Post by grampalerxst on May 31, 2019 9:40:05 GMT -6
Well, not totally random. A while back I set up a countdown clock for my early retirement and today is the day it goes to zero. I'm not retiring today--my conservative side has arisen and talked me into to pushing it a little ways down the road--but I decided to take the day off to mark having made it this far and having met all the retirement-related goals that went into picking the date. So the theme of the day is "big picture things" and while I was practicing this morning I began to think about guitar through that lens. I used to have sort of a practice log/journal thread, but I don't want to dredge that up. Instead I'll spam you guys with a new one.
When I first started out here my big development obstacle was establishing somewhat of a rhythmic foundation. It took a coupla-three years to really get started on that, but at this stage I feel like I've improved 1000% in that regard, maybe more. Still a ways to go--among other things this morning I was working on trying to get my foot tapping steady during the first 16 bars of Electric Gypsy I've been working on. Even when the bass and drums join in the last two times through the progression, the beat is still a little slippery. There are places where my foot starts tapping spontaneously but other places where I can't feel it so well. I don't have much trouble playing along and staying reasonably in time, but can't count through it. Anyway I digress.
While rhythmic awareness is something I try to incorporate all the time, and I almost always have an external time source (metronome or music track I'm playing along with), I'm increasingly trying to tackle my ear problems. That's taken various forms but where I seem to be getting the most traction is slowing things down and playing along while trying to imitate in detail well-played bits of music. I probably look a little eccentric sitting (or standing) around with my eyes closed trying to replicate the simplest of phrases at painfully slow tempo. Good thing it's only me in the house here, and an old dog who's nearly deaf. But you know what? It seems to be working! Nothing revolutionary for sure yet every day I'm a couple Angstroms better at them.
Interestingly both those things, the uber remedial rhythm stuff and the equally remedial way-slow listening/imitating stuff, seem to bleed readily into everything else I do on the instrument where many other things I've experimented with do not. Most notably the "standard" approaches of hustling up to tempo as fast as possible and drilling fretboard knowledge (think scales all up and down the guitar and such) do not.
I should probably point out that when I say ear/listening stuff I don't really mean pitch recognition (i.e., relative pitch). That still vexes me enormously. With the Keith Wyatt phrases I've been working with I'm forcing myself to learn them by ear rather than by notation, even though I know ahead of time they are all in the same key, contained in one octave, and played in the same position from having looked at the book (all by the author's design, including them being intended as "ear" exercises primarily). I can tell when I hit the right (or wrong) note, but learning them is still a process combining trial-and-error and ultimately memorization, and it typically takes working at it over several days to nail down a simple 6- or 8-note blues phrase. Another way of saying it is that my ear at this point is a judge ("that's right" or "that's not right") in the process much more so than a guide ("go there next", or "that note is the minor third"). It's more/less the same method I used to work out the Electric Gypsy intro, and why it took several weeks to get a decently accurate handle on it.
What I'm talking about r.e. listening skills is focusing on the "articulation" of each note and mapping out an association from what I hear to my physical note-making mechanisms. Perhaps it is futile, but my hope is that if I continue diligently and work through enough bits of music this way that eventually some degree of relative pitch skill, or at least its precursors, will sprout. But for now just getting a note I make to be a "good" note, true to the example, is the focus; regardless of how I came to know which string to play at what fret.
In summary, I'm pretty encouraged. From my perspective it is a huge relief to have arrived at an understanding of some things I can do, and probably more importantly how to approach them, that gets me somewhere. Even if it is just a few baby steps towards the other side of the room it works for me.
People who study such things say that one of the pitfalls of retirement for some folks is just not knowing how to spend their time in a way that makes them feel like they are living a life worth living. I've thought a lot about that and have hatched a plan where I can readily dip into a bag of ideas that will keep me mentally and physically active well beyond what moving back-and-forth between the TV and refrigerator would provide. Guitar is one of the more important ones since it can be an everyday around-the-house pursuit that establishes a daily rhythm and puts a giant dent in TV time (I read somewhere that the statistics for retired single men who sit in front of the tube a minimum of 6-8 hours per day are pretty grim). So given my perspective on things today it's a big deal to me to be able to recognize that especially over these last 7 months I've made some respectable headway on a course that should establish guitar as a core element of the next phase of living for me. Even if I never make to the level of being a proper guitar player, as long as I make enough progress (my standards are a low hurdle) that I stay engaged and excited, I can make great use of my quieter leisure time.