Sunday, October 25, 2015

Acoustic Guitar Journal #8: Progress!

I've switched guitar teachers, and my new teacher has focused me on several areas that have added new dimension to what I can do on a guitar. First, we're doing a lot of work with a lot rhythm patterns. He's given me 12-15 different patterns with different chords in each one. So it's not only about learning rhythm but also continuing to keep my chord changing sharp. I really enjoy this part of practicing, and it's also made me rethink how I play my own songs.

Another new aspect to my lessons is using a pick. My new teacher pretty much assumed from the start that this is how we would work, so I've gone along. I like strumming with my fingers, but the pick creates a much louder, stronger sound and I can do a lot more with it rhythmically. With this focus on rhythm and using a pick, we've worked through the rhythm guitar patterns on a bunch of songs: "Southern Cross" by Crosby Stills & Nash, "Let It Be" by the Beatles, and "Vienna" by Billy Joel. In most cases I quickly get to a place where I can play the rhythm part, and he can solo over it. I like playing rhythm; you just start to ride a wave within the song and that feels sweet! I've also begun learning some songs on my own: old country standard "Silver Threads & Golden Needles" and k.d. lang's "Constant Craving".

Latest push is barre chords. I'd been faking them so far (e.g., playing F by using finger one on only the two highest strings and such), but it's pretty clear to me that if I really want to play some of the more interesting songs out there that I have to learn how to do barre chords. "Vienna" has several, and I'm trying to force myself to play F and other chords like it as barres. It's difficult and doesn't come naturally to me at all. So sometimes I end up just changing chords over and over between regular and barre chords. The more I do it, the better I should get at it.

I also started taking voice lessons a few months ago. It just got to a point where I had to try again. I don't know if the sinus surgery I had changed how things resonate, I have a better teacher, or possess more confidence (or all three), but I have improved dramatically in just a short time. I'm hitting my notes, so my fear that I was tone deaf to my voice was utterly unfounded. I have a vibrato going, and when I playback recordings of myself it sounds reasonable! My teacher even asked me to perform at a recital the studio is doing. I held off on that; I need to feel a bit more confident.

I've also performed some of my songs for my voice teacher, accompanying myself on guitar. My self-accompaniment is pretty poor but it serves its purpose. Singing in correct style and in front of someone is reshaping how I sing my songs. With several, I've stopped practicing them altogether so I can focus on a few songs, improve my melody lines and polish my technique.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Deep down, I fully expected to take a few months of voice lessons and learn once again that I simply lack vocal talent and cannot be made to improve. To finally be on my way to singing, something I have dreamed about all my life is an incredible feeling.

It's never over until it's over.

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