My Learning Project Wrap Up

It may not seem like much, but I’ve come a long way in terms of learning how to Travis pick.  Here’s how the story went:

Before I had joined EDTC 300 I heard that we needed to pick something for a learning project. I was super excited, but I didn’t know what to pick. I flirted with a few ideas like yoga,  dog training, learning sign language, and learning piano. I would have definitely picked the piano if I had one laying around — but I didn’t… Eventually I decided to follow the theme of music that I had over the past year and chose to learn the art of Travis Picking!

Admittedly, I had already started to learn the basics of this technique from sixstringcountry, though had only marginally dipped my toe in, so to speak. From there, I decided to work on the exercises that sixstringcountry had recommended. It looked like this:

Very simple, boring to watch, and boring to listen to. It was a start though! It’s even fun looking back on this video now because I can see I’ve come a long way since I posted it on this blog back in May!

The next week I had posted this video as a part of my third week blog:

One weeks practice and you can see that I had developed in terms of clarity, dexterity, and execution. I had also learned a few tips from Tommy Emmanuel‘s 4 step’s to fingerstyle guitar.

Shortly after I had a change of heart. Initially I had stated that I was going to go through all of sixstringscountry’s lessons in order to develop my skill. Well, I got bored. After watching Tommy Emmanuels next video, in which teaches the song Freight Train, I had set my mind on learning that song! There were also tons of videos on YouTube giving lessons of that very song, so I figured I was in good shape.

For the next few weeks I took a little time off camera to practice the song. So, because of this, I was given the opportunity to talk about my guitar journey and how I used the internet to learn over the years. This was also during the time that Katia had given me some helpful feedback and I began adding hyperlinks to my blogs for my readers to take advantage of!

After a few weeks I had eventually reached the point where I could play half Freight Train fairly well:

Yes, the video is short, but it’s an insanely hard skill to learn! I should also mention that the video above was part of a blog where I shared the resources that I most heavily relied on during my practice!

And that’s it! Just check out the first video compared to the last. Lots of growth there! As of right now, my practicing has admittedly slowed down because, well, the end of the semester is not a time for hobbies or the progression of them! Though, it’s not the end of my journey! I am incredibly intrinsically motivated when it comes to the guitar and my progression! I know I will, at the very least, be able to play the song fully one day. Also, in conclusion, I have found so many more valuable resources online that I will continue to use to fine tune my craft!

Thanks for reading everyone!

Cody

 

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Still Making Progress

I’ve had two weeks of consistent practice and, it may not look like much, but I’m getting the hang of it. So far, I’m able to play the first half of Freight Train by Tommy Emmanuel. Let me show you:

It’s still a difficult skill for me, and I’m nowhere near where I want to be. But I’m happy that I’m progressing slowly, though. It’s fun for me to think that I couldn’t do this 2 months ago!

I’m still learning from the video I wrote about in this blog, which is a video of Tommy Emmanuel teaching his version of the song Freight Train. I find that I need to pause the video, slow it down, or stop it very frequently so that I can get a grip on the multiple things that are going on. Furthermore, I have also found the tablature for his song and I am using it as another resource to make sure I am executing everything properly and to leave little guess work for myself. Here’s a portion of the tablature that I am playing in the video:

Tablature Credit: TommyEmmanuel.files.wordpress.com

I still have work to do. Hopefully I can manage the second half of the song before the end of the semester! I’m having fun practicing and I’m finding this style of guitar rather enjoyable to play!

Learning From the Internet!

Learning From the Internet!

I wanted to create a blog about the path I took to learn the basics of the guitar to where I am now. My journey isn’t anything special, but I think it applies to our #EDTC300 learning project.

Beginnings…

I took up the guitar around 13 years old. My sister and I took guitar lessons together at Long and McQuade, here in Regina. Back then I didn’t care too much about really learning the guitar as an instrument. I just wanted to be able to play along to songs by my favourite band at the time, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. So, naturally, I got my guitar teacher to teach me to play classic riffs like Californication, Otherside, Tell Me Baby, Scar tissue, etc. Back then I wasn’t very good at playing them, but you could hear what I was trying to do and I was satisfied with that. This went on for about a year, then I eventually got bored and put the guitar down – it really frustrates me that I did that.

High School Guitar!

Flash forward to me at about 15. I was in the second semester of Gr.10 and a new class was offered that focused around learning the guitar. Classic 15 year old me saw this as an opportunity to get an easy grade more than anything, so I signed up for it. I took this class, and the following ones, throughout grades 10-12. Unfortunately, I made minimal progress because I didn’t work on my skill. I was able to play the same old simple riffs that I already knew and was able to play the first position of the pentatonic scale up and down faster than most of my peers. That was satisfying for me so I didn’t touch a guitar unless it was in that guitar class. Again, this frustrates me to write that about myself.

Internal Motivation

Several years go by, I graduated high school in June of 2011, and I didn’t touch a guitar until August of 2014. I know that as a fact because I had a massive surge of inspiration to get better at the guitar after I attended my first Craven Country Jamboree, now known as Country Thunder. No, I didn’t go there for the reason that most people my age went there, I went to Craven for the music! This was when I was first getting into country music and it was an excellent lineup for a first time attendee. I got to see Thomas Rhett, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Brett Eldridge, Joe Nichols, and Keith Urban, among many other lesser known music acts. Needless to say, I was blown away by the music and, within a few weeks, I bought my first acoustic guitar to learn some country songs.

YouTube Teachers

I turned to YouTube to teach me how to play. It started out simply as typing into the search bar “how to play [insert song]” After doing that enough times I started to notice common channels that I would end up on. The big two, for me, were papastache102 and Marty Music. These guys had tons of tutorials for my favourite songs. The tutorials typically instructed me to form chords around G, C, Em, and D, changing at these times, and strumming this specific way. If the song happened to be in a different key, I’d be instructed to slap a capo on a fret and perform the same old chords, changing in these specific spots, strumming this specific pattern.

This method of learning got me along fine for a while. I was having fun playing along to songs like It Goes Like This, Drink a Beer, Beat of the Music, and I could even handle some of Keith Urban’s, Somewhere In My Car. There were tons of other songs I had played and loved but, like before, I got bored. I stopped challenging myself and I put my guitar down once again.

Quit Quitting

Somewhere around May of 2017 I had bought a well-reviewed second hand electric guitar because inspiration had hit me once again. During that time I was working as an Instructional Assistant at St. Joan of Arc school in Regina. Before working there I had been told about that the principal sometimes walks the halls playing the guitar. I thought that that was awesome and the first thing I noticed when I met him was his easy going personality and, as the rumours had it, he had two guitars sitting in his office. It didn’t take long before I got to see him play while he did supervision over a lunch hour or a recess.  He even played for the entire school at the church a few blocks away. Again, I was so inspired to get better! From what I gather, he was more of a rhythm player, and for some reason I had set out to learn lead guitar playing. This is where I started to really take notice of Brad Paisley’s guitar playing and to be able to play like him is my ultimate goal. I mean, just look at this:

Video Credit: fretboardmusic

This time I made sure to start off slow. I took the time to find resources that taught me about the theory of guitar playing. This is where I found YouTubers like Paul Davids and Music is Win. I still watch these two faithfully because they teach more than just “put your fingers here and strum your pick like this.” They teach about how you can use theory to play your own music. I have learned so much about music theory because of these two resources and I would highly recommend them if you are looking to really learn the instrument of guitar.

Recently

I have been playing faithfully every day for about a year. I think guitar playing is just a habit now. I don’t even think about it, I just pick my guitar up and play. Because of this, I can confidently say I am a much better player than I ever was before. Depending on the day, I may play just to play, or I might play to a song, I might learn a solo, or practice a specific skill – like Travis Picking. I still use the two resources that I had mentioned and I have recently discovered Six String Country which has helped me learn theory to play the blues, theory to play country, and how to play specific songs. One specific song I did learn from Six String Country was Brad Paisley’s, She’s Everything.

What I Think of Learning Online

Learning a skill online is manageable. I’ve done it. There are so many resources out there that can help you along the way. I think that if you have the patience and are very honest with yourself, you can make it happen. The part that I struggle with is not having any external feedback. Because of this, I’ve had to really break things down to know where I’m going wrong and, conversely, if I had had a face to face teacher, I could have been told what to change. This may not be evident from the story I’d just told because I have obviously gotten better at playing the guitar using online resources rather than my face to face ones. Though, I think that’s more to do with gaining internal motivation along my path rather than other factors. One day I am going to invest in a face to face teacher, but I know that I can still get a lot of learning done online. I am confident that the internet can offer me knowledge for a lifetime!

Finally Learning a Song!

I’ve been practicing for about a month now and I’m starting to get bored doing the same old thing. This is something I’ve always experienced as a guitarist and that just means I’m getting too comfortable. I need to challenge myself somehow. I need to learn something new. I may be skipping a step or two, but I have decided to learn Tommy Emmanuel’s version of Freight Train which he is playing in the first part of the following video.

Video Credit: Reverb

From what I’ve read in guitar forums and listened to in videos, this song is a staple for fingerstyle guitarists to learn. It’s one of the first that people tend to learn when they are learning this style so I think I’m going to make the jump! Furthermore, there are tons of lessons regarding this song so I don’t think I’ll have any trouble finding resources! For example, here is a video lesson from one of my favourite guitar YouTubers, Paul Davids.

Video Credit: Paul Davids

*For all the people learning guitar in EDTC300, Paul Davids is an amazing teacher!

Here’s to the next few weeks! Hopefully I’ll be able to get it by the end of June!

Getting Better!

I put in a fair bit of practice this week and I’d say it shows.

Just for clarification, I am following the lessons from sixstringcountry and this is the first thing they get you to learn. I still have some work to do on as I make small mistakes, though the hard part is behind me. It may not look like much but there are a few things that I am consciously focusing on while I’m playing.

  1. Palm muting – I am using the palm of my right hand to lightly rest on the top three string to create a more percussive sound (the BOOM-CHICK-BOOM-CHICK sound).
  2. I am trying to make sure that I keep steady rhythm. The rhythm I am practicing is a little weird because it has more of a swing effect.
  3. I am focusing on having the ring finger on my left hand alternate between the low E and the A strings – a staple in the Travis Picking method.

Admittedly, the music I am practicing in this video is more an exercise than a song. Though, as they have made clear on sixstringcountry, this lays the foundation of what’s to come. Hopefully I am able to add more of a melody in soon!

I also want to show you a video I made back in the fall semester of 2017. I had taken an arts class and we had to do an arts response about the things we love about Canada. We could do anything. Lots of people did visual art, some took pictures, and some did music, including me. I decided I would try to write a piece of music and I couldn’t be more proud of what I came up with. This was the first piece of music I had ever written and it was all recorded in one take (after about 30 takes). Anyways, I just wanted to both show you something that means a lot to me and what I am able to do with a guitar. Let me know what you think!

Starting Slow

Learning to Travis Pick has been something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. It sounds so cool and I like the idea of being able to carry a sound without needing a full band. So far I’ve had little time to devote to actively practicing, though I have been able to continue with what I’ve already learned. The following is just a short video of me fingerpicking between a few chords (G, Em, and C). If you pay close attention, you can see that my thumb is in control of the top three strings (the bass notes), while my pointer and middle fingers are in charge of the bottom strings (the treble notes).

P.s. My fingers seem to be camera shy… It’s becoming more and more evident that it’s hard to go without making a mistake on camera, even though I can play fine while not being filmed. Bear with me please.

So far, what I am playing is super simple, though, at its root, this is the Travis Picking method. Right now I am focused on keeping a steady rhythm, having the notes ring clearly, following a picking pattern, and being able to smoothly transition between chords. As I get better at this I will start to incorporate more left hand ‘acrobatics.’ This simply means that, in order to incorporate melody in my music, I need to be able to move around the fretboard with my left hand while I continue to pick a steady rhythm with my right hand – that’s the tricky part of Travis Picking that comes with consistent practice. Quite boring, and sometimes aggravating, so far, but I have made progress.

As a side note, here is a picture of the guitar I’m using, which has a cool back story to it. It was my grandfather’s guitar that he used while he played in a band back in the day. He told me that he picked it up in Montreal in the mid-80s. Apparently, Lys guitars were Canadian made guitars and the company was bought by Robert Godin of Godin guitars. Funny thing is, before my grandpa gave me this guitar after he saw me playing it, I had bought a Godin Session electric guitar months earlier. Just a funny coincidence to me.

The guitar has had better days. It’s very beat up and needs some work. When I got it, the neck was super bent and I’ve straightened it out by tightening the truss rod as best I can. One day I think I’ll take it in to a guitar shop and have them repair it because I’m pretty sure it needs new parts that I won’t be able to replace myself. Just look at the headstock. It broke off while being mishandled on a plane and my grandpa decided to put a screw through the back of it to keep it on. The headstock happens to be my favourite part of the guitar though, so I won’t replace it. Reminds me of a Dierks Bentley song.

My Learning Project Baseline

My Learning Project

After much thought I have decided to learn how to Travis Pick on my guitar. What is that, you ask? Travis picking is a guitar technique, more along the intermediate or advanced difficulty, that encompasses the guitar player playing both the bass line and the melody at the same time. This method has been used by many great guitar players like Chet Atkins, Mark Knopfler, and Merle Travis (who it’s named after), just to name a few. In case you’re interested, here is a video of Chet Atkins doing what he did best!

Video Credit: James Stiltner

Also, here is a video of one of my personal favourite guitar players, Brad Paisley, explaining the method. Pay close attention to the 1:00-1:35 minute mark.

Video Credit: SiriusXM

I have already started to learn this method, but I am nowhere near where I want to be. So far, I can work with a walking baseline, which means that I can change notes with my thumb as I am playing, which is fairly simple. So, basically, I am still a beginner when it comes to this method. In order to keep learning, I am subscribed to a guitar website called Six String Country where they have specific courses, one of which being Travis Picking, which I have linked to. I typically practice every day for variable amounts of time – sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes hours. My plan is to use that website to help me follow a natural progression of skill. I know I will be able to get it with enough practice and patience.