Practice makes less bad, guitar edition

15 May 2016

A good few years ago I did a 365 photography thing, where I posted a picture to Flickr, taken that day, for a full year. This was a great discipline for becoming a much better photographer. By December it wasn’t that I was loving every photo I took, but the frequency at which I was pleased with the results was much higher, and therein lies the point of such a challenge.

In a slightly less formal vein, having picked up the guitar recently, I’ve been trying to get into the habit to post a little snippet of something I’ve been practicing on guitar every week or so to YouTube. Originally it was just to share things with my brother (who’s an absolutely amazing guitarist and drummer), but having got into the habit I’m trying to keep it going. Here’s the most recent one, a brief take on R.E.M.‘s Be Mine:

If you suffer through the playlist you’ll quickly become aware that it’s rank amateur material – I’m really not that good. However, to become better one mostly just needs to practice, and having a little structure by which to do that helps, so work travel allowing I’ll try to keep that going.

One thing I am trying to do is do some actual learning. Back when I first picked up guitar twenty odd years ago I just went to the Internet, found songs I had on CD, and tried to play along (I wonder how many other guitarists of my generation got started thanks to Chris Bray?). It was enough that I could strum along to some R.E.M. and Radiohead (I was in my R phase at the time), but means I don’t really know why I play what I play, and can’t go off the rails.

This time, whilst still hunting the Internet for tunes I like (which ironically is harder these days, as someone has tried to make money off it all, rather than it being somewhat community spirited back in the Internet’s heyday), I’ve also been trying to learn theory behind playing thanks to YouTube channels like Justin Sander Coe’s. Justin’s channel is great for beginners like me, and I only wish YouTube had been around twenty years ago when I started, rather than waiting another decade before even existing. I dived in at intermediate level on Justin’s videos, thinking I knew a thing or two already, before downgrading myself to beginner when I realised I really needed to go back to square one to undo some of my bad habits. Even things like just practicing my scales every day have helped train my fingers to behave more. I really recommend Justin’s videos.