I’m ranting again

Seriously, this post is completely me blowing off steam and frustration – fair warning. It’s also very stream of consciousness, and I’m intentionally writing blind (not looking at the computer screen, so that I’m not tempted to delete this whole post, as even the rants are an important part of the learning curve to look back on), so forgive me if there is a higher than average number of grammar errors or typos.

I decided tonight to pick up the electric guitar and Rocksmith for the first time in over a week.  I’ve been trying to work with forming chords on the acoustic, but apparently that’s been completely pointless, as the second I pick up the electric again I go right back to old habits as if I haven’t spend a week trying to form chords properly. I’m not really sure what the point of working on my bad habits is if I’m apparently incapable of changing them when it matters. And, I know that’s hogwash, but it doesn’t feel like it tonight.

Tonight, I just feel frustrated. I feel like every time I pick up the guitar I get worse, not better.  Every time Rocksmith tells me ‘good performance’ on one of these nights, I snap at it. I call it a liar. I know my performance was complete shit, so it feels insulting when Rocksmith doesn’t just say ‘That sucked. Were you even trying?’ because my inner voice tells me that’s what I deserve. On the bad nights, it tells me ‘You’re never going to get this. You suck. Stop trying.’  I’m not a quitter, generally, and this blog is helping me stick to it, but I have moments where trying to play guitar leaves my ego so battered that I won’t pretend there isn’t a voice that wants me to give up guitar entirely and just stick to the bass. Bass isn’t such a cruel mistress. But the second you add chords into the mix, there’s that inner voice that tells me that I’m crap, that I can’t do this, that I’ll never be able to.

That’s the hardest thing to overcome, and after a really, really frustrating 30 minutes of going backward and getting nowhere I just don’t have it in me. Every time I have such a major fail, every time my inner voice pulls me into the ring for a good beating, it just makes me hate my guitar even more.  It’s SO easy to try and blame the guitar.  Because, if it’s the guitar’s fault, then it doesn’t have to be mine. My lack of progress becomes something outside of my control. Of course, that’s nonsense. But, I’m struggling, and when we struggle, we look for a scapegoat so we can feel better about ourselves.  And in this moment, immediately after another absolutely horrible short session with the guitar, there’s just not much I feel good about.

I know it’s the first time I’ve picked it up in a bit. I know every time I don’t touch it for a while I need to relearn the shape of it.  I also know that knowing those things doesn’t make me feel any better about falling flat on my musical face, and it doesn’t make me any less frustrated that I spent over a week JUST working on my wrist position with basic chords, only to find that nothing’s changed. That I can’t play them properly when I’m trying to keep time, and it’s only 50/50 if I can play them properly when I’m not trying to.  My acoustic time has really been no help. I’ve been getting a lot of fret buzz. That’s sure to be all me, but since I wasn’t getting it so much before, it means that correcting one thing has just made me fuck up a different thing. It’s one problem after another, and I still don’t know how to gain any guitar confidence when, 5 months since buying the guitar, I am still not capable of properly playing even one song.  Granted, I have been focusing more on technique than songs, but I’ve been doing that because my technique is so bad that I need to, and because I might, possibly, be a bit of a perfectionist.

And, tomorrow will be another day, probably a better one, but tonight I just feel sick, and upset, and angry at myself for being completely incompetent.

These are not thoughts that come from a logical, objective place, but they’re legitimate thoughts that I have, and that, for my own benefit, I need to get out into open air to try and look at them objectively later, when I’m feeling less irate, and hammer through them, which is something I am just not going to be able to achieve tonight.

I hate chords. There-I said it. I. Hate. Chords. And I hate that after months and months I still can’t maneuver across 6 strings without CONSTANTLY stopping and hesitating over the lower 3 of them. I hate that switching to the lower strings isn’t natural yet even though I’ve been drilling that retarded, annoying, laggy POS string skipping saloon game every time I pick up the electric guitar.  I hate that my guitar hurts my shoulder so much and that some days I’m sure it’s because it’s a very heavy guitar, and other days I’m sure it’s because I’m a shitty guitar player, and other days I haven’t got the foggiest idea about anything.  I hate that, even though there are a few songs I’ve gotten to 50% completion or more on, that I’ve reached 100% completion on lessons I was sure I never would, I still can’t look at what I’m doing and feel like I’ve improved.

…and I hate that I blame my decision to buy a bass for this, because I love my bass. I love that I’m doing well with it in Rocksmith. I love the way it feels to hold and fiddle with.  But, loving it doesn’t mean that I can ignore the fact that it’s only since I got the bass that I’ve become SO down on myself about the guitar.  That my complete incompetence with the guitar is something I view in direct relation to my relative competence with the bass, and that I can’t mentally separate those two things, because SURELY if I am making progress on the legato lesson on bass, I SHOULD be getting somewhere with it on the guitar, even though it’s totally different, and faster, with more notes, and that I’m being unfair to myself when I compare the two.

I hate that it’s easier to tell ourselves we’re hopeless than it is to tell ourselves that nothing is hopeless.

And, I hate that I had to resort to spending 20 minutes whining on the internet instead of picking the guitar up again and fighting through it, just to restore some sanity.

Until Next Time, still fighting the uphill battle. Guitar: 1000000. Self-esteem: -8.

6 thoughts on “I’m ranting again

  1. Looks like you’re having a crap weekend. Happy Easter. This is one of the few Sundays I’m not working and I spent the day passed out because of these damned allergies.

    Anyway. I don’t think you should be comparing the guitar and bass so much and coming down on yourself about not making progress on one, over the other. A lot of guitarists look at the bass like another guitar, but its not the same. Its the same way that a violin isn’t a fiddle and neither is a guitar. There are similarities with all of them, but at the end of the day, technique is a little different and what we play on them, on average, is a little different – even though there are musicians who cross over boundaries of what they’re typically used for in every genre of music.

    Cooking a good steak isn’t the same as making a great stir fry, even though some of the understanding is the same.

    You might want to consider taking some of the songs you’re working on in Rocksmith and playing them on the acoustic. I personally think its a little insane that you’re learning 3 instruments at once – its like having 3 girlfriends. Its costly and the relationship only goes so deep. But, regardless, if you’re set on it, put down Rocksmith for a little while again and try those songs on acoustic. Let your ears be your guide, not the program. When you’re out there performing with friends, that’s what they’re going to use to relate to what you’re doing.

    I remember seeing a clip of Scott Ian from Anthrax years ago. He was as Best Buy or something, and was trying our Rocksmith. He couldn’t play his own song on it and was cracking up about it. My wife and I were laughing about it for days. I know Rocksmith was made with good intentions, but before it came along, people were still learning music. I think you mentioned taking 10 years of karate in an earlier post. Breathe. Let it out and find your center. Then, make a decision. But also, this isn’t life-or-death. You can come back to where you left off at any time.

    I’m gonna see if I can get some practice in and maybe even write about it before the night’s done with me and while wifey catches up on the episode of Walking Dead she missed last week… unless the baby comes in and decides she’s gonna school me on how to play again.

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    1. You’re right, of course. The fact is there are considerations on the guitar that just aren’t there (or aren’t as important, to be more specific), on the bass. I have a 4 string bass and a 6 string guitar. There’s a big difference in the spacing between the strings, and with guitar I’m nearly always playing several strings at once, which is the opposite of what’s most common on the bass, so it requires a level of accuracy that I just don’t have yet. Bass it sort of doesn’t matter if I’m muting the string below with my fretting hand incidentally, since I need to be muting that string anyway most of the time. And there have, so far, been very few songs that need to move as quickly on bass as guitar, which makes sense when you think about the difference in job the two instruments have.
      My brain knows all of this, but that doesn’t change the frustration when you’re trying to keep time (whether with rocksmith or a metronome) and can’t make your fingers do what your head wants them to. The more annoyed you get at your own hands, the less they want to behave, the more tense you get – it’s this horrible cycle.

      Rocksmith certainly isn’t the end all and be all of things, but there are still features that make it a really good tool for me. I like that I can actually play things without having to remember them quite yet, and it’s important, too, to try to hit the note at the appropriate time, not just hit the note in a general way, which I’m less focused on when I’m not trying to keep up. I have a tendency to get a little lazy about that on the acoustic, so based on the way I work, Rocksmith makes me stay on top of things and not take the easy way out. That’s not to say other study styles aren’t also important, but right now, the ability to see a screen that says ‘look, you’re making progress’ is such an important tool for me so I don’t get too discouraged. Even on the bad days, there’s always SOMETHING I can do a little better than the day before, and that helps, even if it might not be the thing I wanted to work on.

      This is really more of a diary than a blog a lot of the time, and posts like this one are really proof of that. I write it out when I’m annoyed and upset, because the bad days are just as important as the good days. I think it’s important, on a blog about riding the learning curve, to acknowledge the bad days, even to acknowledge when you’ve gotten yourself really riled up. It keeps things real.

      After a cool down period I pulled out the electric again, but this time with the mini amp, and worked a bit on forming chords on it, like I’d been doing on the acoustic. I really think the size of the neck (thinner than both other instruments) is throwing me off, so when I don’t touch it regularly, I end up frustrated by the need to readjust to the size and shape of it. I won’t say I’m happy, really, with my chord forms even on the non-rocksmith practice, but I’ve calmed.

      And yeah, I also acknowledge learning all three at once IS a little nuts, but there is a weird sort of logic to it in a way that actually goes directly back to what you said about a lot of guitarists playing bass as if it’s another guitar. It’s not, but if you play guitar, and play it a lot, and pick up a similar looking instrument, I can see how it would be really, really tempting to just throw your guitar habits at it. I have no habits, since I don’t know how to play either one, and learning them both simultaneously, I’m unlikely to build any habit of playing one as if it’s the other. This is a bit of a nutjob approach, but I’m all about pattern-finding and deductive reasoning, and it does have the advantage of being able to see the differences in approach from the start and not falling into that trap. Also to bear in mind, when I picked up the guitar a few months ago, it was because I had one. I was leaning more toward bass at that time, but thought anything I learn on guitar, the basic concepts/theory would translate well once I got a bass. But, I’ve had the guitar for months, and ended up buying a different one, and then an acoustic, and I’m not giving up on it, even if it’s harder to really get a good feel for than the bass.

      As for the uke – I only half count that one. It’s a much more casual thing. There are one or two songs I really want to learn to play on it, but they’re not complex, and I don’t have plans at current to become an amazing uke player (later maybe, once I’ve got the other two under control.lol), but rather just to become adept enough to play a few simple tunes, at my leisure. I’m not pulling it out that much, but it’s fun to fiddle with, so it’s more of a toy than anything.

      Thanks for the thoughts. I’m fine now. Not every night is a good night. It’s important to me to keep things realistic about letting both ends of the learning scale see the light of day.

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    1. Lol yeah, guitar hero isn’t intended to teach you to play guitar. Rocksmith has that intent. It won’t do the job on it’s own, but I still stand behind it if only because having specific tasks to complete gives me a sense of direction and accomplishment. But…I do have a guitar buddy who likes to joke that ‘whoever designed rocksmith does not know how to play guitar’ and makes things ‘needlessly complicated’. It’s definitely not perfect, but for me there are more plusses than minuses at current. That may change when I’m a bit more advanced.

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  2. I know the feeling that you don’t feel as if you’re improving but getting worse. It feels like that with my workouts sometimes. But I figure it’s a factor of the day, how tired you are, what you’ve eaten, etc. A lot of factors go into skillsets like playing guitar or weight lifting, so we just need to chalk it up to being a bad day and move on. 🙂

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    1. Yeah, that’s part of it, though there are fine motor skills required for guitar that I just don’t have. It’s not like a workout in that way. In a workout, you can try to push yourself to do something more, and maybe you can’t, but it can’t hurt to try. With guitar, if you push yourself to do more, when you haven’t mastered the foundation of that thing, you really can do more harm than good for trying. Though mostly I just want to be progressing faster than I am, so I get frustrated. I haven’t touched the guitar in a week. I’ve been focusing on the bass, and that’s bad. It’s really bad. I’m now avoiding the problem entirely. It’s like when I stop working out completely for a while out of frustration. It only makes it harder to get back into it.

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