Looking back, I think of some of the difficulties I faced in music. A couple have not yet been overcome, but some of them were pretty big hurdles. Coming out on top of these challenges gives you a good feeling and looking back helps you realize how far you've come.
So... regarding music in general, what have been your top three (problems, issues, challenges, hurdles, whatever you want to call them)? Any advice on how your overcame them? Or, if you're still working on it, what is it that makes it so diffcult to win?
I'll start it off:
1. Buying that first guitar. The challenge was money as I was 12 or 13 and didn't have any! I knew what I wanted: a red with white pickguard Fender Mustang just like my friend's. Never did get one. Settled on a DuoSonic in Olympic white with a red pickguard. Took me over two years to save up, doing roofing, plowing, bailing hay, picking fruit, helping out in an upholstery shop, and doing general yard stuff like cutting down and digging out huge trees for people. Still have the guitar. Advice: If you want it bad enough, you'll get it. And once you get it, you'll appreciate it and hopefully take care of it.
2. Making an A chord, or similar, where you have to lay your left hand ring finger across the B, G, and D strings on the second fret WITHOUT disturbing the high E string. Still can't do it. Not double-jointed.
3. Realizing that writing music, good lyrics, and playing well are not what is required to be part of a band or to make it on your own. I started studying the Beatles, rather vigorously, several years ago (wound up writing a book on them) and one thing really jumped out at me when I started doing the research on their early years: It wasn't the music as much as it was "fitting" into the group that formed the membership. Today, after writing a lot of stuff, and making music for several decades, I still find it very difficult to find a group to join or even to find folks to jam with. Absolutely no one for the past couple of years. Seems they are not looking for music but rather someone to party with or whatever. And, of course, there is something that a very accomplished musician once told me (about 30 years ago), "If you want to make it in the music business, pay particular attention to the second part of that phrase." Don't know how to overcome this one...
Thanks - m
My biggest hurdle was shyness and lack of confidence!
Re: your issues:
1.) I was very fortunate to have parents who were willing and could afford to get me started with instruments. I still have my first decent acoustic after almost 50 years! :-)
2.) No way can I form an "A" chord that way. I have to use three fingers! As you say, not double jointed!! Have the same problem with a "B" chord.
3.) When I was a kid, I loved being in a band. Loved the travel and the companionship. Loved the security of having others around me sharing the stage. Today, I cherish not having to work on anybody else's schedule or cater to their tastes. Soloing was something I could have never done comfortably as a kid, but now I love it! However, I really wanted to be a singer/songwriter! Though I have always had lyrics flowing out of me like a fountain ... I have had trouble coming up with melodies that I think are worthy of the lyrics. I guess I could team up with somebody, but at this stage of life, I'm beyond caring. But, I suppose that's why you do see so many successful musical collaborations between lyricists and composers ... ;-)
Re: #3: Lyrics have always come easy for me. The melody is more elusive. Sometimes something will hit me in the middle of the night, then I spend a period of time wondering if I'm just recalling something I've heard someone else do.
If you don't mind my asking... what is that 50 year old acoustic you still have?
Here it is ... 1967 Silvertone Sovereign 1220 Jumbo :-)
"A" chord - 2nd, 1st, 3rd fingers on D, G, B strings, respectively - then you lift your 1st finger for an A7... :-)
Biggest hurdle - dedication/practice time - I played the viola from 4th grade through college - took some piano lessons for about 4 years, and my Grandmother bought me a guitar in my senior year of high school. Wish I had played guitar from 4th grade...
Hurdle that caused my not playing for a long time (essentially, 1987-2002) - my first marriage to a woman who did not appreciate music - of course, while we dated, she "loved" my playing - later, it was a "waste of time"... :-(
Second/now/current/forever wife loved my playing while we dated - and still does - and it's 10 years since we met - 8 years married on August 21st - I guess enough time has passed for it to be true... ;-)
Hang on to that woman who sincerely likes to listen to you play ... she's a keeper!
Indeed so! :-)
Jud - I've seen that post before - great guitar!
Gull - I've worked around the A chord like you, but although I also use three fingers on the second fret, I place the first on the G string, the second finger on the D string, and the third finger on the B string. Gives me more economy of motion while playing. When you get into some of the jazz and blues stuff, you need to do the double-joint stuff, at several locations on the fretboard, without buzzing and I still can't quite do it. I guess that is often what determines your own style or technique: avoiding stuff you can't do and improvising to make up for it!
Those are 3 hurdles and it seems somewhat universal.....
I had my first lesson at 12 on a nylon stringer that my parents bought me and my brother bought me my first lessons for Xmas...wish I would have stuck with it then but the teacher of course wanted to teach fundamentals and I just wanted to learn to play songs that I knew. I think if I was going to teach beginner guitar the first question I would ask would be what song do you want to learn to play...teach that and let the fundamentals develop from there. Since then I have wavered in and out of musicianship but have been very dedicated for the last 10 or so.
Songwriting - I have always been a writer of things but for the longest time I didn't think I had enough understanding of theory to put music to words. After playing covers for so long I began to get a grip on it and then studied it and learned why this went with that and while I still have a long way to go I am generally able to apply music to lyrics I have written and have become more creative as I have gone along .... live and learn. All of my songs start with lyrics and they are the focal point of my songs and I find I write some that suit solo playing some that suit playing with my trio and a few that work with both. Each song is like the birth of a child from the embryonic stage of the idea, to infancy of fitting words to melodies and chords, to toddler stage getting it to add up in to a coherent playable song, adolescence practicing it working on it figuring out leads, other musical parts, harmonies, drums etc....and then on to adulthood playing it on stage or recording it. It is always amazing, fun and satisfying to sit back and realize how a song of mine gets from birth to adulthood.
Collaboration - Playing....always difficult especially as one gets older with more things to be responsible for like family, work etc. How does one going about finding people who are on the same plane, with complementing skills, similar attitudes, level of commitment etc etc etc....who knows and I suppose each situation and the paths that are available are different. I struggled for a long time once I didn't want to play covers anymore and just concentrate on original music I even wrote a song about it (The Soloist)....however I eventually fell in to a guitarist songwriter singer in a similar position and we started doing some duo stuff then added a long time friend of mine who is a drummer and here we are THE LIKELY SUSPECTS gigging...who knew.
Collaboration - Writing....still haven't got this one down yet while my other guitarist is great at embellishing my songs and me his we haven't quite figured out how to write songs together.
As for that "A" form I have solved that by using my pinky to make that barr it is smaller and more flexible works well for me and I have never had any of the guitar hot rods comment or slag me about it.
I suppose the biggest problem is the availability of time if anyone knows the answer to that one would sure be happy to hear it.
I only have 2 guitars the Martin I was lucky to get from a friend who graduated to a D-35 and sold me his somewhat twisted D-28 for $100 that was in 1975....its been "untwisted" since and playing fantastic just starting to be "broken in" it will be 40 next year, and my '90s Guild Starburst semi f hole electric (photos on my website www.bobcrain.com.au).
Life if full of hurdles if it wasn't what would we write songs about??????
Great discussion Michael.
1) Reading music - I finally understood that 6/8 actually meant 6 1/8th notes per measure not too long ago although I always intuitively was able to play 6/8, 12/8, 9/8 rhythms etc. I also finally worked out the circle of fifths and have a pretty good understanding what chords fit etc.
2) Barre chords - My ring finger on my left hand got busted by a cricket ball early in my youth and simply doesn't have the flexibility to barre very well so this was a hurdle I never overcame and now the first signs of bloody arthritis are setting in so I've turned to alternative tunings and plenty of capo use.
3) I've always been a singer songwriter I guess, even from an early age. It was cool for getting girls even though I was not the most attractive lad on the block. Subsequently I never really learned to solo which limited my contributions to bands so I worked hard on singing and writing. I also learned to harmonise very early which made me a worthwhile recruit. Also getting the courage up to take your own songs to a band was a hurdle but when it happens and it works - Zingo - what a buzz.
I like these comments - seems we all have been on similar paths.
Bob - Twisted D-28? Hmmmm... maybe another song there, huh? Sorta reminds me of the song I wrote about going broke buying gutars and how good a player it has made me (not).
Ken - Reading music and studying music theory is difficult, especially for those of us who have a lot more years behind us than in front of us. I read somewhere that it takes at least 20 years to be able to do it proficiently. I don't know if I have that many years left (does anyone?) so I just do what I can and don't (ummmmmm) "fret" it.
I see some similarities to me in other posts, I can barre chord, including the occasional "A" chord type barre. That took some finger stretching though I did have to ease off for a bit due to soreness. I still can't play barre chords for substantial parts of a song. A healthy diet and exercise, acupressure and supplements like MSM/Glucosamine/Chondriton have helped my hands, fingers and joints. my current three biggest hurdles are:
1) Dealing with anything less than constructive criticism, especially from peers.
2) True collaboration in a group situation, I am not doing this professionally so the only collaboration occasional songwriting and a couple of informal jam sessions per week. I am either completely leading or completely following in co-writing. Working harder at real interaction when playing with others almost always covers. I generally play my own songs alone in practice and at open mic.
3) I seem stuck on or have accepted the plateau of playing skill I am currently at. In Beatles songs (and others) I can get to most chords, shapes and changes, I do have difficulty spanning more than three frets, but it seems to boil down to not getting my left hand (fretting) fingers moving and a bit more relaxed. I know enough chords, a few strum and fingerpicking patterns to get by with and my rhythm and performance have improved but I have not put in the practice time to improve playing skills. I still have the bad habit of gripping the neck more tightly than I need to. Given time invested it seems I'd rather write songs than improve guitar playing.