Friday, October 5, 2012

Trying to teach myself to play the guitar is a humbling experience.  I'm taking things very slowly.  So far I've been working on the first two strings.

I have big hands and at the moment I'm feeling awkward using them when I shift to different fingers and frets.  Part of my trouble with the fret work is that I often fail to make a finger to come down on the right spot with the right pressure.

I enjoy the feel of the pick on the strings and the feeling of occasionally producing pleasant sound patterns.  I've also been cursing pretty audibly.

Over the course of the week I've been so intimidated by the idea of learning to read music that I was staring at but not comprehending what I saw in front of me on the page--in fact seeing something different than was there.  I had a aha moment this morning when I realized what was actually in front of me.

I think in verbal terms pretty well.  I don't think well spatially.  So remembering that that particular black spot on that particular line is a C note, I'm going to play on the second string, well that's going to take time.  Translating the note so the fingers can find it in time and in tune with what you're trying to do is challenging.  It only heightens my respect for people who can really play.

Like I said at the top, trying to teach myself to play the guitar is a humbling experience.


  1. Hi Tom,

    If you have a friend who plays (I don't think there's a person alive who doesn't know at least one guitar player!) you might learn 20x as much in 1/16th the time (roughly). Some little tips & suggestions can't really be gotten from a book.

    Good luck! If you lived around here my son could teach you.

  2. Just caught up with this. Two things. First, it might be encouraging to hear that I'm not doing much better with the viola. I can hold the thing now w/out much problem, but getting the bow held right his hard. I have to look at pictures, or watch a youtube video about the bowgrip every second day. And I'm only working two strings myself, and only two notes on each. So we're in the same boat. Slowly slowly, and even slowlier. Second: very few people sight read, which is what you're describing. Most people use the music to learn, then as an aid to memory. I know very few people who play a piece at first sight just by looking.

  3. Thanks for the solidarity, John. It does help. I spent a half an hour today doing one first string exercise. I'd do it somewhat right 1 out of 5 or 6 times. This time I was using a dvd. I'd look at the note pattern in the book first--as an aid to memory like you wrote-- and then just tried to look at the real guitar player on the screen and follow his pace.

    I've discovered that sometimes looking away from one's finger placement is a good thing.

  4. You learn to sight read after you learn to read music. I can play a piece just by looking but I have been reading music for 55 years and it's necessary in my business. And the bow arm? That shit never gets easier. It's the hardest part of playing a stringed instrument. Tom, you've got the right idea. Don't look at the strings. Remember muscle memory tissue memory. Correct practice is the key to mastery. It all takes so much time. I am in awe of you both.

  5. Thanks again for the encouragement, Rebecca. It is dawning on me that it's going to take a long time to get even little things right.