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I have no photos to include with today’s thoughts, so I decided to show you how my cats

help motivate me to keep practicing on the bad days.

There are definitely some bad days. Lately, I’ve been stocking up on bad guitar days and good bass days.  I think the fact that the earliest stages of this bass thing are going so well is what’s making me incredibly frustrated with my complete lack of progress on the guitar; I can’t help but compare the two.  I’ve definitely been favoring the bass since I got it. It’s easy to favor the newest toy, or the instrument that you can actually see yourself making progress with.  It’s also easier to favor something that doesn’t weigh as much as the average toddler.

I am still having a hell of a time getting comfortable with the guitar hanging from my shoulder for extended periods, and I think that’s only been pronounced by acquiring the bass, which is much more lightweight that I can wear it just fine with a canvas strap for longer than I can wear the guitar with a padded leather strap.  This is a problem I’m eventually going to have to confront, but I definitely don’t want to go buying another electric guitar until I’m able to play SOMETHING on it.  The frustration is real.

I guess I lucked out in randomly choosing an uncommonly lightweight bass (maybe?), to balance for buying an uncommonly heavy guitar, but the weight difference has stuck me at a mental impasse that I now have to overcome: that the guitar is less comfortable to hold, so I don’t want to hold it as much.  That’s a problem since it’s also the instrument I seem to need more work with in order to make the same amount of progress.

Mind you, I’ve only been fiddling with the bass for a week, and only in Rocksmith, so that may well change over time. My first fumbling point with bass is the slides lesson, but this actually makes a solid sort of sense when I think about it. Doing slides on a new instrument causes a lot of fumbling, because I’m still used to the fret length on the guitar, so I feel like going over and over the slides lesson, and overshooting and undershooting a lot, is sort of like teaching myself  to instinctively know the length of the frets on the bass. The problem isn’t with executing slides themselves, as I’m doing just fine there, but in not over or undershooting the frets. In retrospect, this is probably the reason I was fumbling with the slides lesson on the guitar, too.  There’s no time in the execution of a slide to think about where your finger is going to end up; you have to know where you’re going and stop there almost by instinct.  I think that makes slides a weirdly perfect way to familiarize with a new instrument. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to be true for me so far.

I’m almost guaranteed to have issues with the legato lesson on bass once I get to it, since I’ve been at a dead stop with it on guitar for weeks. That’s also making the bass seem ‘easier’, because the lessons I’m tackling on the bass, for the most part, I’ve already attacked with the guitar, so I know what to expect. With the guitar, I’m always in cold; with the bass I have information gathered from the guitar lessons, so it’s really just been adapting the same concepts I’ve already gone over to less strings.

I’m still not able to get my hand to move naturally as I work on the guitar legato lesson.  I think I’m very jerky. There’s probably a lot to do with economy of motion here that’s hanging me up, but I’m feeling guitar frustrated in general, so I haven’t touched the lesson this week. I think I need to step away from the guitar challenges for a little while and spend a little time working on the stuff that I’m doing alright at to remind myself ‘look, you’ve gotten better at this. You’re doing okay at this.’ Kind of pep myself up a little bit before the bell rings on another round of me vs legato and chords. lol.

I’m still really fumbling with chords, which is a major problem. I do have the acoustic to work on them without rocksmith, of course, but I feel like this is really cumbersome in a way.  What I want to do is be able to tackle a song, and  go ‘okay, I don’t know these chords, I need to work on these specific chords before trying this again.’  The only way to do that now is to pause that song a lot, make note of all the chords in it, and then take those chords to the acoustic to work on them as a group.  Now, that’s doable, but it’s also really cumbersome, so I admit I am not doing it as much as I ought to.  Of course, you can use the riff repearter, slow it all down, but this is cumbersome, too. I need to work on forming the chords before I worry about where they are in the song.  I wish there was something to click like ‘practice these chords in Star Chords’ for example – to be able to pull up Star Chords from the song menu, and have the guitarcade game then focus on only the chords in that particular song.  Since there isn’t, I just have to keep drilling the progression at half speed, or moving to my other guitar(or plugging in my mini-amp), which just doesn’t seem like a very efficient use of time either way. I basically have to stop practicing. unplug things and plug them back in, to go practice again. That’s 5-10 minutes of my practice time eaten up by taking things out and putting other things away, when every second is precious.

Last night I had every intention of playing lots of guitar, but after 9+ hours of the day were swallowed up by a sewing project and going to and from the mechanic, I had precious little energy.  Even so, I pulled out the guitar around 11 pm when all I really wanted to do was sleep.  Needless to say, it went badly. I had a few sleep-deprived choice words for rocksmith and for my hands, and after a bit of that I switched to the bass because I knew I needed to sleep and wanted to end the practice session a bit more optimistically than my dismal failure at power chords. I went straight into the ‘learn a song’ section and decided to keep my expectations low.  The day before last I got a 108 streak/96% completion on a song (an admittedly caveman simple one),the first time out, and I knew as awesome as that was, it was unlikely to happen again, especially when I knew my hands were just as tired as the rest of me. I did a few ‘recommended’ songs – basically just clicked on whatever was on top of the list and said ‘okay, sure’, before deciding to check out the bass line for the song I’ve been drilling on the guitar end of things “Cold Company” by Minus the Bear. It went fine. I think it went pretty well for someone who probably should have crawled in bed and died around 8 pm and was somehow insensibly fumbling over a musical instrument at mindnight.

What my late night fumbling did do for me, though, was point out my first bad bass habit that I have to break, because after a few songs, my thumb started to really hurt.  I’ve apparently been pressing my thumb into the pickup, not so much resting it there as digging it in and using it as an anchor. Over time, that’s made the side of my thumb sore.  I imagine that it was worse last night because my hands were tired and I was probably using my thumb to force some stability on fingers that wanted to be done for the day, but that’s definitely something I’m going to have to be more attentive to, before I’ve been doing it long enough that it becomes a habit that won’t be so easy to break.

It also made me notice the sound difference between two-finger and one-finger strumming patterns. I’ve basically been using two (mostly) from the outset; I didn’t see the point of starting with one, and then have to teach myself a new way once I got in the habit of it, but last night I did do some one finger strumming as an accident of exhaustion. In the end, that was one benefit to the practice I shouldn’t have been doing: my hands were tired, and my eyes were tired, and my shoulders and back were tired; but my ears were apparently wide awake, so I did end up learning something of value.

With the “big boy” toys, I haven’t been very attentive to the ukelele, so I did pull it out for a bit yesterday after dinner while sitting in front of the tv, and just drilled the three chords I know, switching between them. Again – economy of motion. Switching into G chord is still slowing me down, but I sat there and mindlessly switched chords for forty minutes or so. Enough ‘zen’ ukelele fiddling and I should eventually get that down. I did notice a potentially more efficient way to move between C and G, so if I can remember that next time, it’ll probably come in handy.

The ukelele strumming is still awkward. Working on that, too.  I can’t seem to find the most natural position for my strumming hand, so am constantly like ‘stop, think, bend your finger that way.’  I still like fiddling with the adorable little thing, though.

I just need to figure out the best way to manage my time.  I know, for example, that Thursdays are a light practice night. I usually just pick up the acoustic for half an hour and do some strumming, chord switches and practice the only scale I have memorized so far. Thursday is the night that the roomie is out late, so the house is quiet.  It’s the only night I can really record anything without background noise, so that’s become poetry night by default. I still have half a book of audio to record and turn into videos for the youtube channel/poetry blog, so I don’t really get anything done on the music front, or any other fronts, on Thursdays.  Maybe I should make a schedule of which days I work on which things, but since this is my play time, I sort of don’t like the idea of being that organized about it. Eventually I’ll settle into a system that works.

In any case, I think I’ll be refocusing on the guitar  and uke for the next few days and going light on the bass (in theory, anyway) since I think my thumb needs a day or so to recover from last night’s sleep-deprived adventure. Whoops!

Until Next Time, reminding myself that sometimes it’s best to backtrack a little, then come at problem areas again with a fresh perspective.

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