Another batch from Holmdel – this time at the Hilltop.
I broke my 3-4 photo rule for this post. When the botanical garden is in bloom, it’s impossible to pick favorites.
This is still only the tiniest sampling of the photos I took on this walk, all the same.
Also, major pet peeve: if you can’t hold onto a damn plastic bottle until you can get to a trash can, don’t bring it into the park. Cleaning up your litter is not other people’s responsibility. Stop throwing Gatorade bottles in the grass. Shitheads.
I owe you posts on so many subjects. I have no excuse. I need to post about SPWF and a handful of new songs I’m working on, and…I don’t know. Things. But what have I been doing all month? Mostly binge-playing Assassin’s Creed, honestly, and watching Shadow Hunters. Neither of these things are particularly productive uses of my time, but facts are facts.
So, rather than doing things in order, I’ve decided to just do them in order of expedience. That is to say, if I use the photos on my phone instead of my camera -photo posts are fastest, so you get those first and I’ll work my way backward to the more involved posts.
So, here’s some Holmdel Park, from…uh…it was either the end of May or very beginning of June.
Well guys, it’s 3 AM as I write this post. Yes. 3 AM. The time of night when any sane person is unconscious, but I’m shaking off barre chord practice because that’s just apparently how I roll on a Saturday night. The house is quiet, Roomie’s asleep, and I’m not far behind, but as long as I don’t use a pick, I can keep things quiet enough to not disturb anyone.
Earlier tonight I threw out a sort of unproductive, frazzled post, because at 9:30 it didn’t really seem like I was going to get anything particularly productive done, but in the end, I do seem to have made some progress, so I wanted to write up my thoughts now, before I go to sleep and forget them.
So, here’s a list of dumbass things I did that I now realize were problems.
1. Getting my shoulder in on the act: I’ve had this habit of dropping my shoulder as if that miraculously would make the rest of my hand work better. I knew I was doing it, but only really ‘after the fact’. I had to really pay attention to start to break this habit. My shoulder isn’t fretting strings, so the idea that I have to move it into a different position for my fingers to work properly is just silly.
2. Trying to use strength: This is a bad habit I’ve had all along, really. I have this terrible habit of subconsciously thinking ‘press harder’ is the answer to bad technique. It’s not, obviously, but when notes don’t ring clearly, my hand tries to apply more force before my brain catches up. It’s absolutely no help that tutorials all say that barre chords, and chords in general require “strength”, creating a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Barre chords don’t require “strength”; no chords do. What they require is muscle control and accuracy. Learning how to use the small muscles in your hand with precision has fuck all to do with how strong those muscles are.
3. Forming the barre too far from the fret. This is the one it took me the longest to notice. It requires infinitely less work to hold a clean barre when the barre finger is almost on top of the metal fret. Every millimeter behind it makes it harder to get the notes to sound clearly, and easier to tense up/try to pinch the fret/apply too much force to compensate/etc. I’ve had it in my head that a 4 finger chord with a barre, like F, was going to test the limits of my ability to stretch my not-very flexible fingers, but that has been in part because I was under this false idea that my finger needs to be completely behind the fret, that the front or side of my finger need to be utterly flat there, and that’s just not so. It’s actually a remarkably small strip of skin that’s forming the barre, so if my finger looks like it’s overlapping the fret, well, it’s not, and that’s right about where I want it to be to get a nice, clean sound.
What it really comes down to, I think, is that we beginners tend to make things way more complicated than they need to be. I am still running into some issues with my pinky knuckle locking/flattening, and muting the string below it, and I have to train some muscle memory into my hand. Tomorrow (er…today…) I’ll do a bit of practice with just forming the chord, taking my fingers off, forming it again, to train a bit of muscle memory into it, and probaby by next week I’ll start practicing switching in and out of it with some other chord.
Ultimately, what it looks like from where I sit tonight, is that barre chords are hard to learn because the process forces you to break the bad habits you didn’t notice when you were working just with open chords, and those bad habits you’ve formed – whatever they may be – get in the way of learning barre chords until you can identify and overcome them, but from where I sit tonight, I think I’d probably say “barre chords aren’t hard to play, they’re only hard to learn to play.” And, I think, hopefully, from this point, now that I’m able to play a clean F chord 9 times out of 10, progress should be steady, rather than the stops and starts I’ve had up to this point.
I still owe you guys a post on the Steampunk World’s Fair, and probably several nature photo posts. I’ve got another new song in the works. I still haven’t finished the intro to guitar course. I was planning to get some of those things done this weekend. I don’t rule out the possibility of doing SOMETHING tomorrow, but it’s already 9:30 pm here, so Saturday has apparently been a bust. I didn’t even go to this month’s open mic. None of my household chores are done.
I’ve been slacking quite a lot. Today I’ve spent most of the day alternating between working on my F chord, playing Assassins Creed II (yes, I know, way behind the times. I wait until games are cheap, okay?), and reading a bazillion articles about Chris Cornell. My head still isn’t quite willing to wrap itself around the fact we now live in a world where there will be no new Chris Cornell songs. Before I had a digital music library, I listened to Euphoria Morning so many times that I killed the CD. I had to buy it again. Then, the second copy got slightly murdered, too, so my digital copy still has one or two tracks that are a little fucked up. I need to replace those tracks, I really do. It’s still one of my favorite albums of all time, and every time I get 3/4 of the way through ‘Flutter Girl‘ and then start hearing the scratchy noises, I sulk about it, then my irreparably bad attention span kicks in and I forget about it by the time I get home until the next time I listen to the track.
So, yeah, sufficed to say, I’m not really in the right frame of mind to babble happily at you about the bands I saw at SPWF this year. That post is going to end up being pretty darn belated, because I don’t really want to be like ‘oh yeah, these bands were great, WTH IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD?’ That’s sort of how things have been for me for the past few days, though. I’ll just be going about my life, and then I remember one of my musical heroes just died, and I get shot into ‘reality sucks’ mode for a bit. I thought I’d maybe do something rare for me and try to learn to cover one of his songs to help me process, but no dice – he’s just too damn good (or I’m too bad, or both, you pick. lol).
So naturally, when reality sucks, I work on guitar stuff that’s hard, like barre chords. It’s coming along though, really. My hand tires out quickly, but it’s coming along. My big problem points right now are:
- My damn pinky. I’m having a hard time not flattening it out (and therefore muting the strings below it).
- the B string. Of all the strings, B is the one I’m having the hardest time to get to ring clear consistently.
- My…er…knee. Yes, you read that right, my knee. I seem to have this absolutely horrible habit, when I’m not paying attention, of planting my elbow on my knee to get a better angle. I’m not sure what this is about, but I suspect it has to do with the way I drop my shoulder when I rest my elbow, so I’m trying to be really conscious of NOT doing that. Being able to play barre chords only when my knee is in the equation won’t do me a damn bit of good.
So, for now, I practice a few minutes at a time, starting at the 3rd fret and working my way up to the first. I’m not at a point where I’m attempting to switch in and out of it yet. For now I just want to be able to get a consistently clear chord and get used to how it feels under my fingers. It’s slow progress, but I’m inching my way there.
In other news, I don’t know. I’m still working with the music note app for a few minutes most nights right before bed, but I’m taking my time and not moving on to a new note until I’m pretty confident of what I know so far, so it’s going slowly, but it’s going. I’ve got several proper posts to write, but I’m moping, so just updating you and letting you know I’m still working on things, and will hopefully have something worthwhile to talk about soon.
In the meanwhile, I’ll just leave this here: