Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Is there any value to playing Guitar Hero while learning guitar?

My husband just got his copy of Guitar Hero: Legends of Rock yesterday. He also picked up the wireless guitar peripheral, in the hopes that we’d rock out together. After all, Guitar Hero was first a purchase for me last year for my birthday. But, after he pwned me on “Carry on My Wayward Son,” in battle mode, I kinda lost my taste for it for a while. Besides, I was learning real guitar now, and had less time for the game.

I have been wondering lately, though: does Guitar Hero help you learn guitar at all?

I found this article that says, yes—to a limited extent.

I’ve already got pretty good rhythm, so the game didn’t really develop that skill. But it is rather useful to stretch my fingers out. I am cursed with fat sausage fingers and the inability to do the “Live Long and Prosper” sign. I need all the help I can get when it comes to flexibility. I’ll never be the next Gene Simmons, but I’ll be a passable guitar player, eventually.

Guitar Hero has also gotten a lot of people interested in learning real, actual guitar. Not me, for I’ve been wanting to learn to play for several years now, but a good friend of mine definitely got into guitar after Guitar Hero.

The article leaves out one beneficial aspect for people who play both Guitar Hero and guitar. When you’re struggling with scales or learning a song, you can go straight to Guitar Hero, and pwn a song. Perhaps the same song you are trying to learn on guitar. It’s cathartic, and good for the ego…

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Practice debriefing

I thought that a debriefing of my practice might be more instructive than the file itself. So:

* Looking at the waveform of the raw file, I could see very clearly which notes I hit clearly, and which ones I did not hit well. Also, could see my tempo issues in scales and changing chords.
* Need to memorize chords better. Need to practice more often so I don't forget the chords.
* E Phrygian scale is much easier for me than Chromatic Scale
* I'm playing chords too fast. Need to slow them down
* I'm playing scales too slowly. The faster I do them, the better they sound.
* Picking and strumming still need a lot of work.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My first (recorded) practice

I'm either very brave, or very foolish. I've been rocking out for about a month, playing maybe twice a week, and here is my first recorded practice. Listen, if you DARE! Bwahahahaha!

October 29 Practice Approx. 13 minutes.

(this link will take you off-site, FYI. You will need to type in the letters you see in the upper right hand of the screen to prove you are not a robot. Also, this will take a while to upload, so please be patient.)

There is some kind of high-pitched whine on this recording and I don't know why. Sorry, folks. I shall apply noise reduction next time.

My typical practice schedule includes: tuning check, scales, chords, songs, songs by ear--includes melodies, riffs, and chords. Takes me somewhere between 10-20 minutes.

A more detailed summary of today's practice follows.

Tuning check
Chromatic Scale
E Phrygian Scale
G major
C major
D major
E minor
A minor
D minor
A major
Random Riff- In the Afterlife by Squirrel Nut Zippers
Take it Easy by The Eagles

The lack of practice meant that I had to look up chords more than usual. I tried to cut out the dead air as much as possible.

I'll probably record and upload my practices once a month or so, to check my progress. For the future, I'll keep the uploads to 5 minutes or less. I'll pull out the best bits of what I did, or if there was something terribly interesting or instructive during practice. Listening to 15 minutes of crappy practice is unarguably painful, I know.

My hope is that there will be a clear and consistent progress and improvement on my part, and, eventually, this can be used as a resource and motivation for those just starting out. I will get better, and so will you out there who practice a little bit every day. I hope that my short-term embarrassment will be educational, somehow.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The persistence of patience and practice

"It's been three days. I should have mastered the thing already." --Young Sherlock Holmes.

I am not a patient person. It makes it hard to stick with things sometimes, like learning guitar.

But I'm keeping at it--the guitar thing and the patience thing.

I'm not getting in practice time every day, but I'm hitting the guitar about two to three times a week. And I'm keeping my practice time fairly short, to somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes. As I get better, I will probably increase that on certain days, especially when I'm trying to learn songs.

It's just such slow going. My good frend said it took her over a year of weekly lessons to become anything near proficient. So, any improvement I can track on a day-by-day basis, even if it's small, is a good thing. Helps me stay motivated.

That's why I tend to end my practice sessions with something I'm good at: playing by ear. Tonight, I ended with The House of the Rising Sun, and Less Talk More Rokk (my husband's been playing Guitar Hero II). Whee. It's always nice to end on a high note, you know?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


There's always a point when I start to learn something new where I start to see the patterns in the system--the connections in what I'm learning which helps me to form the neural pathways in my brain and start to learn faster.

There's one book in particular relating to music that really helped me to "get" scales and chords. Written for the piano, it's called How to Play Popular Piano in 10 Easy Lessons, by Norman Monath. It's a slim book, but it was revolutionary in my approach to piano, and all melodic music in general.

The book teaches just enough music theory for you to be able to learn half a dozen chords, then modify those chords into about 30 total chords, using set rules. This is sooo much easier than memorizing 30 separate chords.

Also, the biggest thing I got from this book was the simple act of how to play a major scale starting on any note. It's all about thinking of notes as half steps and whole steps. Once I internalized the pattern, I could play major scales on piano, and, I just learned yesterday, the guitar.

It really bugs me that most music lessons, whether online, in a book, or with a real live person, really lack any element of music theory or practical knowledge.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Back in business

My finger is healed up, I've fixed my guitar and changed the strings, so, lo and behold, I actually had practice time today. The chords are coming easier, but transitioning from chord to chord is still slow, at best.

For my own benefit, I have started to record snippets of me playing. My thought is I'll be able to hear what I'm doing wrong, and also hear how I'll improve as I practice. Will probably be a once a month thing.

I'll try to post the Mp3 to this blog, but not sure if I will be able to. I'm still researching how to do that. Besides, at the start, it's going to be extremely amateur. But it may be of interest to, say, my dad. (Hi Dad!)

--the musishian

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Headline: bread knife sidlines aspiring rocker

Rocker Mary Celery (psudonym used to protect the embarrassed) was sidelined last Thursday after having an unfortunate run-in with a flimsy bread knife and a stale loaf.

"I had the bread on its side, and I was trying to cut off a little chunk to make bread crumbs," said Celery. "The bread slipped, and I got my finger instead."

The cut was on the left index finger, above the first knuckle and was pretty deep, according to two nurses who were consulted. The cut did not require stitches. However, because the cut is on the hand which Celery uses to form chords, her guitar playing career has been--not cut tragically short, but delayed until the wound heals properly.

"Right now, I just don't have the flexion," Celery explains. If I try to bend the knuckle to hit the string, my wound won't close properly.

This is Celery's second injury to this finger under eerily similar circumstances. Her first injury occured almost exactly 13 years ago, when she was at Girl Scout Camp slicing carrots. That initial injury required a tetanus shot, a nerve block, and half a dozen stitches.

"I knew I wasn't being careful," Celery says of both experiences. "I said to myself, 'this is not dangerous' right before I sliced my finger. I should have known better."

Estimates are that Celery should be able to return to rocking out (and updating her blog) in another 7 to 10 days.