I’ve had another bad guitar night. It wasn’t as bad as the last post, but still pretty bad.  I’m still struggling with the weight vs strap vs shoulder issue.  I’m convinced it’s part the guitar to blame (how the hell is a basswood guitar over 9 lbs, anyway? I suspect it might actually be more around 10, but don’t have an accurate way to confirm.), and a huge part of the problem is me.  I’ve tried strap after strap after strap with the thing to compensate for the weight, and you know what conclusion I’ve come to? None of them help.

I have a few standard canvas straps from Levi’s  and Planet Waves.  Any of these straps are perfectly fine for my bass. Perfectly comfortable. Can use whichever I want without problems.  The guitar has been less agreeable.

I’ve tried using these with a gushy shoulder pad. Not much help.

I’ve tried a padded leather strap. Still having issues.

Every once in a while, I have a day where I can play for half an hour or so and only feel the soreness once I remove the guitar, but I can’t seem to repeat those results.

I am doing SOMETHING.  I must be. I analyze, reanalyze, adjust. Readjust. Fidget, fuss over guitar angle. Fuss over strap length. Fuss over fussing in general, and eventually settle on something that I can tolerate…for a little while.  Then the process starts all over.

The run of bad guitar days, I feel certain, is going to continue until I can figure out what the heck I’m doing and how to fix it.   This is a guitar only problem. Ergo, it has to be something about me + guitar that is not part of the equation in me + bass, or me + ukulele (though, really, the uke is practically a kiddie toy, so doesn’t really count).  I need to figure out what that something is and deal with it, because until I do, I think I’m stuck in neutral on the guitar front.  Some days are worse than others, but there have been no good days recently, and that’s a struggle to battle my way through, since I still don’t have the answer.  I can fix a problem. I can’t fix a question mark.  So, I’ve got to get my Sherlock on and figure out where I’m going wrong and why I just can’t get comfortable holding this guitar.  It’s become a major stopping block at this point.  The shoulder soreness makes me tense. Frustration of lessons I’m doing exceptionally badly at makes me tense. I’m now even feeling a little tense with the mere anticipation of shoulder pain, which is probably the worst of all, since it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Spending half of my practice time fudging with the strap and positioning of the guitar is starting to wear on my nerves.

And, I have these problems ONLY with my electric guitar. I don’t get tense working on chords on the acoustic. But, I’m sitting down when I play the acoustic, so I really don’t know if I can draw any connection from that. I don’t get tense with the bass (but it weighs nothing).

There is a chronic problem with the strap button on the electric (the one nearest the headstock), but I’ve repaired it – three times, then replaced it, and it seems solid now, so while I think it was contributing before, it doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore, unless the wood is so soft that it’s just continuing to loosen over time, which seems doubtful since the strap lock on the other end has no issues. I just can’t see this as being the main culprit. Something is, though, and I need to figure out what.

Though, 12 AM is probably not the time to be overanalyzing my guitar issues, really.

So, I’ve decided when practicing both guitar and bass in the same day, guitar has to go first.  It’s the one I can’t hold as long without getting tired, the one I’m worse at, and the one that I’m going to get frustrated with faster.

I won’t pretend the bass lessons are all sunshine and roses, but overall they are going SO MUCH better than the guitar that I go with that to finish off the night on a high note.  I am still fumbling through the legato lesson on both instruments, but on the bass I’ve got it up to 74% completion, and I am getting the legato right in most of the songs; it’s just the practice track that’s killing me. All the other lessons I’ve mentioned on bass I’ve reached 100% completion on, so tonight started the palm mutes lesson.  That one is not a late night lesson. I’m noticing that there are a LOT of ways to do this, and it’s probably one of the very few things that is probably easier with a pick than fingerstyle, so that’s something I want to just sit down quietly with and fumble over a bit, to figure out what method feels most comfortable.  I have a feeling the answer is likely to be ‘it depends’, but I can see a lot of possibilities, for sure.

I also want to spend a bit of time trying out pick style, because, as someone who’s first (but certainly not only) musical love has been punk and alternative since I discovered it in 1994, at the ripe old ate of 13, I’ve definitely noticed it seems the majority of bassists in my favorite genre, playing my favorite songs, seem to favor picking. I like fingerstyle, but I also think investigating and being familiar with both styles is worthwhile.

I ended the night the way I usually do – in the Learn a Song section of Rocksmith (Bass), because I like to end on a) something that sounds like music and b) something fun that I’m not going to be kicking myself over until next lesson.

And, can I just say Green Day’s ‘X-Kid’ is ridiculously fun to play?

…and that I have no idea how I’ve reached 90% completion on this song in 3 play-throughs, because the switches are so fast that there’s no way I can possibly execute them in a timely manner if I’m looking at the neck. I hit the wrong fret tons of times. TONS. I guess there are just enough notes in between the quick switches that I am hitting that make up that difference.
In any case, I love playing this song, which is funny because for some reason I keep delaying buying the Tre album. It’s the only Green Day album I don’t own, and have no idea why I haven’t picked it up yet.  I suspect I just keep getting distracted by other things that are shinier at the time, like the latest Slash Album, or the new Like a Storm album, or that week where I felt I surely couldn’t live without Arctic Monkeys in my collection for a second longer… Or it could just be that Uno and Dos were underwhelming. Not bad albums, really! But, given Green Day’s massive discography, there was also nothing that really stood out on either album, or ran through my head for days on end.  As I’m enjoying playing this one, though, and it is TOTALLY stuck in my head, I really DO need to push Tre up to the top of my To Buy list.

So, things ended well tonight, but that was very deliberate on my part.  As for how they started, I don’t know what to do about that. Part of me says ‘buy a lighter guitar’ (which is pretty much ANY guitar. lol), but the realistic part of me reminds me that I do not have the budget for it, since I still can’t even afford a practice amp for my bass, so have to find some way to make the one I have work, and if different straps aren’t helping, then the problem has to lie with me.

Until next time, feeling tired and disenchanted, but thinking things through, and hoping an epiphany comes soon.

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