Monday, December 22, 2008

Catch up post - Anberlin, lessons hind sight, and gestation

Busy times! Between Christmas, traveling for work, and having an enormous pile of music to learn, I haven't had much free time. I have a couple random thoughts I've been meaning to write about.

1) I love this song by Anberlin - "Miserable Visu (Ex Malo Bonum)". Anberlin's latest album has some great guitar parts. I particularly like the solo from Mierable Visu ( at 4:10).

This is totally unrelated to anything else in this post. Just like the song!

2) I've been figuring out how I learn and figuring out what a gestation period is. I think gestation is supposed to refer to being pregnant and making a baby in your belly, but it gets thrown around with learning music too. The idea is that when you first learn something, that skill hasn't yet "been born" fully. Once you've built up the skill, or gestated it, it will be born and alive. Or something. I don't like the idea of my scales having placenta.

I like the language metaphor better. When you learn a new language there's a period when you can speak the language but you really have to think about it and translate in your head. You can't speak conversationally yet. After you use the language and the words you know for long enough, you don't have to think about it and it comes naturally. Conversationally. Music is a language too and learning a new aspect is like learning a new word or a new way to conjugate verbs. When you first learn a new skill on guitar it's not conversational yet. Only after you've practiced it and used it enough that it becomes natural can you use it conversationally.

Sadly my gestation period is longer than I thought it would be. I'd like to think I can learn something new, practice it for few minutes, and then throw it around in musical conversation. But I can't. I realized this a few weeks ago when I was playing some bends and I noticed I was doing them in time and in tune without having to think about it at all. This is something I started working on in September and just now is it natural. I guess my point is, if something seems like it's taking forever to learn, don't worry about it. It will come with time. Just keep working on it!

3) You might have read that last paragraph and said to yourself, "Mike just started learning to bend in September?" Thanks for the question, that's a good segue to my next topic. Looking at my lessons in hind-sight. If you haven't read much of my blog, you should know I started taking lessons about 5 months ago after a 12 year break from lessons. When I look back now, I realize the first few weeks/months were spent just fixing the bad technique I had picked up over the years. Bends, for instance, were something I hadn't worked with much. I played a lot of rhythm and acoustic guitar up until 3 years ago and you don't do many bends on rhythm or acoustic. When I did need bends on lead electric I just hacked through it and always bend down (towards the floor) except on the high e string. My teacher taught me how to do it right and now bends are in my arsenal of sounds. I also did pull-offs weird when I used my pinky, was using a pick that was way too light, moved my fingers inefficiently (too much movement), and a slew of other weird things. It wasn't very fun to find out all the things I was doing wrong and when I tried to change them all at once it made for some frustrating times. Going pack to #2, I was in the gestation period for a lot of aspect of my playing and I had to think about everything I was doing. I hated that time! At one point I didn't play for a week and then went back to stuff I knew before I started working on the new stuff again. I had to take a pretty big step backwards before I could move forward. Now it's great, I'm used to my pick, how I use both hands more efficiently, and the other stuff I worked on. I can play conversationally again, and better than I could before the lessons. Good news!

There's a point to this section too! Don't let bad technique go unchecked for years! Part of my problem was I didn't play with guitarists who were better than me or ask better guitarists to watch me and tell me what I'm doing wrong. I watched a lot of good guitarists, but there are things I was doing that I didn't realize. I need another set of eyes and ear for critique. I don't need someone to say, "wow, you're awesome," I need someone to say, "Good job, but..." Ok, maybe I need one of each :)


Anonymous said...

I definitely here you on the learning part. It seems like I feel that I'm becoming somewhat of an expert---- then someone who is new asks a question. I try to answer the question with a "I do this..." and they say "no, you didn't." I show them what I was doing and whoops, wasn't doing it at all....

Although I am pretty critical of myself. I can't tell you how many times I have looped my DD20 and played my parts so I can listen.... and it wasn't as good as I thought. So I change and loop again until I am happy with it. That way when I play that part live I am happy with it.
I want to go back to lessons (will be at least a year) to just 'brush' up on stuff I should've learned. To get a different perspective.
Bravo man.
Nice post! :)

Karl said...

Hmm. Definitely agree over here, too. I hate admitting when I'm wrong or worse than someone else, so I usually just fudge it if I see or hear something I like better than me, and then run home to learn it so that I can pretend I've always known it next time I see them. ;)

Very nice. Good humility reminder.