Well, I’ve been keeping pretty busy this past week. As a result, I’ve had very little time per day with instruments in hand.

I’m still trying to rescue myself out from under the mountain of stuff we all manage to somehow accumulate over the years, and spent most of the night going through a stack of books to determine what’s worth enough to try to sell, and what’s not worth the effort and should just be donated.

Much to my surprise, a book I almost gave away this weekend, Nicole Blackman’s Blood Sugar happens to be worth a pretty penny these days! I spent a whopping $14 on it back in 2002. Now an “acceptable” copy (which we all know is code for ‘kind of crapped up and not very well taken care of’) is retailing at just shy of $50. Wow. So, hopefully I’ll manage to sell that one, because  I could definitely use that cash to pay down my recent car fiasco.

So, the past two days have been mostly spent going through books and DVDs – kind of a traumatic experience, trying to get rid of things without the roomie seeing (my things, not his), lest he try to adopt something and we move a step backward for every two forward I try to make.  And, it’s not like I don’t like books anymore. Of course I do. But with few exceptions (You can pry my pretty collector’s edition of Alice in Wonderland out of my cold, dead hands.), I’m doing most of my reading digitally these days.  That makes it no easier to part with favorites. So, I do one sweep, then a month or so later I do another.

It’s traumatic to get rid of everything at once, right?

Last month I got rid of 4 bags of clothing. A 5th is in process. I can’t seem to bring myself to part with leggings (I support leaving the house in clothes that feel like pajamas, thanks), but I probably don’t need 6 pairs of sweatpants, three is plenty.

And in that vein, I took the traumatic task of art supplies on last night. I’ve done very little if any, traditional media in recent years. I’ve almost entirely switched to digital, especially now that I have my schmancy tablet. In my last run, I made the traumatic choice to get rid of all of my acrylic and oil paints, but at that time chose to keep the watercolors and gouache. I like watercolors and gouache. …I also haven’t used them except for my Halloween pirate ship in at least 5 years. So, I swallowed that lump of nostalgic dread in my throat last night and in one fell swoop threw them all away. I also cringed as I threw out my bucket of beads (I kept a few large glass ones, and some basic black, but all those teeeny beads? Yeah, they’re gone now.). All I’ve retained of my craft supplies are my micron pens, my colored pencils and watercolor pencils, jewelry chain and wire, necklace clasps, and a very small selection of beads. Everything else is gone.  Part of me cringes over that, but a larger part looks at the remainder and wonders if I’m still maybe keeping too much. (I have a LOT of microns. In part owing to the fact I asked for a new brush pen for christmas and got a whole 12 marker set, so have several duplicates.) But, that’s a decision to make in the next sweep.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been entirely inactive musically though. I did record a new guitar song recently, which, you may have noticed, I chose to play pick-free.  This calls back to a previous post, where I said I was going to experiment with playing both ways, as I thought some of my issues with guitar were just being extremely clumsy with a pick. And, I was right. I AM extremely clumsy with a pick. I just can’t seem to get comfortable with them. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t practice it, but it does mean I understand that the root of several of my guitar issues has to do with my ability to strum with a pick in my hand (or lack thereof).

Does that mean I’m going to be throwing out the pick for good? Not necessarily, but it does mean I have to consider what things I want to approach with a pick and what things I want to approach without one. On the one hand, I find strumming feels much, much more natural without a pick. On the other, I can’t deny that this only really applies when I’m strumming most of the strings (you’ll notice if you watch the Hurricanes Video that I’m using my thumb wrapped over the neck to mute the low E; it just seemed like the most efficient way to do it for the song at hand, though I admit that’s not going to be an option on chords that require more flexibility down the road), once it comes to power chords, things start getting pretty clumsy.

Then again, I’m still pretty crap at power chords, so maybe I shouldn’t lay all the blame on my strumming hand.

I’ve read people arguing that a pick is more precise and faster in general – which, having experimented a little, I don’t entirely buy. A pick is just an extension of your hand; your hand is moving the same speed regardless. If we use the argument that ‘a pick is faster’ it assumes your hand is slower without one, which just makes no logical sense. HOWEVER, not using a pick in certain areas requires finer motor control, and if you don’t have that, it can slow you down. So, maybe we should be saying something more like ‘on certain techniques, a pick allows for a larger margin of error.’ At least, that’s my impression so far from my experimenting.

That doesn’t change the fact, though, that my picking, at the moment, really hangs me up. Literally. As in, whatever it is I’m doing wrong with picking is causing my pick to slow me down or mess me up by getting caught on the strings and being just generally awkward to hold. I’ve got them in just about every gauge. I’ve got tortex ones and ultex ones, I’ve got celluloid ones, I’ve got a jazz pick or two. Heck, I even have wooden picks and a thumb pick. I have gauges down to .66 mm and up to 1 mm or more. I’ve tried them all.  I thought I liked the .60 mm tortex picks best, with the wood pick and the .88 mm tortex in a close second. Now? I have no idea what I like. Some nights, the super flimsy .46 mm pick seems like the only thing that doesn’t get stuck on the strings (but I’m not crazy about the sound of it dragging along the strings, if I’m honest), other days, a 1 mm tortex seems to be the only thing I can keep steady. Some nights, I find myself using the side of my ring finger for added support, which the internet says is a bad habit to develop (while saying in the same breath that some great players do things totally unlike what Joe Nobody on the internet is suggesting).


All I’m absolutely convinced of at the moment is that opinions are like assholes.

And, of course, that my picking needs work, which is something apparently I have to just guess and experiment with until I find something that makes sense, since the internet is full of … (see the previous sentence).

At the end of the day, I don’t have any solutions yet, but at least I’ve established that I was absolutely right that I’m absolutely having pick related problems in my guitar playing. Where do I want to go with that information? I don’t know yet, but I’m putting some thought into it, and I’ll revisit the subject again when I’ve come to some conclusions on the matter.

On another subject, which I considered writing about in some detail, but am now not going to – I’ve officially deleted the shelby stronger blog. I was going to let it fester until the domain expired this summer, but I’m still getting follows on it in spite of my top post being basically a glorified “this site is dead”, which just proves a suspicion I had: that at least 50% of bloggers don’t actually read blogs; they just blindly follow to get follows or courtesy follow anyone who likes/follows them. I have some unflattering thoughts about that vapid manner of blogging, which I will spare you, but I think my choice of adjectives speaks for me on the matter.  In any case, the retired poetry blog has officially had it’s plug pulled so that any and all follows (vapid or otherwise) will at least end up on a blog that someone is writing on.

Until Next Time, cleaning house and honing in on problem areas.

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