Wait, what? Didn’t Week 4 just get published all of 30 seconds ago? Yeah. Week 4 was very rambly, done throughout the week, and I was too tired last night to edit it up into something resembling structure. I’m still going to continue on with that style, but I’ll just post every edit and follow up so it’s chronological.
I have a very important bit of news to share – I’m finally done with stage 1 of the JustinGuitar beginner course! It only took me, what, three and a half months? Not consistent of course, as I’ve shared before. It was really a tale of two halves: a couple weeks of meandering practice in January and early February, and real honest focused nigh-daily practice from the beginning of this blog in March on.
I rewatched the lesson videos many times, trying to gleam new nuggets as my practice routine developed. I think I was holding myself to too high of a standard. According to Justin, I should have knowledge of the D/A/E chords from memory (check) and be up to at least 40 changes per minute with the chords sounding not perfect but good. I was just under that for D to E for a while. Over the weekend though I had another of those giant leaps in productivity. Note the last part of the requirements. I was so determined to get to 60 per minute with each chord having zero buzz that I was stuck. After I relaxed and decided to count “good” chords (little buzz, fingers in the right spots), my count skyrocketed. I beat 60 on D to A (surprisingly my highest number of all at 63), 60 even on A to E, and 47 on D to E. Congratulations self, I passed!
The self-confidence boost was overwhelming. I had thoughts from time to time that I just couldn’t do this, that I’d be stuck in stage 1 purgatory forever because I was seeing minimal to no gains. After reading inspiring accounts from the website, I was able to not give up and just keep hammering at it.
It paid off.
I still have a very long journey to go. I’m not doing myself any favors by using 11 strings and a .96mm pick, but no guts no glory. Everything’s totally possible.
So what’s on the agenda this week? I spoiled myself and watched the next few lessons. Stage 2 is about E minor, A minor, and D minor. Another horrid D-style chord. I’m going to focus on E to D changes as the thing to improve and that new trio to start getting familiar with. I think there are also some strumming videos in stage 2 as well so I need to start working those into the routine, even going back to stage 1 with basic rhythm. It’s okay. I have to have to have to have to be patient.
I’d like to do longer practice sessions but I’m still having some issues with my fingers not being fully calloused up yet. I use my index finger for a ton of things, fingers 2 and 3 less so. That’s the roadblock. I have to hold the strings down hard to get clear notes. It’s a skin problem, not a finger strength problem. I hear the skin gets better and better over time. If I’m losing patience with anything, it’s that. I took a day off last week to let my fingertip recover and it did well. Just can’t push myself so hard I have a setback.
This being the first week of Stage 2, I decided to take it easy a bit. Learning three new chords at once (2 of which are very easy but that’s neither here nor there) is something that could easily get overwhelming. I’ve seen a bit of advice from many places – if you don’t know something without thinking about it, i.e. in muscle memory, then go slow. Really slow. Get it right, then get it fast.
I did take Thursday and Friday off. Not intentionally, but that’s the way it worked out. I shouldn’t feel horribly guilty for that. As long as I am able to regroup back into a daily practice after a break of no longer than that amount of time, I can stay on track. In fact, I’ve found that most times when I take a break, I come back not only eager to play, but I’ve somehow improved without (pardon the pun) lifting a finger. When I noodled around on Sunday, it was much easier to form the new chords. It was painfully slow the first couple of days. I’m not even close to the 60 changes per minute threshold with those yet but there is actual progress happening. That kind of thing is very nice reinforcement. I do believe my fingers/callouses are “toning up” as well and I should be able to start having longer practices soon without the fear of blisters, cuts, or lack of strength.
I’m mulling over changing the gauge of my strings from 11s to 10s. I may have put an unnecessary handicap on myself. With the 11s, my fingers have to be PERFECTLY aligned to the fret and with the right amount of pressure. I get 100% clean chords without a hint of buzz or deadness maybe a third of the time. I’m wondering if the step down to 10s would make it more flexible. Of course if I changed I’d probably have to twist the truss rod a little bit but I’ve been successful there before. The 11s are also probably too tough on my fingers which is holding back my practice lengths. Something I’ll muse on. Maybe I’ll ask a forum.
That’s it for this week. Feeling positive.