Thursday, September 23, 2010

Electric Guitar

It was becoming difficult to practice my acoustic guitar and stay a good neighbor. Many times I like to practice very early in the morning or late at night, and I live in an apartment building, so I would try to play very quietly. I was worried that would lead to bad technique, plus it wasn't very fun, so I decided to look for an electric guitar.

An unamplified electric guitar is not very loud, and with an amplifier you can plug in headphones and crank the sound, it would be ideal for playing at night without waking the neighbors. Plus, I wanted one.

I spent a lot of time searching for an electric guitar, checking out online classified ads for used guitars and checking out pawnshops. The biggest problem I had was that I really didn't know enough about guitars to make a good judgment on the quality and condition of an instrument. I spent a lot of time reading online reviews and learning more, but the more I learned the more I felt that pawnshops were asking too much for used stuff, and I didn't feel confident enough to buy privately.

Ended up buying a new Epiphone SG Custom with a worn cherry finish. I'm very happy with it. It looks beautiful and is nice to play. Bought a Pocket Pod effects processor and a small practice amp to play around with the sound as well. Having lots of fun with it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Practice Practices

Practicing guitar is one of those weird things for me. I'm never really sure when I should be going on to the next step. Do I have to get everything perfect, or just pretty good? Usually I just settle for pretty good, especially as I don't think there's enough time in the universe for me to get anything perfect.

I try to rely on the fact that some skills will be practiced even when learning different skills. For example, for a while I kind of stalled when learning open chords. I spent a lot of time, weeks in fact, practicing transitions between chords before going on the the next lesson. That time certainly wasn't wasted, as I did get a lot better with the transitions between chords, but that's also something that gets practiced later on as well, as with finger picking.

On the other hand, getting the transitions better made learning finger picking easier. I think the time learning one skill is almost a constant, if I didn't spend the time in one section I would have spent it in another section.

The other problem is learning a new skill while neglecting old skills. Sometimes, as with finger picking and chords, I'm still practicing the old skill while learning a new one. Now, though, I'm learning pentatonic scales and playing the whole fretboard. I really should keep practicing my chords as well, especially barre chords, which I'm still not great at.

The solution is obvious: learn new skills while practicing the old skills. It feels like it cuts into my learning time, but that's the way it has to be. If I want to learn faster, I'll have to devote more time to practicing.

Friday, September 03, 2010

New Hobby

About ten years ago, maybe less, my mother bought me a guitar for Christmas. Not just a cheap starter guitar, but a very nice black Art & Lutherie cutaway dreadnought. It was part of a musically themed Christmas, where she put a lot of thought and effort into gifts like glasses with music staffs on them, plates with piano keys, and guitar books. It was actually pretty extravagant.

There was a problem. I wasn't really interested in playing guitar.

I took a few lessons when I was a kid, but never got very good. As a kid I liked the idea of being able to play guitar, but didn't want to put in the effort of learning and the hours of practice that are necessary to get even competent. As an adult I knew I would never take the time needed to play. So I strummed it a few times, and into the closet it went, for years.

Mom kept asking me if I was playing it, and I would reply evasively: "A little bit," or "Haven't really had the time," or "I tried it out."

About 3 months ago I decided I needed to take up a hobby that didn't involve computer keyboards or video game controllers and took out the guitar. Downloaded some videos from the internet and started playing. Found I really enjoyed it, and have kept up with it, so far. I've learned a lot, even though I'm still terrible, and though I'm not shredding guitar solos I'm just enjoying what I can do right now, relishing my progress as I slowly get better, and just trying to play through the difficult stuff.

A guitar is a risky gift to give someone, and if you decide to give one as a present be prepared that it may end up as a dust collector. In this case it paid off, although it was years later. Hopefully I'll be playing and enjoying myself with it for years to come, though I may never be very good.