Jim's practice log
Mar 26th 2020
I have been on MGA a few days now looking around and starting from the beginning and becoming familiar with the layout. I am working on notes on the fretboard, pentatonic boxes and Minor blues rhythm 1a. I'm having a diffucult time getting the syncopation and timing down and muting the unwanted strings. today i spent 3 hoiurs practicing.
The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. A metaphor of coarse, I've never eaten any elephant my self. So, to be clear, no elephants were harmed due to my response to your post. (insert chuckle here)
Are you sensing a bit of frustration thinking, try as you may, you just don't get it? Is your mind screaming direction but your fingers have a mind of their own? Especially the little finger, what a useless appendage. Should that not have gone the way of tonsils? When you finish a practice session do you find yourself more confused than when you started? Well, that's three hours I'll never get back. Do you ask yourself if starting this fancy is the wisest use of your time, because your you feel as if you should be somewhere else further down the road of accomplishment from where you actually are? Buddy Guy I'm not. Do you look and listen to seasoned Slingers and say to yourself, I don't have enough time left in my life to ever play like that? Why didn't I this start when I was younger? How about, I'm not musical, what I trying to prove here? Nobody is musical before they make their first attempt. Or, God forbid the embarrassment should someone hear me attempting to play? What's the use, I'll never get it!
I'm asking you these questions in this reply when actually I'm using them as an excuse to do an examination of my own conscience, in describing my attempt to become "musical". See, these are just some of the questions that had too long plagued my own mind, weighting it down like excess baggage full of sand that I couldn't use and didn't need but somehow felt that I needed to carry anyway. It was like walking on gravel in bare feet. It slowed the journey and lessened the fun for sure. In retrospect, what was I thinking.
Last night in my response to your joining MGA I talked about how I came to the guitar and some of the road I traveled. But I didn't write of the frustrating pot holes that seemed to be ever present along that road. It's funny to me now sitting here writing this that I was able to adapt so readily to the loss of using my legs but would frustrate myself when it came to playing the guitar. It took me the better part of twelve years to start letting the sand out of those bags and then eventually chucking them out the window with my wheel chair.
If you are feeling any of what I am describing, here is what I am prescribing. You are not going to wait to loose the weight. (just thought I would Thoreau that out there)
You are fortunate Jim, you've just arrived at the station and are about to embark the guitar train and you "are" leaving those bags behind you. You won't need any of them where you are going my friend. Don't make my mistake, forget about taking any of that nonsense along.
All of the questions I posed or self doubt your may already have is just your mind screwing with your head giving you excuses to fail. Our psych can be an insidious animal. And, it seems the older we get the more prevalent that animal can become. It robs our insides of all little child wonderment and innocents that we had growing up. We knew nothing about building forts in the park or a tree house or coaster, we were excited by the idea and we just did it. We didn't gloat over our mistakes, we reveled in what ever we completed. Where does that excitement, wonder and drive go? Is that just a natural part of maturation as our balls drop? I don't think so. I believe that is still alive in all of us old farts, we just sometimes neglect to look for it or allow ourselves to recognize it or respond to it when we see it.
At the end of many of my sessions with John Garcia, he would lean over, put hand on my shoulder and say to me, "Geppetto, don't beat yourself up. You've been playing part time for six or seven years while I have been playing full time all of my life. So relax, you're doing fine. Don't shoulder yourself with the frustration of what you can't do, celebrate what you can do. No matter how simple it may be at the moment, embrace it, smile at yourself and remember, to always have fun while doing it. Identifying the small parts one by one, will eventually lead to the larger picture." I should have invoked those thoughts sooner than I have but later is far better than never.
Now, every evening, I put my headphones on, jack in the guitar, and begin to tune. I am alone and there are no distractions around me. My mind and body are preparing to enter themselves into this altered state or third dimension. Thoughts of the outside world are leaving. I'm listening to my breathing and I feel my heart beat in my chest. I caress the guitar like the love of my life that I wish to be one with. There is comfort and security there and I can expose my inhibitions without fault or shame. I am vulnerable here but I have no fear there is safety in my surrender. Negativity no longer exists.
And, like a slide show, my mind begins to project all that is good about my presents in the cosmos. The things that I am thankful for. The family and friends that put up with me regardless of my own unique idiosyncrocies and still love me anyway. The basic necessities that I have provided me like thatch over my head, clothes on my back, food in my stomach and again the love of those great people that surround me. And, not one but three incredible guitars to play. I am privileged and humbled.
These thoughts bring about good and incredibly strong emotional vibrations me that often bring smiles of joy but many time bring tears that wet my guitar and I obstruct none of them but welcome them all equally as they manifest themselves as my true being. As I begin to feel them my hands begin to pluck and the strings begin to vibrate along. It is not important what I play but that I play what I feel. Often it is one, two or three syncopated notes for fifteen minutes at a time or longer. Or, notes on one string only. I might play three simple cords, over and over first looking at my fingers for just the perfect placement then closing my eyes, listening and envisioning the tone and positions in my mind. Again, I'm alone and I can do no wrong. I no longer wince at an off color note nor alter my tempo because of it. I attempt to learn from it. What string was it on? What note is it? What interval is it in the key of my play? Slowly, the mechanics begin to be understood. Little bites one by one. Do this every night Jim then call yourself a player. You don't have to be Eric Clapton or anybody else. You just have to be you. You're the only one that is looking. You are out to impress nobody but the standard you set for yourself.
Each time I am lucky enough to be able to pick up the instrument I get to eat a bite of elephant, I learn a little bit more about myself, the world that surrounds me and my place in it. Powerful stuff and a lot less expensive than a good Shrink here on the Peninsula.
So, in all these positive respects, it took my head longer to get here than it could have but it is what is and thankfully it ain't what it use to be. And you may be asking yourself at the end of this note, how well do I play after all of this time? Well enough to appease this party of one! I like to think that I got to this party late but at least I'm there now. And, at this party no matter what I play or how I play it I'm now always a legend in my own mind.
So, leave the bags behind and welcome to the party Jim! And about that elephant? For best digestion, small bites with a good Chianti, a slow metronome and a subtle smile.
Be well friend.
Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. Your reply was " spot on ". I live alone and have no distractions but, like you said; it easy to beat yourself up rather than appreciate at every small accomplishment I do however try to end my practice on a positive note " pardon the pun". Even though I have only been a member a very short period of time I do feel like my playing and understanding of how to learn guitar playing and maximize my time. Geppetto, it is nice meeting you and keep I touch and stay healthy .
I spent the last few days trying to figure out where to start the program. I have practiced fun on fret board, pentatonic scales, 5 blues boxes, I am trying to figure out my skill level so i am reviewing some things i thought I had down but still needs work.
If I remember correctly Robert said he wanted suggestion for song to teach?
I like to learn Stormy Monday,and Ain't Superstious .