A frustrating trend

I’ve noticed a bad habit I have, where my practice will go really well one night, and set up an expectation for the night following.

For example:

Yesterday, I spent a little bit of time fiddling with chords with my shiny new mini-amp, and then moved on to Rocksmith, which I stand behind as a great tool for a beginner in my position – who is really struggling to move forward mostly by clumsiness and speed in switching strings and frets. Rocksmith is great for giving me something to try to keep up with while still giving me practice in switching strings and frets in pretty much anything I do, while working without it is more about precision. Both, of course, are important, and I do work both, but I’m learning my problems more through Rocksmith (to then go work on both with and without the program).

Anyway, yesterday went really well. I practiced switching chords on the amp – and am focusing on the chord progression on ‘Knockin on Heaven’s Door’ primarily – partially because I learned them on Rocksmith and they’re relatively easy to remember, and partially because it’s a good one for me to work on right now since I’m still struggling a bit with the C chord (though it’s getting better), and then switched over to bouncing around Rocksmith – working in the ‘learn a song’ a little, the string skipping saloon (as I need the practice on string skipping as much as possible), harmonic heist (because that’s a good one to fiddle with when my fingers are getting tired, but I don’t want to stop practicing yet – gives me a bit of a break and lets my hand recover a bit before getting back into other things), and then onward to the Lessons.

I ended up on the Bends 101 lesson, which I have been stuck around 80 something percent at for the past several weeks, and after the first few rounds being clusmy as I got reacclimated to a progression I haven’t looked at in a while, I managed to knock that up to 93%, which was the first progress I’ve shown on that frustrating lesson in a good long while.  Left me feeling pretty good about my progress.

So, today, I picked up the guitar again hoping to reach the 100% point in that lesson, and couldn’t even repeat the progression as well as I had yesterday to get it to 90% accuracy, let alone 93%, let alone 100%, and it got me really frustrated with myself. The frustration creates a direct correlation to how well I’m doing: the more frustrated I get with myself, the worse I perform.

I know it’s unreasonable to expect results to be consistent, and find myself in the position of talking myself down on the off days, and giving my tv the finger.  It’s really ridiculous of me, I know, to expect that every single day is going to be better than the day before. Some days are going to be bad days, and some are going to be unusually good days. But, that doesn’t stop me from getting frustrated with the day after a really good day, and interpreting it as a really bad day, even when it’s really a pretty ordinary day that just happens to follow a day that things went better than usual.  And, it’s absolutely true that some days I find myself slower than others. Cold days, obviously, tend to leave me a little slower, but that’s predictable, and as I start moving things improve. It’s the unpredictable days that tend to get me annoyed – when I’m slower and clumsier and can’t pinpoint a reason.  I can only assume it’s a different in the way I’ve positioned my hand, or the way I hold my guitar.  I notice some days I seem to hold the guitar on more of a slight angle to my body than at 90 degrees. It seems to be easier to play this way (ah, the joy of having boobs), but also may possibly cause more strain on my shoulder.  I’m not quite sure about that yet – something else to try to get to the bottom of, which might possibly be causing some of the inconsistency.

It really leaves me with more questions from answers at the moment, more things to experiment with and fiddle with to figure out what works best, but no straight answers.  I think the lesson I need to take out of all of it is to breathe, and just accept the bad days as bad days, the good days as good days, and the ordinary days as ordinary days.

Until next time, trying to learn accept the bad days, and not expect the good ones.

One thought on “A frustrating trend

  1. If you’re having a bad day, and it looks like your head isn’t where it needs to be to consciously focus on playing something with a lot of changes, just pick an exercise and play it up and down the neck for a bit. You’ll unconsciously play on every string and fret and its not something you’ll need to work your brain with too much. I’ve done that just to make sure that I’m getting something physical done on bass, because there have been lengthy periods where I get absorbed reading about bass or theory and suddenly, all my time is gone. Playing a scale pattern backwards and forwards is good for this too, and then playing only the chord tones from the scale. Just play it through, then move up a fret or two and do it again.

    Nowadays, when I do this, I play in a sequence that follows something called the Cycle of Fourths. Basically, its a way of arranging all of the 12 notes in 4ths (C – F – Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb – B – E – A – D – G). I know the sound of it pretty well now, and it helps with memorizing the notes on the fretboard as well. I won’t get into the math or theory, but you should practice in a sequence that makes you play new things in every “key” or starting on each one of the 12 notes. It’ll force you to play everywhere and get you really familiarized with fretting. Its something I wish I had known when I started.


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