It feels a bit odd to title this post “a summary” of my guitar project because it is only a summary of what I have accomplished so far. This learning project has been an on-going process and one I intend to carry on with after this course. In the third week of my project, I began exploring the YouTube channel of Marty Music. In my post that week, I commented on some thoughts that stood out for me after watching his first beginner video:
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.
Week 3 of The Guitar Project
I am now at that two month mark. Marty was right. The first two months are tricky. There is a steep learning curve but practicing each day is important. On days I was really busy, I got in a 15-20 minute practice session but most days would start out with a plan for practice for about 30 minutes and often this 30 minutes turned into an hour and on several occasions, even longer.
I often keep in mind what my classmate Matteo said in one of his comments on a previous blog post. He said that guitar is easy to learn but difficult to become good at, difficult to perfect.
Luckily, I had several great resources to help me along the way. For my learning project, I used:
Face-to-Face instruction at a music school in the city
Encouraging comments and resources suggestions made by my fellow EC&I classmates.
Several other how-to / instructional videos to supplement my learning.
With these resources, I have only explored the tip of the iceberg. I have worked through a lot of the beginner work and continue to classify myself as a beginner. There are several levels in all of these resources that I won’t make it to for many months. I still have a lot to learn which is a great feeling!
For this reason, I don’t have a final product to present, but rather this post and my final vlog are a continuation of the next steps in my journey.
I stumbled across this video this week where a young man has documented his progress over one year of learning to play the guitar through online lessons. One thing I noticed is that it isn’t until 5 months of playing that he comments “this is the first I have ever played that really sounded like music to me” so that makes me hopeful! When I play, I feel like I am making music and although I am playing the chords to the songs, it doesn’t sound like the song itself yet as I am mostly playing the rhythm. So, maybe in 3 months time I will play something that sounds like music to me!
Here is my vlog update for Week 7:
Successes & Challenges this week:
This week I decided to group the “successes” and “challenges” sections together (I typically keep them separate). I grouped them together because this week was an interesting one… So far I have been playing 6-8 chords that I have become fairly confident in over the past several weeks. The strings are ringing more clearly, I have less muted strings, I am finding the chords more quickly, transitioning from one chord to the next has been smoother and I feel as if I am developing some muscle memory for these chords. However, my guitar instructor gave me a list of 21 chords to practice which included all of the major, minor and seventh chords. Once this happened, I felt as if I was transported back to the first week of my learning project where I was spending most of my practice time finding the chords and finger placements. When I finally achieved this, I would often play a chord with muted strings which was my struggle in the earlier weeks.
The F major and minor chord has been particularly tricky but as I have learned in many of my online and in-person resources, it is an important and often used chord.
I have been practicing shifting between the major, minor and seventh chords and practicing how the hand shape and finger placements are similar or different to try and note patterns and begin to develop muscle memory for these newer chords.
I tried out a new strumming pattern this week.
I learned the 12 bar blues this week and practiced first using all major chords, then substituted in the A7 and G7 chord which were new to me.
Essentially, I grouped my successes and challenges together this week because the new skills I was working on were challenging but I was finding some success with them as the week went on.
As always, thanks for watching my vlog. Comments welcome.
This past week has been a busy one! I completed my training to become a Professional Birth Doula (yay!) This has been a goal of mine for the past several years and was something I was initially considering to explore for my learning project. I am giving you this update because many of you were interested in me pursuing this topic for the course project. If you don’t know what a doula is or have other doula questions, you can check out this article, written by my training instructor.
Last week I gave you a sneak preview of the work I was doing on “Under the Boardwalk” by John Mellencamp. This is the song I chose to focus on most this week. However, I did complete some other work in my Udemy course and spent time on Yousician. In my Udemy course this week, I worked on Beginner – CORE – Module 4 (~1 hour of lesson time, not including practice) which focused on rhythm and chords, and Beginner – CORE – Module 5 (~50 min of lesson time, not including practice) which focused on strumming, strumming techniques and practicing support. In the Mod 4 section, there was a mini lesson called “Advice and Encouragement” where the instructor, Erich, articulates that by this point in the course, students are probably feeling a bit of frustration with their level of progress. This echoes how I have been feeling the last couple of weeks. I haven’t felt overly frustrated but rather that I have less to report for my weekly updates because instead of working on new skills, I am improving upon skills already learned. Refining, if you will, and getting a bit more creative with strumming patterns to make the songs I already know more interesting to listen to. Erich advises that all great guitarists started in the same place I am in and that we cannot avoid the things in life that require our time. He says, if he didn’t have to sleep, eat, work, etc., he’d be a much better guitarist too! It was nice to hear some encouragement from my online instructor which validated my feelings and left me with a sense of being understood at this point in my learning journey.
Successes this week:
Check out my vlog update below. If you’ve been following with my learning project you will be able to hear the improvement! (I hope!)
Challenges this week:
Finding time to practice! I found some time, but not as much as I would have liked.
This week I figured out how to add the picture-in-picture feature and transitions to WeVideo. I was able to do this easily while using iMovie but the steps for picture-in-picture are a bit different in WeVideo and the transitions are a bit finicky if you try to copy the way it’s done in iMovie. Thanks to these two videos, I was able to add picture-in-picture and transitions easily:
This week I also added Bitmoji images to my vlog. I’ve tried to do this before but was annoyed by the white background that would show up when I saved the Bitmoji to my phone or computer. I decided to spend some time figuring out how to remove the white background because I have seen it done before! I ended up using Photoshop which I have a paid subscription to and this video, How to Remove a White Background on Photoshop, to figure it out. I am really happy with what I was able to accomplish and hope to use this skill more creatively in the future.
I hope you enjoy my weekly vlog update! Contents include:
Chord Workouts (I could only get one silver star on level one at the beginning of the semester, now I can get 3 gold stars on level 3).
Sequential Chord Switches using a different strumming pattern.
Chords for “Under the Boardwalk”
Sporadic baby sounds, squeals, yells, cheers and rattle noises throughout.
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!
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!
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...
“The real key is not natural music ability, its the desire”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I have two people in mind to be guest instructors during my learning project. More to come on this!
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.
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.