Learning New Stuff

Back in 1998 or so, around when Santana’s Supernatural came out, I got the bug to pick up a guitar. I’d been air guitaring just like everyone else of course but it felt like I was going through the motions accurately. Air plucking, strumming, and really miming as if I were playing. Back when I was a kid, I played Dad’s trumpet (I wonder where that is) and made it to First Chair in the band.

I stopped in at the local used music center (Apple in Fredericksburg I believe) and checked out the offerings. The guy suggested a used Telecaster and practice amp (another Fender). I snagged a few more items; a cable, a handful of picks, and a book of tunes.

Over the years, I’ve picked up a few items. A hard case. A couple of tuners. A metronome. Another cable. A wah-wah pedal. A stand. More books of course. And even a few self learning type books. Even Guitar for Dummies (I’m absolutely not a fan of the Dummies books on general principle; I even used a NASA poster to create a book cover for it). I’ve even checked out on line for guitar tabs and screwed around with simple playing.

It’s time to fish or cut bait. Rita’s come back with, “either play or sell”. Rita’s very minimalistic. I’m not πŸ™‚

So I stopped in at the local Guitar Center and signed up for lessons. Specifically I was looking for direction. Rather than finding a tune I like (I like a lot of different things), why not talk to a professional and get some direction. Say I don’t have limber enough hands to play certain chords. Rather than try, be frustrated and bail, why not get that right away?

Zack called me earlier this week to provide the ground rules. He wanted an idea of where I’m coming from so he can craft an appropriate plan around his standard lessons. Tune it to my tastes. He asked for which songs I wanted to learn which I had no idea of due to what I was going for but finally told him more 70’s type guitar such as Boston. I said I like lots of different music but I don’t think Stevie Ray Vaughn or Carlos Santana will be too worried about me πŸ™‚

So last night, very much nervous but toting my guitar and a bag of my books, I headed off to my first lesson. I got there early just in case, put my gear down and wandered around the store. It was pretty amusing to find that everyone else getting lessons are kids. The oldest was probably 14 or 15. Man, I feel old.

Zack came out a few minutes after 6:30 apologizing. First off, the rooms are small so the case stays out. I took the tele out and handed it to him whereupon he complemented me on having a real guitar. He commented that there are lots of knock-offs out so I felt good about having a decent guitar.

We didn’t do much playing which I didn’t really expect. He tuned the guitar first off which you should do before playing anyway; cold, warmth, carrying in a case can all modify the string tension so tune before playing.

He started off listing the four things he was going to be focusing on. How to play, alternate picking. Going up and down vs just down. The list of exercises he wanted me to practice listed on a different sheet. Something else (I’ll update this later). And a list of concepts that I should think about so he can plan the direction of the lessons. Reading Music (learning to read), Improvisation/Jams, Theory, Fingerpicking, and Composition.

As we went through the 30 minutes, he pretty much talked non-stop. He showed me what I needed to do on his guitar. Memorize the string position with my right hand so I can go up and down the six strings without looking and even holding a conversation. Next were chords. First he wanted me to play 2 or 3 chords I knew. While I’d done some strumming before I came to the lesson, I didn’t have anything memorized. He said that he found he was trying to teach chords to folks only to discover they already knew so he does this now to find out what is already known. He then listed out 5 or 6 of the chords he wanted me to practice on.

We went through each of them to show how to pivot from position to position. Rather than picking up the left fingers, you can shift from one chord to the next by lifting one and shifting one set of strings (for example). He also annotated the G and A minor chord I had on my paper with an additional fingering (something new, he said).

At one point he wanted me to try one of the chords and prefaced it with “don’t worry if you can’t get it now, it’s not an easy one to get your fingers doing” but as I did get the chord right, he said that he was happy to see I could do it and that not many adults taking their first lesson were able to achieve this. Happy warm feelings πŸ™‚

Some other fun stuff was tuning. He was asking about tuning and I said I had a couple of tuners but I could also tune it from string to string (fifth fret for the top 4, fourth for the 3rd and fifth again for the second). He wanted me to name the notes for each of the strings top to bottom which I wasn’t able to do.

Overall I thought it was pretty good. I think I surprised Zack with some of existing knowledge but also surprised him that I didn’t know the names for some stuff. At the end, he said he’d taught a lot of adults and he could usually tell with the first lesson who would be moving along and who might have problems and he thought I would be one of the better students.

I think he did pretty well with the compliments. I didn’t feel like he was overwhelming me with false praise. Just a few comments and especially the one surprised look at the chord I was able to strum which made me feel his compliments weren’t false (or at least not 100% false).

He provided a blues set of tabs he wanted me to attempt before next class. So I’ll be doing some practice for the next week. Should be lots of fun.

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One Response to Learning New Stuff

  1. Jeff Sherard says:


    Easy way to remember the base notes for each string:


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