Learning To Play The Guitar – 6 Months After

Spanish Romance

This is a major milestone for my guitar journey. When I started, exactly 6 months ago, on August 23rd 2020, I promised myself I will be able to play Spanish Romance in 6 months. I had no previous experience with the instrument (barely knew how to hold it), and no musical experience whatsoever. I was a complete and total beginner. And Spanish Romance is not a very easy song, on the contrary.

So, after 6 months, I’m happy to report that I am actually able to play Spanish Romance. It’s far from perfect, and I will tell you all the problems that I still have with it in a paragraph below, but the main goal was achieved. This in itself gives me a lot of confidence to push forward, not to mention the satisfaction and the good feelings I get just by being able to produce harmony. Now, let’s see the update details.

Practice Time

I kept it steady at more than one hour and 15 minutes every day, so this area is functioning ok. I’m on a slightly changed schedule, meaning sometimes I skipped the morning practice, because logistics. We’re still in a de facto lockdown in Valencia, which means I had to stick with my morning rituals, which are including a daily morning walk just to get my coffee. This walk alone adds up 10-15 minutes, which sometimes I simply don’t have available, because I’m oversleeping or have work related commitments. But I usually more than make up for that part in the afternoon and evening sessions.

Practice Bits

I keep the same structure: in the first part of the day I practice scales, at noon technique and during evenings I try to learn new songs. A minor change here too: I focused a lot on practicing just Spanish Romance, and only learned just one other song (another Sting cover which I hope I’ll be able to play in about a month). But now that the goal was achieved, I can move forward and add more new songs in the evening practice.

I also practiced a bit more on the acoustic (steel) guitar as well, where I introduced a few more chords and chord progressions. Still not confident enough to pair my voice with the guitar, but this might be one for the following month. I will most likely choose a song on the acoustic guitar, not on the classical one.

Gear And Paraphernalia

Not much to report on this front, all static, didn’t buy anything new, so I’m using the same setup. The good news is that I’m starting to get the gist of both the acoustic amp and the USB interface. The bottleneck now seems to be the laptop, which simply can’t record quality video at higher sampling rates. Although the USB interface, a Focusrite 2i2, can sample up to 180khz, I have to stick to much lower levels, like 48khz. In real life this limitation is not even perceptible, but higher sampling rates are adding more depth and crisper details to the sound.

Overall Status

This month was clearly a good one, I had this feeling many times during practice. Like I wrote in the previous update, sometimes I practice without thinking I’m making any progress (while I obviously make consistent progress), but this month I had a clear perception of improvement.

I don’t know if this translates yet in the way that I’m playing (see below the flaws for this rendition of Spanish Romance), but I’m feeling more comfortable, more at ease. There were days in which I actually played, like I actually communicated with the instrument with the goal of making music, and not just moving my fingers and hand along the fretboard. It’s a very, very nice feeling.

Spanish Romance

This song is by far one of my all time favorites and I really wanted to be able to play it. I first learned the first part, which only has one difficult barre chord, and then moved to the second one, which consists almost entirely on barre chords.

Obviously, I started to learn the song way before this month, probably in the second month of my journey, so it’s safe to say I practiced it for at least 4 months. It’s funny how difficult the only barre chord of the first part seemed back then. I still remember the frustration of the first few weeks – because I think it took me a few weeks, if not a good couple of months, to make that barre chord sound reasonably well. It’s funny now, because, in comparison, the barre chords of the second part are way, way more difficult.

In the rendition that you’ll see above there are a few major flaws:

  • the tempo is uneven overall, and really choppy in the middle section
  • I wronged a couple of notes and missed (or didn’t play loud enough) a few others
  • the base section, which has to be played every 3 notes on the upper E string, is almost non existent

But, in the grand scheme of things, I find these flaws acceptable for my current level. I will keep playing this song just because I like it so much, and, just because the pressure of the “6 months deadline” is off, I will most likely be able to add the missing parts and improve the ones that I’m still doing wrong.

All in all, good progress. I really look forward to the next update.

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