaining the next 2 chords. E-major and A-major that are, truly rock-chords, with a great, gutty sounds when played on the electric guitar. Learning the chords goes easier now, even though I prefer to learn them as part of a song.

I also had a chance to look at some of the other teachers on the website; I noticed quite some different approaches. There is Master Gene, who teachers hammer-on technique. I had the idea that this is more for advanced guitarist and I need some more practise before I will jump to his classes.

Paul Alves also has his classes there and his are very good also. He explains very clear, is obviously an experienced teacher, and he knows how he should convey information in a clear-cut way, starting with the basics of basics, which is just what I need as a new guitarist. I will surely look more into his classes!

Then there is Master Dave, who teaches fabulous blues chords. I watched him explaining and demonstrating the 12-chords Blues rhythm and he sure knows how to explain it and motivate students. Also here I will look more often, as this blues does not seem too hard to learn, while giving really a wonderful, deep and inspiring sound.

The other two teachers (Chris-classical and Lorenzo-Bass guitar) I did not look at yet. They teach disciplines which are not my primary interest, but maybe I will check it out in the future. Surely I can pick a useful thing or two up there!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

X-mas Guitar Playing

As promised, so more input on my playing and practising during the past X-mas. I managed to grab the guitar there for at least 30 minutes a day. This was really good, I had a good chance to further improve on the song (Let It Be), which already goes pretty smooth by now. Also, I developed some thicker skin on my left hand fingers, which is very useful!

On the first day, I managed to go on the Internet and write down the chords of some 4 popular songs that I like (the 2 Johnny Cash songs from my previous post and Lady jane from the Rolling Stones). I picked those because I like them and would love to learn how to play the and they seemed not too complicated. I ended up playing mostly the

The scales I did not practise so much actually, as I focused on learning the new songs. It was a really good practise and for sure next time I have a chance (later this week) I will grab my own guitar to see how I will be faring then. Obviously, I feel confident now that I can move on to the next class. I will still need to improve the scales, but I am getting different chords and songs into my head much quicker now.

Also, changing between the different chords goes faster and faster now, but I still want to improve on this. I will need to for sure, will I want to play better and make the songs sound more real!

Anyway, I realise now that the Internet courses have helped me so much, because they have explained me very quickly and efficiently exactly what is important when learning to play the guitar and also realistically what I should expect. So far, all this came true and I hope I can keep up this pace of learning in the coming days!

New updates

I have been able to play a bit every day eround the X-mas period, using the semi-acoustic guitar I wrote about before. I needed to get used to this different instrument at first, but quickly started to like it. It has a warm deep sound and is easy to play.

I decided to start playing some different chords from new songs, as I do not have constant Internet-assess here. So bascially I did not have a chance to log into the guitar online course, but I practised Let It be, which goes pretty smooth now. Also, I learned Ring of Fire and Hurt (both by Johnny Cash), both simple songs to play.

I will post more about my progress later today, as we are packing now and will be heading home!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tired practise today.

I felt a bit tired today, after a short night of sleep. However, I wanted to keep up my rhythm of regular practise, so I started practising tonight again. This time, I did not even use the video help - in the last video's, I got enough material to practise. This is one of the advantages of this video course: getting a lot of useful information in a efficient way. Every time around, I can just pick up my guitar, switch on the amplifier and give it a go. If I need to get back to the basic explanation, or some example, the video's are there all the time to help me out, should I need them.

I started with the song (Let It Be), which goes better and better now. I found out that actually only for the 2nd chord, I need to look what my right hand is doing, as the other 3 chords uses all the strings. The 2nd chord typically only the first 4 strings are used. This makes it a bit quicker. Also, I practise now at improving not looking at my right hand, but rather trying to "feel" which string I am at with this hand, so that I can focus on my left hand. This way, I can play quicker.

After playing the song for some time, I needed some variation and started practising the scales (Master Ben gave 2 in his video, which are pretty similar). After the chords, the scales seem pretty easy, because it is mostly one finger at the time. Unlike the chords, where 3 left hand fingers need to be in the right position simultaneously. I master both of them, playing them up and later also down, in around 15-20 minutes. Then went back to practising the song, and later once more the scales.

Had quite some fun with this; after some hard times in the beginning, when playing the chords together don't really give the effect of a real song, now it gets more and more gratifying to get some 'real' sounds from my guitar. Also, it gets a bit easier to understand now. I think regular practise is really key here.

The coming days I think I will not have so much chance to play guitar, unfortunately, as I am going away for X-mas. But maybe I will get a chance to grab my girlfriends younger brother acoustic guitar when visiting them and see how the chords sound on that!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New practise

I just had my next practise. I started off with practising "Let It Be", which, supported the energy provided by a cup of good hot chocolate and lemoncake, went gradually better again than last time. That means, I can play it quicker, do not need to think for seconds on end which finger to move exactly where, but I actually slowly reach the stage it is becoming more automatic.

It even starts to sound a bit like the real song at times, which gives a really good feeling. Now, I was curious about the next video, and after practising for some more minutes, I started to watch it. This one (the 3th) is a bit longer (around 12 minutes) and is about the scales, as well as about different way of playing ("stachato" or the "hammering"-technique). I decided to split the practise for this in 2 parts: firstly I will practise the scale in G, after that I will continue with the techniques, also because these techniques are a bit more advanced and will need some more attention.

Master Ben provides 2 scales in G, he explains what are the differences and why they are important. Also good is that he tells how he uses them, eg. when he warms up in the morning, this is a very good excercise. Good to know that it serves a clear goal, that is what I like. Apart from that, the video is again clear, fast explanation - this time I had to pause it a few times to jot down the finger/string/fret combinations. So the tempo is really energizing and the example that Ben provides are really helpful and useful: I know what it has to sound like, so this is my goal, and I can compare it at all times. Just have to go back to the right point in the video and play it!

Now I feel like I can already move on to this level confidently, it is very good to have the feeling to understand a bit more about the different names and what they are basically for. Let alone understanding how to use them, so very useful and instructive video, I can recommend this!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New steps on the way to Guitar Mastery!

I took my next guitar class on Tuesday and really had a blast. I started trying not using the video's too much and practising "Let it Be" by myself, improving my pace. I practised like this for some 15 minutes, which was really fun. After this, I stopped for a few minutes, since my fingers started to hurt a bit more.

Really need to have a firm claw grip with my left hand and press the strings down strongly, so this needs to get some serious training to develop the thicker skin on my finger tops.

After taking a cup of refreshing tea, while watching the video, I came back to the practise and after some 20-30 minutes it even started to sound like the real song. Even though I am not really close yet to Master Ben's version, because I need too much time still thinking were to put my fingers for the next move/chord. But slowly this is improving and the good thing about this course is that I can pick it up or stop at any time it suits me.

No need to pack my guitar stuff, go anywhere (in particular now, winter has started finally off here with some serious snow), setting up appointments or depending on other people's schedules, which really helps. Especially since I am quite busy during the day (work, sports) and mostly have time to practise only late in the evening, around 10PM. The downside, honestly speaking, is that I do not get to know new people in my area that could give advise on guitar-related things, like which shop is good for strings, supplies and so on. So I guess I just need to find this out in other ways then, which is also fine!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

3rd session today!

After a break of a few days, because I did not have time to practice, it was time celebrate the start of the winter-season here with my 3rd guitar lesson. I started with reviewing again and repeating the 3 chords that I had learned before. I did not remember them fully, and tried to play them on top of my head for starters, but as got 10-15 minutes practice, everything came back again. But then I found out, that I got one of the chords wrong, when I checked my notes, so I corrected this. Then I could continue on full speed and try to increase my pace of playing. Also, I had a look a few times at how the chords were played in the video to get some more inspiration.

Once I was satisfied about this (it was not really fluent yet, but I felt ready for learning something new in the next lesson), I moved on to lesson nr. 3. In this lesson, the next 3 chords were explained, 3 minor chords in this case. There was a very short, to-the-point theoretical explanation about the difference in usage of open, regular and minor chords and then we were off to the next 3: E-minor, A-minor, D-minor. After learning the first 3 last week, these seem pretty simple. I think it is a matter to get a certain mindset, to recognize the structures how these chords are set up, because once I started practicing them, I mastered them pretty quickly.

The 3rd video is again around 7 minutes, starting with a very short revision of what was in the previous class and also some indication of how my level of playing should be by now. This is good, because it can prevent frustration if I move on to the next level too quickly and find out I am not ready yet.

Then there is the short theoretical basis-part, followed by the chords with hints on the pitfalls .very nice: at the end of the video, Master Ben explains how to play the first song (“Let It Be”), which can be done by using 4 of the 6 chords that he explained so far. When he plays these chords, it sounds really good and smooth – the real song. When I try to do this, it is still too slow, I need to look and think all the time where to put my fingers and how to move them next. Need to practise!

Another thing I liked, is his straight and honest way of teaching; he explains that there are many tricks to learn something quick on the guitar, but the best way is to learn through practicing the chords, then the songs. It comes down to just sitting down with the instrument and practicing, repeating, improving all the time. It is a real training, but very efficient, clean and fun also. A week ago, I could not have imagined that I would have these 6 chords already and that I am ready and practicing my first song. Especially if I consider that I really did not put in so much time as I was afraid I would need to achieve this level – up to now 3 hours, with today as the longest session (1 hour).

So I will try to practice some more tonight – I think in general it will be better to train some shorter periods several times a week then 1 long session 1 or 2 times per week. Seeing these results, it is very motivating to make time free for this!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Second Session

After a busy Monday, I finally had time yesterday to get my 2nd guitar session going. I was really curious to see how my progress would be. I realized that it would be impossible for me to move on to the next class, since Master Ben already explained that I FIRST need to master the 3 chords from the 2nd class: G-, D-, and C-chord, before taking it to the next level.

Surprisingly, I still remembered the chords a bit. Not sure if it was the short but clear explanation or that it finally sunk in somehow. My idea was to first practise all the chords one by one, trying to remember them by head before moving on to the next one. I decided to write them down myself schematically; somehow writing helps me to remember things, in this case: which finger goes where and which strings I should use exactly when.

At first, it was a bit hard, moving my fingers along the instrument in the right position without disturbing the other strings, and then it was very useful to have the video's available and to be able to play and repeat the parts where e.g. the chords are explained. The tempo in the video is quite high, as Master Ben is an experienced teacher, so for the harder parts it helps to be able to pause the video at these crucial points.

After the first two chords, which took a bit longer to remember, the third one went surprisingly quick. I would say that after half an hour I remembered them all and could play them consecutively, WITHOUT using my notes! This is motivating, it gives me really the feeling that I learned something and I will not forget it quickly, so I felt quite happy to book this progress.

I took a break after the first half hour, because I needed to pick up my girlfriend, and resumed practising after 1 hours or so when I go back for another 30 minutes. Now, it went even better: I could again play all 3 chords, and I really did not need my noted anymore. Instead, I focused on playing the chords "clean" and techincally correct, while trying to increase my speed bit by bit.

I must admit that it is really fun learning to play the guitar like this: to book some quick progress, being able to practise whenever I want at the pace that I prefer and OK: I still will need to do the dirty hard work of memorizing the different combinations, struggling to get my fingers right, but so far it is going well and quicker than I hoped!

My next goal is to increase the speed, making the chords something I can play automatic, without having to think too much when to do what and then of course move on to the 3rd lesson. Time to practise!

Monday, December 7, 2009

First class!

Yesterday I took my first class in guitar playing via the dedicated website Guitar Super Stars. I must admit that at first I was somehow a bit skeptical about the idea of learning to play the guitar online. I had the idea that I would prefer to have the classes face-to-face with a teacher, someone who can correct your mistakes at the spot.

I was also excited and very curious what I would encounter on the website, the e-mail I received from Andy (the founder of the website) after registering surely looked promising and very professional.

So, after logging in, I was brought to a webpage, which functions basically as a database: I have access to video classes of different professional guitar teachers. Each one of them teaches in a different way and aims for different styles and genres of playing (from rock and blues to classical). I chose to go for the first class with Ben Philips, since he is specialized in the styles I am mostly interested in learning: Rock and Blues. His profile page explains his discography, what his experience is in teaching, where he is from, and so on.

The website works flawlessly, the video started and "Master Ben" explains in a 6-minute video in a very smooth and clear way the basics of the guitar: the names of the strings, the fingers and some useful tips for holding the instrument and what to focus on in the beginning. Very useful things for me; I have looked at guitar tabs before, but never could make much out of it and quickly gave up trying to understand. In 6 minutes, this experienced teacher explains very simply how things work in the wonderful world of guitar-playing...oh yes, don't forget that it will take you hours and hours to learn!

Of course, after this, I could not wait to get to try playing, and moved on to his second class. Here her explains how to hold the strings down when practising 3 basic chords. This video once more is around 6-7 minutes and after playing each chord individually, Ben shows how to play the first melody, used in many rock songs (eg. Knockin' on Heaven's Door)...after some practise, this can be done just following his first 2 classes. I find his teaching style relaxed, and challenging, because he quickly moves through the chords, so I need to follow quite concentrated what he is saying. For me it worked best to write down the finger/strings combinations he recommends for playing the chords and then master them , before moving on to the next chord or attempting to play them in a row.

Also, I am trying to find on the website if there is an archive of tabs or chords in written form, but I have been unable to locate this so far. I like to have a look now if, after Ben's explanation, tabs look a bit more logical and understandable to me!

Concluding, it was an interesting experience for my first class, it worked better and more clear than I expected. Also because Ben in his video's already points out what the most frequently made mistakes are when playing (and yes, he was right, I made these mistakes also!) these excercises by beginners. Now, I want to move on to the next level, so I will practise again today!