How was that tease last time? And then to top it off with radio silence for 7 days! I promise I didn’t immediately have an I-don’t-wanna moment and continue the cycle of forget and lethargy towards guitar playing. I considered doing a daily update but that’s going to become unwieldy very quickly and hard to navigate the site, of which I can imagine the bulk of posts would be regarding this effort.
So I’m going to go weekly. That should be okay right? At a minimum, it would keep the content flowing on the site and really, day-to-day progress is very incremental and probably mind-numbing to read. What I’m considering is, with the things I can measure, if I can chart them and post it here easily. I’ll see if I can put together a “graphs” post, pin it somewhere, and just update that single thing over time.
I technically did begin last Sunday when I wrote the kickoff post in this series. I closed the laptop, went to the game room, and booted up Rocksmith (so I don’t have to type it over and over, whenever I say “Rocksmith” I’m specifically talking about Rocksmith 2014: Remastered on PS4). I had played casually every other week or so since Christmas. The first thing I did was delete my profile from the PS4 settings. I wanted a fresh start, coming in with new eyes. I completed some of the initial tutorials, Guitarcade games, and a few songs. I was feeling really good.
I noticed that I had actually developed some skills that carried over from the last few times I had played. I’m not experienced enough with the instrument to say that it’s like riding a bike and you never forget, but some subconscious things had stuck with me – specifically knowing how to jump around on the fretboard. Remember that I cut my teeth on the Guitar Hero/Rock Band series where there was a single strum (vs. 6 strings) and 5 buttons (vs. 24 frets on my model of guitar). That’s an exponential increase in difficulty. I quaked in my socks in Rocksmith any time there was a change from the high E string (red color) to any others. The fret numbers weren’t ever super awful, because I had learned previously about how they’re labeled on the neck. I was still getting bogged down from time to time in fret math, adding on the fly. Anything past 12th fret is really tough. What I’m trying to say besides rambling on and on is that I’m having to count… less. I almost instinctively know where 5th and 7th are. Trust me, I know it’s a minuscule thing, but if I’m going to persevere here, the small victories need to be tallied and remembered, just like with any complex project.
After my activities that night, my fingers were pretty sore. I knew a key culprit: very high action near the body. I had changed strings from 9’s to 11’s about a month ago and took it to a local shop after doing that essentially muted my first fret. It desperately needed a truss rod adjustment. I tried to do so on my own but it didn’t make much difference. I decided to take it to a local small shop and the owner fixed it in a jiff. Great. The guitar had never been professionally set up though. It was a big thing I had been putting off and with this whole initiative of mine to do this thing and do it RIGHT, I should go ahead and take care of that big to-do. The less obstacles to my learning and enjoyment, the better. So my first new chapter was going to be a bit abridged due to the setup, but it would be worth it.
I dropped the guitar off on Monday after work and picked it up Wednesday night. I immediately noticed a difference. The action wasn’t glaring, nay, it was the way it should be. It sounded great and played even better when I tried it out that night with the game. Now that that was done, I had to finalize what my practice was going to be like.
In addition to playing Rocksmith, I had also been following along with JustinGuitar’s syllabus. I watched those first few videos (before the actual note lessons) over and over before Christmas and then after both to learn and to psych myself up. I had to reset on those too. Now I’m caught back up after spending nearly all night last night going back to the beginning and through the first tier. Now I’m ready (yes, finally!) to hunker down and do what absolutely must be done: real life consistent regular practice!
The schedule, inspired mostly by Justin with a little spice of my own, is going to go a little something like this:
- 0:00 – 0:05 (Chord Formation Practice)
- 0:05 – 0:10 (Chord Changes)
- 0:10 – 0:20 (Chord Songs)
- 0:20 – ??? (Rocksmith)
Here’s my explanations and thinking. Those first three bullets are nearly verbatim from the JG site and I agree with his advice there.
In the chord changes section, I’m going to put a little twist on it after reading a good suggestion in the comments there. Originally, it’s supposed to check how many changes (ex. from D to A and back) you can do in a minute and track your progress over time. That continual motivation alluded to earlier. It’s perfectly solid. I did that a few days and worked up to about 40 per. But the timing thing… a big source of anxiety for me. I hate hate hate being timed. What I focus on when I’m timed is how much time I have left, not the thing I’m supposed to be accomplishing during it. I then get sloppy and try to rush or lose a big chunk of focus. That’s why any kind of timed mechanic in a videogame is super stress inducing for me. I’m going to remove that here. Instead of how many I can do in a minute, with the end goal being 60/minute or 1/second, I’ll instead time how long it takes for me to complete 60 perfectly formed, clean sounding chords. Kind of flip the script there. I feel natural hitting notes in rhythm time, not clock time. We’ll see how that works. If it’s worse pressure I’ll go back to orthodox.
The chord songs are the simplified strumming patterns Justin has transcribed through his app. I’m a subscriber within it, figuring it’s a way to pay him back for his free lessons and hours spent transcribing hundreds of songs for us beginners to play. It’s a good value especially compared to private lessons.
That daily play path is a smooth segue from practice into fun. He stresses the practice is the most important and the fun play is the payoff. I completely agree. That last part starts with the beginner songs (a hybrid of practice and fun) and then I get to go wild with Rocksmith which hides learning other skills behind playing songs I like. At a bare minimum each day*, I’ll do the practice. I am allowing myself to take Mondays off because that’s the first day of the work week and I’m always incredibly sleep-deprived from the night before and each minute before bedtime is an eternity.
That’s a lot of wordiness to say that this week was the kickoff, and tonight begins the first real battle. I have more thoughts about other related things that I’ll share next time.
Let’s rock! Slowly but surely!