I’m still fumbling around with ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’.  I know the chord progression, and have for a while. I can execute the chord changes for the most part (I sometimes fumble my way to the C, but that’s more to do with me still fumbling with the C chord in general. It just plain feels awkward. It has been improving, though.), but I haven’t really been in a place to play it all the way through from memory.

That’s partially because I can’t really sing along to songs yet, except that one super-easy Flaming Lips tune. Since I don’t have the lyrics and the guitar part in my head at the same time, I tend to lose count. I have no idea when the song is supposed to end, how many times through to play it. Without the words there it all just becomes ‘The song that never ends until my fingers refuse to play it anymore.’  And that’s really the big stumbling block for me right now. That’s why I know a bunch of strum patterns and chord progressions, but would be really hesitant to claim that I can play full songs. I don’t have those areas where the pattern changes memorized. I can say ‘do this this many times’, but I lose count.  So I can play along to things, but I can’t really play much on my own.

Anywhoo! In addition to Rocksmithing my way through it, I’ve also been looking up youtube video lessons. There are tons. One I looked at yesterday didn’t really give me any new insights, and the strumming pattern used I didn’t think sounded very much like the original, so no comments on specifics there.

But, this lesson had some interesting insights:

He talks about playing G a different way, which is conceptually interesting, but since I’ve sort of already pretty much ironed out the switches with a more traditional G, and my fingers are not nearly strong enough to execute the chord the way he suggests without extreme amounts of fumbling, I don’t think I’ll be taking that advice any time soon. Don’t get me wrong – I understand what he’s getting at – that freeing up the ring finger will make the switch to C faster. But, switching between G and C a bazillion times (which I have done at this point) will also make that switch faster. If the new, shiny way to form a G chord is slower at this stage than just doing it the way I know, then I think it’s for the best if I just file that knowledge in the back of my brain for now. Otherwise, it’s like I’m starting from scratch, when I’ve already grown fairly well accustomed to this particular set of transitions.

Actually, now that I remember, the lesson yesterday used a 4 finger G chord. That was one thing about that lesson that was really interesting. The 4-finger G is less stretchy, so starts the hand in a more neutral position. If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’ve had an ongoing battle with the G chord and falling into a chicken-wristed position.  Will I be switching to the 4 finger G? Not necessarily (not that I see anything wrong with it), but it has definitely shown me that my G chord problems seem to be owing almost entirely to lack of flexibility in my ring finger. Because of that, I think it’s best if I stick to the standard G shape, because over time, with a lot of attention to detail and fine tuning, that chord shape will likely be, to some extent, self-correcting; working on making the stretch consistently and properly is going to work on the strength and flexibility that is giving me problems, so it’s probably best to tough it out for now. (So I say, but I haven’t been doing the fretboard exercises that are also supposed to improve dexterity…I should, I know, but they are beyond difficult. I can’t  figure out how to do it on the low strings without muting the entire fretboard beneath it, which completely defeats the exercise. I should do it anyway, I know. I know, and I am not denying that, but I’m not successfully motivating myself to actually do it, either.).

This week, I seem to be learning that there are a thousand ways to do everything, a thousand names to call everything. I seem to be stumbling across things performed in a different way, or called a different thing. It’s like this week’s theme, or something.

Back to the video above, though (now that I’ve veered kind of wildly off of my originally intended course…lol).  His discussion toward the end of “leaving early” was really interesting. The concept that you don’t necessarily need to keep your fingers glued to the fretboard until the last strum of a strum pattern is a suggestion I haven’t seen mentioned before. And while I get why (It could definitely lead to sloppy technique if a beginner knows it too early.), it’s also kind of a load off a beginner’s mind – like ‘oh, here’s one way that, if necessary, I can steal an extra half a second.’  Of course, this only works if you can strum evenly and quickly. It definitely won’t work on slower strums, but it remains a really interesting concept. It feels like top secret information that I’m not supposed to be privy to.

Until Next Time, the learning continues…