Learning To Play The Guitar – 7 Months After

12 bars blues

Exactly 7 months ago, I started to learn to play the guitar. I had no previous experience whatsoever, not in musical theory, not in playing another instrument, nada. It all started like a way to counter-balance the effects of the lockdowns, and I’m happy and grateful I found this way to go through it.

What follows is my monthly update about the overall progress in this area.

Practice Time

I was able to practice just about one hour every day, split into the practice chunks below, a little bit over one hour at times. It was a relatively agitated month, with upsides and downsides, but discipline pays off.

Practice Bits

I kept the same practice structure: in the first part of the day scales, at noon technique and during evenings I try to learn new songs. There is a new song that I started to learn this month, the longest one so far. After Spanish Romance, the one that I played for my 6th month anniversary, this will be the longest piece I am able to sing (well, so far I’m practicing, not there yet). I learned it completely, but being able to actually play it, well, that’s another thing. It’s not only longer, but it has some difficult technical challenges as well.

I practiced significantly more on the acoustic guitar this month, as you can see from the video.

Gear And Paraphernalia

Not much to report on this front, all static, I’m getting very comfortable with the setup I have for recording. I also played a lot more on the electric guitar amp this month, which was a nice change.

Overall Status

It was a very good month. Like I said, quite a few changes in my “other” life, the one outside the guitar practice, with the lockdown being eased, a few extra events in my personal and professional life, but somehow the practice remained stable. I do have the feeling that I could have practiced more, but on the other side I feel already very comfortable.

I am over the feeling of being a noob – although I’m very well aware that I’m still a noob – and that gives me a lot more confidence to tackle new songs and to learn new techniques or styles. That’s precisely what I did this month, I went from classical to blues, from nylon to steel. And, with that, we segue into a bit of an explanation for this month rendition.

12 Bars Blues

I borrowed the song above from a YouTube guitarist, Marco Cirillo. I needed something easy enough to play, but with enough challenges to push me forward. You will notice the tempo is a bit slower than you would expect, and that’s on purpose. I had to choose between a faster tempo, and a more accurate playing, and I chose accuracy. In time, speed will adjust.

Anyway, although this piece is way shorter than the last one I played, for my last update, it presents a few challenges. For starters, it’s my first encounter with the blues structure, specifically the “12 bars blues” chord progression. I had a lot of fun learning how blues is actually “built”, how can you improvise on it and what notes and chords are “going great together”.

Also, I had to introduce a few new techniques, that I never used before, here they are:

  • palm muting – there is one tempo which is “muted”, and in that tempo I’m using a type of “deaf strumming” or palm muting, to create a bit of percussion, or rhythm
  • sliding – there’s a lot of sliding in this tiny little piece, at least one slide per each group of 4 bars, and I loved to practice it. I observed that some fingers are way better than others for that. My index, for instance, is not very good at that, so I changed in a few places the index with the middle finger, although it felt cumbersome, but it just sounded better with more finger surface on the string
  • hammer-ons – when I started to learn the guitar hammer-ons seemed so difficult (and pull offs as well). But hey, all you need is a bit of practice and, eventually, it will work. There are 2 hammer-ons in this short piece, both adding a very nice, touchy feeling to the already wet bluesy atmosphere

All in all, good progress. I really look forward to the next update. I hope I will be able to play that long song I learned, but we’ll see.

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