Pro Guitar Status, June 12, 2011

Jun 12 2011

Last week I started on barre chord training, and my main takeaway there was that it was going to require a lot of (painful!) practice. Which I dutifully did: every weekday this week I pulled out the guitar after I got home and practiced for a bit. (Outside of the game: I didn’t plug in the guitar and left the strings unmuted.) Which was a good choice: I made a lot of mistakes while doing that, and learned something about the pitfalls of different finger positions.

And I still have a long way to go. I went through the game’s barre chord training both yesterday and today; I did better both times than last week, making it through nine of the ten sections, but it was a struggle, and I had to give my wrist frequent rest breaks. And the game was surprisingly generous: it doesn’t actually require you to be holding down the barre chord perfectly, though I’m not sure exactly what mistakes the game allows. (Maybe it lets you miss one of the high strings?) Still, it’s progress, and I’ll keep at it.

I also tried out the other Hard training lessons. And I was surprised to find that the barre chord lessons wasn’t the first group: there’s an open chord group of lessons before that, which (among other things) teaches you about E and A chords, which is kind of useful when working on barre chords! I did manage to go through all of that group, and all of the scale lessons; actually, I rather enjoyed the latter. Oddly enough, the chromatic scale was by far the hardest of the scale lessons for me—a chromatic scale should be straightforward on a guitar, one would think, but it didn’t turn out that way. There were two other groups of lessons that I dipped into but didn’t complete, I’ll give those a try again next week. (Actually, I’ll give all of them a try again, this is all core knowledge, and I’m not nearly solid enough at any of it to be able to move on.)

I also went through three songs. None of which had barre chords in them: they all had three-note chords, with open fifths. Which raised a fingering question: should I finger it like a barre chord where I happen to only be strumming three strings, or should my index finger be vertical? For now, I’m going with the latter, but any advice would be welcome. Also, the game kept on claiming that I was missing the three note chords when I thought I was fingering them correctly; eventually, I realized that I was in fact fingering correctly, I just wasn’t strumming through all three strings. (A bad habit I picked up from the two-note chords on Medium, where the game/controller really only makes you strum one of the strings.) Once I figured that out, I did a pretty good job on I Love Rock and Roll, which was nice.

I also took a break from pro guitar, going through London Calling on regular bass. Which was awesome, it’s a wonderful album with some pleasant bass lines. The only weird thing was trying to go for the all-upstrum 100% expert goal: for the second time, I thought I’d finished the goal (I certainly got 100%!), but I wasn’t credited with it. No idea what’s going on there.

And then there were the equipment events of the week. The said one is that the Squier controller is being discontinued. It’s still available at Best Buy; talking it over with Liesl, we actually decided to order a second one, on the theory that she’s dipping her toes into the instrument as well and having a second one available would also be welcome if the first one breaks. (She has quite a bit more experience than I do playing an actual guitar, though she usually plays bass in our Rock Band sessions.) If you’re finding this series of posts interesting and are on the fence about buying one yourself, I encourage you to take the leap: I’ve obviously found mine to be more than worth it.

On a more pleasant equipment note, I also ordered an amp! I talked it over with a guitarist friend of mine, and it seemed like the Fender Vibro Champ was the best tradeoff between price and quality. (I’m obviously quite enjoying my guitar learning so far, but I’m not committing to trying to become a really solid guitarist; so while I may well eventually buy a better guitar and amp, I may decide that sticking with playing the guitar in game is all that I’m up for.) So I’m really looking forward to its arriving this week and seeing what the guitar sounds like; I’m thinking that, every time I go through a song in game, I should try it once or twice plugged into the amp as well.

I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to practice next weekend—we have guests in town whom I might not want to inflict too much bad guitar playing on, and we have theatre tickets for Sunday afternoon. Which is okay: at worst, that means that I won’t have time to do much beyond regular barre chord practice, and that’s what I need much more than anything else.

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