A Scattered, but Forwardly Direction

I’m going to be all over the map with this post. I was planning some really well-organized posts, but time constraints have me floundering to make that happen. And, by time constraints, I mostly mean ‘damn it, I can practice, or I can blog, and there are three different instruments in this equation!!’ Sorry guys, but practice tends to win. I need lots of it.

I’m still fumbling my way through yousician lessons, and it really doesn’t help when the program freezes on me when I’m JUST about to unlock the next block of lessons, but shit happens. I finally did unlock the next block of lessons on the lead path, and I’m convinced it was luck instead of skill.  The skill test changes every time. So each time you fail, the next skill test is something you’ve never seen before. It’s not as if you can memorize the progression to get through it; on the skill tests your always flying blind. I guess that’s as it should be, because it’s a test, but it sure was frustrating. A lot of the tests were too fast for me, but by sheer chance, one came up that had switches I could mostly handle.

I am still having trouble switching strings. It’s funny, because bass is pretty much all about switching strings, but throw two more in the mix and put them closer together, and you might as well ask me to pat my head and rub my belly at the same time (for the record, no, I can not do this).  So, for the past two days I’ve been fiddling around in Learn a Song in Rocksmith, but on the Lead Path. Oh boy…it’s rough. I’m going to admit it, it’s rough.  Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and if I’d known where I would find myself today, I would have started alternating between these two paths much earlier on.  I need the practice on switching strings (on both hands – my fretting and strumming hands are equally confused on the matter. My strumming hand might be nominally worse off) before I’m going to make any real forward momentum from this point.

I’m also still drilling the few songs I know bits and pieces of – mostly just the chord switches, practicing strumming. Still no “final products” to show for my efforts, but I think things are going reasonably well, all said.

Ukulele I’m more or less in the same place. Working through strumming patterns. I’m not going to make any forward progress until I get a few of them down pat to the point I don’t have to think about them, so strumming and chord switches for the next while. Also, working a little bit on the ukulele handbook. I’m still on the first bits of introducing melody. Also trying to get G7, Dm and Em stuck in my head.  To be fair, I do remember Em. But on uke, it’s a bit of a complicated one to switch in and out of.  It may be a while before I can do this fluidly. It’s pretty spread out compared to the other chords, so it’s a bit cumbersome to switch to and from.  It resembles a C chord on guitar a bit, come to think of it.

Bass, I’ve mostly been running through Green Day’s X-Kid over and over again. A) that song is ridiculously fun to play on bass. B) I have been trapped at 99% completion forever. I keep missing one random note, and I really want to see that 100% on that song. It’s sheer chance that will lead me there. Every time I miss a note, I cringe, because I just BARELY miss, and it’s always just a split second of the clumsies. It’s never an issue of there being a particular note that’s hard to play.

Reading things, too. I read a guitar article where this guy basically went on a complete tirade about strumming patterns and beginner’s obsessing over them.  I won’t link to it because I didn’t save it, but also because I don’t really have anything nice to say about it, so it would be rude. I wasn’t sure what I thought about this for a while. He basically argued ‘don’t count downs and ups, count rhythm’.  Having had some time to think about it, I know why it irked me: for a beginner, those are one in the same.  I would argue there is an extent of time in which a beginner NEEDS to work at strumming patterns, at least briefly, because if you don’t count downs and ups ever, at all, you’re not training your ear to tell the difference between them. You’re not training your brain to understand the basics of how rhythm is created on the guitar. I don’t care if you call them down and up, one and two, or avocado and turnip, at some point, for some indeterminate period of time, a beginner needs strumming patterns because they help teach your ears what you’re hearing when you’re listening to the songs you love.  There IS a trap in becoming obsessed with them, sure. But the article essentially said that any guitarist worth their salt doesn’t want to create an exact duplicate of a song they hear anyway, they want to make it their own. Sure, someone who knows what they’re doing would want that. But, I would argue most beginners just want to replicate what they’re hearing, that being able to replicate what you’re hearing is an important part of the learning process. I would further argue that he’s a moron if he thinks skipping this very relevant step is going to make you a better guitarist faster, because it’s skipping a part of the learning process that’s training your ears.

But, I digress on that rant. I could write a whole blog post detailing my thoughts on that in detail, but if I go further into it in the brief space I’m allowing for it here, it’s just going to sound ranty, and that’s really not my goal at all.  I just mean that there is a time, a place, and a reason, for counting. That a beginner is going to be counting something, and whether that’s ‘down and up’ or ‘1-2-3-4’, to a beginner’s mind, there’s really not a heck of a lot of difference for all practical purposes. To an intermediate player’s mind, there’s a very significant difference, but the article was written for beginners, and in that vein I thought it was pretty well useless.

Now, onward! I finally finished my last attempt at getting that POS backpacker in playable shape. It was a glorious failure, as anticipated.

When last we left off on the Shelby rebuilds $20 guitars adventures, the bottom of the backpacker tore open, the wood creaked, the strings wouldn’t tune, and the metal piece that attaches to the bottom bent beyond recognition. Step one was to get some wood filler in the hole and repaint the bottom of the guitar. Step 2 was to find a similar tailpiece, but with more screw holes for added security.  The only thing I was able to find that might work was a dobro tailpiece.

So, I drilled three new holes in the bottom of the guitar to attach that. The end result:

It’s a bit of a unique looking creature now, but I’m calling it visual art.
It can get into tune now, and the body no longer creaks. Unfortunately, it won’t stay in tune for more than a split second. By the time I’m tuning high E, low E has become D#. Go back to tune low E, and the other 5 strings are out of tune again.  I don’t think this is really the fault of the work I’ve done on it. The guitar has always been very difficult to get in tune and keep that way. The action is still quite high. The wood is still crap. It still doesn’t sound good. So basically, it’s prettier, more solidly put together, but still a piece of crap. I learned things, in any case, and that was worth the money spent. You can’t turn dung into gold, and it would probably make some nice wall art.  That’s really all it’s good for.

Next up! Guitar picks.

Guitar picks are weird. I’ve tried tons, not for any reason other than they’re cheap and I can. And, I thought I’d found my favorite. I really favor the orange tortex picks. I like the green ones, too, sometimes.  But I’ve found I do not like them with the Hellcat all that much. Or rather, by some random whim I pulled out a pick I didn’t like at all on the electric guitar, and fell in love with the combination.  My hellcat sounds awesome with a wood pick. Awesome enough that this pick that I thought I would never use again after I tried it once has become the pick I have pulled out every day this week. I still don’t like it on the other guitars (I picked them up to test it. It’s…ick…), but it seems wood picks are a match made in heaven on this particular instrument.  It makes me wonder what I’m going to end up favoring when I finally save up for an electric guitar I actually like. Will I still favor those .60mm tortex picks? I have no idea, but probably.

I’ve also been window shopping for a new electric guitar to replace the behemoth.  I think I’ve found the one I want (pretty sure, since I ogle it on the internet like every day), but there are really half a dozen in the running, three or four serious contenders.  I’ve learned about a lot of brands I never heard of while searching. Lots of helpful people have made suggestions. At the end of the day, I’ll make an official decision once I can afford to make an official purchase, but I think I will probably end up choosing my eye candy guitar. That’s how I picked the hellcat, really, and it worked out for me.  I wonder if that’s how it works for a lot of people – browse browse browse omg that one! That ONE! THAT ONE! It’s AWESOME!’ lol.

Anyway, that’s all of my scattered thoughts for the moment, or as many of them as I can remember, in summation, when I need to be up in 7 hours.

Until next time, playing and practicing, practicing and playing. Running drills. Reading things. It’s all pretty scattered, but moving in a forwardly direction. 🙂

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