Learning To Play The Guitar – 5 Months Later

Every Breath You Take - Sting, acoustic cover

For what is worth, I’m not particularly proud of this performance. On the contrary, I can think of at least 2,306 reasons it sucks. Yet, I decided to own it, make it public and stick to my monthly updates. Hopefully, there will come a time when I will look back to this and admire my current self for the courage to be ridiculous.

Anyway, here’s a more general update for where I am after 5 months into starting to learn to play the guitar and then, after that, a short description of the technicalities for this Every Breath You Take cover.

Practice Time

I was steadily on course with an average of 1 hour and fifteen minutes every day. I kept the same schedule: 10-30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at noon and then 15-45 minutes in the evening, depending on how I felt. I think it’s worth noting that I did my evening practice even when I had social engagements, the kind that end up pretty late. I am patting myself on the back for this.

Practice Bits

I split my practice into 3 major areas: scales, focused technique and learning new songs.

Scales I usually do in the morning. I can find my way around 6 scales right now, but other than educating my ear and building some muscle memory, I don’t see much usage for it. Yet, it’s a still good warmup practice, hence, good for starting the morning.

At noon I practice on areas that I want to improve, like specific parts from some songs, focusing on the things that I’m not good at, especially at changing chords, harmony or just being able to play legato.

During evenings I introduce new songs and I try to tackle longer and more complex pieces. I usually split them into 2-3 bars and repeat until that portion is relatively well, then try to glue these splits into bigger pieces. There are 2-3 songs like that, bigger and more complex, that I practice simultaneously right now, hopefully next month I will be able to play one of them decently.

Gear and Paraphernalia

Last month was a static one in terms of new gear, nothing happened. The only thing that I did differently (and I don’t even know if it counts) was to experiment some muting strategies, specifically for the piece I wanted to play this month, and ended up with using a carefully cut sponge at the top of the chords. It’s the green thing you can see in the video above when I play the accompaniment.

I also used for the first time a USB interface, connected at the acoustic amp, which means this video was recorded on my Mac, not with an iPhone (like the last one). Still experimenting and learning big time here.

Overall Status

It was a rather strange month: although, in my daily practice, I don’t feel I’m making progress at all, as I look back at some of the things I was struggling with just 2-3 months ago, I realize I’m comfortable doing them now. One of these things is how I play barre chords. I remember how frustrated I was in the first 2-3 months because I simply couldn’t nail a single barre chord and now I surprised myself doing a crystal clear F major almost without any effort. Still struggling with chord changes between barre chords, but at least they are now sounding decent.

I also feel a bit more confident and I can experiment with more complex things (chord shapes, chord changes or songs) without thinking too much, just diving in and seeing what happens.

Every Breath You Take Cover

For this month I decided to play this guitar duo, specifically because it involved two parts: accompaniment and melody. I practiced it about 3-4 weeks in total. First, I learned the melody, which was pretty simple, then I struggled quite a lot with the accompaniment. The finger picking patterns are relatively complex (now I think they are simple, but in the beginning I didn’t) and I find it difficult to play it musically (as you can see in the video). I’m also not quite sure I nailed the entry for the melody (rhythmically speaking) when I edited the video, but it is what it is.

The accompaniment is played with a capo on the first fret and the chords are muted. Can’t mute them yet with my palm, so I used that sponge trick I was talking about earlier. The melody is played on the G string, and, unfortunately, my G string sounds like shit. After a bit of research I found out that, especially in classical guitars, the G string is very often sounding dull. I bought a new set of carbon chords and I intend to restring the classical guitar for the next month song. The reason I didn’t do it so far is that the nylon strings I got when I bought it are quite high quality, Savarez, and I didn’t want to mess up with them. But after 3-4 months of playing 2 hours per day they will naturally reach a point where they need to be replaced.

The recording was done using an acoustic amplifier, and then a USB interface (Focusrite Scarlett 2i2) plugged into my Mac. I just grabbed the videos using OBS and then assembled them in iMovie, without doing anything to the soundtrack. I used the amp just to add a bit of chorus to the accompaniment, precisely because I didn’t want to process the soundtrack at all on the computer.

All in all, if I leave apart the quality of this rendition, last month was a good one. I feel like I made some solid progress (albeit not very visible) and that the main reason for which I started to do this – harmonizing my emotions with my rational part – is still valid and the practice is producing the expected results.

In simpler words, I feel so damn fine when I play.

P.S. The badass-looking, but annoying, bandage on my left wrist is because I managed to scratch my palms really bad after a fall in the park, during one of my runs. This tiny accident also forced me to skip a day of practice, because the discomfort, but then I got back on track. Now it’s almost cured, just didn’t want to touch the neck of the guitar with the tender part – hence, the bandage.

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