Back to School

Went for my third guitar lesson this past Tuesday evening. My schedule got a little off-track when I went on vacation, so it had been a full four weeks since my last lesson. Despite the fact that I still feel a little overwhelmed, John tells me I’m doing well.

I’m still trying to make it a point to get in a minimum of one hour of practice time every day. I can’t say that always happens, but I haven’t missed by much. I feel sure this regularity is as important to my improvement as is the material I’m covering. There’s no telling how many years have passed since I last made it a point to play guitar every single day, not to mention structured practice

I’ve gotten to a point where I’m “off the paper” with the chord solo I was working on for All of Me. I’m certainly not what you’d call fluid with it, and there are at least three definite problem areas. But given that it’s a whole new ballgame for me in comparison to the styles I’ve played in the past, I suppose it’s coming along as well as can be expected. As I mentioned in an earlier post here, we also started work in William Leavitt’s method book. This has been the worst and the best for me up to this point. I’m finding it exceedingly difficult to read even the simplest of the beginning exercises. But then, of course, when I finally do have a breakthrough it’s just that much more rewarding. One night late last week while working from this book, I was concentrating so intently, almost hynotically, that I literally jumped, as if I had dozed and jerked awake. If I hadn’t caught myself when I did, I believe I may have been only a minute or two away from drooling into my guitar.

So anyway, back to Tuesday’s lesson. We went over everything I’ve covered so far, playing together on All of Me and on the duet pieces in the method book. As I say, I haven’t exactly mastered all of it, but I’m headed satisfactorily enough in the right direction for John to press onward. We went over the next few pages in the method book, which brings sharps, flats, and/or accidentals into the picture. We (or I) played through some of the new exercises, and others we only discussed.

Then I pulled out the songbook I had bought. He paged through it more or less randomly, checking out this tune and that. He stopped at Giant Steps, which I didn’t know by name, and said I should be able to play through the lead sheet based just on what we had covered up to this point in my lessons. He played the chords, and lo and behold, I did indeed play the melody. Well enough that I even recognized the tune.

Finally he zeroed in on Oh, Lady Be Good, which he says is a favorite jamming tune at Kauffman Kamp, the musical-instruction intensive hosted by Steve Kauffman every summer in Tennessee. As he had done with All of Me, John wrote out chord diagrams for this new song. This time, he pointedly specified chords consisting of three notes, and those three notes are always configured on the 3rd, 4th, and 6th strings. The idea being to pare the chords down to their most basic structures, while still providing a backbone on which to hang the tune.

And speaking of tunes, he took time to write out the beginnings of a single-line solo for the song. Besides serving as a basis for eventual jamming, this little ditty, repeated over and over, is a great little exercise for left- and right-hand technique, tone, dynamics, etc.

So far, practice with these three-note chords has been much easier than anything we’ve covered up to this point. I feel certain this is due in part to the fact that they are all very similar in configuration, and in part because I’m getting more accustomed to being in “practice mode.” The solo is coming along nicely, too, although I have not yet spent quite as much time with it as I have with the chord progression. I’ll be concentrating more on that today, as well as working on the exercises in the Method book.

Forward motion…