Category Archives: EC&I831 Learning Project

Week 4 – Learning Project

16/365 Guitar“16/365 Guitar” by matthewgriff (EmmGee) is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Resources:

  • In my face-to-face lessons this week, I received a few new things to work on. First, I worked on some rhythm counting in a few different strumming patterns using eighth notes, quarter notes, and whole notes. This allowed for some diversity rather than basic up-down strumming on repeat. More to come on this in the following weeks. My instructor also gave me two new songs to work on, “Baby It’s You” by the Beatles, and “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys. In the Beach Boys song, I had to learn about using a capo which is a tool that is placed on the neck of the guitar to shorten the pitch of the strings allowing the musician to play in a different key while using the same chord fingering as they would without the capo. For example, “Sloop John B” is written in A minor but I don’t know all of the A minor chords yet so using the capo allowed me to play the song in the key of G major of which I know the chords. My instructor said that many musicians use a capo in order to play more difficult songs using easier chords. I didn’t include this in my vlog post because I got my capo late in the week so I will include it in the next update.
  • A few weeks ago, my classmate Brad suggested some resources for me to use including allowing me access to his Google Classroom for teaching high school level guitar. I worked through some of the warm up songs and instructional videos in his beginner module.
  • Udemy – This week I worked on a lesson called Staccato vs. Legato Technique which is important for my playing of “Baby It’s You” by the Beatle which includes both staccato (short, sharp) and legato (smooth) notes. I also continued to work on the dexterity exercises from last week using the legato technique.
  • I worked on the next lesson on Marty Music’s Youtube channel: Beginner Acoustic Guitar Lesson 2 – The A Major Chord. In this lesson, he combines Eminor (from lesson one) and the A chord and encourages chord switching with a variety of strumming patterns and rhythms. Further, he encourages using the Asus2 chord (from lesson one) to embellish your improvisation with Eminor and A chords. Marty says that there are 5 basic chords to learn in the beginning and “they make up over a million songs and a lot of them are the biggest hits you’ve ever heard”. This is encouraging and also daunting! My classmate Matteo, a guitar player and teacher, commented that guitar is an easy instrument to learn but a difficult instrument to master.
  • In Yousician this week I worked on completing Level 2 of each section: Lead, Knowledge and Rhythm which nicely compliment the lessons I am doing face-to-face, on Google classroom, Udemy and Marty Music. I was able to move on to some Level 3 work. Now, when I got back to perfect songs from Level 1, they seem so easy!

Successes this week:

  • I improvised/played the music for my vlog intro/transitions! I didn’t need to use royalty free music this week because I simply created my own!
  • Yousician is really sticky with playing chords correctly and last week I felt stuck because no matter how much I slowed down the tempo of the songs, I was struggling to play all of the chords correctly or enough so I felt successful. One of the downsides with Yousician is that it cannot see your form but only listen to the notes you play and therefore cannot provide correction. So even though it told me I was playing the note or chord incorrectly, it couldn’t help me improve which is where the other resources, particularly the Udemy course came in really handy. This week, I felt a lot more confident in making chords and having less muted notes due to my thumb/finger positioning. I was able to progress further in Yousician because I improved in making the chords correctly.
  • I am improving with chord switching and strumming but this continues to be a work in progress!
  • Feels great to be able to play along with some of the songs at their intended tempo.
  • I was able to use some new features in iMovie this week but there are some things it cannot do that I’ve been wanting to add to my updates so I might need to look at a more advanced video editor if possible.

Challenges this week:

  • Working on smoothing other transitions between chords but there has been a big improvement since week one and week two.
  • Working on speeding up the tempo in the songs I play.
  • Although I have improved in making chords, I still struggle at times, as is expected. Especially when switching to C and D chords. These seem to be the toughest for me!

 

Weekly Vlog Update: 

Week 3 (Part 1) – Learning Project – Exploring New Resources

Continuing with the Old...

Face-to-Face Lesson at Music in the House

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  • This week my face-to-face guitar instructor introduced up-down strumming to my practice. These are supposed to be natural feeling but so far I have felt awkward doing them. He asked me to work on strumming down the whole chord but only strumming up the first three or four strings.
  • He also gave me chords to practice two different songs, “Stand by Me” by Tracy Chapman and “Helpless” by Neil Young as these songs chords which I’ve learned in previous weeks.
  • Our lesson is only 30 minutes long so by the time we review the homework from the previous week and do a few run-throughs of the coming week’s practice, it’s time to pack up and go!

Yousician

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  • I’ve been working on reaching level two in all three of the sections: Lead, Knowledge and Rhythm. I hoped to be moving on but I was feeling some frustration in the Rhythm section where I was working on chords and continuing to have difficulty playing the chords without hitting a mute or dead note.
Starting with Something New...

Marty Music

“The real key is not natural music ability, its the desire”

  • Marty Music

This week I started using some new resources. The first resource was instructional acoustic guitar videos from Marty Music. I began working on his Beginner Lesson Videos Playlist with my first video being the one below, Your Very First Guitar Lesson – Eminor and A sus2. He starts out with an encouraging message. He says that it is important not to give up until you get over the first hump of guitar playing which he quantifies as the first two months. In those first two months, he recommends giving yourself 5 minutes a day and not deciding that it’s too hard. He proposes that your 5 minutes of practice can often become 20 minutes or an hour if you have a breakthrough in your skills.

A lot of this was review since from the beginner lessons I have taken on Yousician and Udemy. However, I learned a few new things from Marty in this video to apply to my practice:

  1. Marty describes strumming as painting on the strings. I have taken many art classes and so this painting stroke is something that feels natural to me. I am going to work on the “painting stroke” to help me with my strumming this coming week.
  2. In his first lesson, he teaches two chords: Eminor and Asus2. I already know the Em chord but Asus2 was new to me. The end of the lesson was Marty instructing to practice the Em chord and Asus2 chord in a variety of combinations using strumming prior to watching the next lesson. See my weekly update for beginning progress on this.

Udemy

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The second resource I used was a Udemy course – Complete Guitar System – Beginner to Advanced which was recommended to me by my classmate Brad Raes who is also working on a guitar learning project however he is much further advanced than I. He offered to meet up with me in our Zoom room two weeks ago to offer some resources and advice.

The Udemy course is taught by Erich Andreas. This particular course has been taken by 123,298 students with a total of 34.5 hours of instruction separated into 47 sections. Each module is then broken down into a series of lessons and each lesson has an attached PDF(s) that reviews the content of the lesson, provides music to play along to, background information and other important tips. The beginning modules and lessons included a lot of listening time (95 minutes to be exact), which included lessons to set yourself up for success and several lessons on musical theory, prior to any playing.

This week I worked on the following modules/lessons and have included some of the highlights:

Section 2: Beginner – THE CORE – Module 1

Lesson: Definitions You’ll Need to Know

  • half and whole steps, sharp (raise a note a half step), flat (lower a note a half step)
  • distance between 2 musical notes (or pitches) is called an interval
  • chord – 3 or more notes played at a time – we like them to sound pleasant but it doesn’t have to, mostly commonly chords are major or minor (happier vs. sadder)
  • arpeggio – break up a chord in any order

Lesson: Proper Posture and How to Hold the Pick – Erich describes the lesson on posture on of the most important lessons in the series.

Section 3: Beginner – THE CORE – Module 2

Lesson: Introduction to the Physics of Sound

Lesson: Basic Picking Techniques and Basic Fretting Techniques – In this lesson, Erich suggested using a sharpie to put dots on your finger tips to make sure you are playing on the correct spot. If you can see the dots, you are playing incorrectly. Playing on your fingertips stops the musician from playing muted notes in a chord which is a problem I have been struggling with a lot. Erich gave the following tips to work on which I also believe will help me to not mute any strings in my chords. First, the thumb position should be loose and behind the neck of the guitar (I have been playing a lot with my thumb on top of the neck). By keeping your thumb on the back of the guitar neck and playing on your fingertips, your hand is then in a C position with space between your hand and the neck of the guitar. Additionally the top knuckles should be curled instead of flat. I tested out these tips while watching the lesson and I immediately noticed a difference in the quality of my chords.

Lesson: Naming the Notes on the Fretboard and How to Read Tablature – I learned the names of the strings and how to know which note you are playing on each fret. I hadn’t learned this in my face-to-face course, or in any of my other online resources.

Section 4: Beginner – THE CORE – Module 3

Dexterity Exercise 1 – This was an interesting exercise where the musician is required to play finger 1-4 on each string starting with the e string (thinnest) to E string (thickest). Once you are able to play this quickly and confidently. Then you switch up the fingering to any variation of 1, 2, 3, 4 for example you could play 1, 2, 4, 3 on each string or 2, 1, 3, 4. There are 24 variations of this exercise. Erich asks for you to spend a minimum of 2 hours on this exercise before moving on to the next lesson so this is where I ended for this week because I wanted to start practicing this dexterity exercise.

Follow this link to view my weekly vlog update.

Yousician Seems Yousful for Beginners – Week 2 of Learning Project

I decided to take full advantage of my free trial with Yousician this week. I didn’t get a lot of feedback about Yousician on Twitter or my blog posts so I’m guessing that means that not a lot of people have given it a try which I understand because it’s a bit pricey.

I made a video to give you a preview of some of the features the app offers and how I have been using it so far.

This guy gives an informative, but also hilarious, review of the app. He is much more experienced than I am and has used a variety of other tools to compare with Yousician like Rocksmith and Guitar Tricks.

As a beginner, Yousician seems like it will be a useful tool. Because I wanted to take advantage of the free trial and get a feel for what the app is all about, I went heavy on Yousician as a learning tool this week. However, it is not the only tool I am using for my learning project. Stay tuned in the next couple of days to see the other resources I have been accumulating to improve my skills as a beginning guitarist.

Week 1 – Learning Project

Link back to my UPDATED learning project outline: Crunch Time – Making a Decision about my Learning Project

My first face-to-face guitar lesson was on Saturday, Oct. 12 at Music in the House, Regina. It is an old house in the downtown Regina area. When you walk in, you see multiple rooms featuring an instructor and a student and your ears are met with the muted sounds of many fingers working on a variety of instruments. When I walked in the door, I looked to the left to see and hear someone learning to play the drums, a few steps further down the hallway, another student learning the guitar before reaching the room where I was to meet my instructor. There were other rooms that I didn’t make it to yet but so far it seems like a quaint little place where students of a variety of age and ability meet with their instructors to learn their instrument of choice.

Upon arrival, I hauled in my borrowed-from-a-friend guitar which my instructor quickly tuned for me while listening to my answers about what I hoped to achieve from my lessons. My instructor proceeded to describe the anatomy of the guitar and handed me a pic (and taught me how to hold it). My instructor taught me about how strings, frets and fingers are numbered and had me practice playing a variety of notes by calling out something like “third string, second fret” (which you play with your second finger). My lesson wrapped up with learning G, C, D, Em and Am chords using tablature which I am to have memorized by next lesson.

Halfway through my lesson, I expressed that I was having difficulty seeing the strings which meant that my borrowed guitar was too big. Something I didn’t think about before my lesson! This led to a quick trip to Long and McQuade, Regina to rent an appropriately sized guitar which was much better for practicing on this week.

This week I also tested out my free Yousician trial. I am still deciding whether this app is worth the investment. But so far, I am enjoying it. If you have used Yousician before, please let me know what you think! I’d appreciate some feedback before making the purchase.

I quickly personalized my learning in the following ways and got started with the lessons.

Images Source: Yousician

The app teaches you to play using Missions and Workouts. This week I worked on the Play Strings and Play Frets missions. The app listens to you play using the microphone and gives feedback via text prompts, stars and other ways which I will highlight in next week’s post.

This was part of the very first mission. But the third mission, the app had me playing multiple strings and frets.

I had to practice this one a few times in order to improve how many stars I received.

After I realized that Yousician tracks your progress, I updated my daily activity goal to 30 minutes.

Images Source: Yousician

I have been following along with Catherine, Daisy and Amanda and really like how they are setting up their learning project using iMovie and WeVideo so I thought I’d give it a try too. Check out my first iMovie video to see some of my progress throughout the week:

I really like iMovie as you will see in my iMovie review this week. Not only did I have to learn some guitar skills this week, I also needed to learn to use iMovie. However, I ran into a few difficulties which I intend to improve upon for the next project update.

  • I found royalty free music using Youtube’s Audio Library but didn’t think about how I would be unable to play the Taylor Swift music (doh!) that my instructor had me practicing in order to switch between the C chord and Am chord. Therefore, part of my video doesn’t have the audio I want. For next week, I will have to practice playing all of the chords of the song on my own in order for it to be included in the video.
  • I have to figure out a better way to show you what I am learning on Yousician for the same copyright issues as I mentioned above.
  • I am pretty slow a plucking away on the strings so I think I’d like to use the fast-forward option that Catherine and Daisy used to cruise through the boring parts or speed up some of my playing to make it sound more coherent.
  • I recorded quite a bit of footage of myself practicing this week but I think I need to have more of a plan in terms of the layout of my vlog so that I am not just recording myself at random but with intention. Purchasing an iPhone tripod with the assistance of my classmates was a game-changer.

If you have any comments about Yousician or other tools you have used to learn to play guitar, please let me know!

 

Crunch Time – Making a Decision about my Learning Project

Thank you to everyone who commented on my first post about my Learning Project where I debated exploring photography or becoming a birth doula. However, even at the time of writing that first post, I was unsure about either project. Photography was something that I had done before and am always working at, and I was wanting to try something new. Becoming a birth doula is still something I am very interested in and I am taking the training at the end of November. However, because a majority of the work would take place near the end of the semester, again, I was unsure of how I would make this work for the class assignment. Many of you offered suggestions as it seemed several people were interested in following the birth doula route. None the less, I have made the decision to try something I have always wanted to learn…playing the guitar.

In order to accomplish my goals to becoming a beginning guitarist by the end of the semester, I will take the following steps.

  1. I have signed up for private lessons at Music in the House in Regina.

    Each week I will attend a 30-minute lesson with my instructor. Their website indicates that they provide “students songs in a wide range of musical style including pop, rock, country, blues,  bluegrass and folk. Students learn chords, strumming patterns, fingerpicking, improvising and basic theory to help understand how music works.”

    Each week I will practice for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.

  2. I will use some of the free videos from Marty Music’s Youtube page to supplement my learning.
  3. I have two people in mind to be guest instructors during my learning project. More to come on this!
  4. I have subscribed to the free trial of Ultimate Guitar Tabs which is an app that people can create, share and learn guitar tabs to help me explore further.
  5. I am planning to test out Yousician using the free trial. This app is fairly expensive but if it is worth the money, I would be interested in investing. If you have tried out this app before or if you have a better app that you have used, please leave me a comment below.

I plan to document my learning using iMovie. I haven’t used iMovie before so this will also be a learning piece for me. I plan to write weekly updates on my blog and include the iMovie video I have created for that week to provide audio and visual elements to my project.