One Clumsy Finger At a Time

Well, let’s see, what can I say about this week? I now know three chords (and can not perform any of them well. 🙂 ), but D is still the hardest, by far.

A, on the other hand, I usually get right. It seems that my small hands turn out to be an advantage for that chord. I have no problem smooshing them up in one fret with room to spare. I’ve also started practicing E. The difficulty of that chord for me is somewhere in the middle – easier than D, but harder than A.  I’ve found that it’s harder to push strings down in the first fret, so while the hand position is not a problem holding down the G string enough to produce a clean sound is a bit hit or miss.

It seems that I’m having a hard time keeping the nail on my middle finger short enough to not get in my way. I imagine that will improve as I develop calluses, but at the moment there are no sign of them on my first and second fingers.  My pinky, on the other hand, seems to be callusing well. It’s looking a bit dented, which I didn’t expect, but I can definitely feel the skin is harder there, and the callus does seem to be starting on my ring finger.

I’ve been going through the chords in the order on justinguitar.com‘s beginner’s guide, which I think is really helpful.  The lesson videos are short, which is great because it doesn’t give many excuses – even the busiest schedule can squeeze them in.

My hands are still struggling with strength and flexibility, but I guess that’s something I just need to be patient with.  For now, I seem to have to limit myself to practicing for about 10-15 minutes at a time. After that point, my hand gets too tired to be of much use.  So, I’ll do ten minutes in one sitting, and then go back a little later in the day to do another ten minutes.  It’s just a lot of breaks and a lot of repetition for now.

The other day I discovered the spider exercise:

…which is really fricking hard! But, everything is hard at the start, so if I keep at it, I think it should be a huge help with the strength and flexibility.  Right now it’s very, very difficult, though.

When I first learned the D chord, my success rate was about 10%, at best.  Now, I would say it’s more like 50%, so while things aren’t necessarily going swimmingly, I think I’m managing as well as can be expected at this stage.  After my initial struggles, I’ve managed to convince myself that I’m going to have certain limits that only time and practice can overcome, which was tough to admit, since patience isn’t exactly at the top of my list of virtues.

Still, the fact that I’m seeing some progress, even if it’s slow progress, has helped me come to terms a bit with the fact I just need to take things slowly.  Who knew I would be working on improving my patience when I picked up the guitar! lol.  But, I guess that’s good for me, too.

Mostly, I think I’m hoping I’ll be able to get the calluses fully formed soon, and strength enough for longer practice sessions.  At my current strength level, I find attempting longer practice sessions just frustrates me, as the clumsiness makes difficult things much more difficult, and my low accuracy becomes no accuracy.  Since I’m not getting anything accomplished at that point, shorter, more frequent practice sessions seem to be more practical.

So, I’m progressing slowly, but I’m progressing.

Until next time,  I’m becoming a more patient person – one clumsy finger at a time! 😀

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7 thoughts on “One Clumsy Finger At a Time

  1. It sounds like breaking up your practice has gotten better. You might even want to do something like practice scales for 10 mins and then stop and do some theory stuff for a little bit. Then, don’t go back right away, maybe take a break for 30 mins, and then return and do chords, and so on. It’ll give you recovery time and also let your hands acclimate to “random” bursts of having to play. Its kind of like that new idea in working out where you shock your muscles into growth by mixing up exercises that target the same body part. Your body doesn’t know exactly what to expect, but the muscles (and muscle memory) responds.

    Also – I’m curious about how you’re learning chords. Are they purely shapes, or do you learn a scale and then pick the chord tones out of them? Like, when you say a D chord, do you mean a D major triad?

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    1. I mean, uh, the chord called D? Lol. At this point I think I was going through the early lessons on jasonguitar.com. I’m all over the map with my practice methodology. It can get pretty random. There’s not really a specific system. I just focus on or avoid problem areas depending on the cause of the problem and how much it’s frustrating me at the time. 🙂

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      1. You should really pick a method and follow it through. Supplement with other materials that compliment what you’re working on – like if you’re learning chords, its fine to get info from different sources, but without a master plan of some kind, you’re not going to be able to systematically build on what you’ve learned.

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      2. That’s sort of what rocksmith is for for now. It gives me a focal point, and I branch out to other sources based on what I notice there. It’s not a replacement for proper instruction. So, if I’m drilling a song with specific chords, I go to Google for further elaboration on those chords, or if I’m having trouble with the bends lesson, I work from that. I’ve always had a sort of seemingly unstructured way of building my knowledge base – more like a painting than a puzzle. It means I may progress more slowly at certain stages, and everything may look like random splotches of color without meaning for a while, but when things eventually come together, they generally do so quickly because there have been a lot of connections made that seemed random at the time I was making them. I think this is where I am in the process right now – establishing a general knowledge base and developing a basic conceptual understanding – prepping the canvas, as it were. I know this way is slower in terms of quantifiable progress, but it’s how my brain works; I need to understand the bones of it all so that I have something solid to build on. I know I’m going about it all in a way that seems really random and chaotic, but guitar instructionals all start with the same chords: D, E, G, C, A, Am, Em, Dm. They don’t tell you there’s a whole chord family in the beginner stages, so realistically, I’m where I should be on that front for now, even if I’m putting it all together into songs more slowly. There is a methodology to it all. A weird, Shelby sort of methodology, but a methodology nonetheless. Lol.

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      3. I know that a lot of guitarists who don’t learn theory (like most of my friends who have played for 20 years) play by using shapes and reading tab. That’s serviceable, but there’s a definite cap on where you can take that, for most people. You should learn theory – and remember that theory and reading notation aren’t the same thing. They’re 2 different skills.

        Anyway, chords vs. scales. The reason I asked earlier is that if you learn the major scale (Ionian) and any of its variant modes, you basically have 7 notes. If you count the notes (don’t think of them initially as C-D-E-F-G-A-B, think of them as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 instead) then you’re thinking in “scale degrees”. The odd # scales (1-3-5-7) are your chord tones. The others are notes from the scale.

        If you can wrap your head around that concept then it makes finding chord tones much simpler and you don’t need to focus on shapes as much. I used shapes a lot when learning, and still do, to an extent, but knowing the “why” helps with understanding why you’re making those shapes, and helps when you’re adjusting them into new chords.

        The shapes are all the same, regardless of what your root is – a C major triad has the same shape as a D major triad and an E major triad, etc. The same thing with 7ths and so on. You can move that shape around from one root to the next and play those chords. Altering the chord to another type is made easier if you understand why you’re doing it. Like playing a minor triad instead of a major one, or a dominant 7th instead of a major 7th.

        I highly recommend hitting up StudyBass, or going to the General Instruction forum on TalkBass and seeing how MalcolmAmos explains it to new people (he did it for me, a while ago). They’re not hard concepts to get a basic understanding of – that’s really all I have, just a basic understanding. It helps a lot though.

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      4. Lol sure, but bear in mind that I’m 3 months into guitar and about 1 week into bass. These are lessons that aren’t touched on in the early stages of guitar, and I honestly haven’t found the time yet to sit down with online bass lessons. It’snot that I’m avoiding them. I just need more hours in the day to get to it all. 🙂

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      5. Learning the basic theory will work perfectly fine with guitar. You’ll actually understand why you’re making those shapes and calling them a D chord or E chord, or any of the others. It’ll simplify that stuff quite a bit.

        Personally, I think you should look at just two things before you try to learn more chord shapes. 1 – Learn the major scale. Its just 7 notes, or 8 if you include the octave. Learn a shape/pattern to play it and then “count” the notes as you play them. Its important that each note gets a number. Then, 2 – learn how to play 2 types of chords. The first is called a triad. That’s a chord made up of 3 notes. Its the root note, the 3rd note from the scale, and the 5th note from the scale. Once you have that down (its really easy since its 3 notes, and its a moveable shape) then learn 7th chords. Those are chords with 4 notes. They’re triads + the 7th note from the scale. I think those are the chords you’re learning as shapes from jasonguitar. It’ll make those much easier if you know why you’re reaching for those notes and why those shapes exist.

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